Answering @davewiner’s question: WTF is a River of Rex?

Somewhere out there on the internet, this morning, Dave Winer  asked me, “WTF is a River of Rex?” (The initials WTF refer to a classic Latin phrase roughly translated into english, as, “Please tell me what…”.)

I say, somewhere, because I saw it on his actual blog at the URL over in his right sidebar that collects and runs links to the various ways he expresses himself on the web: Tweets, photos he posts, and other things that provide me and others who want to keep up with what Dave has to say with a handy means of following them, even if we don’t subscribe to all the various services he’s using, creating or experimenting with that are aggregated and appear there. While I saw the question on his blog, I’m not sure where he actually asked it, in other words.

He was referring to the subject line and post appearing immediately before this one.

So, the short, quick answer is: If you called  “The River of Dave” what Dave has over in his sidebar that collects all the various things he does and displays them in a list, that’s what the River of Rex is. Except, he’s not asking about that listing, he’s asking about the post immediately preceding this post.

Anticipating this question four years ago, I wrote this post about the new service, at that time, called Tumblr, where I jokingly described what I was using Tumblr for was to create “A River of Rex.” Thinking back on those early days of Tumblr and recalling that many people were trying to define it as a “lifestreaming” service, I’m glad to note that the platform overcame such a limiting description of what it could do (as I noted at the bottom of that post).

In that post, I’m also not surprised to see Dave’s name used as I was describing the “River” analogy.

You see, everything I’ve learned about blogging, I’ve learned from Dave. In some cases, I’ve learned by doing what he does. And in other cases, I’ve learned by not doing what he does. And because we are friends, he knows that’s meant as a joke. Dave is constantly experimenting with how blogging (and other things) work and often, it takes me a couple of years to catch up with the technical issues he’s addressing in those experiments. For example, back around 2001, it took me about two years to comprehend what a “permalink” was.*

Dave created the term “River of News” back in, what, the 1930s or so, as a metaphor for  allowing various news sources to appear in ones RSS news reader in a merged, chronological way (vs. by category or source). The metaphor, as he described, was like sitting on a bank and watching news go by (but he described it better than that).

For someone like me, who is constantly using different services for different ways of expressing ones self, there is a frustration that, at the end of the day, there are different buckets containing all of that stuff. I want all the RSS feeds of all those expressions to join back together somehow into a merged, chronological “river” that, as I said on Tumblr, flows into the “Gulf of Rexico” as some collected archive.

I’d like to do what I first did with Tumblr, but not on Tumblr. As this blog is my de facto “of record” platform, it only makes sense to me that everything I do should be collected here, even if it’s not in this news post stream.

A few months ago, I saw a Word Press Plugin called Lifestream that I decided to experiment with on the sidebar of my blog. It did a fairly good job at part of what I was trying to do, but I have been spending the past couple of days seeing if I could use a feature they offer that will make a daily post of all of those different things I might bookmark or tweet during the previous 24 hours.

Frankly, I don’t necessarily want them to post publicly, but for the past couple of days, I’ve been stumbling through the process of figuring it out. I can fix those flubs on my blog, but they also are distributed via RSS, so they show up places, out of context and make even less sense.

Because I used that 2007 term, “River of Rex” to name that collected stream of Rexisms, the term showed up in the subject line of those posts. So, in this case, that’s all the River of Rex is.


*I love following Dave’s developer passions, even though they are often over my head technically. Over the years, I’ve seen him create little hacks — like turning RSS feeds of photos from different sources — into animated screen savers. Then, a couple of years later, I’ll see Apple or someone add such an idea to a build of Mac OS X, and everyone will say, “Wow, what a creative new idea Apple came up with.” The longest post you’ll find on this blog (or probably any blog) was in a collection of posts on the topic of Apple’s decision to support RSS enclosures in iTunes is based on something Dave created. You may know that hack by the term, podcasting. Before Apple made the decision to support RSS enclosures and the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds via iTunes, the iTunes Store” was just a “store,” there was nothing free. By supporting RSS, Apple gave consumers a reason to purchase iPods (how they make their money) and fill those iPods up with free content from the iTunes “Store.”

Note: If you don’t like my version, don’t waste your time commenting here, go debate it on Wikipedia.

Note, also: If you’re a hardcore student of that era, you’ll know that Apple’s decision to support RSS in iTunes helped lead to the demise of an idea from a  startup that, if you connect the dots, later led to the creation Twitter.