Userland Philosophy 101
Userland wants to help you and me write.
Radio's outmost layer (the one you see in your browser) enables you to write to the Web.
Additional layers within the Radio application on your desktop support other types of writing. What types? Well, what do you want to think or write about?
Do you want to create a To-Do List? Brainstorm? Draft important emails? Manage business or personal contacts? Store all your 'knowledge' in one place.
An elegant, powerful, time-tested outliner awaits to help you achieve these tasks.
Do you want to program code?
Programming is also a form of writing. Userland products (Frontier or Radio) may serve you elegantly as your own tightly customized development environment - especially if you are scripter - and increasingly so as web services interface between Frontier, Radio and preprocessors, compilers and code generators.
In one (ultimately trivial) sense, Userland's products can be viewed as a design failure.
Compared to all those writing tools out there (ever heard of Microsoft Word?), Frontier and Radio are simple, rough, crude, widget-limited and - above all - idiosyncratic. I still don't understand why printing support is so clumsy, for example.
Frontier and Radio are the polar opposite of design-by-committee products.
Dave Winer set out to make tools that delight him as a programmer and writer first of all, though Userland (in my opinion) is more responsive to the real needs of its customers than far larger companies .... Microsoft or Apple, for instance.
Squaring the Circle?
Not only are the products idiosyncratic but Userland aims to square the circle, or at least it targets the (apparently?) impossible:
To create a highly responsive, clean, elegant and powerful writing tool within Web browsers.
The one place where writing is most difficult is within the text editing window of a Web browser.
This starts with the frustration of losing your texts when the Internet connection hangs and gets worse from there. In fact, only Internet Explorer even makes it possible - and that clumsily - to come close to a what-you-see-is-what-you-get writing palette on the Web.
Yet, Userland insists that browser-centered writing must remain at the core of its design mission. Go figure.
That is exactly what I invite you to do.
Focused On You
I have a pretty darn good idea why Internet-centric authoring is central to Userland's mission; why RadioUserland was designed as it was; and why Dave Winer has a passion for encouraging minds-at-work in their writing.
But that's Userland Philosophy 102, 201 and 301.
If the huge sweep of Userland's ambitions to offer such arcane powers as peer-to-peer collaboration, web services and knowledge management leave you scratching your head, you are in good company. When it comes to software development, Userland itself is a collection of minds (hard) at work on useful but leading-edge stuff.
But this much you can be confident about:
Dave Winer's Userland has been focused like a laser on helping you to write since the days of the Apple II. He and his team are still focused on that. You and I benefit in Radio from twenty years of thoughtfulness about the nature of writing - and collaborative communication with other writers and potential readers.
So, go ahead and write the Web.