Slate: Mix ’n’ match – it’s interactive!

Stale Slate, evidently striving to make up in technology what it lacks in personality, verve, interest, voice, relevance, vivacity, individuality, originality, savvy, edge, moxie, spice, or spleen, offers readers a superfabulous new feature!

Now Windows tinkerer-geeks are able to noodle with Slate articles, mirroring the necessities and passions of Windows tinkerer-geeks in general, who spend their entire lives futzing with their user-hostile, insecure, crash-prone, unæsthetic, bloated, crass, inelegant, derivative, and deeply common operating system merely to get it to work.

How? According to Inside, through “mySlate.” (Beating out competing candidate names like iSlate, eSlate, and cyberSlate?)

When visitors to the site choose mySlate, a small window is launched. Users can then select any stories from that week, save them to an online hard drive, and then slice and dice them into custom layouts, Microsoft Reader E-books, or, thanks to technology from Lucent, even have them read aloud in streaming audio. “It’s a container that lets readers take things out and put them in as they want,” says publisher Scott Moore.

We shiver as we sense the wheezing ghost of the failed conventional wisdom of “interactivity” brush past us, whereby the term is taken to mean “you get to choose from a limited, predetermined list of actions we decide in advance for you.” Slate lets you engage in a limited, predetermined list of actions with its articles.

It’s something. It’s not nothing. In all sincerity, there is a degree of innovation, and what has Salon done for us lately?

Still, as ever, Microsoft has no understanding of universality. It’s a walled fortress: Your new powers work only with Microsoft-approved operating systems, E-book readers, and Media Players. (Don’t you love the expressive Microsoft nomenclature? Doesn’t “Microsoft Photo Editor” roll ever so trippingly off the tongue, unlike the clumsy, malapropos “Adobe Photoshop”?)

Microsoft software festoons mySlate. Users log in through Microsoft Passport. Streaming-media files are read through the Window Media Player. And the only E-book format available is Reader, which in turn is available only on Microsoft’s PocketPC PDA until late summer, when Reader will expand to all Windows devices (but not Apple or Palm).

And remember, we’re dealing with surfers who don’t know how to change the fonts in their browsers, let alone set up a user stylesheet.

It’s something, what the Slate milquetoasts are doing. But it’s not a lot, and it’s not enough.

(For comparison, read about Esquire, below. Who’s doing better, in your opinion?)

Posted on 2000-09-30