NUblog archives

July 2000

(2000.12, 11, 10, 09, 08, 06, 05, 04
2001.01, 02)

See also: Special reports on moguls and megalomaniaOlympix

On this page


Survey says...!

Tell us something we don’t know already: Next to no one in England turns to the net as their first source of news.

This, at least, is a finding of a study, which also uncovered the startling truth that 83% of a thousand people polled would not switch to an online-first news diet.

Why should they, anyway? Everyone’s got a telly or a radio. News is very easy to find on the airwaves, even if you don’t have cable or satellite service. We spend our lives online here at, but even we turn to the net as a first choice for news updates only after we hear a bulletin from a broadcast source. (That probably doesn’t even count. Our point is that online news gives us more detail, while broadcast news is a form of genteel push transmission that everyone’s comfortable with.)

Ah, but take heart. Respondents (a full 20%) thought the net made smashing sense for the trade press, and indeed, the Internet can and does cater to every little interest (NUblog passim). Portals are dead, baby. Vive la specificité.

But here’s something traditional newspapers could build on: If 20% of people prefer the net for "vertical-market" information, doesn’t this also mean that some 20% of netters would read your general-interest publication if it included vertical-market subsites? The Globe and Mail newspaper here is plying those waters, with subsites, complete with distinct but too-long and too-Globe-specific domain names, on investing, technology, cars for plutocrats, inter alia. That’s half a step forward. The problem here is the paucity of original content for those subsites. The Globe is merely subdividing the cake and poking a different candle into each piece.

How about setting up vertical-market online papers? There are tons of precedents in broadcasting: CNN’s various international feeds. CNNFN. CNNSI. MTVs in various nations. There’s even the occasional case in print: We read the Nando Times quite literally for years without ever knowing it was related to the News and Observer newspaper, so substantial was its netcentricity and so effective was the verbal camouflage of its name.

If 20% of your readership will look at your site only if it’s topic-specific, even something as cosmetic as a name change might attract those eyeballs. Perhaps topic-specificity can be read as "tightly focused and online-only," but not so vertical-market as to cater, say, to a single profession.

Listen, if Sun Media can throw together an entire print newspaper in a reported eight days – albeit a throwaway, copycat commuter newspaper that ends up littering the subway system – it is very difficult to believe complaints from old-fart newspapermen that it takes too long and costs too much to start up an online paper. Not only is it entirely untrue in the first place, we think the fact that the opposite is actually the case turns newspapermen off: It doesn’t cost much and does not involve Charles Foster Kane–style massive, heaving, overly symbolic industrial-age printing machinery, so what’s the point?

For a third the cost of setting up a vast portal site, a publishing empire could give birth to a small handful of separate, tightly-run content Web sites staffed by smart people who know the Web. Just why isn’t this obvious?

Let’s assume that half those sites go belly-up. Well, the other half won’t. And you’ve put up comparatively little money. How’s that for return on investment?


The inevitable discussion of comix

It almost embarrasses us to discuss comics as online content. Comix are such a net-nerd thing to be interested in. Fantasy worlds for kids treated badly by reality. Escapism, as computers can be.

But comics (or, to use the hipster orthography, comix) work famously online, despite a few hiccups.

Why doesn’t your site carry comix? You’re too serious? So is the New Yorker. Seems to work for them. You don’t want comic relief in your business Web site? OK, don’t make the comix funny. (What would we call them then – seriouses?) Everything you want to say can be summed up in words? Sure. Like we’ll buy that after our photography diatribe of recent memory.

The inevitable discussion of Scott McCloud

Another idée fixe of the new-media demimonde: "Everything I needed to know about the Web I learned from Understanding Comics." The most significant comic book to enjoy something resembling mainstream attention since Maus, Scott McCloud’s 1993 treatise on what comix are, where they come from, how they work, and what they can be is sui generis. It’s a comic book about comic books where you learn about more than comix.

Prized by Web types for its absolutely priceless elucidation of iconicity (you’ll never again be in doubt about how to boil down an image) and discussions of time and linearity, the book really does relate to Web design, if only indirectly. It doesn’t apply much to Web content, though. Understanding Comics is one, two, or three steps too meta for that. Still, you cannot work in this industry and call yourself civilised without reading the book. Full stop.

Comix: An explainer of process

It takes five seconds at most to think of applications for comix in content Web sites. (You know what we’re talking about. As opposed to "transactional" sites, to use the conradblackism.) They’ll be cartoon strips just like in the papers. A no-brainer, you might say. Actually, the advice here is "Choose wisely." You need something startlingly inventive to stand out from the crowd. The only so-called entertainment comix we know of online that meet the criterion are the profane, caustic, not-unmindblowing photo comix at Leisuretown. More about them in a moment.

What about E-commerce or business or marketing sites? Comix might work well here as explainers of processes. If you have a complicated product you’re trying to sell – and actually, Web servers, software, and applications, just the sort of things comix geex are interested in, represent this genre well – then go ahead and write out an explanation in words, but also give us pictures.

Why? Some people learn and understand better from words, others from images. You cover all your bases.

Case in point: Xplane, best-known for their editorial illustrations in Business 2.0. Xplane’s stick figures, combined with a few choice sentences, meet any definition of comix, including McCloud’s. (Discussion.) The stickperson format adds a light-hearted air to the subject-matter, hardcore technology. (Xplane’s Xblog, incidentally, is frighteningly chock-full of well-categorized information.)

Where does illustration end and comix begin? It has to do with telling a story. An illo or a photo can exist by itself. Comix are sequential (hence the term "sequential art"). An illo or a photo lends itself to a single thought, to epitomization. Comix lend themselves to processes, to explanation.

Comix are relatively low-bandwidth and require no plug-ins. Instead of push technology or channels or whatever other broadband tripe sent down the pipe, be the first on your block to use comic strips. Humourously or didactically, as you wish. Of course, the fact that comix aren’t a hot new technology engineered to inflate startups’ share prices may mean they are doomed. But we don’t want to end on a pessimistic note....

Leisuretown! we won’t. We’ve been reading comix for decades and are familiar with many genres of animation, including a neglected fave, rotoscoping. We also find photo-comics fascinating, though they are all but unknown in Canada.

And then there’s Leisuretown, the work of a mad genius that makes Claymation® look about as taxing as scribbling your name on a UPS delivery terminal. Deploying an army of dolls and figurines allied with a tight, acerbic discursive style and a whole lot o’ bile to spew, Leisuretown, like Understanding Comics, is sui generis. The true tale of quality assurance killed us dead.

We figure if Charles Burns can illustrate A-list magazine features and Matt Mahurin can become an international photographic megastar, there has to be room in the world for a commercial application of the Leisuretown æsthetic, if only to give Tristan Farnon some money to spend on new dolls. If nothing else, should exist to locate such a client.

Why haven’t you selected the link yet? (Mature audiences only.)

Will the NUblog please shut up about APBNews?

No, not quite yet. (Previous mention. is the crime site that burned through its cash and declared bankruptcy, inducing Chicken Little responses that content is dead.) A memo to former employees is now circulating on the samizdat wires. (Hey, brainiac MBAs with the people skills of a prison guard: while you may be storing your minions’ E-mail for possible legal action, your employees are storing yours to embarrass you later.) The memo reminds journos tossed overboard that files and stories in progress at the time of APB’s dissolution are the property of APB. Fine. They are.

The memo also claims story ideas as APB property. Talk about thoughtcrime! Now your employer owns your neuronal connections rather than the product of the body that gives voice to them. APB nabobs seem unclear on the concept that ideas cannot be copyrighted, only expressions of ideas; a thought has no legal protection as a corporate asset. You may own the work your employees churn out while on the clock, but that’s it.

This, in fact, is the most damning indictment of APBNews yet to emerge. Its management structure, or mismanagement structure, is bad enough. Its rapacious profligacy in setting millions of dollars alight foes nought but heap dirt on its own grave. But APB shows its true colours, acting like a corporate publishing monolith in attempting to extract every conceivable right from its creators – even the right to freedom of conscience – for the el-cheapo fee of an annual salary. Journalists have fought this expropriation of their intellectual property for years, and will continue to win in the courts; the law is on their side.

When it comes to owning employee thoughts, who or what is on APB’s side?


Weblogs: Too young to be stale

We like to refer to Weblogs as a format. They’re merely a way of arranging information and commentary. Not a particularly original way of so doing, either – it’s widely accepted that the very first Web pages, by Tim Berners-Lee, were pretty much exactly equivalent to Weblogs as we know them now. (Though what pages did he link to?)

In the Weblog format, you find a link that interests you and tell us what you think about it. Or you merely write on a topic that interests you and find related links. Or, in the more diaristic forms, you maintain a journal, with or without links. (The last of those isn’t even a Weblog as far as we’re concerned, but along with the use of access as a verb and the ineradicability of hideous neologisms like repurposing, we have given up that fight.)

The NUblog mixes the first two subformats. But Paul Ford, over at Ftrain, writing somewhat whimsically, has nonetheless come up with further new subformats. It seems that the proliferation of links may not result in endless, hungry, pseudo-pornographic hunting for more and more links, nor may those links exile themselves to the gulag of database.

Some of Ford’s gems:

Do you like apples? Well, how ’bout them apples? Ford then goes on to give possible variations of these subformats. The guy’s a genius.

Weblogs and newspapers

We recently dissed newspapers for their online cluelessness. We pointed out that only two newspapers – The Age and the Guardian – bothered to run Weblogs.

Well, Adam Gaffin wrote in to point out two more:

The Weblog format is merely the beginning of the ways print newspapers can become more Web-compatible. And each paper should run more than one Weblog. One per section is more like it: A business, a sports, an entertainment, a "women’s section" Weblog.

Encourage your writers and editors to hunt for links and post them on the Weblog. Using Blogger- or Pyra-style tools, it takes seconds over an office Ethernet connection to publish the links. And yes, you can run them past an editor; standard screenings for libel and suchlike can remain in place, but the goal is quick turnaround, far quicker than a daily dead-tree edition.

Better yet, encourage your star reporters, or at least your youngest reporters, to be front and centre on the blogs. If you have a particularly bright 22-year-old who is stuck doing copy-editing due to the entrenched, fossilized hierarchies of the newspaper industry, compensate that person by branding the Weblog with his or her name. If that incites envy among staff, do the same for a couple of other writers.

Suddenly your online readers don’t merely have the option of visiting your site for blog-style links. They get to watch a race among competing in-house bloggers. Just as Procter & Gamble produces competing brands in the same category, all the better to capture market share, running multiple in-house blogs reduces the standard fear of the middle-aged: "I don’t want people leaving our site."

If you really believe that, you ought to do us a favour and pack up your computer, hand it to one of your kids, and retire to the golf course until your ticker seizes up. But if you want to be more constructive, think of it this way: With n Weblogs on your site and none whatsoever or merely a single blog on your competitors’ sites, you stand an nfold higher chance of keeping your readers’ eyeballs within your walled fortress.


Database as a genre of new media

We’re not the most theoretical bunch here at We enjoy experimentation, but all that navel-gazing tends to bring to one’s attention is lint.

We do, however, appreciate an article by Lev Manovich, Database as a Genre of New Media. English is clearly not Manovich’s first language, and, while we don’t care what actually is, we certainly do enjoy the erudite flavour and tone his multilingualism produces, reminiscent of Umberto Eco. His observations ring particularly true for the Weblog format, an example of which, if an unusual one, you are reading now.

Many new media objects do not tell stories; they don’t have beginning or end; in fact, they don’t have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise, which would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.

This seems to ring a bell. Didn’t Kirk McElhearn say something similar about links the other day – you see a list of links and you think it amounts to content, though you don’t know where those links will lead and, in any event, following them would simply waste time rather than offer enlightenment?

Maybe there’s a trend afoot here. If any individual item is interchangeable with other individual items, what value does each of them have?

We figure the answer is "That’s relative." (Tautological, shurely?!) And we mean "relative to other sites." Feature parity is simply expected on service-oriented sites. With content sites, though, you have to be distinctive or you end up as another item in a database.

And your distinctiveness can come from an editorial or authorial voice. Selection of links, along with commentary, can establish an ongoing story.

Back with Manovich:

[A] Web page is a sequential list of separate elements: text blocks, images, digital video clips, and links to other pages. It is always possible to add a new element to the list.... As a result, most Web pages are collections of separate elements: texts, images, links to other pages or sites.[...]

Web sites never have to be complete, and they rarely are. [...] All this further contributes to the anti-narrative logic of the Web. If new elements are being added over time, the result is a collection, not a story. Indeed, how can one keep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory through the material if it keeps changing?

We would answer this question with "Style, topic, and voice, that’s how."

Editorship and authorship

Manovich is half-right and half-wrong. Web sites can meander or they can remain quite focused. You see this disparity in Weblogs, some of which occupy a lot of space and have little to say, acting as a salve for the author’s loneliness (Paul Ford: "Many people who create personal Web sites believe that by becoming famous, they will become less lonely"), while others remain tightly on-topic. But even in the former case, in diaristic sites, it’s possible to develop an interest. You read the unfolding narrative of the author’s life and become involved.

In that case, it’s exactly equivalent to documentary films that record the mundanity of day-to-day life. Editors and directors impose order, post facto, on the mass of raw data, to use Manovich’s terminology. The fact that it is possible to win an award for best writing in a documentary that has no narration shows that adding order to existing corpora of information is an act of volition that turns facts into story. Or can, in capable hands.

A river of content → a story

Is narrative any more necessary in content sites than in a newspaper or general-interest magazine?

One could advance the claim that special-interest sites, or vertical-market magazines, are more tightly engaged in narrative. The story is the topic they cover. You can find parallels in potboiler fiction – romance novels, military crime-romances of the kind Lucian K. Truscott IV churns out, and the endless sequence of spin-off books derived from science fiction. Each individual book may comprise a free-standing story (a "narrative" in dramatic terms), but what you’re really doing is setting a foot in a free-flowing river called Romance Novel or Military Potboiler or Star Trek Tie-In. The narrative is at once grand (larger than the book itself) and limited (to a certain topic or genre).

(We’re being slightly hypocritical here, having criticized a writer’s claim that "When someone takes a job online, they shouldn’t think of it merely as a job with a particular dot-com; instead, it’s like taking a job with a huge company called the Internet." His claim and ours would seem to be cognate. But you know how it is. You rebel against new ideas, then come to accept them.)

Drama and resolution are not the goals of typical Web content sites. Staying on-topic, i.e., relevant, is. That way you keep river’s waters flowin’.

But for news-related sites that track ongoing events whose outcomes are not known – FijiLive of recent memory, for example, or one of our faves, – as more and more facts come into play, your pseudo-objective content coalesces into a storyline. Rumour sites (which fuel the Macintosh obsession – Cf. AppleInsider, Mac OS Rumors) work the lower end of the evolutionary scale.


Another example of a database form is a multimedia genre which does not has an equivalent in traditional media – CD-ROMs devoted to a single cultural figure such as a famous architect, film director or writer.

We’ve surpassed the quaint CD-ROM medium in this regard. With, for example, the Weblog format, it is now possible to follow a specific issue with tight, ongoing focus that, like all editorial decisions, can evolve into a point of view or style. Editing is authorship.

The open nature of the Web as medium (Web pages are computer files which can always be edited) means that the Web sites never have to be complete, and they rarely are. [...] All this further contributes to the anti-narrative logic of the Web. If new elements are being added over time, the result is a collection, not a story. Indeed, how can one keep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory through the material if it keeps changing?

Ever heard of soap operas, Mr. Manovich?

A book has a last page, a film a final frame, a videocassette the end of its tape. You know up front that there’s an end to the story. In a soap opera or a Weblog, you know up front that there is no end, or no specific end, but in both cases you’re dealing with ongoing stories, albeit of very different kinds.

Historically, the artist made a unique work within a particular medium. Therefore the interface and the work were the same; in other words, the level of an interface did not exist. With new media, the content of the work and the interface become separate. It is therefore possible to create different interfaces to the same material.

An excellent elucidation of how the word content, which bugs even us sometimes, has come to fill a semantic need.

Elsewhere in his essay, Manovich conclusively disproves the claims of apologists for video games and jazzed-up TV services that they’re producing "interactive narrative." A limited range of options to traverse from point A to point B in a preordained story does not quite cut the mustard as narrative. While there is indeed an editorial or authorial voice involved in selecting and creating the paths from A to B, the result fails as traditional narrative and amounts to an amalgam of database and algorithm, as Manovich explains.

Manovich’s observation that "It is therefore possible to create different interfaces to the same material," while intended to refer to computer games, actually epitomizes the Weblog format.

Think about how Weblogs work. All those articles are out there, uncategorized, or simply unknown and ignored. You use your Weblogger’s editorial impulses to categorize, order, and explain the articles. While in one sense you have merely created a new interface to someone else’s content (a Jakob Nielsen favourite), over time, if you stick to a given topic, you will cultivate a form of authorial voice.

You will have produced a sequence of links and commentary that build up the story of the topic you cover, rather like a documentarist. (We keep thinking of Scott McCloud’s definition of comics, in fact, though it’s not quite close enough of a fit to do more than name-drop it.)

As a cultural form, database represents the world as a list of items and it refuses to order this list. In contrast, a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events). Therefore, database and narrative are natural enemies. Competing for the same territory of human culture, each claims an exclusive right to make meaning out of the world.

As we see from this definition itself, the Weblog fits many of the criteria of traditional narrative. A blog does not "refuse to order the list"; it exists to order the list. A topic-specific blog "creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events)." This form of database isn’t the enemy of narrative. Rather, it is a mildly novel variant thereof.


More postings coming this week. In the interim, we’ve simplified the archives a little. Now the archives are subdivided by month. An imperfect solution, but it beats the old way.

If only we could get the file size of the NUblog down to some number lower than the sum of fingers and toes.


Losing the war of the clueless

A newspaper voluntarily shuts down a Web site. What’s wrong with this picture?

Quebecor, a Canadian newspaper oligopolist (sharing the same bed: Thomson, Southam, Torstar), has taken two of its newspaper Web sites offline.

Why? Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec offered no interest to readers as simple "repurposed" print newspapers. («La simple reproduction en ligne d’un quotidien sans valeur ajoutée ne représente aucun intérêt pour les lecteurs du Journal et les internautes en général.») Unions at the papers are accused of blocking changes.

We suppose this is one way to deal with the high cost of newspaper shovelware, which is the only online model the Canadian newspaper industry has ever understood. We suppose that pulling the plug could possibly make some sense in that regard. But Quebecor has more or less declared a unilateral strike against readers by shutting the sites down.

Even if most of what the sites provided was warmed-over newspaper copy, guess what? Having something out there on the net, assuming that something is updated regularly, beats having nothing there. And during the time the two sites are down, every other significant newspaper in Canada keeps its sites up.

Just how does this strengthen the newspapers’ competitive edge?

A bigger deal

Quebecor bought the Sun newspaper chain in 1998, giving the vertically-integrated conglomerate (it boasts paper and publishing holdings, meaning it gets you coming and going) a popular string of vulgar sex–sports–scandal tabloids preferred by obese tank-top aficionados whose lips move while they read. (The two papers whose sites were ankled are similar tabloids.) But from this sow’s ear, Quebecor fashioned a silk purse: Canoe, the only Canadian portal site that actually makes any sense. (Not that we particularly like portals, but we acknowledge when one is less bad than the others.)

Canoe, which predated the Quebecor takeover, reuses stories from the Suns and other Quebecor newspapers and does a bit of original reporting for the Web. Though run by a middle-aged newspaper guy, Canoe looks dramatic (we love the white, grey, and black, naturally), offers a full archive (the pop-music encyclopedia is great), and is almost worth reading each day.

With their laughably spotty and/or americentric content and eternally bumbling management, competitors Sympatico,, and have bugger-all going for them compared to Canoe.

Better yet, Quebecor finally got its act together and launched a French version. The name is nearly the same, Canoë (pronounced "kan-oo-euh"), even if the URL isn’t ( – Canadian domain-name politics again).

What’s not to like? In short, while no newspaper publisher in Canada comes even remotely close to getting the Internet, Quebecor has sinned the least.


Then why the dunderheaded decision to shut down its sites? Why not simply lob off heads behind the scenes, particularly of the middle-aged guys who rule newsrooms and think "computer network" means "Atex," hire knowledgeable new people, cook up a new approach, and spring it on the world with great fanfare later?

Why tell existing readers to get lost when those who actually deserve punishment, at least according to Quebecor’s thinking, work inside the company?

With the strength of two sibling portal sites differentiated by language and a simple umlaut, why not come up with a way to integrate the two "failed" sites into Canoe and/or Canoë? (Yes, we know, they’re already in Canoë; we refer to doing something better.)

The newspaper malaise

This is a movie called Clueless, with a cast of thousands, all harvested from newsrooms worldwide.

We were planning on saving this up for another day, but the oft-levied accusation that newspapers are clueless about the Web remains true. Editors tend to see the net as threatening the goose that keeps laying the golden egg (the print paper) rather than seeing it as an egg that hatched into a gosling that will grow up to lay or fertilize eggs of its own.

(Jeez. Talk about your metaphors.)

We know of exactly two newspapers worldwide that even bother with the simple addition of a Weblog: The Age in Oz and the Guardian in the U.K.

Traditionally, the youngest staff at newspapers are interns or juniors or, in rare cases, pop-music critics. These are the people who actually get the net. Why aren’t they running entire online divisions, ferreting out stories (in print, audio, and video formats, and in photography, design, and illustration) that live out their existences online and online alone?

That prospect makes middle-aged managers nervous. Any kind of special or oddball coverage tends to be herded into the gulag of enterprise or investigative reporting. If it isn’t part of a daily beat and/or doesn’t have immediately understandable news value for the culture of the print paper, it doesn’t get done – except, in increasingly rare cases, when the reporting will result in a series of exclusives and net the paper prestige and/or industry awards.

That’s how print editors look at new forms of reporting: They don’t understand them. If a new plan is not rejected out of hand, it’s rejected a moment later when it doesn’t fit into the enterprise or investigative bailiwicks, or offers no hope of capturing Lucite trophies at drunken annual newspaper bashes.

No wonder something as simple as a Weblog is effectively unknown.

In this climate, Quebecor’s actions aren’t merely an overreaction, they betray its hard-earned reputation as the newspaper monolith in Canada least clueless about the net.

We’re still waiting

We have a lot of ideas for online news development, not all of them costly. We wonder why newspaper conglomerates don’t attempt limited experiments here and there. Look at it this way: They own a dozen (or fifty, or a hundred) newspapers. All but one of those papers can happily, or at least blithely, maintain the status quo. Give us one paper to play with. Give us five or ten new people with carte blanche. (And Æron chairs, natch.) Market the nouvelle formulation journal onliné far and wide. Remember, the Internet is global.

Case in point: Torstar. If executives ensconced in the concrete bunker by Lake Ontario are wary of fiddling with the biggest goose laying the most glittering golden eggs, the Toronto Star, why not experiment with the Hamilton Spectator down the road? The CRTC recently approved a license for a Victoria TV station that’s permitted to beam into Vancouver. Why not use the same model (not at all novel in Canada – Cf. CKVR’s back-door approach) and cover Hamilton and Toronto news online from Steeltown?

Or cover world news online from Steeltown?

Not exactly rocket science, and not all that risky, either. But, like the simple Weblog, it’s too new and racy a concept for newspapermen (sic). They’re finally comfortable with the Impressionist period and we’re proposing Dadaism, at least as they see it.

We disagree that daily newspapers are irrelevant online. We agree that today’s newspapers mostly are. The zillions of content sites online won’t ever replace a single pre-edited compendium of news (a creature genetically unrelated to a portal); indeed, editing is more important than ever. What’s likely to happen, though, is that no one under age 30 will read an online daily newspaper. They have no reason to do so. To paraphrase Morrissey, the approach that they constantly take says nothing to them about their lives.


Not quite as snarky as this very Weblog is Peter Morville, writing a new column about the black art of information architecture for the outfit that seems to operate every site remotely related to the field, Argus. This week, Strange Connections takes the piss out of the promise of automated information architecture (in "Little Blue Folders").

We touched on a similar automated process, for usability, in the dark prehistory of the NUblog, and later had a nice conversation with a potentate from WebCriteria, who more or less convinced us that fully-automated usability testing is at least semi-applicable to enormous sites. But Morville blows it to shreds, in the nicest possible way.


Note: Not too many updates coming this week. Presently we have issues with exhaustion.

You know we’ve produced over 40 items (nearly 200 K of straight text) in six weeks? Physician, heal thyself. Content site, produce content. Well, we do, kids. We do. And we need a week of respite.

(Yes, the file size for NUblog and the archives is large. We’re working on it. But right now, what we want to do is take a nap and read dead-tree content.)


We’ve got pictures to prove it

We discussed sexy DHTML-style interface trickery a few days ago. You hover over an area and something big and yellow (or dusty-blue) pops out at you, that sort of thing.

Time to give you some pictures, first from search jazzolaD. quick-reference jazzolaD.

A nice retro look from Copyleft:

Sexy retro interface trickery from CopyleftD.

We also know of a tutorial on auto-flyout navbars that the hardcore programmer types might like to read as a break from the ongoing task of posting snarky, geeky diatribes to Slashdot.


Oh, for gosh sakes. We spend a couple of weeks thinking about and then finally writing some kind of panegyric to a smart Web site run by the seemingly passé men’s magazine for guys who like babes but only in the classiest of ways, Esquire, and then a day later Ironminds does more or less the same thing – and gets blogged in the bible of media queens everywhere, Jim Romenesko’s Medianews.

We do, however, disagree with Ironminds’ Magazine Maven on the value of Esquire’s daily updates:

[T]he site really bolts on the aftermarket parts. Each week brings a fresh batch of book and music reviews, drinking and fashion tips, and no-holds-barred, dare-ya-to-kick-my-ass Dubious Achievements parodies written by Shalom Auslander (a Maven favorite). (Esquire’s Web editor, Brendan Vaughan, claims "Shalom Auslander" is a real person, not a blame-avoiding alias devised by some Esquire sub-editor, although the Maven requires greater proof – bring him the head of Shalom Auslander!)

Fine. So we were scooped.

Meanwhile, we finally find something of an history of the acquisition of Suck. We’ve mentioned it a couple of times chez NUblog, in vaguely wistful, the-one-that-got-away tones.

Challenge for domain-name phreaks out there: "Automatic Media has already acquired a domain name for its forthcoming online network, but no one will say what it is." A relatively easy hack, nu?


Link me, Amadeus!

We’re all gung-ho on metadata as a way of adding richness to the "mere" words in Web content. But are links themselves content?

In most cases, yes. Links add richness, depth, and realness to a Web site. They acknowledge that more exists online than that specific page. If the reason you’re visiting that page is to find out more on a topic, links are usually of value.

At least in principle. And we know someone who’s making us quite a bit more aware of what the principles really are. Kirk McElhearn, writing in Tidbits, drops a few bons mots about links as an end to themselves:

[L]inks are easier to generate than content, particularly quality content. It is worth considering whether or not this practice merely meets the demands of users. Do people value a long list of links more than a long article? In many cases, yes, because a list of links offers unlimited promise without the immediate responsibility of reading and comprehending text. People are seldom interested in reading long texts online, so maybe lists of links are the only thing that meet the requirement that content be both copious and free.

Aha. And here’s another goody:

In large part, venues that use links sparingly and appropriately have editors who focus on original content. Although anyone can be a publisher on the Internet, it seems that all too few people can be editors on the Internet.

Finding appropriate links for a NUblog entry has been known to take us 150% of the time required to write it in the first place. Though we don’t hold a candle to Mac the Knife, who uses links as a sort of ironic distancing mechanism, we like to think we add links judiciously. It does take restraint. (Except for the time we engaged in an experiment and wrote a diary entry with fully 240 links.)

From a production standpoint, you need to build time into the critical path to add appropriate links. It’s not enough for your content staff to write as if they were producing a document for print, where the words they write are all the information available. Your writers (or editors, or programmers) need to add hyperlinks and other meta-information. It’s usually the first thing to suffer in a rush job. (Actually, all HTML attributes fly by the wayside then: Everything looks like a quickie export from Microsoft Word, which you can actually verify by viewing the source code.) We’ve actually read corporate press releases, for example, that don’t even link to the product pages they’re talking about.

Um, hello?

We trust it’s self-evident that a content site without links to the outside world is a waste of time. This is the Internet: You’re supposed to link externally, and no, it won’t tarnish your "brand" image, and no, refusing to provide links will not force people to remain at your site, enhancing its "stickiness."

In fact, if you provide good content and good links, people are more likely to come back. Why? Because they know you give your readers some credit. Encouraging readers to leave your site in turn encourages them to come back. This isn’t the checkout counter at the grocery store. You don’t lose your position in queue by jumping to another one.

What sort of man surfs Esquire?

How do you turn a floundering, passé print magazine into an au courant Web "property"?

How high do you have to aim online to be a success?

The under-30 crowd may not believe this, but there was a time when "men’s magazine" meant either (a) Playboy or (b) a fashion/high-living magazine à la GQ, Details (subtitled "for men"), or Esquire. It was a time of upward mobility symbolized by quadraphonic sound systems (as skewered in The People vs. Larry Flynt: "Gentlemen, they are mocking you"), when "men’s magazine" did not equate with "babe in swimsuit on the cover, laddish articles inside." It was a time when "laddish" had no meaning in the Americas, except in earnest colour commentary beamed in from the former empire on the topic of British soccer hooliganism.

Call us old-fashioned: We liked the old way better. But who wants anything old? The Internet is next, new, now, man!

Details lost its hotshot editor and is being reborn as some kind of butched-up W manqué. GQ is trying mightily to prop up the high midrange, resisting the lure of the cover bosom. The lad magazines are interchangeable. Arena of England is to its early housemate The Face as early Bryan Ferry is to his later self: A grown-up, sophisticated successor that Americans can’t quite figure out.

And then there’s Esquire. It’s hard to see where the mag stands in a post-silicone-implant-and-Photoshop-retouching newsscape, though at least one commentator sees some life in it. We do, too, but largely due to early visual brainwashing. Roger Black, the famed, dapper magazine designer who would make Harry Connick Jr. feel underdressed, took a form of demotion to become Esquire’s art director in the ’90s (part of a long, friendly affiliation between Black and the Hearsts, who enjoy regular lunches).

The magazine still, to this day, benefits from a richness of typography and design that you see nowhere else. Absolutely nowhere – because Roger Black also co-owns a custom-typeface consultancy and goes way back in typography, knowing that Fairfield is really a hot-metal face and preferring his headline fonts with 1970s-style, Lubalinesque, King Kong–-sized x-heights.

A page in Esquire has more happening, as seen through the eyes of the seasoned old-school designer, than any page of Ray Gun ever had as seen through the eyes of a kid who never knew that fonts used to come without bitmapped versions. And the photography remains crème-de-la-crème.

So who would ever bother looking at

They’re trying something smart, the Hearst New Media politburo. They’re "leveraging" the Esquire "core competency" of literature – for electronic distribution, for free. (Actually, not quite for free, after you buy a customized viewer that will be out of date faster than a furry cowboy hat.) You can download four articles, fiction and non-fiction (including an impressive piece about the crash of Swissair 111), and read them in the comfort and privacy of your home/office/bedroom/subway car/coffee-bar franchise.

For some people, the experiment is a surprising success. Some lessons to learn:

  1. As we’ve already stated ad nauseam, people will read something worth reading irrespective of visual interference. There’s certainly a novelty value at work ("Wow! I downloaded Esquire!" cries the Baby Boomer), but people will read literature on an LCD. Even a crappy LCD.
  2. "Old-media" properties may overlook the transferability of some of their traditional strengths. Through a very complicated and somewhat inaccessible use of tables and graphics, accompanied by a beautiful teal background, manages to evoke the graphical sophistication of its print parent. If we assume people visiting the site aren’t there for T&A but for good content, isn’t it a value-adding feature to market the site with "The best writing. The best design"? (Yes, the design recalls print. It’s a print publication.)
  3. Even otherwise-well-executed plans suffer form lacunæ. Just a couple we notice:
    1. We’re really quite tired of the Esquire penchant for rhapsodizing about "Women We Love," complete with airbrushed photos of youngish women that reinforce the self-image of thirtysomething arrivistes. ("I find her sexy, in a sophisticated, high-income, 300-ab-crunches-a-day way, unlike those vulgarians slobbering over Maxim.") Not all Esquire readers "love women." We can coexist peacefully with those who do, as long as it’s not shoved down our throats. (Next they’re going to want an entire "Women We Love" parade, and special rights for their outré desires.) We find this overzealousness doubly ironic because Roger Black is gay. We suppose this recapitulates the irony of gay fashion designers, maquilleurs, and photographers making women look good, but there’s only so much irony we can take while reading a magazine subtitled Man at His Best.
    2. The Web site reuses URLs from month to month, meaning that if you link to the thumbnail of the print version’s cover, eventually your URL will continue to work even though the content changed. Poor content management, that. (Asset management, you could call it.)
    3. The site is slow to be updated. One can spend a week reading a newly-released print issue before seeing any acknowledgement on the Web site that the magazine has turned over. Web sites are supposed to work in advance of print.
    4. Esquire could be publishing vastly more coverage, and literature, online. (Wow – what original advice!) We do not refer to the useless piddling style updates served up daily. We’re talking about online-exclusive materials, including photos, cartoons, and illustrations. The marginal cost is negligible. Weekly updates would do fine. (Yes, weekly updates on a Web site. A non-obvious solution.) The print magazine is as thin as it is for reasons of advertising. Acquisition costs for online-only articles are small compared to the entrained costs of design, printing, and distribution. It’s not enough to give away content for E-books; you have to give everyone more than what they can get in the print magazine, or at least do better than giving them the same content tied to some new gizmo.

For yesterday’s men’s magazine, Esquire isn’t doing badly. All their sins are venial, not mortal, and there’s no likelihood of burning through millions in cash and taking the entire ship to the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes slow and steady finishes the race. Winning may be overrated.


Joint, or asunder?

Mergers are megalomaniacal and outdated ("I’m in murders and executions"), but here’s one that might just work: Suck + Feed + alt.culture := Automatic Media.

The clever people at Suck and Feed seem to think they can do more together than apart. Possibly. But both publications hew to the Village Voice/Spy axis of snarky leftist writing. (The late-’80s heyday of Spy in particular has never been equalled.) The precedents in the print world are unreassuring. Spy tanked. (Its later half-arsed resurrection doesn’t count.) David Schneiderman of Village Voice Media has bought up pretty much every large alternative newsweekly in the U.S., and, along with co-duopolist New Times, we’re now looking at Thomson- or Gannett-style concentrated empires in alternaweekly publishing. ("Rosebud!")

Does the Automatic Media news mean that indie online media, rather like alternative newsweeklies, can survive only by amalgamating? (Slate, with daddy-o’s unlimited cashflow, doesn’t count.) Again, possibly. Genuinely independent sites form so-called networks as a way to show allegiance (on the more artistique end – e.g., Project Cool, de l’époque; I2K) or to inflate rate schedules for banner advertisements (on the more mercantile end – e.g., ChickClick).

This merger is higher-profile, since Condé Nast is one of the investors. Si Newhouse’s Advance Magazine empire has been slow to embrace the Web, as the pundits would put it, but unlike them, we don’t think "slow" implies "not getting it." Sarah Chubb at CondeNet (interview) has mightily resisted the pathfinderian lure of shovelware and has tried to link dynamic databases to topic-limited magazine content in deliberately small doses. Though shovelware sometimes works (archives are a value-adding feature), we consider CondeNet’s approach nonstupid. Their investment is likely to be equally nonstupid.

Lycos is name-checked as an Automatic Media partner, but apparently their investment amounts to "contributing" Suck, which had been bought by Wired Digital years ago (passim) and completely neglected. (Joey Anuff: "It takes so much energy to lobby for your properties when you’re a two-person shop in a company with probably thousands of different employees.")

Lycos executives are shockingly adept at swinging deals where they pay peanuts or earn millions, having persuaded BCE to funnel up to $125 million down their gullets to attach the failed Lycos "brand" and whatever passes for its content to the failed Sympatico "brand" and whatever passes for its content.

The Automatic Media FAQ lists total capitalization at about $4 million. You can do a lot with that much money. (Yes, "that much," not "that little.")

Our guess is that the real impetus behind the merger, apart from that "synergy" claptrap, rests on user-contributed content. We’re not big on user-contributed content as most E-commerce sites conceive of and present it, but we like the Slashdot concept, which Automatic Media is explicitly licensing:

Automatic Media says it is developing a new high-tech message-board system that will let users more easily filter out the irrelevant or uninteresting messages that often plague discussion communities. Automatic Media is developing the system with the help of[....] Even some of Automatic Media’s investors say they would be a bit skeptical about investing in a traditional Web "content" company. "That’s not what we’re investing in," says Jeff Jarvis, president of "They are onto the next generation of content."

Snarky leftist content combined with snarky geeks goofing off work to post hate messages combined further with allegedly intelligent filtering mechanisms might work. Yet we’re not convinced they’ll end up making so much more money this way that it’ll prove to have been worth the effort. Having endured the rigamarole of personalizing content sites ourselves, and having struggled valiantly with the Slashdot message-board system, we are also not convinced that even the target market of snarky, geeky leftists will find it worth the trouble to go through the jiggery-pokery to filter out bozos.

Many questions in the air, few answers. But as snarky, geeky leftists, we wish the new kids luck.



Some stories you might have missed:

A headline that sums it up: " Cuts Commerce Unit, Keeps Content Site." Gee, weren’t we all under the impression that content sites were tanking? Maybe things aren’t so simple. We really love this article, by Betsy Schiffman:

Analysts say’s "real" value was not its commerce unit, but its content. "Content was Reel’s most compelling asset." [...] Ironically, though, the content will be licensed to bare-bones discount commerce site [...] The music store, for example, used to sell CDs without pictures of the album covers, but the prices were some of the cheapest on the Web. [...] Still, according to CEO Gregory Hawkins, the company found that a certain amount of content is necessary to facilitate sales. "[...] we’ve worked hard to add an appropriate amount." And Hawkins believes Reel’s content will feed consumers’ appetite. "Certain levels of content are very valuable in the entertainment category," Hawkins says. So although content may have been debunked as king, it’s still royalty.

And if Web content is shuffling off this mortal coil, why is the Motley Fool canning its print magazine to concentrate on the Web?

(The publication, of which a sole issue has appeared, is referred to using the smug and nauseating business-English neologism play: "the irreverent investor Web site’s magazine play." We suppose smug and nauseating are what you visit for anyway. Another term we loathe is space: "the Internet content space." And don’t get us started on the most vile word in the English and even the American language, repurposing.)

Is the Web really about text? We can go either way, but put another notch on the lipstick case of the Yes, and We Don’t Need No Stinking TV Signals Stuffed Through Our Cable Modems faction. Gerry McGovern of the redoubtable Nua Internet Surveys writes:

"Experts" still talk about the Internet in a way that runs totally contrary to what it is. Every time I hear someone go on about the visual and the multimedia and the experience, I ask them to think about how they actually use the Internet. Slowly, painfully, they come to admit that they are like the rest of us – they want to get the information they want quickly.

Good information, of course. Quick-loading tin is worse than slow-loading gold.

Indeed, on that tip, we’re all for unfettered expression, but we’re also in favour of editors, which the kids at kind of need. They endlessly debate the musical question "Is content dead?" and more or less arrive at the conclusion "No, and we, as Web-design sophistiqués, define ’content’ more broadly than most." Indeed, we love the graphic design of, even if we can’t particularly read it.

Now, this is rich. In Internet World’s regular, stiffly-written "Deconstructing" column of Web criticism, soi-disant user-centred-design maven Peter Merholz whinges: also exposes the perils of "cutting-edge" technology. Trying to view any products in their "3D enhanced area" returned this error on IE5 for Win98: Cannot bind the object with the following variable name: "Dummy." Make sure it is marked "Interactive" in the object inspectors behavior page. Not a very good experience. And it makes you wonder about the quality of the products in the catalog that are tagged with the "Invented Here" logo.

We seem to recall persistent use of the term "Editorial Dummy" at Merholz’s own site, Epinions. The charitable view is that Merholz has learned from his company’s own error, and now feels empowerd to call other firms on the same transgression.


Rushkoff solves the riddle!

The reasons for fame are elusive. They certainly elude us in the case of Douglas Rushkoff, the inexplicably eminent media critic responsible for unreadable books like Coercion (we gave up the struggle in the page-20 range) and overstated books like Playing the Future. (This is not a religious diatribe, à la Macintosh vs. Windows. We are not antirushkoffian by policy. Indeed, Playing the Future was bang-on in focusing on a generation gap in sensory literacy – the kids today can take in a lot more stimuli at once than their parents ever could. We merely adjudge Rushkoff overrated.)

Anyway, l’homme Rushkoff has now settled what online content is, means, and does once and for all, with the finality that clients pay him thousands of dollars a day to deliver. (At, we offer taste, i.e., opinion, not some form of received truth.) Apparently content is something we use as a pretext for small talk at the office the next day. We all have some kind of nascent need to tell stories, apparently, and Web sites are stoking the conversational fires at workplaces from one end of Ohio to another, in Rushkoff’s worldview.

Readily confusing the last episode of MASH with the miscellanea that typify the Internet, Rushkoff wants us to believe that people talk about what they surf – as a means to "lubricate" conversations. (Any linguist will tell you that some words have meaning and others have function, like "hi." How is this any different?)

Rushkoff concludes with the advice that –

Those of you who think you are creating online content, take note: your success will be directly dependent on your ability to create excuses for people to talk to one another. For the real measure of content’s quality is its ability to serve as a medium.

– which brings back unhappy memories of portalistas and their mass condescension. Portal sites assume the masses have vague and undefined interests, like "sports" or "entertainment." Rushkoff assumes that people will find Web sites of surpassingly general interest and talk them up at work. The net isn’t like that. Internet content is about specificity.

If you need a conversation-starter at the office (has Rushkoff ever worked in a real one?), you’re going to refer to some phenomenon of safe general interest. (Montgomery Burns on The Simpsons: "How ’bout that... local sports team?") As we explained in our dissection of portals, anyone who’s been online a while develops a portfolio of personal sites related to his or her pet topics. There’s probably a good reason why they’re pet topics. One such reason is "None of my friends, and certainly no one at work, gives a damn." But other people online do. In cyberspace, no one knows you’re a dog. In meatspace, no one needs to know about your absurdly specific interests. (And we’re not even talking porn here.)

We at don’t exactly prance into work of a morning eager to talk up our colleagues about those neato Web sites we discovered on the topics of captioning, Maine coon cats, motorbikes, Ultimate®, triathlon, or any of the other cherished obsessions we nurture. Grice’s conversational maxims, and mere decency, keep us from doing that.

So why does Rushkoff think other people don’t have the same kind of common sense?

(And anyway, we all know what people do with Web sites they think other people will like: They mail a link, or write about ’em on their Weblogs. But talking about them at work? Please.)

Another quickie compatibility note: We’re now using the HTML 4 ACCESSKEY attribute in several of the permanent links on this page. In compliant browsers – including Windows Explorer 4 and later and iCab – you can hold down a modifier key on your keyboard and press the ACCESSKEY to activate the links. (You can also include the feature in forms and suchlike, but we’re not.)

The key for the NUblog archives, for example, is Z. Explorer users should be able to zip to that file by pressing Alt-Z. In iCab, deposit the cursor in the main window and just type the key straight off with no modifiers. Give it a whirl. It’s another experimental feature, like the metadata discussed the other day.


Interface trickery

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that)

We know this is nothing but interface trickery, but since interfaces are quite visible online (pace "content") and we have praised interface trickery before, let’s do it again: We whelped with delight upon seeing the pop-up menu balloons at Using a DHTML-compatible browser (despite its spitefulness and annoyances, Macintosh Explorer 5 will do nicely), hover ye olde mouse over words like "search," "quick ref" or "mirror sites." Don’t you love the colour? And the trail of tiny bubbles? (Don Ho, come on down!)

Despite the gaudiness, gimmickry, and inaccessibility, we could be down wit’ seeing more of this stuff.

Hello Kitty woodmation: Design trope of the Aughties?

Another megastar of the millisecond, this one with design and content (on design: how recursive): Eye Candy from the Underground.

(How’s that for a hard-to-read sentence? And we call ourselves writers.)

The page is a bit odd. Curt Cloninger complains about stagnant, unoriginal corporate Web design, then lists ten alternative design tropes, including something that inexplicably conjoins Hello Kitty and <quote>woodmation</quote>. What, he wants people to exchange one set of clichés for another?

But you’re sick of our griping.

UPDATE from Curt: "The eye candy page is a proof-of-concept outline for a talk I hope to give at the conference this December. So it’s a pre-outline of a proposed talk about Web design suddenly blogged by many and critically reviewed by some on the merits of its own critical acumen. Wait, did I just review your review?"

What impresses us nearly to stupefaction is Curt’s ability, borne by the form of expression, to sum up entire design archetypes in phrases separated by commas. The constraint here is Nielsen-style Web-writing. Curt’s is a tremendously impressive skill.

Graphic design is invisible to most people. To many Web-surfers, it is partially visible because of the dichotomy between content and presentation, and because we sit there watching pages build themselves as GIFs download and tables struggle to be rendered. (Not a reference to the NUblog, shurely?!) But it’s hard to sum up in words.

If designers could sum up design in words, they wouldn’t need to design. Curt manages to do both. We’ve achieved it a few times in our design writing. It works well in lectures in design conferences. There seems to be a pattern in effect. When you think the readers are already on your wavelength, you manage to communicate design tropes so clearly anyone can get them.

We bring all our powers of expression fully to bear and summarize Curt’s page thusly: Wow.



We had some unforeseen problems entrained by the switch of colour scheme yesterday. Problems where? In Netscape, of course. They’ve all been fixed. This entire page validates as HTML 4.0 Transitional. If your browser can’t read it, change browsers.

Letters. We get lots and lots of letters

The NUblog generates fan mail. We are somewhat unaccustomed to this sort of popularity. And we’re getting into a couple of useful discussions, one of which is excerpted herein, with permission. (HTML badly needs a built-in format for displaying E-mail discussions akin to the format=flowed spec. We’re faking things with HTML.)

Note that we use three of George Carlin’s swearwords here, one of which is unavoidable by virtue of being embedded in a domain name. Unlike CNN, which refers to through the misplaced, paternalistic, churchy redaction of IP address, we’re not big on censorship. If you don’t want to read swearing in an otherwise serious site, don’t.

Steve Gilliard of Netslaves writes, after reading our discussion of Salon and the "death of content":

Gilliard – Love the site.

The whole problem with sites like Salon, which don’t even link to most of their writers, is that interactivity. It’s critical. At Netslaves, we get abused regularly, but the exchange is vital. – Well, OK. We have a problem here. Sites with discussion fora offer the illusion of interactivity. Powerful journos write their articles, and the rabble kibbitz among themselves, entirely ignored by journos and editors.

Gilliard – Which is so wrong that I don’t even pay attention to it any more. As opposed to Slashdot, where the rabble are the editors, and the comments, while often childish, are often informed as well. – If we were running the world – and we have proposed this to more than one content site – writers would be forced to participate in discussions. For that to happen, there might be some editing of submissions:

Choose one:

Gilliard – Hmmm. But does Rich have the balls for it? Maureen Dowd clearly doesn’t. I couldn’t care less about the postings for postings’ sake. I like the accountability. When we’re wrong, we get called on it. It’s much healthier than the letter-to-the-editor approach.

Look at It’s smoking-hot right now, both with news and a message board. A smart company could harness that idea into real news, a real living wire service, not this dull shit that passes for news. – OK, but: There is no formula for success. That is true of every artistic medium. Propellerheads will throw around words like "meme," but who knows what makes popular sites popular? or popular singers popular?

Gilliard – There are some things: a sense of community, editors who care about the message as well as the work. Jim Romenesko cares about the message of his site as well as the quality of it. No single formula will work; we couldn’t copy /. any more than they could morph into Netslaves. Every site is different, every editor is different. – One keeps thinking of Orangina. Leslie Savan in the Village Voice deconstructed American Orangina commercials (imported from Europe) about eight years ago. To her eye, they were suffused with "Why won’t the American public just obey our instructions to consider Orangina cool? When will they learn?" Companies try really hard to produce something memorable, something memetic, and fail most of the time.

Gilliard – Because cool is something that happens. Napster is cool not because it allows free music. You could set up an FTP site for that. It is because it creates this massive library of music of all different tastes from Nazi skinhead Oi to movie soundtracks to Phil Ochs. – The same is true for amateurs. There are lots of satirical sites, the Onion being the biggest. What makes the Onion and FuckedCompany work? Can we really put our finger on it? We wish to fuck we could.

Gilliard – Not worth it. You have to find your own way. I’ve met the Slashdot guys and know their boss. Nice people, respect them greatly. Could not deal with that environment if you paid me.

The Onion is 10 years of work. It’s about as overnight a success as George Clooney. They worked for years to get that voice and that site to where it is. FuckedCompany, which I’m going to write on for the site tonight, is synergy :-); it’s angry, abused people gathering together to complain and think about an industry which is flawed in many ways. They’re learning a lesson about capitalism – the bosses and you do not share the same interests. It’s like a giant I Am TV commercial with real attitude. :-)

Not everyone can or should be a journalist. Look at Drudge. After he was chased from Hollywood, he went back home to DC and all the dumbass media drones sucked up to him like he could read in English, much less write in it.

We stomped all over APBNews because they didn’t get it. Their writing was like Sominex it was so correct and dull. Salon fired writers because writers are cheap to fire. Fire designers and you can’t replace them easily. – (Embarrassing admission: We didn’t read much at APBNews before it went tits-up and we started writing about it.)

Gilliard – Neither did I. After reading it and hearing from their staff, I know why. They were dull as shit. And as a Canadian, why would you care about it? It’s U.S. news anyway. Smug assholes, got most of what they deserved.

Content hasn’t even really started. The net could be a great place for dissident voices. Our amoral news companies will invest in anything for money, as will most VCs. There is room to do a lot in this space, but all you have are blueshirts kissing each other’s ass and sniffing for praise. – We wonder about this.

Gilliard – I don’t. I’ve seen it. The hardcore people I have nothing, as they say among the homies, but love for. Slashdot, the Smoking Gun, the guys at OJR, Jim Romenesko, Aaron Barnhart. But the pretenders, the guys who walk around in those damn shirts and smile at everyone like they just hit the lotto... please.

The best work comes from love here. Not just some plan and VC money.


A new month, a new colour scheme. We received one compliment about the old light-on-dark theme and two complaints, one of which derived from a Netscape user who refused to upgrade to a browser created later than the Cretaceous period. (Netscape is just too broken for real-world use in the year 2000. If you wish to remain loyal to the Nescape heritage, download Mozilla.)

Should you have trouble reading even these colours, we suggest using a custom stylesheet, which stylesheet-enabled browsers – including Explorer, by far the most-widely-used browser – support handily. All you need is a tiny text file containing the following:

BODY {color: black; background-color: white}
A:LINK {color: blue}
A:VISITED {color: purple}

Save it with a name like user.css and fish around in your preferences to specify it as an overriding personal stylesheet. Remember, they’re called cascading stylesheets for a reason: Web authors write one and you can write your own, and, subject to certain rules, yours overrides ours. Everyone’s happy.

While we adhere to every known best practice in HTML authoring, you have to do a bit of work yourself. Reading text online is a process of feature negotiation: We specify certain settings and you override the ones you dislike. Even so, we are heeding complaints and trying a dark-on-light colour scheme. After all this effort, Netscape users who keep nagging us about it may find themselves with a faceful of pink.


Back to the NUblog home | Contact (quickie E-mail)