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Publishing, Coffee, Contracts

March 08, 2004

Welcome to mezzoblue expanded, a fresh Monday afternoon edition featuring commentary on items in the news that would have otherwise been relegated to sidebar status. (Because some days are more reflective than others.)

Craig Saila points to a lengthy but good read this morning by Vin Crosbie at Online Journalism Review which may be considered alarmist for the newspaper industry, but advocates practices have long been in use amongst the geek crowd.

In particular, Vin outlines a personalization strategy for big media that makes a connection between declining sales over the past four decades and the ever-forward march of technology. Newspapers, he argues, haven’t kept pace, especially given the variety of news outlets. Even the web isn’t proving a saving grace as the readership numbers are fairly consistent with the dead tree versions. Younger generations are less inclined to read newspapers, and the web isn’t drawing them in.

So personalization is the solution. The more technically savvy figured this out long ago, and thanks to NetNewsWire and FeedDemon among others, we’ve had the tools to make it a reality. I used to check in with, my local papers (or rather, their web equivalent) and a few other news sources daily. Used to, but I’ve since moved to more specialized news sources that align with my interests, and I’m not alone.

Newspapers have always been content aggregators; the content is no longer behind lock and key, so alternative solutions are cropping up. More content becomes available for consumption every day thanks to RSS/Atom. A newspaper’s role in this century is to bring this technology to the masses, or to die. §

Coffee is the fuel that powers the web, as far as I’m concerned. In light of that, good news this morning—it’s healthy, according to Italian dietician Chiara Trombetti. Anti-oxidants and tannin found in stronger brews are good for the heart and arteries, it’s good for the liver, and of course the caffiene boosts circulation.

So put a mug on as you work your way through the rest of this, and stock up on the teeth whitening strips, because if you take this advice to heart you’re going to need them. §

This is the punchline:

The sales representative kindly agreed to remove the clause when I pointed out that it wasn’t really sensible for us to ‘mortgage’ our company and all its intellectual property, and all its future, yet-to-be-created intellectual property, just to obtain telephone services worth under $500 a month.

This is the post. Excerpted from Martin Ertl’s new weblog Boilerplate, dedicted to “elegant drafting in contracts”. §

First it was Dan Cederholm’s new ‘Markup and Style Handbook’, and announced today were Eric Meyer’s two new books. Forthcoming: a second edition to the O’Reilly-published “Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide”, and a sequel to the now-classic “Eric Meyer on CSS” titled, appropriately, “More Eric Meyer on CSS”. Congratulations to the both of you, looking forward to all three. §

Finally, a story from my weekend.

So, can you explain to us, in layman’s terms so that we might even understand, what it is exactly that you do?

Well, gee Uncle C., I’ve been trying to that for years with only a limited degree of success, but here’s an example that might work. Think about the billboards, brochures, TV commercials, and businesss signs that you see daily. Somebody has obviously been paid to create them, so try to imagine taking those principles, squishing the production into a little box, and delivering the whole package on a screen.

But that’s the first half. Now for another analogy: think about your car’s dashboard. Somebody has spent a lot of time thinking about the various dials and controls, how they look, how they feel, and how easy they are to grab without taking your eyes off the road. I do that, but again, for things that only show up on screen.

So, then, what exactly are you going to be talking about at this conference in Texas next week?

Specifically, this technology called CSS which…. oh, hey, we’re out of gravy. I’ll be right back.§

Reader Comments

March 08, 03h

“Newspapers, he argues, haven’t kept pace, especially given the variety of news outlets.”

You know, you’re exactly right. They aren’t keeping pace. There’s no reason for every major newspaper to not have an RSS feed on their websites today. This is old technology by now. I know that I would certainly read more newspapers (online) if I got their feed each day in my aggregator.

March 08, 03h

Great post Dave. I especially enjoyed the “A newspaper’s role in this century is to bring this technology to the masses, or to die” line, which is so absolutely true. I’m reading the Crosbie article now – thanks for the link.

paul says:
March 08, 04h

good post! to be honest though, i only skimmed it until i got to the part about gravy.

mmm… gravy.

Eric says:
March 08, 06h

Yeah…trying to explain to the relatives is something I’ve just about given up on. I thought when the newer MS Word with styles came out that people would start to understand separation of content from presentation…given MS’s ungodly market share and how helpful styles are on large documents. But then I figured out, after a few blank stares (“what are styles???”) and going through a 110 page document for the City of Buffalo normalizing styles after 3 different offices had had their hands on it (6pt type which was styled “H1 + 6pt + left=0 + not bold + italic”) that people don’t know how to use those, either. I’m still trying to come up with a good analogy.

jim says:
March 08, 10h

Yeah, the relatives, it’s all gravy to them. Mine do know what the internet IS, but are not quite sure what it is that I do with it. I get the impression that they are happy (and quite surprised) that I am making such good money from my ‘hobby’. One day I’ll send them a book I’ve written and maybe they’ll finally get it. Until then, pass the gravy.

Pete says:
March 09, 01h

Actually, I just tell them I work in porn. It’s so much easier.

March 09, 04h

I’ve sent my relatives several books I’ve written and it still doesn’t help.

Mike says:
March 09, 04h

I had quite a funny one trying to answer my gran when she asked my what the ‘www’ thing was after the credits of TV programs… This is the woman who we still catch looking through the lens of her camera (that she’s owned for 30 years) and complaining that everything looks small!

Since I went freelance she’s decided that I’m a businessman and nothing I say convinces her otherwise.

At least accesibility is easier to explain: “You know the ramps for wheelchairs outside libraries? Well it’s a bit like that but for web pages.”

Trent says:
March 09, 05h

I think the sequel to “Eric Meyer On CSS” should be called “Eric Meyer Under CSS.”

Monty says:
March 09, 06h

Well Spoken

I’ll take it even one step further. US citizens are no longer satisfied with American journalism and the
coverage normally associated with it. I am very involved in cycling and have been since Greg LeMond’s tour wins.
At the time I had very few outlets to obtain cycling news in the States. Now I have 4 different RSS feeds from
4 different countries, none of which are located in the US. (VeloNews is my only print media) Coverage of the
WRC are mostly Europian based yet I have constant updates for that sport as well. There are many more
examples in many more areas of the news so I will stop here.

Simply put, unless certain news outlets update how they provide news, they will be left behind.

Brian G says:
March 09, 09h

I worked at (Canada’s from 1997-2000, then did what I refer to as my “dot com tour of duty” from 2000-2001. When I wasn’t at TSN, my relatives were convinced that I was doing something shady, because I changed jobs 3 times in that period.

I went back to in the summer of 2001, and now I can just say “I help run”…it’s so much easier.

KJC says:
March 10, 09h

“There’s no reason for every major newspaper to not have an RSS feed on their websites today.”

I agree…though more papers have them than I originally thought. Just a quick poking around shows that CS Monitor (, the Boston Globe (, and The Guardian ( have RSS feeds.

katie says:
March 15, 08h

And the Washington Post just started offering RSS feeds at