What is the Guardian for?

Having read the changed online version of the Guardian in its new part-of-canada.com home for three days now, I’m wondering what the design criteria for the new site were.

Does the Guardian exist to deliver the news, clearly and effectively, or does it exist to deliver eyeballs to advertisers, using the news as a second-level excuse to attract said eyes their way?

When I worked at a daily newspaper, there was a clear and unequivocal separation of the editorial and design processes for the “content” and the ‘advertising” in the paper. The employees of each branch worked on different floors. In the composing room the ad paste-up and the edit paste-up were generally handled by two separate groups of people.

Each recognized the importance of the other, and there was something noble about the edit side — as much as people working for a small town newspaper reporting about the school board and traffic accidents could be, the editors and reporters felt that they were doing more than just helping the publishers making money.

The print equivalent of the design of the new Guardian website would be to run advertising on the front page filling up the entire space above the fold, Why is this okay?

Delta Blues

It’s hard to write off the Delta Prince Edward, the Big Hotel on Charlottetown’s waterfront: over the 10 years we’ve lived on the Island we’ve attended countless concerts, dinners, and fundraisers there, eaten many good meals in their dining room, and even stayed a night or two (the most interesting time was one Christmas eve, pre-Oliver, when I swore to Catherine that it would be easy to go out and have dinner; it wasn’t, and we ended up checking in to the Delta — then the CP — and having dinner from the snack machines and watching cable TV). There’s no doubting that the Island needs a hotel of the size and stature of the Delta and that we’d be worse off without it.

But at the same time, there’s also no doubting that the Delta isn’t exactly an architectural or planning masterpiece: it stands at the foot of Queen St. like a big red monolith.

While I wouldn’t compare it to the Sydney Tar Ponds or the Dorchester Penitentiary like the author of the Lonely Planet Guide to the Maritimes has, I’ve no problem with a hotel being judged on its aesthetics, and on that ground the Delta is, in the end, a failure.

Fred Hyndman, for one, is on the record as agreeing with me on this point (follow the link to listen to a CBC radio interview with Fred about Catherine Hennessey in which he touches on the issue).

The Guardian, RIP

The Guardian, Charlottetown’s daily newspaper, used to have a nice, simple, quick-loading website. Starting today, alas, they no longer do. Sucked up like so many small dailies by the Borg of CanWest, The Guardian is now a generic part of the genericoverse (aka canada.com). That’s too bad. I’ve removed my bookmark.

Adventures on the Information Red Clay Road: Getting Wired Cheap

Back in September of 1994 I spoke at a conference called Access in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Access is a yearly conference of people at the intersection of librarianship and nerdity.

My talk was called Adventures on the Information Red Clay Road: Getting Wired Cheap and, thanks to Art Rhyno, I’ve got a copy of it here.

Reading that talk for the first time in 8 years was quite interesting. So much has changed since then — paying for things online is trivial now, and we use graphical web browsers to surf what we hadn’t yet then come to call “the web” — and yet so much is the same — issues of information control, who owns the wires, and what we use this great web for. My favourite quote from the talk is:

The sad thing is that now CFCY Radio plays the greatest hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s and might as well be in Red Deer, Alberta as in Charlottetown, and IslandTel is just another boring Stentor lump owned by BCE. The telephone operators are gone and the hits just keep on coming and what we thought, 50 years ago, were going to be the tools that were going change the very fabric of our society have, I think, come up short.

Plans are shaping up for Access 2002,being held in Windsor, Ontario. I’m giving the closing talk, tentatively titled The Information Red Clay Road Revisited, part of a series called Are We There Yet? Reflections on the Trip So Far. Access brings together an interesting group of people and if your passions lie in the world of information and knowledge and how we apply technology to sift through it, you would not do wrong to attend.

Look Ma, No Wires

I wrote here last week about the wonders of surfing the Internet without wires from the streets and cafes of Boston.

This week I’m back on my home turf, and have done some more experimenting in this regard.

As I type this I am sitting on my back porch (Catherine prefers to call it “back steps,” but as there is room enough for a chair I insist). My iBook is beaming up to the wireless access point in the front room of the house for Internet. It’s a beautiful day. Birds are singing, children are laughing, the trees — which normally serve only to prevent grass from growing in our backyard — are providing just enough shade so that I can see the screen on the laptop.

Now, granted, I am not swimming, or rolling down a hill with Oliver or gardening or bicycling or paddling our canoe — all those things that normal people are supposed to do outside in the summer — but it’s a damn site better sitting out here in the back yard doing this then it is doing it inside the darkened data cavern out front.

My other WiFi experiment this week has been visiting GrabbaJabba every day for an hour or so, jacking in to Dave’s secret WiFi network across the street. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of work there for that hour a day. This is partly due to aforementioned out-of-cave environment, and I’m sure partly due to the iced moccacinos coursing through my brain as a work there.

More later from the WiFi frontier.