Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Threads Window

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Dec 17, 1997

Posted to HotWired 18 Dec 97

I've tried clicking in the threads window beside Katz's column a few times, only to have a two inch wide version of threads show up. Not useful. If you decide to keep it, at least give the link a target="_top".

I imagine that the purpose of the threads window is to allow us to type comments while looking at Katz's article. But (especially on a 640x480 window, which I use sometimes) there isn't enough space to do both. I typically launch a second browser if I need to have both windows open.

So, for the most part, the threads window is useless to me. Get rid of it. Place a link to threads on each page. You may even consider creating a link which launches a new browser window.

Some writers have commented about the multi-page layout of the column. In my view, this is correct design. Scrolling is a pain (yes, yes, I know you can use the space bar, or even the arrow keys... but who remembers?).

But - and this is Hotwired major problem - the server is way too slow to permit that. I have pretty good access speeds generally, especially at work. It is very frustrating waiting for Hotwired's server to compile the page before I can view it.

Also, I would get rid of the background image and go with a plain colour. The backgrounds used add no new information. And (does this happen to other people?) they freeze my browser while they load.

The colour schemes have been pretty good so far... good contrast and yet complimentary colours. I also like the font. Very easy to read. Though you may consider dropping to size=3 (will that work for WebTV? I don't know.

Finally, with respect to topics (I know it's not design, but it is commented on above): I have to agree with some previous commentators. Media is a fascination of mine, which is why I haunt this thread, but Katz's topics are not quite so fascinating.

Katz is obsessed with the very issues with which he claims American media are obsessed: glitter and glamour, celebrity, and scandal. I - and, I suspect, the majority of 'digital citizens', are not so obsessed.

My major piece of advice: go international. Take a cue from the long list of posts about the Tokyo summit. Instead of focussing on major American newspapers and television networks, take a look at what Le Monde and Der Spiegel are doing. Compare the way they cover major events. Tell us why Russian television is so weird, and about the Japanese fascination with gadgets and gimmicks.

And, instead of only looking at what media is covering, look also at what they are not covering. Again - because it's important - I draw your attention to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. How is the world covering that? The far eastern economic collapse? Not a word! This is the largest story of the year - Katz, where have you been?

Finally, a large part of covering the media involves challenging sources. Katz's "I don't know anything about statistics, and I don't care" attitude is reprehensible in a media commentator. When a major headline appears across the nation, or even only in Wired, the commentator's first reaction should be, "Who says?"

That's enough rant on this topic. But let me say this again, in case you missed it: speed up your server. Failure here means the end of Hotwired.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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