Drama trumps truth and importance, Seth Godin on the news

Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote two great bits last week on how the news is screwed up.

First: The New York Times should only publish something if it’s true and important.

If I were editing the Times, I’d look at every single editorial feature, every single article and ask if it met either of the two things the Times could stand for. If not, that piece should be gone, deleted, unassigned. No sports section, for example. If you can’t be the best in the world, don’t bother, because someone else is going to get my attention. The Times needs 50 more bestseller lists, 20 more trusted stories about real political fact and insight, ten more cultural touchstone features… and a lot less filler, a lot less copycat stuff and nothing, nothing about Barbara Walters.

Second: Even reporting on hard news like election results CNN favors drama over truth.

There isn’t media bias in favor of Hillary…. Nor is there media bias in favor of floods. There’s media bias in favor of drama.

Most of us are inclined to believe that government officials, doctors and the media are making an effort to tell us the truth. Actually, just like all marketers, they tell us a story.

The benefits of knowing HTML

A recent interview with the design director of NYTimes.com revealed something wonderful, they still write their HTML by hand.

It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

Hell yeah, it does.

The nerds can get a bit macho about their coding skillz, as can be witnessed in the comments thread over at LifeHacker, but don’t be fooled – HTML is not just for 21st century gearheads.

Sixth W, in HTML

Why we care

It is nearly impossible to write tight code with software like Dreamweaver unless you’re already a HTML guru. But so what, as long as it looks pretty, it’s fine, right?

Wrong. A well-coded site loads much faster, is easier to maintain and will be more findable by search engines. The files will be smaller, keeping your hosting costs down because you’re using less bandwidth.

Plus you don’t have to buy all that software! The finest text editor on the market, TextMate, costs $63. Dreamweaver costs $399. I use the very simple gedit, a free and open source text editor for Linux, and Windows users have the excellent and also free Notepad++.

Finally, even if you are just writing a blog (or using any other content management system), a knowledge of some basic HTML will make an enormous difference in the visual consistency of your work.

A BMW and a Pontiac aren’t all that different – except in the details. Users notice build quality, even if they’ve got no idea what’s going on under the hood.

If I’ve sold you

Jeffrey Zeldman’s fantastic book Designing with Web Standards is the best place to start. Zeldman explains the benefits of good code in a elegant, human-friendly fashion.

Then, once you’re drinking the kool-aid, pick up Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook by Dan Cederholm. It’s jam-packed with clear and pragmatic examples of well-written HTML.

And once you’re swinging a mean axe, A List Apart will make you stronger, faster, and more powerful.

More great reading, NYT and locative media

Google Earth, New York Times Team Up

You can now browse New York Times news based on geography. Has the New York Times become hyperlocal, even though the content may not have that perspective. if all goes according to plan, the news will be updated every 15 minutes.

The Center for Locative Media

As educators and amateur neo-geographers, we found a rich vein of place-based pedagogy to tap into. Here story was already married to place. As technologists we watched the tools become available to not only tag content to place, but to experience it in that place.