Alec Saunders has written a long post comparing the rates for data plans and carrier revenues internationally called Talking Turkey on Canadian Data. Alec brings out the numbers behind the point that I’ve been making based on instinct for some time now – the problem with exorbitant data rates isn’t just that people WANT more data or somehow deserve it – which is how it’s usually portrayed. The problem with high data rates is actually that the carriers are leaving huge revenues on the table over (it seems) some kind of “we DESERVE to be able to meter every byte” principle. Canadian carriers are not acting in the best interests of consumers or their shareholders by being so intransigent on this issue.
is but one of many who are commenting on the new EULA that comes with a security patch issued by Microsoft the other day. Thomas C Greene writes in this piece: “What they feed you may be infected with viruses; it may break your applications, corrupt data files, destroy weeks or months or even years of work, but you’ll have no recourse if it does.”
published a great piece yesterday about music on the net: Entertainment Execs, Fear Not the Net. Going a bit further than the article, it’s in the music industry’s best interests to pump life back into Napster or an analogous system and use all the data as advanced market research. They don’t even need to know who’s trading what through the system – they could keep it totally anonymous and still get tons of information that would help them develop new artists more effectively AND work the back-catalog more efficiently. No matter how many files were traded, there are still tons of great revenue streams that they can use to make as much or more money as they do today.
The question on the table
: Are tables really evil? Well, no they’re not. But they were never intended to be used to format web pages, and so now that there’s a better solution (CSS), they should no longer be used that way. Tables are still completely viable in HTML – but for displaying tabular data.
Why? Why, really, should anyone change? The best answer is this: for the same reason Userland developed Radio. Radio solves (as do other systems) a big problem: separating content from style. Trouble is, there are three variables, not just two.
Content – we know about that. Style – we know about that too. But there’s also structure to consider. Using CSS allows us to separate structure from style. This is as powerful, in its own way, as separating content from style, and just as important.
By using CSS to format my pages (though I do have one table still kicking around, unfortunately), I get to present items that any device can understand. If some bit of text is a very important heading on the page, I don’t obscure the fact by coding it with font tags and hiding it in a table that’s purely there to place it in a prominent position on the page. I call it what it is: h1. Simple, clean.
Most importantly, though, suddenly it no longer matters what device is trying to “display” or render my page. Anything at all will see that and display that bit of text as the most important thing on that page.
Why is that important? Well, because as Dave Winer says, the web should be a great writing environment – which implies that it should equally be a great reading environment. When I’m writing, I’m only concerned about me – my ability to write well and have it appear. To make it a great reading environment – and thus support the other side of the coin – I can’t just care about me, I have to care about everyone else as well. And the fewer assumptions I make about them the better. Who am I to insist that they use a certain device to look at my page? They read, their choice. Why should I make them track down an alternate version which may or may not work on their particular device?
If you want the web to be a great writing environment, you also want it to be a great reading environment. And that means using CSS to provide the style, HTML (or XHTML) deployed in templates to provide the structure, and a CMS to feed the content. It’s quite simple, actually.
The continuing development
over at Automatic-media is getting interesting. They’ve plasticized Feed, meaning that they’ve added a weblog using the Plastic (Slash-based) tools. Of course this sparked quite a discussion, because notwithstanding Stefanie Syman’s explanation, people are confused.
I get the confusion – the new front page design leaves something to be desired in terms of the clarity of presentation. There could (and probably should) be a clearer distinction between the long-form original Feed content and the back-to-the-future Filter stuff.
Some have also shown some hostility, though – that I don’t get. Whether you like the execution of the new model or not, it’s pretty clearly a step forward. The days of atomized, standalone sites are over. MetaFilter’s shared registration database (with the 5K contest) is one example that’s been around for a while. Feed/Plastic/Automatic-Media have just taken it to the next level.
I like the idea of a media company giving a diverse range of users a layered experience by working the connection – and the differences – between sites. There will be multiple ways of getting at content, and each person, depending on their own habits, will be able to follow their own path to what they want. This happens through preferences and such, but also through actually opening new doors as well. Blowing away the idea that each person has one way that they always want to approach things.
For a lot of people that might not make much sense. Especially for those who expect that better algorithms alone are the critical factor in this area. That assumes, though, that algorithms are the problem in the first place – a dangerous assumption to make.