| The initial response to SLATE has been overwhelming. We received more than 1000 e-mail messages in just the first 24 hours after we launched the site. Obviously, we can publish only a sample. |
In a few weeks we will institute "The Fray," SLATE's reader forum, where you can comment on SLATE and discuss the issues with other SLATE readers and writers. Meanwhile, we will continue to publish selections from our inbox on this page. E-mail us at email@example.com. Or write us at SLATE magazine, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052.
Some of the mail we receive raises technical questions and problems about accessing SLATE. We can't answer all these inquiries individually. But we can offer up our program manager (chief computer guy) to answer some commonly asked technical questions. Send your questions to Ask Bill Barnesat this special address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be polite--Bill feels your pain.
Click here for Bill's first column.
| Actually, We Fancy Ourselves a Romance Novel I just knew the theme song had to be Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller. We know you guys are cool. You don't need the song. Make up your minds. Are you a serious magazine or a Nora Ephron movie?|
| Who Is John Galt?|
James Gleick's commentary in the "Committee of Correspondence" discussion on Microsoft ("Does Microsoft Play Fair?") will leave a lasting sense of disillusionment for me. This is caused particularly by his use of the old "bait 'n' switch" tactic of equivocating a proper role of government and the protection of Microsoft from theft when he is in fact advocating the use of government force (or threat of) against a company in a free market--a gross violation of Microsoft's right to do business.
I've seen similar sloppy argumentation made for years on Usenet and was disappointed to see it come from a man whose books I've liked. Perhaps a demonstration of the power of editing? I, for one, will never buy another of his works. For the record, in a free market, a coercive monopoly is impossible. All the monopolies that have ever existed did so with government props and regulations, government force, keeping other competitors out of the market. This is not the case with the computer industry (yet). Microsoft has to survive by keeping its customer base happy, or it will lose its position. It has no way of forcing its customers to buy its product. Gleick equivocates again when saying that he is forced to use Microsoft products to stay compatible. That is called trade, Mr. Gleick, and it is not the same as putting a gun to your head.
| Bill the (Copy) Cat|
Why don't you ask a question that would really get under Mr. Gates' skin ("Committee of Correspondence: Does Microsoft Play Fair?"): "Does Microsoft innovate?" There is no law or corporate necessity to innovate. It just happens to be the thing most respected in the technology business (even more than making money). It's what separates Bill Gates from many of his peers. I assert that nobody has ever confused Microsoft with innovation. Ask this question and watch Mr. Gates get upset. He's got the money, but not the respect. Ask the question and put it to a qualified set of panelists and you get a real debate (insert Nathan Myhrvold for Steve Ballmer). A question like this would establish editorial independence and set a standard for cyber-journalistic inquiry.
Otherwise, a well-thought out and content-rich first issue!
|Prescription for Success|
I think if you guys keep producing well-written articles, you will find a healthy niche for yourselves. The Internet is filled with advocacy, advertisements, bad software, and other rubbish. One can spend a lot of time searching for quality, and basically, quality isn't out there. Provide quality, and I think you'll be providing something that this current age of Web frenzy simply does not understand.
| Hey, Good Lookin'|
As a mid-30s subscriber to Wired and Hotwired, I am impressed by your new journal. While I appreciate the content at the Wired sites, I do miss some of the balance that other journalists bring to issues. For example, their coverage of the CDA is just too breathless for words. In fact, I would like to see what SLATE's editors can do with the same subject. Perhaps some investigative journalism into why the rest of the media were missing-in-action during this recent round of legal jousting?
I am also quite impressed by S LATE's restraint in its graphic design. S LATE's design shows an understanding of the medium that pushes content appropriately forward. If this medium is to grow, then the technologists have to take a back seat and let the cyberworld hybridize with the real world. I hope that S LATE can continue in this restrained and effective fashion.
| Attention Surplus Disorder|
Thank you for not following the conventional wisdom that says people will not read anything on the Web longer than 500-700 words. I read every word of the exchange among the Microsoft ponderers ("Committee of Correspondence: Does Microsoft Play Fair?") as well as Jodie Allen's article on taxes during the Reagan years ("The Temptation of Bob Dole"). I certainly would have continued had it not been for the necessity of sleep.
I look forward to coming back tomorrow and picking up where I left off.
| Occidental Tourist|
Nicholas Lemann's "Jews in Second Place" is mostly about the changing balance of Jewish meritocracy. In making his case however, Mr. Lemann offers a grossly oversimplified, "noble savage" view of what it means to be an Asian assimilating in America. To compare the assimilation of Jews--who have a singularly strong set of experiences and culture--to Asians in America, who come from a rich variety of cultures, is wrong. Asia is a big place; some of its cultures are highly interrelated, while others are not. The gap between America and Asia is very wide. Jews are part of a Western tradition that has undeniably shaped America. But an Asian--a Chinese person for example--is coming from a culture that is completely alien from our own.
Given this very deep gulf that exists between Asia and America, there is a strong tendency for Asians to become distanced from their traditional culture at a much faster rate than Jews ever would. American Jews possess a very established religious/cultural infrastructure that has always welcomed new members. Thus, assimilating Jews in America have had institutional signposts that their Asian counterparts in large part have not. The nature, scope, and degree to which Jews and Asians seek to fit into America is simply not the same. Like Jews, Asians work hard, do well, and ultimately contribute a lot here. But to lump them into one cultural unit, comparing their plight in America to Jews, is a failing concept.
| Something to Offend Everyone|
Oy, Nicholas Lemann's feature, "Jews in Second Place," gave me such a pain. I hope future stories on such sensitive issues as ethnicity, race, merit, and the nation's class system rely more on factual reportage and less on tired stereotypes (Portnoy's Complaint?). It's bad enough that Jews have had to live with the various destructive myths about their intellectual prowess or ability to manipulate the system ("Jews are now successful people who want to move the levers of the system (levers whose location we're quite familiar with.)") Lemann cavalierly applies the same myths to Asian-Americans, a group far less homogenous than Jews. So he talked to some Asian-Americans once for a book. That makes him an expert? Better he should keep his ill-informed opinions to himself, if you ask me.
| Something to Sicken Everyone|
Nicholas Lemann's article ("Jews in Second Place") is a deftly written piece that leaves me nauseous nonetheless. I leave it to my doctors to decide whether my reaction is that of a fairly successful professional male Jew or simply that of a person, singular, standing alone alongside issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and all other excuses for individual human failure and cowardice. To ponder Asian-Americans' success in academics is shameful, as if they were some collective evil soul, a seemingly endless number of Panzer divisions seizing the Sudatenland without apology and taking the precious seats of Jews and other Western folk. A shame, especially for Jews used to being classified as such solely for discriminatory purposes. Is not each and everyone of these people a simple person in his or her own right? You might claim accurately that your perspective is simply that of a benign observer, and bolster your position with trenchant Philip Roth vignettes and some nostalgia based upon your own heritage. However, your message is your medium and your audience, which harbors some uneasy feeling concerning the well publicized onslaught of yet another "group" over their heretofore coveted territories. The blacks and the Hispanics rule our streets, women are trying to elbow into corporate America, and the Asians now have taken over our institutions. Right? It is loathsome to ever deal with life on this level. Everyone is first a single person and should be permitted to go where he or she pleases without gold-covered snickering. Those who do not know and abide by the lessons of history are condemned to relive its mistakes. Thank you.
| Something to Disappoint Everyone|
The Lemann article ("Jews in Second Place") was disappointing because it touched on an interesting subject, but not at the length the author would have devoted to it in the Atlantic, and hence left me wanting more on the subject. I would also respectfully disagree with some of his conclusions, which I believe are wrong, if they are wrong, because they are personal observations, and not factual studies (sort of like Robert Reich "scholarship"). For instance, Jews may outnumber Asians at some elite private universities, but the reverse is true at the elite private high schools. My daughter is at Exeter, and Asians outnumber Jews by more than 3-to-1 (30 percent to well under 10 percent). I believe the same is true at Andover and other schools, though the proportions are closer.
Record numbers of Jewish students are now attending religious schools, both orthodox and conservative, and even occasionally reform. The most rapid growth is in the conservative day schools. This would suggest a preference for substance (values education and tradition) over hockey and extracurriculars. Of course, it could also be argued that day schools are hot in part because they leave the students more time after school for extracurriculars, without the need to attend Hebrew School. Living in an affluent Jewish suburb (Highland Park, Ill.) with many day-school students and lots of kids in sports, I regard the second view as too cynical, and I lean toward my first explanation. In general, we live in a large, complex country, with many trends occurring simultaneously, some of them contradictory. It is difficult to generalize about what is going on in Jewish America, because there are many distinct Jewish Americas, not all of them fitting the affluent, assimilated suburban model Lemann describes.
| Benefit Analysis|
I think Paul Krugman ("Down-sizing Downsizing") misreads Robert Reich's emphasis on middle-class economic angst. It may be true that the middle class is doing OK and the poor (especially the working poor) are getting screwed, but Reich understands that the middle class will not politically support reforms viewed only as helping the poor. Unless the middle class believes that any of us can fall into poverty under the right circumstances, the policies we need to help the working poor uplift themselves will never be politically viable. Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance are just a few of the policies that did more for the poor but were passed because the middle class saw benefit for themselves as well.
| Downsizing by Numbers|
While responsible research (such as Mr. Stiglitz's) on the issues of job security and corporate downsizing must be sincerely appreciated, one cannot help but notice a glaring omission in Paul Krugman's piece ("Down-sizing Downsizing"). To the extent that corporate downsizing is a "white-collar" (or "middle management") phenomenon, the relevant statistic would seem to be the number of workers downsized as a proportion of the middle-management work force, not the total active labor force. This figure would surely help us better understand "the fear of being fired" afflicting so many Americans. (And besides, even using the numbers cited by Mr. Krugman, one apparently has a better chance of being downsized than of winning the typical state lottery.)
| Read Free or Die|
Why should I pay for anything online when there is so much free stuff out here? I am not going to pay for partisan bs, even if I agree with it. Either be free or perish. If you are really any good in cyberspace, sell ad space to car and oil companies and keep your little online rag free to all comers. But anyway, good luck to you.
| Our tech guy answers your questions.|
|I like SLATE, looks good. Now my problem: I am currently viewing the mag on a 145B Powerbook in black and white because whenever I log onto to SLATE at work (I'm an editor at Publishers Weekly magazine), everything crashes. I get an error message and Netscape closes. My system people blame you guys--surprise surprise. What's wrong? I want to see SLATE in glorious color on my PC. I'm on a network and we only have Netscape 1.1. Is that part of the problem?|
| I tried to enjoy my first read of S LATE, but the speed of delivery was unbearable. Every jump in the body took minutes. Please speed up the process.|
| We have gotten a mixed bag of letters about speed--some congratulate us on our efficiency, some rail against our bloated graphics. I assure you we're not cavalierly chewing up bandwidth. We think that our illustrations and graphics add a lot to the experience of S LATE, and we've gone to great lengths to keep them very small. Most are tiny 2 or 4 bit GIFs. We also use many shared graphics to cut down on hits.|
| I'd really like to know what Robert Wright has to say, but the link from your main page (to /Earthling?...") isn't working; I get an error message from your HTTP server.|
| Still working out the glitches, Dan. The article went up about 3 hours after the link, which was nonoptimal. And thanks to the 4.6 million other readers who alerted us to this situation.|
| You are hardcoding Windows-specific Hi-ASCII characters into the text instead of using standard HTML. This looks terrible on non-Windows machines.|
You should check your HTML against the top 10 browsers to insure it looks okay in all of them. Not just Netscape and Microsoft.
|For instance the "Is Microsoft Evil" article was one giant horizontal spread that brought IBM Webexplorer to its knees. Also the Mailto tags do not work in IBM Webexplorer.|
| There comes a point in every Web author's life when he or she has to decide what the target platform is. If it's all of them, the result is essentially plain text. If it's a particular one, the result is a limited audience to appreciate your sophisticated use of the <BILLBARNES> tag. For S LATE's launch, we aimed at Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 and Netscape Navigator 2.0 on Windows and Macintosh, because these cover the widest audience. As a result, some browsers got lost in the cold. We are doing some retuning where easy and feasible, and in particular I vote for axing the hardcoded characters. So please stay tuned.|
I'm happy to read any technical questions you send to email@example.com. I can't reply personally to every message, but I do read them all! Next column: How to print S LATE.