Policy made plain.
Feb. 9 1997 3:30 AM

Baby Download Completed Successfully


Sarah Lyall, of the New York Times London bureau, wrote in Slate's "Diary" three weeks ago, with more charm than enthusiasm, about the experience of being eight-plus months pregnant. We are pleased to report that Sarah's ordeal is over (or possibly just beginning): Alice McCrum was born Feb. 2--8 pounds, 4 ounces. Mother and laptop are doing fine.

Now Is the Winter of Our New Contents

If you're here, and reading this online, you probably got here by way of our new home page and "Table of Contents." We hope you like it. For a site as packed with contents as this one (and we speak only of quantity here), designing the contents page is a constant trade-off between packing the information tightly, to minimize scrolling, and presenting it attractively. This latest version--not a finished product, but just another way station on a journey who-knows-where--offers two ways to review Slate's current offerings. If you click on the word "Date" just below the Slate logo on the contents page, you'll get a straight list of current articles in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions on top. To revert to Contents Classic, click on "Page Number." And let us know what you think, at slate@msn.com.

We previewed the new opening sequence for Bill Gates, who studied it for a few seconds and said impatiently, "How do I find the place where I have people killed every week?" We answered, It's usually buried somewhere in a column called "Readme." "Buried? But it's my favorite part. Whose idea was burying it?" We mentioned the name of a dispensable subassistant to the deputy assistant editor in our Bogotá bureau. "Have him killed," he said.


Boycott AutoSummarize

In this issue of Slate, Karenna Gore has some fun with a new feature of Word 97, the latest upgrade of Microsoft's word-processing program, called AutoSummarize. (See "Cogito Auto Sum.") She tests the product on texts ranging from the Ten Commandments to a recipe for cooking salmon by Martha Stewart, but she leaves it to the reader to decide how good the summary is. As journalists working for Microsoft, we have mixed feelings about AutoSummarize. Naturally we want our employer to thrive. (And doesn't everybody, really, wish the best for Microsoft?) On the other hand, this nefarious bit of software--if it works--threatens to allow computers to replace editors. Editors are not ordinary people. We are skilled artisans, backed by centuries of tradition, who pursue the noble calling of making writers miserable by insensitively slashing their lovely prose. It is one thing for machines to replace textile makers (the original Luddites), or industrial workers, or even--if it comes to that--writers. But when the incomes, er, we mean professional talents of editors are imperiled, it is obvious that the technological revolution has gone too far. Editors of America, arise! We may have to go on strike before AutoSummarize can be perfected, and we become powerless. But rest assured: a few days of being forced to read unedited copy will bring this country to its knees.

Waiting for Harry

For reasons too vitally important to bore you with, Harry Shearer's dispatch on the delivery of the O.J. Simpson civil-trial verdict wasn't on the Web until Friday, Feb. 7. The trial actually ended Feb. 4. For three long days, Slate readers may have been wondering how it all came out. We could have told you, of course, but we didn't want to ruin the suspense. We knew you'd rather wait and hear it from Harry.

--Michael Kinsley