It's autumn, which means that here at Slate we're raking the leaves, tilling the soil, reaping what we've sown, and otherwise stretching worn-out metaphors far beyond their useful lives. We're also making a bunch of changes on the site.
For one, today we're releasing a new version of MySlate. When we first launched MySlate a few months ago, we thought it was a very cool new way to read an online magazine: It let you pick just the articles you wanted, save them for later, print them, e-mail them to yourself or a friend, even listen to them read aloud by a vaguely creepy robotic voice. But people kept telling us it was too complicated to use every day. We had a fantastic toy that no one wanted to play with.
So we've redesigned MySlate. Now, we hope, it's an even cooler new way to read an online magazine. Open MySlate and you'll see a small browser window showing everything we've published in the past seven days. You can list the articles in reverse chronological order, just as they appear on our home page (all of Wednesday's articles first, followed by all of Tuesday's, etc.). Or you can list them by department (all the "Today's Papers" grouped together, all the "Chatterbox" items together, etc.). Pick the articles you want by checking the box next to each one, then click Save or Print or Listen or whichever button suits your fancy. (You can get to MySlate by clicking the button just below the headline of any Slate article, or from the Utilities dropdown menu at the top of every page.)
MySlate 2.0 should be fairly self-explanatory, but you can get a more in-depth explanation of its various features and pitfalls by clicking the Help button near the top of the MySlate page. If all else fails, post your question in "The Fray" and I'll try to get it answered.
While our crack software team has been busily improving MySlate, the editorial team has been busily axing features. In the past few weeks, Michael Brus has hung up his "Pundit Central" gloves to write other articles for Slate, and Randy Cohen gave up his formidably snarky "News Quiz" column to work on a book based on his "Ethicist" column in the New York TimesMagazine.
Happily, Randy still wants to write for us. But he insists he doesn't have a good idea for another regular column. (As if that's ever stopped us before.) So we're soliciting suggestions for the successor to News Quiz. The rules: The column should run once a week at most; it should showcase Randy's formidable powers of snarkiness; and it should elicit reader interaction. Post your suggestions in The Fray.
In the meantime, we're concocting another new regular feature: "Ask Q.," a public-policy advice column written by the estimable political scientist (and Slate's former "Q" columnist) James Q. Wilson. Think of it as "Dear Abby" for the civic-minded. Wondering what to think about that local bond proposal? Is it proper to count a hanging chad? Should we tear down dams to save the salmon? James Q. doesn't promise to answer such specific questions, but he'll offer a framework of analysis—a way of thinking about them—which (we hope) is even better. Got a question? Send e-mail to Ask Q., and maybe he'll take it up in an upcoming column.
Later this week, we'll be revamping our regular e-mails of Slate articles. Most of the changes are happening behind the scenes, but there are a few things you should know.
1) Our regular e-mails will now be free to all readers. (We used to ask you to buy a subscription to get them, but now we figure we can make more money by giving them away. How? I have no idea. I guess we lose money on each one but make it up on volume.)
2) If you're already receiving any of our current mails—such as "Slate News," "Slate Politics," and "Slate Culture"—you won't need to do anything to keep getting them.
3) We're adding two new mails to the roster: "Sports Nut," featuring one article from our ongoing coverage of baseball, basketball, and underwater basket-weaving; and "Cartoons," featuring one editorial cartoon a day picked from our "Cartoon Index."
4) The new e-mails won't be available until Friday, so check back at Slate.com at the end of the week to sign up.
Finally, after many readers' complaints, we're changing (again) the weekly delivery of Slate on Paper, which combines just about everything we publish each week into one handy document. If you sign up to get "What's in Slate" by e-mail, or if you're already getting Slate on Paper that way, each Friday starting this week you'll receive an e-mail with links to three different versions of SOP—Microsoft Word, HTML, and eBook for the Microsoft Reader—which you can download anytime. The Word version (which works with Word 2000 only, unfortunately) will appear in a more readable two-column format and will have a table of contents that gives page numbers for each article. And no matter which version you read, the articles will be grouped by department rather than in chronological order.