Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sometimes you really do have to tell the customer he is wrong

Someday, if I can formulate a suitably entertaining way of expressing it, I might offer my thoughts on why the old print media's desperate rush to embrace all manner of interactivity with their readers – even the comments that, in the past, would have been binned and then burned by the letters editor – is such arrant folly.

In the meantime, let's amuse ourselves with a practical demonstration from an online publication (Yank of course) that knows how to produce something readable and financially viable from the web. It's Slate's "questions we never answered". Quite apart from their inherent comedy value you can discern the subtlety of Slate's own editorial policy. Whereas, say, Comment is Free, or the Telegraph's own web mnokeys (semi-in joke, sorry) would rush over themselves to encourage this degree of reader interactivity, you may spot a certain discernment in Slate's own policy. It's the difference between spotting the friendly cove who wants a chat at the bar and the dangerous nutter whom one should back away from at all costs.

Admittedly, Slate sugar-coats the laughing at our loopiest readers game that all journalists enjoy by asking which of the questions are most deserving of an answer. So in that spirit, here are my favourites (with added comment):

Why don't humans have a mating season?
(I believe there is an actual biological answer to this. Never mind that: we have a wonderful capacity for prolonging our own misery and frustration).

If one gets a personal e-mail from a very famous or important person, such as the president, or the queen of England, or the Pope, or Paul McCartney, can that e-mail have monetary value? I guess not. It's just an electronic transmission on a screen. There's no original. There's no way to buy or sell it. Seems a shame tho.
Note the use of capitals there. And the order of precedence. Whoever asked that question really ought to be living in Liverpool, willingly or not.

If someone with DNA from the Stone Age were born today, would they be normal?
In Somerset, yes.

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