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June 96 - Editor's Note

EDITOR'S NOTE

CAROLINE ROSE

A couple of issues ago, I told a story here about how my friend John had failed to find some song lyrics on the Web before I managed to locate them by old-fashioned, real-world means. A few of you wrote to say how easily you found those same lyrics on the Web. Maybe they were posted after the incident I related , or maybe John just didn't look in the right place, but my point was a general one: the Web is not the world.

At first I thought that editorial would be controversial, but before it was published I noticed similar remarks starting to appear elsewhere, along the lines of the Internet and the Web being overrated. Since then I've seen even more critical articles on the subject -- the inevitable backlash, I suppose. Now that such kvetching has become socially acceptable, I should probably turn to another subject, but alas...

My main complaint is with the quality of a lot of what's posted online. I don' t mind so much if someone's personal home page is a bit rough, but lar ge corporations that should do better seem not to be doing even minimal copyediting and fact checking on what they post to the Web. It's gotten to the point where, to some people, being published on the Internet is becoming synonymous with being low quality. I even came across this sentiment in a review of a book (not related to computers) in the New York Times: after criticizing the book for sloppy editing, the reviewer wrote, "If this is the way books are going to be published, we may as well just shove the typing onto the Internet and for get about bound volumes altogether."

Why is it that the highest-quality online publications are those that are also published in print? It's as if "committing" something to print makes it seem more respectable, more enduring. As a provider of not only develop content but also a newsletter of my own on the Web, I find this ironic. Ever since my publications have been made so easily available online, reader feedback indicates that many more people have been referring to back issues; they treat all the content -- past and present -- as a single, timeless body of information. This timelessness argues for the same attention to quality online as in the print medium, or at least for more efforts in that direction.

I think one problem may be the confusion about where to put Web publishing in an organization. Most Web-related job descriptions I've seen ask for a content provider, formatter/designer, and HTML expert all rolled into one. That's like having authors of develop articles design the page layout and produce the printed product. Ask one person to do it all and what do you expect?

You may not care about minor errors, but inattention to quality will extend, web-like, beyond punctuation and grammar into the more critical realms of coherency and accuracy. So please, take a second look at your Web pages and other online content with this in mind. The world will thank you.

CAROLINE ROSE (crose@apple.com, AppleLink CROSE) finds her most difficult editing job to be rephrasing her work history for her bio in develop. There are only so many ways to say she's been working in the computer industry for a very long time, in various writing, editing, and programming capacities. The good news is that, having edited develop for five years, she finally qualifies for a sabbatical, which she'll be taking by the time you read this. She's sorry to miss Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference but decided that springtime in Tuscany was a fair tradeoff. *

 

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