Writing for the Web: Paul Ford

Paul Ford’s personal Web site has some nice stuff in it… and a very unusual layout using horizontal columns. Material in the left most column is the current, and as you scroll towards the right, archive posts, links and other information comes into view. Neat, as long as you have a 19” screen or don’t mind horizontal scrolling…

“Humans are at their worst when in their cars. Culture falls away. Cars are bones that we can use to beat others. Any displeasure behind the windshield is transformed into burning rage. I’ve seen friends drive 200 uninterrupted miles at 65 miles an hour and then they come to traffic. After twenty minutes they go mad; they begin to scream and strike the steering wheel and sneer. The air conditioning is on, the iPod is patched through the stereo to provide even more choice, but the very fact that they are in this pile of moving bones but not able to move forward sends them into animal rage; they want to smash heads and suck out the brains.”

Paul edits a free e-mail news letter also published as web page with links. Ford is a Harper’s Magazine associate editor who also designs/plumbs the Web site. Paul’s method for compiling the web site is interesting…

“On Monday morning I edit and put it all together‚ÄìI use a spreadsheet with one line per statement and source‚Äìand check my facts. Then three people edit it, one after another, which is a real privilege, because they invariably catch me doing something stupid.”

I have to admit that I found the sample columns a little bitty and more like a stew or fast food than a reflective view of the week.

Paul is on 43folders.com talking about ‘Amish Computing’ and using a simple ‘instant on’ computer and simple wordprocessor package to cut the distractions down .

The Alphasmart Neo and 3000 are very simple devices – essentially keyboards with some memory. As you type, each character is entered into the memory (kept alive by a lithium battery). A small LCD display lets you see enough of the context of what you are typing to plan your next sentence or so (scrolling long distances is apparently slow). The memory is ‘paged’ and is available in 8 segments, so by pressing a key you can be editing any of 8 documents. The AA batteries power just the display and last for hundreds of hours.

The neat bit is that when you plug the Alphasmart into a computer using either a ps/2 or USB cable, it emulates an extra keyboard. Press the ‘send’ key and that particular segment of memory is simply ‘typed’ on your computer. You load a new document and then dump the new writing into it. That means that you can type html, or TeX code…..

Comments are closed.