Friday, April 13, 2007

Print innovation and editorial competence at Wired

[5/29/07 - updated with specific link to Clive Thompson's blog entry where he requested comments from readers regarding the Wired article prior to its publication.]

Print Innovation
Wired has always been a forward-thinking publication, both in subject matter and presentation and layout. An article in the April 2007 issue stands out as particularly innovative, though. The topic of corporate transparency is interesting, but it's the layout that I'm most impressed by.

The article is now online and is titled "The See-Through CEO," but interestingly, and this is a rare case where I feel the term ironically is appropriate, the online presentation doesn't translate the innovation. The print layout has nice wide margins of about 1 3/4 inches, where the margin notes are placed for this article. The irony comes in when you consider the article's author, Clive Thompson, blogged about the article as part of his creative process, reproduces some of his readers' input as footnotes in the margins, and the dead-tree pulp outdoes the pixelated electrons for readability and, dare I say, structural transparency.

The part I really like, and that makes the print version eminently easy to read, is that the portion of the main text the margin note refers to is highlighted and the corresponding margin note is right there on the same page, with credit given to the reader who contributed it. In addition to simple readability, how cool must it be for one of Mr. Thompson's readers to see an idea and comment credited in print like that?

Editorial Competence
On to the editorial competence, in the same article Mr. Thompson correctly uses the expression "take a different tack" (end of the third paragraph) to indicate one of the subjects of his article decided to change course and try something different. The presence of the word tack was what spurred me to make this entire post.

That's right. Tack.

I hear and see the expression misused so often I thought the fact that it was used correctly warranted mention. The worst misuse I hear is "take a different tact." Also spotted in the wild is "take a different track." No, no, no, no ...


The expression originates from the sailing term "tack," which is used to describe the maneuver that occurs when a sailboat changes the direction of its bow relative to the wind. This maneuver allows a sailboat to move forward while heading into the wind. Wikipedia has a nice diagram.

Bravo Clive Thompson and bravo Wired for a job well done all around.

As you were, readers.


E-Doo said...

Wired and The Economist are the only two magazine subscriptions I currently enjoy. Both are excellent sources of information. I have had a subscription to Wired since Issue #1 and still have the first ten issues (Katherine made me throw away the rest because they took up too much space). Some say Wired has too many ads and is too flashy. I like the majority of advertising as they cater to my geek side. As far as the flashy aspect, I'm glad a magazine has the bawlz to change up their look every so often. I hope they keep placing half naked chicks on their covers, too. That's always a plus in my book. Always.

Xymyl said...

I can't worry about tack vs. tact when there are still people saying "nucular", "sorda speak", "Artic", "tempiture", "Febuary", "comfterbul", "foilage", "suprize" etc... I'm pretty sure I've used the phrase, "Take a different tact" before myself, but I often take a different tact, in the sense that I change (or retract portions of) my definition of tact in dealing with people I have deemed unworthy of the full weight of my tact. And don't tell me I'm giving tact, I'm definitely taking it.

If this offends your sense of proper word usage, I shall endeavor to take a different tack in the future.

Kevin said...

Edoo: I love The Economist also, but it's so dense with fascinating information every friggin' week that I just couldn't keep up with a subscription. I do occasionally pick one up when I see a story that catches my eye because the depth of analysis is so satisfying and the non-American perspective is so refreshing.

Excellent points, Xymyl. Varying one's amount of tact is warranted in many situations. You're the one person I'm not surprised to see implement the misuse of such a phrase and understand and explain how to do so correctly.