Similarities seen on zine scene among Slate, Salon and sires

The Rat's network mail server RAID controller just up and died the other day. While the
service engineers cursed and moaned and tried to resurrect it, the Rat caught up on some
on-line reading.


Bouncing back and forth between Salon, the World Wide Web magazine sponsored by Apple
Computer Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc., and Slate, the counterpart published by Microsoft
Corp., the Ratster couldn't help but notice how each reflected its origins.


Salon, as the name implies, is a magazine for the literati among the digerati. At http://www.salon1999.com,  this is a
nominee for coolest site of the year. Salon definitely talks to the public television and
white zinfandel crowd--it's artsy, stylish and pretty much irrelevant to the lives of the
masses.


Geez, thought the Rat, that's sort of like Apple Computer. But it's obvious that Salon
is not intended as, say, a covert marketing ploy by Apple to get you to buy more
Macintoshes.


Slate, on the other hand, most definitely is a covert ploy by Microsoft to push its own
agenda. The Rat figured this out rather quickly when he couldn't access http://www.slate.com  with a Netscape
Navigator browser.


First time, all he got was a blank screen. Second time, the Rat received the cryptic
error message, "Your browser is not powerful enough. Try using Microsoft Internet
Explorer."


Mind you, this happened while he was using a Macintosh.


The Rat had no such problems with the same version of Netscape running on Microsoft
Windows 95 over a dial-up connection. Even Slate's Help page is smug about this, saying it
"works best [no surprise] with Microsoft Internet Explorer. You can download Explorer
3.0 here free."


Hmm, the Cyberrodent mused. Something smells like gorgonzola around here.


Once connected to Slate, he decided that maybe Microsoft was providing a service to
Macintosh users by keeping them off the site. Slate is as stale as, well, slate. It's a
lukewarm rehash of other people's ideas, with the same kind of stuffiness that spawned,
for instance, the OS/2 Fiesta Bowl.


Geez, thought the Rat, just like Microsoft.


Slate does have options that Salon doesn't. For one, it plays its own theme song: a
stanza or two from some operatic death march. It has a printable version--in Microsoft
Word format.


It has a page with archived articles, appropriately named The Compost. As editor, it
has Michael Kinsley, the dull edge of the moderate left, who in a recent issue suggested,
perhaps in jest, re-implementing slavery to solve the welfare problem.


I'm sure Bill Gates likes that idea. It would save him loads on usability testers.


Of course, both of these on-line zines pale in comparison to the Rat's favorite:
Disgruntled, at http://www.disgruntled.com/,
  a "business magazine for people who work for a living.


The site comes with a warning: "Disgruntled may seem impolite to some readers.
These pages contain language that may be deemed inappropriate for young children and
employers. Remember: Work is a four-letter word."


With that in mind, the Rat dutifully went back to harassing his service engineers. At
least the cost of the service contract includes some entertainment, the wired one mused.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace.



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