etaoin shrdlu are the first line of letters on a linotype keyboard, arranged based on frequency. The phrase is used to mark the end of a column. It is also the title of a short documentary about the last run of the linotype machines at the New York Times on July 2, 1978.
There are all sorts of wonderful details in this 30-minute film. We learn the origin of words such as hot type and mattress and are shown how a “pig” of lead is melted down to cast type forms.
The mechanical crank and whirl of the linotype machines are wonderful sound, especially when contrasted with the castanet-like crackle of the new chicklet keyboards on the the new mainframe terminals shown later in the film. As the 9pm first edition deadline approaches, the “make up men” hunch over their tables side-by-side with page editors physically laying out the paper on full page forms. There’s a wonderful exchange as they figure out how to make the page work, a construction project of words.
Farewell – ETAOIN SHRDLU – 1978 from Linotype: The Film
These days are long gone now but I’m glad for this film which captures a technology that was a wonder of its day.
h/t Open Culture
They’re at it again. Another editorially-obfucating takeover.
This afternoon New York Times readers were assaulted by a full page takeover that unfolded across the front page effectively roadblocking the news of the day with a “special report” layout that was both interruptive and offensive. If this is where they are going with their native advertising, I do not like.
All publishers need to make a buck and, as someone that works in online publishing, I encourage experimentation but the fact that an institution such as the New York Times would stoop to running such an amateur-looking infomercial hints of desperation. While the Face Retirement campaign is innovative (the landing page asks for access to your computer’s camera so it can take a photo of you and “age” you), there page curl takeover is as old as the hills and takes me back to the Dancing Mortgage Man remnant ads we used to joke about at Yahoo. These ads take more than they give.
The add was frequency capped so it only ran once per unique visitor but the CPMs must have been pricey. But I can’t help but think that the hundreds of thousands spent by Bank of America to run this ad could have been better spent in other ways. Instead of invading your senses, wouldn’t both the audience, publisher, and advertiser have been better served by underwriting an open house for heavy users of the site? What about granting a free subscription to the paper for three months in return for some personal information that helps you better market your retirement planning services with glossy mailers? There are so many other ways that you can spend $250k, throwing up roadblock banners just seems lazy all around.
My son was featured in yesterday’s Sunday New York Times in an article (At First, Funny videos. Now, a Reference Tool) about the unforeseen use of YouTube as a research tool. We all associate videos with entertainment but Tyler has taught me that with the addition of meta-data and micro-chunked content, it’s possible to use YouTube as a rich source of reference material.
I was contacted by the reporter, who had seen a post on ReadWriteWeb about Tyler’s use of YouTube and wanted to bring the story to the New York Times’ readers.
My father commented, “It is the inclination of succeeding generations to simplify.” Tyler is on to something. For certain things (contact juggling, macarena, or bugatti vs. fighter jet), YouTube is going to explain things to you better and quicker than plain old text search results. You can sort by not only Relevance and Date Added but also using meta-data from community actions such as Ratings and View Count. Finally, using the example from the article, if you search on platypus, embedded in the results is a pre-defined playlist of over 40 video clips all about the animal.
Tyler was pleased to see that the article was in the “Bright Ideas” section. His comment about his pose in the photo was that after over 200 photos his head was feeling a little heavy. Strangely, the local newsstand didn’t carry the Sunday Times so we had to go to a Starbucks to get a copy for the photo above and as a keepsake.
Robert Langman left a comment on my previous post about meta-data at nytimes.com with a link to a couple of cool mashups that use keywords on the older archive of New York Times material, the paper from 1851 through the early 1900’s.
Check it out here.
The New York Times has a blog about open source projects and today they shed a little more light on all the wonderful metadata that they make available for folks like Dave Winer to build upon. I sense an open source news hack day coming on.
Yahoo has joined up with the folks at the New York Times crosswords to promote the new Search Assist feature with a contest. The idea is that you fill the puzzle out successfully and you too can be entered into a drawing for one of five trips to Hawaii. Thing is, this thing is a gimme. Next to each clue is a link to a “Hint” which runs a search in the pane below against Yahoo’s Search Assist which will serve things up for you right there and then. It’s a great way to show off the new Search Assist and may give you a new reason to work on your crosswords with the browser handy.
I found out about this via a new group on Facebook. Join Yahoo! Pilot if you want to find out about the latest stuff going on at Yahoo! I can’t believe I found something not written up by the folks over at Yahoo! Cool thing of the Day, my usual source for tweaks and trivia about Yahoo – must have caught them asleep at the switch!
Dave Winer looks to the recently released New York Times archives as rich loam of fertile content upon which many applications can be built. In another life, as a product manager for factiva.com, I came to appreciate the meta-data the Times would attach to their content as something Factiva would leverage for its clients. Factiva provided investment banks and corporate libraries with content feeds from major news outlets and used meta-data on their sources (often adding additional meta-data of its own) so their clients would get precisely the content they were interested in and avoid having to wade through irrelevant results that were often the result of blunt keyword searches.
If the global PR officers of Ford or Sharp were looking for breaking news stories, keyword searches on the internet would be nearly useless as they would pull in stories of used Ford cars for sale or someone’s “sharp” looking suit. These client would pay for the meta-data and Factiva’s taxonomy consultants would offer numerous tips & tricks to hone down their filters to find exactly what was required.
With this in mind, I took a quick look at the source on the New York Times stories and found that they contain much of the meta-data that I remember.
Today’s story on Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN contains the following meta tags:
- byl= Warren Hoge
- des= International Relations;Embargoes and Economic Sanctions;Atomic Weapons
- per=Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud
- org=United Nations;Security Counci
- geo= Iran
A business article on the arrival of the Microsoft game Halo 3 has the following:
- byl=Seth Schiesel
- des=Computer and Video Games;Computers and the Internet
- per=Gates, Bill
- org=Microsoft Corp;Sony Corp;Nintendo Company Limited
- ticker=Microsoft Corp|MSFT|NASDAQ;Best Buy Company Incorporated|BBY|NYSE;Sony Corp|SNE|NYSE;Nintendo Company Limited|NTDOY|other-OTC;GameStop Corporation|GME|NYSE;Circuit City Stores Inc|CC|NYSE
From this we can see elements of the nytimes.com taxonomy poke through.
- byl – is the byline of the author of the story
- des – the description and how this story is classified by the New York Times
- per – nodes for individuals
- org – company or organizational nodes
- ticker – public company stock symbols and their listing exchange
I’ve only just started playing around with this but using text from the meta-data fields and your favorite search engine you can already start to sort results in interesting ways.
- Articles about Mahmoud Ahmedinejad
- Articles about Gates, Bill
- News about Nintendo
It’s still early days as it appears that the search engines have not crawled the archives completely and a quick check of older articles are lacking in most of this meta-data. It will be interesting to see what insights skillful use of the meta-data fields will yield over the next few weeks and what applications can be built on top of them.
The Online Journalism Review inteviews Martin Nisenholtz of NY Times Digital who is a ready counter-argument to Dan Gillmor’s call for a freeing of the archives. Until banner ad revenues outstrip the royalties they curently earn from subscription databases such as Factiva and Lexis-Nexis, there is no way they’re opening up the barn door.
“We’re not about to give away something that the marketplace is paying a huge premium for already,” Nisenholtz told me, “unless you could get a lot more than that premium in some other way, which you can’t, believe me, there’s no way. There’s no analysis to show that Google AdWords gets you anything close to what we make on archives on the Web — never mind all the money we make on the after-market sales. It’s so ridiculous as to be laughable.
It’s a marketplace of a few vendors serving up proprietary content on closed systems vs. a more sustainable marketplace of any and every website around the world looking to link to and reference New York’s paper of record. And what about The Long Tail?