What's up with Salon?

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How do you approach Salon?

Do you ever dig for the content not linked from their main page? Do you ever visit their talk forum?

Do you flee screaming from the caricatures of their columnists? Do you read their logs?

Do they offer too much content these days? Do they index it too poorly?

-- Jorn (jorn@mcs.com), November 26, 1999


Salon's really become somewhat of a National Enquirer. They've got a bias towards the 'net demographic, but where they used to have columns written by insiders it seems that they've gone to clueless, snickering outsiders, or boring travelogues written by stereotypical ugly 'Merkins.

I used to follow TableTalk, but when they blew away all my preferences with their server move I realized that I really wasn't missing any discussion I wasn't getting at a higher level and with people more involved with the actual events from other sources.

Their logs seems to be more than adequately covered by original sources. Their new sex log is a pale shadow of Pursed Lips, for instance, and everything in their tech log shows up on /. ages before it makes it to Salon.

I do still track Susie Bright, but other than that Salon's going fairly far down on my rotation.

-- Dan Lyke (danlyke@flutterby.com), November 26, 1999.

I always enjoy doing a random search on the Salon Archive just to acknowledge that the content hasn't been up to par over the past year. Things started to bore around the time they opened up their webstore, went public and bought The Well. Stories got tediously long, overstating opinions, dragging out more and more detail, while their attention for low key issues and culture has become less and less.

I'm still looking for a good online replacement. Getting' it is getting there, but it's still playing a bit too much on the really "exciting" things in (mostly love-)life.

-- Joep Vermaat (joep@pjoe.net), November 26, 1999.

My workplace uses a webfiltering program (a separate peeve). About a week ago www.salon.com made its way onto the blocklist. I guess some net.censor thinks Salon is a little too salacious now.

-- Rupert (rupert@merguez.demon.co.uk), November 27, 1999.

Unfortunately, Salon has become nothing more than yet another internet sell out. A couple of points.

Banner bloat: Sure they have to pay their bills, but Salon has gone from having an ad banner here and there to nothing more than a commercial sell out. It slows down page loading to a crawl. Look at the front page: three large banners, two small ones and the side columns have become nothing less than an advertising pimpfest.

Springerfication: Salon seems to be about reporting the latest tabloid trash, the overall content seems to get worse and worse. It seems that about half of their stories seem to be no more than cheap sex related titilation. Pretty embarrasing, considering the high quality material they used to aspire to. Trash may sell to the lowest common denominator, but it isn't going to hold my interest. Some may consider Paglia's mastery of the bleeding obvious intellectual stimulation, I'd call it just plain dull. Don't get me started about self hating, race bating loser David Horowitz. The only reason his column exists is to gain credibility with the far right. When I read a lot of the articles, I'm always think, "Hey, I could do better than that!"

Some of it is still worth checking out from time to time. The technology section is pretty good as well as the occasional interview. The travel section, which I used to read religiously, has unfortunately turned into sex romp garbage, alas.

Salon won't be around in the long run. I don't think it will ever be financially viable. Too bad for them. I'm glad that the internet has lots more interesting stuff to offer, without the tabloid nonsense.

-- Oxnard (astroman@hickory.net), November 27, 1999.

Another opinion: I like their content just fine, and always find 3-4 things that I enjoy out of any particular day.

My problem is with their overall layout. It just makes no sense.

They're department-oriented with their content, and yet there are many sections with only one or two articles. They don't emphasize the idea that you can enter each section independently. At the top right of the front page, they hint in size 1 type that their departments are actually sites you should visit independently. In the middle column, they're completely article-oriented.

They date the articles, but today, for example, all the dates are the same. That means the date information is useless.

I'm not a opponent of scrolling at all, but their front page is just silly. Your eye is drawn towards the center column and then forced to stay there with long vertical lines.

As for table talk, I'd love to hang out with these Salon readers, but the bbs software they use is positively ridiculous.

-- Arthur Alexander (abalone@zerodefect.net), November 27, 1999.

It's funny that you point to Web Crossing (the software that Tabletalk uses for BBSing) as a flaw. I find Web Crossing to be one of the triumphs of web based user interfaces, it does everything I want in a conferencing system, and does it so nicely. What do you find frustrating about it?

-- Dan Lyke (danlyke@flutterby.com), November 29, 1999.


Pick a topic you like. There are 800 new messages. Start reading at message #1 of 808. It's six months old. This, to me, is a non-starter. Does it serve the community well to have 800 messages? Impossible; it doesn't index its messages by subject. And you can't go to a particular message number; if you want to read #100, you have to go through 1-10, 11-20, etc.

The way discussions are unthreaded, yet all under one "starter statement" is interesting, but when there are 50 discussions going per topic and some are on topic and some aren't -- it's easy to get lost.

And it's wrapped around a butt-ugly design.

OK, now you tell me what's to like about it.

-- Arthur Alexander (abalone@zerodefect.net), November 30, 1999.

I like Salon a lot, but I got so totally exasperated by its design that I wrote a filter CGI to strip out the tables and GIFs and link to the print versions of the articles:

http://test.angel.net/nic/salon.cgi (not guaranteed to keep working)

Does anyone else out there do this kind of thing? I have that and this:


I wonder if those of us who hack Perl could get together a page of links to filters we each maintained? (And how long it would take us to get sued even if we allowed access only by contributors...)

I agree about TableTalk sucking beyond usefulness. But then there's very little Web BBS software I like. I wrote my own, optimized for speed and usability - give it a try or d/l the source at


- but I ran out of free time before I got it to the point where I would open the source. (Ooops, I guess I just did...)

-- Nic Wolff (nic@angel.net), November 30, 1999.

What's to like about Tabletalk:

If you've got 800 new messages, just click on the "Recent messages" button. This doesn't work where the full threading is turned on (ala Burning Man's BBS), but as Tabletalk was set up last I saw it gave a reasonable count back from the top.

You can go to a given message if you learn how to decode their URLs, obviously someone needs to hack together a "go to this message number" box to stuff at the bottom of pages. And links in to specific messages from the outside work just as I'd expect.

My only complaint with the design is that I've yet to see alt-tags on the control buttons, but it's spare and renders fast, I prefer it to either the Greenspun system or Dave Winer's discussion boards.

The text formatter does exactly what I want when I enter HTML. And it's smart enough to deal with self-referential links in an intelligent way.

The "new messages" button does exactly the right thing. The configuration lets me tailor everything to my preferred surfing style. The login tracking works with or without cookies.

It's really the only conferencing system that comes close to a mailing list.

-- Dan Lyke (danlyke@flutterby.com), November 30, 1999.

I find that Salon is:

- by far the best of the Web magazines, and - so boring that it's not worth my while to read it

(from which you can derive my opinion on the *rest* of the Web magazines!). For general news, I rely on listening to NPR on the car radio. For interesting Web stuff, I read Weblogs. Salon does have worthwhile content at times, but I these days I selfishly count on someone else to pass me a URL when that happens...

-- David M. Chess (chess@theogeny.com), January 06, 2000.

I like the indepth reporting, the opinions. I too hate the tabloid stuff, but it's take what you want... The recent piece on our National drug czar influencing sitcom content was well worth reading. One thing I hate - I frequently clip articles into email, and I have yet to arrive at an efficient means to left-justify the text. It all comes in with 20 spaces at the left of each line.

Politics 2000 - come on, where are you going to find that kind of content on the web?

A problem I have with weblogs is that they tend to cover the same kinds of content, refer to eachother too much. I visit robotwisdom daily, but I don't see any point in checking the others more than once a week.


-- Matthew Brandabur (fenris@mcs.com), January 14, 2000.

I dunno, I've found the Politics2000.com site pretty puffy; random people whose subjective opinions I have no particular reason to trust giving their subjective opinions on candidates. There are some good interesting facts there, but the density doesn't seem real high (hence my desire to have someone else read the site for me and pass me the good bits!). The last two things I read were the "Hillary on SNL" piece (which I found neither insightful nor especially funny), and the Tapper "G W Bush is mediocre" piece (which I found obvious (of course he's mediocre; film at 11) and frustrating (no insights into how useful a mediocre president might be to certain interests, or into why so many people are likely to vote for him anyway)).

But maybe I just don't understand *how* to read Salon. The organization of the site seems very contorted. Is there a secret I just don't know? Is there some way to page through the site (Slate-like), and glance through everything? Is there a page that lists *all* the new stuff in inverse-chron order? All I can figure out to do is click on links that seem like they might lead somewhere interesting, more or less at random. Is there a better way?

What are your Salon-reading strategies?

-- David M. Chess (chess@theogeny.com), January 17, 2000.

Salon is a daily stop for me, and it is a rare day when I don't read at least two articles. Sometimes it smirks too much for my taste (like that seriel about the hooker-- what's up with that?), but more often it is reasonably thoughtful, and fresh. I wish they didn't do the multiple pages thing for each article. I assume this is so they can sell more banners, but it slows me down, and since the banners are the last thing to finish loading, it is not as though I even see them most of the time.

-- Bill Altreuter (altreuter@yahoo.com), January 27, 2000.

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