kottke.org posts about NY Times

On this weekend in 1974Jun 22 2014

Chinatown Listing 1984

Yesterday, I did a round-up of movies, TV, and music available on this weekend in 1984. As a comparison, I thought looking at the same weekend from 1974 would be interesting. Tracking this information down was a little more difficult than with 1984, but I found most of what I needed in the June 23, 1974 edition of the NY Times.

Back in the 1970s (and probably particularly in NYC), movies stayed in theaters a lot longer than they do now. There was no home video market then...you either saw the movie in the theater or you missed it. This is a list of some of the movies available for viewing in theaters that weekend in NYC:

The Sting
The Exorcist
Parallax View
The Sugarland Express
The Conversation
Chinatown
Papillon
The Great Gatsby

The Sting, Papillon, and The Exorcist had been out since late 1973, The Great Gatsby since March, and The Sugarland Express (Spielberg's directoral debut) and The Conversation since April. Only Parallax View and Chinatown had just opened. Interestingly, the year's top-grossing film, Blazing Saddles, which opened in February, didn't appear anywhere on the movie listing pages of the Times that week.

The top 10 on the Billboard chart for that week were:

Billy, Don't Be A Hero - Bo Donaldson And The Heywoods
You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics
Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
The Streak - Ray Stevens
Be Thankful For What You Got - William DeVaughn
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
If You Love Me (let Me Know) - Olivia Newton-John
Dancing Machine - Jackson 5
Hollywood Swinging - Kool & The Gang
The Entertainer - Marvin Hamlisch/The Sting

And on TV that weekend, a number of classic shows, all reruns except for 60 Minutes:

Brady Bunch
Sanford and Son
Good Times
Upstairs, Downstairs
The Odd Couple
All in the Family
M*A*S*H
Mary Tyler Moore
60 Minutes

BTW, the entire copy of the Sunday Times was fascinating to page through. The ads for cigarettes, hand-held calculators, and color televisions, real estate listings, job openings, book listings, the NY Times Magazine, car ads, etc.

Fit to print?Mar 10 2014

Fit To Print is a Tumblr blog tracking the sometimes absurd instances of profanity avoidance in the NY Times. Like so:

Mr. Lee blasted a dictionary's worth of unprintable words at developers who fluff gritty neighborhoods with glossy names ("East Williamsburg" for Bushwick, for instance), and at the "Christopher Columbus syndrome" of gentrifiers who were sweeping into the largely black neighborhood of his youth with little regard for "a culture that's been laid down for generations."

I have already been on record about the Times' dumbass profanity policy, especially when it gets in the way of actually performing journalism.

Update: Language expert Jesse Sheidlower in a NY Times opinion piece:

When language can play such a hot-button role in our society, what we need is more reporting, not less. Some publications have loosened the restraints. The New Yorker has noticeably done so, British and Australian newspapers often print offensive words in full, and The Economist's style guide reads: "if you do use swear words, spell them out in full, without asterisks or other coynesses."

NY Times: clemency for SnowdenJan 02 2014

The editorial board of the NY Times is urging clemency for Edward Snowden.

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.

All the news that's fit to sewJun 05 2013

For her Sewn News project, artist Lauren DiCioccio embroiders photographs from the New York Times.

Sewn news

(via beautiful decay)

The NY Times' dumb anti-profanity policyMay 07 2013

PepsiCo is dropping Lil Wayne as a Mountain Dew spokesman because of "vulgar lyrics" referring to Emmett Till after the Till family put pressure on the beverage giant. What lyrics? Because of its ridiculous policy against including bad words in such an august publication, the NY Times doesn't even say what the lyrics are! Which makes the entire article worthless from a journalistic perspective. The lyrics are the entire story...without them, it's just a bunch of press release bullshit. FYI, because we are all adults here (and your kids already know the lyrics), here are the lyrics in question courtesy of Rap Genius:

Pop a lot of pain pills
Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels
Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till
Yeah....
Two cell phones ringin' at the same time
That's your ho, callin' from two different phones
Tell that bitch "leave me the fuck alone!"
See, you fuck her wrong, and I fuck her long
I got a love-hate relationship with Molly
I'd rather pop an ollie, and my dick is a trolly
Boy, I'll bury you like Halle

How can people even discuss the artistic merit and/or offensiveness of the lyrics if you can't print them? The Times should either simply publish whatever it is they are talking about or not run the story at all. (via @bdeskin, who has been giving the Times shit about their profanity policy on Twitter)

1983 NY Times office computer policy memoFeb 04 2013

In 1983, the NY Times distributed a memo outlining the policy for computer use by employees.

5. Games and visual oddities may not be played or stored in the computer. They clutter the storage disk and slow its operation; they also encourage browsing, which leads to privacy violation. Finally, games may give new or junior staff members a misleading impression of the seriousness we attached to computer privacy.

(via @davidfg)

Our weird weather realityJan 11 2013

As previously reported, global warming doesn't just mean the Earth is getting warmer...the weather is getting weirder.

Britons may remember 2012 as the year the weather spun off its rails in a chaotic concoction of drought, deluge and flooding, but the unpredictability of it all turns out to have been all too predictable: Around the world, extreme has become the new commonplace.

Especially lately. China is enduring its coldest winter in nearly 30 years. Brazil is in the grip of a dreadful heat spell. Eastern Russia is so freezing -- minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and counting -- that the traffic lights recently stopped working in the city of Yakutsk.

Bush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began.

BTW, this story was published the day before the NY Times announced that they are dismantling their environment news desk and dispersing the nine-person staff throughout the newsroom.

It wasn't a decision we made lightly," said Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations. "To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter."

This seems like a step in the wrong direction. Which prominent national publication will be brave and start pushing climate change coverage alongside that of politics, business, and sports? At the very least, the Times should have a weekly Climate Change section, the New Yorker should have a yearly Climate issue, Buzzfeed should have a Climate & Weather vertical, etc. (via @tcarmody)

The New York Times CompendiumDec 06 2012

The New York Times Research & Development Lab has built an app called Compendium that lets people create collections of NY Times articles and photos.

Compendium invites readers of The New York Times like you to use articles, imagery, videos, and quotations to tell your own stories using New York Times content. Each collection has a description that you can use to introduce the collection as a whole, and each item in your collection has a place for you to describe what was important, interesting, or funny about it. Once created, you can share your collection or link to it from anywhere. Compendium is also a great place to discover and explore interesting stories through a wide variety of collections created by our readers, editors, and reporters.

Some examples: Jenna Wortham's favorite reads of 2012, a drone-related collection, and the best/worst dining reviews.

The NY Times' first restaurant criticMay 18 2012

Craig Claiborne was the NY Times' first dedicated restaurant critic, providing an example that was soon followed by newspapers everywhere in the US.

Some American writers had nibbled at the idea of professional restaurant criticism before this, including Claiborne, who had written one-off reviews of major new restaurants for The Times. But his first "Directory to Dining," 50 years ago this month, marks the day when the country pulled up a chair and began to chow down. Within a few years, nearly every major newspaper had to have a Craig Claiborne of its own. Reading the critics, eating what they had recommended, and then bragging or complaining about it would become a national pastime.

As the current caretaker of the house that Claiborne built, I lack objectivity on this subject. Still, I believe that without professional critics like him and others to point out what was new and delicious, chefs would not be smiling at us from magazine covers, subway ads and billboards. They would not be invited to the White House, except perhaps for job interviews. Claiborne and his successors told Americans that restaurants mattered. That was an eccentric opinion a half-century ago. It's not anymore.

A few years ago, I wrote about the first restaurant review to appear in the Times in 1859...it's still one of my favorite posts.

Process blog for the NY Times Graphics deptMay 01 2012

chartsandthings is a behind-the-scenes look at how the infographic sausage is made at the NY Times.

nytimes.com front page time lapseJul 20 2011

Seven-minute video of 12,000 screenshots of the front page of the NY Times website taken over a period of several months by "an errant cron task".

More info here.

NY Times paywall is hereMar 17 2011

Or will be soon...they announced some of the details today.

On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

Cheapest plan is about $180/year and the most expensive is $420/yr. Access is free to paper subscribers.

Early look at the NY Times Magazine redesignMar 04 2011

magCulture has a pre-release look at the new NY Times Magazine.

Redesigns are always interesting, and non more so than when a title as significant and influential as the NYT makes changes. Duplessis has worked with new editor Hugo Lindgren (ex-Bloomberg Business Week and New York magazine) to provide a new vision for the title, researching the magazine's archive and becoming fascinated by its 60s and 70s incarnations.

For some reason, it reminds me of Monocle, even though it probably shouldn't? (thx, @nedward)

Comings and goings at the NY TimesFeb 25 2011

The Grey Lady is up to something...many things and people are on the move over there, particularly with regard to the magazine.

The On Language column originated by William Safire has been cancelled.

Christoph Niemann's excellent Abstract City blog is closing down and the feature will move to the New York Times Magazine.

This is the last The Medium column by Virginia Heffernan.

After 12 years, Randy Cohen will no longer write The Ethicist column.

Deborah Solomon won't be doing those irritating interviews anymore.

Update: A couple I missed: Rob Walker's Consumed and Mark Bittman's The Minimalist are both ending. (thx, all)

First election mapNov 11 2010

Matthew Ericson tracked down the first national election map published in the NY Times; it showed William McKinley's victory over William Jennings Bryan.

1896 Election Map

The speed with which the results made it into print boggles the mind given the technology of the day (especially considering that in the last few elections in the 2000s, with all of the technology available to us, there have been a number of states that we haven't been able to call in the Wednesday paper).

(thx, tyson)

Civil War blogNov 02 2010

Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in "real-time" as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:

[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.

In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family's leather-goods store.

Great idea. The Times started publishing in 1851 so their archives should have a ton of stuff related to the war. (via df)

NYC subway photos, 1917-presentOct 22 2010

Slideshow of almost 100 years of photography of the NYC subway system by the NY Times.

NYC Subway 1940

The caption for the photo above reads:

1940: In a view north from 106th Street, only the supports of the old Ninth Avenue elevated line remained as the push to go underground continued.

Jobs' keynote praise gets RSS reader pulled from App StoreJun 08 2010

Steve Jobs praised an iPad RSS reader called Pulse in his keynote yesterday. Then the NY Times complained about the app and Apple pulled it from the store later in the day.

The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.

Four things:

1. Why is there a comma after "The Pulse News Reader app" in the laywer's note to Apple?
2. The very same NY Times ran a positive review of the very same Pulse a few days ago. Doh!
3. Seems like all the Pulse guys need to do is unbundle the NY Times feeds and open the actual nytimes.com pages into a generic browser window and all is good.
4. I wonder why the Times et al. haven't complained about Instapaper yet. It might not technically infringe on copyright, but magazines and newspapers can't be too happy about an app that strips out all the advertising from their articles...as much as we would all be sad to see it go.

FiveThirtyEight goes to the NY TimesJun 03 2010

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight is licensing its content to the NY Times for the next three years.

In the near future, the blog will "re-launch" under a NYTimes.com domain. It will retain its own identity (akin to other Times blogs like DealBook), but will be organized under the News:Politics section. Once this occurs, content will no longer be posted at FiveThirtyEight.com on an ongoing basis, and the blog will re-direct to the new URL. In addition, I will be contributing content to the print edition of the New York Times, and to the Sunday Magazine.

The Times' own Media Decoder blog notes that the deal is similar in structure to the arrangement Freakonomics enjoys at the newspaper: more of a rental than a purchase. I believe Andrew Sullivan has had similar deals at the various publications at which he's blogged. (thx, nevan)

Thread poets societyMar 18 2010

At the newly renovated Bygone Bureau, Darryl Campbell investigates the small but vibrant poetry community that has formed in the comment threads on the NY Times website.

Tiger, Tiger burning bright
In the sex clubs of Orlando
Guess it's time you took a break
And lived life with more candor
Must've been weird, your secret life
Never an unserviced erection
Shouldn't you, though, have taught the wife
Some proper club selection?

The year in ideas, 2009Dec 10 2009

The NY Times Magazine has published their Year in Ideas issue for 2009. Lots of good stuff in there. Before I got sidetracked with family obligations (Minna!), I planned on pitching the magazine's editors a couple of ideas I noticed this year:

The Neverending Wake. We got a preview of what death in the celebrity age (more) is going be like when a cluster of notable people passed away this summer. How will we think about death when someone we know or admire dies every day for the rest of our lives?

Machine Gun Photography. Just as the introduction of the machine gun fundamentally changed warfare, so the affordable high-resolution digital video camera will change photography. Now you don't have to wait for exactly the right moment for the perfect shot; just take 10 minutes of HD video and find the best shots later. Photography was always really about the editing anyway, right?

Free Errol!Nov 20 2009

For some dumbcrap reason, the NY Times has redirected Errol Morris' excellent blog about photography and the truth -- formerly at http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com -- to some new thing called Opinionator. They did the same with Dick Cavett, Olivia Judson, etc. Oh, all the content is still there -- here's Morris' stuff -- and permalinks redirect, but there are no author-specific RSS feeds. There is only the main feed, which started shoveling a bunch of crap I didn't want to read into my newsreader. Come on Gray Lady, just give me Morris; I don't care about the rest.

Update: The Times blogs are on Wordpress and with WP you can add "/feed" to any URL and get a feed. So here's Morris' feed...which helps you and me but not much of anyone else. (thx, mark)

Update: The Times is working on it. (thx, benjamin)

From the Babe to MatsuiNov 06 2009

Larry Granillo explores how the Yankees' World Series victories have been covered by the New York Times through the years.

New NY Times restaurant criticAug 05 2009

The NY Times has named their replacement for outgoing restaurant critic Frank Bruni: current Times editor Sam Sifton. This is good news for me...I look a bit like Sifton; if I'm mistaken for him and incur favorable treatment at restaurants because of it, I won't complain.

Update: Many many updates on Sifton and his appointment: from the Times itself on the transition, on restaurant critics and anonymity, and on Sifton's preparation for the gig (more here); Ed Levine thinks Sifton is going to be good; and Eater has a dossier on Sifton.

Best correction ever?Jul 20 2009

On July 17, 1969, The New York Times issued a correction related to an editorial the paper published in 1920 that dismissed the idea of rocket travel in the vacuum of space. The editorial read, in part:

That Professor Goddard, with his 'chair' in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react -- to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high school.

The correction stated:

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Issac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

The Times regrets the error! Wish I'd written that next to a few muffed physics exam questions. Here's a pretty good explanation of why rockets work in vacuums. (via @davidfg)

New NY Times photoblogMay 18 2009

The NY Times kicks off their new photography blog with a video that shows just how short White House photo ops are.

When a photo-op is scheduled, the photographers, camera operators and reporters gather in the colonnade outside the Oval Office and wait -- sometimes it can be as long as an hour -- shuffling feet and making nervous small talk until the flutter of the fingers of the young staffer who calls, "Pool."

No vending machine for crowsApr 12 2009

Remember the story about the vending machine for crows in the NY Times Magazine's Year in Ideas issue from December? Turns out that there were all sorts of things wrong with that story.

In addition, the article said that Klein was working with graduate students at Cornell University and Binghamton University to study how wild crows make use of his machine, which does exist. Klein did get a professor at Binghamton to help him try it out twice in Ithaca, with assistance from a Binghamton graduate student, and it was not a success. Corvid experts who have since been interviewed have said that Klein's machine is unlikely to work as intended.

Update: I had forgotten...Klein did a talk at TED last year about his crow vending machine. I wonder if there's a retraction forthcoming from there as well. (thx, michael)

The Year in IdeasDec 15 2008

The NY Times has posted their annual Year in Ideas collection for 2008, packaged this year in an "interactive feature", which is Esperanto for "no permalinks". A favorite so far in paging through is Tokujin Yoshioka's Venus Natural Crystal Chair, a piece of furniture grown in mineral water.

Update: Permalinks are a go. I repeat, permalinks are a go. Here's the one for the crystal chair. (thx, everyone)

Obama is big news at the NY TimesNov 06 2008

Wednesday was the only the fourth time that the NY Times used 96 pt. type for the headline on the front page of the paper. In chronological order:

MEN WALK ON MOON
NIXON RESIGNS
U.S. ATTACKED
OBAMA

The Wednesday edition of the Times was very popular. It was sold out all over the city so people lined up outside the Times' building to buy copies. Copies are available on eBay for $100 or more.

Update: The Times used 96 pt. type for the front page headline on at least one other occasion: January 1, 2000. I wonder if there are others. (thx, jeff)

Update: The Times is selling copies of the Nov 5 paper on their site but it's currently being hammered by buyers so maybe try again in a few hours? (thx, matt)

NY Times endorses ObamaOct 24 2008

In a huge shocker, the NY Times has endorsed Barack Obama for President. They also have an interactive feature that shows the newspaper's past endorsements, from Lincoln in 1860 to the last Republican candidate endorsed, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

According to Editor and Publisher, Obama is leading McCain in newspaper endorsements by more than 2-to-1, including most of the major papers. Obama: LA Times, NY Times, Sacramento Bee, SF Chronicle, SJ Mercury, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, NY Daily News, The Houston Chronicle. McCain: San Diego Union-Tribune, Tampa Tribune, Boston Herald, New York Post, Dallas Morning News, The Detroit News.

How to solve crossword puzzlesAug 19 2008

NY Times resident crossword puzzle master Will Shortz on how to solve the NY Times crossword puzzle.

Mental flexibility is a great asset in solving crosswords. Let your mind wander. The clue "Present time" might suggest nowadays, but in a different sense it might lead to the answer yuletide. Similarly, "Life sentences" could be obit, "Inside shot" is x-ray and my all-time favorite clue, "It turns into a different story" (15 letters), results in the phrase SPIRAL STAIRCASE.

Book ads, 1962-1973Aug 01 2008

A collection of old book ads from the NY Times.

We're going to begin this project with a look at the country's golden age of book advertisements, which ran from roughly 1962-73. Why those dates? The books - and the ads for them - were terrific: fresh, pushy, serious and wry, often all at the same time. There was a new sense of electricity in the culture and in the book world.

The authors featured include Alice Walker, Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Susan Sontag.

NY Times = a more upscale VogueJul 28 2008

Paul Krugman on the how the NY Times makes its money.

The New York Times is known for its hard news coverage, but he observes that from a business perspective it's primarily a fashion and food publication that runs a small political news operation on the side. One issue of T Magazine, he says, pays for an entire NYT European bureau.

News by geographyJul 23 2008

A map of the world as reported by the New York Times. Countries are color coded by the amount of times they are mentioned in the Times, per capita. Greenland, Iraq, New Zealand, Iceland, and Panama are disproportionally represented.

TimesMachine launchesMay 22 2008

After a stutter step back in late February, NY Times releases their slick archive browser, TimesMachine. Here's the announcement from the team that put it together.

TimesMachine is a collection of full-page image scans of the newspaper from 1851-1922 (i.e., the public domain archives). Organized chronologically and navigated by a simple calendar interface, TimesMachine provides a unique way to traverse the historical archives of The New York Times. Topics ranging from the Civil War to the sinking of the Titanic to the first cross-country auto race to women's fashions in the 20s are just a few electronic flips away. And of course, there's the advertisements.

Unfortunately, full access to the archives through TimesMachine is only available to subscribers. (via fimoculous)

Khoi Vinh, design director of NYTimes.comApr 21 2008

Khoi Vinh, design director of NYTimes.com and Subtraction, will be answering questions from readers all this week. Look for Khoi's initial responses later in the day and week.

Our collective recent history, onlineMar 27 2008

In past few years, several prominent US magazines and newspapers have begun to offer their extensive archives online and on DVD. In some cases, this includes material dating back to the 1850s. Collectively it is an incredible record of recent human history, the ideas, people, and events that have shaped our country and world as recorded by writers, photographers, editors, illustrators, advertisers, and designers who lived through those times. Here are some of most notable of those archives:

Harper's Magazine offers their entire archive online, from 1850 to 2008. Most of it is only available to the magazine's subscribers. Associate editor Paul Ford talks about how Harper's archive came to be.

The NY Times provides their entire archive online, most of it for free. Most of the stories from 1923 to 1986 are available for a small fee. The Times briefly launched an interface for browsing their archive called TimesMachine but withdrew it soon after launch.

Time Magazine has their entire archive online for free, from 1923 to the present.

Sports Illustrated has all their issues online for free, dating back to 1954.

The Atlantic Monthly offers all their articles since Nov 1995 and a growing number from their archive dating back to 1857 for free. For a small fee, most of the rest of their articles are available as well, although those from Jan 1964 - Sept 1992 are not.

The Washington Post has archives going back to 1877. Looks like most of it is for pay.

The New Yorker has free archives on their site going back to 2001, although only some of the articles are included. All of their articles, dating back to 1925, are available on The Complete New Yorker DVD set for $40.

Rolling Stone offers some of their archive online but the entire archive (from 1967 to 2007) is available as a 4-DVD set for $79.

Mad Magazine released a 2-DVD set of every issue of the magazine from 1952-2006.

And more to come...old media is slowly figuring out that more content equals more traffic, sometimes much more traffic.

Update: Nature has their entire archive online, dating back to 1869. (thx, gavin)

The NY Times launches TimesMachine, an alternateFeb 25 2008

The NY Times launches TimesMachine, an alternate look into their vast online archive. It's basically an interface into every single page of the newspaper from Sep 18, 1851 to Dec 30, 1922. The advertising on these old pages is fascinating.

Update: For whatever reason, the Times has taken TimesMachine offline.

An official decision has been reached inFeb 01 2008

An official decision has been reached in the Long Bet between Dave Winer and Martin Nisenholtz of the NY Times. The bet was made in 2002 when Winer asserted that:

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 02007, weblogs will rank higher than the "New York Times" Web site

Winer won the bet but it's worth noting that the Times has a growing stable of good blogs itself. (via workbench)

"Where's Andy Warhol?"Jan 14 2008

In 1984, Maureen Dowd, now an op-ed columnist, was a reporter on the "Metropolitan staff" of the New York Times. This excerpt (from a 5112-word piece) ran in the Times magazine on November 4, 1984, with the headline "9PM TO 5AM." (It's behind the paywall here.)

On Monday nights, Area offers ''obsession'' nights—with fixations such as sex, pets and body oddities. At a recent ''sex evening,'' nude jugglers and whip dancers moved in and out of the crowd while an ex-nun heard sexual confessions in the ladies' room and an old man played with inflatable dolls in a pool.

This evening, the theme is ''confinement,'' and the club is decorated with dolls in pajamas chained under water, a caged rabbit and go-go dancers armed with guns and dressed in Army fatigues.

''Where's Andy Warhol?'' asks a young punk, dragging on a joint and scanning the crowd. ''I want to get a good look at him.''

''I think he went to Limelight,'' says his friend. At Limelight, a church- turned-club on the Avenue of the Americas at 20th Street, halolike arcs of light stream from stained-glass windows.

''We should go there,'' says someone else.

''We should go there immediately,'' says another.

They scurry off to Limelight, unaware that their quarry, wearing corduroys and a backpack, is standing unobtrusively at the bar.

''This is the best bar in town,'' Andy Warhol says. ''You could take everything out and put it in a gallery.''

Matt Dillon, Vincent Spano and Mickey Rourke, each confident in his role as a teen idol, make their separate ways through the crowd, as young girls reach out to touch their arms, backs, anything. Director Francis Ford Coppola is talking to the actress Diane Lane.

Nearby, Don Marino, an up-and-coming actor, is talking to Brian Jones, an up-and-coming director. ''L.A. is a whole different world,'' the actor says. ''You go to the A party, the B party and you are home in bed by 11 for your 5 o' clock call the next morning. In New York, you've got to be seen at night, you've got to get around.''

The young director scans the room. ''I know people Coppola knows,'' he says. ''I wonder if I could go say hi.''

2007: The Year in Pictures from the NY Times.Jan 03 2008

2007: The Year in Pictures from the NY Times.

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to theDec 20 2007

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to the punch in calculating the winner of the Dave Winer/Martin Nisenholtz Long Bet pitting the NY Times vs. blogs to see who ranks higher in end of the year search results for the 5 most important news stories of 2007. The winner? Wikipedia.

The Times has really improved their position in Google since 2005...opening up their archives helped, I bet.

The Year in Ideas, 2007Dec 10 2007

The NY Times Magazine is out with its annual Year in Ideas issue. 2007 was the year of green -- green energy, green manufacturing, and even a green Nobel Prize for Al Gore -- and environmentalism featured heavily on the Times' list. But I found some of the other items on the list more interesting.

Ambiguity Promotes Liking. Sometimes the more you learn about a person or a situation, the more likely you are to be disappointed:

Why? For starters, initial information is open to interpretation. "And people are so motivated to find somebody they like that they read things into the profiles," Norton says. If a man writes that he likes the outdoors, his would-be mate imagines her perfect skiing companion, but when she learns more, she discovers "the outdoors" refers to nude beaches. And "once you see one dissimilarity, everything you learn afterward gets colored by that," Norton says.

I'm an optimistic pessimist by nature; I believe everything in my life will eventually average out for the better but I assume the worst of individual situations for the reasons proposed in the article above. That way, when I assume something isn't going to work out, I'm rarely disappointed.

The Best Way to Deflect an Asteroid involves a technique called "mirror bees".

The best method, called "mirror bees," entails sending a group of small satellites equipped with mirrors 30 to 100 feet wide into space to "swarm" around an asteroid and trail it, Vasile explains. The mirrors would be tilted to reflect sunlight onto the asteroid, vaporizing one spot and releasing a stream of gases that would slowly move it off course. Vasile says this method is especially appealing because it could be scaled easily: 25 to 5,000 satellites could be used, depending on the size of the rock.

What an elegant and easily implemented solution. But Armageddon and Deep Impact would have been a whole lot less entertaining using Dr. Vasile's approach.

The Cat-Lady Conundrum. More than 60 million Americans are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that most people get from their cats. And it's not exactly harmless:

Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic, is looking into it. He has spent years studying Toxo's impact on human behavior. (He found, for example, that people infected with Toxo have slower reflexes and are 2.5 times as likely to get into car accidents.)

This may explain why I can't seem to get past "Easy" on Guitar Hero.

The Honeycomb Vase is actually made by bees. One unintended consequence of having a vase made out of beeswax is that flowers last longer in it:

Libertiny is convinced that flowers last longer in them, because beeswax contains propolis, an antibacterial agent that protects against biological decay. "We found out by accident," he explains. "We had a bouquet, which was too big for the beeswax vase, so we put half of the flowers in a glass vase. We noticed the difference after a week or so.

Prison Poker. This is a flat out brilliantly simple idea:

[Officer Tommy Ray] made his own deck of cards, each bearing information about a different local criminal case that had gone cold. He distributed the decks in the Polk County jail. His hunch was that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked. Two months in, as a result of a tip from a card-playing informant, two men were charged with a 2004 murder in a case that had gone cold.

The Gomboc is the world's first Self-Righting Object.

It leans off to one side, rocks to and fro as if gathering strength and then, presto, tips itself back into a "standing" position as if by magic. It doesn't have a hidden counterweight inside that helps it perform this trick, like an inflatable punching-bag doll that uses ballast to bob upright after you whack it. No, the Gomboc is something new: the world's first self-righting object.

More information is available on the Gomboc web site. You can order a Gomboc for €80 + S&H.

Update: The Gomboc is available for sale but it doesn't come cheap. The €80 version is basically a paperweight with a Gomboc shape carved out of it. It's €1000+ for a real Gomboc, which is ridiculous. (thx, nick)

Yanksfan vs Soxfan mines the NY TimesOct 19 2007

Yanksfan vs Soxfan mines the NY Times archive and turns up a 1914 article that mentions a youngster named Babe Ruth:

"Babe" Ruth, a youngster, opposed the Giants, who made nine hits off him. Four double plays, all started by Claude Derrick, who handled twelve outs of the thirteen chances, kept the Giants from scoring more runs.

YvS and Soccer Dad also found a series that the Times did on another youngster, Manny Ramirez, back when Manny being Manny meant hitting .650 in his senior year in high school.

Glenn from Coolfer took a spin throughOct 09 2007

Glenn from Coolfer took a spin through the NY Times recently opened online archive and highlighted some interesting news about the music industry, notably about how technology and the Internet changed the game in the late-90s/early-00s.

If someone likes an artist, they're going to buy the CD. The number of those who download and opt against buying the CD is very small. There are plenty of libraries in this country, yet people still buy books. The Napster opponents underestimate the American fascination with ownership.

Mental Floss has an ongoing feature calledOct 03 2007

Mental Floss has an ongoing feature called The First Time News Was Fit To Print, which chronicles the first mentions of famous people, places, and events in the NY Times. Among the topics covered so far: The Simpsons, Kobe Bryant, and Starbucks.

Hometracked uncovered some musical history tidbits fromSep 21 2007

Hometracked uncovered some musical history tidbits from the archive of the NY Times, including first descriptions of Edison's phonograph and Marconi's radio.

First NY Times restaurant review, circa 1859?Sep 20 2007

While poking around in the newly opened archives of the New York Times yesterday, I stumbled upon an article called How We Dine (full text in PDF) from January 1, 1859. I'm not well versed in the history of food criticism, but I believe this is perhaps the first restaurant review to appear in the Times and that the unnamed gentleman who wrote it (the byline is "by the Strong-Minded Reporter of the Times") is the progenitor of the paper's later reviewers like Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, and Frank Bruni.

The article starts off with a directive from the editor-in-chief to "go and dine":

"Very well," replied the editor-in-chief. "Dine somewhere else to-day and somewhere else to-morrow. I wish you to dine everywhere, -- from the Astor House Restaurant to the smallest description of dining saloon in the City, in order that you may furnish an account of all these places. The cashier will pay your expenses."

How We Dine

Before starting on his quest, the reporter differentiates eating from dining -- noting that many believe "whereas all people know how to eat, it is only the French who know how to dine" -- and defines what he means by an American dinner (as opposed to a French one). Here's his list of the types of American dinner to be found in New York, from most comfortable to least:

1. The Family dinner at home.
2. The Stetsonian dinner.
3. The Delmonican, or French dinner.
4. The Minor dinner of the Stetsonian principle.
5. The Eating-house dinner, so called.
6. The Second-class Eating-house dinner.
7. The Third-class Eating-house feed.

The remainder of the article is devoted to descriptions of what a diner might find at each of these types of establishments. Among the places he dined was Delmonico's, where dining in America is said to have originated:

Once let Delmonico have your order, and you are safe. You may repose in peace up to the very moment when you sit down with your guests. No nobleman of England -- no Marquis of the ancienne nobless -- was ever better served or waited on in greater style that you will be in a private room at Delmonico's. The lights will be brilliant, the waiters will be curled and perfumed and gloved, the dishes will be strictly en règle and the wines will come with precision of clock-work that has been duly wound up. If you "pay your money like a gentleman," you will be fed like a gentleman, and no mistake... The cookery, however, will be superb, and the attendance will be good. If you make the ordinary mistakes of a untraveled man, and call for dishes in unusual progression, the waiter will perhaps sneer almost imperceptibly, but he will go no further, if you don't try his feelings too harshly, or put your knife into your mouth.

According to a series of articles by Joe O'Connell, Delmonico's was the first restaurant in the US when it opened in 1830 and invented Eggs Benedict, Oysters Rockefeller, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg, and the term "86'd", used when the popular Delmonico Steak (#86 on menu) was sold out, or so the story goes. O'Connell's history of Delmonico's provides us with some context for the How We Dine piece:

The restaurant was a novelty in New York. There were new foods, a courteous staff, and cooking that was unknown at the homes of even the wealthiest New Yorkers. The restaurant was open for lunch and dinner.

The restaurant featured a bill of fare, which was itself new. Those who dined at inns were fed on a set meal for a set price. As a result, everyone was fed the same meal and were charged the same price, whether they ate little or much. In Paris, however, restaurants offered their patrons a "bill of fare", a carte, which listed separate dishes with individual prices. Each patron could choose a combination of dishes which was different from the other patrons. Each dish was priced separately. Thus, the restaurant was able to accommodate the tastes and hunger of each individual. The various dishes and their prices were listed on a carte or (the English translation) "bill of fare". Today, we call it a menu.

And from Delmonico's developed many different types of dining establishments, which the Strong-Minded Reporter set out to document thirty years later. Contrast his visit to Delmonico's with the experience in the "sandwich-room" at Browne's Auction Hotel, an eating-house:

The habitués of the place are rarely questioned at all. The man who has eaten a sandwich every day for the past ten years at the Auction Hotel no sooner takes his seat than a sandwich is set before him. The man who has for the same period indulged daily in pie or hard boiled eggs (there are some men with amazing digestion) is similarly treated. The occasional visitor, however, is briefly questioned by the attendant before whom he takes his place. "Sandwich?" or "Pie?" If he say "Sandwich," in reply, the little man laconically inquires, "Mustard?" The customer nods, and is served. If his mission be pie, instead, a little square morsel of cheese is invariably presented to him. Why such a custom should prevail at these places, no amount of research has yet enabled me to ascertain. Nothing can be more incongruous to pie than cheese, which, according to rule and common sense, is only admissible after pie, as a digester. But the guests at the Auction Hotel invariably take them together, and with strict fairness -- a bite at the pie, and a bite at the cheese, again the pie, and again the cheese, and so on until both are finished.

The experience of being a regular has barely changed in 150 years. And finally, our intrepid reporter visits an unnamed third class eating-house:

The noise in the dining hall is terrific. A guest has no sooner seated himself than a plate is literally flung at him by an irritated and perspiring waiter, loosely habited in an unbuttoned shirt whereof the varying color is, I am given to understand, white on Sunday, and daily darkening until Saturday, when it is mixed white and black -- black predominating. The jerking of the plate is closely followed up by a similar performance with a knife and a steel fork, and immediately succeeding these harmless missiles come a fearful shout from the waiter demanding in hasty tones, "What do you want now?" Having mildly stated what you desire to be served with, the waiter echoes your words in a voice of thunder, goes through the same ceremony with the next man and the next, through an infinite series, and rushes frantically from your presence. Presently returning, he appears with a column of dishes whereof the base is in one hand and the extreme edge of the capital is artfully secured under his chin. He passes down the aisle of guests, and, as he goes, deals out the dishes as he would cards, until the last is served, when he commences again Da Capo. The disgusting manner in which the individuals who dine at this place, thrust their food into their mouths with the blades of their knives, makes you tremble with apprehensions of suicide...

The entire article is well worth the read...one of the most interesting things I've found online in awhile.

Update: According to their web site, a restaurant in New Orleans named Antoine's claims that they invented Oysters Rockefeller. Another tidbit: from what I can gather, the Delmonico's that now exists in lower Manhattan has little to do with the original Delmonico's (even though they claim otherwise), sort of like the various Ray's Pizza places sprinkled about Manhattan. (thx, everyone who sent this in)

Gems from the archive of the New York TimesSep 19 2007

Now that the NY Times has discontinued their Times Select subscription program and made much more of their 150+ years of content available for anyone to read and link to, let's take a look at some of the more notable items that the non-subscriber has been missing.

- Access to the last two years-worth of columns from the NY Times' noted Op-Ed columnists, including Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and Paul Krugman.

- The first mention of the World Wide Web in the Times in February 1993. According to the article, the purpose of the web is "[to make] available physicists' research from many locations". Also notable are this John Markoff article on the internet being overwhelmed by heavy traffic and growth...in 1993, and a piece, also by Markoff, on the Mosaic web browser.

- Early report of Lincoln's assassination..."The President Still Alive at Last Accounts".

- A report on Custer's Last Stand a couple of weeks after the occurance (I couldn't find anything sooner). The coverage of Native Americans is notable for the racism, both thinly veiled and overt, displayed in the writing, e.g. a story from September 1872 titled The Hostile Savages.

- From the first year of publication, a listing of the principle events of 1851.

- An article about the confirmation of Einstein's theory of gravity by a 1919 expedition led by Arthur Eddington to measure the bending of starlight by the sun during an eclipse.

- A front page report on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, including a seismograph of the quake which the Times labeled "EARTHQUAKE'S AUTOGRAPH AS IT WROTE IT 3,000 MILES AWAY".

- The first mention of television (as a concept) in the Times, from February 1907. "The new 'telephotograph' invention of Dr. Arthur Korn, Professor of Physics in Munich University, is a distinct step nearer the realization of all this, and he assures us that 'television,' or seeing by telegraph, is merely a question of a year or two with certain improvements in apparatus."

- First mention of Harry Potter. Before it became a phenomenon, it was just another children's book on the fiction best-seller list.

- Some of the output by prolific Times reporter R.W. Apple is available (after 1981, pre-1981).

- A report during the First World War of the Germans using mustard gas. Lots more reporting about WWI is available in the Times archive.

- Not a lot is available from the WWII era, which is a shame. For instance, I wish this article about the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was available in the Times archive. Nothing about the moon landing, Kennedy's assassination, Watergate, etc. etc. either. :(

- On The Table, Michael Pollan's blog from last summer about food soon after the publication of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

- Urban Planet, a blog about cities from Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map.

- Oddly, The Principles of Uncertainty, an illustrated blog by Maira Kalman isn't available anymore. Update: Kalman's blog is probably unavailable because it's due to be published in book form in October. (thx, rafia) Further update: Kalman's blog is back online and wonderful. The culprit was a misconfiguration at the Times' end. (thx, rich)

- Several other previously unavailable blogs are listed here and here.

- It looks like most of the links to old NY Times articles I (and countless other early bloggers) posted in the late 90s and early 00s now work. Tens of thousands of broken links fixed in one pass. Huzzah!

I'll also note that this move by the Times puts them in a much better position to win the Long Bet between Dave Winer and the Times' Martin Nisenholtz at the end of this year.

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.

As of the end of 2005, the Times was not faring very well against blogs.

Update: One more: a report on the sinking of the Titanic. A small mention of the sinking was published in the paper the previous day.

No more Times Select. The NY TimesSep 17 2007

No more Times Select. The NY Times finally admits what everyone else knew two years ago and stops charging for their content. Additionally, all content from 1987 to the present and from 1851 to 1922 will be offered free of charge.

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com.

How did that change not happen for the Times when it happened to the entire rest of the web 3-4 years ago?

John Maeda describes the process of designingSep 09 2007

John Maeda describes the process of designing the cover for the most recent issue of Key, the NY Times occasional real estate magazine.

Virtual book tours, the origins ofSep 02 2007

Today's NY Times covers virtual book tours, the increasingly popular practice of book authors touring blogs instead of touring the non-virtual bookstores of the US and staying in non-virtual and expensive hotel rooms. From the article's midst:

[Booktour.com] was founded by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired and the author of "The Long Tail"; Adam Goldstein, a 19-year-old sophomore at M.I.T.; and Kevin Smokler, a publishing expert credited with creating the first blog book tour. That was for "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by the science writer Mary Roach, in 2003. Since then, Mr. Smokler said, "It's become de rigueur for public relations to include blogs and online media as part of regular touring."

kottke.org was one of the tour stops for the Stiff book tour (here's the entry) but I also participated in the first blog book tour more than a year earlier, for a book called Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard, written by Greg Knauss and published by So New Media, a small publishing concern lovingly run by Ben Brown and James Stegall and now, sadly, defunct. The Rainy Day Fun... tour was the inspiration for Kevin in putting together the later tour. Not sure why the Times indicated otherwise.

And if you want to go back before most people were aware of these blog thingies, author M.J. Rose recalls participating in a virtual tour circa 2000:

So the NYT finally did an article on Author blog tours, which if memory serves, some of us have been doing for a quite a long time... in 2000 I did one that included Salon and BookReporter.com and a few other places that updated regularly and operated the way blogs do even though then we didn't call them that.

Update: So New Media is still going strong...just their old domain is no longer working. (thx, greg) And hey, Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard is still available ($5!) and still funny. I'm planning a re-read now that I'm a total bastard and soon-to-be toddler wrangler.

Edward Tufte highlights some infographics done byJul 02 2007

Edward Tufte highlights some infographics done by Megan Jaegerman for the NY Times in the 90s. Tufte: "Her work is elegant, smart, finely detailed, inventive, and informative. A fierce researcher and reporter, she writes gracefully and precisely. Her best work is the best work in news graphics."

Last 100 posts, part 7Apr 19 2007

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. Here are some updates on some of the topics, links, ideas, posts, people, etc. that have appeared on kottke.org recently:

Two counterexamples to the assertion that cities != organisms or ecosystems: cancer and coral reefs. (thx, neville and david)

In pointing to the story about Ken Thompson's C compiler back door, I forgot to note that the backdoor was theoretical, not real. But it could have easily been implemented, which was Thompson's whole point. A transcript of his original talk is available on the ACM web site. (thx, eric)

ChangeThis has a "manifesto" by Nassim Taleb about his black swan idea. But reader Jean-Paul says that Taleb's idea is not that new or unique. In particular, he mentions Alain Badiou's Being and Event, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze. (thx, paul & jean-paul)

When I linked The Onion's 'Most E-Mailed' List Tearing New York Times' Newsroom Apart, I said "I'd rather read a real article on the effect the most popular lists have on the decisions made by the editorial staff at the Times, the New Yorker, and other such publications". American Journalism Review published one such story last summer, as did the Chicago Tribune's Hypertext blog and the LA Times (abstract only). (thx, gene & adam)

Related to Kate Spicer's attempt to slim down to a size zero in 6 weeks: Female Body Shape in the 20th Century. (thx, energy fiend)

Got the following query from a reader:

are those twitter updates on your blog updated automatically when you update your twitter? if so, how did you do it?

A couple of weeks ago, I added my Twitter updates and recent music (via last.fm) into the front page flow (they're not in the RSS feed, for now). Check out the front page and scroll down a bit if you want to check them out. The Twitter post is updated three times a week (MWF) and includes my previous four Twitter posts. I use cron to grab the RSS file from Twitter, some PHP to get the recent posts, and some more PHP to stick it into the flow. The last.fm post works much the same way, although it's only updated once a week and needs a splash of something to liven it up a bit.

The guy who played Spaulding in Caddyshack is a real estate broker in the Boston area. (thx, ivan)

Two reading recommendations regarding the Jonestown documentary: a story by Tim Cahill in A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg and Seductive Poison by former People's Temple member Deborah Layton. (thx, garret and andrea)

In case someone in the back didn't hear it, this map is not from Dungeons and Dragons but from Zork/Dungeon. (via a surprising amount of people in a short period of time)

When reading about how low NYC's greenhouse gas emissions are relative to the rest of the US, keep in mind the area surrounding NYC (kottke.org link). "Think of Manhattan as a place which outsources its pollution, simply because land there is so valuable." (thx, bob)

NPR did a report on the Nickelback potential self-plagiarism. (thx, roman)

After posting about the web site for Miranda July's new book, several people reminded me that Jeff Bridges' site has a similar lo-fi, hand-drawn, narrative-driven feel.

In the wake of linking to the IMDB page for Back to the Future trivia, several people reminded me of the Back to the Future timeline, which I linked to back in December. A true Wikipedia gem.

I'm ashamed to say I'm still hooked on DesktopTD. The problem is that the creator of the game keeps updating the damn thing, adding new challenges just as you've finally convinced yourself that you've wrung all of the stimulation out of the game. As Robin notes, it's a brilliant strategy, the continual incremental sequel. Version 1.21 introduced a 10K gold fun mode...you get 10,000 gold pieces at the beginning to build a maze. Try building one where you can send all 50 levels at the same time and not lose any lives. Fun, indeed.

Regarding the low wattage color palette, reader Jonathan notes that you should use that palette in conjunction with a print stylesheet that optimizes the colors for printing so that you're not wasting a lot of ink on those dark background colors. He also sent along an OS X trick I'd never seen before: to invert the colors on your monitor, press ctrl-option-cmd-8. (thx, jonathan)

Dorothea Lange's iconic Migrant Mother photograph was modified for publication...a thumb was removed from the lower right hand corner of the photo. Joerg Colberg wonders if that case could inform our opinions about more recent cases of photo alteration.

In reviewing all of this, the following seem related in an interesting way: Nickelback's self-plagiarism, continual incremental sequels, digital photo alteration, Tarantino and Rodriquez's Grindhouse, and the recent appropriation of SimpleBits' logo by LogoMaid.

When I saw the title for thisApr 10 2007

When I saw the title for this article -- 'Most E-Mailed' List Tearing New York Times' Newsroom Apart -- I said, hey this is going to be pretty interesting. But then I click through and it's The Onion. Which is funny and all, but I'd rather read a real article on the effect the most popular lists have on the decisions made by the editorial staff at the Times, the New Yorker, and other such publications.

Following up on an earlier post, MUJI'sMar 05 2007

Following up on an earlier post, MUJI's first proper store in the US and NYC will be located in the new NY Times building near Times Square. 5000 square feet, open in time for the holidays. (thx, cap'n)

British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had highFeb 01 2007

British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had high hopes for his new restaurant in NYC, but it garnered only two stars from the New York Times on Thursday in a review that called the restaurant cautious, polite, predictable, and timid. NYC food site Eater reports that copies of the NY Times distributed at the hotel in which Ramsay's restaurant is located had the Dining section, and therefore the disappointing review, removed from them.

Fun recursive graphic on the front ofDec 15 2006

Fun recursive graphic on the front of the Weekend Arts section of the NY Times today.

Update: Here's an article about the artist of the recursive piece, Serkan Ozkaya, which includes a video about how he made it. And here's a PDF of the page. (thx, david)

Update: The LA Times did something similar back in 1997.

The Onion does a weekly Sunday magazineNov 06 2006

The Onion does a weekly Sunday magazine cover that parodies the likes of the New York Times Magazine and Parade.

The NY Times has a two partAug 22 2006

The NY Times has a two part series on online pedophilia: what pedophiles are up to online ("pedophiles view themselves as the vanguard of a nascent movement seeking legalization of child pornography and the loosening of age-of-consent laws") and looking at sites that promote nonnude but lascivious photos of children to pedophiles.

Update: In 2003, Black Table did an interview with someone working for a nonnude site called ChildSuperModels.com. (thx, kfan)

Jack Shafer waxes poetic about the NYJul 26 2006

Jack Shafer waxes poetic about the NY Times TV listing's film capsules. Their succinctness reminds me a bit of writing remaindered links posts.

New York Times to redesign in 2008, eachJul 18 2006

New York Times to redesign in 2008, each page will be 1.5 inches narrower.

Mark Glaser to the NY Times: "ChairmanJun 12 2006

Mark Glaser to the NY Times: "Chairman Sulzberger, if you seek peace in cyberspace, if you seek prosperity for your company, if you seek to spread ideas online: Come here to this TimesSelect gate! Mr. Sulzberger, tear down this pay wall!" A rebuttal. My take: TimesSelect is a perfectly good business decision for the Times. I just think the alternatives are better business decisions.

Meg blasts the NY Times for keepingJun 01 2006

Meg blasts the NY Times for keeping blogs behind the Times Select paywall. "Michael Pollan is doing some of the most interesting and important writing about food right now. He's doing it frequently and it's being published in the easiest possible manner for massive distribution and influence. But only the Select few can see it. Even if I paid to access it, I couldn't share it with my readers. So much potential unrealized."

Feature request: per-domain JavaScript disabling. God yes,May 26 2006

Feature request: per-domain JavaScript disabling. God yes, any more than one NY Times story up in Safari throws beach balls like crazy.

In the last two years, 83% of theMar 22 2006

In the last two years, 83% of the pieces about abortion on the NY Times op-ed page have been written by men.

The Pour is a wine blog byMar 16 2006

The Pour is a wine blog by the NY Times wine guy, Eric Asimov. Asimov joins Frank Bruni on the food and bev blogging front for the Times. The Pour includes a list of links to other wine blogs and resources as well. Nicely done.

NY Times food critic Frank Bruni hasFeb 15 2006

NY Times food critic Frank Bruni has a new blog where he's going to write about some of the stuff that happens during his eating week that doesn't make it into the newspaper. Here's the intro post.

Blogs versus the NY Times in GoogleJan 30 2006

In 2002, Dave Winer of Scripting News and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times made a Long Bet about the authority of weblogs versus that of NY Times in Google:

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.

I decided to see how well each side is doing by checking the results for the top news stories of 2005. Eight news stories were selected and an appropriate Google keyword search was chosen for each one of them. I went through the search results for each keyword and noted the positions of the top results from 1) "traditional" media, 2) citizen media, 3) blogs, and 4) nytimes.com. Finally, the scores were tallied and an "actual" winner (blogs vs. nytimes.com) and an "in-spirit" winner (any traditional media source vs. any citizen media source) were calculated. (For more on the methodology, definitions, and caveats, read the methodology section below.)

So how did the NY Times fare against blogs? Not very well. For eight top news stories of 2005, blogs were listed in Google search results before the Times six times, the Times only twice. The in-spirit winner was traditional media by a 6-2 score over citizen media. Here the specific results:

1) Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.
Search term: "hurricane katrina"

3. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
13. Top media result (CNN)
56. Top NY Times mention (NY Times).
61. Top blog result (Kaye's Hurricane Blog)

Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): NY Times

2) Big changes in the US Supreme Court (Rhenquist dies, O'Conner retires, Roberts appointed Chief Justice, Harriet Miers rejected).
Search term: "harriet miers"

4. Top media result (Washington Post)
5. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
8. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)
11. Top blog result (TalkLeft)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): NY Times

3) Terrorists bomb London, killing 52.
Search term: "london bombing"

1. Top media result (CNN)
2. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
21. Top blog result Schneier on Security
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

4) First elections in Iraq after Saddam.
Search term: "iraq election"

1. Top media result (BBC News)
6. Top blog result (Iraq elections newswire)
6. Top citizen media result (Iraq elections newswire)
14. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

5) Terri Schiavo legal fight and death.
Search term: "terri schiavo"

2. Top blog result (Abstract Appeal)
2. Top citizen media result (Abstract Appeal)
4. Top media result (CNN)
65. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): Blogs

6) Pope John Paul II dies and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appointed Pope Benedict XVI.
Search term: "pope john paul ii death"

1. Top media result (CNN)
3. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
58. Top blog result (The Pope Blog: Pope Benedict XVI)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

7) The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Search term: "gaza withdrawal"

1. Top media result (Worldpress.org)
31. Top blog result (Simply Appalling)
31. Top citizen media result (Simply Appalling)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

8) The investigation into the Valerie Plame affair, Judith Miller, Scooter Libby indicted, etc..
Search term: "scooter libby indicted":

1. Top media result (CNN)
15. Top blog result (Seven Generational Ruminations)
15. Top citizen media result (Seven Generational Ruminations)
43. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

And just for fun here's a search for "judith miller jail" (not included in the final tally):

1. Top media result (Washington Post)
3. Top blog result (Gawker)
3. Top citizen media result (Gawker)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results (even though there are several matching articles on the Times site).

In covering the jailing of their own reporter, the Times lagged in the Google results behind such informational juggernauts as Drinking Liberally, GOP Vixen, and Feral Scholar.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

Here's the overall results, excluding the Judith Miller search:

Overall winner (in spirit): Media (beating citizen media 6-2).
Overall winner (actual): Blogs (beating the NY Times 6-2).

Some observations:

  • My feeling is that Mr. Nisenholtz will likely lose his bet come 2007. Even though the nytimes.com fares very well in getting linked to by the blogosphere, it does very poorly in Google. This isn't exactly surprising given that most NY Times articles disappear behind a paywall after a week and some of their content (TimesSelect) isn't even publicly accessible at all. Also, I didn't look too closely at the HTML markup of the NY Times, but it could also be that it's not as optimized for Google as well as that of some weblogs and other media outlets.
  • "www.nytimes.com" has a PageRank of 10/10, higher than that of "www.cnn.com" (9/10), yet stories from CNN consistently appeared higher in the search results than those from the Times. The Times clearly has overall authority according to Google, but when it comes to specific instances, it falls short. In some cases, a NY Times story didn't even appear in the first 100 search results for these keyword searches.
  • By 2007, it may be difficult to differentiate a blog from a traditional media source. All of the Gawker and Weblogs, Inc. sites are presented in a blog format and are referred to as blogs but otherwise how are they distinguishable from traditional media? Engadget paid to send 12 people to cover the CES technology conference, probably as many or more than the Times sent. The Sundance film festival was heavily covered by paid writers for both companies as well. In the spirit in which this bet was made, I'd have a hard time counting any of their sites as blogs. (And what about kottke.org? I get paid to write it. Am I still a member of the citizen media or have I crossed over?)
  • Choosing appropriate news stories and keywords for those stories was difficult in some cases. Katrina was a no-brainer, but was the Terri Schiavo story really one of the top eight news stories of 2005? Resolving the methodology for this bet in 2007 will be tricky. I wonder how the Long Bets Foundation will handle its determination of the victory.
  • Wikipedia does very well in Google results for topical search terms. Overall, traditional media still dominates (in first appearance as well as number of results), but blogs and Wikipedia do very well in some instances.
  • What do these results mean? Probably not a whole lot. Nisenholtz asserts that "[news] organizations like the Times can provide that far more consistently than private parties can" while Winer says that "in five years, the publishing world will have changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want". It's difficult to draw any conclusions on this matter based on these results. Contrary to what most people believe, PageRank has a bias, a point of view. That POV is based largely (but not entirely) on what people are linking to. As someone said in the discussion of this bet, this bet is about Google more than influence or reputation, so these results probably tell us more about how Google determines influence on a keyword basis rather than how readers of online informational sources value or rate those sources. Do web users prefer the news coverage of blogs to that of the NY Times? I don't think you can even come close to answering that question based on these results.

Methodology and caveats

The eight news stories were culled from various sources (Lexis-Nexis, Wikipedia, NY Times) and narrowed down to the top stories that would have been prominently covered in both the NY Times and blogs.

The keyword phrase for each of the eight stories was selected by the trial and error discovery of the shortest possible phrase that yielded targeted search results about the subject in question. In some cases, the keyword phrase chosen only returned results for a part of a larger news story. For instance, the phrase "pope john paul" was not specific enough to get targeted results, so "pope john paul ii death" was used, but that didn't give results about the larger story of his death, the conclave to select a new pope, and the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. In the case of "katrina", that single keyword was enough to produce hundreds of targeted search results for both Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Keyword phrases were not tinkered with to promote or demote particular types of search results (i.e. those for blogs or nytimes.com); they were only adjusted for the relevence of overall results.

The searches were all done on January 27, 2006 with Google's main search engine, not their news specific search.

Since the spirit of the bet deals with the influence of traditional media versus that of citizen-produced media, I tracked the top traditional media (labeled just "media" above) results and the top citizen media results in addition to blog and nytimes.com results. For the purposes of this exercise, relevent results were those that linked to pages that an interested reader would use as a source of information about a news story. For citizen media, this meant pages on Wikipedia, Flickr (in some cases), weblogs, message boards, wikis, etc. were fair game. For traditional media, this meant articles, special news packages, photo essays, videos, etc.

In differentiating between "media" & citizen media and also between relevent and non-relevent results, in only one instance did this matter. Harriet Miers's Blog!!!, a fictional satire written as if the author were Harriet Miers, was the third result for this keyword phrase, but since the blog was not a informational resource, I excluded it. In all other cases, it was pretty clear-cut.

The New York Times sure has aJan 09 2006

The New York Times sure has a boner for Ana Marie Cox and her new book, Dog Days. They've reviewed it one, two, three times in the last five days...and that's not counting Ms. Cox's nicely timed op-ed about Jack Abramoff from last Thursday.

Khoi Vinh on the move...he's theDec 30 2005

Khoi Vinh on the move...he's the new Design Director for NYTimes.com. From the outside, it's one of the best jobs in web design and it's been filled well. (via waxy)

NY Times movie critics A.O. Scott,Dec 27 2005

NY Times movie critics A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden offer lists of their favorite films of 2005. Dargis asks, "was this a good year for the movies or what?"

Blog search still sucks (a little)Dec 21 2005

Update: I fucked up on this post and you should reread it if you've read it before. After reading this post by Niall Kennedy, I checked and found that I have mentioned or linked to the site for Freakonomics 5 times (1 2 3 4 5), not 13. The other 8 times, I either linked to a post on the Freakonomics blog that was unrelated to the book, had the entry tagged with "freakonomics" (tags are not yet exposed on my site and can't be crawled by search engines), or I used the word "Freakonomists", not "Freakonomics". Bottom line: the NY Times listing is still incorrect, Google and Yahoo picked up all the posts where I actually mentioned "Freakonomics" in the text of the post but missed the 2 links to freakonomics.com, Google Blog Search got 2/3 (& missed the 2 links), Technorati got 1/3 (& missed the 2 links), and IceRocket, Yahoo Blog Search, BlogPulse, & Bloglines whiffed entirely. Steven Levitt would be very disappointed in my statistical fact-checking skills right now. :(

I wish Niall had emailed me about this instead of posting it on his site, but I guess that's how weblogs work, airing dirty laundry instead of trying to get it clean. Fair enough...I've publicly complained about the company he works for (Technorati) instead of emailing someone at the company about my concerns, so maybe he had a right to hit back. Perhaps a little juvenile on both our parts, I'd say. (Oh, and I turned off the MT search thing that Niall used to check my work. I'm not upset he used it, but I'm irritated that it seems to be on by default in MT...I never intended for that search interface to be public.)

------

The NY Times recently released their list of the most blogged about books of 2005. Their methodology in compiling the list:

This list links to a selection of Web posts that discuss some of the books most frequently mentioned by bloggers in 2005. The books were selected by conducting an automated survey of 5,000 of the most-trafficked blogs.

Unsurprisingly, the top spot on the list went to Freakonomics. I remembered mentioning the book several times on my site (including this interview with author Steven Levitt around the release of the book), so I checked out the citations they had listed for it. According to the Times, Freakonomics was cited by 125 blogs, but not once by kottke.org, a site that by any measure is one of the most-visited blogs out there.[1] A quick search in my installation of Movable Type yielded 13 5 mentions of the book on kottke.org in the last 9 months. I had also mentioned Blink, Harry Potter, Getting Things Done, Collapse, The Wisdom of Crowds, The Singularity is Near, and State of Fear, all of which appear in the top 20 of the Times' list and none of which are cited by the Times as having been mentioned on kottke.org in 2005.

I chalked this up to a simple error of omission, but then I started checking around some more. Google's main index returned only three distinct mentions of Freakonomics on kottke.org. Google Blog Search returned two results. Yahoo: 3 results (0 results on Yahoo's blog search). Technorati only found one result (I'm not surprised). Many of the blog search services don't even let you search by site, so IceRocket, BlogPulse, and Bloglines were of no help. (See above for corrections.) I don't know where the Times got their book statistics from, but it was probably from one of these sites (or a similar service).

Granted this is just one weblog[2], which I only checked into because I'm the author, but it's not like kottke.org is hard to find or crawl. The markup is pretty good [3], fairly semantic, and hasn't changed too much for the past two years. The subject in question is not off-topic...I post about books all the time. And it's one of the more visible weblogs out there...lots of links in to the front page and specific posts and a Google PR of 8. So, my point here is not "how dare the Times ignore my popular and important site!!!" but is that the continuing overall suckiness of searching blogs is kind of amazing and embarrassing given the seemingly monumental resources being applied to the task. It's forgivable that the Times would not have it exactly right (especially if they're doing the crawling themselves), but when companies like Technorati and Google are setting themselves up as authorities on how large the blogosphere is, what books and movies people are reading/watching, and what the hot topics online are but can't properly catalogue the most obvious information out there, you've got to wonder a) how good their data really is, and b) if what they are telling us is actually true.

[1] Full disclosure: I am the author of kottke.org.

[2] This is an important point...these observations are obviously a starting point for more research about this. But this one hole is pretty gaping and fits well with what I've observed over the past several months trying to find information on blogs using search engines.

[3] I say only pretty good because it's not validating right now because of entity and illegal character errors, which I obviously need to wrestle with MT to correct at some point. But the underlying markup is solid.

Ken Auletta explores the recent troubles atDec 15 2005

Ken Auletta explores the recent troubles at the NY Times in the New Yorker (interview with Auletta). As much as people complain about the liberal media, it's hard to imagine a conservative magazine running a similar story about, say, Fox News.

Slideshow of photographs by Annie Leibovitz documentingDec 15 2005

Slideshow of photographs by Annie Leibovitz documenting the building of The New York Times Building in NYC. (thx, michael)

What would Gawker look like if itDec 05 2005

What would Gawker look like if it got bought by the NY Times? (via waxy and panop)

A just-concluded eGullet conversation with Ruth Reichl,Dec 02 2005

A just-concluded eGullet conversation with Ruth Reichl, currently editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and former food critic for The New York Times.

The NY Times Magazine has launched TheSep 22 2005

The NY Times Magazine has launched The Funny Pages, their comics+ section. PDFs of the comics are available online...here's the first Chris Ware strip. They're also podcasting and the first episode is an interview with Ware by John Hodgman, assisted by organist and radio-man Jonathan Coulton.

New feature in the NY Times magazine:Sep 07 2005

New feature in the NY Times magazine: comics! First up, a six-month-long strip by Chris Ware, on whom I have a non-sexual crush.

As if Metafilter wasn't blue enough, MattAug 25 2005

As if Metafilter wasn't blue enough, Matt Haughey officially joins the liberal media conspiracy with his first piece in the NY Times. Matt, why do you and your gadgets hate freedom?

Fantasy Fashion League is fashion's answer toAug 09 2005

Fantasy Fashion League is fashion's answer to fantasy football and rotisserie baseball. Pick your favorite designers and earn points when their fashions show up in magazines. (via E&N) Related: NY Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent helped invent rotisserie baseball?

Couple fires their nanny because they wereJul 18 2005

Couple fires their nanny because they were uncomfortable about her blog and then write about it in the NY Times. And the nanny fires back on her blog.

Some good thoughts from Paul Ford onMay 20 2005

Some good thoughts from Paul Ford on the recent announcement from the NY Times about their TimesSelect offering. "The web should serve the needs of its users, not the needs of a few hundred advertisers. If that ends up costing money, so be it; this medium is not inherently free."

John Battelle has some interesting thoughts onMay 17 2005

John Battelle has some interesting thoughts on the NYTimes' move to charge for some of its content. "The Times stated reason for doing this is to diversify its revenue mix, and I buy that logic. It's scary to be totally leveraged over advertising."

Internal NY Times report recommends the creationMay 10 2005

Internal NY Times report recommends the creation of a NY Times blog.

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