Author: McNeal, Brian


I understand the desire and, even in some cases, perhaps the NEED to make digital that which once was paper and ink.

Using technology is wonderful, but technology for technology's sake isn't very meaningful for the myriad and variety of devices in the market place that all have unique characteristics and limitations.

Our bluegrass world and the much larger music world is now inundated with a barrage of new digital ways to get the information that we once needed to hire a Sherlock Holmes or a Pinkerton detective to find buried in the back pages of mainstream media.
Maybe it's good that we now have it literally right at our fingertips but it doesn't come without frustration.

Today, ISSUU, Zmag, Google Currents, Treesaver and hundreds of other software producers all think their product is going to revolutionize the magazine industry. But each is different enough from the others that it becomes a CREATOR friendly competition to sell product and not a USER friendly environment for you and I to be able to enjoy reading about our favorite bluegrass performers and events. They sell their latest wiz-bang online magazine publishing software to you and me and anyone who wants to put out an on-line publication because it's easy for us to create. But the end result really needs to be something that is easy for the READER to navigate, learn, enjoy and, ultimately, return for more.

With so many variables on the USER end (iPhone, Android, Tablet, PC, MAC, Laptop, Desktop, and now the new Smart Watch) it is utterly ridiculous to have that many and more variables on the creative end of the information distribution highway.

It's much like your mousetrap and my mousetrap and my neighbor's and the guy's down the street all being different from each other but still all the wrong device in order to trap a bear. And that's where we are right now in the digital age in dispersing content to readers on the Internet.

It used to be that you might get a monthly newsletter, from a group you belonged to, hand-typed in your mailbox out on the street or at your post office box and you'd open the envelope or pull out the staple and begin reading. Then we got the Internet and soon those paper copies began to be digitized and started showing up as Email messages. But that had it's limitations … a lot of text, no real images of significance and, once in a while, an overindulgence of emoticons in a desperate attempt to replace the void created by a lack of photos.

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and we quickly got something to replace the ugly type-on-a-page from the companies that gave us the term Eblast. The end product would still arrive in our readers' email in-boxes, but it looked a lot more like a page on a website. Still, those had their limitations too. Who wants to read a magazine with one long page that scrolls down and down and down until you think you're going to the bottom of a 400 foot underground missile silo?

Well, “Necessity” strikes again, and now we have ONLINE Magazines and every little group that used to type up a two or three page newsletter now wants us to plow through something online that looks like on screen butterflies with text on their wings.

Even on a wide-screen monitor I have an incredibly difficult time reading online magazines that use some of this technology. A computer screen is not a magazine and there is no reason to try to make it one even if someone can artificially simulate the turning of a page. Every screen is different in size and resolution and so, too, is everyone's eyesight different to be able to adapt to type size and style. Add to that the problem of amateurs in this new digital world and you end up with poor contrasts, confusing backgrounds, poorly placed graphics, difficult font styles, screen glare and about a dozen or more problematic situations that make reading online undesirable.

Here's a plea to technology and program writers everywhere to come up with something that can universally work on anyone's format – on anyone's device. And another plea to those who think we don't want the old ways to continue because the techno geeks have a new gizmo. Just because it's NEW doesn't mean it's BETTER. Think about the fact that the Edsel was at one time referred to as “NEW” and “Revolutionary.”

Have a great Bluegrass Day!!!

Brian McNeal
Prescription Bluegrass
Posted:  10/26/2013

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