Rewrite man

By: Bob Arnson

Abstract: Hopefully, the experience will teach them a valuable lesson: Never leave Bob in charge. By Bob Arnson.

Rewrite man

Hopefully, the experience will teach them a valuable lesson: Never leave Bob in charge.

By Bob Arnson

The e-mail from Kevin Weeks was uncharacteristically brief: "This really sucks, but I don't have time to rewrite it. I'm sure you can make it sparkle. See you in a week."

That was the last we heard from him. I figure he's in Rome right now, enjoying that long-planned vacation while I'm stuck here launching Developer News without him. Thanks, Kevin, old buddy, old pal. I hope you choke on your penne all'amatriciana.

The HTML file he sent me was supposed to be an introduction to Developer News from his perspective as departments editor. Sort of an insider's view of the publication, the process that led up to it, and the kinds of articles you could look forward to in every issue. At least that was the plan. Struck by inspiration while packing, Kevin evidently abandoned that article in favor of a deconstructionist stream-of-consciousness approach embodying postmodern disdain for the patriarchal straitjacket of conventional narrative, spelling, and grammar.

In short, it was an unintelligible mess. "I'm sure you can make it sparkle." Yeah, right.

Left with no story to fill this space, I turned to editorial director J.D. Hildebrand. But he was leaving town too, summoned to Scotts Valley for a powwow with his boss and his boss's boss at Inprise HQ. I caught him in the hall, rushing to catch a limo to the airport.

"It's all archetypes," he said. "Aspects and attributes. Underlying forms. Quality of intention." He slapped me encouragingly on the back.

"But the article -- " I protested.

"Words, words," he shook his head dismissively. "Nobody wants words. They want compelling notions in their noggins. Concepts that transcend everyday perspectives. Ha! Did I say 'transcend'? That's it -- once again we've stumbled over a fundamental truth! Who would choose words when they could have transcendence?" He beamed beatifically and slipped through the door.

The clock was ticking. The managing editor was circling my desk like a great white shark who had missed breakfast. I sighed and fired up my HTML editor.

Words, words

I took another look at Kevin's article. Surely there was something...yes, there was a phrase I could use. A starting place at least. "Developer News: the daily newsmagazine for software developers."

Let's take a moment to parse that statement.

Did you notice it says "daily"? That's right. Developer News is published every weekday, Monday through Friday. You'll find the latest headlines at If you want to know what's new in your world, just click on the links and visit us. We hope you'll grab a cup of coffee and browse our headlines every morning.

And it says "newsmagazine." That's because Developer News is something between a newspaper and a magazine.

Because we publish a new edition every day, of course we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest news. Events, products, companies, people...if it matters to developers, we'll cover it. So Developer News is a newspaper.

But it's a magazine too. With opinion, analysis, reviews, trade-show reports, tutorial material, all the stuff you expect from a magazine for software developers. Why not? J.D. has edited most of the industry's programming magazines at one time or another. Kevin has written for many of them, and he was editor of Windows Tech Journal. I got into the publishing business through programming books originally, but I too logged some magazine time as editor of VB Tech Journal. The magazine form feels really comfortable to us.

We even have correspondents -- experts who will write columns for us according to a regular schedule. You already know some of them, great writers like Bruce Eckel, Jim Kyle, and Marco Cantù. Others aren't quite famous yet...but they will be. We'll cover Visual Basic and the Open Source movement every Monday. Java and Internet entrepreneurship every Tuesday. Software engineering and Delphi every Wednesday, and so on.

But back to parsing. The next phrase is, "for software developers." What's significant is what it doesn't say. It doesn't say "for Inprise customers" or "for software developers who use Borland programming tools." This publication is sponsored by Inprise Corp. but it is intended for all programmers. (You probably guessed that when you saw that we open every week with a column devoted to Visual Basic programming.)

Finally, there's the immodest word "the," which communicates our intention to be the single most comprehensive, useful, well-written, and interesting source of news and opinion on the Internet, for all developers. It is no small goal. But we've put together an amazing staff and I think we actually have a shot at it.

The daily deadline

We moved into our offices less than a month ago. Spent the first week constructing desks and bookcases as we dodged workmen who moved walls, installed our phone system, and snaked LAN cable through the walls. It has been no leisurely launch.

At this moment, Kevin is no doubt gawking at the Forum, taking pictures and thinking about where to have dinner. J.D. is at 35,000 feet doing what he always does on airplanes -- tearing up magazines, slipping interesting articles into his briefcase for later analysis. Lisa and Karen have already begun work on tomorrow's edition. And Barb is right here, smiling as I tell her I've finished editing Kevin's article.

Note to Kevin: You're welcome. And Italian leather makes a fine gift.

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