Here’s your little red guide to the Web revolution

By Del Stone Jr.
Deputy managing editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News and a columnist for SND Design Journal

Print journalism is undergoing a revolution. The end.

Should I say more?

How about this: No revolution is worth its salt unless a whole new language is invented to accommodate the revolution. For instance, why use ”list” or ”graphic” or ”map” when you can say ”interactive tag cloud” and mystify your peers? And nothing is truly ”local” unless it is ”hyperlocal,” which suggests a Google map tracing my route from the dry cleaners to Wal-Mart to … we’ll leave that last stop off the list. But in reality ”hyperlocal” simply means ”local” to the journalists who were too busy trying to win Pulitzers to cover local news.

The success or failure of any revolution rides squarely on the shoulders of its incomprehensibility to everyone but its facilitators, which sometimes succeeds (see ”Internet”) and sometimes fails (see ”tax code”).

Your role as agent of revolution is to spread the incomprehensible dialect of The New Way, and I am here to help you. I have assembled a Little Red Book for the journalist soldier. Use it wisely, Melanoplus angustipennis, and you will win the hearts and minds of your peer proletariat.

At your next cocktail party drop these conversation-stoppers and watch the uninitiated designers melt into your arms.

Skankatorium: An interactive database of failed marriages, arrests, lawsuits and parental disavowals for people like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Bill Clinton.

Dataeorologist: A data manager who uses various cloud types to represent information densities in a visual presentation. For instance, areas of heavy information density would be demarked by cumulonimbus clouds, while medium densities would be nimbostratus and scattered densities, altocumulus. Fog would represent areas of uncertainty. By the way, did you like the word ”demarked”? I made that up.

Composter: An analogist who translates information into audio packets that can be assembled into compositions. You have not lived until you’ve heard the concerto Sentinel Chickens Sickened by West Nile Virus in F Minor by Composter C. H. Sanders.

Ludditante: A person who disdains the print journalism revolution and makes a kind of fashion statement out of his or her disdain.

Splash page: This is a term borrowed from our brothers in the comic book industry. It refers to a Web page containing a single, arresting image accompanied by text or audio quotes such as, ”Aaargh!” ”Gahhh!” ”Blam!” or ”Eeeeeek!”

Databaster: An information specialist who assembles interactive Thanksgiving turkey recipes, including video clips submitted by readers who actually set fire to their kitchens while trying to baste the bird.

Cartographyte: A graphic artist who makes maps do crazy things, like play a nation’s national anthem when you move your pointer over that nation on the map.

Dramaturge: A journalist who designs ”moods” for graphics, maps and clouds of information. A map depicting a tornado outbreak could be accompanied by the sound of howling winds, the basso rumbling of thunder and the foul language of storm chasers. A happiness index presentation could be delivered in rainbow format with smiling sun avatars and dancing lollipops.

Vidiot: A specialist who translates stories and databases into video presentations — even if they don’t lend themselves to video interpretation. If you believe nothing could be done with a list of local 12-step groups you have not met an A-list vidiot.

Smagala: Smagala is a Japanese fire monster that is eating Osaka and heading for Tokyo! He makes Godzilla look like a Webkinz pet. But he can also be an avatar for threat, menacing interactive graphics, maps, even clouds. For instance, a graphic depicting the bite of local, state and federal taxes could have Smagala taking chomps out of a family’s paycheck, not to mention whatever coverage your Web site provides of Paris Hilton.

Yes, in the age of information transformation it is important all you Che’s speak the lingua fraca of the revolution. With luck this bandolier of terms will enable you to overcome counterrevolutionaries in the war on clarity.

Del Stone Jr. is leading the charge at the Northwest Florida Daily News. He’s a regular columnist for SND’s Design Journal, where this column will appear. To subscribe to Design Journal you have to join SND, which you can do here.

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