Waiter, there’s a distortion in my headline

The New York Times isn’t just mainstream media on paper these days. It’s also mainstream media online, with a side order of social media. Its site includes a number of blogs, one of which recently included a post entitled 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1).

There’s been a lot of discussion about the post. There are over a thousand comments at NYTimes.com. There’s also lively discussion at reddit, at reddit (which seems over-tolerant of duplicate submissions), and at Waiter Rant (in a post that delivers the promised rant), and, I’m sure at many other sites.

Many of the comments are critical of the list of 50 things (50 more will follow in Part 2) that restaurant staffers should never do. But I’m fairly sure that Bruce Buschel, the author of the post, wrote no such list. I think that he wrote the post itself, including the first sentence: “Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building.”

So “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1)” shouldn’t be considered a blog post title, since it wasn’t written by the blogger. It should be considered a headline, probably written by a copy editor. The headline misrepresents the post in at least three ways.

First, and worst, the headline makes it sound as though the list applies to all restaurants, while the post makes it clear that it is about a particular restaurant. Second, the headline refers to restaurant staffers, while the post is about front of the house staff. Third, the headline refers to things that should never be done, while the post lists dos as well as don’ts.

I’ve emailed BB to check my hypothesis that he didn’t write the headline. If he replies, I’ll update this post. Update: reply received, hypothesis confirmed. I like the sound of his restaurant, by the way. I don’t like the way a misleading headline can be put on a thoughtful piece of writing, even if said piece of writing is controversial – especially if it’s controversial.

Newspaper Websites

There’s a ranking of the top 25 newspaper websites at 24/7 Wall St (via Techmeme). 247WS is, by the way, nothing to do with the Wall Street Journal.

I was disappointed to find that it’s a ranking of large US daily metropolitan newspapers. So my favorite newspaper website doesn’t get a look in. I thought it was the world wide web.

The New York Times gets the top spot and an A grade from 247WS. However, it doesn’t get a link, and neither do any of the other sites. Evidence that 247WS doesn’t get the web mounts.

The Boston Globe is about halfway down the list, in 12th place.

It is odd that NYTimes.com is such a good website and Boston.com has such a long way to go. Both are part of the same parent company… There are some creative sections, like a homicide map of Boston, to keep readers on the site… But, the overall effort is uninspired. Grade: C.

My favorite newspaper website is The Guardian. Here’s a rather lovely bit from an interview with Ravi Shankar, in which the sitar man talks about being scheduled to follow Hendrix at the Monterey festival in 1967.

“I thought he was fantastic, but so very loud,” Shankar says now, shaking his head. “And then he would do that thing with his instrument when he would open up a can of gasoline and burn his guitar… for me, the burning of the guitar was the greatest sacrilege possible… I told them that even if I had to pay some kind of compensation to get out of playing the festival, I just couldn’t do it.” The organisers’ solution was to give Shankar his own stage for an altogether more civilised afternoon performance of assorted ragas, during which Hendrix sat quietly in the front row.

It might appear that my preference for the Guardian over the NYT, etc., is a bias in favour of the UK and against the USA. Let me reassure you that it isn’t. Why, I’m even in favour of the idea of naming July 4 Independents Day, rather than Thanksgiving.

Securonomics: Dubner Interviews Schneier

There’s a fascinating interview with security guru Bruce Schneier at Freakonomics/NYT. It’s full of comments like this.

I write my passwords down. There’s this rampant myth that you shouldn’t write your passwords down. My advice is exactly the opposite. We already know how to secure small bits of paper. Write your passwords down on a small bit of paper, and put it with all of your other valuable small bits of paper: in your wallet.

Dubner asks pretty good questions, too. This is my favorite, despite its length.

You have repeatedly maintained that most of the investments that the government has made towards counter-terrorism are largely “security theater,” and that the real way to combat terrorism is to invest in intelligence. However, Tim Weiner’s book, Legacy of Ashes, says that the U.S. government is particularly inept at gathering and processing intelligence. Does that leave us with no hope at all?

I’ll leave it to you to read the response, to read why Bruce Schneier keeps his home wireless network open, and so on.