Xtra, the homosexualist fortnightly published by a not-for-profit yet funded by de facto porn, is hiring for a new site, DailyXtra.com.

Editorial director Matt Mills won’t give me a straight answer about the new site. Conceptually, it sounds like another failed gay blog, with:

  • atrocious code that might take down your browser

  • /News/NationalNews/2011/jan7_mile-long-slugs-replicating-most-but-not-all-the-text-in-the-headline-that-incidentally-isnt-even-marked-up-as-an-h1.aspx/ (“asspix”)

  • tables for layout

  • Flash video

  • ads, including not-safe-for-work ads

  • gassy rehashing of other people’s work (plagiarism masquerading as “aggregation”)

  • defamation

  • pageview-inflating segmentation of articles; preponderance of “slideshows” with similar effect

  • comments, which may be reported to law enforcement

Xtra operates a severely broken technical infrastructure. Perhaps you’ve tried to load an Xtra news story on iOS?

Blank screen with message: An error has occurred

A tall, overly excitable Ukrainian bottom was chipping away at the Sisyphean task of fixing that infrastructure until they canned him. Among other things, he taught the men nearing retirement age who run the place what Flickr is.

A question I asked Mills, for which I await an answer: “Do you want semicompetent people with bad taste poorly implementing half-remembered bad advice, or do you want this thing to succeed? In other words, will you hire the least unqualified applicants or will you actually do digital journalism right? You’ve got one chance at this.”

A properly conceived gay-news site requires:

  1. positively no comments whatsoever on any news stories; ruthlessly premoderated comments on selected op-ed pieces

  2. bulletproof code

  3. professional graphic design (which costs in the low five digits for one of the few real Web designers at work today, most of whom I know personally); Webfonts inadvisable unless and until tested on Windows

  4. well-tested adaptive layouts for common and many uncommon platforms (double-checked by PPK)

  5. legitimate fact-checking, including looking up every factual assertion (down to the name of the sitting prime minister) and calling sources to verify quotes

  6. a viable print stylesheet

  7. ongoing training for staff in markup, semantics, and character encoding

  8. original journalism only; relegation of daily links to Pinboard

  9. its own Flipboard pane and Flipboard-specific CSS

  10. rational slugs (can be conceptually overlapped with shortlinks)

  11. at most exactly one ad at a time

  12. Instapaper and Readability integration, among others

  13. a reader-contribution model

  14. a ban on staff picking or perpetuating fights, especially on Twitter

  15. training pages and videos to raise the skills of its readers to 21st-century levels

  16. complete avoidance of internal E-mail for any editorial or production function whatsoever, with every single thing done via Basecamp, the chosen CMS (probably WordPress), meetings, instant messaging, and phone

In other words, anything at all that seems remotely familiar from existing gay-news sites must be avoided at all costs. Everything they’re doing they’re doing wrong.

It’s nice they’re hiring a copy editor; heaven knows they need one, even online. But this is a publication that still won’t use italics (because Ken Popert banned them 20 years ago) or write periods in abbreviations like Mr. and St., so they have nowhere to go but up when it comes to copy quality.

But this thing needs a real editor who actually knows his stuff and isn’t labouring under the misapprehension he’s a volunteer facilitatrix at a rape-crisis centre. This isn’t the first time Mills and Xtra have played games with me, but if at some point Mills deigns to actually answer my questions I might file an application. If I were you, I wouldn’t laugh.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2012.01.07 13:33. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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