Mo’ beta SLATE.

Mo’ Beta Slate

Slate proudly announces Slate Explorer, a new way to navigate through the delights of (So why didn’t we name it Slate Navigator? We dunno. Explorer just seemed more euphonious, somehow.) We think it’s pretty darn cool (a technical software industry term, used to imply strong feelings of affirmation), and hope you will as well. (Click here for instructions on how to download Slate Explorer.)

And what is Slate Explorer? It’s a poem, an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, the smell of Styrofoam when you crack open that box containing your new computer. It’s … well, it’s a small program, actually, that puts a small box on your Windows desktop. (Sorry, it doesn’t work on Macs. Yes, we know, we know. … But to be fair, it doesn’t work on Windows 3.1 either. It does work on Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0.) Click on the little arrow, and the box expands horizontally into a list of Slate’s major categories (Briefing, Columns & Features, Back of the Book, Dispatches & Dialogues, Utilities). Click on a category, and it expands vertically into a list of current contents. Click on one of these listings, and the article will appear.

Slate Explorer works, in most cases, even when you’re not online. When you select an article, the program will launch your browser and initiate a Web connection. When you are online, Slate Explorer will automatically update itself, even if–for some inexplicable reason–you’re not reading Slate at the moment. It’s all a bit hard to explain, but fun to try.

Now, listen carefully. This is a beta release of Slate Explorer. “Beta” is a software industry term for a product that is perhaps just a teensy bit short of absolute perfection, but is being released anyway because we just can’t wait anymore–or rather, because we want to let the software-using community share in the excitement of finding any last-minute bugs. We’re reasonably sure that Slate Explorer won’t cause your computer to explode, or to charge large sums to your Visa card, or to take up smoking, or to insult a police officer. But we make no guarantees.

For the moment, this beta release is only being promoted in Readme–that is, to our most loyal and discerning readers (who are also immune to crass flattery). If you do happen to discover a flaw in Slate Explorer, just keep it to yourself, OK? No, please e-mail us about it at But be polite. Remember: This is a beta.

10,000 Pennies for Your Thoughts

How would you like to get paid to do something you do all the time anyway for zippo? If we know our readers, you’re full of opinions and don’t mind making them known! So how would you like to spout off a lot of opinions and have perfect strangers take them seriously, even if they make no sense at all? And get a check for $100 in the bargain! Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is, you idiot. … No, we mean, it isn’t, thanks to a wonderful opportunity sponsored by Slate’s associate publisher, Colene McBeth. Colene is looking for participants in a second annual round of Slate reader focus groups. The sessions will be held in early October in Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and San Francisco (locations scientifically chosen as reflecting places Colene likes to visit). It’s your chance to tell us what you think about Slate and how you might like to see it improve. And we’ll pay you $100 for your trouble. If you’re interested, please e-mail Alice Baker at, or call collect ([425] 882-8080, ext. 25848). If you were in a Slate focus group last year, or if your name is Bill Gates, you’re not eligible. But if you are one of the many we didn’t have room for last year (or if your name was Bill Gates last year, but you’ve changed it), please feel free to try again.

Traditional Values

Most of Slate will not be published next week, the third and last of our traditional summer weeks off. (Or at least, we hope to make this a tradition, and have got away with it for two summers so far.) We will, of course, be hard at work throughout the week for the betterment of Slate, the Microsoft Corp., and the world, in roughly that order. Or at least, we’ll be thinking occasionally about the betterment of these fine institutions. And Scott Shuger will be posting “Today’s Papers” early every morning as usual, except for Sunday and Labor Day. Slate will return to its normal schedule Monday, Sept. 8.

–Michael Kinsley