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The Virtues of a Second Blog

Ivan Berger has an article on the New York Times where he considers “The Virtues of a Second Screen,” to which I want to respond where has this guy been and why is he writing a virtual blog article about his “discovery” of a second monitor? It's not clear that Berger has any sense that his technologized ecstasy is the very kind of navel-gazing that belongs in a blog or, even better, in a medium not publicly accessible. Unfortunately for his readers, Berger explains that, now, with a second monitor

When I edit photos, the second screen lets me compare the copy I am working on with the original, or shows tool palettes and thumbnails of other images, and I can blow up panoramic shots for closer viewing (though with a bar down the middle, like the central pillar of an old car's windshield). When I am shopping on the Web, my two screens let me compare products. When I work on tables or spreadsheets, I can see all the columns at once. When I expect important messages, I keep my e-mail program open on the side monitor while I work on something else.

Given Berger feels compelled to write an entire article regarding his adventures with a second monitor, I'm guessing he acquired the new video card capable of driving two displays (which every Apple portable since 1998 has been capable of doing, except for the early iBooks which could only mirror their main displays) some time within two weeks of writing the article which is dated today. If this is the case, Berger hasn't had enough time to experience the ways in which multiple monitors provide no boost to productivity at all. Focused bits of writing rarely require a source outside one's own nervous system, let alone a second monitor.

Berger's glee is vertiginous, which from my perspective is nauseating. I get dizzy. He explains that now when he is “shopping on the Web, my two screens let me compare products.” Berger doesn't need two monitors (as if one compares only two items while shopping). What Berger needs is a tabbed browser. Let me guess: still using Internet Explorer, right?

I wouldn't be so cynical if Berger's raves weren't so self-absorbed. He even understands people have made use of multiple monitors for quite some time. However, when he writes “Recent Windows and Mac computers (and some Linux systems) can operate with multiple monitors,” I want to ask what kind of research he conducted while writing his “article.” Macs have been able to do this at least since 1993. PCs could as well, though it took quite a bit more coaxing for Windows machines to be able to do so. Berger has gotten away with publishing a diary entry on the New York Times and I'm feeling really snarky about it.

Next thing he'll be blogging writing about is how useful Internet-accessible file servers are. end of article

(DISCLAIMER: Except for the iBook I am using now, all of my computers have at least two monitors. One even has three.)



Snarky for sure. What set you off like that? The fact that I did it first person? I did that to make it seem less dry. (I tried and discarded several third-person leads before I settled on my final approach.) But in my writing overall, I use the words "I" and "me" less often than you do in the item I'm citing.

The fact that I biased it towards PCs rather than Macs? Sorry, guys but PCs so outnumber Macs that none of the sources I researched even mention the latter. And don't get me wrong, I think Macs are great, and I lust after Aperture (but lack the price of a Mac that would run it).

I've been writing professionally since 1962, much of it with my text in the typewriter and sheets of paper on the desk next to my keyboard. A second monitor makes a great replacement for those sheets of paper. Some kinds of writing don't call for checking reference materials, some do.

And yes, I do use IE--when I have to. (Surprisingly many sites only work with that.) But mostly I use Firefox, these days.

The purpose of the piece was not to show "gee, see what I've just learned" as to acquaint the NY Times' largely non-technical audience with the concept of mulitple monitors, a smattering of activities for which it might be useful, and some basic info about what's involved in doing it.

Funny thing, you never mentioned the several pieces in PC World and other tech pubs that are first-person attempts at conveying just what I conveyed, even though audiences presumably know more about computers than Times readers do.


PS: I liked the phrase "vertiginous glee"--good writing, that.