viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-08-21]

Diskmags need to be rethought

A new issue of the legendary demoscene diskmag "Zine" was released recently, after a dormancy of nearly 16 years.

I've heard a lot of praise about this new issue, and I'd really like to check it out by myself. However, as the issue has only been released as a Win32 executable with relatively high system requirements (a display chip with shader support, etc.) I still need to wait for the web-readable version, which, hopefully, will be in HTML rather than something like Flash.

Instead of ranting about this particular diskmag I haven't even read, however, I'd like to use this opportunity for summarizing my opinions about the diskmag concept in general.

In my opinion, the diskmag concept ruled in the 1980s and early 1990s, especially for communities that were specific to particular computer platforms, such as the C-64 scene, Amiga scene and the PC scene. The magazines could be distributed easily via disk copying or BBSes, and the custom reader often improved the reading experience with a nice and good-looking interface and background music.

However, now that we live in the 2000s, with broadband Internet access and stuff, I think it is rather pointless to still rely PRIMARILY or EXCLUSIVELY on the tradition of custom-programmed interfaces.

For those who don't get my point, consider these possible use cases:

Some years ago, diskmag authors FINALLY started to realize that it is important to have the content also available in a format that adhers to the Internet-era standards of accessibility rather than to the BBS-era ones. There's still a lot of room for improvement, however.

A big problem is that people only regard the web version as a "poor man's alternative" to the executable rather than a format with its own strengths. Because of this, the web versions are often released much later than the executables, they are poorly indexed and may even be difficult to find on the first place.

What I'd like to see is a true multi-format demoscene magazine where the strengths of the different formats support each other. Something like this, for example:

Of course, the magazine should be good enough that the editors and readers actually care about all of these formats.

Another diskmag-related idea I've had is an archiving project that converts the texts of existing diskmags (and perhaps even the scrollers in old demos) into a common, web-readable format. A project like this would eventually make a huge amount of old material available for indexing, browsing, searching, categorizing, keyword-tagging, cross-linking, reviewing etc.

An archival site like this would work as a common index for all diskmags and would also nicely supplement the existing scene websites. It could even encourage people to do their own research and dig up some obscure "forgotten gems", which, in the best case, could widen people's perspective and encourage them to more out-of-the-box thinking.