Jon Katz is something of a conundrum
's main feature writer
, Katz has had several books published, and formerly wrote for Wired
magazine. Very few subjects (or writers, for that matter) on Slashdot are quite so controversial
; the Slashdot comments queue on every Katz post is invariably only 1/4 to 1/3 actual discussion content, with the remainder being "Katz-bashing
" or "Katz-bashing" counter-bashing.
Though some say that Katz brings a writer's skill for expressing ideas to a geek's point of view, it seems more to me as though Katz wants to be a geek, but doesn't ever quite get there. It's almost as though he wants desperately to be accepted as "one of us"...he is continually writing on themes and ideas that are so blatantly obvious as to be almost beneath our notice...and just expressing the ideas, but never really adding anything new to the discussion.
He is constantly predicting the death of newspapers and other print media in favor of the new high-technology Internet paradigm. He uses terms like "interactive" in ways that don't quite match up with how the rest of us use them (ie, this year's Oscars were "interactive" because they stuck cameras backstage this time). He seems to believe that there are no problems in the world that cannot be solved by the proper application of the Internet. He rants and raves about how the government and big corporations try to take away our rights with every new thing they do, be it W.A.V.E. or the DMCA. In short, he gives off the vibes of someone born twenty years too early trying desperately to fit in and run with the "in" crowd...but who nonetheless doesn't quite "get it." He's writing long-winded essays on why we like Apple Jacks, when the fact of the matter is, we just do.
Not that Katz is all bad; his heart is in the right place in some matters, at least. His Voices from the Hellmouth columns in the wake of the Columbine High School tragedy gave thousands of young people a chance to speak out against the forces in their lives and schools that pushed them around, the "geek profiling" they apparently experience each day. And yet, it seems somewhat less than tasteful to announce the compilation of those columns into a book on the very anniversary of that massacre--not to mention the copyright controversy that was stirred up by its reported quoting of some Slashdot comments despite Slashdot's copyright disclaimer. And his comment on the Pinkerton Agency's W.A.V.E. hotline slightly misses the point--given that such a hotline is inevitable in this day and age, it is surely better to have a company experienced in dealing with this sort of thing do it than one who would be inclined to make many more mistakes.
In some matters, it seems as though Katz perpetually lives to miss the point. Regarding the recent Napster/RIAA/Metallica controversy, Katz takes the untenable position that because trading MP3s over the Internet is possible, it should be allowed regardless of the wishes of the copyright owners. Katz's articles seem to have gotten more and more haphazard, lately, to the point where it might almost be possible to write a "random Katz column generator."
In the end, Katz is like a flame to the Slashdot-comment-posting moths (who draws plenty of flames himself)...despite that it would be easy to ignore him by selecting a user-configurable preference option, few do...and the many who don't will often post jeering feedback in response to each new article he writes. Rob Malda says that the reason Slashdot hired him was to promote discussion...well, one has to admit, he certainly does do that.