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How to Read an Editor’s Letter

Dec 01, 20053 mins
Data and Information SecurityIT Leadership

What makes it so friendly is the presumption that, hey, we can all use a little help with difficult challenges from time to time. And as long as how-to subjects are chosen wisely, and the guidance offered is sensible and nonobvious, readers generally are appreciative. (My perennial favorite consumer magazine, Esquire, went off the rails for a few years by running patronizing featurettes on such manly basics as how to tie a necktie. It just seems like a bad idea to treat your readers as if they’re incompetent dopes.)

Far from that model is a new quarterly magazine called Make: ( It probably violates a cardinal principle of editor’s letters to devote attention to some other editor’s magazine. But Make:, published by O’Reilly Media, is a recent launch that I hope will thrive.

It’s tempting to describe Make: as all how-to, all the timethough that’s not quite right. It’s also a circumnavigation of the inventive spirit that animates makeshift ingenuity (also celebrated as hackinga word whose positive connotations have been covered up with the stain of criminality). Besides instructions on doing things such as making a laptop case out of an old wet suit or rigging a camera to a kite for use in aerial photography, the magazine includes interviews with and profiles of people who are inspiring role models for creative resourcefulness. Having sampled a couple of issues, I can imagine happily reading Make: for years without ever attempting to build any of the things for which it provides instructions. (For some of us, the satisfaction lies more in thinking about building a backyard monorail than actually doing it.)

Closer to home, this year-ending issue of CSO likewise devotes itself to how-to journalism. Unlike Make:, however, our focus is on doing rather than making. Recent conversations with readers and advisers, bolstered by editorial research, tell us that perhaps we’ve been doing too little of this type of coverage. So, in the spirit of the season, we resolve to mend our ways beginning with a splash in this issue. The content consists almost entirely of storiesmany of them agreeably concisethat offer guidance on a variety of skills. The magazine tackles abilities that might be useful on a daily basis (how to spot a liar, how to manage security halfway around the world); those you’d apply sporadically (how to groom your successor, how to triumph over Sarbanes-Oxley, how to handle a drunk); and those you’d hope never to need but would like to know just in case (how to behave if you’re kidnapped, how to back a car out of a kill zone).

We look forward to providing more of this kind of coverage on a more frequent basis. And, as always, we welcome your feedback about it.