Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

I just spent the last hour of my life fighting with some CSS that works perfectly in Safari and MESI 7.0, but not in MSIE 6.0 or the “standards compliant” Firefox whatever version it is now. Since I am working pre-coffee, pre-office hours from a laptop on my kitchen table, I don’t have the luxury of checking out the site on a MSIE 6.0 browser. All I have is a really badly worded description of the problem, sent in an email by a very late Boomer who is using a language all her own to describe the issue.

Let me start by explaining I am very, very good at CSS, HTML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a whole host of stuff that has long been discontinued. I have been in the Internet and Web game since 1995 so I think it is fair to say I know what I am doing and have employed a pretty sizable library of fixes, kludges, hacks and plain ol’ cheats to make stuff work on a Web site. I can read, write and design. Don’t even start assuming I’m an idiot or unknowledgeable. You would be very, very wrong.

In some circles, I would be considered a geek. But in mine, I am a User Interface Designer. My job — some would say my obsession — is to make the interaction between the human and the machine seamless and intuitive. If training is needed, the system is too complicated. At least that is the ideal.

I have lost more time, brain cells and sleep to the hubris of geeks than any other tech-related issue. I am convinced the only reason that we have browser discrepancies with CSS, HTML, etc is because the geeks were in charge and they did not have the skills to play nice with each other or anybody else. They looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it. And, they looked down at each other because each one was more right than his peer.

What if each company making street lights decided on a different order of the red-yellow-green? Of, decided that the colors were way too boring and decided purple-pink-magenta would be better. Or, what if they decided that light were just not good and they used coo-coo clock birdies instead? And imagine if a different signal was installed on each street corner. But, the wrinkle is that each user was able to choose which signal he/she liked best for that day, for that corner? What a mess!

So, now we have this mess of browser technologies that don’t play well with each other. For every hour I have to spend on the phone or email, explaining why MSIE 6.0 is a piece of crap, I would like to invoice Microsoft. And, in all fairness, Microsoft should take that invoice payment out of the paychecks of any geek who decided that their way was better. Let them live with the consequences of the mess their hubris created. Apple and Mozilla, you’re not off the hook either.

I expect the geeks to either ignore this post or defend their position. I really don’t give a crap which they do because today, I woke up as a fully frustrated user who doesn’t care to hear another excuse about why your way is better. I am no longer a developer; I will be a user first. If I have to fight with it, I ain’t gonna use your technology.

Standards are good. Community-agreed conventions keep use from wasting time. Pay attention to the user, geeks and peek out from your self-induced world every once in a while.

And quit going to geek conventions where everyone validates your opinion about the user. They’re wrong; we’re not stupid. We just have lives where technology is a tool, not an ends.

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6 Responses to Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

  1. Sophie Macalister says:

    Microsoft has never played nice with any other technology “brand”..they are the bully on the playground that insists you play dodgeball by their rules, even if they are wrong.

  2. Rufus says:

    @Sophie They are the ultimate “uber-geek enabler” Most tech companies are to blame as most “invent” products and then go find a market instead of the other way around. Their hubris emboldens them.

  3. Oh, you are SOOOOOOOO right on here! I can’t agree with you more. The issue is that different people in different companies (read: M$ and and the now-defunct Netscape) thought *they* knew better than anyone else, and their hubris and bloated egotism is what got them in trouble!

    Where I disagree: I don’t think “the geeks… looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it…” is entirely accurate. One of the folks who created the CSS spec, an admitted geek, lives right here in Cleveland, and is a good friend of mine — and I know that he would never even think that of anybody, and probably would be deeply hurt if someone directly told him that was what he was doing.

    The idea, as Mr. Meyer himself explained to me, was to simplify creating and editing a web site — especially one that was content-managed — as well as provide for creating a single document for storage rather than multiple copies of the same for different deployments.

    What was intended to simplify HTML with a fairly straight-forward system of definition — which in itself admittedly added a level of complexity — was *then* compounded by the the aforementioned browser companies who felt *they* knew better than anyone else: 1) what this new “Standards stuff” was good for; 2) what the average web developer could understand; and 3) what the average web developer would end up developing — and they were wrong on all three counts!

    It’s a fine line of definition, I know.

    Now while I’m in favor of rounding these folks up and pelting them with pebbles, I can’t condone rounding ALL of them up, for that would necessarily include both you an I; we just want to round up the egotistical ones! 😉

  4. Rufus says:

    @collisionbend I agree with the “some” but that hardly makes for a good blog title 🙂 Companies are made up of people. People make decisions. As for simplifying web sites, I agree with you. CSS is overall a good thing. Like print, the two big things I tell anyone looking to get into that game is 1) design on a grid and 2) stylesheets, always use stylesheets. Amazing how many don’t really listen, so I feel for Mr. Meyer.

    Perhaps the list of geeks who don’t look down on the user is a shorter list than those who do. I would be very happy to disclaim any of them.

  5. Understood. And for every one like Eric out there, there’s at least 100 that deserve the stones, for sure.

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