Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Sharing the Blame


Upon reflection, last week’s post seemed a little harsh on Web page programmers. Maybe, but the last paragraph spread the blame among “a great many people involved in web pages . . . ”. Like who? Like you. (Poetry trumps grammar.)

I’m not saying you are directly responsible for (if I may borrow David Letterman’s phrase) stupid programmer tricks. Not directly. However, indirectly, we are all responsible to some degree if we don’t complain when we encounter needless stupidity. Honestly, I’m only writing this post (and much of this blog) because I don’t see or hear anyone else complaining.

I’ve been making Web pages for almost 20 years. Thousands. The learning curve was steep at first, with a new programming language (worst I had seen in decades) and grossly inconsistent browser implementations. However, the best examples were easy to find, and source code easy to steal. (Code was simpler back then due to fewer code generators.)

Although changes came rapidly in both languages and browsers, pages kept getting better and inept designs dwindled—until a few years ago. Since then, a number of factors have been lowering page quality and promoting incompetence: out-of-date code generators, unwillingness to learn the basics of CSS, and foolish ideas becoming fads.

Keep in mind the culprits creating this crap are nowhere near the top of any organizational chart. Yet, no one above them (or even near them) saw this stupidity and did anything about it? No one? Really? That, even more than the specific foolishness, is the real problem.

It’s not simply that some wannabe web designer does some really (and I mean really) newer, dumber thing. We’re all human and make mistakes. Errors will slip through, despite everyone’s best efforts. But if junk persists and proliferates, then the fault lies with management.

Bad pages are more than programmer’s mistakes. It’s worse than that. Did no one connected with this company and/or its website see the problem? Did no one—in the company or on the Internet—realize it was stupid? Did no one speak up? Did you?

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