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Zed Shaw freaks out on the Ruby/Rails community.
January 4, 2008 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Zed Shaw freaks out on the Ruby/Rails community. It's an enjoyable rant even if you don't know much at all about Ruby and/or Rails.

To quote Shaw:
I’ll add one more thing to the people reading this: I mean business when I say I’ll take anyone on who wants to fight me. You think you can take me, I’ll pay to rent a boxing ring and beat your fucking ass legally. Remember that I’ve studied enough martial arts to be deadly even though I’m old, and I don’t give a fuck if I kick your mother fucking ass or you kick mine. You don’t like what I’ve said, then write something in reply but fuck you if you think you’re gonna talk to me like you can hurt me.
posted by chunking express (147 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's tell Uwe Boll that Zed Shaw thinks he sucks.
posted by ardgedee at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a bit of an idjit.
posted by parki at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think that his problems with employment don't have much to do with Ruby on Rails.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


LOLCRAZYNERDS!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:17 AM on January 4, 2008


Also worth checking out is his project Utu (Saving the Internet with Hate). Shaw himself is most famous for writing the Mongrel web server which most everyone uses when they deploy a rails application.
posted by chunking express at 9:18 AM on January 4, 2008


I read this on Slashdot. Dude is an idiot. I don't care if he knows how to code. He's going to be nigh-on unemployable for the forseeable future thanks to this little rant.

And about Ruby - um, duh. It may be buzzword-compatible, but a bill-payer it ain't. It's the universal language of sideprojects and flimsy startups. If anything, employers "like to see it on a resume" because it shows that you have spunk and will most likely do well in the C#/Java/PHP position that they're actually hiring for.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2008


He sounds like that guy who freaked out on AskMefi a bit ago...
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on January 4, 2008


Saw this on Slashdot, too. I really think Zed's going to be hard to beat for Meltdown of the Year, and the new year just started.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2008


I don't even want to get past the innitial "I'LL KICK YOUR ASS FUCK FUCK FUCK" paragraphs. Maybe it's my loss, but I doubt it.
posted by Pecinpah at 9:35 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


And about Ruby - um, duh. It may be buzzword-compatible, but a bill-payer it ain't. It's the universal language of sideprojects and flimsy startups. If anything, employers "like to see it on a resume" because it shows that you have spunk and will most likely do well in the C#/Java/PHP position that they're actually hiring for.

I've worked in and near software for more than a decade. There were people making good money with PHP in 1998, when it was a total POS. Now you're using it as an example of an established standard.

There are people today, making good money using Ruby, Haskell, Erlang and other niche languages, despite the fact that there is almost no major market demand for those language skills.

That said, the rant is stupid. There's money in everything, if you're smart enough. His problem has nothing to do with Ruby.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2008


Hehe I wondered if this would make it here. I agree with pretty much everything he's said, but if you've not been knee-deep in koolaid-drinking Rails idiocy for a while it's not going to have much traction.

Also, please don't conflate Ruby with Rails. Rails is a decent idea that was implemented poorly. Ruby is a brilliant language with very clear goals that it achieves with aplomb.
posted by Skorgu at 9:47 AM on January 4, 2008


Christ, what an asshole. Anyone moved to talk about "kicking people's asses" about programming languages needs to get a fucking life.

Seriously, I've read 314 words, and not a single one about programming. (although I did first hear about "Factor" and "Lua", which I'll have to look up since he didn't say anything about them). All I can think is that he's a fucking wanker and I couldn't care less what he had to say.
posted by delmoi at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Strictly speaking we should be referring to Rails, not Ruby. Rails is the framework. Ruby is the language. His issues are with the Rails community, not Ruby.
posted by sporb at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2008


"There are people today, making good money using [...] Haskell, [...]"

Yeah. Right.
posted by bonecrusher at 9:49 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also saw this on slashdot, and honestly found it hard to make it that far into it. Do yourself a favor and watch your step around this steaming pile of insecurity.
posted by butterstick at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2008


Reminds me of what they say about academe: The infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so small.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Remember that I’ve studied enough martial arts to be deadly even though I’m old.

What a wee dick.
posted by oh pollo! at 9:59 AM on January 4, 2008


LEAVE RUBY ALONE!!!!!!!

*SOB*
posted by fleetmouse at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


His issues are with the Rails community, not Ruby

Read the article, he's got a fair share of issues with Ruby too. Personally I'm a fan, I use ROR quite a bit I think its fantastic for writing web apps, but I've always stayed out of the politics of OSS projects, its a nightmare.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:03 AM on January 4, 2008


Know nothing about Ruby and/or Rails. Found the rant very entertaining.

In fact, I think knowing anything about what he's talking about is probably going to kill any enjoyment you might get out of it.

The best analog I can think of is those pr0n photos that were going around with all the nekkiddy people taken out. This link is the stained shag carpet and the chipped black lacquered headboard. Your Ruby on Rails knowledge is the glassy-eyed, tattooed leaky-implant actors mechanically despoiling one another.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:04 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


bonecrusher: ""There are people today, making good money using [...] Haskell, [...]"

Yeah. Right.
"

Heck, I'm making a decent living as a TCL developer. Which, by this index, is the 37th most popular programming language (and deservedly so). Haskell is a few notches above that at 34. Ruby is #9.
posted by octothorpe at 10:04 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


What a trainwreck.
Sure people would contact me for their tiny little start-ups, but I’d eventually catch on that they just want to use me to implement their ideas.
No wonder he can't find any work, who would accept a job working for some company that was only interested in using your skill and knowledge to help them produce whatever they're producing.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wonder if it's not that fact that the dude works with ROR that's preventing him from getting jobs, but more his way of interacting with the world?
posted by drezdn at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2008


Which, by this index, is the 37th most popular programming language

That index is fascinating. People program in logo?

What's funny is that it's apparently more popular than Coldfusion.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I’ve got more business education than most of the MBAs out there, and I have a nearly formal education in software development, modeling, statistical analysis, and sociology.
So why does this guy have to go begging for work?

I’m pragmatic
I'm dubious.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:16 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, OK. It sounds like the argument isn't about programming, but about personalities and the fact that he couldn't get a job. And that people wouldn't pay him for the work that he did for them, or at least not on time. Makes sense that he'd be pissed off. But I don't know if he can really blame Ruby for that.

I also thought it was weird that he complained about Startups "wanting him to implement their ideas"
Sure people would contact me for their tiny little start-ups, but I’d eventually catch on that they just want to use me to implement their ideas.
Well, what does he expect? I mean, that people are just going to let him code up open source stuff all day long?

It sounds like he wants to be the guy who comes up with software ideas and gets them funded, but I'm not really sure writing a little webserver and being tight with the people working on rails is really that big of an accomplishment. I mean, writing an webserver is really, really easy. Is there something special about Mongrel, or is just a server designed to make rails easier to setup? or what?
posted by delmoi at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2008


Well, that was entertaining if nothing else.
posted by jeversol at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2008


I read it all the way to the end and I mostly enjoyed it. The technical detail got a bit boring as I don't know anything about programming, Ruby, Rails or any of the people involved, but I'm familiar with the urge to call out assholes.

However, I did notice this in the 'about me' section:

Enjoy my site, tell me if you use my projects. Don’t take it too seriously though, it’s all an act.

I took him at his word.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2008


That "I'll kick your ass" tough guy posturing disgusts me. And then I really love how he disses on English major programmers with no CS background before revealing that he has an MIS degree. I'm not saying that he doesn't know his shit, and no offense to business majors, but WTH?

The "DHH duped us" bit is an eyebrow-raiser, though:
Notice how it took me a few seconds to reply. This one single statement basically means that we all got duped. The main Rails application that DHH created required restarting _400 times/day. That’s a production application that can’t stay up for more than 4 minutes on average.
I'm not a Rails programmer -- what's the context for this?
posted by cobra libre at 10:30 AM on January 4, 2008


He's right about the community, he's somewhat correct about the framework, but he's going about it in a very selfish, simplistic and immature way. Aside from the anger, he pretty much represents the RoR community.

he's definitely NOT ready for the enterprise.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2008


I really think Zed's going to be hard to beat for Meltdown of the Year, and the new year just started.

Britney Spears just got involuntarily committed. She's working HARD to beat him to that title.
posted by mephron at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2008


And about Ruby - um, duh. It may be buzzword-compatible, but a bill-payer it ain't.
Wow, this is so far from the truth where I live. A good Rubyist can make $100+/hour here, and there's a shortage of us. I've seen plenty of gigs in NYC offering similar rates.

As for Zed's rant, I don't think it will affect his career (or lack thereof as the case may be) one bit. I'd still hire him, because in the end, he's still a badass programmer. Maybe I wouldn't put him on a team, but I'm sure I could find something for him to do.

Mongrel has gone a long way towards solving the deployment problem for Rails, and creating that has to be worth something. I've read the rant a few times, and for the most part, the man speaks the truth. Relative to most geek communities, the Rails community is very, very arrogant. Maybe not the best way to vent, but he's not a liar.

I do object to his characterization of ThoughtWorks and Dave Thomas. (Full Disclosure: I worked at ThoughtWorks for three years). While it is true when you hire a consulting firm, you often get people on a team who aren't trained in the particular technology you are using, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that the client doesn't see. The other thing about ThoughtWorks is that they really do hire very capable people. They can get on a project and up to speed very quickly, and that has to be worth something. As for Dave Thomas, he has been a very valuable member of the Ruby community. Now if you want to argue that he created the Ruby community for his own nefarious purposes, there might be something there, but I'd say that's paranoia.

I'm glad he wrote it, and I wish him well. I am worried about his mental health, so hopefully he'll land on his feet.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2008


delmoi- I don't know anything about factor, but I encourage looking into lua. It's most useful if you have a background in C, which it was designed to be embedded in. It's a small language with few warts.

Quick summary: imperative language with some functional flavor. Functions are a primitive data type. The main data structure is the "table", which is like a hash table- but a little smarter. The specific way that it is smarter gives lua impressive expressive power.

The table has a few operations (like adding elements, looking up elements by their key value, etc.) that can be done to it. Now, the table has an element called the "metatable", whose keys are names for the standard operations, and whose values are the functions to be called to perform those operations. There's a default metatable that every table gets at the outset that does what you'd expect it to do, but you can assign your own tables to be metatables for each other. This allows for things like inheritance.
posted by Jpfed at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


"what's the context for this"

There's a followup from DHH somewhere on that page, I think. IIRC, it was 400 restarts spread over 60 processes, due to memory growth issues (=leaks). But even at 4 restarts, it's a bit mindboggling for someone like me who's been building high-availability high-performance application servers in [another scripting language] since 1995...
posted by effbot at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2008


The main Rails application that DHH created required restarting _400 times/day.

Maybe that explains some of RoR's scaling issues.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:38 AM on January 4, 2008


delmoi: Sure people would contact me for their tiny little start-ups, but I’d eventually catch on that they just want to use me to implement their ideas.

As opposed to i) making him part of the team (equity) for doing all the work, ii) taking his input on why the ideas are dumb, or iii) paying him appropriately for the level of work he's doing.
posted by Skorgu at 10:38 AM on January 4, 2008


t's an enjoyable rant even if you don't know much at all about Ruby and/or Rails.

No, actually, it really isn't. The guy is a grade-A dick. Some rants are enjoyable. This one is purely a slog through assholery.
posted by Malor at 10:43 AM on January 4, 2008


Notice how it took me a few seconds to reply. This one single statement basically means that we all got duped. The main Rails application that DHH created required restarting _400 times/day. That’s a production application that can’t stay up for more than 4 minutes on average.
I'm not a Rails programmer -- what's the context for this?
That is the most pertinent part of the whole rant. Had the rant just been this one section, it would've been much more powerful.

When Rails first debuted on the scene, it was met with the inevitable question, "But is anyone running it in production?" DHH would then point to Basecamp", the web application which Rails was extracted from. Him and 37 Signals would talk about all the users they had on the site and how many requests they processed. They were all very impressive sounding numbers, and you couldn't deny the fact that you could go to the website and everything worked.

The fact that they had to restart the application 400 times / day is eye-opening, and if that information had been known in the beginning, I really believe that Rails may not have gained the traction it has today. Of course, in the meantime, they have fixed those problems, but I feel it was still disingenuous.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:44 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ruby has the best Japanese documentation ever.
posted by smackfu at 10:46 AM on January 4, 2008


Ignorant, stupid, inarticulate, and a terrible writer. Wow. Embarrassing.
posted by xmutex at 10:50 AM on January 4, 2008


Ugh. Nerds can't even trash talk well. This is why I gave up Dungeons & Dragons. And, years later, Car Wars.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, what does he expect? I mean, that people are just going to let him code up open source stuff all day long?

No, he expects to be hired as more than a cheapo code monkey; given his experience, $14/hr to write Ruby to someone else's specs is like a master chef working the tills at McDonalds. Did you even read the paragraphs above that line? Or the sentence after it?

As a long time Ruby user, I found his rant quite informative, really. For example:
Did you guys know that Michael K. and Dave Thomas pretty much threatened me into not releasing a Mongrel fix for the problem for three months? They actually let it sit for three months before other people crafted the cgi_multipart_eof_fix which I could include.
Yipe! I'd like to hear more about that.

Really, the problem with this rant is everyone is focusing on Zed and how crazy he must be, instead of actually looking at the points of the rant. Zed doesn't care if you think he's an asshole, nobody does, but I sure as hell care if Dave Thomas and co are going to force people to sit on security holes in software I make a living out of.

The Rails bits, well, meh, I'd already decided to try to keep my distance from there. Other frameworks do it better and without all the weenies who switched to Rails (not Ruby) because they found PHP too hard.
posted by Freaky at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2008


The stuff about ThoughtWorks was interesting, about driving programmers hard and whatnot. That's one thing I really do not like about the programming world. Too much focus on spending lots and lots of time coding. I don't know what the productivity curve is like, but a really good programmer can do more 30 hours then an average programmer can do in a month of 80 hour weeks. And the quality and maintainability won't even compare.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2008


smackfu: Not only that, Ruby has the best cartoon novel absurdist documentation ever.
posted by eurasian at 11:04 AM on January 4, 2008


The stuff about ThoughtWorks was interesting, about driving programmers hard and whatnot. That's one thing I really do not like about the programming world. Too much focus on spending lots and lots of time coding. I don't know what the productivity curve is like, but a really good programmer can do more 30 hours then an average programmer can do in a month of 80 hour weeks. And the quality and maintainability won't even compare.
I haven't been with ThoughtWorks for nearly five years now, but it was definitely not like that while I was there. They were (and still are) big into Extreme Programming which espouses the 40 hour work week. There are other consulting firms which do that, and I've found their M.O. to be to get in as many hours as they can before the client realizes that a) the consultants are incompetent or b) the project should never have been implemented in the first place.

Of course, a lot can happen in five years...
posted by AaRdVarK at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2008


This one single statement basically means that we all got duped. The main Rails application that DHH created required restarting _400 times/day

No, you got duped when you realized that people accepted 10 restarts a day as fixed.
posted by eriko at 11:16 AM on January 4, 2008


Yow. If I ever need to teach a class on narcissistic personality types, I'll be sure to assign this as required reading along with Fistful of Quarters. I'm sure somebody's already done it, but there's a big, big book to be written on nerd communities and complicated forms of narcissism.
posted by LMGM at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


See also: Every Wikipedia editor flameout ever.
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2008


I mean, writing an webserver is really, really easy. Is there something special about Mongrel, or is just a server designed to make rails easier to setup? or what?

Mongrel is a fairly badass piece of software. From wikipedia: "It is widely believed to be faster and more stable than WEBrick, and easier to set up than Apache." It is also being used in tons of production settings across the globe. Sure, anyone can generate an HTTP response pretty quickly. Caching? Clustering? Performance? POSIX commands? Security? Writing a production-ready webserver is no small feat.


It is really a shame to put a thread-unsafe turd like Rails on top of mongrel, and he is right that Merb kicks ass. Best of luck to Zed getting a job now that everyone knows how much of a self-important twat he is.
posted by anomie at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2008


The MBA attitude is best summarized in this statement, “I demand all of your creativity, yet trust none of your judgment.”
That one line made wading through the bile fairly tolerable.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


And about Ruby - um, duh. It may be buzzword-compatible, but a bill-payer it ain't.

Nonsense.
posted by juiceCake at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2008


everyone is focusing on Zed and how crazy he must be, instead of actually looking at the points of the rant

But what are the points of the rant? Rails is unreliable in real production? Working for corporations is shitty.? Not-so-fascinating insights, but yeah, semi-entertaining meltdown, made much less entertaining by the fact that the dude wants you to think he's an asshole. ("I went to this awesome place called P*ong with my sexy new girlfriend" reads like a stereotypical yuppie in an Onion article.)

It’s a universal mass hysteria that paying $100 – $200 per hour for a group of consultants is preferable to simply hiring good employees.

I could have said the same thing in 1998. What's new? (aside from a different group of suckers to invest.)

Also, dude simply needs an egoenema. Once you realize no one cares, you become much happier, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:46 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, I was watching the episode "The Fight" from The Office on the way to work this morning, which is all about Arthur (Rainn Wilson) bragging about his martial arts training and kicking everyone's ass.

This douche completely reminded me of him, with maybe a little mix-in of this guy.
posted by mkultra at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2008


If I ever need to teach a class on narcissistic personality types, I'll be sure to assign this as required reading

Word. There are a couple of decent points in there (the Rails community is unbelievably hostile and fanboish to a point that is off-putting), but that guy is crazy. If you read each of his mini-vignettes thinking that he might be a little nutty, it gives them a very different spin.

There’s an email sitting in my inbox from Dave. He wants to talk to me on the phone because he’s just that persuasive. I’m sure he’ll try to tell me to “think about the community” and “you sound unstable”. No, not unstable, just pissed off.

Or maybe you always act like that and so people have to talk to you like you're bipolar. Maybe he doesn't want to put anything in writing because you wipe crazy all over written stuff, post it on the web and twist it all to hell.

I made it about halfway through. There seems to be a great big disconnect between how he perceives the world/ his place in it and reality. Honestly, it feels like there's a whole generation of people coming into the workforce like that.
posted by yerfatma at 12:03 PM on January 4, 2008


The next ruby-nyc meeting should be interesting. I've only been going for a few months, and Zed is usually there. I guess he won't be anymore.

He's seems like a nice guy in person. Obviously a great programmer.
posted by bhnyc at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2008


Reminds me of what they say about academe: The infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so small.

And don't get me started on the unofficial motto of Texas.
posted by ersatz at 12:52 PM on January 4, 2008


I've just never had a problem with mod_fcgid, so I never saw a compelling reason to use Mongel. And mod_fcgid can spawn and slay processes dynamically.

But really, I avoided it because he always seemed like an ass.
posted by cytherea at 1:09 PM on January 4, 2008


Re the rant: if you like sausages, don't ask about how they're made ;^)

RoR is kind of a Jessica Simpson - popular, but not everyone knows exactly why. So the rant is sort of like discovering that Miss Simpson farts alot.

(Disclaimer - I'm a happy, contented, busy Java/C#/PHP/Perl programmer, who thinks that Rails is cool, Ruby not so much)
posted by Artful Codger at 1:22 PM on January 4, 2008


It's not that he's mental or an asshole, he's just not the greatest writer in the world. He's (quite obviously, to me) trying to come across as comedy-angry-man, but in fact just reading like a loose cannon. You can really only pull it off anyway if you're talking about things people take for granted, not if you're also giving them new information.

What new information that's there is really interesting. You don't often get to see behind the polished facade of RailsWorld, and he clearly has. It strikes a chord with me when he talks about how close-knit they all are. For instance, why is it really detailed information about the odd changes in Rails 2.0 so hard to come by? Could it be because there's another book on the way, and that makes them all rich?

It sometimes feels as if there are more people at the top of RailsLand making money from servicing all the Railers than there are making money from using it.
posted by bonaldi at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2008


Hah! AC - I'm totally with you. Rails seems kinda cool and time-saving. Ruby seems like warmed-over perl. Ugly, ugly, ugly. And I don't care if it vacuums the floor and cooks you breakfast. Ugly!

Of course, I make a living writing C#, an absolutely beautiful language with plenty of market share, but completely lacking in caché of any sort. You could kinda call it the anithesis of RoR.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:30 PM on January 4, 2008


Whoa, I make a living writing mainly C# and would strongly recommend looking at Python/ Ruby/ Haskell/ anything that will cause you to think differently. Only downside is you may find yourself frustrated with C# afterwards (list processing, little places where it's not so OOP, the constraints of strong typing). At the end of the day, C# is just Java with some improvements bolted on.
posted by yerfatma at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I love it when programmers start talking aesthetics. These are the people who give us the Gimp's interface and web pages that talk about "required fields".

I don't mean you specifically, Afroblanco, but am surprised Ruby is ugly to you. Compared to, ooh, everything else I've seen, it's the closest yet to a language that could have been designed by Apple (although the ones they do design are ugh shudder like AppleScript, so that only goes so far).

I was sold on ruby at .each, to be honest. And it just looks so damn clean compared to the others which __spit__ punctuation all over the::shop.
posted by bonaldi at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


The thing I love about Ruby on Rails is that they always try to teach you Rails without teaching you beyond the minimum about Ruby. So you think you know what you're doing, because you're writing an actual app, and it works, "woo!". It's pretty much the same as perl or C, just with less semicolons. And then you run into some code from someone who does know Ruby, and it looks like line noise.
posted by smackfu at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, in matters of aesthetics, it always comes down to taste. I'm really just speaking my own opinion, not stating it as objective fact. Perhaps I should have said as much.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:41 PM on January 4, 2008


Read this yesterday, and I'm late to the comment party here, today.

It's apparent in that article that he doesn't play well with other children. That being said, he raises some great points about RoR's performance.

400 restarts a day across 1 or 60 instances of the application is ridiculous. No architect in their right mind would accept that. 10 restarts per day across 60 instances isn't great either, at least you can manage around it, but still... holy crap.

That, boys and girls, is why IT managers are so resistant to using your fancy pet language/framework/platform. That's why it takes them forever to migrate from COBOL to C to Java to "[thing]". They've been around long enough to realize that new shit is inevitably filled with tons of unknown crap that won't surface until you're at a critical point. They know how to manage around the flaws of the old shit. They don't know how to manage around the new shit.

(Notice that it's all shit. Even when you think it's not shit, you're wrong. It's still shit. This goes doubly in software development.)
posted by C.Batt at 1:44 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Aesthetics "coming down to taste" doesn't ever mean the end of discussion. Aesthetics can be compared and evaluated. A large part of what made the iPod distinctive at the outset (and still!) is aesthetic -- it sure wasn't tech. So if someone says something like "the iPod is ugly", it's always interesting to hear them elaborate.

And then you run into some code from someone who does know Ruby, and it looks like line noise.
This is nearly always from Perlistas, in my experience.
posted by bonaldi at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2008


I think the Ipod is ugly because it makes you use Itunes. Itunes is ugly because it's a completely bloated approach to playing music. I use winamp because I like something minimalist.

I'm in the minority on this, and I'm okay with that.

It's all a matter of taste.

And this goes doubly for programming languages - unless you're using a language that's ridiculously special-purpose, you can pretty much use any language to do any task. And the field of computer science is young enough to where there are very few explicit 'right ways' or 'wrong ways' to do anything - it's more a matter of whose Kool Aid you've chosen to drink.

Case in point - I like strong typing. I don't care if that makes me weird. I've used languages where typing is loose and ugly (like VBScript) and I hated it. I'm sure that Ruby and other languages are better about typing than VBScript was, but as I said, it's a matter of preference.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I've spent a fair amount of time coding in classic C, which lets you shoot yourself in any number of limbs with their loose approach to typing and conversion (although technically I think it's referred to as a strongly-typed language, which I've never understood) and I didn't like that either. When I started with C# and Java it was like a breath of fresh air.

And as a sidenote - something I've been wanting to find for the longest time - a language-neutral, platform-neutral forum for discussing programming best-practices. Does anybody know if such a thing exists?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2008


I think the Ipod is ugly because it makes you use Itunes.

Seconded.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on January 4, 2008


+1 for strongly-typed languages.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2008


What a flexible word ugly is.
posted by bonaldi at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2008


This is nearly always from Perlistas, in my experience.

It wasn't meant as a negative judgment. I was thinking more of bog-standard Ruby stuff, that is just different and that people don't run into at first because they don't really learn Ruby as such. Like this example from Wikipedia: (1..10).collect {|x| x*x}. Or closures.
posted by smackfu at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2008


It's all a matter of taste.
And, again, it's not like this is equivalent to "so there's nothing to discuss". With the iPod, Apple went after a majority taste, and then all the "Lame! Less space than a Nomad" types were bewildered when it went nuclear. Rails very clearly goes after a similar taste and yearning for a certain kind of clarity and then the same types are all "but why is it so popular when it's shit and crashes a lot?"

The pisser is that it has also attracted the programmer equivalent of Apple fanboys, and they're even more objectionable. As Captain Rant is pointing out. (He has another one laying into DHH for saying he wouldn't hire folks who use Windows instead of the Mac).
posted by bonaldi at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2008


Wow, this kind of thing reminds me why I don't miss the open-source scene. The corporate world has its own issues, of course, but it's good to remember the grass is no greener on the other side.

If he's so concerned about the issues he's had getting employment, this isn't going to help. Anyone who hired this guy now is an idiot, no matter how smart he is. Playing well with others is at least as important as intelligence in any group programming project, whether OSS or commercial (sadly some companies/groups fail to recognize this and keep around the "brilliant" people who drive everyone else away).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:27 PM on January 4, 2008


(Not to say some of his complaints, once you dissect the rant, aren't valid -- but his communication style is familiar to me as the kind of person I've always hated to work with).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:29 PM on January 4, 2008


I love it when programmers start talking aesthetics. These are the people who give us the Gimp's interface and web pages that talk about "required fields".

The aesthetics of a programming language are more like the aesthetics of good math than visual work. It's predicated on already having knowledge, and expressing it or using it in an elegant fashion, is almost entirely abstract, and often 'clever'. Interface, or visual aesthetics, on the other hand is entirely rooted in the real, not the abstract, and cleverness is a hinderance to usability, most of the time. They are two entirely different enterprises.
posted by Arturus at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


They are two entirely different enterprises.
... that are also symbiotic in this case, since the clever-clogs using them is also entirely rooted in the real. There's a difference between print "hello" and %%^@£$_hello_ to us, who also use the other kinds of language.
posted by bonaldi at 2:47 PM on January 4, 2008


And, again, it's not like this is equivalent to "so there's nothing to discuss". With the iPod, Apple went after a majority taste, and then all the "Lame! Less space than a Nomad" types were bewildered when it went nuclear. Rails very clearly goes after a similar taste and yearning for a certain kind of clarity and then the same types are all "but why is it so popular when it's shit and crashes a lot?"

Hmmm. I get your point, but I disagree with your assertion that "RoR is the iPod of programming languages." Although no doubt much of the buzz surrounding Ruby rests on that very assertion.

When I see subway ads for RoR, then we can talk.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:02 PM on January 4, 2008


When I see subway ads for RoR, then we can talk.
Oh come on. If I say "This new chocolate is really dark. It's as black as coal" do you say "When I see it burn in a fire, then we can talk"?

Rails has definitely had the geek equivalent of iPod-stylel hype. For example, how many web frameworks are shipped with Mac OS X? Ding!
posted by bonaldi at 3:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok, perhaps I could have phrased it better.

The iPod is far and away the dominant personal music player. So much so that some people are considering pursuing antitrust litigation on the grounds that Apple has an unfair monopoly. (which I think is BS, but that's besides the point.)

RoR has lots of hype, but it's nowhere near the dominant player in the field. Not even close. And I doubt that it ever will be, but that's just my prediction.

I will agree that a small subset of people have the same slavish devotion to RoR that some have toward Macs. And like the Mac fanboys, I have to admit that the RoR hype has somewhat deterred me from RoR.

But the crux of the matter is that I like the tools that I have. If I ever have a compelling reason to switch to RoR (like, say, a job requirement) then I'll pick it up and do whatever needs doing.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:39 PM on January 4, 2008


Yes, I completely agree with you on all of that. I don't really think RoR is the iPod of web frameworks, but I think it comes from a similar mindset, one of taking into account things that are usually disdained by tech-types. Which is probably why it appears to engender the same sort of feelings.
posted by bonaldi at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2008


Yeah, if I were to make any prediction, it's that some new language will come along that takes a lot of the good ideas behind RoR (like built-in support for ORM, AJAX, and unit testing) and make a new language that's backed by at least one major player in the industry. This language will be the next Java.

But I should really duck out of this thread for a while. I feel like I've kind of monopolized it, and I hate it when people do that.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:49 PM on January 4, 2008


+1 for strongly-typed languages.
+1 what?
posted by Flunkie at 3:58 PM on January 4, 2008 [18 favorites]


Ruby is strongly typed.
posted by chunking express at 4:11 PM on January 4, 2008


As a python aficionado (enough of one that I actually think effbot is something of a minor celebrity), I have to admit that I feel a bit of schadenfreude upon reading this. RoR's user community has always struck me as weirdly preoccupied with its own status and beating java and similar stuff that doesn't seem terribly relevant to actually writing cool software. (I don't dislike Rails itself; in fact I rather like it, if not as much as its Python spin-offs such as Pylons and Django.)

I'll also note in passing that there's a difference between strong typing and static typing. Python (and I think Ruby) is strongly typed in that if something is a number, you can't implicitly convert it to a string by using it in a string context (as opposed to, say, PHP where you could have "123" + 4, at least a few versions back). It's also dynamically typed in that you can assign a string to a given variable, and then in the next statement assign a number to that same variable. The objects referred to by variables retain their type, although the variables themselves are essentially typeless. Or: what chunking express said.
posted by whir at 4:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ruby is strongly typed.

So "4.5 + 6" doesn't work, then?
posted by null terminated at 4:47 PM on January 4, 2008


/pendant
posted by null terminated at 4:49 PM on January 4, 2008


/spelling error /pedant
posted by null terminated at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2008


But would you really expect that to throw a type error? Shouldn't the + operation be defined for both integers and floats?
posted by whir at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2008


web pages that talk about "required fields".

Wait. What?

The interface thing is a (frequently deserved!) cheap shot someone already responded to the way I would, but I find this part baffling.
posted by sparkletone at 5:47 PM on January 4, 2008


But would you really expect that to throw a type error? Shouldn't the + operation be defined for both integers and floats?

Not in a strongly typed language.
posted by null terminated at 6:05 PM on January 4, 2008


What kind of typing lets you have autocomplete in your IDE? That's the kind I like.
posted by smackfu at 6:08 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


but I find this part baffling
That's because it's all-pervasive! It struck me signing up for some forum yesterday, which scolded me when a box marked "optional" wasn't filled in, because it was a "required field", and also offered me the ability to change the date formatting on posts ("as defined in PHP's date() function", it helpfully added).

Since when was a "field", let alone a "PHP function", something a non-programmer needed to know about? It's not nearly as egregious as some of the interfaces foisted on people, but it's all on the same spectrum of "use our stuff? then live in our world".
posted by bonaldi at 6:08 PM on January 4, 2008


I think I know what you are getting at, but if you really want to get pedantic 4 + 6.5 is a literal expression. Sure, a compiler / interpreter could require 4.5 + 6.0, but I think we can agree that C and Java are strongly-typed languages, and they both allow the expression 4.5 + 6. In practice it doesn't seem unreasonable for a compiler to optimize the expression to 10.5 at compile-time. (But yes, I imagine maybe Ada or the more academic functional languages might disallow it.)
posted by whir at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2008


whir, no, Java and C are statically typed, but weakly typed.
posted by e.e. coli at 6:43 PM on January 4, 2008


I think I know what you are getting at, but if you really want to get pedantic 4 + 6.5 is a literal expression.

True, but that's immaterial. This does the same thing:

lambda{|a| a*2}.call(4)+2.5
posted by null terminated at 6:52 PM on January 4, 2008


This also works, interestingly:

lambda{|a| if a <>

(but, of course, this does not)

lambda{|a| if a <>

posted by null terminated at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2008


that should be...

lambda{|a| if a < 6 then a else "hey" end}.call(4)+2.5

and

lambda{|a| if a < 6 then a else "hey" end}.call(8)+2.5
posted by null terminated at 7:01 PM on January 4, 2008


Also, sorry for derailing this thread, I'm genuinely interested in this and not trying to be snarky
posted by null terminated at 7:02 PM on January 4, 2008


Since when was a "field", let alone a "PHP function", something a non-programmer needed to know about? It's not nearly as egregious as some of the interfaces foisted on people, but it's all on the same spectrum of "use our stuff? then live in our world".

You have to develop terminology at some point. They're called fields, aren't they? How about entering a construction site: "You must wear a hard hat and steel toed boots." They're called hard hats and steel toed boots, aren't they? If you want to enter a specific world, i.e. the web, then you can learn to use the web's terminology.

The date thing should probably be hidden behind some 'advanced functionality' menu if I were designing that interface, but it's for nerds like me that have to work internationally and are too tired when they come home to figure out if you're talking about January 12, 2010 or January 10, 2012... I personally prefer 12Jan2010 / 10Jan2012 so I set all of my dates to be the same where it's allowed.
posted by SpecialK at 7:14 PM on January 4, 2008


Oh, and thanks for pulling me into the blue with something that's actually interesting. I enjoy a good programming discussion that doesn't descend to the slashdot-ish fanboyism of the DailyWTF.
posted by SpecialK at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2008


You have to develop terminology at some point. They're called fields, aren't they? How about entering a construction site: "You must wear a hard hat and steel toed boots." They're called hard hats and steel toed boots, aren't they? If you want to enter a specific world, i.e. the web, then you can learn to use the web's terminology.
The web's terminology is things like "back", "forward", and "reload". "Field" is programmer terminology, and shouldn't be exposed. It's like a newspaper requiring you to know what kerning or a standfirst is.

Part of the problem -- and I'm guilty of this too -- is thinking too much like you're programming the user. They're human! They don't need ultra-specific instruction lest they go awry and raise an exception, they need treated as if they're human beings. Instead of "date field must be in the format dd/mm/yyyy", offer pop-ups so they can't go wrong. Instead of "required field not completed", put "Please can you tell us where you heard about the site?".

Take the date formatting: Are nerds the only people that work internationally? Then why should they be the only people who can have datestamps formatted? If you're going to format by timezone, have a clickable world map, not just a massive popup of all the world's timezones. For style, there are about four key ones, so have them in a pop-up, with the fifth being the "Custom..." one, which should be a gui that will generate the PHP-format code.

Of course, all that's hard. Making things easy always is. And it's an uphill struggle when the people who'd have to do the hard work just think "ach, it's the basic PHP format! God, a kid would know stringf. And they can look it up in the API docs, surely".
posted by bonaldi at 7:33 PM on January 4, 2008


What kind of typing lets you have autocomplete in your IDE?

That's Huntenpeck typing.
posted by swell at 7:43 PM on January 4, 2008


So "4.5 + 6" doesn't work, then?

skorgu@obelisklet ~ $ irb
irb(main):001:0> 4+6.5
=> 10.5
irb(main):002:0> 4.class
=> Fixnum
irb(main):003:0> (4+6.5).class
=> Float
irb(main):004:0> 4+"a".class
TypeError: Class can't be coerced into Fixnum
     from (irb):4:in `+'
     from (irb):4


Ruby has strong typing, the exception is for Float and Fixnums which will be coerced into each other. Otherwise you have to use to_s or to_i or similar.
posted by Skorgu at 7:49 PM on January 4, 2008


Comedy gold.
posted by IronLizard at 7:54 PM on January 4, 2008


I feel for Zed. He's a sharp guy who knows his code and has little patience for bullshit. This is typical among "real" coders. They want to solve problems, write beautiful code--create. It's like giving birth to a child that was conceived with nothing more than your ingenuity, persistence and hard work. Unfortunately, that's not what the corporate world is all about. All the politicking by their superiors just gets in the way of producing work you can be proud of, but politics and drama are the only things that MBAs can actually create on their own. To be subordinate to a bunch of do-nothings is the worst kind of insult to a person who takes their work so seriously. But sadly, it's the corporate world that's paying the bills, and it's the MBAs that are doing the hiring and firing.

If it were 1808 instead of 2008, I'd bet that most coders would be craftsmen or inventors of some kind: making furniture, building looms, working with their hands... the kinds of jobs where your skills as an artisan allow you to be left alone to do your work with the least amount of interference and bullshit. I know how Zed feels: more times than I can count I've wanted to tell my superiors, "Look, you hired me to do _X_ because I know what I am doing and you don't. So please just get out of my fucking way and let me do my fucking job." But if they did that, they'd have nothing to do all day but play Solitaire.

It's a shame, really, because his big mouth will trump his raw talent any day of the week. It's all anyone is going to see, and it's a damned shame.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:06 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also...

Instead of "date field must be in the format dd/mm/yyyy", offer pop-ups so they can't go wrong.

No, the best solution is to allow the user to enter the data however they like, and then format it for them. You use the locale to determine month/day or day/month order, and provide a pop-up calendar to supplement the field for those who don't like typing.

But for those of us who know how to type, there's nothing more irritating than being forced to go from your keyboard to your mouse, click the little widget icon and mouse-around a virtual calendar, then go back to typing again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:15 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


use the locale to determine month/day or day/month order

Sorry, but that's just begging for faliure right there.
posted by Artw at 8:21 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ruby is strongly typed, not pedantically typed.
posted by chunking express at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


But for those of us who know how to type, there's nothing more irritating than being forced to go from your keyboard to your mouse
Yes, but for those of us who know how to be human, there's nothing more irritating than being commanded around like we're a compiler. (And, actually, I agree with you, but it's just another thing software should do for you. Good browsers, like Safari, allow you to type pop-up entries without the mouse. Best of both!)
posted by bonaldi at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2008


I worked with a mainframe language once where a fixed decimal divided by an int ended up with a type of int. Yes, that means $0.98 / 2 = $0. That was fun to debug at 2 AM in a system with no debugger.

(OK, I'm a little fuzzy on the details, so I figured I'd look it up in the manual. Bad idea. I'm getting flashbacks from seeing their arithmetic conversion rules, and I still can't make any sense of them, 10 years later.)
posted by smackfu at 8:52 PM on January 4, 2008


I thought Zed's Hysteria of Consultancy was pretty spot on. I can't vouch for ThoughtWorks personally, but my experience with consultancy agencies and outsourcing of code in general has led me to draw similar conclusions. He should have posted that as a rant on its own.

I've worked with rockstar quality guys like him before, and although they may throw chairs in a boardroom and quit three times a week, people are willing to put up with their shit 'cause they deliver what an entire team of developers would fail to match. It can be a real shock if you've never seen that sort of thing before. Here's hoping he finds his happy medium and we less gifted mortals get to benefit from it (yet again).
posted by furtive at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2008


A select based calendar allows you to navigate by keyboard without any risk of error, but nobody likes select boxes now unless it's that funky one on the iphone.
posted by furtive at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2008


I worked with a mainframe language once where a fixed decimal divided by an int ended up with a type of int

Floats suck balls in much the same way.

A select based calendar allows you to navigate by keyboard without any risk of error, but nobody likes select boxes now unless it's that funky one on the iphone.

My own implementation has an auto-formatting date field with a calendar popup that has months and years as drop-down selects. The date field will take just about any form of date... dashes, slashes, spaces, longhand (January 1st, 2005), short (Jan 1 05), even UTC. The only thing you need to know beforehand is month/day order, which can be easily determined by the client's locale.

Sorry, but that's just begging for faliure right there.

Whatdaya think I am? New? There are a ton of different ways to let the user verify the formatted date is the same as the date they entered. I attach the user input with the field, then show them the longhand version. When they click the field, the longhand version is replaced with their original input.

For example, I enter in: 12/6/05
The field formats to: June 12, 2005
I remember I'm in England, not the U.S., smack myself in the head, then click the input box to correct the mistake, and on focus, the field is replace with: 12/6/05.

Easy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2008


+1 for strongly-typed languages.

stronglyTyped++
posted by mkultra at 10:49 PM on January 4, 2008


I remember I'm in England, not the U.S., smack myself in the head ...
Easy.


This is *exactly* what I'm talking about. If the page leads to you smacking yourself in the head, it isn't easy, it's stupid.

Determining by locale is daft. Why does geography matter and not the person? Don't Americans ever visit the UK?
posted by bonaldi at 6:05 AM on January 5, 2008


bonaldi: Of course, all that's hard. Making things easy always is.

And sometimes it's not cost effective to make things easier than picking from a list. Really. (Where cost factors include developer time, graphic artist time, implementation and debugging time, user time spent downloading that big world timezone map [unless you offload that to graphic artist time to design some iconic shit that no one really understands], etc., etc. .....)
posted by lodurr at 9:05 AM on January 5, 2008


... which is not to say that you can't almost always find a better word than 'fields'. 'Fields marked with "*"' is more or less interchangeable with, say, 'Information marked with "*".'

Which is not to say that when you've got a bunch of fields with labels and some of them are marked with a "*", you shouldn't be able to figure out that's what "fields" means. If, you know, you can read.
posted by lodurr at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2008


A select based calendar allows you to navigate by keyboard without any risk of error...

Not really true. Select boxes often work in somewhat counter-intuitive ways. They often don't fit into the tab sequence, people have to hit 'enter' to select items from the list (which is the same keystroke they use to submit the form by keystroke so you'd understand why they'd be hinky about it), and a lot of people don't grok type-to-select. And I could go on. I can't tell you how many times I've selected the wrong item from a long select list -- put myself in 'nm' when I was trying to say 'ny'.

Most tests indicate that for simple inputs like dates and simple codes with finite selection sets (e.g., states and provinces), a text box is faster and less confusing for most users. Couple it with a validation routines that rejects invalid entries, and you've got a win for usability and error-management that looks, superficially, like it would be less usable and more error-prone.

IOW, what seems to be intuitively true (e.g., selection elements reduce error and improve usability) might well be false once you test the premise.
posted by lodurr at 9:50 AM on January 5, 2008


And sometimes it's not cost effective to make things easier than picking from a list. Really.
Well of course crap will always be cheaper. The first Mac cost a bewildering amount of money; so did the first iPod.

But there are times when the changes can be small, or the investment relatively small compared to the impact it will have. phpBB (home of the "type your date format" sign-up page) is one of the world's most popular forum packages. If the coders had spent a small chunk of time making that friendlier, millions all over the world would have an enduringly better experience.

Same with everything that's needlessly difficult because you "should be able to figure it out". We should have been able to figure out MP3 players too, but nobody bothered outside of a technical elite and their relatives. Then someone went the extra mile, and reaped the rewards.
posted by bonaldi at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2008


Well of course crap will always be cheaper.

And of course the fact that it's cheaper doesn't mean a select list or a text box is crap. Complex interaction modes (like pop-up maps and calednars) are are often worse in terms of real usability than simple ones.
posted by lodurr at 1:17 PM on January 5, 2008


Ye-es ... but we're talking (or at least, I'm stomping all over the thread, which I'm about to stop doing) about situations like asking the user for a date formatting string, or offering a 200-entry long list of timezones, instead of methods that *are* better in real usability terms. And especially about things where there is no difference either way, except giving one thing a programmer's name instead of a human one because they can "figure it out".

Six tiny little things that are easy to figure out in themselves leads to Windows an overall hostile experience. The cumulative effect of being cost-effective in all the small places can be naaasty.
posted by bonaldi at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2008


This is *exactly* what I'm talking about. If the page leads to you smacking yourself in the head, it isn't easy, it's stupid.

The page isn't going to fill itself out for you. There are certain things you are expected to be able to do yourself. Just because a webpage doesn't hold your hand while you go potty doesn't mean it fAILzDaUZIbILIty.

Determining by locale is daft. Why does geography matter and not the person? Don't Americans ever visit the UK?

Oh, I see, so you have to create an account before you can do anything, is that it? Set some preference beforehand? Yeah, users just love that. Ask the New York Times people how much people love creating accounts.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:39 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


yeh, I'm back because that was too dumb to ignore. C_d, if you can't reliably know someone's locale, *don't make assumptions based on it* and use an interface that avoids those assumptions. Like pop ups that make which is the month obvious, and don't lead to the user smacking his head.
posted by bonaldi at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2008


I think it's time for one of you to take a page from Zed Shaw and flame out like a mother fucker.
posted by chunking express at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here's a thought: Who cares about date entry on websites? I sure don't, I don't need to do it very often. I guess I prefer a little calender popup, but I'm not going to have a conniption fit if I have to type one out by hand.

If I had to fill out hundreds per day, I would want them to be in a standard format, preferably YYYYMMDD, which I've started using whenever I need to type a date that won't be stored as a datetime in a database. It requires the least keystrokes (and can be done entirely on the num pad) and if you sort strings in that format lexicographically, you also sort by date, which is awesome.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've heard that refered to as Japanese date format, though I don't know if it's truely what they use. It's nice and logical, and certainly is very handy for file and folder names, for the sorting reasons you mention.

(People would look at yoiu funny if you tried to make them use it, mind)
posted by Artw at 6:00 PM on January 5, 2008


YYYYMMDD is actually the international standard date notation (ISO 8601).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2008


I would so have ISO date's babies.
posted by MikeKD at 7:39 PM on January 5, 2008


Aren't they still called 'fields' when they're on printed forms?
posted by Arturus at 7:56 PM on January 5, 2008


Two things I noticed.

The first thing I noticed on his site was the generic / soulful picture of him contemplating his guitar's neck, as he struggles with fingering (you shouldn't have to stare at the fretboard).

The second thing I noticed was the first link in the upper left hand corner "All About Me", which kind of says it all.
posted by Sukiari at 8:21 PM on January 5, 2008


... preferably YYYYMMDD ...

Be still my fucking heart.

And it's ISO?

OMG.

(The insanity of traditional date-string formats, for some reason, it just drives me bonkers. If you specify date YYYYMMDD you can reliably sort all the dates on the list with a simple alphanumeric sort, and the order from big to small makes it so much easier to read...it's times like this that prove to me that I'm not a Myersian-P, no matter what my wife thinks.)
posted by lodurr at 7:28 AM on January 6, 2008


Aren't they still called 'fields' when they're on printed forms?

Sure, but speaking just for myself I actually don't have a problem with calling them something else for web forms. Instead of saying "you didn't fill out the address field", your error message could say "you didn't provide your address." It's not difficult, but it does maybe mean you can't use a simple/clever way of stacking up your error messages -- you have to test for a specific condition and provide a specific message.
posted by lodurr at 7:31 AM on January 6, 2008


C_d, if you can't reliably know someone's locale, *don't make assumptions based on it* and use an interface that avoids those assumptions. Like pop ups that make which is the month obvious, and don't lead to the user smacking his head.

Where I work, if you forced people to go to their mouses every time you wanted to enter in a date, they would burn your house down and kill you family. You try entering in a thousand payments in a batch while going between a mouse and keyboard.

Any form that requires you to switch input devices midstream is dumb as hell, and you should remove yourself from the gene pool for even thinking it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:01 AM on January 6, 2008


Civil_Disobedient - you might be on to something... for websites where people have to enter thousands of dates. If such a thing ever existed though I'd expect standardising the input format would be the solution rather than any fuzzy mucking about with locales, and since it would probably be some kind of intranet thing the user would have to like it or lump it.

That's pretty much not applicable to any websites I've ever seen or worked on though.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2008


Any form that requires you to switch input devices midstream is dumb as hell, and you should remove yourself from the gene pool for even thinking it.
I'm pretty sure we've mentioned more than once that you can choose from selects and pop-ups with a keyboard.

Man, you're all over the fucking place here. We've gone from the only alternative to making unwarranted assumptions being user registration, then suddenly we're in a highly domain-specific app, which presumably requires both registration *and* can expect a degree of training. Way to shift the goalposts.
posted by bonaldi at 10:33 AM on January 6, 2008


>It struck me signing up for some forum yesterday, which scolded me when a box marked "optional" wasn't filled in, because it was a "required field"

This is nothing to do with programmers, programming, terminology, interfaces or anything else. It's what we call a "mistake". It could have happened in any situation, online or real life.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:43 PM on January 6, 2008


Just for clarity: the "optional" bit was only mentioned for irony. The less-than-optimal bit is that it moaned about a "required field".
posted by bonaldi at 8:38 PM on January 6, 2008


I don't think you know what irony means. The field wasn't marked "optional" but you said it was?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:16 AM on January 7, 2008


So, bonaldi, let's be clear on what's bothering you: If it said "you failed to provide required information", would that be OK? Because that's pretty non-controversial, and something that can generally be fixed with a five minute conversation. Or, heaven forbid, actual copywriters.
posted by lodurr at 5:57 AM on January 7, 2008


AC: The field was marked optional, but very much wasn't
lodurr: yes!
posted by bonaldi at 7:44 AM on January 7, 2008


actual copywriters

Fuck me, that's taking it a bit far isn't it? An actuall proper writer? :-)

Every place where I've requested such a thing they've hummed and hawwwed and dumped the task on some pushed-for-time Project Manager. Which is a shame, because text content makes up so much of the web, and people should give it the importance it deserves, even the little things like error messages.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on January 7, 2008


There's a lot to be said for having an actual writer put all that stuff together. For a whole site or application. Then you should make them write a style guide. And it should be no more than five pages long. And it should be a pony. A pretty black and white one. With a bow.
posted by lodurr at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2008


I would totally argue for the value of all that stuff. But that's money that could be used for, I don't know, a flash movie or something, so it never actually happens.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on January 7, 2008


Why the hell would you want a flash movie when you could have a pony with a bow?
posted by lodurr at 10:49 AM on January 7, 2008


The pony can't read the site! It's a blind pit pony! And you spent all your wishes on a flahs movie and a pony and didn't leave any left over for decent text and all the accesibility work! It; slike the gift of the magi, only the magi's a dick, so it's all gone monkey paw!
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another perspective on Zed's rant by someone who, you know, actually knows the guy.
posted by Skorgu at 8:50 PM on January 13, 2008


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