Slashdot is taking questions for The Zeldman.
May 15, 2000 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Slashdot is taking questions for The Zeldman. If you have any questions for him, better post them, because otherwise you'll never be able to communicate with someone this reclusive.
posted by harmful (45 comments total)
Zeldman? Reclusive??!!??

He's like, the only friendly designer of his caliber out there that actually answers his email!

I guess the first question I'd ask would be "Where does he find the time (and patience) to answer all that email???!!??"

Second would be: "Why does he put up with me?"
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:28 AM on May 15, 2000

that, and "Why in your right mind are you going to subject yourself to the hive mind of the /.?" I read Slashdot, and I like Slashdot, but the majority of the posters are morons.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:33 AM on May 15, 2000

I think Zeldman can answer all his email because he uncovered some secret way to get through life without sleeping.

the lucky bastard. He should share that secret.
posted by mathowie at 11:00 AM on May 15, 2000

Perhaps the secret is old age. I know, I'm getting there.

prol ducks.
posted by prolific at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2000

If he's such a recluse, how does he find time to correct me, here. ;-)

You know, Matt; there was a novel I read a decade back about a spy who never needed to sleep because he'd caught a piece of shrapnel with his sleep center in the war.

Cool story; can't find the title anywhere anymore.
posted by baylink at 11:19 AM on May 15, 2000

Here it is baylink: The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep and 5 others in the series. The message board comments at slash dot are depressing - they're mostly from people consumed with jealousy. I especially loved the comment from someone who shock - gasp! found a broken link on one of Zeldman's pages. One of 275 + pages, as someone pointed out. *wink*

posted by the webmistress at 11:46 AM on May 15, 2000

Err, The Thief who Couldn't Sleep, maybe? Lawrence Block has written a whole series of novels about Evan Tanner (who became a spy almost entirely by accident); he recently woke the character up from suspended animation in Tanner on Ice. Block has several different series of mystery novels; I have his latest Bernie Rhodenbarr story, The Burglar in the Rye, in my backpack.
posted by harmful at 11:47 AM on May 15, 2000

(Curse you for beating me to the title!) Most of the questions on Trolldot so far seem to be of the form, "Why did you do x on your site when everybody knows that's the Wrong Thing?"
posted by harmful at 11:49 AM on May 15, 2000

Hehe harmful :)
I love the description of the book - he loves "lost causes and beautiful women." I want to read a book about a guy that loves found causes and ugly women. Now thatwould be interesting.
posted by the webmistress at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2000

OK, let's try to bring some of the discussion from the slashdot pit to this better discussion area. A lot of the slashdot comments concentrate on what many perceive to be design problems with Some have gone so far as to suggest (jokingly?) that is a parody, a living example of BAD design intended to spur discussion.

Now, I love the look and content of, but some of these criticisms I think are right on. Others I'm not so sure about. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Fonts too small, and set with absolute sizing. It's true, and the criticism is probably valid. I am forgiving on this one because I do the same thing myself, and I can't really justify it. I don't think they're too small.

2) Pointless splash screen. I agree here; splash screens do nothing but annoy me.

3) Links open in new windows without warning. There is no excuse for this, is there? Every browser allows the user to open a link in a new window if they want it. Why take that control away from the user?

4) JavaScript hiding of the status bar. This also is a horrible thing to do, isn't it? What benefit does it offer, and could that benefit possibly be greater than allowing the user to see where links will take them? I don't think so. If you HAVE to provide commentary in the status bar, at least do it like and also provide the URL.

5) Lack of navigation. Not sure on this one. It seems to me that the link bar appears on the top of every page. Perhaps the problem is that it is not clear what those links are? And you have to do eye-jumps from the top of the page to the bottom where the status messages are displayed to get hints. That is a pain.

The interesting thing about all of these things is that they are sins of commission, not sins of omission. Zeldman made a choice to make his site like that; I look forward to hearing him defend his choices. I guess he'll probably wait until Friday to respond on slashdot.

posted by ericost at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2000

It's his personal site...most of that stuff can be chalked up to personality. I mean, Christ, orange? (Replace with "I mean, Christ, yellow?" when complaining about my site).
posted by jkottke at 1:25 PM on May 15, 2000

Wow, I never thought any of those things were bad about Zeldman's site until you pointed them out. In fact, I still don't think some of them are bad, I like the status bar java-thingy, and I don't think theres any problem with the navbars. Also, that splash screen, I'm pretty sure, is a temp until he gets his new core page up, which was very useful. I don't think I have anything to criticize about Zeld's site. So leave him alone!
posted by deckard at 1:30 PM on May 15, 2000

All right.

This may be just me.

You'll forgive me if I go off on a rant here, seeing as how I'm suffering from an ear infection and a lack of sleep. But.

After reading the comments of Slashdot's...umm, I suppose they're called "contributors" instead of "annoying 13-year-old hacker guttersnipes with no joy or humor in their lives", I am convinced of two things:

1) The human race is doomed.
2) I'm never putting Linux on my machine if these are their supporters.

There's the rudeness to Zeldman. I don't care if he's a luminary or just some guy, you just don't flame someone like that.

There's the - I suppose some might call them "critiques", if they actually had something to say. Sniping, bitter little trolls.

There's just the general attitude of entitlement and laziness. Any asshole can shoot his mouth off. Sigh.

If this sort of brain damage is indicative of what Slashdot is about, then Make Mine Microsoft.

Open Source, Open Mouth.
posted by solistrato at 1:31 PM on May 15, 2000

thanks, glish, the 5,000 times those comments appeared at slashdot weren't enough; i needed to see them here, too. ;)

i responded to point 1) on-site. relative font sizing doesn't work in navigator 4, and much of it doesn't work CORRECTLY in IE5/windows, so designers can't use it if they want their work to reach an audience intact.

until all browsers support ALL of CSS-1, we are stuck with either CSS pixels or oldschool font-size and font-face tags ... unless we choose not to try to control text at all on the web. that's a zen approach i don't think most designers would be willing to take, especially if it makes the web look like 1994 all over again.

i'm using relative sizing on now, and if you view the page in navigator 4 the type will be large and ugly.

so ... sins of omission, sins of commission, or sins of the browsers? easy answer on that one.

the rest, if they make the cut, i will answer friday on slashdot. hint: design decisions are not sins, they are choices. derek p. has been criticized for using frames and for using links that open in new windows. did he commit sins? i think he made choices, and that's what designers do.
posted by Zeldman at 1:46 PM on May 15, 2000

ericost (no relation, I swear!) sez: "Links open in new windows without warning. There is no excuse for this, is there? "

Rule #1 "Never let 'em leave your site..." . Anything outside of my site is "target=_blank", Zeldman at least names his "new" so it's only one window. The only page I know of where he does that is his "Daily Report"

As far as the window.status goes, personally, I'd rather see a description of where I'm going, rather than the link... but that's just me.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:46 PM on May 15, 2000

See, harmful? He's not reclusive!
posted by deckard at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2000

I totally agree solistrato! That's why I tried to a pull a little of the discussion over here away from the vicious little monsters at /.

And yes, it is Zeldman's personal site, and a personal site that I enjoy a great deal; but I am still interested in discussing the design issues raised by his use of some techniques that are arguably harmful to his site's usability.

Zeldman, no disrespect intended! I was hoping that Metafilter would provide a place for us to politely discuss this topic without personal attacks and silly flames. I look forward to your comments this Friday!

P.S. I used the word "sin" playfully, but your are right to correct if that tone did not come across. I would of course still argue that some design decisions can be safely called "bad" decisions, like the full screen attack at But hey, everyone is free to disagree with what is "bad." I just raised these issues here to see what people thought about them!
posted by ericost at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2000

*sigh* Hey, Haughey, when are you going to implement the <sarcasm> tags? They must've gotten eaten when I made my original post.
posted by harmful at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2000

One thing to remember is that, by and large, Slashdot's membership has no use for user design or graphic design, only information design is important in their world. The graphic nature of the Web is anathema to its original intent, which purists such as some boisterous Slashdotters will tell you is to aide others in finding information. Period.

And when you're talking information, you're talking text. So the structure of the Web (links, navigation, directories) is more important than the appearence of the Web (images, table-formatted presentation, background colors).

Anything you put in the way of that goal has a negative impact on the goal. That much is obvious.

But this Web is not that Web, no matter how much one might wish it were. It changed a while back when everyone was looking, and the general public (and their wallets) was invited onboard, bringing with them their expectations of entertainment, aesthetics and ease-of-use.

I think it's funny (funny-weird, not funny-funny) that people want to grab hold of some particular aspect of Web design capabilities, be that splash pages or JavaScripted comment tags or frames or pop-up windows, and destroy it. First, they won't go away no matter how much you rattle your crib's rails. Second, there are reasons to use all of them, just as there are bad implementations of them.

But whatever. I'm just glad Mr. Zeldman has to deal with the noise and not I - a reclusive if ever there was one.
posted by honkzilla at 2:13 PM on May 15, 2000

All of this is very strange to me. A forum on Slashdot is open for the express purpose of asking Mr. Zeldman questions, and all anyone can think of, or focus on, is what he is doing with his personal site.

When people start criticising personal sites, I suddenly get a mental image of a big glass house and a pile of stones. Your mileage may vary.

Someone here brought the same personal site comments to this forum, with the comment, "I look forward to hearing him defend his choices."

Defend? Why on earth should anyone be stuck in the postition of having to defend anything that is a labour of love? It seems to me that there is a very big difference between asking a question to get an answer, and asking one that requires a defense of something.

posted by sperare at 2:29 PM on May 15, 2000

sperare et al,

From the slashdot introduction: "Some people in the design business say the best way to learn what the WWW will look like in six months is to keep up with Jeff's famous site." Naturally readers went to the site. Naturally they formed opinions on Zeldman's design cred based on that site. Being slashdotters, they naturally started tearing it to pieces because it did not feature pictures of giant penguins ripping the heart out of Bill Gates.

I brought the discussion here to get away from the shit! Yes, it is his personal site, but it is in a public forum called the internet. While I agree wholeheartedly that personal attacks are in the worst possible taste, I don't believe that a calm discussion about a personal site amongst a group of intelligent designers, developers, and general web people like those here at Metafilter should be considered offensive! Am I alone on this?

And I used the word "defend" because he was being attacked! I just want to hear what is sure to be a thoughtful response from Zeldman on the matter, and I hoped to hear some of your opinions also.

I can't believe in this forum, of all places, the conversation has degenerated to this level.
posted by ericost at 2:53 PM on May 15, 2000

Ericost, Dude...calm down. JEEZ

The conversation looks civilized from here. Believe me, I've been following the childish/moronic comments at slashdot too. That's torture for any Zeldman fan to endure...

I realize your post consisted of quotes from /.
If I led you or anyone to believe they were yours, I definitely apologize.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2000

I do sound a bit hysterical, no? Sorry! :)
posted by ericost at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2000

What's really funny is following the personal sites of the people who criticize Zeldman. Some of them come up with some decent things that I'm sure Z will address, but then you go to their pages and you get this by a poster who says "his site is ugly, hard to read, and i cannot believe he made it by "hand"?!? I made my website early 1997, 100% by hand, and i think it looks better than him" So you can take them all with a kernel of salt...
posted by chaz at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2000

I think the SlashDot questions are a little funny. I mean, it's completely ignorant comments like this letter, sent to Zeldman (which he used as May's Letter of the Month) that are so stupid, they're funny.

I mean, some idiot on SlashDot wrote:
"This guys website ranks among the top 10 ugliest sites I've ever seen. I hope to god someone kills him before anyone else adopts his complete lack of design skills.
I suppose it would be forgiveable if he were color blind and used a giant magnifying lense to browse his site.
Why are we asking this guy for advice again? I could pull a better design out of my ass. "

Yeah, I see you have a good point... did anyone else notice that he didn't mention any specific aspect of that bothered him? Pretty juvenille just to go out and say "NO! I don't like it! It's stupid", without any reason whatsoever.

I wouldn't get offended at comments like that, I would laugh my ass off.

posted by deckard at 3:21 PM on May 15, 2000

I think another thing to realize is that most slashdot posters are linux users (natch), so they're likely using netscape 4.x, if they're using a graphical browser at all. Font support/display on xwindows is, to put it charitably, lacking compared to other operating systems, so a lot of sites are going to be hard(er) to read than on windows/mac/beos/whathaveyou. Throw in the typical NN4.x brokenness, and it's not suprising some people have problems.
posted by icathing at 3:26 PM on May 15, 2000

I'd call it civilized, too; and apparently, Zeldman thinks so too, or he'd have stayed out of it.

Thanks to all for the titles and the links; I'll return the favor by pointing you at the adventures of Chinese Gordon and friends in Metzger's Dog, in which they...

shut down the city of Los Angeles, just (in the immortal words of George Carlin) to prove to everyone that they can really do it.

Dr. Henry Metzger, BTW, is Chinese Gordon's...

cat. A fun book; hunt it down and kill it.

posted by baylink at 4:34 PM on May 15, 2000

Part of the problem is the Slashdot lead to the story. Quotes like "Web Design Luminary" ... "Web designer extraordinaire" .. "what the WWW will look like in six months".

I'm sure most of the Slashdot crowd has never heard of him, and an intro like that just invites deflating. And of course, it is Slashdot. How could it not concentrate on the mechanics of web design rather than the aesthetics?
posted by smackfu at 5:25 PM on May 15, 2000

You know how the word "exposure" has several meanings? The two that come to mind here: (i) the condition of being presented to view or made known and (ii) the condition of being unprotected or being subject to some effect.

I've seen over and over in my life how (i) leads to (ii). I think Jeffrey has thick skin by now (and if it has been a little thinned by slashdotters, he should remember all the hundreds of nice emails he gets every day -- more importantly, Zeldman's (i) has caused so much good in the world that all the (ii) on slashdot right now shouldn't matter a bit).

I don't know of anyone else who has shared the groove as much as Jeffrey and that's all good.
posted by sylloge at 9:24 PM on May 15, 2000

But as to the points that Eric imported from Slashdot -- I would like a little intelligent discussion of these, though perhaps that is best left for another thread or forum. Since I got the mic right now though . . .

- - - - - - - -
(2) Splash screens can have an important purpose (read the bits about transition zones in How We Buy or the discussion of same on CHI-WEB. In this case, however, I'm pretty sure it's a temp thing until a new core screen is ready anyway.

(3) I'd rather have TARGET=_blank in a weblog or similar since that suits my reading/surfing style (it can definitely be annoying in other contexts but since I reckon it suits the majority here, it is probably the best choice -- to have a script that handles it with a checkbox for the option like I have on my site is overkill).

(5) Just false.

- - - - -
(1) It is possible to serve out different css to different browsers (like Todd Fahrner showed us so many years ago). I do it with JS on the 5k site with more detail than I enjoyed doing, but it is still won't accomodate the Xwin users (as icathing points out) though it does allow scalable units so people can make 'em bigger if they want.

(4) I hate it when window.status is screwed with at all. That is the one small concession that the browser makers make to usability (for pros) and I want it.

posted by sylloge at 9:45 PM on May 15, 2000

But to be sure: we all (+/- 5%, 19 times out of 20) love you Zeldman.
posted by sylloge at 9:47 PM on May 15, 2000

hello peoples. yes, the discussion here is civilized. no, i'm not offended by anything said here. yes, my skin is thick thanks to maybelline ultrathickening skin cream for webmonkeys. (click HERE to buy it NOW! courtesy of no i'm not hurt or offended by anything said at slashdot today. yes, the introduction was one that few web designers on earth could live up to - certainly not me - and hence it was like standing under a giant target.

thanks for the supportive comments here and thanks also for the legit attempts at discussing the issues raised in the respectful confines of a forum like MEFI. some people felt protective toward me and therefore may have misjudged the criticism as negativity. i understand that it was not.

i feel bad for the slashdot readers who will never see because the comments in the thread have turned them off. that, i think, is the real shame.

i'm puzzled by people who would bother to view my source code (to criticize me for using pixels in a style sheet) but not bother READING the source code, to see that i comment about why designers have are often stuck using pixels and font sizes. i try to make my source code educational, in the sense that when i knowingly break a rule - because i feel i have to - i explain what's going on, so others can make their own decisions.

i'm also puzzled by anyone who thinks a temporary 4K (!) splash page is a cardinal sin against usability. as deckard said, i have no core page at the moment. while i'm rethinking the whole front end of my site, i've put up a 4K placeholder with a redirect. many slashdot posters said they "could not get past that." well, fuck. *i* can get past anything if the content is good.

like, if i thought the design at slashdot was not so great, i would still read the content to learn what people in the open source community are thinking. i would not post insults about rob malda's design skills.

but, whatever.

i do think the opening comments inadvertently set me up, i do think some meaningful comments were made along with many boorish ones, and i look forward to seeing what the moderators can make of all this when they formally present me with the "official" questions from slashdot readers.

we've all gotten flamed. ain't no biggie. in the scheme of the day's work and events, it was a little thing. my only regret is that i didn't sell out and load down my core page with banner ads. think how rich i could be from all those hits.

posted by Zeldman at 9:49 PM on May 15, 2000

Gosh, ain't he the darn tootin' coolest?

There are a great many people (myself included) who would never have attempted to find a place for themselves on the web were it not for Mr. Zeldman (and his mild mannered alter ego, Dr. Web).

Huzzah! Three cheers!

I reckon I'm preaching to the choir a bit here . . .
posted by aladfar at 10:14 PM on May 15, 2000

Damn, I forgot the part that I thought was clever in the first place: of the reasons I don't read Slashdot is that the design sucks -- difficult to use (I didn't notice the comments on the Zeldman thread until I had gone back to the page for the *3rd time* looking for them since they were so far down, and I have a BIG monitor) and ugly (sorry to CmdrTaco, but that makes a difference too -- TNR is too hard to read, everything is crushed together and the aesthetic unpleastantness disturbs comprehension). But, you know, whatever.
posted by sylloge at 10:34 PM on May 15, 2000

Defend Zeldman? You bet your sweet ass I would...I think its time to pimp slap some open source wannabes using their dads AOL account...hoooyaaaaahh!
posted by dangerman at 10:38 PM on May 15, 2000

Ooooooooh.... (raising hand to tell the teacher)

Jeffrey said "fuck"
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:53 PM on May 15, 2000

There's nothing inherently wrong with Zeldman or his designs. There is something inherently wrong with a site like /. holding Zeldman up to be some type of Web design guru. He is what he is, an employee for yet another .com. I don't understand what all the fuss is about.
posted by yarf at 6:19 AM on May 16, 2000

Eric, have we callled you a shit... today?

posted by baylink at 8:22 AM on May 16, 2000

Nope...nobody's called me names since "muther's day".
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2000

Kudos to Jeffrey! I bow to your maturity and fortitude. ;-) I sat here cringing with every ignorant comment I read over there yesterday, and couldn't help thinking Intelligence != Couth (tee hee).
posted by dana at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2000

yarf: i'm not a guru but i'm also not an employee for a .com. nope. not me. i don't do that. i do a lot of non-profit web design and writing, and i have a few clients on my own, whose projects i like working on, and who for some reason feel obliged to pay me.

i've been a web designer since '95. in all those years, i've worked all of five months for a dot com. they were nice people but it's not for me.

just keeping it straight, boss.
posted by Zeldman at 10:23 AM on May 16, 2000

You're not my guru any more?

On an on-topic long does it take for slashdot to send an email of my password so I can post? I actually have a few *intelligent* questions.

Bet if the little kiddies knew you were the head-writer behind the last two "Batman" movie websites, they'd give you "mad props" and show some respect.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2000

Eric, you'll probably have to email and ask for your password - apparently there's a glitch and it doesn't always get sent, heh. I emailed for mine and got it within a couple of hours.
posted by dana at 10:35 AM on May 16, 2000

Thanx, Dana. I pushed that "email password" button four times yesterday...
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:47 AM on May 16, 2000

My friend Richard says that Slashdot just proves that introverts can't communicate even in a community where they don't have to see each other face to face.

I think that when you have that many people in a public forum... well, sometimes the worst comes out to say the least.

(a lot of people) / (talking all at once) = diminishing I.Q.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 9:39 PM on May 16, 2000

« Older Age of the Customer   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments