I bet you think this [article] is about you,
May 3, 2001 11:49 PM   Subscribe

I bet you think this [article] is about you, don't you?
(apologies to Carly Simon and anyone inflicted with the earworm.)
posted by CrazyUncleJoe (95 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by the webmistress at 11:57 PM on May 3, 2001

Zeldman has been going on about the "shrieking men" for a while now. Presumably, there's been some violent mudslinging going on in the web design community, and he's fed up with it.

But for the life of me, I've no idea what he's talking about. Am I out of the loop, or what? I'd be most appreciative if someone were to point out exactly what it is that's got Jeffrey so upset.

Better yet, should Mr. Zeldman happen to read this thread (and I'm almost certain he will) perhaps he might offer a bit of background information for those of us who've been living under a rock. I'd like a chance to be outraged too . . .
posted by aladfar at 12:22 AM on May 4, 2001

The a-list is really gonna pissed about this one.
posted by Neale at 12:41 AM on May 4, 2001

The a-list "creates" controversy only to distract from their mission of world domination.
posted by owillis at 1:05 AM on May 4, 2001

Can I be a back-scratching elitist link whore too? It would look fantastic on my resume. Where do I sign up?
posted by lia at 2:05 AM on May 4, 2001

I think what Mr Zeldman is referring to is a number of threads that have been happening around the "web design community" that sprung up last week during the mud slinging event known as Reboot.

One of the threads at AustralianInfront springs to mind as an excellent example.
posted by X-00 at 2:21 AM on May 4, 2001

I think it's a tremendously good little article and I'm all in favour of more of this kind of thing. I think the thing that is clearly derivable from what he says is that this is true of many different communities on the net, from hardcore web designers to those of us who just run shit little weblogs - people will always view some people as being 'up themselves' and will snipe because they don't feel included, which is not the same thing at all as actually NOT being included.

The ukbloggers group has had its fair share of discussion about so-called 'A-listers' in its time, with the phrase 'back-slapping wank' leaping immediately to mind for some reason. Mostly it was unfounded as these things tend to be. As above, so below.
posted by barbelith at 3:49 AM on May 4, 2001

Once accused, you can't win. Neither does the community.
...neither do the children, more like.

This reads like a cyber-tallpoppy syndrome epic (in the Ocean/Amiga sense). A mediocre plot and a solid direction with evidence that sabotages and blunts the whole bloody thing.

Once accused you just can't win? Well, perhaps you can't Jeff, and certainly no one can guarantee 'winning' but I've had my opinion changed by decent responses.

Oh silly me, "the community" doesn't win. Because, when you think about it, "the community" is our future. Good point. You are valid.
posted by holloway at 4:26 AM on May 4, 2001

I don't think I'm living under a rock, but I must not be travelling in the right (or wrong?) circles. I don't know what he's talking about either. Maybe we shouldn't ask please to know where the shrieking man is so we can go get some of his shrieky goodness?
posted by owen at 4:38 AM on May 4, 2001

please post links that are not hostile to the user. the text on that site cannot be resized, rendering essentially unreadable to me at high-rez (not to mention people with regular ol' vision impairments). 'a list apart' is notorious for less-than-thoughtful diatribes, and this one is no different.
posted by fleener at 5:30 AM on May 4, 2001

It reminds me, not suprisingly, of being in high school and worrying about one's "popularity." It is very much all a popularity contest amongst the current "in" crowd (which changes every few years in Web design), and the wannabe in crowd (that will eventually become the "in" crowd anyway). You see this in almost every field, whenever that field attracts a lot of new and innovate design ideas and the people that form them.

Person A says, "Your idea is old, get outta my way!! (And hey, how come you never link to me!??? Whhaaaa whaaaaa whaaaa!!!!!!!!)"

Person B says, "Yeah, you're probably right about my ideas being old, but you're immature and have a lot to learn about making your way up the social hierarchy with an attitude like that. Is it any wonder I don't recognize your work or link to you?!?"

Back and forth it goes in one tiny online community, while the rest of the world carries on about it's usual business.

A sure sign that the current "in" crowd is on its way out is when they become irrelevant and nobody listens to a word they say. The whole attempt to get people to move to design purely in style sheets is the most obvious example. Hundreds of millions of pages are coded out there in HTML 3/4, and these guys think they're going to get everyone to recode their pages for some higher ideal. It's not happening, nor is it every going to happen since the standard has been set for so long.

Since by definition most of us are "outsiders" to this little group of snobbish designers (speaking of both sides), these little high school tiffs mean little to us. It's much more about egos than anything else.
posted by yarf at 5:37 AM on May 4, 2001

When Zeldman refers to the "Shrieking Man" I think he's talking about Harsh Patel's rant against Joshua Davis, K10K and Zeldman. He called them "three to destroy web design" or something like that. He took that rant down and replaced it with more obnoxious crap, calling them "pussies" and claiming he could "design them all under the table." Of course, I'm not actually "in the know" but based on what I've seen that's my best guess. BTW, I just check Harsh Patel's site and he's removed all signs of shrieking.
posted by SuperBreakout at 5:46 AM on May 4, 2001

Harsh Patel's rant is still there in the source...it's just commented out.
posted by dangerman at 6:01 AM on May 4, 2001

Hundreds of millions of pages are coded out there in HTML 3/4, and these guys think they're going to get everyone to recode their pages for some higher ideal.

1900: hundreds of millions of people are riding horses out there, and these guys thing they're going to get everyone to buy a car?

Anyway, Brooks' principle applies: make the network too big, and its benefits ebb away. That's why you get fragmentation, rivalry, shriek.
posted by holgate at 6:05 AM on May 4, 2001

I tried to read the linked article, but I got the same feeling that I think I'd get if I were reading a 15th century political allegory translated from Chinese. I'm lacking context.

I mention this not to comment on this particular article (I'm completely unqualified: I don't even know what the A-list is), but to offer a bit of perspective. I think there's a tendency to presume that a cultural event that affects a limited group of people affects everyone. Even a writer as important as Shakespeare had a profound effect principally on the educated, English-speaking world. Which, in his time, was a very small portion of the world's population.

A lot of people use the Internet, but not most of the world's population. A much smaller group of those people have weblogs. A still much smaller group belongs to whatever the hell A-list the people here are always prattling on about. Don't people ever step back from it all and wonder what they're getting so upset about? It's just a webpage. How can someone compare having his page criticized with being accused of murder? Isn't there something wrong with having so much of your self-esteem tied up in your blog?
posted by anapestic at 6:30 AM on May 4, 2001

> When accused of being an overrated back-scratching elitist
> link whore, most artists will rush to defend themselves;
> which only makes them look more guilty. [snip]
> Once accused, you can't win.

These sensitive-plants have no grasp of flamage. The canonical response to "You're overrated" is "Don't you wish somebody would ever overrate you? Just once? In your wet dreams..."


That's French for "God, I'm so cultured and historically aware."


It happens because you can now take standard-issue office backbiting, chop it up into net packets and send it 'round the world in a couple of seconds. There's absolutely nothing new here except propagation. (ObCitation: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, in which Cellini [a talented miniaturist and creator of decorative objets] calls every other artist working in the Italian Renaissance an overrated elitist back-scratching link whore.)
posted by jfuller at 6:35 AM on May 4, 2001

Great citation, jfuller: linkwhoring is as old as writing itself. (Thinking of Ovid and Virgil here, and of course of Pope's Dunciad, that classic defence of the A-list of the 1720s.)
posted by holgate at 7:03 AM on May 4, 2001

Hi, guys. I avoided linking to the various rants and counter-rants because I wanted to discsuss the phenomenon rather than the personalities. The specific arguments themselves were not important and were already pretty much played out.

Since ALDAFAR asked: There was a backlash against Three.oh's REBOOT event. Thousands of designers signed up to participate, apparently without realizing that sponsors were involved. When they noticed the sponsors, many participants leaped to the conclusion that James and Stanley of Three.oh were "sellouts."

Within a few days, various other designers, writers, and technologists were being attacked in diverse forums. If you spent any time visiting these forums, you came away with the impression that everybody was fighting with everybody else. The hostility spread quickly, like fire in a dry forest.

After most of the anger died down, I thought it might be interesting to examine it as a phenomenon. JFULLER is right, it's much like office in-fighting, except that office fights have potential consequences (the boss may fire you if he finds out you're the one who said he was an idiot), while online antagonism is generally consequence-free.

When YARF implies that I'm trying to *force* other web designers to use Cascading Style Sheets in an attempt to hang on to my "in-crowd" status, Yarf is doing the very thing discussed in the article.

I didn't invent web standards, I'm not the only person who thinks they're a good thing, and the extent of my self-interest in advocating them is that I'd like to see the medium I work in have a stable developmental base — as would most developers who've had their sites fall apart in one browser or another.
posted by Zeldman at 7:10 AM on May 4, 2001

"Hundreds of millions of pages are coded out there in HTML 3/4, and these guys think they're going to get everyone to recode their pages for some higher ideal. It's not happening, nor is it every going to happen since the standard has been set for so long."
Browsers certainly aren't being made for HTML 3.2 anymore. In general people will slowly upgrade. Asking them is fine. Death to bad browsers is not.

My opinion differs from yours in that I will change (I don't use the word 'upgrade') my code to give my user the most usable page. I won't (intentionally), do stop people from changing their font-size and ask you to upgrade your choice of browser to fix this browser bug (I say this as Zeldman told me to upgrade my browser when I said I was having a problem with his ALA site).

Zeldman is as irrellevant as it gets to webdesigning (certainly less important than he was). He became a programmer a long ago. Read on.
posted by holloway at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2001

Do you get cool leather jackets with the "in-crowd" status?
posted by dangerman at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2001

Is it just me, or does some of this seem reminiscent of positive blogging? I mean, Zeldman isn't telling people to post shiny happy stuff, but it does take to task the bickering we have seen a bit of lately.
posted by hijinx at 7:36 AM on May 4, 2001

This is only interesting in a boring, self-referential, insular, isolated community. Oh, wait; sometimes this is that community.

Viva C-list!
posted by norm at 7:42 AM on May 4, 2001

There's lint in my navel!!!
posted by Mick at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2001

That's not your navel.
posted by Zeldman at 7:58 AM on May 4, 2001

The article is apparently all about Yarf, so perhaps it's his navel?

I went through the positive blogging thread again (was it really that long ago?), and it did remind me of that. I heart Zeldman, but if there really are shrieking men, aren't you just acknowledging their power over you/us when you write about them rather than just ignoring them? It's just a bunch of words on a bunch of websites read by a tiny bunch of people, after all -- and presumably the members of the tiny bunch of people are smart enough to discern when they're faced with a shrieking man or someone with a legitimate beef, and deal with either in their own way.

And are shrieking men all bad all the time anyway?

(just fyi, but I happen to be a card-carrying member of the "it's not all good" school of thought, as previously articulated by maura, if that matters)
posted by lia at 8:02 AM on May 4, 2001

The problem with "shrieking men" is that they very rarely, if ever, get anything positive accomplished.

Oh, sure, people listen to them. People may well even follow them, shrieking with them. But all they achieve is a level of manic divisiveness that does no one any good.

Think that Zeldman is shit? Give to the community like he has, and show us what you got. And once you give to the community, you'd better not whine about getting anything about cause that's not what it's about. What I respect most about the Z-man is that he gives so much to the community and for the most part, gets shit back. He has sacrificed his job, his life, and his free time to us and what do we give back? We give him shit for trying to lead the community even though we (as a collective community) are the ones that have let him lead it. Like it or not, this community is bigger than you, and it has chosen it's leaders - formally or informally. You want to become a leader? Give to the community and maybe they'll give back.

Sheeet, people... for all the time spent complaining you could be creating works of beauty.
posted by chason at 8:23 AM on May 4, 2001

Members of a subculture attack one another to curry favor with the powerful. In the case of web designers, this would be clients.

In the 19th Century, the "lace curtain" Irish told Pat and Mike jokes to distinguish themselves from their lowlife drunken cousins; later, Jewish comedians told vicious anti-semitic jokes to prove they were not like them; and you can provide your own dispiriting examples from contemporary society.
posted by steve_high at 8:27 AM on May 4, 2001

These arguments fascinate me, as I generally haven't the faintest idea of what anyone is talking about, but I recognize a lot of the names. It's like reading those great stories about Feynman and Schwinger and Gell-Mann thoroughly bitching each other out in horrendously technical language.

[Zeldman]: Cascading Style Sheets

Oh my God! Is THAT what "CSS" stands for? I've been too embarrassed to ask!

. . . of course, I still don't have any damned idea what it means, but it's nice to know.
posted by Skot at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2001

joe, you sir, are a stirrer! my heart plummets when i see these kinds of discussions on mefi. i might as well walk out the door and bang my head of the sidewalk for all the good it does.
posted by heather at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2001

I didn't choose Zeldman as my leader. I meant to punch out Buchanan on the ballot. Oh hell.

Don't blame me. I didn't vote Zeldman.
posted by dogmatic at 8:49 AM on May 4, 2001

Heh. Skot, you and I really are cut from the same cloth. I marginally know what they are, but just get this very amusing mental picture of a bunch of style sheets bubbling over a cataract. I wouldn't really know one if it bit me on the arse. Nonetheless, I can tell when a site uses them because at home (IE 6.0b) it looks extra spiffy and at work (NN 4.5) it doesn't.
posted by norm at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2001

chason, do you really think that complaining and "creating works of beauty" are mutually exclusive? Try and read Swift's A Modest Proposal or Palahniuk's Fight Club. Or Marx, if you're so inclined (commie bastards, you know who you are).

When you assume that people who disagree with Zeldman must automatically think he's "shit" and are incapable of "giving back" in some form to the community (and imply that all the noise stems from jealousy because they wish they were leaders themselves) -- sweetie, you're almost a shrieking man yourself.
posted by lia at 8:54 AM on May 4, 2001

Everytime these discussions pop up, (don't worry if you missed this one, there's another scheduled for 6 months from now...) the lasting impression I take from it has nothing to do with whatever the current hoo-ha is about, and much more to do with the bizarrely self-fixated nature of small social groups.

Or, to put it more succinctly, there are so few people in the world that know any of this is going on or that have heard of any of these people or works. It renders the conversation absurd to think that there's something even worth complaining about, on either side.

Even the most widely-known, broadly acclaimed, universally hailed effort on the personal web still probably doesn't get as many hits as the copyright page on Yahoo. And good for them.

I can't imagine being self-delusional enough to think that any of this is worth caring about. Go outside, get some sunshine, (it's spring here in the northern hemisphere, ya know) and remember: whether someone is shrieking or not, whether that shrieking is good or bad, whether there's a web at all, none of this matters. At all.

I'm starting to sound like that Fiona Apple speech everyone mocked a few years back. I'll have to stop now.
posted by anildash at 9:33 AM on May 4, 2001

I've been outside and it's freaking hot out there.
posted by dangerman at 9:49 AM on May 4, 2001

There's absolutely nothing new here except propagation.

Which is new enough to be annoying. Nobody else's office politics get played out in front of my face; why does the office politics of web designers have to? Why is this thread HERE?

And I hate to break it to The Community, but there are plenty of great web designers out there that have never heard of any of you, and wouldn't care if they did.
posted by aaron at 9:59 AM on May 4, 2001

It's freaking hot and pitch black outside where I am.

anil, can you strike a 70s porno pose like from Apple's Criminal video? I'll give you five bucks.
posted by lia at 10:03 AM on May 4, 2001

" The a-list "creates" controversy only to distract from their mission of world domination."

what's wrong with world domination?


and how the hell do *i* get in the scene? oh wait. asking that disqualifies me, doesn't it?

oh well. all i care about is trying to add something worthwhile to the net. everything else is a distraction.
posted by jcterminal at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2001

That was....unintelligable. How many X's, Y's, and Z's - along with so many of their brave compatriots - had to die in order to provide example fodder?

The gist I got was this: it is ok for the author to not like some 'networks' as much as others, but not ok for me to do the same. When he does it, it is because he cares about the medium, but if I were to do it, I would be some jealous little no-talent nobody who likely still wets the bed at night.

The work will always stand for itself, but I have no patience with adults who fall back on the 5th grade popularity construct and gossip to make their case.

Do the best work that you can - the most beautiful, the most technically wonderful, th work that stretches you most, or gives you the most satisfaction. Enjoy the contact you get with people that you find like-minded. Be kind to people who want to learn from you. Ignore the people who don't share your vision. Why is that so hard for people to do?
posted by kristin at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2001

When all is said and done, it turns out that, despite all the chatter, no one other then web designers care or notice web design.

Its a sad thing. All these technologies, all this fuss, and people are either looking to read something or trying to watch some flash animation. They really don't care and are even annoyed (Yes, annoyed!) that websites support the latest thingy. The latest hip thing that doesn't work on their browser. A browser they see no reason to upgrade because the new hip thingy is...colored scrollbars?

It's terrible, but true. Web designers work for themselves and a few fans in the know. All this work, all these words are lost to most of the folks out there.

I admire the work of web designers, they brave the storm of multiple browsers supporting standards in random fashion while new technologies are pushed on them to use because they are...not good really, they are new. They work and few notice and few recognized that, damn that was hard to do in X while still looking good in Y. I admire the fact that they work while factions snipe about this or that and petty details are fought over as if they were worth fighting for.

Then again, I was lazy about upgrading my browser and then read ala's little thing and decided to go to IE5.5. My browser crashes twice as much now. Great advice.
posted by john at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2001

john: " no one other then web designers care or notice web design."

hey! i care!
posted by jcterminal at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2001

Zeldman is as irrellevant as it gets to webdesigning (certainly less important than he was)

I'm sure his "irrelevance" is why he continues to be invited to speak at almost all of the major industry conferences, year after year.

I'm equally sure it was his "irrelevance" that got him his book publishing deal.

And the writing gigs for Adobe. And PDN-Pix. And Macworld. And Crain's.

No. What's really irrelevant is the self-righteous donkey-like braying of a small subset of people who would rather attack the man himself than his ideas.
posted by scottandrew at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2001

Z-Listers for Zeldman!
posted by owen at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2001

I am just being a little sacastic. I mean..I use 'em' tags and not 'i' hehehe
posted by john at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2001

This thread is really bothering me, and I don't know why, and I don't know how to explain it, but I don't want to wander off without saying anything.

The arguments, ultimately, aren't tremendously effective, but they do let me know how other people feel. As a simple example, after the Browser Upgrade thing was launched, Holloway responded rather negatively to it. To, uh, say the least. :-)

But having read Holloway's arguments, even though I don't actually agree with him I can at least understand why he feels the way he does which means I understand him and know him that much better, and that's not an especially bad thing.

Could they be handled better? Yes, but to figure out what the "right" way is, we have to make mistakes.
posted by cCranium at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2001

I'm coming in to this late, but I have to cite a couple things from Harsh Patel's rant. Who is this guy?

First of all, the unexpurgated top of the file:

<body bgcolor=white>404 4ever
<table width=400 border=0>
<img src="milk.gif">

<font face="times" size=5 color=778899>
No more talking.  Pussies are pussies, players are players.  I'm secure with my shit.

Count the errors! And then there's the, uh, discourse:
And if any of the Pantysweat Three want to argue further, we'll do it Versus-style on the canvas for everyone to see. I can design you under a table, any day. I know this, you know this. Bring the pain, get your skulls touched.

Fuck all of you, I'm right. If that sounds overly blunt or immature to you, I couldn't give a fuck, either.

What're you going to do? Shoot me? Pussies, swallow a mouth full of deez nuts and think of me before you go to bed at night.

"I can design you under a table" "bring the pain." What is this, the WWWF? This guy has serious dick-size issues. Hey Harsh! <wiggles pinky>
posted by rodii at 1:06 PM on May 4, 2001

I'm bothered by the whole thing, too. I suppose I'm a professional web developer, whatever that is this week, and I'd never heard of any of the recent drama until getting my regular fix of ALA this morning. I suspect the bothersome part is that I still don't understand why I need to know about any of it.
posted by normy at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2001

>What is this, the WWWF?

damn, rodii...you crack me up.
posted by webchick at 1:23 PM on May 4, 2001

::: KRISTIN: The gist I got was this: it is ok for the author to not like some 'networks' as much as others, but not ok for me to do the same. When he does it, it is because he cares about the medium, but if I were to do it, I would be some jealous little no-talent nobody who likely still wets the bed at night. :::

Hi, Kristin. What I actually said was, it's human to resent other people but does little good to vent these resentments publicly. And that if *I* felt deeply resentful of some site or group, I'd tell my best friend or a therapist.

I'm not sure how you got "it's ok for the author to not like some 'networks' as much as others, but not ok for me to do the same" from the words I put on that page, unless you scanned them quickly instead of reading them.

I'm also not clear on why you felt I was telling you or anyone else they were a "little no-talent nobody." I never said that. I never would. I don't THINK that way.

I guess Steve Krug is right. People don't read, they scan. Then they write lengthy opinions about what they think they read. Then everybody forgets the whole thing until it happens again. Whatever.

Dear Joe: You not only PREDICTED people would misinterpret and argue about this article, you also GUARANTEED that it would happen by linking to it at Mefi with a provocative Carly Simon headline. But I love you anyway, you big sap.
posted by Zeldman at 1:24 PM on May 4, 2001

"but if I were to do it, I would be some jealous little no-talent nobody who likely still wets the bed at night. "

who told!?!

posted by jcterminal at 1:29 PM on May 4, 2001

wow. pardon my posting in this thread AGAIN, but i re-read the thread and i checked out that harsh patel site.

jesus christ.

i don't mean to offend anyone at all but, who the hell gave eminem a copy of frontpage 2000?
posted by jcterminal at 1:39 PM on May 4, 2001

i don't mean to offend anyone at all but, who the hell gave eminem a copy of frontpage 2000?

Funny, too funny.

It would be nice if all this nonsense was like water and we could all make like ducks.
posted by john at 2:00 PM on May 4, 2001

it's because I'm a stir-stick... or something. Besides, it's not like I had *money* on it... nobody would take the bet.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 2:04 PM on May 4, 2001

thank you heather. you articulated what i was trying to say with my one word reply. sometimes the way an initial post is worded (in this case, a rather cavalier toss off comment) influences the tone of most of the replies.

on the plus side, i just picked up two (count 'em, two!) really great comments for my metafilter comment generator.
posted by the webmistress at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2001

Jeffrey, your response is a lot like the article:
"I guess Steve Krug is right. People don't read, they scan. Then they write lengthy opinions about what they think they read. "

I did read the article, even though I had to do it through the 'view source' option, and I found it unintelligable. I am sure those lengthy examples meant something to you, but to this reader, it just read like a dyslexic reciting the alphabet. And I hate the implication that I am forming my opinions based on resentment and jealousy, and that if I am passionate about something, it isn't passion, but anger.

This is my opinion, and it is valid. You don't have to agree with it, but you also don't have to assume that it is built on resentment, jealousy, anger or that I am not smart enough to understand what I read.
posted by kristin at 2:26 PM on May 4, 2001

KRISTIN: I respect your opinions and your right to them. I don't assume that you are resentful or that you're not smart enough to understand what you read. Quite the opposite. I did suspect that you had quickly scanned the article because your impression of what I said was (and is) so different from what I actually said. Peace.
posted by Zeldman at 2:56 PM on May 4, 2001

chason: "[Zeldman] gives so much to the community and for the most part, gets shit back. He has sacrificed his job, his life, and his free time to us and what do we give back?"

Web consultancy IS his current career. He earns an envious living off of this. Where did you get the idea he was "sacrificing his job, his life?" I don't see JZ pan-handling in the subways and roaming the sidewalks in rags or lecturing the passersby standing atop his soap-box at Grand Central Station about the virtues of style sheets and hoping someone would throw a dime or a quarter in his hat.

I am pretty sure he is happy and content with his life and social-financial situation.
posted by tamim at 3:18 PM on May 4, 2001

Actually, I'm not making an envious living and don't know anyone in the medium who is, aside from Jakob Nielsen. And I did do a lot of writing and advising for years without seeing a dime from it (which was fine with me). And ALA is still non-profit, which is what I prefer. So Chason's comments are not baseless.

But I agree that life is good. And you're exactly right in your main point. I'm not sacrificing myself. I'm doing what I want to do, as we should all be free to do. (And most of us are if we realize it.)

I don't know how this thread got to be about me and I wish it weren't. Principles are worth fighting about - personalities aren't.
posted by Zeldman at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2001

as much as i hate to change the subject from zeldman-bashing, which is really what this is all about, i want to bring up something that people have been nonchalantly mentioning.

to many people, the sites they create are not 'just a web site.' to me, my web site is just that and i write it cause i enjoy writing it. if it disappeared tomorrow no one's life would be majorly affected and most likely neither would mine.

but there are people who've spent the last several years of their lives creating a site to promote an idea, to bring people together, to form a support group, a community, a sense of belonging. to make the web a better place. whether you agree with their specific ways of going about it or not, it seems unfair to me to undermine their efforts.

to many people the site they've labored over, with love, time and energy is much more than 'just a website' and rightfully so.

of course there's much more to life. of coure these websites, or even the web in general, pales in comparison to some of the major problems parts of the world are facing, but to the people who've spent their days and nights trying to make something wonderful and worthwhile, their web page is not something to be brushed away.

and i wish people respected that cause there are many sites out there that have affected my life and, while i would still survive without them, i'd be quite sad if they disappeared. and i really don't understand why anyone thinks it's consctructive to undermine or judge something that might not be appealing to him or her personally.
posted by karen at 4:17 PM on May 4, 2001

I hope the dot com economy picks up soon .. there are obviously too many people with too much time on their hands.

Reminds me off the pissing matches that used to take place on Usenet.
posted by Chief Typist at 4:19 PM on May 4, 2001

I just wanted to say welcome back to Jo. Carry on.
posted by netbros at 5:09 PM on May 4, 2001

I just want to say: who are those four designers? Why make them anon? I don't get it-- why not name names? It seems rather unnessarily coy to me.

I never did get reboot-- as far as I could tell, may 1st came and went and nothing really happened.

How's that for a batting average in cluelessness?

However I just chaged to "em" units and am delighted.
posted by christina at 5:13 PM on May 4, 2001

Karen, re:
of course there's much more to life. of coure these websites, or even the web in general, pales in comparison to some of the major problems parts of the world are facing, but to the people who've spent their days and nights trying to make something wonderful and worthwhile, their web page is not something to be brushed away.
You make a valid, and eloquent, point. I didn't mean to diminish the work that people do. I love the personal web, I support as many sites (or, more accurately, people) as I can. I think my general point about "none of this matters" is in reference to those who can actually manage to get in a huff about someone's design skills, or someone's post on a message board, or someone's email.

I get plenty of people objecting to things I say or write on my site, and, well, God Bless 'Em. I just ain't got the time to be hurt.

sidebar: I had heard Harsh Patel's name once or twice before, but never had the displeasure of reading his tripe. I ordinarily would find it amusing that someone could be so insecure as to use street-culture-aping, professional-wrestling-inspired trash talk and threats of presumable violence to insist upon their design skills. But not this time.

For the record, I'll throw my hat in the ring as the token web guy of Indian descent, if only to spare others the embarrassment of being associated with this nutcase.

Deez nuts, indeed.
posted by anildash at 5:22 PM on May 4, 2001

You morons still don't get it, do yas?

We're all hooked on The Daily Report, because Zeldman is always pointing out something cool and useful, and he's always shining a spotlight on someone we would brobably never hear from. {FRAY}(sp?) is another place where the audience takes center stage. Kaliber 10000 is always dropping names of fresh new faces on the scene....

See a pattern forming, kiddies?

You want validation? Recognition? naked girlsA bazillion people linking to you?


You all make me sick. ('cept Webmistress... good seeing you around kiddo!).
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:22 PM on May 4, 2001

I thought I had made it clear that what I was talking about was not constructive criticism. The examples you mentioned are constructive criticism, they are aimed at situations and people who were causing real destruction and real harm.

Harsh Patel's rant, on the other hand, was most definately not constructive criticism, neither are most of the rants that get thrown in the faces of anyone who dares to rise-above in the web design community.
posted by chason at 5:29 PM on May 4, 2001

::: ANIL: For the record, I'll throw my hat in the ring as the token web guy of Indian descent, if only to spare others the embarrassment of being associated with this nutcase. :::

for the record, he's a white boy. it's nom de plume. like roger rabbit or whoopi goldberg. (and if he WERE of indian or pakistani descent, you still wouldn't need to apologize for him.)

i didn't link to or mention him or any other combatants in the article because naming names is just another way of attacking others ("look what this a55h0le said!"). principles before personalities.

that's all.
posted by Zeldman at 6:16 PM on May 4, 2001

"They really don't care and are even annoyed (Yes, annoyed!) that websites support the latest thingy."
I don't think anyone supporting the latest thingy would find anyone annoyed with them - but "supporting" is the wrong word to use here. It implies that a feature is optionally enabled if your browser understands it. ALA say that their site will look like "@#$" in a 4.0 browser (and it does). They "support" the new thingy at the expense of older browsers that are still in widespread use.

The sad thing is that ALA's design is so simple it could be done in Netscape 3 (which is a good thing). They have chosen not to do this. The reason it's not similar in appearance when viewed in Netscape 3 is that they're making a statement about markup language and adherance to standards. Does anyone really think users can understand why every page they now go to is white, black and blue? Should they have to? If you answer yes I think you've long forgotten that users want to use a website. If you think ALA's page looks good in old browsers you're insane - I agree with Zeldman that it looks like "@#$" :)

Like it or not the legacy of old browsers is not the users problem but our problem. It's our job to patch over the holes in Internet Explorer 4 and to provide the best page possible for the user. Columns of text side-by-side and colour provide the user with a much more-usable interface. Remember that all HTML promises to do is degrade - not degrade gracefully. Netscape 2/3/4 and IE3/4 can do columns and BGCOLOR and many interface elements that assist the user if you cater for it. ALA want death to bad browsers which is equates to death to the users of bad browsers (the browsers don't exist on their own, folks).

Designers went too far, sure - but now programmers are leading a righteous quest for standards (point at the w3c -- "follow me to freedom!"). Provided the user has a choice it's an excellent goal. The user was told they should change to suit designer's wants - now it's that the user should change to suit the programmers wants. In both cases it's the user that's the forgotten element.
I'm sure his "irrelevance" is why he continues to be invited to speak at almost all of the major industry conferences, year after year.
I'm equally sure it was his "irrelevance" that got him his book publishing deal.
And the writing gigs for Adobe. And PDN-Pix. And Macworld. And Crain's.
Dvorak gets invited to do all those things too, what's your point?
No. What's really irrelevant is the self-righteous donkey-like braying of a small subset of people who would rather attack the man himself than his ideas.
Idiot. I do attack (good choice of word, btw) his ideas. Read on if you'd like - then again it appears you'd just like to group me with whatever detractor you fancy.
posted by holloway at 6:51 PM on May 4, 2001


Your right. I should have written that whole post much more clearly. Poorly written sarcasm is the worst thing.

I was just trying to point out that most people get annoyed being forced to download something like the latest browser just to see your page.

That the whole 'no one cares about web design' is endemic of those that see the internet as only a source of content. That to them design beyond organization equals obfuscation. Much to that chagrin of those trying to do something other then post research papers on the internet.

That even those that decide to download the latest version now complain about increased instability.

That people like to find problems in things and we should make like ducks.
posted by john at 8:24 PM on May 4, 2001

HOLLOWAY: You've already made this point in this thread, and you've already linked to http://holloway.co.nz/book/8 in this thread. If it pleases you, you can keep making that point and linking to that essay indefinitely. But this thread is not about those things.

This thread is about an ALA article called CIRCLE JERKS. You seem to feel that this thread is about me, or about things I have done that you dislike. The thread is not about me or things I've done that you dislike. This thread is about an article. That's all it's about.

It's not about WaSP, it's not about ALA, it's not about CSS, it's not about paraphrasing comments I might have made to you in a email six months ago, it's not about BGCOLOR, it's not about whether you feel I'm "irrellevant" (sp.) or not, it's not about how much money I may or may not make as a designer or consultant, it's not about why people read DAILY REPORT or don't, it's not about painful rectal itching.

At this point it's about nothing, in part because several people have chosen to talk about everything EXCEPT the actual point of the thread, which was an article that had nothing to do with anything you're talking about.

If you really want to complain about ALA's CSS design or the WaSP's strategies, why not start a thread on those subjects instead of raising them in this thread? Personally I think those subjects are played out as a MEFI discussion topic, but don't let that stop you.
posted by Zeldman at 8:31 PM on May 4, 2001

let me do it this time. the essay.

and let's not forget these -

with a a link link here, and a link link there, here a link, there a link........

everywhere a link link.

we get it.
posted by the webmistress at 8:56 PM on May 4, 2001

Oh dear Zeldman, this thread isn't about WaSP/ALA/CSS? Really?

This thread is about an article you wrote in response to attacks on your webdesigning skills. I say commenting on the validity of those attacks is ontopic.

My comments so far have been responses to other posters, except the first, which was strictly about your article.

Though I'm a little suspicious when a player shrieks about offtopic posts. Hmmm...
posted by holloway at 9:40 PM on May 4, 2001

holloway: jeffrey wasn't responding to attacks about his webdesigning skills. he has just said so. as he's the author, he should be pretty much in the know about what the article was about. given that jeffrey is pretty much the most honest person i know, why do you continue to assume that he's in denial about what he was writing about?
posted by heather at 10:30 PM on May 4, 2001

Why do you continue to assume that he's in denial about what he was writing about?
I don't believe he's completely talking about general principles, if that's what you mean. The article was specific in it being a reaction to fights within the webdesign community:
"RECENTLY, ON SEVERAL well-known community and personal sites, familiar cries were heard: "A is a sellout. B, C, and D are much better than X, Y, and Z. N, O, and P are overrated, back-scratching link whores."
posted by holloway at 11:04 PM on May 4, 2001

Whatever... if Zeldman's audience is anything like mine (also nearly 100% webdesigners) he can ignore 3.0. you have to design for *your* audience, not the general web audience.

I do morn the loss of his link to the text version of the articles-- it was great for mailing articles to friends.

and finally-- one more time-- who are those "Two years later, four writer-designers received praise for pioneering the personal storytelling site as a valid art form. " and why was it okay to name Lynda and David seigal's names, but not theirs? I still don't understand it... stories are more powerful when you add grounding elements. To show that the problems were the same but only the player have changed would be interesting... also naming the circles that were condemning them would be interesting.

it's like: look, this has happened again and again, and it will again unless you choose to ignore it.
posted by christina at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2001

Derek, Maggy, Alex and Lance.
posted by gsh at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2001

Ah.. most of who I expected from the hints in the article. i still don't know why zeldman was so coy about it. but thanks!
posted by christina at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2001

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the ALA article dense and impenetrable. The only thing I got from it was a feeling that not only am I out of the loop, I don't know where the loop is.

I'm sorry that Zeldman is getting attacked. I don't agree with everything he says about web design, but I appreciate the time and effort he's put into sharing what he's learned. The articles about the recent ALA redesign were an incredible help to me on a project at work and got me up to speed with an aspect of style sheets I had kind of ignored. So all due props to Zeldman for his commitment to sharing knowledge. But I was sorry to see this particular article, because it was written in such a way that if you don't know what it's about already, you won't, and given the subject matter, I don't think it's really worth the time to figure out.
posted by geneablogy at 10:13 AM on May 5, 2001

A List Apart has often covered issues concerning Web culture, in particular the Survivor article was appreciated by many who were directly affected by the dot-com crisis.

The circle jerk syndrome obviously ripples across many overlapping web communities, giving some degree of relevance to this piece across the great divide :-). Although the old adage remains true that you can't please all of the people all of the time. It certainly depends on your perspective...and if you strictly go to ALA for the nuts-and-bolts, no doubt there will be plenty more of that, too.


FWIW, Christina...you can still email the articles if you save them as ASCII text from your web browser.
posted by webchick at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2001

webchick, I know that ALA covers web culture, and I don't have a problem with that; I don't just visit the site for nuts-and-bolts. The problem I have with this particular article is that it is completely opaque unless you're already acquainted with the people in question, or if perhaps you've stumbled on this MeFi thread.

Zeldman makes the point in the article that someone being attacked is damned if he does reply and damned if he doesn't. The problem is that by counter-attacking, even in such an oblique manner, he brings the original attacks to much greater attention than he would if he had ignored them, and by doing so, does himself no favors. In stooping to participate, he diminishes himself. In a pissing match, everyone gets wet.

I suspect that six months from now, Zeldman will regret having published the article. I also suspect that, being a man of integrity, he'll keep it up on the site.
posted by geneablogy at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2001

Interesting points, geneablogy...

I suspect that zeldman was troubled by more than just the one incident in question, and that's why he published the piece despite the opaque references. For instance, one of the four designers mentioned in this thread kinda got raked over the coals here recently for simply getting nominated for a Webby.

This, of course, is just my perspective.


>this particular article is that it is completely opaque
>unless you're already acquainted with the people in
>question, or if perhaps you've stumbled on this MeFi

...if I had a nickel for how many sites (or blogs) this statement applies to, I would be a very wealthy chick indeed. :-)
posted by webchick at 1:30 PM on May 5, 2001

There is a big difference between a site and a blog, though. ALA is suppose to be a site for a wide audience-- web designers/builders/masters. This audience is incredibly diverse, and made up of dozens and dozens of mini-communities each with their own a-list.

A blog is made for one person (the blogger) and whoever wished to be a voyeur. Occasionally a blog is made for a select group of folks; xblog is obviously for a similarly wide audience as the ALA audience, webword is for usability professionals. But in general a site is supposed to be less insular and more inclusive than a blog.


Zeldman's story had a good point to make, but I think it was diluted by the "in-crowd"/"a-list" quality. Better to tell the simple tale of the humans who lived the story, and let the message come through that.

And who is being mean to Derek! I'll go beat them up. I've never met a sweeter fellow.
posted by christina at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2001

I've been reading this thread with interest and have allowed this whole story to juggle around in my mind. Finally I have reached my own conclusion.

People are, quite simply, jealous of others. It's not just about 'viewpoints' or 'ideas'.. but people are jealous of the status that others hold. Or, perhaps, not jealous exactly, but envious of opportunities that they have missed themselves.

For example, I am a little envious of Jakob Neilsen. I'm not envious of his money, his rates or his client list, as money is not considerably important to me personally. However, I am envious that he made extremely wise marketing decisions and has gone on to become a major 'guru' in an area where I hold a lot of professional and personal experience.. whereas I am an unknown.

So.. it's not about being envious of celebrity or money, per se, but being envious of the success of others which you could have had for yourself. Selfish, but true.
posted by wackybrit at 7:03 PM on May 5, 2001

More accurately, people are often jealous of the perceived status and acclaim of others - grass being greener, etc. and fail to realize that (especially where the Internet is concerned) fame and status are relative to the point of non-existence.
posted by gsh at 7:58 PM on May 5, 2001

Well said, wackybrit and gsh, and thanks everyone for the comments.

In writing the article, I feared that LINKS to the various flame wars would reignite those now-dying flames, thus doing harm instead of good.

For instance, some readers might become incensed and start flaming the flamers. ("I missed this when it broke last week, but how DARE you say Soandso sucks? Let me tell you, YOUR site sucks!")

Other readers might find the attacks persuasive. ("Hmmm ... 600K of text, all saying these guys are sellouts. They MUST be sellouts.")

I now understand that, without those specifics, some readers might have felt a bit lost. But if I *had* provided the specifics, I'm certain it would have rekindled the flames -- and that would be unacceptable.

My intention was *not* to make sly in-crowd references or play coy; my intention was to protect people who had already suffered enough. (And maybe even protect people who had flamed in haste and now regretted their bitter words.)

Even with those "famous" four, why rekindle hurt feelings by being explicit? Particularly when, as Webchick mentioned, a week ago one of the four got a Webbie nomination -- and instead of being congratulated, he was told his site was past its prime. That might not have been INTENDED to wound, but how could it NOT hurt?

So I avoided linking to the personalities and flame fests in question, figuring that the subject could be discussed at a level of gentle abstraction without confusing anyone. Apparently that wasn't true for every reader, but like everything else, you make decisions based on intuition and guesswork and hope for the best.
posted by Zeldman at 1:08 AM on May 6, 2001

Well, fwiw... I thought it was a good call not naming names. It made the story more relatable, as I could think of a ton of people and sites that this applied to.

And well, like Uncle Joe's topic here, yeah... I was at least three of those cases mentioned (or at least felt it applied to me).

Thanx JZ!

(...now if only I can get "You're so vain" outta my head... damn you, Utsler!) ;0)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 6:39 AM on May 6, 2001

So-- I suppose this is off-topic and deserves to be a new one but I don't have those privileges yet
--but why are designers at war with everyone? Seems like I've read articles about their wars with engineering, with IA, with marketing... are they just a particularly cantankerous bunch?
posted by christina at 9:29 AM on May 6, 2001

why are designers at war with everyone? Seems like I've read articles about their wars with engineering, with IA, with marketing... are they just a particularly cantankerous bunch?

No, it's just that they are out to create Art, and they resent being told what to do by philistines. Or, put slightly more reasonably, the suggestions from others offend their aesthetic sensibilities.

It's not unique to designers. Engineers resent marketing for much the same reason. In fact, pretty much everyone except marketing resents marketing, and vice versa.
posted by kindall at 12:00 PM on May 6, 2001

Whenever ideologies collide there is bound to be some flak and bruised egos. This reminds me of what is going on with X3D.

There are highly intelligent folks on boths sides. They both have good ideas, but they come at each other from different directions.

So you ask why isn't the internet big enough that both could coexist? It is a matter of what gets implemented in the standard spec.

If it was just that, it would be difficult, but solvable. I'm not as familiar with the web design stuff, but there is a whole lot of political squabbling in the Web3D consortium about the role of the consortium.

It all leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I know more about it then I care to.
posted by john at 3:08 PM on May 6, 2001

Christina, right after I read your question above, I picked up my copy of Wurman's Information Anxiety 2 to pick up reading where I left off, and was greeted by the following text:

Despite the critical role that graphic designers play in the delivery of information, most of the curriculum in design schools is concerned with teaching students how to make things look good. This is later reinforced by the profession, which bestows awards primarily for appearance rather than for understandability or accuracy. There aren't any Oscars, Emmys, or Tonys for making graphics comprehensible. The departments of graphic design that offer valid courses on information architecture and information design are practically nonexistent. Recently, some lip service has been given, but the efforts and results have been shallow. The various books that have been produced on graphic diagrams have been devoted almost exclusively to the aesthetic of the beautiful diagram, the beautiful map and chart -- not their performance, nor their system, and not the analysis and criticism of their performance.

I've rarely seen a better explanation of the reasons why I get so frustrated when dealing with my graphic designer friends. I've complained long and loud for many years to anyone who will listen (most of whom are pretty tired of this rant by now) that artists are more interested in impressing each other than in creating materials that promote communication. They're not all that way, and I've found some that I can work with who understand by now that I'm going to push them in a certain direction, but enough of them are that Wurman's word really ring true to me.

posted by geneablogy at 6:19 PM on May 6, 2001

I just can't help but think of what we call "le culte des apparences" (the worship of appearance) when I read the text you quoted.

Getting really off-topic here, but this whole "appearance" and "impress" thing is simply an illness of our culture.
posted by Tara at 4:42 AM on May 7, 2001

And here I thought I was one of the "four".

Damn my low profile.
posted by dangerman at 8:32 AM on May 7, 2001

Apocalypse, yes. This particular story... no.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 8:36 AM on May 7, 2001

::: Apocalypse, yes. This particular story... no.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 8:36 AM PST on May 7 :::

Joe, you've gotta lay off the nitrous now.
posted by Zeldman at 9:00 AM on May 7, 2001

But he's sooooo boring without the nitrous.
posted by dangerman at 9:06 AM on May 7, 2001

...And the fucked up thing is, huffing butane makes my ass get really hot...
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2001

Still can't post to the front page, and found this delicious article on beauty:

Is looking pretty the new taboo?

"Women in the trenches of tech do seem to agree on one thing: If you dress too nicely, you might become the object of suspicion. Jan explains, "The closer you are to the technology, the more important you are and the more status you have. The farther away, that is to say, if you're in human resources — which is 90 percent women — the less power and status you have. And the farther away women are from the technology, the more gorgeously they dress."

Interesting quote-- too bad the tone of the article is "how tragic we can't look cute anymore!"
posted by christina at 11:31 AM on May 7, 2001

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