Crusade for Class Acts on the Web
Gloriana’s highly opinionated and slightly wry views on netiquette and internet addiction
Note to my readers: This essay was composed in 1996, and there have been massive changes on the Internet since then (which had adverse affect on my business, I might add.) At the time, there was much emphasis on beautiful music and graphics - and most of us still had to hand code in HTML. No one would have thought it 'against' a designer for having varied backgrounds, and it would have been unthinkable for anyone to have 'display graphics images' turned off. But it equally was a time when people were becoming instant designers following a tutorial, and the results tended to be comic.
I have left this page intact, rather for nostalgia for the 'old days,' even if the idea of 'class' on a site is rather different today. I still love the graphics and music...
Your personal Web siteSpecial notes for commercial sites!
Please do not begin your page by telling your readers how dreadful it is. The essence of education is leading others to use their own reasoning, and be assured that they shall shortly discover the fact you happily neglected to mention. Remember, once upon a time, when every personal letter seemed to begin with the inane words: “Just a short note to tell you...”. Recall that, as we near the third millennium, the new inanity is, “Hi, my name is Jay. I am nineteen, 5’6”, blonde hair...” Come, now, there must be things on your mind more important than that! If what was referenced in the previous paragraph truly is the most important thing on your mind, please do not compose a Web page until you find a topic more fascinating. (Yes, I know that such a page is exactly what one would produce using the template that came with your "intro to HTML" program...) Much as it grieves me to tell you this, your personal details probably are not a hot topic on the international market. A web site devoted to these will only cause grief to those who, while doing a net search for “Milton”, find their screens filled with pages composed by those who enjoy Milton Bradley games or have their drinks at Milton’s Place. A few personal details are a nice touch, provided that you are referring to interests. My own scanty details exist mainly to allow links to sites on the topics that interest me. However, remember that anyone who really wants to know more about you is always free to send an E-mail. (Now, think a moment - has anyone ever done that? Tells you something, doesn’t it?) Any page that has the flavour of “I'm Alice Goodytwoshoes, and I've always been the smartest girl in my class”, or "I'm Joe Cool, and I'm a real hunk", will be interesting only to its author. Your family album will at least have six people interested (if both sets of grandparents are alive.) If the main point of your page is “hire me” or “marry me”... at least word it discreetly. Being more lenient than many, I shall permit you to place an “under construction” sign towards the end of your page, provided that the message is that more material is shortly forthcoming. However, I shall share a message that everyone who has ever written a doctoral dissertation painfully comes to learn: nothing is ever complete. I love animated GIF files just as much as you do - but use them sparingly! They take forever to download, and have a way of making it impossible to easily access your links. If someone would need a special plug-in to view a file, don't place it on the main page of your site. I love Flash as much as you do - but that, along with a few other Internet pleasures, is best viewed by the initiate. Warn the reader - many people will "leave" immediately if they receive a message "get the plug in." Inappropriate though they would be for my site, I, too, enjoy psychedelic backgrounds. However, innate candour forces me to admit that they make the text impossible to read. Humour is a wonderful area to pursue, and I spend many a late night using search engines to find jokes. But please do not include any of the stale jokes about Bill Gates at the pearly gates or the Sisters of Mercy house of prostitution! Three million copies of those jokes are quite enough for one Web. The English language is extremely rich, and you will find perhaps 100,000 words in any unabridged dictionary. Ire need not be expressed by references to the excretory system. (Many of your readers will be of a generation when a certain word that now is used to express the idea that something is unpleasant or poor was absolutely unprintable.) Express any views you wish as long as you do not speak with scorn or hatred of those who disagree. But do not be apologetic about having views others may not share! Any mature individual respects others’ points of view. Those who do not are not worth worrying about. Half a million pages feature Web Wizard's favourite links. Find some favourites of your own. It really is annoying to find what appears to be a search of the site... and ends up being a link to Yahoo. Word things clearly. (Personally, I don't know why any page really needs to be linked to the major search engines ... everyone already uses them!) I know that there is a theory that creating "small pages that load really fast" (as one of my critics put it) are best. I disagree. I really dislike accessing sites where several of the pages say "now click here", or words to that effect, and nothing else! I'd far rather have a page take a minute to load than to spend far longer watching the interminable "contacting host...". Think of whatever topics are most “popular” now. Then discard them as ideas for your site because, much as no one cares to admit this, they are the most overworked, boring topics on record. We all know that you know how to use . Please do not demonstrate this facility. Unless you are genuinely proficient in Java, please refrain from practising on line. Have you had nightmares about being trapped in a cell and unable to find your way out? This is the direct result of spending too much time in frames. I am extremely proud of my awards, too. Nonetheless, considering the time it takes for these graphics to download, be merciful and place them on a separate page, to be accessed only by those sincerely interested. (The only reason others look at awards pages is to see where they can apply for some for their own site.) Speaking of awards... please don't subject your readers to waiting ten minutes for your page to download, only to find that it contains a photo of your current love, suitable for framing. There is a new theory now that the page which downloads fastest is the winner - that graphics should be avoided, backgrounds white, text black. This may hold if you are writing instructions for how to install a modem. Otherwise, don't sacrifice the beauty. (You don't need the award from the people who base their criteria on speed alone.) If you have nothing more to say on a topic, and no personal interpretation, beyond what someone else already created, add a link, not a paraphrase.... but there is little more irritating than a site that contains only links. Place the counter at the bottom of the page. Some counters take forever to load, then register "busy". Meanwhile, the reader has hit the Stop button and begun searching another site. No one really cares where he has stood in the line for the honour of perusing your site. One last word on counters - don't be cute! Be clever, by all means, but don't say that "Mr Counter says that..." It makes one think that you place "Mr Black Dot" at the end of your sentences.Guest books If you will not be able to update the information regularly, please do not include pages that are useless without regular updates! It will not inspire your customers' confidence when the site they load for product information was last updated two years ago. Shopping online can be wonderful ... However, this is not universal! Don't provide "shopping carts" unless you can guarantee service. Never inform your customers of the new online site if all they will find there is a main page that links to other pages that bear construction signs only! A useless site is worse than none at all. If a customer telephones your business, do not ask that they Email you instead (especially if they are already aware that you have an Internet presence.) Rather than advertising your high-tech profile, such comments give the impression that you want to quickly end the call and have more important things to do than talk to your customers ... and there are times when it is better to be prudent than that truthful. If your site requires a password, do not require it be exactly this-many-letters, that it be the first five letters of one's mother's name in all uppercase (when the site says only to enter your mother's maiden name), nor that it contain numbers, etc. It eventually becomes very irritating to have to remember fifteen different passwords because of all these sites that have such stipulations. Don't promise more than you can deliver - it only will lead to unhappy (former) customers. Someone may be willing to wait four weeks for a custom item ... but will not return if the site promised all deliveries in four days. If a customer reports that his password is being rejected, do not launch into "it shouldn't be your telephone number or anything someone could guess." Your answer has nothing to do with his question ... and, since the Internet began, it is far more likely he can remember his password than his telephone number. Always include a telephone number on sites that allow online shopping. It does not inspire confidence when a business seems to exist only on a web site ... even when that is the case. Since I myself am a professional web designer, please remember, customers all, that preparing web sites is an enormous amount of work - and do not, therefore, expect them to come free. However, consider as well that we must, in the long run, give our customers what they want. Do not assume an internet designer is "off to the pictures" because of graphics or formats that do not seem appropriate to the business of the site owner ... the requests I have had as an internet designer nearly rival those I had as a church musician, when I had to remind people, gently, that Come Back to Erin, Mavaurneen, was not liturgically correct...Mailing Lists Yes, we all know the primary reason that readers sign them.... but the owner of the site is looking for affirmation, enjoyment, or suggestions for improvements when he reads your entries. (That last does not include such comments as "your page is ****"). Please make some friendly or helpful comment before proceeding to add the link to your own site. Leaving obscene, cruel, or disgusting comments tells the entire Internet community that you are a horse's ass. Don't be hurt when only 1% of your readers accept your invitation to sign. Some guest book servers allow those attempting to sign to read “Paradise Lost”, place four coats of lacquer on their fingernails, and drink two pots of Earl Grey before the page loads. You may wonder why I no longer have a guestbook - or if you should have one. I noticed that, for every useful or pleasant comment listed, there were ten repetitive and irritating ones. It became a waste of time. Also, there are software companies that sell security products who use the Email addresses in guest books to frighten potential customers with direct mail reading, "Were you aware your personal details were available on the Internet...?"Miscellaneous - Amazon.com reviews Trust me - people who join a mailing list genuinely want to discuss the list's topic. Consider their emphasis. Those who subscribe to a list about television comedy want to have relaxation and entertainment, not hear about breast cancer awareness. Those on Shakespeare lists are not interested in your thoughts about whether you and your boyfriend should live together. Unless the list is a “support group” (and many fine ones are), spare the other readers your tales of woe. You are not the list's topic of discussion. Never, never, never post that absurd urban legend about the Neiman Marcus cookies! (Yes, even though the recipe is excellent.) Should you join a list that is a support group, respect that, in revealing details of their personal problems, the writers are becoming very vulnerable. Read the message, in full, before you respond. Otherwise, you will find yourself telling a battered wife to join an exercise class - someone who has severe depression that you don't let things bother you - someone whose child just died that he needs to have a physical exam - someone in severe financial difficulties that you have an herbal cure. If your intention is to be a pest or create trouble, you are far too immature for discussion lists - and that holds even if you are 94. Spare the other members the costs of downloading annoying messages that they will only delete. Amateur psychology is boring, irritating, and dangerous. Don't look for reasons to ask others on the list whether they had conflicts with their mothers just because they express a negative opinion about a writer who happens to be female. No one forced you to join a mailing list! You are free to unsubscribe. It is not at all funny or original to make comments such as “doesn’t anyone else out there have to earn a living?” on a high volume list. (That line shows a depth of intelligence and creativity equivalent to that of one who says, “Hot enough for you?”, or tells someone with a hacking cough, “You sound good.”)Signs of internet addiction Those reading customer reviews at sites such as Amazon.com genuinely wish to know others' impressions of books they wish to buy. Do not include a personal review if all you have to say is "I couldn't put it down" - or see another's review as a personal affront to you if he did not like a book that you want to say "changed your life" (...lots of that lately - sigh) - or resent a review's mentioning the author's previous work. This will lead only to genuinely interested customers' having to scroll through nonsense before reading anything of substance. Whether you found a review useful is a valuable notation if reading the review prompted you to wish to buy the book (or not). "Useful" does not mean "they agree with me about books I've already read." Treat of theme, plot, characterisation, whatever - but the interest a book generates should be based on its content, not on whether your reading group (or Oprah) selected it. No one cares, reading a VHS review, that "she's my favourite actress". Write about the film!
Yes, I too am a member of this set. I knew this, without qualification, when I dreamt that my cat crept out from under a chair, followed by elves and tiny blue unicorns. I awakened wondering how I would explain their presence to the neighbours... what I would feed them... whether I would be liable if the elves stole someone's television set.
As another proud internet addict, I know of only one solution. Spend at least one night each week at the library... making notes for topics to add to your Web site.Woes of an Internet designer
You are looking at a beautiful painting in an art museum... and your right hand automatically reaches for an invisible mouse. You have dreams of futile net searches or of images that are exact duplicates of a freeware game. You write a letter of gratitude or condolence, and find you've listed your URL and e-mail address under your signature. You are watching a video, and find yourself thinking of “adjust colour balance.” (Photoimpact is also addictive.) You are driving through a busy intersection, thinking of new links to add to your site. You find 370 messages in your Email box, and cannot remember which are from which list. You spend three hours "surfing", just looking for where you can apply for new awards. Your mind wanders, during a concert or church service, to what new MIDI files you can place on your pages. You become angry when you download a program that ends up being shareware, though you've warned others for years that there is “no such thing as a free lunch.” Your mind is weaving Java programs when you are supposed to be preparing financial statements. Your keyboard is loaded with crumbs and coffee stains, because you now take your meals in front of the monitor. You are writing a letter or report on your word processor, and end every paragraph with a P enclosed in brackets. Your site receives an award, and you have a choice of four graphics to advertise the fact. You download and post all four, hoping no one notices that they all are links to the same site. On top of all the other components of your mid-life crisis, you feel despondent that, having used search engines day and night, you cannot find any topic that another member of the Internet community (population: ten million or so) hasn't already discussed.
In my younger days, when I was quite a promising musician, I was to find that people assumed that music was a "hobby" ("you get paid for doing that?"); that no hard work was involved ("other people have to work, and you have pleasures like singing"); that music was a lark to study ("oh, you're taking all easy subjects - I used to take those courses just for entertainment.") I also was distressed to find that anyone who had sung a solo at age six or had six weeks of piano lessons called himself a "musician" or "singer." The only benefit which I received from this repartee (deep sigh!) was that it prepared me for similar comments regarding Internet design. On behalf of the rest of us in this predicament, may I remind visitors of the following:
Internet design is a business. Presumably you would not ask one whose field was medicine, law, or accountancy to do uncompensated work for you. We do it for one reason: to earn a living. When one has the lengthy drudgery of passing Novell exams, working till the wee hours on sites, even trying to understand certain vendors' help files - one is not exactly heartened when others say, when hearing one is a web designer, "so am I" - unless, of course, it is true. (You are not a musician because you can play Over the Waves on the triangle.) Do not write to Internet designers with such gems as "I want to design my own site and thought you could tell me how," or "of course, I could not afford to pay you." There certainly are worse jobs one can have (and I've had many of them), and many of us have one of those along with our design business. But when my eyes are strained and my hands cramped from the mouse, the last thing I find appealing is anyone's saying it's nice that I have the business because it "gives you something to do." (Does the content of my site make it appear I do nothing?) That someone has prepared sites for educational or religious groups, or for professional organisations, does not mean that she cannot design sites for people who wish to make money! (I've found that, if one has designed a religious site, it is immediately assumed that it is the only site one has ever done.... though other church's assuming this also means sites will be "donated" is far worse.) The theft of intellectual property and of graphics is the same as any other stealing. If there are essays on someone's site, as there are on mine, please do not ask where we found them... or who wrote them. For heaven's sake, don't send mass e-mail that speaks of how you'll "save someone the price of expensive web designers" without weeding out those of us who are in that category.
© 1996-2000 by Elizabeth G. Melillo, Ph.D.
"All that is not eternal is eternally out of date." - C.S. Lewis