Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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Apparently, I suck at this whole blogging thing.

October 17th, 2005 · No Comments · Misc., Rants, Technology

So-called “usability curmudgeon” Jakob Nielsen offers his “Top Ten Design Mistakes” for weblogs. Let’s see how I hold up:

1. No Author Biographies

Swing and a miss. I used to have one - many moons ago - but it was entirely sarcastic. I suppose a brief bio doesn’t hurt, but I really hate masturbatory, navel-gazing nonsense. Honestly, would knowing I’m a non-voting felon who lives in an underground complex made from gutted schoolbuses I buried in a field REALLY make you trust me more?

2. No Author Photo

Strike two.

3. Nondescript Posting Titles

Aaaaand three. This one’s actually a very legitimate complaint. Especially knowing that most folks hit me via RSS these days, I probably SHOULD work on having slightly better titles.

4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go

I don’t obfuscate link names, so if people can’t be bothered to look at their status bar before clicking, I say fuck ‘em.

5. Classic Hits are Buried

Ha! I don’t HAVE any classic hits!

6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation

I’m good there.

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency

I consider “whenever the hell I feel like it” to be sufficiently regular.

8. Mixing Topics

This is only a problem if you run an essentially one-topic blog and suddenly run off the rails discussing how many times you walked your dog last week. Overall, I think diversification is a strength, not a hindrance.

9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss

This is excellent advice. Honestly, every other thing on this list is just minor griping, but the number of people who post stuff that would be utterly damning if a future (or current) employer saw it is STAGGERING. If you hate your boss or spend your time posting your resume online from work or snuck out an hour early last friday or have been having an affair with the girl in the mail room or are considering quitting your job with no notice to go work for a competitor, posting about it online is ABSOLUTELY RETARDED.

You think your page-long rants on LiveJournal won’t make it into the hands of the person most likely to react badly to them? THINK AGAIN. Anonymity is a joke. Everything you’ve ever written is backed-up, spidered, archived, cached and just WAITING to bite you in the ass.

Google isn’t part of the ‘Net anymore, the ‘Net is part of Google. Its caches of data outstrip the entire scope of the Internet by numerous orders of magnitude. That information will exist forever and will only become EASIER to dig through as we move forward.

I’d go even further and say that you shouldn’t post ANYTHING online that you don’t want the following people to see:

- Your family
- Your significant other
- Your future spouse
- Your friends
- Your boss
- Your children and EVERY OTHER DECENDENT YOU’LL EVER HAVE (”Mommy, why did great-great-great-grandmother Tootsie have group sex with a Belgian hockey team 150 years ago?”)
- The police
- Corporate lawyers

Every time you post, run through that list in your head and ask yourself if you’d be willing to print the post out and hand it directly to each of those people. Will your next employer worry about your work ethic because they noticed that you have a mess of posts about all the non-work stuff you do to stay occupied during the day? Will your next lover kick you to the curb when they find out that you’re a clingy, emotional train-wreck who falls in and out of love more often than most people change their socks? Will you be able to exert any real authority over your kids if they can go back and read about all the times you got shit-faced at a goth club in highschool or smoked pot with your friends or shoplifted from Hot Topic because you just HAD to have a “Vote For Pedro” babydoll t-shirt?

Your actions online have a long - bordering on PERMANENT - shadow. Time will pass, memories will fade and PEOPLE will forget - but there’s a massive array of RAID systems humming away in a dark room somewhere that will never forget any of the petty, irresponsible, mean, unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate things you’ve chosen to throw out into the digital ether.

10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

I get a pass here as well, but I think comdemning the use of Weblog services is going to prove to be an flawed opinion.

For years, it was considered bad form to have a hotmail account or a geocities webpage or to show a willingness to use any of the equivilent “freebie” services out there, but Google has really changed that. Most savvy folks I know have a gmail account and more and more of them are using those as their primary addresses. Google hasn’t done much with Blogger yet, but it’s a stone-cold LOCK that they will eventually and when they do, the addition of gmail-quality features will be VERY attractive - even to “power users.”

As it stands, I like the flexibility of hosting and maintaining my own blog, but that also means fighting a never-ending battle against comment spam, trackback spam, exploits and more. Not having to worry about upgrading every six months, migrating archives from package to package, fussing with patches and security and so forth are EXACTLY the sorts of features that will be able to convince the “geek elite” to switch.

That said, it’s important to ALWAYS read the EULA on ANY publishing service you use. There will come a time when a line or two about the publisher “sharing rights” to all material published via there service will mean that the next LiveJournal or MySpace or what have you will be able to cull all SORTS of information from their users and repackage that however they see fit. While this will (obviously) be a huge deal in terms of copyright and ownership, it will ALSO be a big problem for anyone who forgot to pay attention to #9 and - as a result - now has their nefarious exploits laid out in a coffee-table book about closet trannies who cheat on their spouses with hermaphrodite Matchbox car fetishists. And someone just bought that book for their mother for Christmas.

Ah, the FUTURE.

So I wind up 50/50 on this list. Of the topics I consider to be valid, I only screwed up on one.

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