waz on 9 Jan 2001 01:33:41 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Disassociate Webdesign from Usability

> So, at the moment, we are confronted with the sad choice between innovative
> sites with a dull interface and nice-looking sites with a conservative
> information structure...

Yeah. I read this book the other day. It was a great book, but the
layout was so *damn* dull. Just a bunch of words on a page. Such a
shame. Totally ruined the whole thing. Hello?

I've already done this rant properly elsewhere, on the other list I lurk
on and can't be arsed to do it all again (for those that don't know, the
Web Accessibility Initiative, or WAI, is the branch of the W3C committed
to making the web accessible to everyone regardless of bandwidth or
physical constraint - my connection there is that through work I wrote
some accessibility related software):


Yeah, it's all a bit more polite over there (you've got to be po-faced
and sensible in the WAI crowd and rightly so - that's the shape of that
community) but this is nettime, where I at least like to *think* I can
say fuck if I want to... 

So can someone please tell me just what the *fuck* is so boring about
text all of a sudden?

Why does the web make a bunch of otherwise intelligent people who like
reading say stuff like 'reading is boring' and 'text is dull'? In the
last little while I have read a number of extremely good stories, all on
the web. I haven't seen a single Flash movie that I can actually

Ok, that's a lie. There's one. That one with the Voynich manuscript
lettering. You've probably seen it, and if not it's linked to here:


But I defy you to like it *properly* without reading some of the other
*texts* linked to from the same page. And then, when you look at the
Flash again, you realise how thin it is. Two minutes and fzzt.

Unlike the rest of the story of the Voynich manuscript, which is a
serious major-league real-life science-fantasy *thing*, whatever the
mystery behind it all turns out to be - a mystery which is ongoing and
real time and which may be solved someday but hasn't been yet. Compare
the Flash movie to the scans of the original manuscript; wade a little
through the (highly technical) work of the people trying to decipher the
thing... you can't tell me that the movie is anything more than an
interesting side-note to the main story - an utterly exquisite
several-hundred-year old document that no-one can decipher, but which
touches on astrology, magick, herb-lore and which *may have originally
been a several hundred-year old hoax anyway*.

I know there's lots of people who have mortgaged their lives to
'innovative' sites, learning Flash, and churning out stuff that crashes
a lot of people's browsers (that's without a *deliberate* buffer overrun
in case anyone is actually paying attention), and I feel sorry for you
guys, because you are largely sacrificing quality for 'innovation', even
if you have worked out that less people are rude to you about it all if
you include a 'Skip This Crap' button. (Sorry. I meant 'Skip Intro.'
Really I did.)

You can't tell me there's a single Flash movie anywhere that's been as
moving as, say, playing Quake for the first time (when the last 3d game
you played was J K Greye's 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81, in 1982), or as,
say, finding a writer who *really* touches you. Or like 'My Boyfriend
Came Back From The War.' (So it used frames. I don't care. I cried. It
was the first web page to properly move me. Sue me.)

I know it's all subjective. And my subjective opinion is that the main
problem with the web is that people are too damn busy being successfully
shafted by marketing departments into creating rotating chrome teapots
that please guys in suits with money, that they forget the ancient and
noble art of writing and arranging text, maybe with a little graphics
thrown in (think illuminated manuscripts), but primarily allowing the
text the be the thing and giving the reader some imaginative space in
which to comprehend it all their way. And maybe, with luck, and if it's
any good, like it.

Oh, and that bandwidth problem - you know - the one that means that in
practice you don't *actually* get to download all the latest movies and
music for free... that doesn't apply to text. That's because text is the
underlying infrastructure of the web, and multimedia isn't. Sorry. Maybe
they will magically rip out all those copper cables and replace them
with better ones tomorrow, but I think we might have to wait a while.
You've got ISDN? Good for you. Most people on the planet don't have a
phone yet.

You want to impress me with multimedia? Please do. Make something
impressive. Like a film, or an installation, or something that actually
uses the online medium *as it is*, not as the marketing prats would have
you believe it is.

Or, take the time to work out what is actually going on with the
technology we have now, work out who you do want to talk to, and do it.
But if you're using Flash, you are basically saying that you're only
interested in talking to rich people that bought their computer
yesterday, who can see and can hear and who will maybe give you a nice
cushy gig advertising Nike or Snickers or CCTV cameras or something.
Fine, if that's what you want to do, but please don't expect me to like
it. Or be nice about it.

Net.art (or net.ars, to be pronounced as you will) hasn't even begun to
think about accessibility yet, which is a shame, because a) it ought to,
and b) the best stuff is always the stuff that works on everyone's
machine. Flash doesn't. Full stop. It is an attempt to hijack the open
and free technology of the web for the benefit of a single company.

Like Macromedia but hate Microsoft? There's a contradiction in there
somewhere, surely... no? Whatever. I'd tell you to read the history of
the web - read some of that oh-so-dull text by tbl on the w3.org site -
but I guess you're just waiting for the Flash movie version. (Don't hold
your breath). Too bad you won't be able to bookmark the pages you like
in the Flash version (or show your blind friend... or get enough
information to actually understand what the hell is going on...)

Dammit. This is a medium where you *know* you have no control over the
way your work is rendered at the other end (or you know nothing). So the
good artists code in the middle, for everything; code that degrades
gracefully, that maybe does one thing on a high-end system and another
thing on a low-end system, but which still works on both *and* which
works for a blind person using assistive technology, and which doesn't
take three days of installing broken-at-the-design-level plugins.


http://www.waz.easynet.co.uk/ <- just a bunch of text, really, but it's
actually largely crap, so don't take this as an example or anything...
go read mez, nn, heath bunting or someone else good if you want an

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