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Easy, Breezy, Covergirl
Michael considered fate at 11:25   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
I've been silent for a few days for the same reasons I'm always silent; I can't figure out what I should be posting here. It is all discombobulated, with personal photos and technology news, financial double-speak and internal ramblings spilling forth from the spaghetti brain behind these eyeballs. Each one with its own audience, or maybe none at all. I can never do things right and this has always been a point of contention that I have had with myself. By `right' I mean to say `clean', `simple', and `directed' - the whole web should adopt this motto, like the covergirl tagline: Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Cover Girl.

Instead, you get this: it is like my room in high school, only worse. Piles of clean clothing heaped in the corners getting dirty and wrinkled, books and magazines piled high atop dressers and nightstands - and trinkets, oh so many trinkets. A keychain watergun. An old dog collar. Three or four portable alarm clocks - I'm not kidding - and I'm not talking about this website yet (which you can now see is the epitome of direct metaphors, with its many links to new and bizarre renditions of the alarm clock, tic toc).

The point is that this website is a hodge-podge, I am a hodge-podge. All of life is a hodge-podge and clean, simple, specific things kind of freak me out as much as I'm drawn to it like a moth to the flame. Nobody is so compartmentalized so it is all a show - a facade, a stage. A window doesn't do anything but limit the view. What is out there doesn't change and what is out there is a big hodge-podge mess.

So I'm going to give up on my dreams of shiny things built simply for singular purposes and I'll go ahead and post the link I was intending to this whole time, another column by the well-known Joel on Software:
The trouble with the [early stages of PC development] was that there were no clear UI standards… the programmers almost had too much flexibility, so everybody did things in different ways, which made it hard, if you knew how to use program X, to also use program Y. WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 had completely different menu systems, keyboard interfaces, and command structures. And copying data between them was out of the question.

And that’s exactly where we are with Ajax
[web] development today. Sure, yeah, the usability is much better than the first generation DOS apps, because we’ve learned some things since then. But Ajax apps can be inconsistent, and have a lot of trouble working together — you can’t really cut and paste objects from one Ajax app to another, for example, so I’m not sure how you get a picture from Gmail to Flickr. Come on guys, Cut and Paste was invented 25 years ago.

The third phase with PCs was Macintosh and Windows. A standard, consistent user interface with features like multiple windows and the Clipboard designed so that applications could work together. The increased usability and power we got out of the new GUIs made personal computing explode.

So if history repeats itself, we can expect some standardization of Ajax user interfaces to happen in the same way we got Microsoft Windows.
That is the argument, anyway, and I can't say I completely disagree with him. The real questions lie in who gains control of this cesspool of design they call the web and what do they do with it. We've seen countless examples of fairly horrible design become the standard (*cough* windows *cough*) and that has probably hindered productivity and efficiency in the end, compared to what we could have got instead.

The one part that I slightly disagree with, however, is Joel's take on JavaScript and where we're going to get with it. I am tempted to say that it has an exponential half-life and, once someone finds a better alternative it will quickly disappear from mainstream use. It is ugly and being used for things it was never ever intended for - not to say that is a bad thing, since our entire advancement as a species, in fact ingenuity itself, is based on using something that we didn't intend it for in the first place.

Think of it this way: we wouldn't have butt plugs otherwise.. but we do have butt plugs. Specifically designed, beautiful stainless steel behemoths that are made exactly for one purpose and one purpose only. Purpose built, you could call them; they aren't just the end of a stick like the first prototype. JavaScript is, well, if not the end of a stick then at least a roughly carved approximation of purpose-built. It is an ex-prototype, a beta, and this is proof positive that prototyping happens at level alpha and beta really means begin using in a production system now.

So is the next big thing a beautiful and simple SDK for Ajax? Probably not. Is the next big thing a complete departure from HTML, CSS, and Javascript? Sadly, probably not. Somewhere in between we will find our next level of zen and, as I've said before, it is likely to be a big, ugly, smelly pile of hodge-podge. Get used to it.

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Check out heroecs, the robotics team competition website of my old supervisor's daughter. Fun stuff!
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