Dan rants: Xenophilic Luddite

I took a lot of crap recently for denouncing some Flash "enhanced" website which used the wonders of Macromedia to draw some really mundane text with cool looking fade-ins, and then allowed the user to navigate with some ransom note looking pull-downs.

This has been a common refrain with me. I got a few of my readers from my denunciation of the Webstandards.org site , and the first thing I do when I sit down at a Windows box is install the Cygnus ports of the GNU utilities to make it look more like Un*x.

Anyway, this current round got me thinking. Why was I so quick to champion efficiency of information delivery over style? What is it about HTML in e-mail, for instance, that gets me so fired up?

Today I read a message from someone who complained about getting HTML e-mail on their cell-phone, and I realized that I don't like all of these flashy extensions because they get in the way of doing anything new with the various media.

If you've got something worth saying, I want to read your words on a device that fits in my pocket, or on my wrist. I want to build tools to help me sort and search documents and extract the interesting parts to do other things with the documentation. I believe that the information is the critical part of your document, not the presentation, but beyond that I believe that we all should be able to tailor the presentation of information through systems that work well for each of us.

This is why I hate PDF, and why I'm coming to hate most of the applications of Flash.

So I think, and I'm willing to be corrected on this, that my complaints about web design don't come from a fear of "the future" or "progress" but from a feeling that by taking document presentation in this direction people are killing its usefulness, and capping its future potential.

Wednesday, July 14th, 1999 danlyke@flutterby.com