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Then i realised what a great marketer Dvorak is. He is wrong more than correct. But that's not the point. To attract traffic to your site (and sell from those ads) write something that will make people hate you! Well, being a bit softer - controversial. That's what makes a good columnist surely.
Dvorak loves being hated. It improves his brand recognition and the traffic..
So while its all getting personal and bitter out there in blogland Dvorak is smiling all the while checking his hits!
A lesson there for us content guys im sure.
Long before the web forum was a popular format for expression, the BBS moderators made sure that topics were inflammatory. If they received too many of the AOL! (me too) type of posts they changed sides and expressed the opposing viewpoint.
Controversial topics on the web definitely drive traffic. People are much more inclined to check a forum frequently if the topic is heated.
Converting that emotion into sales seems to be the difficult part. I've seen the tactic used most effectively for books sales. How can you add your own flaming retort if you haven't read the book?
The Nuke the Whales Society and Atheists for Jesus both ran successful controversy campaigns. The influx of cash seemed to cool the fires of the members though, and the success was short lived.
A controversial book enjoys rapid sales for a short length of time, a good book keeps selling. Dvorak and Neilsen constantly add new controversial content, sometimes without considering the value of the content. ;)
I thought the bloggs vs Dvorak was rather ironic. Given his commentaries over the years are really nothing more than a blog updated once-a-month.
However, I will always read him for one reason alone. While everyone in the industry was making a headlong rush into CSS, DOM, DHTML, and XML, it was Dvorak who got everyone to take a big whiff [webmasterworld.com] and think twice before we leap. I think that one article alone [zdnet.com] has done more to prevent web de-evolution than any thing else I've seen.
Where is the simplicity that is supposedly inherent in HTML?
The spin-offs that have done the most damage to the web originated with the limitations of HTML and the headlong rush into developing work-arounds for that limited language without considering the implications.
HTML wasn't intended to do the job it is now being asked to perform. This is quite evident in the variations of code that now exist to prop HTML up.
A slow, buggy, complex, daunting Web awaits. I'm not looking forward to it.
Dvorak's comment is typical of someone that admires the simple elegance of a bridge without consideration of the complex technologies and equations used to produce it.
If HTML and the technologies used to "enhance" it were simple, there wouldn't be thousands of posts requesting assistance for those "simple" fixes required to make all those "simple" websites function.
Ah the simple days of HTML. Indeed. Text. And some more text. Possibly with a color change or two. That is what HTML was intended to do. Mark up text. It was never designed as a robust language designed to incorporate the advances that are reflected in the web we are familiar with today. And frankly, I don't think a web that was nothing but text would be quite the phenomenon we have before us.
While everyone in the industry was making a headlong rush into CSS, DOM, DHTML, and XML, it was Dvorak who got everyone to take a big whiff and think twice before we leap. I think that one article alone has done more to prevent web de-evolution than any thing else I've seen.
I tried to leave this alone, but as I was doing my research today that paragraph kept coming back to bug me.
First, I don't think that de-evolving is an accurate term to describe what is going on regarding the web. People consistently use the word evolution when they mean adaptation and what I think is meant in this context is regression. Regression into what isn't offered as that would require concrete explanations and definitions and Dvorak isn't usually inclined to offer either.
Since I don't think that de-evolution is accurate, it follows that I don't think Dvorak has accomplished the amazing feat of making anyone think twice before making use of the technologies mentioned either.
If someone can point to the evidence in the web strata that demonstrates this change in attitude regarding the advance of these technologies in this "post-Dvorak" environment I'd like to see it. I have yet to see any impact.
CSS, DOM and DHTML seem to be prevalent. XML is rapidly advancing with the usual growing pains associated with all technologies and I have yet to see any regression attributed to this advancement.
So, what is this de-evolution that has so many people up in arms about the fate of the web? How is XML fomenting this process?
Where is the thrust of Dvorak's argument that made so many people sit up and take notice?
In regard to Dvorak, I usually see a Malthusian outlook with no solutions proffered. In this instance, a solution might be impractical given the strawman tenets of the argument.
I think it accuratly reflects what is occuring with web usability. Leading edge sites have never been harder to use. I steer clear of them as much as possible. There is a whole segment of the web I won't mess with because you have to stop and learn their navigation system, or sift through page upon page of browser spam.
It's no wonder that the mainstream sites that understand about navigation and design are winning. The Yahoo's, the cnn's (vastly improved), and the Googles realize that simpiler is better. KISS is the only long term design method that works.
btw: that article of Dvoraks on Usability/XML was first publshed in the spring of 2000 (probably written in late 99). That's before most of the people here had even heard of XML. Turned out to be a rather prophetic article. It was quoted on many W3C, developer, and other webmaster related lists by the heavy weights in the industry. That's why I felt it had such a profound impact. You could just see the whole conversation about XML/DOM and CSS change around the web.
However the thread is still consistent. In my view, CSS and XML, in enabling down-home developers to separate content from formatting and layout may well encourage content generation, as the actual on the page code is much easier to edit without all those table, font, color and alignment codes. So it is becomes easier for non-techies to edit, similar to the new CMS's that mean the end user dosent have to know much about coding or publishing disciplines at all. You cant say the same thing however for much js, java, dhtml and flash gizmos..
Which leads up to my continuing point here, which yours and DG's post also touch on..
That is the amount of effort put into tools and technologies compared to content on the Web. Now that's not hard to explain, authors and artists generally die in ppoverty, while publishers, A&P professionals and those who make the mechanisms for publishing creative output go particularly well.. some end up millionaires. It is just crazy for a school leaver to choose being an author or artist as a career over a tech career. Their work may have high integrity and make a real contribution to the world, but the technocrats are the ones who get the mullah.
You see this on the Web a lot.
At the moment we see so much technological wizardry on the Web, but an absolute minimum of good creative content to back it up or use it. It is why we see Weblogs, Shoppng Carts, PHP Nukes etc all performing creditably technologically, but full of crappy outta-date content.
Put simply, there is just not enough good content, or motivation to provide content, to support the technical capabilities, (workable but imperfect as they are).
The Web simply becomes less functional, as you so rightly claim, as technology obfuscates content - the real reason why people go to the Web. That is one of the Web's clear challenges today, along with the highly-related (and I use that term not as a throw-away but with considerable thought), hijacking of the Web by vested commercial interests who are killing it rather than enhancing it. (With apologies for referriing back yet again to our original Dead-Web thread you cited earlier.)
And with due deference to thread integrity, the Web - despite the Google-inspired operationalization of the original hyperlink-driven core value of the web - is becoming increasingly incestuous and inward looking. As dvorak points out Blogs rarely criticise each other, - the reason is simple of course - the ego-driven blog world wants other blogs to link back to their own blogs, and criticism of another blog may not encourage reciprocals :)
That is why controversial content, (and good controversial content - not just four letter words and false-libertarianism of s*x, and dr*gs - that battle was fought and won many years ago by Lenny Bruce, and our 60's heroes - now its just crass) is being discouraged not only in blogs but also throughout the web. So just to underline, it is a great opportunity for us if (and it's a big if) it is handled with care and due attention to integrity and credible sources...
I began this internet odyssey with a BBS addiction and a desire to grow up and become the "Mentor" of Jargon file fame. I was 13. I fit all the profiles for hacker. Jail doesn't agree with me. Irate parents are worse. End hacker, begin computer security career. Too boring, writing is more fun. SEO is a large game that constantly changes, fits my demand for a job.
I "remember" the web and the 'Net through rose colored glasses as well. This wish to return to the "simpler days" is just that, a wish. An invalid one at that. The content was no better then than it is now. It may have been worse as there were no entities to push for "proper" or "correct" content.
Discussions on BBS's about educational topics quickly turned into rants about everything from the best MUD to who was going to win the penant. Talk about the penant in the Google forum here and you will find your thread moved to Foo.
A link to a text file of interest might take you there, or nowhere as the text file in question was deleted, moved, etc, because there was NO interest in keeping that file available.
No one was optimizing content as the content was meant to be taken as it was, and as you found it. People weren't interested in being found by search engines as there weren't any. With the advent of the search engines people still didn't care, a site about drug abuse might just as quickly turn into a site baout paganism. When the web started its dance with commerce people began pushing for "my content first."
That big myth about the web being better when it was younger is just that. People had trouble finding anything, much less anything of value. The 'Net was a morass of tech nerd flames and a few technically advanced teachers and professors exchanging information.
The first "internet provider" had advertisements scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Constantly. No one said a word. You couldn't make a hotel reservation online, pay a bill or even check the balance of your checking account. The big bad commercial fellas are responsible for that advancement.
All these people that complain about the commercialization of the web, dilution of content, usability, etc. aren't fooling me. Usability? Compared to what? Green text on a black background? Should we de-evolve to that?
Accessability? It's getting better. Content is MUCH better. So is the ease in which we access the information. Anyone that remembers trying to access a database from a Commodore 64 can attest to that. What about access for the impaired? Wasn't even a consideration back when the web was "good."
The content that I can access now is phenomenal compared to those days that Dvorak is lamenting. Is it better? Some of it. Is some of it worse? No, not in terms of relevance. Accessing a discussion in the days of the 386/486 wars provided as much information about the processors as it did about profanity and odd animal fetishes.
Technology isn't obfuscating content, people with access to technology are obfuscating the content. This hasn't changed at all, nor is it likely too. Reducing the level of technologies the web utilizes certainly isn't going to do that.
If XML was as complicated as Dvorak seems to think it is, wouldn't that have exactly the effect Dvorak wishes? In effect, push operating a website back into the hands of those erudite tech nerds and professors that were the majority population the 'Net and web consisted of? Those same people that always had relevant content, and simple hyperlinks for navigation?
or how about...
"When buying shoes for growing children, it is best to go one size larger."
"Progress abhors a vacuum."
Too much coffee; not enough sleep - but seriously, we all are susceptible to the various pitfalls trying to meet the demands(?) of the web.
We move too fast, or not fast enough; some of us don't move at all. We get caught up in the latest technology and start coding for "coding's sake" and forget about updating content, or we get so wrapped in content creation that we fail to adapt to the "viewing preferences" that are prevalent in our market.
Tough demands; tougher consequences.
Content is still King however, Dvorak's pompous attitude notwithstanding.
Brett, you hit it smack on the head with a dummy stick when you said "D" was the original "blogger!" While technically that may or may not be true (the original part), Dvorak has certainly made his reputation by serving monthly dishes of "hot blog stew" or "chilled blog roulade" and even the occasional "retro blog fondue" (for that special seventies crowd).
In any case, it is quite hypocritical of Dvorak (is that a redundancy?).
Oh well, maybe "D" and "N" can form a mutual admiration society and swap stories about what is wrong with the rest of us...
Content is KING! ;)