I very rarely read a story on the WCCO web site. That’s my local news station. I don’t scroll down below the headlines, and that by the way means that I don’t see any of the wonderful ads that are down there. I often don’t respond to facebook conversations with anything more than a sentence, but rather, put my thoughts in a text editor and then post them somewhere, usually not facebook. Lately, I’ve stopped with any extensive responses on Google+ as well.

Why?

Well imagine that you are using the ancient technologies of pen and paper, writing an important letter while at work. And every now and then one of the other adults in the room comes over and grabs the paper you are writing on and moves it six inches and puts it under a tray off full soup bowls that you now have to move to get back to your letter. Imagine this happens every time you try to write a letter at work that happens. Imagine you are trying to read a book before you go to bed at night and every 45 seconds your significant other reaches over, grabs the book, flips to a page you are not currently reading, and hand the book back to you, leaving it up to you to relocate your spot. Imagine your SigOth does this once or twice a minute. You would stop writing at work and reading in bed. I’ve stopped reading my local news web site or trying to write in facebook comment boxes or even on the far superior G+ because similar things keep happening to me.

If you are commenting on a thread of facebook, there is a good chance the comment box is near the lower left hand corner of the screen. If the thread is highly active, this is where the stupid little notices saying “so and so has done this or that” occur as people do thins like “liking” or like commenting. This box tends to occur over where you are writing. Then, you can either wait for it to go away and hope another does not come along, or you can click it away. But if you click it away, the functionally deformed facebook comment boxes put your cursor in a different location than it previously was, with no indication as to where it is, and you can’t easily move it back into place. You might as well have someone grabbing the paper you are writing on and hiding it somewhere where you can find it but inconvenient and annoyingly so every few seconds. Did the people who designed this interface ever use it? No, obviously not.

As you read Google+ threads they move by as more posts are added to the top. Other similar interfaces such as Twitter just build up a counter at the top of the thread so the “book” isn’t grabbed away from the reader every few seconds. Something like this happened in Facebook as well. But Google+ has not learned from its competitors and has made its thread essentially fontanels, and now, Facebook seems to have broken itself in yet another way by altering its interface to scroll dynamically as things are added to it. Clearly, the people who designed these interfaces have never used them.

The local news site I mentioned refreshes itself every several seconds. I have no idea why. Nothing in the news changes, but the page reloads. I assume this has something to do with ads. But if you are reading along, it’s about 10 column inches of reading before the next refresh, which moves the page back to the top in the browser window. Then you have to scroll back down the page and find where you were had been interrupted. It is impossible to imagine that the people who designed this interface can even read, or at least, that they ever read their own site.

Am I to believe that none of this stuff is for reading anyway? Is it the case that people just stare at their computer screens, watching things scroll by that they never actually look at? Does anyone care that all these interfaces are broken? Does anyone care that with each and every iteration of snorking methodology the interfaces and other aspects of the technology regress rather than progress in ease of use and logic of functionality? Has anyone else noticed any of this?

Oh,and by the way, if you are a Google+ user and you think life is all about posting as many moving GIFs as possible, imma uncircle you.

That is all. Thank you very much.

Comments

  1. #1 daedalus2u
    September 24, 2011

    Greg, your complaint about this is a sure sign that you have joined the ranks of the elderly.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 24, 2011

    GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!

  3. #3 jl
    September 24, 2011

    You have just come up with a million dollar app! A Freeze Time button for your browser.

  4. #4 Art
    September 24, 2011

    An acquaintance called such text scrolls, and sitting there blankly looking at them, ‘text-based pachinko’. There are similarities. You half glaze over looking at a wall of text. And sometimes an improbable even occurs, your eye catches a text string that means something, and you get a small payoff.

  5. #5 Mike Haubrich
    September 24, 2011

    I am pretty sure that WCCO does this to re-load their ad feeds. They haven’t figured out how to separate their dynamic content.

  6. #6 Rosie Redfield
    September 24, 2011

    Does anyone care that all these interfaces are broken?

    I feel exactly the same way about the incorrect aspect ratios I see in so many photos, videos and presentations. And yes, I am getting OLD.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    September 24, 2011

    Rosie, your blog looks like an evening at home with my wife when she’s doing her muscle research at the U.

    For those who don’t know what that means, just click on Rosie’s name and watch Science in Action.

  8. #8 Collin
    September 24, 2011

    I’ve never had this happen, that I can remember. Sounds like you have a virus.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    September 24, 2011

    Collin, I use a system that does not get viruses.

  10. #10 Nemo
    September 25, 2011

    A setting I use in about:config in Firefox:

    image.animation_mode user set string once

    Of course it’s a nuisance in the rare case that I actually want to watch an animation — I have to view the image, then reload it. I used to have an extension that let me rerun the animation from a context menu, but it hasn’t been kept up to date.

    I tried turning it off for a while on one GIF-heavy site, but my CPU usage went way up. So forget that.

  11. #11 travc
    September 25, 2011

    If you use Firefox, there is a useful plugin called “Its All Text!” which allows you to use the editor of your choice to fill in a textbox.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/its-all-text/
    (There is quite probably even better plugins along this line.)

    You can apparently do something similar using Chrome and emacs.
    http://superuser.com/questions/261689/its-all-text-for-chrome

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    September 25, 2011

    travc, have you used these? I tried some of these solutions when they came out and they were annoyingly slow and clunky, but it is a great idea, worth retrying .

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    September 25, 2011

    Yeah, I’ve looked at them just now and decided to stay away. For chrome, you need to run an external server to make this work, and as various components of the system (mainly chrome) change the server becomes obsolete. In other words, this is taking a jackhammer to scraping a bit of dried pasta off the table, and sometimes the jackhammer is unavailable.

    I think it would be good if web developers simply included hooks to allow easy use of an external editor. The fact that this is not routine these days tells me a lot.

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