If you’re at all a fan of being able to read good old words on the web that aren’t encapsulated in a piece of Minion clipart or in the subtitles of a muted video on Facebook then Hossein Derakhshan’s article about how the web has changed while he was imprisoned for six years is crucial reading. It’s something most of us who were cognizant of the popularity of blogging in terms of influence and relevance only a few years ago should try to see, albeit sympathetically, through the eyes of someone who was jailed because of what he wrote about on his own blog as well as his role in connecting other Iranian bloggers and championing blogging in that country.
I’ve been more demotivated about writing anything for web consumption than saddened by the changes in how and what folks consume via the interwebs, but I can see how stunning that might be after six years. The difference is frighteningly stark. Facebook wasn’t the first walled garden on the open web (and here I’m talking about post-AOL sort of web where you were outside a near-literal walled garden; keyword:fish-in-a-barrel) and at some point in the future it will likely cede at least part of that monopoly to a competing service that probably doesn’t exist yet. That said, the mall approach (remember how much fun we all made of the services that constructed little town interfaces to represent ‘net resources?) or the app store approach to the web seems to keep many folks happy or at least distracted. Derakhshan has an excellent central point; people generally just like things and then move on to the next thing without further participating in the discussion. I’ve noticed on my own FB threads that people will not read any of the text responses but will often like some funny graphic or answer it with another premade graphic.
I miss the old web a ton which is one of the reasons that I rolled this site out. I didn’t want to try to resurrect the decaying corpse of Team Murder and wanted to start off on something new that didn’t even benefit from whatever residual audience TM had left over. I still see feed readers hitting that site regularly despite that being a somewhat quaint idea these days. I have the option to ship posts off to FB, but I don’t. I tend to be wordy and people that prefer FB as their vehicle of online communication (scare italics added for my own amusement) don’t seem to have much patience for words. Lately, and this may be a more certain sign of my age than any of the other breadcrumbs in the trail, it seems like Facebook serves mainly as a way to find out which among my friends has recently died. I think I like words better. This site, this experiment of sorts is fun to write but it is read almost exclusively by robots.
I’d noticed the Google Photos right click trick but hadn’t thought about what it actually meant in terms of usability. It’s an amazing product and might be on of the best products that Google has made publically available. Go read the article for the technical analysis of how this feature works because it will be much more entertaining than my summary would.
It’s probably worth noting that I didn’t find this feature magical when I first used it to mail an animation from Photos to my wife. That’s the way web applications should work: within our expectations of how something should behave regardless of whether the intended recipient of the share has an account to our particular walled garden. Here’s an animation of Oscar shovelling cotton candy into his face, not because it’s particularly important to anyone outside my family, but because it’s stupidly easy.
I fucking hate things that autoplay. Due to the hojillion megaton explosion in YouTube usage over the last 5 years, videos have to promise something extraordinarily interesting in order to convince me to click play. I see the allure in setting video content to autoplay; if you get my attention/wrath for a couple of seconds and manage to hook my interest then you may have just earned my eyeballs for the duration. That honeymoon period was short lived, though. Flash Control became mandatory in all of my web browsers. I was tired to being startled and spilling coffee all over the place every time I loaded a tab in the background. Fuck every bit of that.
Facebook actually implemented this in a way that doesn’t irritate me and I do like the comparison in the linked article to silent movies. The level of adaptation required to pull this off is ingenious. I’ve found myself being irritated by video on Facebook that doesn’t present itself pretty clearly while muted and at the same time much more likely to watch with audio if the visuals are coherent without sound. Conversely, watching something that you navigated directly to with the intent to watch as a visual/audio combo is insanely irritating when it lapses into that PowerPoint++ style of interspersing slides with actual video. The upside to both of those reactions, at least for me, is that it makes both producers and presenters more responsible for knowing their audience and not just spraying passer by with blaring audio when the context is wrong for it or covering the screen in text when audio is playing. I’ll admit that I often need to be prodded in order to watch something that I actually am interested in, but can’t stand it if you do it wrong. I rarely applaud Facebook for any of their decisions on user interface versus the ravening maw of marketing, but in this case, nice job. Granted, it took the Medium article to make me realize that I actually enjoyed the silent video treatment and why it worked so well.
Sans Bullshit Sans is utter brilliance. If only I could require the marketing department at my workplace to use this and only this for all press releases especially in the grim post-acquisition days. Solid work, folks!