Teretz Syndrome

Thursday, September 4, 2003.

If you are reading this, then you are probably well aware that this site has been redesigned. In the last log I wrote, about a fortnight ago, I was talking about doing a redesign at the beginning of next year, but, you know how it is, when things fall into place, they fall into place, and here we have it, a new site. There's a new server as well, which means the forums have returned, and you can even download the elusive Pornographic Ninja animated most people had trouble with in the old school version. Wow. Progress. When I was doing the redesign, I had to trawl through a whole lot of old pages, and it occurred to me what a dinosaur this site had become. It really is a very large site (well, in terms of effort over the years compared to the rest of my life, not compared to the rest of the more committed world). I'd make a very conservative estimate that there are minimum of 40,000 words here. Anyway, that got me thinking about the old days, and these two icons:

Now, in the old days every single site anywhere would have one or both of these icons, usually with "Best viewed by..." (actually, the Microsoft one is a spoof anti Microsoft icon, because I couldn't find a real one). This is like five years ago. I remember on my first few sites I even included both these icons because I thought it was cool - everyone was doing it, after all. However, back then, I didn't know dick, and what I didn't know most of all was that by including both these icons on my first few sites, I was lying to everyone and defeating the whole point of these icons.

You see, these icons came about during the high point of the browser wars, when Microsoft was trying desperately to chip away at the virtual monopoly Netscape had on the Internet browser market, and to do this, they had to make their product better. Now, making better products is not really a very Microsoft thing to do, they're more in the market of making massive generic products, and then the independent developers go around and make really excellent specific things that do one thing and do it well and then Microsoft buys them out and incorporates their program into Windows or Office under a different name, and the bar is raised. It's really a very clever system. However, back in the old days, Microsoft had only a shitty browser, and Netscape had a good browser, and Microsoft thought that the Internet was taking off and wanted in. Being clever, however, what they did not make a better browser, but rather make a good webdesign program, Microsoft Front-page, that wrote all this special unique code that wasn't in the standards for HTML code, but that didn't matter, because Internet Explorer could handle it just fine. Netscape couldn't, but, not to be beaten, they released their own editor, and made the stuff from that only compatible with Netscape. Then both companies started handling each others code and releasing new code on top of that, and so on and so forth, hence, sites had to pick a side, and they displayed it with one of these little icons. Eventually, Microsoft won, their product became truly better, and here we are today, with nobody using Netscape.

Now these days, we are starting to have a similar thing. Well, less so, because there's no real competition, but Microsoft is trying some shit, and they've yet to pull it off. They call it their passport.

You may have noticed these icons around the place. Fetching, aren't they? Now, when you click this (well, this one is just a picture, but normally) you get a screen, and the idea is that you log in, and suddenly the site you're at knows your name and address, and you have a profile somewhere, and they can basically keep track of some stuff about you. Now, the ultimate aim here is that everyone will have one of these, and that basically what you'll do is sign in once, and it will store your credit card info and mailing address and a whole bunch of other shit, so every site you got to can say "Hey Buddy, I noticed you bought a book on welding at Amazon.com, why don't you click here and I'll send you an arc welder", and no body every has to enter any details for anything ever again. That's the long term plan. Very few sites can handle that shit right now, however, and increasingly large number of people have registered (basically because you have to to get a Hotmail account (does anyone else remember when that wasn't Microsoft?), and more and more sites have little sign in buttons (Hoyts cinemas, and Channel Nine, for example). Now, how hard can it be to design a site with a little button, that, when clicked, takes you to a form that looks exactly like the Microsoft one? Not very. It'd take ten fucking seconds. All you have to do is find one and click "Save target as." Then, all it'd take is a spot of editing the script so instead of sending it to the Microsoft database, you send it to your own database, and instead of validating it and sending back a name, all you do is store the username and password. Simple. I know nothing about anything in Javascript and I could do that. Why bother? Well, right now, all you get is some Hotmail passwords, which probably have their uses. You could have some fun reading random stranger's emails and sending mail to their friends and colleagues, but really, no use. Now. But one day... credit cards! Well, no doubt they'll correct this little hole long before then, but still, it's a good idea.

The other day I spent a little to much of my time messing around with The Gender Genie. Now, basically, this is a program that you feed in a piece of writing to, and based on a complex study of humanity, it guesses the gender of the author. It's wrong 50.3% of the time (which seems odd to me - it think if they just always returned male (this is the Internet, after all) they'd probably be right at least a little more than half, and if not, switch it around). Anyway, I fed four randomly selected logs into it and got female for everyone of them. Then I put a bunch of other people's writing in, and apart from one other dude, got pretty much correct results. I guess I write like a woman. Fuck. It's all to do with the use (or lack of) words like the, it, and some.

I had something else to say, but I've forgotten it.

I'm sure I had a lot of other things to say, actually.

Ah well. Such is life.


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