Wayback: The Web Is Not Walden Pond

From the Bloggle Archives, circa March, 2002. I wrote this as an antidote to what struck me as a surge in misplaced web design ideals; ideals that, in fact, turned out to be the beginning of ‘Web 2.0,’ for all that’s worth. I think it’s as relevant today as it was six years ago… The Web is not Walden Pond… and attempts to make it so through increasingly stark simplicity are well-intentioned, but badly aimed. Simplicity often belies the truth. The truth if the web is that it is the most mind-boggling array of unstructured information that has ever been. And it’s growing exponentially, and it will not stop. It is increasingly the de facto body of reference for all of us. It will inexorably be the sum total of explicit knowledge on our planet. How do you simplify that? By making it “…as simple as possible, but not simpler.” As simple as possible… Consider the works of Matisse and Picasso. Not your style? Try Keith Haring. Simplicity is alluring. A line-drawing can evoke far more than it actually reveals, by distilling the subject to its most essential form. It’s not coincidental that great art illustrates this… there is more than a little art to conveying the very essence of something. …but not simpler. Mere simplicity can dilute meaning. Consider Starbucks coffee stamps… at-a-glance labels that would tell you what the coffee in the bag is all about. Starbucks coffees are — very simply — Bold, Mild or Smooth. Does it really suffice to say that Sumatra, an earthy, dry-processed Indonesian coffee with loads of body and a caramelly...
Maple-Bacon Goodness Spoiled by PayPal

Maple-Bacon Goodness Spoiled by PayPal

When there is a confluence of links — when not one, but two sites I visit every day features links to the very same interesting new thing — I can’t resist. And so I learned of Lollyphile, and their Maple-Bacon Lollypop. With the exception of Maple-Bacon Cupcakes (with Maple Frosting) this is perhaps the most wonderful food-related thing I’ve yet learned of. And since my lobbying efforts with my local professional cupcake-baker have heretofore fallen on deaf ears (c’mon Sharon… you know you really want to make them!) it might seem that placing an order for some Maple-Bacon Lollypops would be just the thing to sample the presumed salty, savory, sweet goodness that is a Maple-Bacon Lollypop. There’s just one problem… Lollyphile uses PayPal for their shopping cart. I had a PayPal account for years. I paid for eBay actions with PayPal, I purchased coffee, I made donations of various sorts to one non-profit group or another. Then one day PayPal inexplicably forgot who I was. My account — poof! — disappeared. My attempts to login, and to try to verify or reactivate my account failed. So far as PayPal is concerned, I no longer exist… I suspect the small sum of money that was in my PayPal account similarly evaporated. To cut to the chase, I no longer do business with PayPal. Consequently, I can’t complete a purchase with businesses who offer only PayPal as a payment method. I suspect — actually, I’m certain — that I’m not alone. There’s lots of folks who’ve been burned by PayPal. Lots. (Note to any company that does business on the...

On the calculus of memory (or lack thereof)

New Castle lies on the seacoast of New Hampshire, a three hour drive from my home in Vermont. Along the way the road weaves through Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s Boreal forest, and most every turn reveals another postcard-perfect view of New England landscape. That said, I missed fully half the scenery, on account of the angry gnome sitting on my shoulder, kicking me in the head. The wretched little creature called itself Disremembrance, and — just before the kicking began — it whispered in my ear that I’d left the power adapter for my computer on my desktop at home. Ouch. Ouch! OUCH! And so began the calculus of memory — or lack thereof. Turn back, or keep going? Would my MacBook make it through a 75 minute multi-media presentation at full power, driving two displays? Could I borrow or buy a replacement? For that matter, could I find a shop that stocked the elusive MagSafe power adapter in New Castle? In Portsmouth? Could I deal with not being able to make any last-minute changes to my presentation ’cause I don’t want to burn through my batteries? Crap, how much sleep would I lose over this? I kept driving. In the end, the friendly hotel staff helped me find a replacement power supply within a mile or two of the hotel, the presentation was wicked fun and I’ve been invited to do it again… three times now. (I think that’s a good sign!) And that pissant little gnome? He took a header off a drawbridge on the sea coast. Didn’t even make a...
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