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Web Design? Web Design?
We Don't Need No Stinking Web Design

by Dale Garrison
© 1999 Dale Garrison Editorial Services

Just came across the perfect description of my web-design software.

I purchased this software because 1) it promised greater control, consistency and overall professionalism and 2) I am lazy.

My software was advertised as the first WYSIWYG web design tool: what you see is what you get. No more 20 hours per page of HTML No more anti-intuitive, even anti-human coding.

Best of all, this wonderful new Web design software promised that it would generate code so that pages would look the same in different browsers. In other words, you could view my ACME Undertakers site in either Explorer, Navigator or AOL's anemic browser, and it would still reflect the same brilliant design and graphic professionalism that I have become famous for.

Then I built my first page using this powerful new tool. I have to admit with modesty that it looked great. Just what I wanted - easy to read, yet attractive. Comprehensive but concise. Practical yet artistic. And more! You get the idea.

So I looked at the page in Microsoft Explorer, which happens to be the browser I use. Okay. It was a little different - the colors weren't quite the same and the spacing seemed oddly off. But I can accept that. This is real world technology, after all. I am a professional used to dealing with imperfect media.

Then I launched Netscape Navigator and looked at my site in that: It was Stephen King does Web Design. It was, The page from Hell!

What had happened? My attractive but concise layout appeared to have been nuked. Carefully positioned elements were sailing around like the Flying Wallendas. Text that had been artfully positioned on white space had smudged over unrelated graphics. Columns of related text were scattered willy nilly so that they were completely separated. My attempts at using content and design to communicate coherently had come off like a Congressional hearing.

In short, the page was s typographical Tower of Babel.

Moaning, I launched AOL. I figured I had better see what damage that inflicted...

...When I got out of the hospital, I began to read about what caused this. Only recently did I come across the perfect definition. What I had was not a WYSIWYG web design tool. It was a tool that is actually WYSIWYMGIYRRL:
What-You-See-Is-What-You-Might-Get-If-You're-Really-Really-Lucky. Now I understood. Now I could get on with life.

At last, I am at peace. Problem is, when I now look at my image in various mirrors, my face takes on different shapes, sometimes resembling Bill Gates, another time Steve Jobs. On top of that, I am starting to have bizarre shifts of mood. I dream of new operating systems that dominate everything in the market. I think of hardware breakthroughs that set the world a kilter. Most of all, I'm thinking that everyone should use Windows...on an iMac!


 Think this is sad? You should see what happens when I get on a bicycle. Be warned, it's just as Elmer Fudd describes it: very, very scary.

© 1999 Dale Garrison Editorial Services. Everything on these and following pages is mine. Use it wholly or in part without my permission and I will give your name to my friends in law enforcement and the legal profession. On the other hand, if you see something that strikes your fancy, just holler. I'm pretty easy to get along with.

Computers Definitely
Have NO Sense Of Humor

by Dale Garrison
© 1999 Dale Garrison Editorial Services

Many years ago I thought I spotted a writing opportunity when a computer magazine advertised for a columnist, including someone who could write humor.

I decided that was the job for me. First, I am funny. My wife and daughters laugh at me all the time. Second, I know computers, I spend hours on them, even when a few minutes should suffice. My time with computers long ago passed the "acquaintance" stage.

But then I tried to write a humorous computer article. After hours of pounding the keyboard and gnashing my teeth, I finally gave up.

It's not that computers can't be funny. They can be hilarious. Just think about the last time one crashed just as you reached for "save" after completing a 7,486-word article. Or the time you tried to make a driver work with a certain extension in some unnamed operating system. Yeah, computers are funny all right.

But most humor of this genre involves at least some satire - exaggeration, if you will. And whenever I try to exaggerate computer life for humor, I'm reminded of the comment by a television humorist who had tried to lampoon the old television show, Laverne and Shirley.

"It couldn't be done," he confessed. "No matter how much we exaggerated Laverne and Shirley, they'd already done it themselves. You can't exaggerate what's already exaggerated."

To say computers are self-satire is a serious matter. Consider the three-ringed circus you experience trying to collect a $9.95 rebate from a software manufacturer. The excuses you get regarding why you WON'T receive your money are like clowns issuing from one of those little cars - they just keep on coming, while your rebate disappears in the magician's hat.

And speaking of clowns, how about this trend of NOT giving us manuals. Yeah, I like Adobe's PDF technology. It's way cool. I expect to use it soon for some of my web clients. I've also seen it do some amazing things in publishing. But to wrestle with a 379-page manual and a 148-page supplement printed on a laser is a bit retro for me. I want a REAL table of contents. I want a REAL index. Is that asking too much?

What really gets me are "software conflicts." These horrors almost never involve something obvious like a crash after you add a new driver or extension. No, they occur two weeks after your last system addition or hardware change, when there is ABSOLUTELY NO reason for a crash.

Of course, after running some arcane diagnostic software that requires 4.78 hours of staring at a bitmapped sundial on your screen, you are told the program you rely on for ALMOST EVERYTHING is conflicting with the program that you need for EVERYTHING ELSE.

That guy in 2001 had it easy. All they had to do was kill the damn thing.

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News Flash: Oprah Cares About My Health!

Got an e-mail the other day. I was astounded to learn that "Oprah Cares About My Health!"

Naturally, I was flabbergasted. I didn't realize Oprah even knew who I was, let alone that she cared about my health. My sense of self-importance rose considerably.

Then I began to read the mail. Turns out that Oprah was really pushing some kind of health product, the value of which I have serious doubt. I think it was made from seaweed and snail bellies.

Then comes the real pain: This wasn't even the REAL Oprah. It was Oprah Smith or something from Van Nuys, Calif. I even began to doubt her concern for my health.

The next afternoon I attended a $2,500 "build your own web page and conquer e-commerce" seminar. It was advertised in another e-mail I received, but I felt comfortable about it because the guys presenting it wore ties. I asked them about Oprah's letter and they told me it was probably spam! I had heard of that, but didn't know I could actually get some so easily.

That made me feel better.

Okay. So you've received junk mail, too. And sure, making fun of them is easy. But the lengths to which these guys (and gals) go are remarkable. Okay, so these lengths are not very remarkable. Snake oil salesmen in the 1800s were probably better. Conjurers of the 14th century almost certainly had more style. But at least today's stuff is worth a chuckle. Consider this "shrewd" tactic:

E-mail subject: "Bill, here's that stock secret I told you about!"

Okay, my name is not Bill, unless my wife changed it while I was sleeping. I'm not sure I know any Bills right now. But just as I'm about to trash this spam, I think that maybe, just maybe this was an e-mail to Bill Gates from his stockbroker! Maybe if I just open this e-mail and read it, I'll be the second richest man on earth.

Tell me no one out there fell for that. Please.

- - -

 Some e-mails target our sense of entrepreneurship, whatever that is. Take this one: Get a $100,000 business loan in 5 minutes!

I run a small business. And those of you who share in this endeavor join me in wishing this were possible on the planet today. Hell, it would be nice to consider a $100,000 loan where the terms DON'T include broken kneecaps for late repayment.

I could go on. You've probably seen most of them. Maybe you received "Lose Weight for the Holidays-Without Dieting!" or "Secret Internet Detective Techniques Available Today!" or even "Earn $10,000 a month without leaving home!" With that last one, I always want to respond, "Hey schmuck, I already do." (I don't, but it would be nice to say that.)

- - -

Of course, I am careful. It's always possible that hidden in this stuff is one piece of junk e-mail that will indeed make me rich. That's why I spend 4.7 hours a day going through my e-mail carefully. Just in case. Just in case "Humanitarian Offers Free Merchant Account, Weight Loss and Internet Wisdom" is true! You never know.