Hammering Screws with Wrenches
Sunday, July 13, 2008 12:45:00 AM
10. <meta name="keywords">. This HTML element was intended to list the keywords for the web page to help search engines find pages relevant to given keywords. Of course, some webmasters were so eager to advertise their sites, “helped” so much that a search for a popular keyword would bring you anything but what you were looking for. Since 1998, search engines started ignoring <meta name="keywords">. The last search engine still honoring the keywords finally gave up on them in 2002.
9. Quoting in e-mail. Quoting fragments of an e-mail when replying to it helps the reader match particular statements in the original message with replies to them. Because an e-mail application doesn't know which parts of the message the user is going to reply, it has no other choice but to begin with quoting the entire message and let the user remove unwanted parts. Those users who don't adhere to selective quoting as means of providing context, as well as those who don't know how to use it, leave the entire quotation intact. As a result, correspondence between two such users is an ever-growing chain containing all the messages they've previously sent each other. Some modern e-mail applications implement automatic hiding of quotations.
8. Windows desktop. The desktop was conceived as a place where the user can temporarily store documents and other files being worked on, shortcuts to often-used applications and other frequently used items. And that's what happens, but every other application somehow thinks it will (or should) be used often, and therefore it deserves a shortcut on the user's desktop. This kind of rubbish gets mixed with the really useful items, turning the desktop into a mess. One version of Windows introduced a new feature: Desktop cleanup wizard that tries to guess what on the desktop the user needs and what is actually rubbish.
7. Notification area of Windows taskbar. This area, often incorrectly referred to as system tray, is a good place for running programs to display their realtime status because it's always visible. Today's typical Windows user has about ten icons there and doesn't know what most of them are for. Those small applets do anything (their author wants): preload “their” application for quick launch, notify about updates, show ads — except for actually showing any kind of realtime status. In Windows XP, Microsoft implemented a solution as brilliant as treating appendicitis with painkillers: they hide the icons the user doesn't want to see instead of providing an easy way to identify and remove the offending rubbishware.
6. Automatic startup on Windows logon. Some programs, such as a keyboard layout switcher, really make sense to start automatically, but the possibility for a program to put itself into the automatic startup list is really appreciated by authors of adware, spyware and other evil programs. To make it worse, there are several such lists, and a typical user doesn't even know about most of them. Plenty of programs exist for cleaning those up. Surprising is the inaction of Microsoft who, despite their increased attention to security in Windows Vista, still allow programs to get comfortable in a startup list without the user knowing.
5. Word processing software. These applications were invented to make preparation of documents with prevailing text and no special requirements for typography easier than it is with desktop publishing programs. For many modern users, “word processor” has become synonymous with “text editor”, and the complex, heavy formats of word processors are now widely used to store, and, even worse, transfer any text at all. An extreme case is an empty e-mail message with a Microsoft Word file attached. Many mailing list servers automatically delete such messages or strip these attachments to avoid annoying the subscribers and wasting bandwidth. Here one can also mention using spreadsheets to keep and transfer simple lists without any calculations.
4. HTML e-mail. Emphasizing important parts of a message, marking up headers and creating hyperlinks are really useful features. I'd love to have them if only they didn't come bundled with the usability disaster of HTML in e-mail. Authors of e-mail software who implement HTML message composition seem to think that the point of HTML is that the user can specify the color, font and background for his e-mail. Instead of logical markup describing the structure of a message we got means of decoration so much loved by teenagers and advertisers but so much annoying for everyone else. To make it worse, images loaded by HTML messages from remove servers are often used by spammers to track who actually opens their e-mails. Though the idea was that the plaintext alternative would only be used by old e-mail clients that don't support HTML, all those clients which do still have an option to use the plaintext version instead of HTML.
3. Browser detection. All web browsers introduce themselves to servers, so that those can detect what browser the user has and serve an appropriately “optimized” version. I don't know where webmasters got that idea, but many of them decided that, since they “support” a particular set of browsers, everybody else should simply be denied access: apparently, no web page at all is better than a web page that possibly doesn't work. There is a number of ways to detect the browser, some of which are based on particular distinctive features to check for. All modern browsers can spoof themselves for more popular ones to avoid being denied service. Even the current market leader isn't an exception: during the first episode of the browser wars, they had to make Internet Explorer identify as “Mozilla 4.0 (compatible; MSIE …)”, and that's what it still does after ten years.
2. Pop-up web pages. Opening a web page in a pop-up browser window can be useful when viewing enlarged images in a photo gallery, online help on using a web service or a shopping cart. Yet the most popular use of pop-up windows is to display in-your-face advertisement. Most modern browsers either come with a built-in pop-up blocker or have an add-on for that purpose. These pop-up blockers have to be smart enough to guess which pop-ups are legitimate and which are advertising rubbish.
1. E-mail. E-mail, one of the most important today's communication means, is plagued by the most severe technology abuse problem. The volume of spam is estimated to be 85–90% of all e-mail transferred in the world. The total losses from spam, including lost productivity, wasted technical resources and measures for dealing with spam is an order of hundreds of billions of dollars per year, while the costs for spammers are laughable. Technical means for dealing with spam are diverse, but none of them is able to solve the problem completely. Spam makes the practice of publishing your e-mail address as a means of communication questionable. In fear of robots harvesting e-mail addresses from public web pages, many users avoid publishing their addresses on open message boards or mangle them, for example by replacing @ with “at”.
По-русски: Забивание шурупов гаечными ключами