Friday, March 15, 2013

Personal entrepreneurs no longer welcome on the web

Thoughts Prompted by Google Reader’s Demise, TidBITS article.

This trend of companies moving from tools to platforms isn’t surprising, and makes sense for both users and providers. Platforms provide coherent user experiences, [...] 
But the loss of tools is disturbing, for the same reasons it would be disturbing if there were no more tools available for carpenters to build houses, just pre-fab structures trucked in and plopped down. Tools enable creative people to build things that no one else can even imagine, and just as a hammer and saw can be used for far more than building a house, so too can digital tools be used in ways that were never intended initially. 

Exactly. I find it more than just a little bit disturbing that it is fast becoming impossible to get a WYSIWIG html editor (for Mac). I am told that today people are either programmers who want to look at the code directly, or they use cloud platforms like Wordpress to make their sites. People like me who make a web site like we make a word processor document are dinosaurs.
I hate the idea of, at my age, to have to go through a huge new learning process, with all the new bugs it inevitably has. Plus this smacks of new dollops of loss of control. Fresh hell.

In the nineties and part of the noughties, the web was a golden land of opportunity for the Little Man (even if he's 6.4 like me) to make a splash, perhaps even a living, on the web, all of his own. But now, this is pretty much crushed. The big companies are those who can handle the complexities of the new web landscape. And little men are put at the Childrens Table, FaceBook, to talk smalltalk.


dave_at_efi said...

Since we're (Eolake and I) still using 10.6.8, Dreamweaver CS3 works for me.

If I had some huge project to do, and had a lot of capital to work with, I'd hire a design firm. But since I have neither, and two simple websites, I have a tool that works, so why change? Dreamweaver gives both code and WYSIWYG views, and sine I don't attempt anything too sophisticated, just touching up the HTML if needed, I'm satisfied.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Yes, just so. But as Adam Engst said to me: "in the long run, updating is not optional." And I'm beginning to feel it, new software I want is just not compatible any longer. Even hardware. I bought the new File Transporter (a "personal Dropbox"), but it turns out it needs Lion or later!

ttl said...

... programmers who want to look at the code directly

The way I see it, we programmers want to generate our pages automatically in order to look at the markup as little as possible. Preferably not at all.

... they use cloud platforms like Wordpress to make their sites

Wordpress is both a “cloud platform” (, and a software package ( that you can download and install on your own server. Professional bloggers tend to use the latter.

People like me who make a web site like we make a word processor document are dinosaurs.

WYSIWYG generation of HTML markup came many years after the introduction of the web. Dreamweaver, for example, wasn't introduced until 1997. Rather than saying you are dinosaurs, you are newcomers who still haven't grasped the concept of hypertext authoring. And because of that you are resorting to inferior tools.

There are still people around who write every web page by hand. These could be considered the “dinosaurs”, if you must label someone by that name.

But keep in mind that SGML, which HTML is an application of, was designed to be written by hand. The medium for hypertext authoring is not “code” as you erroneously call it, but markup. It was originally developed for linguistic researchers for marking up large corpuses of text.

The big companies are those who can handle the complexities of the new web landscape.

Even the big companies hire little individuals to design their websites for them. There are no “big web designers”. It is all done by human individuals. You can read their stories on the web.

... the complexities of the new web landscape

Yes, it's true, the web landscape has become more complex. This is mostly because the variety of terminals we can now access the web with has increased.

But it's not so much that this requires hypertext authors to start doing new complex things. Rather we need to stop doing certain unkosher things we've been doing up until now. The main sin is table based page layouts. For a decade we've been told that the table element is not meant for overall page layout. Well, people who have continued to do that, despite the advice given, are now feeling the pain. Table based layouts are rigid, and do not adapt to devices with smaller screens.

It took me about a day to modify my page generation scripts to no longer use tables for layout. Testing it, though, was the bigger issue. I had to buy an iPhone (after not having had any mobile phone for 15 years) just for that. I'm still paying the installments for the phone, but meanwhile my websites now work beautifully!