This idea must die - ideas that exist that are so absurd so seemingly unlikely that you can't believe it even exists at all?
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CSS Dev Conf: The URL for that is CSSDevConf.com, an in-person conference coming up in Long Beach, California, aboard the Queen Mary, this giant, beautiful boat docked there. Both Dave and I will be there hanging out.
I just talked to Christopher Schmitt, who runs the thing, about kind of what me and Dave are going to do there. I mean not much together, actually, but Dave has got an awesome keynote planned, and I'm going to help run some kind of cool show and tell on conference stuff while there, and just hang out. It's going to be lovely. Check out CSSDevConf.com.
For now, let's kick things off.
[Banjo music - Let's Build Websites!]
CHRIS: Hello. Welcome to ShopTalk Show. This is Chris Coyier. Today's show, brought to you in four parts, and titled: This Idea Must Die. It's an interesting idea, I think. Have you ever been aware of an idea that you just think is so weird, so absurd, so seemingly unlikely that you can't believe that it even exists at all?
That's what today's show is all about: Ideas that need to die, especially pertaining to the Web industries, ideas that need to die for the Web industry to move forward, maybe technical ideas, maybe big thinking ideas. We're going to bring you stories on blind men and elephants, zealots in an ancient square, CSS selector performance. Stay tuned.
DAVE: That was maybe the best intro we've ever done on this.
DAVE: What inspired you to do that?
CHRIS: I don't know. I've been listening too much of, like, good podcasts, lately.
CHRIS: And that's kind of how they do it.
DAVE: Like podcasts with editing and things like that.
CHRIS: Yeah, not that we have -- we have excellent editing, but we just don't have all day to put little clips together and interview 50 people for one episode. We do what we can here. This season, we've been doing different themes. We had a panel. We had a book club. We had more straight ahead interview kind of podcasts. We're exploring different formulas. We have a few more lined up, and just for fun! This is our NPR-esque version. Yeah, but that is really the idea, isn't it? It was your idea.
DAVE: Yeah. This is, actually. The title of this show is This Idea Must Die. I was inspired by an episode of Freakonomics, which was inspired by a book of that title, This Idea Must Die.
It's this idea in the science community. There's a website. Edge.org, I think it is. They sit around, and they kind of come up with things that are inhibiting the progress of science. That's what they were kind of focusing on.
CHRIS: Oh, interesting.
DAVE: What, in science is -- what ideas are holding on….
CHRIS: And there's probably a million of them in science.
DAVE: They had really interesting things, like the idea of left-brain/right-brain. That's, like, not true.
DAVE: It's an idea that we all hold onto, but it's--
CHRIS: I even have a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain that talks about that. But, in the beginning it says this may not be totally scientific. It just makes a really good metaphor. But yet, unfortunately, that metaphor, even as untrue as it is, gets into people's brains, and they think it's true.
DAVE: Yeah, it's just very interesting. I like the idea of taking old, established ideas, deconstructing it, and saying, "Is this necessary? Is this something we must hold onto for here and eternity? Is this a universal law?"
DAVE: Or is this just something that has entered our collective conscious and kind of polluted it or even just kind of, sort of, I don't know.
CHRIS: I think polluting it is a good word.
DAVE: Yeah, like we stopped thinking about it, so it just exists.
CHRIS: It happens all the time in tech. There's just the way that things are just because the way that they are, or they just have certain weight. Sometimes I think of Nicolas Gallagher when it comes to this stuff. A lot of the work that he did and put out, I feel like, when he was most active doing it was oftentimes questioning what's there.
It happened a bunch of times in the CSS reset land because a lot of times the stuff in a CSS reset feels so sacred. You know, it feels like somebody put that there, and they must have really did the research because that weird line right there must do something very specific, or whatever. Then that kind of got questioned over time, and we have done it different ways since then. What it really needed was some really strong documentation. I feel like that's what normalize became. Then Nicolas Gallagher would investigate clear fixes and that type of thing. I think that's interesting. It's the clear fix felt like it was the way it was for a long time. Then you got a question a little bit to move on.
That's a much smaller idea than left-brain/right-brain thinking, climate change, or something like that. But that's what the show is going to have in it. It's going to have really big ideas. It's going to have really small ideas, all of which some people feel like must die.
Let me just do one that I alluded to in the intro a little bit: CSS Selector Performance. That became a thing. I don't remember the roots of it. It would be interesting to track that down at some point, but I think some arguments came during a time when, yeah, I definitely remember when Nicole Sullivan's CSS Lint dropped, and it had a very opinionated rule in it about ID selectors.
It really kicked off this conversation about how ID selectors are bad news in CSS because of their specificity strength. It was very controversial, and lot's of people had opinions about it. It was kind of the hot drama of that little time period for a while. Then it settled down a little bit.
But, one of the arguments that was dredged up during that time was that an ID selector--you can make whatever arguments you want to make in addition to this--they're very "fast." That CSS, when it's being parsed by the browser, it can find an ID selector and apply it to a page much faster than it can any other kind of selector, and some of the slower ones being tag selectors. Like "div" or "a" or "span" or whatever are slow, and then the longer a sector gets.
There are examples of what a really slow selector might be, like "span, span, span, span," or something because then it has to be a span that's a descendant of a span, its descendant of a span. Descendant selectors are slow, and regular tag selectors are slow. Okay, so every time I say "fast" or "slow," imagine it with big quotes around it because it's technically true in that if you were to measure the performance of them in a contrived situation where there are, say, a million DOM nodes on a page that you could measure and it would have noticeable slowness differences.
It's largely been proven since then, and I don't think it was ever necessarily very true, that any particular CSS selector in an average, or even fairly extreme situation, would have really any noticeable impact at all on page performance. It's just not a thing. It's just not something that you should be spending brain cycles thinking about what's more efficient than the next thing, or intentionally use an ID selector because it's fast.
It's one of those ideas that got lodged into a lot of people's heads. People talked about it. And it's just kind of bad news. If I think there's an idea that should die, it's just worrying or thinking at all about CSS selector performance, except in the most extreme of all situations, in which case you're digging down into how browsers work, and you kind of need to be anyway because your situation is so extreme, e.g. millions of DOM nodes.
You know what I mean, so that's an idea that I think should die. Let's not think about CSS selector performance anymore.
DAVE: I think that's a perfect example. It still comes up. "Don't use the star because that's slow." But it also might work for your situation really great.
CHRIS: I've used the star selector. It is the logo for CSS-Tricks. Forever on every website I've eve worked on through time, including all my production sites, have star selectors in them, and it's not a thing. It is not a problem.
DAVE: It's very interesting. It's interesting that we get hooked on these weird, micro, data points. "Oh, I'm going to make it one millisecond faster by not doing this thing," and you start chasing that all the way down to its logical extreme. You just made Web design harder because you kind of took one little thing and did it really seriously all the way down the line.
CHRIS: Sure. The classic argument is that you could have spent that time doing something that had measurable performance or whatever.
CHRIS: All right, so that's just one little idea. Perhaps Dave and I will sprinkle our own little ideas into this, but we have asked some other folks out there, including you. If you sent one in, perhaps we'll get to it. Some other folks have sent us audio clips about their ideas, and we want to kind of hand the microphone over to them and have them give you as much time as they need to explain what their idea is of something on the Web that could die.
[Computer calculation sound effect]
BRAD: Hello. This is Brad Frost, and I think that the idea that must die is this notion that the Web is this singular, definable, quantifiable thing. I often hear a lot of dogmatic language around what the Web is, and that's often used to justify that person's, like, one right way of doing things.
I think that, in truth, the Web is very much like the elephant in that blind man in the elephant story. You know what I'm talking about? Like each blind man touches a different part of the elephant and comes to a different conclusion about what an elephant is. Right?
Like the guy that feels the elephant's legs says the elephant is like a pillar. The one that feels the elephant's tail says that the elephant is like a rope. And the one that feels the elephant's trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, and so on. Right? Of course, none of their definitions is correct because none of them have the full picture. Right?
We come at the task of creating things for the Web, I think, with our own perspectives on what the Web is and that, of course, influences how we approach our work. Right? We have tons of people working on the Web, and they're all coming from tons of different backgrounds using tons of different technologies and tools to make things happen. And, I think that that's fantastic, but of course that also means that are all these different perspectives naturally end up sort of conflicting with each other.
I think that some people's perspective of the Web treats the Web as just another runtime like Flash or Java or whatever. And, developers use that as an excuse to sort of put on horse blinders and focus on the latest and greatest technology. And, resultantly, exclude a lot of people from their experience. Right?
I love how Jeremy Keith rails against the phrase "the Web platform," because that phrase just sort of reinforces this notion that the Web is just another runtime, but it's not. Right? Rather, as Jeremy puts it, the Web is this continuum of features, contexts, and environments. And I think it's up to us to recognize that and act accordingly.
Tim Kadlec recently had this great post called Thriving in Unpredictability. In the post, he talks about a lot of the things that he can't control. He says, "I have no control over the network. It could be fast. It could be slow. It could be down entirely.
"I have no control over the end device. It could be a phone, a laptop, an e-reader, a watch, TV. It could be an over the top of the line one, or it could be a budget device with low specs. It could be a device release the other day or a device release five years ago.
"I have no control over the client running on that device. It could be the latest and greatest of modern browsers. It could be one of those browsers we developers love to hate. It could be a proxy browser. It could be an in-app browser.
"I have no control over the visitor or their context. They could be sitting down. They could be taking a train somewhere. They could be multitasking while walking down the street. They could be driving - I know, right? They could be color blind." I love Tim's posts. I think he's great. And, I think the more we embrace the fact that the Web is so bid and so diverse, and that there are so many variables and unknowns in our world, the more likely we are to be, you know, building more resilient, more robust, more future-friendly experiences for the Web.
As the edge of the horizon of the Web universe grows beyond the site of any one person, I think it's becoming increasingly important to embrace that unpredictability of the Web. Embrace that unknown. Embrace the things that we can't see or haven't experienced firsthand, and really recognize that the Web is this multifaceted, diverse, amazing medium. [Computer calculation sound effect]
DAVE: That was Brad Frost: writer, author, speaker, contributor to the Web community. Chris, what are your thoughts?
CHRIS: Bass player. What Brad thinks should die is the thought that the Web is predictable or that the Web is just another runtime. I think what he means by that is that you just smash some data together and compile it for the Web, compile it for a native, or compile it into a newspaper - although that's kind of interesting to think of it that way sometimes.
If you had to give a sentence to Brad's, what does Brad want to die, Dave?
DAVE: I think Brad makes a really excellent point. I feel like we all use "the Web" as sort of a trump card in our argument. "The Web is X. Therefore, my thing." I feel like that's something we always argue.
Brad, through Tim's post, and other work that people have done, I think it very much illustrates the fact that you can't tell people to upgrade their Webs. It's really hard to stand on the "the Web is a runtime." Although, millions of people have a very good runtime installed, but there's also an equal number of millions who have a very bad version of that runtime installed. Therefore, is it dependable, or is it not dependable?
I think you kind of have to err on the side of an undependable definition, so, therefore, you can build; you have to build towards the lowest common denominator. But, if you err on the side of, "Yeah, everyone has got a decent thing, a decent runtime," then you can build cool stuff, but you're going to hit problems with compatibility because not everyone has upgraded their Webs.
CHRIS: Stop thinking about the Web as one thing.
DAVE: Yeah. Yeah, it's not just HTML and CSS. Even today, I went to a website on my iPad, and it didn't load. No text on this article. Maybe a Web font died or maybe it was an HTTPS.
CHRIS: It's funny that you remember it because it happened to you this morning.
CHRIS: It's so prevalent that that's what's so crazy about this, isn't it?
DAVE: Yeah, and it was a name brand publication. It's on every newsstand. It has very pretty pictures.
CHRIS: And it happened to you in a city that has Google fiber in it. I don't know if you have it yet, but it happened to you on your expensive device in a land with excellent Internet.
DAVE: On my expensive Internet.
CHRIS: Take away any of that, and imagine how much more often it happens on top of that. Hopefully we're at peak awfulness for the Web.
DAVE: Yeah. You wonder when it's going to get better, when things are going to turn and become rapidly better.
CHRIS: Yeah. Maybe they will. A hot topic as we record this is ad block, and I think we should probably do a show on it, so let's hold off on that thought. Brad would be excellent to probably have on that too because he has so much death to "blank" on this that he talks about as well.
Good. Thank you, Brad for the thoughts there. Of course, we couldn't agree more.
CHRIS: Hey, this episode was brought to you in part by CSS Dev Conf, the URL there, literally, CSSDevConf.com. It's coming up October 26th through 28th in Long Beach, California, so come on out. Hang out with Dave and me. We'll both be there aboard the Queen Mary. Kind of an unusual, large, docked ship that's now a kind of hotel and event space and stuff. Very much looking forward to that, it's going to be super fun.
Invest in upgrading skills in two days--plus there's a workshop day--by seeing what's happening next with building at the annual CSS Dev Conf. Go there to register for it. Get inspired by practical, actual takeaways, hear keynotes from Jina Bolton, Dave Rupert, Val Head, Sara Soueidan.
I'm going to run some cool, little, side conference kind of stuff, I think, some show and tell. Get people more involved with just whatever you're working on. Bring it there. Tell me about it. We'll kind of present it in some kind of space. I think it's going to be kind of awesome.
Lots of sessions like container-based RWD with element queries. I totally want to watch that. I'm aware of what element queries are, but kind of want to look at solutions right now. I was just working on one yesterday that was like, I really wish there were element queries because I'd prefer to write queries for this module that can go on different pages and different scenarios. Uh! I wish that were a thing. There's ways, but it's not quite in browsers yet, but maybe there is interesting ways, or maybe it kind of is. I don't know. Let's go to the talk and find out.
Smoothly migrating to Flexbox, the dark arts of light speed. Ooh, weird. Stick around another day by adding a workshop to it. Anyway, you can check it all out, see all the speakers, see the schedule, see the vibe at CSSDevConf.com.
CHRIS: In a different vein, we have another guest that just wanted to talk to us about how, even if your websites are doing a good job at being websites, perhaps the layout for them is a little trite or--
DAVE: A little tired.
CHRIS: A little tired.
[Computer calculation sound effect]
JEN: This is Jen Simmons from the Web Ahead Podcast. What is it that I think should die? I think the layouts that we're stuck in, this rut. We're stuck in a rut of layout, and we need -- that needs to die.
What am I talked about? I'm talking about having a header, a sidebar, a main content column, and a footer, in this sort of Holy Grail layout where all the content is in a straight line vertically on the page, and there's no variation whatsoever. You just have a sidebar.
Why do we still have sidebars? I don't know. It's been proven again and again by eye tracking studies that people don't look in the sidebar. We've trained people not to ever look in the sidebar because mostly the content in the sidebar is so atrocious. It's so junky.
It used to be awesome. We used to put really awesome stuff in the sidebar. You used to go to somebody's blog, and you'd find all kinds of other blogs linked to in that cool sidebar, and you'd find the old posts they wrote. You could see what kinds of topics they had written about. You could click on their tags and their categories. You could go read all the old content, and it was cool. But, it's been a long time since that's how the world has been. Yet, we're still stuck in this -- we're stuck in this rut of having sidebars everywhere.
Oh, and -- and we're stuck in the rut of using 12 column or 16 column grids, framework systems where there's so little variation. And, we end up with these kinds of margins. Like there's a margin down each side of the page, and it's exactly the same on the left as it is on the right. Maybe, you know, at a certain screen size, you get this, like, one-inch margin running down both sides of the page. It's just boring and, you know what? We can do a lot of cool other stuff, especially now with CSS Shapes or Flexbox, or once the CSS grid layout specification gets to be mature and gets put into browsers. We'll have a lot of other things that we can do. But even without using those new technologies, we can change up our layouts. We can do different things.
So, I encourage everybody to rethink your layouts. Go look at a magazine or--I don't know--go look at architecture, music, or film to get ideas outside of the Web instead of just looking at websites and then kind of copying what everybody else's websites are without even realizing that's what we're doing because that's how we get stuck in this rut.
Let's kill it. Let's kill the sidebar. Thanks.
[Random caller side effect]
DAVE: The sidebar meets and untimely death here on the ShopTalk Show.
CHRIS: Jen has a full-length talk on that subject that is worth seeking out. It's very good. It's a strong point, and it's a hard one to face because all of us are so guilty of it. I know that I am. I'm literally working on a new design of CSS-Tricks, and it has a sidebar. It totally has a sidebar.
Should it have one, or should it not? I don't know. There's some legacy stuff I feel like I'm dealing with in that it's long had a sidebar. There's business. For example, that's where I put polls. If I really want to keep running polls, because it's kind of a type of content that we run on CSS-Tricks, where do I put that then?
It certainly is something that could be rethought. It could be just a footer section more. There could be some kind of link elsewhere on the page that would get you there, but no major idea has sprung to my mind, and it just doesn't bother me so much that it is in the sidebar. It's like--I don't know--I just have one.
There are business concerns in that there are ads that currently are sold based on their position in the sidebar, so should that go away? It would be something that I have to kind of line up business-wise and let people know that I'm going to be removing their spot. Can I sell them on an equally good or better spot without any evidence that it's going to perform as well? That's a little tough. Things like that, so it's kind of like: Am I digging in my heels, or am I trying to make a case for the sidebar? Is it more complicated than that? If I get to start out fresh on a sidebar, I certainly would have Jen's ideas in mind because that's always such a great opportunity to start fresh. It's a fresh text stack. It's a fresh layout opportunity.
It does feel like we're entrenched a little bit, sometimes, with when you're on version 14 of a site that's been around for kind of a long time. Also, there are things that need to be up top. I'm not going to use the word "the fold," but there are things like the navigation needs to be at the top or some way to get to somewhere that there's navigation that's very clear because there's more stuff that can fit on a website than can fit on one page. That's what navigation is. That's got to be there.
There's probably got to be some kind of branding, so people know where they are. Potentially some search and some content because you wouldn't want to bury content too far away. You want to get people excited when they get there. There are all these things that are kind of competing to be at the top of the page, not including business stuff and advertising stuff.
I feel like the sidebar is this, like, quick answer to, well, I can put the content over here and, for example, the sidebar opens up an opportunity to put an ad in, so I can do that, and they can both win. They can both be at the top of their respective column.
So I feel like I'm arguing against Jen. I'm absolutely not, but I just wanted to note that the conversation is complicated. I feel like it deserves a Tumblr or something that's like: Here are some layout solutions that are unusual, interesting, and effective that are also practical and have tackled some of these issues because they're certainly out there. What do you think, Dave?
DAVE: I think Jen makes an amazing point. I think she, in her talk, shows studies about sidebar blindness, eye tracking studies and heat maps where mouses clicked and moved. The sidebar is always a baron wasteland.
Gerry McGovern, also an Event Apart speaker, likes to point out that you're more likely to get struck by lightening than click a banner ad, statistically more likely. I find that fascinating. I find that shocking. I find that very eye opening.
To my brain, I'm like, well, we've got to do something about this. It's a problem. I think it is. I think people treat sidebars like they do hamburger menus. It's a dumpster for your afterthoughts.
CHRIS: Polls and ads. Yeah, you can say it. It's cool.
DAVE: For your polls and ads. No, I mean for your site, the polls are a very prominent part, and it maybe it is a piece of content, but it's also nice to have it accessible in a sidebar or something. If you were to put it at the footer of your article, it might just look like some weird recirculation module, and people would not pay it attention either.
It is. I'm very interested. I think she's right. I think the sidebar must die so that we can either come back to it and do it really good or do it really well. Superman does good.
CHRIS: Jen said look at magazines. I think she's right. I'm always inspired. You pick up a print magazine and just the design of so many of them are so good. There's stuff in Jen's talk about look at this beautiful article and how it was treated on the Web. Then look at it now on your phone. Look at how garbage it is and how well it doesn't serve that.
The point is maybe we don't have to talk about entire sites always in that maybe there's a site that some kind of more traditional layout looks good on the homepage, but then you click, and you read an article. The article is served differently. The article does treat its content in a different, more unique way with more unique layout and more unique things happening to it.
Like when we talk about sites. Sites are complicated, and there are lots of pages on the sites. Different pages on different sites can be treated in different ways. If I'm trying to make this argument about where this poll is positioned, well, fine. Maybe it's in the sidebar on some of the pages of the site.
But maybe, when you go and click an article that's a long form article guest post kind of thing that its layout is different. Maybe the poll isn't even on that page. Maybe it's a completely custom layout just for that post. I think that's common. I think Jen would thumbs up that.
DAVE: I sort of wonder if that's maybe the future. I think you'll read a magazine, and there are maybe 20 different article layouts in a magazine: very unique to the content, very structured. But you go to any blog or news publication and there are two layouts: the homepage and the article page, and maybe the video page or something.
I think we do need to give content more life. We need to kind of dream up different ways this content can exist. Maybe it's the difference between a featured article and a regular article. I've been experimenting a little bit with that on my blog, but I'm not there yet at all. Maybe there is that idea that this is a big feature, and this is just normal. Like: This is a big thought piece; this is just something.
I think The Verge does a really decent job at this. Kind of their special posts get some special attention. I think it's something kind of new ground that we can maybe take websites here in the future.
CHRIS: That's lovely. You know what, Dave? I disagree. I think you're wrong. I think, now that I know that you're wrong, you're also wrong about everything you've ever thought of. I question your judgment in shoes, and I'm not even going to read your next article. And you smell bad too.
DAVE: This is really sudden coming from a person who is terrible, Chris. You are terrible, and you do awful, terrible things, and I hacked your life because you're terrible. So that's--
CHRIS: So, as I weep, let's hear some opinions about why I might be weeping, and is there a solution to my sorrow?
[Computer calculation sound effect]
JEFFREY: I'm Jeffrey Zeldman. You may know me from Happy Cog, A List Apart, A Book Apart, An Event Apart, The Big Web Show, or the School of Visual Arts Masters of Fine Arts Program in Interaction Design. I like pie, and I have a problem. It's your problem too. As a community, we have to stop demonizing those with whom we disagree. Attacking the intelligence, moral fiber, and grip on sanity of those who hold opinions contrary to ours is nothing new on the Internet. It's as old as newsgroups. A minute after somebody started alt.opinions.design, a second person signed up just to tell the first person to screw off.
Of course, it's even older than that. Progressive groups that try to bring positive change to their community are always splitting into factions that despise each other. If you've seen Monty Python's The Life of Brian, and remember the sequence where the zealots are sitting in an ancient square attacking other zealot groups for being splitters, you have a good idea how far back this goes.
To J. Edgar Hoover, there was no difference between Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. But, boy, did the Stalinists and Trotskyites disagree with that point of view. Ask two communists a question and you'll get three answers and four bullets. Minus the bullets, the same is true for social, progress-minded, Web designers and developers. It's equally true for reactionaries who think the system is fair to everyone since it's always been good to them.
Until we are free to disagree on the most sensitive of subjects without maligning each other's integrity, we will not be able to solve the biggest problems we face as a people and an industry. I am Jeffrey Zeldman. Thanks for listening.
[Computer calculation sound effect]
DAVE: Well, I'm glad Jeffrey cited The Life of Brian because that actually spoke to me quite well. Chris, what are your thoughts here? Do you think our industry has a tiny problem with crucifying their dissenters?
CHRIS: It does. And, as Jeffrey said, so does every industry, probably. Hopefully ours is better, but it's still bad just because of the nature of disagreeing on things. It's too bad when it leaks into really dumb things like how fast a four loop runs or something because even those arguments can get weirdly angry. Yeah, we can't. As Jeffrey was kind of saying, we need to be able to disagree kind of on a level playing field or without questioning their sanity or insulting their family or something.
It often feels so strange when arguments get to that level. Then, as fancy people say, how do we unpack that? Why do they go there? And, when they're going there, is it a moment of insanity on their part, or does it feel like they're making a logical connection and they're happy they did bring that person's family into the argument in some way? I feel like sometimes disagreements feel bigger when you're in the moment than they are from someone commenting on it from the sidelines.
A big one that has gone down in the industry recently is centered around code of conduct. People would be like, "I don't think they need them for these reasons." "I think they should have them for these reasons." Everyone has lots of opinions about it. Unfortunately, on both sides, things have gone too far. Maybe that's worth doing a whole show on at some point. There's no need to go a ton into it, but you can imagine how bad things got.
I listened to an episode of Radio Lab recently. I think they intentionally delayed putting it out because of the Cecil the Lion stuff because their story was about a black rhino, and the story was very similar. A white male dude was granted this ticket to go kill a black rhino. I think people read it kind of headline deep and get real angry. He was reading out loud some stomach turning things that get sent to him, things about family members and wood chippers. We'll maybe get an explicit tag for that. Sorry if that was stomach turning, but he gets even more detailed about it. Those are the kind of threats that were made against him.
Then you listen to the whole show, and you just kind of understand. Whatever you think about this, this is a very, very complicated issue. You might even listen to that show and think that he was a dang near hero by the end of it. I'm not going to say that, but people make these extreme disagreements that they feel good when they make them because there's this horrible criminal on the other side of this argument. "If I'm equally extreme in how I'm feeling about this, maybe that levels the playing field of the world." I don't know. It's hard to talk about.
But then it's kind of like I have to be extreme about this because I feel extreme about this. The other person is so wrong that they're the one that are dangerous. Imagine if you think that you think conferences should have code of conducts because you would feel safer. For somebody that doesn't have one, you feel like they're not respecting your body, your safety, your health, and you as a person. I could see how that feels so very extreme.
I don't want to sit down on a rug and powwow with you and look you in the eyeballs. I think you're a dangerous person, potentially. Maybe. It feels a little hard to have a one-on-one, heart-to-heart with somebody when the argument is about something as extreme as it feels like. I don't know if I did a very good job of explaining myself there.
DAVE: I think it's good. I think it's the question of when is there time for a nuance discussion. We're recording this right after the great iOS 9 content blocker debacle where again we should probably discuss that in its own episode. But one thing that Marco Arment said when he took down his peace app was, like, "This is a sledgehammer to the problem of ads on the Web and performance on the Web. I think we need a more nuance discussion." I thought that was really smart. Marco may have been trying to get himself out of the center of that big debate, but I feel like that's the thing.
If I were to add my kind of two cents to this whole "this idea must die" thing, I think there's this "it's the right thing to do" is a common argument, like you should do that because it's the right thing to do. I think that comes off as a bit of a religious argument because you're implying there's a moral superior option that this is the right thing to do. Why should I have a code of conduct? It's the right thing to do.
I'm personally a fan of code of conducts. I'm going to cite my own disagreement for why I support them. But, when I listen to people who their lives are embettered by things like that, or code of conducts, for example, there's countless stories, endless, endless, endless stories of people saying this makes me feel safer. For me, it just seems like that is a baseline experience making people safe. I feel that….
CHRIS: There are arguments somebody would listen to you who said that, and they would have an eloquent, ready to go answer to be against it, just like every political argument or whatever.
CHRIS: They'd be like, well--
DAVE: Yeah. I'm not providing real safety.
DAVE: You're providing false safety, which allows for aggressors to come out.
CHRIS: Sure. Then somebody else would have an argument that's ready to go against that too. We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg here.
It seems hard to have that conversation entirely levelheadedly because it's about safety. Now imagine having that conversation about a war.
CHRIS: Yeah, so it's kind of no wonder that people get so heated about it because it's hard to sit down with somebody who you think might shoot you.
DAVE: Yeah, well, I think Jeffrey said that. You get four opinions--
DAVE: Or three opinions and four bullets. I think what Jeffrey's sort of thesis is, we need to not escalate situations, which do not need to be escalated, or allow breathing room for longer discussions. That people can be wrong, and people can maybe exist in an opposite state as your opinion. But how do you nudge people to a better place if you disagree with their opinion? I feel like that's an important tactic we need to deploy.
CHRIS: Sure. The answer isn't, of course, just be calm all the time.
DAVE: No, no. Yeah, I don't think it's "just be calm," but I feel like it's just: Dig into what the real problem is, not just this -- I don't know.
CHRIS: There are some rules, like never, ever question their intelligence or bring their family into it.
CHRIS: There are some things like that that would be kind of good guidelines. Okay. This moves into, because I asked you earlier. What are Dave Rupert's? What would you say is an idea that must die on the Web? I think this goes right into it, right? Isn't this kind of what you would?
DAVE: Yeah. I think the idea that there is a moral superior in every situation and we can apply that, I feel like that maybe needs to die. I think that it's sort of what Brad was saying. A lot of people come at the Web from a lot of different angles. While it's maybe not right to have your site be inaccessible. Again, I'm pro accessibility. While it's not right, there are a lot of websites out there, and people are trying to build things the best they can, and from pressures that we don't see. We can say we can do better.
DAVE: Or what would be better is if….
CHRIS: So what would be dangerous is to be like, "I'm going to start a name and shame website for websites that aren't." You would say that would be in the extreme. That would be the problem because it doesn't leave any room for any kind of more nuance discussion about this stuff. It's just pulling out the jerk card.
DAVE: Yeah. All that the opposite, the, I guess, shamed party can come to a conclusion is that person is a dick, and I don't know if I should even listen to them.
CHRIS: It's true because it started with such an aggressive tone or whatever.
CHRIS: Isn't the natural reaction for me to dig in and kind of protect myself against that rather than try to figure out what they're trying to say and see if I can make myself better because of it?
DAVE: Yep. I just think we need to come up with better answers than, "It's the right thing."
CHRIS: Yeah, right. It's like a little kid goes up to another little kid and says, "You're a poo-poo head." The other little kid isn't going to go, "God, you're right. I should question my bathing tactics and see what I can do. See if I can lobby my mom into buying more scented soaps."
DAVE: Yeah. You can't. It's hard to defend anything that's just kind of like--
CHRIS: You're a poo-poo head too. You're a worse poo-poo head.
DAVE: That's what happens. You're a double poo-poo head, and I've actually used that argument on Twitter before because I said something, and they were like, "Wrong!" And I was like, "Uh, double wrong. No takesies backsies."
DAVE: Because they were just saying I was wrong with no justification in any kind of way, or if you say one thing wrong. This is maybe the thing I think most needs to die. If somebody says something wrong on the Internet--men, and I'm speaking mostly to men here in tech--stop correcting them. Just let people be wrong. We don't need to tell everybody they're wrong.
It's that XKCD comic where it's like, "Hold on. Somebody is wrong on the Internet. This will take me all night," or whatever. Just unfollow or ignore, mute. There are lots of other options, and you don't need to "take somebody down," in my opinion.
CHRIS: Well said, Dave.
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We have a couple of quick hits that we can do real quickly that we don't need to dig in as far. We put out a tweet a while back asking for ideas for this, and some people maybe didn't have the time. I know one person just really didn't have the equipment to record an audio thing, so I thought we'd read a couple of these tweets because they're fun and in line with the show.
Barry Smith wrote in, "The current Favicon system must die," which is funny. There's a post not so long ago on CSS-Tricks about if you wanted to. Let's say your goal on the Web right now was to make a Favicon that works perfectly on every single possible everything. Not only just a Favicon, but that kind of is an icon that represents your website. That would include touch icons, Window things, whatever Android needs, and all that stuff. If that was your goal to have 100% coverage, it is a little crazy.
CHRIS: It's like 30 to 50 lines of code, I think, that would need to go in your head to cover it all.
DAVE: Yeah, it's an endless customization or some browser or operating system. We'll just invent a new way that you have to put your website….
CHRIS: Not to mention none of them support SVG. Like, what? Maybe there's one that does now, but that seems like the perfect opportunity.
CHRIS: Ha, indeed. Let me read one more of the tweet ones. J. Edgar Montes writes in, "Definitely something that must go is the browser prefix. They're such a pain and shouldn't exist in the first place."
I think he was talking about, like, -webkit-, and stuff. I think most people agree with you. It feels like kind of a -- or at least I think Blink even has some kind of document or statement that says, "We are not going to add any new ones," and they've come through with that. There's no -blink, I don't think. I think they have largely come through on that.
Maybe there are some citable examples where they haven't. I can't really speak to that, but I think they have largely done a good job and said that they have kind of a new plan for how they're going to do that. I think it has to do with flags, which is a different way to go, so they're on their way out.
DAVE: Good. Well, that is to say I think Safari introduced a new one, the -apple.
CHRIS: Oh, is it the snap points?
DAVE: System font. The system font.
DAVE: Maybe even snap points, so I think they still exist, and I think they're still kind of kicked around.
CHRIS: Sure. As a whole, it's on its way out. A dying idea, potentially.
DAVE: Yep. All right, we have another audio one. We have one from Sarah Drasner.
CHRIS: Hi, Sarah.
DAVE: A previous guest of the show. Here we go.
SARAH: Hey. My name is Sarah Drasner. I am a senior UX engineer at Trulia. And I think the idea that must die is that good design can't also be performant.
DAVE: I think this is very interesting. I think there is sort of an idea that--
CHRIS: There sure is.
DAVE: --I'm making something beautiful. Of course it weighs 30 megs.
CHRIS: Or there just has to be a hero on this page because it's really going to go a long way for the design of this site that we show off the interior of our office, our foosball table, and kind of exposed brick walls or whatever at our agency. You may be right about that, but there are probably ways to do a good job with that as well: responsive images, optimizing things, and stuff.
It shouldn't be, and Sarah put it more succinct. We should probably have just left it at that because she said it succinctly, and we're going to go on and on about it. But they don't have to opposite each other. You don't have say, "Well, I want this website to be performant, thus we shouldn't even try with the design because it just can't be." "We're optimizing for performance, so design is out the window." That's an idea that should die.
DAVE: We have some more tweets. We'll kind of rapid fire through these. Scott Jell, not talking to us, but this is a bit of an O.H.
CHRIS: Yeah. Somebody linked it to us. Whatever.
DAVE: Okay. Yes. "The strategy for modal overlays where you offer two options: A, yes, sign me or, B, no thanks, I'm a stupid idiot. Stop it."
CHRIS: [Laughter] I hate those. The more benign ones are like, "Close. I don't like deals," because they're trying to offer you some discount.
DAVE: Yeah, I was walking into Home Depot the other day, and the guy says, "Hi. Would you like to talk about lowering your energy bill?" And the answer, of course, is -- or, "Are you interested in lowering your energy bill?" The answer, of course, is yes. Why would I want to always pay more?
But he just wants to rope me into a long conversation where he tries to sell me something. And so I felt like that was a very similar dark pattern tactic. I've seen some other dark patterns. There are people where you're going through a flow, and you're like, "No thanks. I don't want that." And it's like the, "Are you sure?" screen, and they flip the positive and negative signal. They even add priority to the opposite one to kind of trick you. There are a lot of little dark patterns out there kind of creeping back in.
I know companies just send you push notifications just so you have that little badge on your icon so that you open up the app, just so they get an app opened in their stats. The world is a dark place.
CHRIS: It seems like ripe for the Onion app to do that and be like, "We just put that badge there just so you'd come here." Then I was just reading down that Twitter thread, and Karen McGrane linked to coolestopouts.tumblr.com, and they are funny.
"Don't miss this Sunday's Dispatches. No thanks; I hate creativity. No thanks; I'm not interested in protecting my skin. No thanks; I prefer my sex to remain awkward."
CHRIS: "No thanks; minivans are more my speed."
DAVE: I think I've gotten this from, you know, like, "No thanks; I hate America," or you know those kind of posts where you sign up for some petition or something.
CHRIS: There's ones where there's only one right answer that's appealing to you on a moral level would be like, "I think that people shouldn't be killed in the streets. I agree or I disagree." To close it, they make you click on "I disagree."
CHRIS: You know, you're like, so I have to pick the morally incorrect choice to close this dialog box. That is so awful. I mean who -- come on. That's just -- I hope they just thought it was funny.
CHRIS: If it even crossed their mind that it was anything more than that-- Uh!
CHRIS: I'm mad at your family! [Laughter]
DAVE: All right. Jeff Ayer: The idea that Jeff wants to die is, "Stop treating users like idiots and stop researching your competition."
CHRIS: See, that's unconventional advice, isn't it a bit?
DAVE: I think, yeah.
CHRIS: Well, of course you should stop treating your users like -- well, stop treating your users like idiots, meaning -- I don't know. Think of them as a competent human being that they are.
DAVE: Yeah. Treat them humanely.
DAVE: Treat your users humanely. Yeah.
CHRIS: Then stop research means, like, I think you could probably get overwhelmed with obsessing about what some similar company is doing rather than working on your own.
DAVE: Mm-hmm. Yep. Yeah, I mean you can be kind of stuck in trying to be like Facebook or whoever your competition is.
CHRIS: Sure. If you have too much research in that regard, it might guide you that way.
DAVE: Mm-hmm. Yep. Then we have two more here. Mark Thomes writes in, "Popup ads must die again."
CHRIS: Again. Apparently they're back.
DAVE: I think Docker, maybe, brought them back, but then also I think there's the full screener ads on mobile. Those are popular.
Then Rachel Smith, a friend of the show, writes in. This was something she was tweet storming about one day. "How about instead of writing think pieces on how all websites look the same, we--I don't know--work on making a website that looks different? #sickburn #Icouldntagreemore.
CHRIS: Well, we just talked. We just talked about Jen Simmons's thing, and have you seen that? There was some blog post that was going around that screen capped like 50 different Web agency sites, and they were just all exactly the same.
DAVE: They're all saying, like, differentiate yourself from the competition.
CHRIS: Then we all, you know, as the sheep tweeters we are, laughed right along with it and retweeted it. Now all these sites are the same, and all these tweets are the same, and none of us are actually building websites that buck this trend.
DAVE: We fell into a trap -- uh -- of -- yep. Yeah, I think it's interesting. Sort of along the lines of Jen Simmons's talk, let's break out of. We're ripe for experimentation, so we should break out and do things differently. We're in tired, old, rutty patterns, so I couldn't agree more.
Well, Chris, what do you think?
CHRIS: Yeah. Well, speaking of kind of if you're really quite sick of -- you know, maybe you're even sick of the Web. Maybe you just want some new, a new runtime. I don't know, but there's lots of new stuff that's coming to the Web that's always really wild, really interesting, really different.
Remember when me and you were just in Chicago at AEA Chicago together, and we were looking at a bunch of VR stuff. Dave, you've been kind of continually interested in VR.
CHRIS: Just because it's kind of impressive, especially like why is it attached to the Web? VR seems like one of those things that's a computer related thing, but not necessarily for the Web. But, for some reason, it works really well on the Web. Maybe because it's leveraging Web GL or whatever, which is cool. But anyway, there's a lot of VR stuff that's, believe it or not, happening on the Web.
One company that's very highly invested in this is called AltspaceVR. It's really altvr.com, and they just so happen to be hiring a virtual reality front-end UI engineer, so UIs that happen kind of in virtual reality, which is pretty cool. They write, "We need design minded front-end developers with a deep knowledge of modern Web development to create next generation user interfaces." Wow! What an opportunity.
They work in Chrome, and they have these VR APIs to present Web apps in holographic 3-D to devices like the Oculus, Rift, and HTC Vibe. Then they're like, you know, if you're sick of supporting old IE or something, this is not that. You're going to be working with the latest and greatest kind of APIs, on new stuff. The job is at, again AltspaceVR for front-end UI engineer. We'll put a link to that in the show notes, a pretty cool job opportunity up out there on the ShopTalk job board.
DAVE: If you hate your job, get a new one over at ShopTalkShow.com/jobs. Chris, I think this ends our Ideas Must Die episode. It's been kind of fun to explore. If you were inspired, write blog posts or send us audio clips because I think I would like to keep bringing this up. We should never just let things linger in our ecosphere. Yeah. Chris, did you enjoy letting ideas--
CHRIS: I did. It was interesting.
DAVE: --fall off the vine?
CHRIS: It was just what I hoped it would be. There were social ideas in here and tech ideas, and big ideas and small ideas. Yeah, it was pretty good.
DAVE: Well, that's going to be it for us. Thanks, everybody.
CHRIS: I feel like we should have a Tori Merrill Tina joke, or whatever, at the end here, but maybe next time.
DAVE: [Laughter] Next time. Thanks, everybody, for listening. Be sure to vote this up in your podcatcher of choice. Five stars is just that easy. That's how people find out about the show. Follow us on Twitter, @ShopTalkShow. I think, yeah, that's going to maybe do it for us.
Hold on. I'm getting another call here. Hold on just one second.
[Phone ringing sound effect]
JEN: Oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Hey, I have another one. This is Jen Simmons again from the Web Ahead. What needs to die? I think a whole expectation that everybody in the industry is the same one flavor of nerd, that everybody is a 23-year-old, white, straight boy who likes to eat Cheetos and play videogames and wear T-shirts from conferences.
And maybe you are a 23-year-old, white, straight boy living in the Valley, in Silicon Valley, wearing right now a conference T-shirt and eating some Cheetos. That's cool. I don't mean to say that you're wrong. You're not. Cool. Rock those Cheetos.
But what's so stifling and sometimes just overwhelming is this idea that we keep wandering around expecting that everybody is like that. Everybody wants to eat pizza and soda at this conference. Everybody wants to get as drunk as possible. Everybody is a man. Of course everybody is a man. Girls don't even like computers. Of course everyone is white. How in the world could anyone who is not white have ever gotten into our industry, because we're so awesome and they're so disadvantaged?
That's just so completely wrong. And I've been lucky enough. I've made decisions in my life to put myself into situations that are not like that. I just came back last week from yet another conference where the audience to that conference didn't look anything like that tiny, tiny box that we seem to assume this industry is in.
The whole industry is not like that. The whole world is not like that. Now, some conferences are like that. Some pockets of the world can be or seem to be like that. And I'm just sick of it. I'm sick of it.
I'm almost at a point where I'm, like, over it. And I don't want to go to places that act like that anymore. I don't want to go to yet another conference where you can't even get some water to drink because the idea that everyone wants to drink soda is so engrained that no one even bothered to bring anything except soda.
And it's not about the soda. It's about this idea that we're all the exact same particular kind of person. That's where the money is going. All the VC funding is going to the companies that look like a white, straight, male dominated field. It's just time to grow up. It's time for all of us to just grow up and stop acting like that because it's not the reality that I want to live in. It's not the world I want to live in. It's not the world that we do live in, and anybody who keeps advocating this idea that that is the world is intentionally advocating a world where sexism and racism and classism and crappy habits, bad health dominates.
That's not why I got into the Web. I got into the Web because the Web was a place, after a century of a certain kind of power structure and a certain kind of way that, like, if you wanted to make a TV show, you had to go through these five big television stations. Or, if you wanted to have a band and make music, you had to go through these particular record labels. The Web is a place where those rules got broken, just smashed. Anybody could start a band and put their album out there for the whole world to buy. Anybody can make a video series and put it online for the whole world to watch. Anybody can write an article or a column or report on some news and put it out there for the whole world to read. That's the Web that I believe in. That's the Web I want to see.
And, how we went from this idea that the Web was going to be freedom and access and redistribution of power--I'll say it--to this world where everybody is this one particular kind of person, and it's all about money, that's all we care about, that's not why I got into the Web. I don't think that's why the Web was invented, and I don't think that's why a lot of people got involved in the Web. So, let's take it back from that idea, and let's make it something for everybody, especially globally, everybody to participate, everybody to feel like they belong, everybody to feel like they can go to a conference and chime in, or go to work and chime in at a meeting and have their ideas heard and not have this kind of oppressive, stifling, stereotypical idea of who is smart, who has good ideas, and who is around.
We don't need hoodies. The hoodie should die. I don't know. The hoodie stereotype--I don't know--I'll have to think about that. We'll come up with some words. That needs to go.