Online surveys in the time of decreasing attention spans

What happened to the good ol’ days? The time when you could approach people in the street with a few polite questions without fear of being given the heave-ho; when customers would be only too happy to donate two minutes of their day to offer constructive words of advice to an enthusiastic entrepreneur who just wanted to do a bit of old fashion world-changing. Continue reading Online surveys in the time of decreasing attention spans

5 ways you can shut the fuck up

Going through my RSS feeds this morning I was once again beset by reams of article titles with claims of 10 items you should take on a holiday, 20 CSS tricks everyone should know, 11 iPhone apps that will make your grandmother orgasm and so on and so forth.

Can we stop this pathetic enumeration of self-help blogshit please? To post n ways of doing something in the hope that a catchy title may ensnare a few self-absorbed or paranoid web surfers may have been novel advice for bloggers once upon a time, but it has become cliché and the numbers and topics are getting more ridiculous. I mean, who needs to read a post about 7 ways Forrest Gump can improve your self confidence?

The history behind this flappy piece of copywriting dribble is unknown, but it’s been awfully catching. Somehow it has even become absorbed into the body of advice (known as ‘good practice’) given to aspiring authors and others looking for easy ways to avoid agonising over head lines.

The 5 ways of truth

So, anyway as a retort I thought I’d share five pitiful pieces of advice to help all those template-worshipping, google-hungry tip-bandits out there to move on:

  1. Don’t make the number more important than the message

    To limit, or stretch, yourself to provide six or seven or 25 tips on making a hat out of salmon or whatever means that you’re spending more time on conforming to a structure than on what you’re writing. A good argument, or a list of lucid tips, doesn’t need to be fenced in and will flow naturally anyway if the content is well-written. Ever heard of catchy titles?

  2. If you write good content they’ll come anyway

    Oh my God! 40 Photoshop tutorials you must read! Digg this and I’ll be famous even though I’m just linking to the top 40 Google results and haven’t contributed anything to the broader sphere of knowledge nor do I know anything about Photoshop! Loser.

  3. Lists can be great. Big lists are not.

    Sure, people who use RSS to aggregate their news are really going to spend more than 15 seconds reading your 20-page article on 100 movie bloopers you must see before you go to the toilet.

  4. Don’t make the web boring

    People are copycats. It’s natural. If I see someone wearing a particularly dashing pair of jeans on Oxford Street, I’ll scour the opportunity shops until I find something similar. But if you’re smart enough to be able to create your own blog, you probably also possess sufficient imagination to do something new on the web or, at least, not to follow what a quadrillion people have done already. The web is exciting, it’s malleable and there are (mostly) no rules. Don’t turn it into a newspaper.

  5. There is no five

    When you realise the truth, that there are more than 12 methods of pruning nasal hair or 8 foods you should eat to become Pavarotti, you might just be on the way to writing in the authoritative voice you thought you would have achieved from your sad numbered list.

Clearing your hacks

The sun has come out in London and beach lovers like me are all wondering when their next ‘real summer’ will be. Now, when the television turns to Home and Away, we don’t cringe with disgust and hurl a frozen side of lamb through the screen, but scan every frame for evidence of that yellow sand and those rolling waves we miss so much. Which brings me to clearing using CSS.

Let’s take a look at the following snippet:

<ul id="mylist">
<li>I float left!</li>
<li>I float right!</li>
</ul>

We’ve all seen this before. The UL has a background colour or is supposed to clear an adjacent sibling however without a clearing fix, it doesn’t wrap around it’s children or just floats in space like your demented cousin Jonah.

So we implement a clearing fix. Remember this little beauty?

.clearfix:after {
content: ".";
display: block;
height: 0;
clear: both;
visibility: hidden;
}

* html .clearfix {height: 1%;}

What a great deal of time it saved us. It bludgeoned those divs down past their floating children like a hunter taming a pack of wild kittens, all while keeping your markup clean and your smugness intact. However if you look at it, it’s a little bloated and, unless you add specific id and classes to the rule, you have to slip in the classname clearfix to all the offending elements in the markup. Boring!

Well forget that. Now you can clear with gay abandon using just two lines of CSS.

#mylist {
overflow:hidden;
}

/* ie6 */
* html #mylist {
height:1%;
}

With any luck you won’t even have to implement the IE6 fix for very long. I usually keep all my IE hacks in a separate style sheet, ready for obliteration when people finally realise that using Internet Explorer 6 is worse than putting a fire out with your armpits.

Good day!

Diplomatic immunity through javascript

Would you love to be able to waltz in to a place, piss all over the floor, without anybody saying or doing anything to you? And what’s more: even if they wanted to punish you, you could make them  follow a process that you yourself defined. Haw haw!

Anonymous, self-executing functions can allow you to do this. They’re kind of like diplomatic immunity for your browser and can be very powerful.

(function(){/*
    Oooh it's so cozy in here. I have access to all
    global variables but I can do what
    I like and no-one will know!
    Now I'm going to do some private things.
*/

var privateVar = "I'm so lonely in here";
var privateFunction = function(s){ alert(s) };

/*

Okay, maybe I want to share something with the
    outside world but let's namespace it just in case:

*/

return namespace = {
           publicFunction : function(q){
               return function(a) {
                privateFunction(q + privateVar + a)
               }
            }
};

})();

We can’t access any of the private variables or functions from outside our anonymous function, thus avoiding collisions and overwriting, but we can return public functions that do! namespace.publicFunction is able to see, use and modify our private variables, but only in the way in which we want it.

It’s even possible to throw a bit of curry in there to spice it up. Calling namespace.publicFunction and passing it an argument (in this case a question) returns another anonymous function that expects an argument (an answer) and will then use our private variables to construct a little dialogue.

We would call it like this:

namespace.publicFunction("How are you?\n")("\nThat's too bad");

The example is basic and doesn’t make much practical sense but it demonstrates the way scope works in javascript and it can be a simple but handy tool to have in your arsenal.

Journalists love developers love journalists

The convergence of media has given rise to some strange bedfellows. Once upon a time a news room was filled with copy editors, journalists, photographers, phones blaring, and daily deadlines. Now it’s more common to see plasma screens, banks of computers, a multimedia department and us – the proud web developers.

A good working relationship between developers and the “journos” takes some time to forge: it depends on the environment and the willingness of both parties to accept and comprehend each others’ roles. But because these roles are so different, misunderstandings are inevitable. In some places, I’ve noticed a level of antagonism arise between the two groups where each regard the other as an ignorant impediment to their own jobs.

Developers take great pains to craft and maintain clean and compliant code and become disillusioned with the editors’ constant and successful attempts to break it. They can’t fathom how an editor would input 100 break tags to clear an image and consider a little piece of coding knowledge in an eager writer to be a dangerous thing. To a developer, an editor is someone whose basic role is akin to data entry. It is inconceivable that they should require any other skill beyond copy and paste and more HTML tags than <h2> and <p>.

Editors on the other hand, think that developers are a team of geeks who, because they don’t want to do any work, enforce draconian rules on the publishing process and stifle any attempt at creativity. Editors feel that developers don’t understand a thing about the craft of news writing and the importance of timely and topical messages. The attitude is that they use acronyms to confuse and hide behind their inability to deliver what an editor wants.

Wording, coding and loading

Fortunately, I’ve been in both chairs. As a writer hacking away at a desktop word processor composing articles destined for the web, I was on intimate terms with the way text had to be “cleaned and gleaned” before it was suitable to be published as HTML. Any variations on the template (usually defined by designers) had to be fudged or “requested” meaning that a designer had to create them and a client side developer had to provide the code. In a news environment, more so in an online environment where we can break and update stories when and from where we please, this is a huge frustration.

So too having worked with editors and journalists across many industries in a development capacity, I have heard their frustrations in relation to technology: “Why should we have to learn HTML and CSS? Don’t we employ people to take care of that for us?”

My answer was always that they should learn simple HTML and perhaps a little CSS, or at least what it’s used for, and that I would offer to teach them what they needed to know. Some accepted and others spurned the offer as if I’d just invited them to watch moss grow on roof tiles. But I understood their complaints. Arguably, more than in any other sector, the media and entertainment industries are experiencing profound changes due to the rise and rise of the internet. Concurrently, all the platforms, a great deal of the content, the language and yes, even the roles are changing with it.

In today’s web-focused newsrooms the journalist is expected to not only produce the content but to publish it at well using whatever tool is provided for them. They’ve been employed to write, edit, research and provide the content that keeps people coming to the site. But the variable output of content management systems and the strict rules that are required to maintain a website that validates, create a digital minefield. Training and documentation might be non-existent, technology changes but the pressures to submit their copy in a presentable format remain the same. For example, if a means to create a breakout quote is not available to the editor, who has to immediately push out a breaking story, they will improvise and we, the support staff who look after the integrity of the site, may come across something like this:

<p ALIGN=LEFT><b>
<font size="3" color="red">
"And a minister said something interesting."<br>
</font>
<i>The Hon Henry Honeybun</i>
</b>
</p>

The writers don’t care. Their material is out and they’ve done their job. Any self-respecting web developer however is prone to suffer a mild spasm. Larger organisations that can afford to hire technical support staff who can respond to these events straight away have mitigating buffers. But the night desks and smaller news teams will publish what they can get away with, despite breaking the layout or every rule in the HTML validator.

Who’s right?

It might be a gratuitously evident comment, but people publishing content to the web – whatever that content may be – should have the tools and knowledge available to them to do so. Saying I work as a writer shouldn’t negate the necessity for me to understand the medium in which I publish. I should know what I can and can’t do and follow the advice of the developers.

But, it goes both ways.

If I am a developer (responsible for the frontend of a news website), it’s important for me to know how a newsroom works and to understand the role of journalists in newsmaking; it’s also worthy to discover the mental process by which people in my team will be publishing to the site, not just the physical workflow. For example, how and when does sub-editing take place? Who approves the final draft? What elements of  a story should be semantically marked up? And so on. When armed with this knowledge, I’ll be able to better support them so that they can do their jobs properly. Providing the right tools is only a part of this. Attaching a digital style guide to the formal style guide is one option. Proper training is another.

Despite the gaps in the knowledge of both parties, I think we are at the tail-end of the transition and that we will see a new generation of journalists who will have had training in web publishing. Accordingly I hope that we’ll see a new breed of developers, particularly bloggers, who appreciate the art of the word and the importance of a journalist’s and editor’s role in the creation of news. Ultimately we’re both producing lines to achieve the same end: whether they’re words or code, our medium is online and our audiences shouldn’t have to know that there’s a difference between the two.

Project managers and developers: a love story

You know the situation: you begin to make furtive glances over your shoulder because you think they are near; you wonder if they actually understand what it is you do at all, and the dread, moments before the monotonous weekly meeting, surpasses what even coffee can placate.

They are the project managers – the very whisper of whom incite fear in the most hardy of web veterans.

I’ve seen good and bad project managers (PMs): from the micro-managing control-freak prone to panic attacks, to the uninformed motormouth, who spurts buzz words faster than they can be created. I’ve also worked with some incredible people who can forge a mini-utopia from the chaos created by 30 programmers, designers and writers in one room. These folk can read a Gant chart like a conductor reads a musical score and churn out a dead-line driven symphony which, at the end, leaves all involved feeling euphoric and satisfied.

However it’s wrong to assume that we, in the creative output department, can sit back and do what we’re told by our PMs and leave them to tackle everything alone. The pressure is on them to deliver, but the attitude of “I just write the code – don’t blame me for being a scope creep” dodges our responsibility to contribute to the project’s smooth running. We are there because we have specialised knowledge and regardless of the personality of whoever is running the project, we should use it.

How we can help them and ourselves?

Contribute and participate

Why would you go to a mechanic if you were going to dictate to him or her how to perform an oil change? A PM shouldn’t do this to you either. You need to get in early to help define the scope of your own work to avoid nightmares later on. Identify the risks and ensure that the timelines are realistic. A PM might not know that you need four days for bug fixing, or that creating a Flash movie player needs more than one day’s preparation. He or she can’t be over all the minutiae of a task, and, if they don’t ask for your advice before they write technical or design requirements then, it’s up to you to stick your hand up.

Also, ask to have a look at the final requirements before they are signed off. You are not being self-important here – you’re just making sure that everyone, including yourself, understand what the expectations are.

Education

If your PM is new or not up to speed on your area or expertise, tell them what you can do and demonstrate your knowledge through projects you’ve previously delivered. There’s no need to be a complete nerdy suckhole, but it does help to prove to them that you’re not just another monkey looking for a banana.

Depending on the intricacies of what you have to do, you should always provide proper documentation on what you have delivered. When working on the frontend, I try to provide a master document that contains all the CSS and markup rules to which those working on the site in the future have to adhere, along with examples. If they’re integrating your work into a backend application, programmers will love you for it and content managers won’t be able to complain later that they didn’t know that there was a class to style their images. As you can probably guess, this will facilitate everyone’s role and thus make the PM smile.

Communication

Meetings can be a bore, particularly when they focus on an area you’re not working on; large team meetings don’t usually provide an opportunity to go over everyone’s issues. But it’s not hard to email your PM when you discover something useful – such as an alternative solution to a problem that your team is experiencing. Many times they won’t care what technical solutions you offer then so long as you deliver whatever the functional specification says. But if you talk their language – budgets, timelines, making the client happy and so on – you will get through. For example, you may raise the risk that the groovy new AJAX application will not be accessible to everyone and argue that:

  • you can raise the exposure of your client’s website by modifying the application to cater for screen readers and provide alternatives to AJAX-generated content for search engines
  • the return on investment from the three days of extra work will come in the form of status (you’ll get a better solution) and money (it’s easier to implement a fix while the site is young rather than six months later)

Will they love us or hate us?

Anything you do to make the hectic life of a PM easier will reward you with positive vibes. Some won’t like what they perceive as ‘meddling’, and they’ll employ the old chestnut: “I don’t tell you how to do your job buddy, I have an MBA blah blah.” Although you can go too far, you’re just trying to do a good job and ultimately, at the project launch party you’ll get respect and beer instead of just being known as that guy who sat in the corner, coding and seething because no one listened to his advice.

Tips for a standards martyr

Q: How does a spectacularly immense organisation go from tables and HTML 4 to web standards and XHTML strict without breaking a sweat?
A: They don’t.

A large company that shall go unnamed to which I have a particular affiliation has recently updated the standards to which all new websites will be developed. This is after having spent the last nine years using the same, table-based layout for 1000s of sites, mini-sites and single pages. Nearly half of this rubbish contains elaborate CSS hacks for IE 5. Imagine that.

The first, and potentially most difficult battle has been won: getting the support of management across the organisation and the resources to research and develop the new solution.

The second, and arguably most fun part of the task has been completed: you’ve created a flexible, standards-based template using a new brand or design that works in every browser you care about.

Now comes the dirty work.

The particular concoction of 100s of developers, a gigantic online catalogue and nine years of “internet time” has created a labyrinth of hacks, validation nightmares and enough <td>s to crash View Source. Resource-wise it would have been impossible to go through each and every page of HTML to upgrade the templates. We all know that this essentially means a rebuild and in some cases a redesign – not just dumping content into a few div tags.

So what do we do?

I’m not an expert in change management but I have played various roles in the evolution of a company’s code, thinking and practice from old to new. Each experience was different, but I’ll try to provide an outline of what to look out for.

New sites – a new way

It makes sense that all sites in development will follow the fresh standards since you now have your new code and the rules in which you can implement them. This teething period should weed out any structural problems with the code and allow time for designers to explore the possibilities and limitations of their new space. Make sure you share what you have learned!

If you work with a team of developers, get together before starting and ensure that everyone understands how the new code works and should be used.

You can also use this opportunity to document new guidelines and show off recently-built sites to other staff and indoctrinate them in the ways of standards. Content editors in particular deserve a training session in coding for standards and using semantic markup.

It’s a good idea to discard old dependencies unless you really need them. Importing JavaScript or a CSS file that was used in your old site will create confusion later. These files may even be deleted three years down the track when someone considers the migration “complete”.

Old sites – a new project

You will be updating the landing page of your portal, or parent site. That is clear. However, there will be a period when your network of sites will not be consistent. This may cause some minor panic in the creative or marketing department and elsewhere where brand consistency is considered important.

Take care of the vitals first:

  • Your brand – if the branding changes, try to modify this across all your sites first. The process will be a pain but not as great a pain as the designers and brand managers will be when they realise that your sites don’t represent the company’s “brand-spanking new persona”.
  • New navigation elements – unless you want people to get lost when moving in between your sites, you’d better update any changes to the global navigation. For example, network bars in the header, footers and links to new content like updated help/accessibility pages (which you will update to reflect site modifications, won’t you?) 🙂

Again, depending on your resources, you should then organise a new project. At the very least you have to:

  • Evaluate your online properties and decide upon the sites that are priorities for migration.
  • Book time with your most efficient designers and frontend programmers to determine the methods, timeline and resources.
  • Start one at a time – after the first site has been completed you’ll have a better idea of what to expect as you go down the list.

Things that will go wrong

A portion of your audience won’t like it and they will tell you. They would have grown accustomed to navigating around the old layout, if indeed that has changed, and the former look and feel. A simple task in web education should suffice to address discontent even if it consists of one page describing the reasons and advantages behind the changes. You can then direct any complaints and queries to this page and then hope that they will understand. You will never please everyone, but an explanation is usually considered polite.

Even though we are in 2008, a few members of staff may not possess the sufficient skills to code according to your new standards. Sometimes it is only a misunderstanding of simple concepts or a gap in their knowledge regarding new standards or elements. For instance, thanks to a generation of “Dreamweavers”, we often see this:

.myclass {border-top:0px;border-right:0px;border-bottom:0px;border-left:0px;font-size:12px;}

For CSS best-practice and accessibility issues a one-day session should suffice.

Nevertheless, I’ve come across many cases where there is a misunderstanding of fundamental concepts such as inheritance and syntax, or of the accepted usage of markup such as using unordered lists for navigation. Teaching people even elementary JavaScript or CSS 2 in one day is not realistic and will require a more extensive training program assuming the person is a valued member of the team.

Some members of your team may resist. Generally I found it was the content editors who didn’t understand why they had to change what they had been doing for four years. Since you have management support, they will have to comply but being nice and explaining things in simple terms will work better.

Going the distance

After all the hard work is done, keeping abreast of new standards and then advocating them wherever possible is the best way to ride out with greater smoothness the wily waves of the ever-changing web. Given the nature of large companies with disparate teams and financial objectives, a full migration will probably never happen in your employment lifetime but with planning you can go close. You can pick out even the tiniest success story and make it into something huge. Is there someone out there who, because of your changes, can now access your site more easily than before? What are your SEO results like these days?

Don’t stress if you don’t get the W3C green light. Unless you have full control over all aspects of your sites, achieving 100 per cent validation will be like trying to dig a hole with a defrosted fish-finger. Liberating your sites from tables and font tags will feel better than any endorsement anyway and you can always work on these points later.

Ode to my Saturday morning newspaper

“Adapt or perish”, “turn new corners”, “invest in people”: yeah ok, enough already. If you haven’t already heard about the rise and rise of online news then you may not have had the pleasure of hearing such responses to the perceived challenge of the internet from media executives. But if all the hysteria and rapid investment in the web by media companies is any gauge, then there is actually some substance to what they are saying.

Countless paragraphs have been published on the implications of the digitisation of news media, particularly surrounding the fate of traditional media at hands of its precocious digital cousin.

But what it boils down to is consumer behaviour patterns – how people consume news media, how they are told to and how they want to. The behaviour of the market is what drives our capitalist system. It’s not the actual presence of the internet or the web or the ipod – it is that people are using or prefer to use these methods of information retrieval and delivery. But are we all heading towards a plugged-in future?

Personally, I enjoy the whole weekend newspaper ritual. You buy two kilograms of recently pulped Tasmanian rain forest, discard anything related to motoring, sport, advertising or the insidious tabloid journalism that is infecting the major dailies these days, haul it down to the local café and spend the next two hours skimming. I could just as easily take along my laptop which weighs about the same and utilise the café’s free WiFi, thus gaining access to all the adblocked news, entertainment and porn I could ever want at 10pm on a Saturday morning. However, until the concept of e-paper is commercially realised, a newspaper will always have the following advantages over online news:

  • Convenience

    The portability of paper is why it’s still quite popular. In fact, you can take it nearly anywhere except to places where you might indulge in a little swimming or fire dancing. And we all know that sand and keyboards don’t mix and that’s a fact. Furthermore, in the absence of sudden blindness or total solar eclipse, you can assume full control over your reading experience. There are no cords, no electricity and no download limits and you can read a newspaper in bed and on the toilet. Hoorah!

  • Readability

    Unless you are the terminator, I’m guessing that prolonged reading from computer screens makes your eyes tired and your mind mush. Reading a newspaper is just easier. Black and white. No white on cotton blue, or 10px Arial with 80 per cent opacity, marquees or whatever some designer considered cool on the day.

  • Static structure

    The static nature of newspapers can sometimes be a disadvantage, but it is dependable. It presents you with a sequence of information that can be accessed as part of an unchanging index. There’s no danger of losing your way, and if you decide to skip or re-reread a feature on battery-hen farming practices it will be there when you return, just where you left it and unedited by a nervous copyeditor who has just received a call from KFC’s lawyers.

  • Information underload

    Newspapers and websites provide distinct reading experiences. Unlike modern news websites, newspapers don’t contain flashing advertisements or promotions tempting our brains and fingers to click away from what we really came for. Of course,  a newspaper contains publicity and, at times, grossly over-sized advertisements but there are no popups or 1000 links to divert your attention from breezing past these and onto the next page. I know a great deal of money is poured into online information architecture these days however with a newspaper you don’t have to spend hours figuring out why the letters section isn’t listed in the navigation, and is linked from the right hand side of the op-ed main page.

  • Enjoyment

    Reading, whether on the web or through the printed medium is fun and when combined with another activity, such as sunbathing, it can be terrific!

Online news is tremendous nevertheless and gives us access to a seemingly unlimited and close-to-realtime resource of world and local news, weather and facts. And although the web’s influence on modern journalism and news production is undeniable, I am confident that we won’t see a radical decline in the stuff that ends up as birdcage liner in the immediate future. Newspapers will change the way they present information and we will see more references to online editions, but I speculate that we latte-lovers will continue to have our moments of newsy solace every weekend for a long time to come.

Web professionals? Quando, Quando, Quando

Can we call ourselves professionals? Given the age of the web, it can be claimed that a huge chunk of people in our line of work have really only been doing what they’ve been doing for maximum of ten years. I’m excluding folk like Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates and other over-achievers of course.

Ten years is a long time for our small brains but not for an industry. We take for granted the existence of solicitors, accountants, nurses, politicians and so on, because well, they’ve always been there. Society has already categorised, stigmatised and attached symbolism to the people and places involved in these professions.

Young industries like ours have an advantage: because the rules are still being written, we have had the extraordinary ability to help define professionalism for ourselves, based on accepted levels of commercial practice nonetheless. But what I’m talking about deals more with culture. For instance, whoever said “no” to suits at the start, deserves free beer forever. I can tell you that the most daunting thing about becoming a lawyer in a city office was that you didn’t have a choice about what to wear. It sounds trivial but the lifestyle difference it makes is unbelievable. The standards of professionalism in the legal sector had been decided eons ago and the probability of changing the system is as stratospheric as the probability of any movie written by L Ron Hubbard becoming a success.

So how does the real world view what we do and the industry in general? Have we already reached status of web professionals? My answer is yes and no.

I only like to rely on dictionaries for scrabble, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. Let’s take a look on how our word professional, the noun, is defined:

Professional
Wikipedia: A professional is a worker required to possess a large body of knowledge derived from extensive academic study (usually tertiary), with the training almost always formalized
Merriam Webster: engaged in one of the learned professions [where a profession is defined as a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation]

Please excuse the North-Americanised spelling.

Hmmm.. extensive and intensive academic training. Doesn’t sound like most web developers and designers I know; these talented people gained probably 98 per cent of their knowledge doing what they do best which was just doing their job or through personal or freelance projects. In fact most of my colleagues and acquaintances who now call themselves web professionals gained their formal education in disciplines far removed from the internet, for example, law, archaeology, English literature and even the armed forces.

The lack of formal qualifications related to our careers says nothing about our willingness to study – we do it every day. I think it is more related to the ever-evolving nature of the industry. Already the division of labour in whatever call it – the web industry, internet, new media, computergeekdom – is mature and hundreds of new roles have emerged. Who had ever heard of a SEO consultant pre-Google?

Furthermore, we’ve all had to learn various protocols, languages, software and standards all of which change every week. Keeping up with all this requires many mornings of coffee and blog-reading. So while the basics can be taught and the sources of information passed on, the industry is so young that the main type of educational choices that we see are usually short courses on “Web publishing” or “Dreamweaver” hastily put together for immediate consumption. Creating a three to four year syllabus seems almost impossible unless we treat it like the humanities, that is, to establish a web design and technology faculty provided teaching in an array of disciplines. Until that happens we use the best tool available: the web.

Therefore we can throw the formal definition out the window. Many people don’t fit it, yet an officious bystander would clearly label as professional anyone who is:

  • aware of the latest standards of their industry and uses them
  • an intelligent communicator in relation to their area of expertise
  • a producer of excellent work

So we are “professionals”. But we always knew that.

If we had to further argue the point, sociological thinking lends a great deal of weight to prestige. We behave and react according to standards of prestige be they related to language, careers or the things that we own. Stereotypes about professions and careers are usually influenced by prestige and, together with academic qualifications, the main source of prestige in relation to a person’s career is “how much money?”. Fortunately for us the web is big business today and with million-dollar deals going down everyday there is no shortage of evidence that what we do is and should be taken seriously. I guess that when the epoque arrives in which everyone will have been born or have grown up in the internet age, we will be like the lawyers, doctors and pilots: just there because we have to be to make society work. I just hope our successors don’t have to wear suits.