We Are Not Alone

We Are Not Alone

God knows the Web already has enough to answer for, but I want to add my own personal gripe: there are too many experts. I'm not talking about every Tom, Dick and Mary who's hung out a consultant shingle (although that's probably worth a future column). I mean your average Joe or Jane: the person who sits two workstations down from you and whose day job is supposed to be stuffing envelopes, telemarketing golf course condos on the Central Coast or some other job that's key to keeping alive civilisation as we know it. Moreover, the average age of these so-called authorities is about 15 1/2.

I know from whence I speak; my Web site is currently undergoing a technology and design update. Ostensibly the team is a handful of people, but the ad hoc team makes the credits list of Gladiator look minuscule. On the whole, the core team is a bunch of talented, eager people who have my best interests at heart (even though the team's average age is about 18 and drops precipitously if you exclude me). No complaints there. It's the rubber-neckers that are driving me to distraction - everyone has an (unsolicited) opinion.

By way of explanation a bit of history is needed. I've been in IT publishing for more than 15 years and in all that time comments about the look-and-feel of the newspapers and magazines I've worked on have pretty much been of the "issue looks good" ilk. Now, I'm not kidding myself that every publication I ever worked on always looked good, but for whatever reasons people tended to keep their, shall we say less-than-enthusiastic, observations to themselves. Not so with the Web; it's open slather.

Whether it's the design (too artsy, too bland), colours (ugly, ugh, yuck) or the layout (overwhelming, unreadable, the wrong font - where did receptionists learn about font style anyway?), I've had so many two cents' worth that if it were real money I could buy a golf course condo on the Central Coast.

I think I know the reason behind the glut of Web experts and critics: it's the very nature of the Web, its egalitarianism. Anyone with a half-day course in HTML who's an avid fan of Celine Dion's fashion sense or a collector of post-modern purple teddy bears made between July 1998 and September 1999 can cobble together a Web site and claim pseudo expert status. It's a free country - er, Web - but spare me your opinions, please.

Recently, the feedback reached such an onerous level that I started hiding the design print-outs, which if you knew what a mess my office is, is pretty easy to do. Unfortunately, last night I was working back, moved a pile of press releases and exposed the latest design mock-up just as one of our cleaners came into my office to flick his feather duster over my desk. He looked at the print-out, stopped the flick mid-air and proceeded to critique it. Apparently, he has just completed a half-day HTML course and gone live with his own Web site, a historical review of strap-on vacuum cleaners.

I give up. There are more powerful forces out there than we know; and I know when I'm beat.

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