Sites that use an infinite scroll to forward you from one story to the next, while restricting you to a number of articles per month. Thanks guys, that sure makes me want to subscribe.
ARGH! That about covers my reaction to the latest Firefox update that was forced on me and millions of others in the past couple of days (that would be the jump from 42 to 43). So what’s my problem with the blasted thing? Basically that in their infinite wisdom the developing team saw it fit to option to undo a feature redesign that had first been foisted upon us back in version 33. I’m talking about the search bar’s redesign that left us stuck with a different input mechanism -and a really annoying grid of icons- rather than a drop down list of search engines. As I said, while the redesign had been around for about a year, up until a few days ago you could fix that one by going to about:config, and setting browser.search.showOneOffButtons to false. That is no longer an option.
Now, that grid looks very pretty… provided that you don’t have any search engines that don’t have a custom icon, and that you don’t have any that share the same icon(you want to be able to search wikipedia in more than one language? Good luck trying to figure out which one is selected. You want to have the option to search Project Gutenberg by either author or title? Ditto), but if the grid is not working for you, well, that’s just too bad… or at least that would be the case if you were left at the tender mercies of the development team. The good news is that that’s not necessarily the case. The bad news is that the solution calls for the use of an extension. I’m talking about Classic Theme Restorer, whose only reason for being is to… undo the damage these frequent updates do to the user experience (look for this option in the ‘General UI’ tab).
Don’t get me wrong, while I hate bloat -and I’m not too keen on change for change’s sake- I don’t want my user interface to be stuck in the last millennium, and there are plenty of new features I am actually grateful for. It’s just that there are some instances in which designers should realize that reversing the old ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ to read ‘it’s not a feature is a bug’ is not the best way to make a better product.
I admit I sometimes enjoy reading fanfiction. In fact that’s where I first got the writing bug, and while I agree that some (most?) of it can be pretty awful, there are some hidden gems that are well worth taking the time to actually find them. Anyway, this post is about one thing that’s driving me crazy. No, it’s not restricted to fandom, but that’s one place in which it is particularly noticeable. I’m talking about the proliferation of trigger warnings.
Yes, I understand that there are things some people might find disturbing, and there are some instances in which a heads up can come in handy, but lately these have been taken to the extreme. What some authors don’t seem to realize is that there is a very fine line between a trigger warning and a spoiler… and the same goes for author’s notes. If you want to apologize for not updating in a couple of years, fair enough, but if you want to go into detail about the intricacies of your writing process, or something else related to the story in question please, please, please put your author’s note at the end of the chapter, where it’s easier for your readers to skip it (and where chances are that they’ve already read the chapter in question and they’ll know what you are talking about) not at the beginning… and also, call me old-fashioned, but while there are a few warnings that are customary (major character death, rape/non-con, slash [i.e. same-sex pairing], and maybe explicit violence and child abuse), I believe that anything beyond that is bound to do more harm than good.
Okay, getting down from my soapbox now, it’s just that trigger warnings are a great way to trigger my rage. Just a warning.
Okay, so my last post was an anti-facebook rant. Now let’s turn to the brighter side of technology… at least from where I stand. To begin with let me get one personal detail out of the way: I am dyslexic, and that means that I basically owe my life to my computer… or at least my lifestyle, why?
Well, to begin there’s the fact that without a keyboard I can’t write, full stop, and yet I’ve been able to become a writer. That’s about as big a shift as there can be, and the very notion of being unable to get the words out is one that fills me with a sense of dread. I realize that to an outsider that may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not, and I am almost painfully aware of the fact that I was only a generation away from finding myself in exactly that position.
When it comes to reading I was lucky to overcome most of the challenges at a fairly early age (politically incorrect, and cringe worthy as it may sound, I have to give Enid Blyton a lot of credit for that one, as her books made reading fun) but even there I have to admit that I find reading on a screen, where I can actually modify the layout to suit my needs, so much easier. In fact my favorite device in that regard is an iPod touch. Yes, I realize that it’s an odd choice, and that most people cringe at the thought of reading on such a tiny screen, but from my perspective that’s by far its best feature (and I’m still grumbling about the fact that some moron saw it fit to increase the size of the display some three years ago)… and from a more general perspective there is the internet. We can’t forget about that one.
No, I’m not a digital native, and I suspect that that gives me both a better perspective to appreciate the benefits the internet has brought about, and a greater awareness of what the price we’ve had to pay has been, but that’s a subject for another post.
No, I don’t have a facebook account. At first I didn’t really see the point, then it became almost a matter of principle. Simply put, I am fond of my privacy, and I find their policies terribly intrusive, but my main gripe has to do with the way in which having a facebook account has become almost a requirement.
In a world in which facebook likes have become a sort of digital currency there are sites in which you can’t even access the content unless you ‘like’ them first (i.e. sight unseen), and that’s without taking into account the fact that your facebook login has become a sort of universal id, to the point that trying to interact with the rest of the web without one becomes something of a nightmare.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know the thing has its advantages, but I miss the days when a friend was some one you knew and cared for, when liking something meant more than clicking on a button, and I certainly don’t appreciate the way in which facebook has become the gatekeeper to our digital lives, or the fact that trying to do without it turns you into a sort of outcast. Believe me, as a struggling author trying to attract an audience I am reminded on a daily basis of the price I have to pay to maintain that particular bit of independence (in fact I’m not even sure how much longer that policy will remain viable, and I’m already trying to formulate a contingency plan for the day it effectively stops being an option), but the price I would have to pay to join that ‘free’ service is so much steeper.