a jaundiced eye: stuck
for saturday, april 12, 1997.

A Piece on Web Design that Doesn't Mention David Siegel at all.

The human race has contemplated the meaning of life and other such significant questions for centuries, if not millenia. Now that we approach the coming of the third millenium after people started keeping track of such things, the freaks are coming out of the walls. But you have to ask yourself whether there are still questions that remain unanswered, questions which will continue even after our pale attempts at squelching them through the liberal application of theologies and humanist theories.

At the heart of a recent debate (which seems fairly innocuous unless you're a web designer or an SGML advocate) is the age-old question of eternal life. Now, you may disagree vociferously with me right now, but give me my say. There are those who will say that in the face of eternity, our lives here on Earth are meaningless, just as there are those who will claim that it is the very ephemeral nature of our existence which gives our lives meaning. We find ourselves in the midst of a debate over the value of information, specifically information presented via the World Wide Web. Some will say that the speed of progress and change invalidates any real value to that which is published on the Web. Others will complain that the point behind sharing information is that it may live forever as testament to our current knowledge - making the web an experiment in anthropology and sociology.

They are both right and they are both wrong.

The paradox is this: in order to prepare information for usefulness beyond the immediate timeframe requires the extensive resources of large corporations. However, it is these large corporations who are most at risk in the fast-paced world of changing technologies which we inhabit.

SGML advocates are used to glacial standards processes and twenty-year TTLs (Time To Live) on documentation - they are accustomed to building technical manuals for airplanes which will be in the air after they retire, which will require maintainance far into the next century. Web designers are used to referring to 1995 as the distant past, due to the rapidly evolving character of the Internet and Web technologies. There will come a time when the pace of change slows, when the realities of ROI sink in, and the costs of providing a web presence will be tallied - some will continue on, and others will falter and lose the strength of their convictions. We will all suffer as much of our business goes away or is replaced by more stringent requirements.

The current debate over single-pixel GIFs is a direct reflection of our own anxieties about the coming of the millenium and what the turn of the century will mean to us. Disagree? Let me know why.

Steven Champeon

r e c i p r o c a t e

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© 1997-2001 Steven Champeon. All rights reserved.
All slights reversed.