Back around '92 when I first got into contact with the Internet, things were
dramatically different compared to the current state. The people on the net were
different, for the most part students and staff from universities, and so were the
operating systems used for the net (mostly Unix-based). Flame wars had been invented
yet, but it rarely came to that (at least in regular newsgroups) because normally
when you told someone he was breaking netiquette by misformatting his posts
or asking extremely stupid questions that had already been answered exhaustively in
the FAQ, most of them either went away qietly or actually tried to improve their ways
(shock! horror!); which is in sharp contrast to today where even top-posting scum
actually have the nerve to complain about people criticizing
them rather than mend their ways. The Black Lord in Redmond had not yet cast his
evil eye upon the net, so standards were actually taken seriously and terminally
clueless idiots were content with not being able to program a VCR rather than
buying a PC with internet access and letting the world know they were terminally
clueless idiots. Those were the days...
Messages (email & news)
One of the biggest annoyances on the Internet today is the way people write
messages for email and news. The traditional way for either of these was
There are very good reasons for this style: it's simple (ASCII) and compact
(parts irrelevant to the answer cut out). It also makes good use of the
possibilities an electronic message format offers over paper.
Today one can see people breach these conventions left, right and center:
some use HTML rather than ASCII, some always quote the whole article and
write their comments at the bottom ("Bottom-posters") and some
write their comments at the top and append a full quote of the article
at the bottom ("Top-posters"). Improvement? No, all of those
alternatives are just plain stupid. The idea behind quoting is not
to include the entire correspondence leading to the current message but only
those parts you're actually referring to; the history of the conversation
is easy to get for both mail and news, so including the full history just
adds redundancy which is particularily bad for news where this redundancy
will propagate to thousands of servers and hundreds of millions of subscribers.
The idea is neither to maintain the disadvantages of traditional
paper-correspondence ("attached to
this letter, please find..."), which is what full-quote messages do.
Messages which fail to conform to the correct quoting style waste space and
are often harder to read as well. Since you expect other people to read your
messages, you should make them easy to read or they will just ignore you; and
if you don't want people to read what you wrote: why did you write it, then?
So let's have a closer look at these message format abominations:
- Plain ASCII text
- Writing one's comment immediately below the paragraphs referred to and
cutting out the rest.
Note that the correct quoting style on the internet is not determined by
specific software and under no circumstances is the software you use to
compose messages an acceptable excuse for utterly broken quoting style.
MS' Outlook programs are notorious for breaking just about every
convention for message formats (gee, what a surprise), that doesn't mean
you can use that as an excuse for producing non standard-conforming messages.
If your software is broken, use software that isn't; use broken software
and you have no right to complain about people flaming you for your ignorant
choice. For more information on the correct quoting on the internet, see
for instance the
(for german readers, the original version can be found
- HTML Messages: mail and news are defined as ASCII text and just
because your mail/news reader renders HTML does not mean other people's can.
If your answer to that is that other people should upgrade, you've been
using Windows for too long. First of all this is a breach of standards and
no amount of upgrading will make it standards-compliant. Second, many people
want plain ASCII messages because they're more compact, carry no risk
of viruses and always look the way the reader wants them to look. Believe
it or not, I really don't give a rat's ass whether you think your message
will look better with an orange Arial font on a blue background or you feel
you have to include some stupid icons in the mail, I want plain text.
And if I don't get plain text, I open my trashcan (yes, I have a spam filter
installed for text/html messages).
- Bottom posters: people who do this are too lazy to even crop the
parts they're not referring to but just quote the whole thing and expect
people to scroll through all the stuff they already know, typically to
find an ingenious essay along the lines of "me too" at the
bottom. And they actually expect to be taken seriously? There's one born
every minute, apparently...
- Top posters: probably the most annoying one of them all, this
quoting "style" has spread like pestilence ever since MS started
taking an interest in the net. Like Bottom-posters, people who do this
always quote the whole thing, but include the full quote below their
comments, thereby screwing up the chronological order in addition to
being lazy fucks. To add insult to injury, this kind of quoting is often
"justified" by saying that was where people's mail/news clients
put the caret. IMHO if you're too stupid to even move the cursor around,
you shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a computer, especially not one
with an internet connection.
The World Wide Web
Most commonly used synonymously with the term "Internet", the
WWW has changed a lot since its humble beginnings towards the start
of the 90ies, and as usual the changes haven't been for the better. The
WWW used to stand for information, whereas these days it stands for ads,
ads, and -- for good measure -- some more ads. Ah yes, it also stands for
101 horrible things to do to the HTML standard and the rise of a new
profession: web designers, the shoe salesmen of the internet; there are
only two kinds of people with a worse reputation than web designers and
that's lawyers and paedophiles (I leave it to the reader to make the ranking
for these two, as it's a rather tough call). The reasons for that should
be fairly obvious to anyone surfing on the net lately. Why is that, you
ask? Here are the official Web Designer's Directives:
Oh how the mighty have fallen!
- HTML must be punished. The most efficient way to do that is to use
some Windows-based web page generation abomination like Frontpage
or even Word; perish the thought that a web designer could possibly
write clean HTML code by hand.
- Languages for document structure vs. languages for layout? Is there
a difference? Obviously web designers think HTML code consisting of 90%
font and color tags looks pretty cool.
- Corrolary: never do a button as regular text when you can also do
it as a bitmap, preferably using heavily aliased
"what-the-fuck-is-kerning" Windows fonts. Omit the alt
tag at all cost; people shouldn't be able to see what the button is for
unless they load the image. Lynx? Yeah, that was a cool game!
- Everybody likes animated GIFs. You'll never become a real web designer
unless your pages have blinking icons wherever you can squeeze them in,
at least half of which must be ads. If you're running out of space, sacrifice
- If you really can't think of any way to animate an icon, at least use
a non-standard BMP file rather than something boring like GIF, PNG or JPG.
If you only have GIFs and are too stupid to convert them to BMPs, use
the backslash rather than the forward slash as directory separator and
add the text "Optimized for Internet Explorer" to the bottom
of the page.
- Classic layout rules do not apply. Put as many different fonts as
possible on the page and don't forget to use colours that make the reader
wish he had gone blind. If you want full points for your design, use
an aggressively textured background and camouflage font colours.
- Never waste an opportunity to use as many pointless client-side
(a simple OK button next to the list box is just too much work) and
anything else it can be used for with enough criminal energy. Do your
disabled, even though all you use it for is to open a window praising
possible. Check for Internet Explorer only unless you're feeling
generous, in which case you may also check for Netscape; there are
no other browsers anyway. There will be extra points for checking the
operating system and browser version as well.
- Never waste a good opportunity to spy on the people visiting your
page via cookies.
- You will be excluded from the web designer's guild if you don't
put at least 3 Flash animations on each of your pages, the majority of
which have to be ads. You will receive the guild's membership card in
gold when using Flash for navigation.
Traffic on the WWW must have grown by a factor of 100 or so in the past
10 years; information may have grown by a factor of 2, possibly
a lot less. Most of the traffic is caused by ads and other perfectly
pointless images; many pages have become completely unreadable because
even the tiny residue of information is completely buried beneath a legion
of blinking banners. Mercifully, there are programs that address this
issue and allow you to eliminate the ads by using URL filters. One of the
most popular of these programs is the freely available
(IJB); a slightly modified version and a good base blocklist file can also
be downloaded from this site. I
can't praise IJB enough and before Privoxy it was always one of the first
things I installed on any machine I intended to use for browsing. The WWW has
definitely become a much better place for me through IJB, not just because of
improved download times but also because all the blinking, garish crap is
gone and the information surfaces; unfortunately, this information is still
extremely thin most of the time, but at least you see whether you've got
crap or not right away. IJB has been completely overhauled in the past
couple of years, leading to Privoxy,
which offers far more sophisticated filtering than IJB did. When I first
ran it, I was really amazed at how well it filtered out practically all
the junk with the default settings and it took a while before I came
across the first page where I had to adapt the user.action file.
So if you find some things tedious to do with IJB or have stability
issues with it (which I did on the Windows box at work), upgrade to
Privoxy and say bye-bye to web site garbage.
Worms, Virii, Retards
The amount of idiots on the net these days wouldn't be so bad if they weren't
such a nuisance. Unfortunately the complete and utter computer-illiteracy of
the average Joe (don't mistake clicking buttons in your browser or being able
to find the off button two out of three times for computer-literacy)
is seriously compromising the net for everybody. Ignorance of even the most
basic fundamentals of computers, networks and security in combination with
internet access and Windows (a known security hazard in itself) make a very
dangerous combination. While I don't give a damn whether anybody renders his
machine unusable because he clicks on "open attachment" faster
than his brain can come out of standby mode, these things affect everyone
on the net because these retards leave their hacked machines on the net where
they can happily broadcast virii and worms to everybody they can find in the
various address books.
The situation today can only be compared to people driving stone drunk in
business traffic: I couldn't possibly care less whether someone like this kills
himself in the process, but unfortunately they tend to take innocent bystanders
with them. Same here: people don't have a clue about even the most basic safety
regulations regarding computers and MS sell their software with defaults that
leave the entire machine wide open to any intruder that comes along; net result:
every time another worm or virus appears, huge numbers of machines are
infected and start spreading the pests themselves. The amount of network
bandwidth and mailbox space wasted on transfering these Windows pests has long
since reached numbers that can no longer be ignored and affect everybody on
the net, regardless of whether they know how to protect their computers or not.
Although I'm running Linux (and formerly) RISC OS, so these pests can't infect my machines
even if I were careless, they still annoy me enormously due to their volume.
The shit really hit the fan with the 2003 Sobig.F worm where I got
more than 5MB of daily worm spam for several days through the
VICE developer mailing list
because every fucking retard who got his computer infected and had the list in
his address file started spamming the list. Whether they did it deliberately
or through ignorance makes no difference; if your computer gets infected,
it's at least as much your fault as it is the fault of whoever wrote
the pest unless you've done everything humanly possible to secure your
machine (which -- for Windows users -- means weekly security patches, careful
system configuration and not using widely known virus bait like
Internet Explorer or Outlook in the first place). Always remember:
if your computer got hacked, it isn't just your problem, it's also the
problem of every computer connected to yours, so either you take that virus
hog off the net immediately or you have no right to complain about anyone
calling you a retard or bashing your head in.
Things are really getting from bad to worse when you hear that even big
companies' intranets get infected, which is a sure sign that their sysadmins
are clueless, too. You better hope the US army has better sysadmins than that
because the thought of a hacked airplane carrier is not a pleasant one (they
recently installed a Windows network on one of these ships, I don't know
whether those responsible for that decision were smoking crack or Bill Gates'
dollar bills at the time). Of course part of the problem is the people who
write these pests in the first place, but no worm or virus could cause
remotely as much havoc as they do if people ran halfway secure software (both
decent operating systems and internet applications) and knew more about their
machines than which one's the on button and how to start their browser.
It's rather incredible that apparently many people still don't know that
running executable attachments is not just dangerous but downright suicidal,
regardless of who it appears to be from. Why is it that you need a driver's
license to be allowed to drive a car on public roads, while every blockhead
can connect to public networks without having to learn the most basic
computer fundamentals? We need something similar for computer networks
before bandwidth is eaten up entirely by electronic pests.
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