I am finishing up the last touches on a website. In the same way that the most dangerous time to be on a return journey is a few miles from home, the most fiddly time to be finishing a website is in the last few steps. It's when things that you had anticipated to be the simplest and quickest end up taking the longest and are the most maddeningly convoluted.
Why are some methods to do things so absurdly complicated? Why can't everything be elegant and simple and just work straight out of the box?
Early on in my computer career, when the only access to a computer of any significance that I had was to my flatmate's Commodore Amiga 500, I marvelled at the wonderful GUI of its Operating System. Things worked really smoothly, were arranged logically, and were simple for beginners to grasp. It was leaps ahead of what Windows users were battling with, in Win3.1, and was somewhat more advanced than what I had seen in Apple Macintoshes of the time.
But all of that elegance was marred by its disk drive, that constantly whirred and clicked whenever it was empty. It was intended to be an elegant system to recognise when a disk was inside, and it could instantly activate. But the method was clunky at best, with it endlessly circling, waiting, and checking, a soft but everpresent "clunk" every ten seconds. The solution was to always have a disk in, blank if necessary.
A stupid design fault on an otherwise excellent computer. I can only imagine that the Amiga's death was due to more dumb decision-making of that ilk.
After Windows 95 came along, competing more directly with Apple's newer OS, things started to happen, as now using a computer was tangibly logical, instead of mind bendingly complicated. Except a few of my friends at that time didn't want to travel the evil Microsoft or expensive Apple route, and instead clung to the free and kludged together Linux avenue.
Linux, at that time, (not so long ago) was for Nerds only. And I don't mean afficionados and geeks, I mean full on 200% NERDS who obsess over minuscule ephemera as if they actually mattered to the world at large, instead of the easily dismissed nonsense it is.
The Linux Nerds like to use software that they have to "compile" rather than install. That is, they have to add each small part of the program, in pieces, with text commands to get them to work together. They come with no instructions on how to do that, or documentation on how to use the application after it's ready, and no help files should it fail, or any assistance at all. You have to nut everything out yourself, on your own, and if there is a single ounce of incompatibility with any of your other apps or hardware, then it will refuse to work at all, with no explanation.
Compare that with an application with an installer and drivers and a documentation PDF, pretty much the standard for current software on Windows and Macs.
Needlessly complicated, versus sweetly elegant. For some reason, there has to be years of absurd complication and mystifying messiness before someone swoops in and tidies it all up to work effectively and smoothly at long last.
The point of this post is that, on this website I am finishing up, I am trying to find a way to add audio files to the posts so that they come readily setup with a player, requiring no extra work for my client than "choose file, choose place it appears in post, save". I am happy to deal with complications to get a file on my blog (and what a ridiculously messy business it is to add images to Blogger), but for the average user those kinds of steps are needlessly complicated. The method I have employed to achieve this elegant solution involves four third-party plugins; two paragraphs of careful step by step instruction; and two additional text editing steps nobody ought to have to do, and which can easily go wrong, messing up the whole procedure.
It's utter madness that it is so needlessly complicated.
These kinds of standard, simple, default features are instead unavailable or overly complicated.
Whatever happened to elegance?
4 days ago