by Art Gillis
And you thought I was going to say consultant. But I do admit to a bias for editors. I like editors because they fix things objectively (they didn't write it), and live by rules they didn't create. They also understand logic and sequence. Have you ever read a book that didn't have an introduction, foreword or preface? Second, I picked the age of 40 carefully - not too young to be in the same arena as the creators of Internet nerdism, and not too old to be thinking, "You gotta be kidding" all the time. Now to explain why the Internet needs this kind of help.The Internet was launched too quickly as if some evil force in the world would have done it if we hadn't. Our desire to be first might have started after Sputnik, when the Russians made it to space before us. The introduction of the Internet came so fast, it was as if an author had just typed the last dot on her Royal or Remington and the draft manuscript went directly to a printer. No alpha test. No beta test. And quality control would begin with the early adopters. We've had at least ten years of early adopting, and I'd like to see more reliability. Here's what I mean.
There's no easing into the typical web site. Everything is thrown at you on one busy screen, and while you're trying to figure out how to get to the desired place, pop-up ads are flying at you to sell you something you have no need to buy now or in twenty years. But thanks, hotels.com, for telling me the most popular cities people go to. I won't go there for my vacation!
I always appreciated the human greeting, "May I help you?" It's designed to begin the process of completing your desired transaction, but it has warm and fuzzy value as well. I've never seen the phrase on a web site. When Citibank launched its ATM program back in the seventies they hired all kinds of consultants, including yours truly, to provide guidance. A group of psychologists was assigned the task of evaluating the screen language. They made one recommendation. Use the word "please" before each instruction. They missed the part about a Spanish version. That was learned the hard way.
Electronic forms look as if they were designed by the Soup Nazi from the Seinfeld episode. Most people would say they are not user friendly. I say they lack reality. Because my first name is technically "M." it gets rejected with a sarcastic remark to go back and fix it. And the rejection doesn't happen in real-time so I can answer with a lie in real-time. I have to wait until the data entry is all done before I can go back and correct all the red "swastikas", or maybe they're dots. I always feel good that H. Ross Perot must have the same problem. It makes me feel less weird. By the way, Lendingtree fixed the screw-up, but not until a story ran in the American Banker about my gripe. Lendingtree didn't deliver four lenders, however, because they didn't have a bank in their network that was lending to my zip code. And they were worried about "M."
And then there's the problem of the submit button, where the input spins out of control into cyberspace, but you don't have a clue as to what went wrong. Did it get there anyway? Should I do it all over again? Can I ask someone? I recently clicked on a link in an attempt to pay my dues for a professional association, but the new link which was supposed to be secure and thus protect me, never appeared. I'll bet even a hacker would have filed a complaint about that one. I reported the problem because I care about my association. I got three responses which by now have become standard Internet procedure. 1) Hmmm. 2) Try it again. 3) Call back if you have any more problems.
One task that I have always appreciated about computers is their ability to sort masses of data very quickly. So why can't google.com sort responses by date of most recent appearance. If I'm studying armored vehicles what's the chance that I would care about how horses were protected in the War of 1812?
I'm done for now, but who's that old geezer with fuzzy eyebrows looking over my shoulder and cheering me on? It's Sunday night. Shouldn't he be at work?