Archive for October, 2010

Page 1 of 2

Observations This Political Season

It is indeed that time of year again. Political ads are all over the place (sadly my television programming comes from a different state, so none of my candidates are represented there). They’re all rotten, rotten lies. One says they support American jobs and the other supports sending jobs to China; at the same time the other candidate is making the exact same claim. Who is right?

Let’s take a look at a few of the claims and see what makes sense.

We’re working hard to create jobs here at home. On it’s face this sounds fucking awesome if you’re unemployed. Yes, hell yes bring me that job–so long as I don’t have to work too hard. Look, don’t believe this lie. Politicians can’t create private sector jobs. They can help to foster an environment that might produce an incentive to start or expand a business, but it’s not like they’ve done anything other than deliberate a policy and vote on a bill. No job creation here. Hell, the new law they just created might not even bring business into the state, and most of the time their incentives amount to subsidies that pervert the true cost of doing business until it’s too late. Verdict: complete and utter nonsense.

My opponent (maliciously) supports taking jobs away from constituents and giving them to workers in China. What an evil thing to do! We need jobs here at home. The thing is, they’ll be there but they won’t be the same types of jobs we’ve relied on in the past. The fact is, after the two great wars our manufacturing base was left largely in tact, while the rest of the world was in tatters so to speak. As a result, we enjoyed a golden age of manufacturing for the better part of the 20th century. We won’t return to that time. The world caught up.

Plus, manufacturing is a global process now. Companies spread costs around to maximize profits, and that means making parts here, in China, in Japan, etc. and assembling said product wherever. This keeps consumer costs low and makes determining actual origin a little tough. Keep this in mind: many of those foreign cars we buy are assembled here. Some parts are even made here. And we still have manufacturing, it’s just so much more efficient that it requires less workers to keep production up. Verdict: who cares, the economy is global.

My opponent is in the pocket of big business/special interests and I’m a champion of the people, never swayed! Liar. You’re both in the pockets of special interests, and especially big business. Why? Because that’s where the money is. Don’t get the impression that they pass business regulations to keep consumers safe, because it’s mostly to protect the livelihood of a competing interest. Believe at your own peril!

My opponent is un‐American/communist/socialist/racist etc. Meh. This doesn’t say a whole lot. These charges are designed to be difficult to defend against and frankly the person leveling them rarely ever provides evidence to suggest they’re true. Ignore these charges.

Is it just me, or do all of these bums seem like dirty liars?

New Gmail Favicon?

New, shiny icon to the left, old to the right.

I’m not sure if I’m the first to notice this or not, or if I’m even right, but it looks like Gmail has a brand new favicon. It looks to me like they’ve added a little depth and polish to the icon, as well as a one pixel drop shadow.

It’s an improvement over the previous one. There isn’t much to say about it, but way to go giant company.

It’s entirely possible that this favicon has been around for a while, and my cache has finally cleared allowing me to see the new one, but it’s new to me. The fact that I have to say that is testament to the speed with which I expect information to spread, so I’m not embarrassed by my possible old news.

Update: 10/25/2010 2:08pm EST — It appears the icon has reverted back? I’m a little confused by this. Old cached favicon making a showing perhaps? But why, if the new one was showing up before, why the change back? Well, proof that it existed is my image to the left.

If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

Fictional Zuckerberg

Who Am I Designing For?

As a web designer, it’s easy to forget that I’m unlike over 90% of internet users out there. I’m an oddball. Strange. Unusually unusual. I look at and use the web in a way that most people don’t, won’t, and never will. Nor do they care about the details: how it was built, innovation in techniques, typography and design considerations, etc. Those are the things I care about, the things I’m impressed by. The rest of the web’s residents just want to get where they’re going.

When I build something I’m always striving to create a lasting design; something to impress…maybe just myself. The fact is, the difficulty that goes into designing and building a website neither matters to the user who will use the site nor the client directing it be built. Ideas about what works and what doesn’t will be right only when you understand the audience you’re after. I often get stuck designing for an audience I understand–web designers–and this is a problem.

We’re dirty narcissists, the lot of us! Too bad we shouldn’t be. I repent of these sins.

As a community, designers love to experiment and create ground breaking work; I don’t think I’m one of those breaking ground on that sort of scale, but from a personal perspective I’ve evolved immensely over the years. In the end, though, that evolution doesn’t necessarily matter. No one cares what technique you used, they just want to complete a task and move on. It’s better if they don’t notice that technique as it is. Why? Because the real reason a person is at any given website is to view whatever content it contains. Your work just tries to make it easier to browse.

Create experiences that aid in this process and you’ve gone a long way towards guaranteeing people won’t even notice what you’ve done–which seems tough to accept as an individual. We want and crave recognition for our efforts when we’ve tackled a particularly difficult problem, or perhaps I’m just projecting my own desires, but we’ve got understand that what we intuitively understand as novel solutions won’t necessarily be obvious for most people. Again, we’re an odd bunch, us web designers.

Moving forward, my goal is to create work that caters to something other than my perceptions on what makes for great design and to create something that is more appropriate to whatever given context I’m designing for. If you’re a designer, that’s an obvious truth–but sometimes it’s hard to remember.

Disingenuous Reporting at the Washington Post

The headline reads: “NAACP backs report that ties racist groups to tea party.“1 Say what? Is this implying that the Tea Party is tied to racists? Because that’s the conclusion I would draw from this headline if I were merely skimming the news this morning. Scandalous. Let’s read a little.

“A new report, backed by the NAACP, has found what it says are efforts by white nationalist groups and militias to link themselves to the tea party movement.“1 Oh, well that’s not quite the same is it? If this sentence is taken on it’s face it merely implicates the groups themselves, rather than the Tea Party. Except that in the next paragraph it states that the report claims “that tea party events have become a forum for extremists ‘hoping to push these (white) protesters toward a more self‐conscious and ideological white supremacy.’ ”1

A little further down you find out that the report isn’t necessarily concerned with the movement as a whole, rather it’s focused on the smaller county level groups that can be more easily infiltrated by these racist, nefarious groups. 2

It isn’t until you find yourself still sort of reading the article near the end of the first page that you get a Tea Party member defending themselves:

The national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, one of the groups mentioned in the report, said the report’s claims were not credible. “The Tea Party has only articulated three core values for the entire movement,” said Jenny Beth Martin. “They are limited government, fiscal responsibility and support for free markets. Everything we say and do is in support of these values. There is no credible method of making these values racist.“1

Plain and simple, that’s what motivates these guys. I call this disingenuous reporting because the headline and story structure make it easy for an individual to conclude that yes, yes indeed these Tea Partiers are associated with some racist scum. Not only that, but evidence pointing to a conclusion other than racist collusion is placed on the second page, almost the last paragraph:

Other analysts who have begun to study the burgeoning political force have come to the opposite conclusion. A report on political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month found that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti‐Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.

BAM! In your face (if you made it this far) defense of the movement.

It’s pretty clear that what motivates opposition to the Progressive Democrat agenda is purely related to disagreement over policy. I’m no Tea Partier, but I’ve been around enough of them to draw this conclusion without any hesitation.

I’m tired of Democrats painting these sorts of pictures of opposition to their ideas. And the media is happy to spin the same yarn. Good God am I tired of it.

  1. Thompson, Krissah. NAACP backs report that ties racist groups to tea party. Accessed 10/21/2010.
  2. One should probably note that the Tea Party has no official structure or organization. They are loosely related groups with a common set of principles. This Washington Post articles leans towards implicating the lot of them when that should not be the case

Some, Uh, Interesting Words About Austerity

I was wholly prepared to link to a certain article, convinced that perhaps Keynsianism was the ticket to our troubles. A certain quote lead me to the story: “the Keynesian prescription works. [However] austerity converts downturns into recessions, recessions into depressions.“1 Boy was I hooked and ready for more. Seriously. I was curious about this; if it were true, then I would need to change my tune.

However, I followed the link, and read this:

The Keynesian policies in the aftermath of the Lehman brothers bankruptcy were a triumph of economic theory. In Europe, the US and Asia, the stimulus packages worked. Those countries that had the largest (relative to the size of their economy) and best‐designed packages did best. China, for instance, maintained growth at a rate in excess of 8%, despite a massive decline in exports. In the US the stimulus was both too small and poorly designed – 40% of it went on household tax cuts, which were known not to provide much bang for the buck – and yet unemployment was reduced from what it otherwise would have been – over 12% – to 10%. 1

This last bit in particular got me questioning this op‐ed. The salesmen behind the stimulus here in the U.S. were claiming it would hold unemployment below 8%, never that it would keep it around 10%, let alone mentioning a figure of 12%. China’s growth isn’t necessarily growth if you follow their economic story at all. Sure a lot of things are being produced, but it’s over production and over development (so much so that large cities have been planned and built, yet remain completely unoccupied).

This guy talks about aggregate demand as if the only thing keeping the economy down is a lack of demand for goods and services; and if we would only spend a little government money we would see that vaunted multiplier in action, thus increasing aggregate demand, production, and ultimately get people to work.

Doesn’t really work that way though. Yeah, demand is down, but having the government flood the market with dollars isn’t likely to produce the demand necessary to get out of the doldrums. I’ve read that what appears to be taking place, among many factors, is a reduction in debt–people are trying to get their balance sheets in order, leading to less demand as retiring household debt is the focus.

Don’t feed me this stimulus laden crap. It doesn’t work, and hasn’t helped increase demand at all. Bailing out banks may have helped prevent a giant financial disaster, but sending up a package of money that won’t even be spent for several years, not to mention only serves to pay several interest groups, is not a winning deal. What a farce.

But, hey, I’m a web designer. Not an economist.

  1. Stiglitz, Joseph. To choose austerity is to bet it all on the confidence fairy. Accessed 10/20/2010.