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The kids aren’t alright Ornament Jul 17th, 2006

I was flying on a business trip some ten years ago. As the captain announced over the intercom that we were cleared for takeoff, I went through my usual ritual of grinding my teeth to powder, taking excessive deep breathes and generally attempting to obliterate the seat handles into dust like I was Hulk.

At that inopportune moment a young boy probably no older than four or five years old began kicking the seat behind me. Not soft love taps either. I mean all out foot in the spine muscle spasms. After 30 seconds of this torture during the preliminary phases of an oncoming panic attack, I finally turned around and asked the child’s mother if she could please get her son to stop kicking my seat.

She looked at me and said simply, “What do you expect me to do about it?”

At that point, I replied in as clear a tone as I could muster given that my entire body was beginning to get sucked into the seat as the engines roared to life. “If you don’t discipline your son, I will. And I guarantee you that given the two choices in his short life thus far, your son would prefer to be disciplined by you than by me. Further, you’re supposed to be the adult in charge, not him.”

I admit, I made that last bit up. While I did indeed give the woman the evil eye, I said nothing. I politely turned back to face front and took many more deep breathes as the airplane roared down the runway and lifted into the air, waiting for the moment when the airplane’s starboard engine would promptly explode thus sending me to my fiery death. All the while with this damn kid kicking me in the back.

Why do I tell you this? And how does this relate to design, web sites or software?

If you’re a blogger or a business that runs a web site that allows people to post comments on it, then it is very likely that you are the parent in my story. That is to say, you’ve got a serious problem keeping the kids in line, and in most circumstances you’re probably just letting them run rampant, screwing up everyone else’s daily panic attacks.

Unlike ten years ago however, this time I’m not going to keep quiet about it.

One bad apple

These days, it’s hard to not find a web product that has some sort of social networking feature built into it. While I’m all for being more connected to those around me, I have to admit that I find the power of the masses fetish exhibited by the latest wave of high-tech web offerings to be quite useless on the whole.

Websites like Digg are created on the premise that I should somehow trust what other people think is relevant. Newsvine has a “seed” feature that allows stories like “Bush Caused France to Lose World Cup??” to hit the top seed on the cover page. Yahoo! Answers even goes so far as to try and let random strangers tell us what the best love song a girl can sing to a guy might be.

It’s not that these products or others like them don’t have the right intentions at heart. Reading people’s opinions or listening to other points of view is generally a good thing. But all it takes to ruin a movie is one asshole talking to his friend about how much the movie sucks in a voice louder than the Dolby sound system instead of simply getting up and leaving the theater so the rest of the audience can enjoy it.

If I’ve never spoken to or met you in person, I don’t presume you’re the next Einstein. Given that, why should I trust your opinion combined with a bunch other non-Einstein’s to help guide me in my never ending quest to avoid work while browsing the Internet?

One of the beauties of being in the technology field is that you can’t hide behind empty rhetoric. It’s one thing to say something and quite another to actually do it. Within the design blogosphere, this generally translates into a sort of natural Darwinian selection model. If a designer’s blog is also supposed to be an example of what the designer is capable of, then once you claim to be a designer your web site better be up to snuff in both design and content.

Generally speaking, that Darwinian selection model is lost in the blogosphere at large. Especially within the political blogosphere it seems. Without some way to control unfettered asshatism piling up on so many blogs and web sites these days, I fear that the blogosphere is on a collision course towards digital irrelevancy as the signal to noise ratio becomes a fever pitch. Unless of course I’m the only one who can’t withstand the onslaught of two hundred fifty plus comments at the end of a post while also staying coolheaded enough to tolerate the collective bile spewed into the Metaverse.

At some point, everyone will just stop caring if they haven’t already.

Presumed ignorant until proven intelligent

I realize that bloggers aren’t engineers, so ranting at them to keep their commentators in line when the tools they use currently lack the features to actually mitigate the problem is not going to solve the core issue. How comment systems are designed currently takes power away from the blogger to some degree.

Comments are generally posted and appended to the bottom of a blog entry. If the blogger deletes or removes the comment for whatever reason they deem appropriate, it’s usually seen as some act fascism. This then puts an undue burden on the blogger to allow any asshole to effectively add their opinion to the core blog entry, forever changing the article to something it wasn’t when the blogger posted it, unless the blogger is willing to take a credibility hit by deleting comments after the fact.

With that in mind, I’d like to a propose a feature design to change the way comments work on blogs. It goes like this:

First, I’d like to see a comment system that presumes the purpose of the blog is that people are interested in what the blogger has to say, not some anonymous idiot who thinks posting “First!” is ubercool. In that regard, comment systems should presume all comments are basically useless on their own without any feedback from the blogger. The default behavior then would be to move comments away entirely from the story putting them onto a “holding pen” page so they are accessible to anyone who wishes to wade through the sewage while not clogging up the blog itself.

Every blog would then have a holding pen for all new comments on every entry rolled up into a single page.

Comment tracking would be sent to the blogger by their method of choice to review comments. Email generally works well for this. If the blogger thinks the commentator has an interesting point that actually contributes to their post, they tag it by responding in the email “Yes” for blogworthy. Only when a comment has been deemed blogworthy does it then become attached to the bottom of the post and displayed like normal comments are in today’s blogosphere. For bonus points, the blogger should actually respond to the comment.

Finally, the blogger is given a timeframe to review comments to their liking. (Mine would probably be seven days.) If a comment has not been deemed blogworthy by the blogger within the specified timeframe, the comment is purged from the bloggers database forever as if it never existed, freeing up more disk space for more blogworthy commentary in the future and clearing Google’s cache of a lot of useless crap.

I realize the above proposal is only moderately different in behavior from simply turning on full comment moderation in blog software like WordPress. However, the key difference is a compromise in default behavior that also changes the focus of comments dramatically. That is to say, moderation completely hides comments by default while my proposed behavior relegates comments to a holding pen where the inmates are more than welcome to throw around insults at each other all they want for a small period of time before their useless blather is forever nuked from the blog. In doing so, only commentary that the blogger finds interesting is added to an article while not putting undue pressure on the blogger to look like a hater of free speech.

One last thought

Some may argue that the nature of blogging requires that comments move fast and furious in an unregulated, uncensored fashion; that the blogger can’t really keep up in enabling comments to be turned on quick enough to keep the conversation going. Others may argue that my feature suggestion goes against the principals of free speech or the big tent approach in a digital world. And finally, others may argue that my blogworthy comment system proposal completely neglects the fact that a large part of the success and rise of the blogs as a new media alternative is specifically that anyone and everyone feels like they can be a part of the conversation.

My only reaction to that line of debate is that I don’t care.

The current comment system as designed let’s the children — whether they be spammers, paper lions or the random “First!” asshat — effectively run rampant all over the classroom. There’s simply no accountability. And as much as I want to chide bloggers for not keeping their children in line, I also recognize that they need the proper tools to do so.

But be warned bloggers, if by some miracle you are finally given the proper tools to do the job, you better keep your kids from ruining my next perfectly timed panic attack.

 

Bullet

Standards rant

Repeat after me Separator Standards do not block, impede or otherwise hinder innovation. Businessmen, engineers or product managers who only care about how they want to implement technology or only care about their own bottom line are the ones doing the real damage in the larger economic picture.

Design by Fire strives to be as standards compliant as humanly possible in spite of the fact that those in charge of developing the technology, the browsers and the operating systems can't seem to to code to the W3C specification with 100% compliance.

However, even though I'm a firm believer in standards, I'm beyond sick and tired of trying to figure out what works and what does not work according to the W3C specification. So while I make every attempt to do the right thing, occasionally I'll just do what I have to get the thing working. In other words, if you run any Design by Fire URI through a code validator and find invalid markup or css, please don't bother sending me an email.

With that little rant out of the way, here are some good articles about the benefits of web standards.

And of course, there's Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards, which is easily one of the best reads from both a practical and technical point of view on the subject.

All of these sources discuss simplification of code, rapid development, smaller file sizes, faster download times, better accessibility for a larger set of users, easier code maintenance and platform scalability - all benefits of standards at a technological level. There's also some ROI discussion on using standards.

Really Simple Syndication is still a pain in the ass

Here's the RSS feed.

RSS Feed
Design by Fire RSS Feed

You should know the drill by now.

Andrei Michael Herasimchuk
Designer

Updated 2010 Separator The quick and dirty summary is that I am largely considered one of the first official interface designers hired by Adobe Systems. That is, the first one hired to do nothing but interface design across the professional product line. I worked personally on the interfaces for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign.

Andrei

One of these days, I'll convince Adobe's legal eagles to let me write a book about all that I have been through while working on those products. I just doubt they'll agree to it in my lifetime. Until, then you'll have to be satisfied with the History of Photoshop, an article written by a long-time friend of mine, Jeff Schewe.

Work

Director, Design Team bullet Twitter
March 2011 - Present

Sr. Director of Product Design
Applications bullet Yahoo!
September 2009 - March 2011

Chief Design Officer, Co-Founder bullet Involution Studios
July 2004 - September 2009

Project Lead, Adobe Lightroom bullet Adobe Systems
December 2002 - June 2004

Director, User Interface bullet ePeople
April 2001 - December 2002

Director, User Interface bullet Impresse
January 2000 - April 2001

Director, User Interface bullet Mambo.com
August 1999 - January 2000

Senior User Interface Designer bullet Adobe Systems
August 1995 - July 1999

Co-Founding Member, Director bullet Specular Int'l
June 1990 - August 1995

Play

Having the opportunity to work on Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom has given me a chance to explore photography in way I would not have had access to otherwise. You can find samples of all my personal work on this web site, and unless otherwise noted, everything here is photographed by me.

For a short period of time, I was exploring a screenwriting career. I had a script optioned by Hyde Park Entertainment (a division of MGM), a studio that has since gone under. I even had an agent in Beverly Hills for a short period of time.

I enjoy playing poker on the side and find the game infinitely fascinating. I have made the final table in a few bigger tournaments. One at The Hall of Fame Poker Classic and the other at the Bay 101 Open, but no World Series of Poker bracelet for me yet. I have had the opportunity to play against some world-class poker professionals and have gotten crushed by them.

In my off time I play bass guitar and far too many video games.

Publications and Awards

Industry Awards bullet 1995-2000
Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have won far too many awards than is possible to list here.

The History of Photoshop bullet February 2000
An article written by Jeff Schewe for Photo Electronic Imaging Magazine. This covers the history and development of Photoshop. A copy of this article can be found here in PDF format. You can also find another copy on Jeff's web site, Schewe Photography.

Design Graphics, Cover Story bullet June 1999, Issue 46
This article covered the work I did on the redesign of the professional product line while at Adobe.

Collage with Photoshop bullet 1994
This book features 14 digital artists using Photoshop and Specular Collage. I'm only mentioned in the prologue, but the book was created to promote Collage and what digital artists were doing with it at the time. I'm still fairly proud about the book and the work produced inside of it.

Education

Amherst College bullet 1989 to 1990
Left Amherst College to start Specular Int'l

The Hill School bullet 1984 to 1988
College preperatory school.

Contact

andrei@designbyfire.com bullet To avoid getting tagged by my spam filter, be sure to create a meaningful subject line.

Colophon and other details

Design by Fire v4.0 Separator A quick overview of the design and implementation of DxF for those who care about such details.

Browser Support

If you are viewing Design by Fire in either Firefox or Safari, congratulations! You are experiencing Design by Fire in the manner it was intended. If you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 or less, you have my sympathies as you are getting a version slightly less dynamic. The reason for that is due to Microsoft's lack of support for the CSS property "position: fixed;" plus a few other things.

Get Firefox

Bottom line, Internet Explorer promises to fix these things in version 7, so in the meantime you can either download the beta for IE7 or switch to Firefox.

Typography

If you have purchased the Adobe Creative Suite, you should have Helvetica Neue installed in your font library. If so, then you are reading Design by Fire as it was intended to be read. For everyone else, you are either seeing Lucida Grande or Arial.

Fonts

Clearly, Helvetica Neue is far superior.

As for the logotype of Design by Fire, it's set using the classic Bodoni typeface, complete with ligature for that extra flourish.

Content Management System

This version of Design by Fire is managed using WordPress. So long MovableType.

Copyright Information

Design by Fire is ©copyright by Andrei Michael Herasimchuk. All rights reserved.

You may not use any material, articles, logos, essays, technical illustrations, photos or any content from this site without expressed written permission.

Design articles

This page intentionally left blank Bullet Oct 31st, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses Bullet Aug 16th, 2007

Introducing Spivot Bullet Mar 5th, 2007

The unfortunate death of Helvetica Bullet Oct 23rd, 2006

An Open letter to John Warnock Bullet Aug 28th, 2006

Convenient Lessons from An Inconvenient Truth Bullet Aug 2nd, 2006

The kids aren’t alright Bullet Jul 17th, 2006

The Culture of Fugly Bullet Jun 25th, 2006

Please make me think! Are high-tech usability priorities backwards? Bullet Oct 10th, 2004

Rebranding the World Wide Web Consortium Bullet Sep 30th, 2004

You say toe – may – toe, I say [expletive] that Bullet Aug 17th, 2004

Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 2 Bullet Jun 20th, 2004

Design Eye for the Usability Guy Bullet May 18th, 2004

Et tu, Brute? Bullet May 6th, 2004

I would RTFM if there was an FM to FR Bullet Apr 30th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part III Bullet Apr 27th, 2004

Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 1 Bullet Apr 9th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part II Bullet Mar 31st, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part I Bullet Mar 29th, 2004

Redesigning Google’s search results page Bullet Jan 25th, 2004

Lifestyle articles

Welcome to the new school, same as the old school. Bullet Jun 19th, 2006

Bubble Boy at the Bay 101 Shooting Star Bullet Mar 1st, 2004

Beginner’s Tips for Poker Bullet Jan 31st, 2004

Crucial mistakes against Scotty Nguyen Bullet Dec 10th, 2003

Photography articles

Santorini in black and white Bullet Jun 17th, 2004

Santorini in red Bullet Jun 9th, 2004

Santorini in blue Bullet Jun 8th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part III Bullet Apr 27th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part II Bullet Mar 31st, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part I Bullet Mar 29th, 2004

Party like it’s 1999 Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

An Oakland Rave Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Random favorites from the shoebox Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Portraits of Donna and Alexa Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Politics archive

How terrorism works Bullet Sep 10th, 2004