I have some grievances against some of my kind and I’m going to air them now.
If you’re a Web developer, test your site without cookies from time to time, especially if you’re a news site or some such that most people are never going to login on. I recently discovered that E! Online has joined the ignoble ranks of sites that refresh themselves every few seconds if you don’t have cookies enabled. Why a site should refresh if it can’t find any cookies is a complete mystery to me, and by complete mystery I mean I don’t want to know the answer because the question is so bafflingly stupid that anyone who knowingly makes their site do this should be hanged. Unless they’re doing it on orders from a clueless boss, and then the boss should be hanged. All after due process, of course.
Then we have the Weather Channel. I’ve mentioned them recently, how their site has been broken nine ways from Sunday. They made a lot of fixes, but the one thing they never fixed was that you need cookies to view the site. Not even just session cookies, which satisfy most picky sites, but full cookies, because they make use of localStorage and don’t bother to check if it’s unavailable. This is what we professionals call top-shelf stupid, almost unforgivably so, although it’s still marginally less bad than the refresh thing.
But by far the thing that irks me the most is a software habit. Some pieces of software are in the habit these days of updating themselves, often on their own schedule that can interfere with whatever you’re doing. That’s often bad enough, but it gets worse. Most of the programs that do this are constantly re-inserting themselves into the Start menu. Why is this bad? Because some of us like to keep our start menu organized so it’s not just one giant list of programs where you can’t find anything. Every time one of these programs updates, my start menu is re-cluttered with an entry in the main section when it already has one somewhere else. At the very very least, these guys could keep track of where you told them to put their shortcuts the first time so they don’t do it again. How hard is that? (Hint: It’s not.)
And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this one, but a number of sites like to use custom fonts. Unfortunately those fonts, or the subsets they present to their users, don’t tend to include a non-breaking space character, so when it turns up it becomes a zero-width space. This turns out to be a problem because these sites also seem to be using a content platform that inserts non-breaking spaces all over the place between words instead of true spaces, which is a special kind of stupid when it comes to text content anyway. On sites like that, I’ll be reading an article and suddenly two words are abutted together with no explanation. When I finally found the explanation I was dumbfounded by how preventable it was, because all you need to do is either include the right character in the font, or better still replace the non-breaking spaces that shouldn’t be there anyway with regular ones.
I’ve perpetrated many a gaffe myself; I don’t hold myself blameless. But good gads, these particular issues are so ridiculously widespread there ought to be roaming squads of floggers who go after these bozos and give them a good lash once in a while until they straighten up and fly right. Issues like this should be so blindingly obvious that programmers everywhere should have an almost religious aversion to them. We have a generation of programmers taught to believe goto is evil (it’s not, just dangerous if mishandled), but nobody bothered to tell them not to refresh the page if the user is a cookiephobe? Madness. Give me spaghetti code instead of rank stupidity any day.