Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vintage WWW Humor - Nine Types of HTML Authors

One of my friends' Facebook entries today referenced "a hilariously hideous, eye-gouging, 1996-style HTML disaster." Suddenly that reminded me of one of my minor claims to "fame" and it seemed like a good time to visit the wayback machine.

It's 1995, and I'm still at Bowling Green. This whole web thing is pretty new and pretty cool. Google does not yet exist. Yahoo hasn't been off of akebono.stanford.edu for very long. AOL is the hottest thing in electronic communications.

One of the people I knew at Bowling Green, Jeremy, had set up a box (named "pizza") for some of us BG computer folks to play around with webpage development. I created all sorts of pages during that time. A couple on the serious side (one on composer Vasilly Kalinnikov, another collecting birthday greetings from around the world for our about-to-be-one daughter) and some more frivolous (including a fake UFO sighting page).

When "pizza"'s hard drive bit the dust, most of this work was gone. Backups? Pshaw.

But one piece lived on. It had been copied (usually unattributed) into various collections of on-line humor before the drive failure. Amazingly enough, nearly fourteen years after I first penned my Matt Groening-inspired Web Page Design humor bit, it's still floating around the internet. (What does any of this have to do with Matt Groening, creator of Futurama and The Simpsons? Before he worked on those efforts, he created "Life In Hell", a comic strip which frequently had "Nine Types of ..." cartoons.)

I won't link to any of the unattributed sites, but if you go to this Google Groups link you can see my original rec.humor posting referencing pizza and also my username "mhaynes". Sadly, since I cross-posted to the non-public "bgsu.general" newsgroup, Google Groups appears to not be able to pull up the message itself.

14 years is a long time in web terms. I can't decide which is more impressive -- that half of the comments in this bit will mean nothing to 90+% of current Web-izens or that half of them still may hit a nerve!

And so, for the first time in over a decade, under my own name, I present:

The Nine Types of HTML Authors (1995-style)

Joe/Jane Average College Student

Traits : Owner of a new university-supplied computer account with http access. Complete lack of originality. Multiple references to beer/Disney movies. Several photos of Student with college buddies (high school, if freshman Student).
The Good News : They don't know how to get their page linked to the outside world, so only they and their friends download their 16.7-million- color pictures from the last party.
The Bad News : They, their friends and their 16.7-million-color pictures might be on your server.

Mr. "Enhanced For Netscape"

Traits : The second thing you see on his page is a Netscape logo and a link to an ftp site where you can download Netscape <blink>NOW!</blink>. The first thing you see is about 80 different <title>s scrolling back and forth across your screen.
The Good News : You won't have to look at their pages for long, because there won't be much there to see.
The Bad News : Half of the rest of the people who look at their pages are going to think "Hey, that's cool!" and copy the source.

The Old-Timer

Traits : Pages compatible with HTML 1.0, no graphics and very few attribute tags. Normal-text-size message at top says "This page not enhanced for Netscape. Cope, whipper-snapper."
The Good News : He's likely there because he has something of importance to say.
The Bad News : Whatever it is will likely be boring or far too
technical for you.

The 5-Year-Old

Traits : Pictures of their parents, the family pet, etc. More data about the daily life of a kindergartener than you thought possible. Cute "kiddy-talk" dialect to the text. <address> contains the note "such-and-such's mother helped her build this page."
The Good News : The first few of these you see give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
The Bad News : The last few dozen of these you see all look the same.

The Computer Science Major

Traits : Links to the linux FAQ, the Geek Code, Star Wars theme music and DOOM .wad files. Cautious use of Netscape enhancements. Picture of Darth Vader instead of personal pictures. HTML 3.0 (Beta) compliant seal-of-approval at bottom of her page.
The Good News : If you're a geek, you'll find what you're looking for here. Even if you're not, you'll like the page design.
The Bad News : Complete lack of socially redeeming qualities. Unfortunate tendency to upload specs of their home PC.

The Businessman
Traits : Pages without fancy backgrounds and with only one nice, clean, imagemap. Unfortunately, there are no text-links for those using Lynx.
The Good News : You won't go blind staring at his pages.
The Bad News : You might wish you had once you see the prices of the goods/services he's offering.

The Newbie

Traits : Very little created text on their pages, it's almost all links to other people's pages. Missing right brackets in <A
HREF>s kill whole lines of information. Several image files are not able to be loaded. <center>.
The Good News : They'll almost have to get better.
The Bad News : They just might not.

The Egotist

Traits : Large image of themself greets you when page is loading. 1/2 Meg .au file of him chatting with his dog. Access counts shown for every page. Several lengthy pages devoted to his compact disk/Magic card/beer bottle collection. More personal details than you'd ever want to know.
The Good News : There isn't any.
The Bad News : Frequently friendly with Mr. "Enhanced for Netscape."

The Maniac

Traits : Last counted 1267 .html files in his public_html directory and 100+ CGI scripts in his cgi-bin directory. Is known as a "Close Personal Friend of Bob [Allison]." Thinks the people at Yahoo! "don't keep up with the Web fast enough." Will be the first on his block to have an ethernet cable hardwired into his brain.
The Good News : You could go through all his pages and never find an error.
The Bad News : You'd never make it through all his pages.

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