Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "how could i have been the first to think this"

No Thanks

Ray Drainville

There’s a company that provides a useful service for local restaurants who want to cater to students. Their name, however, means that the jokes just write themselves:

Some optional responses here:

  • No way—do you know where they’ve been?!?
  • Thanks, but I’m a vegetarian—from this point onwards.
  • This presents the strongest case I’ve ever seen that English needs a vocative case.

Problematic Wording

Ray Drainville

So there’s a tiny tempest at Zeldman.com. Jeffrey Zeldman rightfully condemns the “Pottermore” website for providing a retrograde experience. What’s the problem?

It’s certainly not the sentiment: the site is pretty crap. And it certainly isn’t because J.K. Rowling is under attack: a billionaire can defend herself many times over. Plus, I don’t like the Potter books. For me, it’s simply the title of the article: “Maybe stick to novels, dear”. That chummy “dear” is a standard form of condescension. It’s frequently used to belittle women & their contributions. I mean, come on: Rowling didn’t code the site herself, so why imply that she’s some rank amateur who decided to conquer the world of web development?

Now, do I think Zeldman is sexist? No. Do I think he fell into a pretty common social trap? Yes. I’ll accept that he attempted to make a joke: but it fell flat. We all misspeak; we all say things that, with further consideration, we don’t mean. That’s why I think it’s sad to see him stand his ground. It’s Luther’s “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise”—for a joke.

Update: There’s going to be a rally of feminism in Sheffield soon. I was struck by the poster:

Internet World: What’s the Point?

Ray Drainville

Last week, the greatest client in the world & I travelled to London to the Internet World exhibition. Ian asked me about whether it was worth it. Let me try to paint a picture for you:

Imagine a world where you’re selling digital services. Purely digital services—no hands-on gadgets or anything. Now imagine that to sell digital services, which of necessity work over the Internet, you’ve decided that, instead of [just] pitching on the Internet, you’ll go to an exhibition hall. Ignore the fact that this seems pointless. How do you get people to come to your stall?

  • No nonsense: Big flat computer screen & a few sweaty nerds with the stink of doom clinging to them;
  • Silly gimmicks: Ice cream, smoothies, chocolate, all for the high, high cost of enduring a sales pitch;
  • Proximity to Sensuality: Scantily-clad women! Talking to you! Example: dancing girls were dancing, unenthusiastically shouting “Wooo!” whilst in midriff shirts reading “The firewall is dead. Long live the firewall”

Now imagine an exhibition where there are talks given in different theatres. There are six overarching subjects—each with incoherently-assembled themes like “Web 2.0, Social Networking, Usability, Design & Build Theatre ”—and you only design five icons for them:

The presenters of these seminars were given 25 minutes to talk (like “How we redesigned Virgin for SEO”), but they all—to a man—decided not to give away any of their secrets. Fair enough, but reflect that these people genuinely thought this was somehow going to magically turn into a selling opportunity, simply by stating claims backed with little substantiation, just assertions.

Now imagine a group of people telling you that the greatest way to sell services is online, but decide to do it in a grey hall, having paid thousands to rent their stalls & assemble their marketing junk, as people (including yours truly) shuffle listlessly about.

Finally, the easy part: imagine that, after having walked around for hours & listened to God knows how many awful (truly, truly awful) marketing sessions, you have used your 3″ x 1.5″ notebook to fill up only 2 pages’ worth of interesting information, because that’s all it was really worth.

So, yeah, it was teh suck.

Synergise That Quality

Ray Drainville

Frequently we are posted materials (or “literature”, as it’s often pompously called) from printing companies promoting their work. One popped into the slot the other day. The company in question seem to print quite well, but they mask a lot of what they do behind incomprehensible business-speak. Even their slogan, “Creating the unique makes the difference”, makes no sense. Especially since the company’s name isn’t “The Unique”.

Worse, there are a lot of errors in the text. Here are just some samples:

Now, you may think me an asshole for pointing these out. And fair enough. I’m as un-fond of Grammar Nazis as the next guy & it pains me to metamorphose into one. But that first example? It was from the second sentence in the entire pack. This isn’t a case of things slipping by: they didn’t proof-read this at all.

This company clearly spent a lot of money on their printing—and delivery, given that there was no postage on the envelope. They rather brazenly boast of their quality & “mastery of the digital world”. Well, mastery of the digital world includes spell- and grammar-checking. Quality is in the details—and even for companies whose trade is visual design, words matter & your mastery of them differentiates you from the ink-stained half-wit who works round the corner.