Scam ads on Facebook

Perhaps I’m the only one to whom this would be unexpected, but I was surprised to notice blatant scam ads on Facebook today. Maybe they’re not a recent addition but I just noticed them today for the first time. I would have thought such things wouldn’t get clearance from Facebook’s marketing department.

Who knows how useful the little “thumbs down” functionality is in getting the misleading ads removed.

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The #1 reason not to use Joomla

The most annoying issue with Joomla!, despite the admirable efforts of many people involved with the project, is its tendancy to output crappy HTML. Even still, at least one of the default themes uses tables for layout, and last time I checked the RSS feeds that it spat out wouldn’t validate.

But the biggest problem is not with the core. A little bit of hacking can get around that. The bigger problem is the poorly coded extensions (plugins, components, modules). Running a website off an open-source CMS means you almost invariably are going to need to rely on 3rd party extensions, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

What’s wrong is the shoddy state of Joomla’s extension landscape. Credit to the extension authors is of course due more than blame, as they’re working (generally) for free, out of goodwill. But having to re-work over the HTML generated by pretty much each and every extension–whether it’s removing tables used for layout, getting rid of deprecated elements and attributes, or just fixing plain old errors–gets tedious quickly. People should know better than to just throw <style> tags into the middle of a document. I shouldn’t be seeingĀ  <td align="center"> anywere.

Fido.ca’s usability sin

There are few things that universally qualify as web design FAILs. The esteemed Jakob Nielsen has a list of Top-10 Web Design Mistakes from 1999 which, in web years, is a long time. Long enough that you think people would have learned.

Arguably, most of the ten mistakes he lists are not so hard and dry. For instance, it is not too hard to imagine situations in which opening a new browser window (mistake #2) is not a clear cut screw-up. And some of the mistakes are less serious than the others, e.g. #8, “jumping at the latest internet buzzword.”

But there is one holiest of holies that you just don’t mess with: breaking the “back” button. The back button is the second most used browser action, right after clicking a link to follow it. Breaking the back button is a clear signal that you haven’t thought, or don’t care, about your users.

So why does Fido.ca’s Phones & Accessories store think they’re above this? It’s aesthetically pleasing, but trying to compare phones on their website was easily the most frustrating web browsing experience I’ve had in a long time. While I usually think it’s not very helpful or informative to be so flippant, in this case I call: user experience FAIL.

Ampersand validation issues with Joomla

Joomla! is, in many ways, a great CMS. One of its shortcomings, however, is that it has been slow to adopt web standards, which frequently manifests itself in annoying validation issues with generated XHTML and XML feeds. These issues are usually fairly easily overcome, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to worry about them in the first place.

The default WYSIWYG editor, for instance, seems to purposely prevent you from entering your ampersands (&) as &amp; which is required for XHTML validation. The way around this is simply to use a different editor; namely, JCE, or the Joomla! Content Editor. JCE will, among other nice features, automatically appropriately encode your typed ampersands, making it easier to ensure your code validates.

One annoying “feature” I’ve encountered with JCE so far, though, is the inability to insert empty alt attributes. Often, particularly in the case of an icon that is more than adequately explained by surrounding text, adding alt text would actually just be at best redundant and at worst confusing to people using screenreaders. However, to validate, you have to include an empty alt attribute (alt=""). JCE doesn’t seem to like this, and will strip your empy alt attribute. I’m sure there is a relatively simple hack to circumvent this.

If only Spore DRM complainers were this vocal about all corporate injustices

As of this writing, Spore, the new game from Maxis and Electronic Arts, has generated 2,015 1-star reviews on Amazon.com. The reason for this being EA’s rather draconian (can only install on three machines without calling tech support, computer needs to check-in to EA activation servers) and useless (it was pirated a week before its launch anyway, and the DRM only annoys legitimate customers) Digital Rights Management (DRM).

While many of the complaints are valid, I can’t help but feel like their legitimacy is overshadowed by the fact that >90% of these complainers would probably never get so riled up about, say, an Amazon product that was produced under exploitative or dangerous working conditions, that seriously threatened biodiversity, or that leached toxic checmicals into landfills when you were done using it.

No, these people will only get fired up if their video game doesn’t work just right. Don’t be surprised if I don’t have a lot of sympathy.

Annoyance from Ticketmaster

So, I was all looking forward to redeeming my “iTunes songs, compliments of Ticketmaster” that I got from a ticket purchase…

But when I go to actually redeem them, I get this:

I purchased the tickets on March 25th and the offer expires on April 30th? What kind reward is that? Perhaps, oh, say, the kind they don’t actually want you to take advantage of? Why do we just accept that this is okay behaviour? Is there any good reason for making the expiry date one month later, other than that it will probably mean some people like myself don’t actually get the goods and thereby cost Ticketmaster $$?