James Mickens Pontificates on Web Developers

If you haven't discovered James Mickens then I have a treat for you. James is a Researcher in the Distributed Systems Group at Microsoft and writes hilarious articles under the moniker ;Login: Logout. His writing reminds me of the style of Dave Barry.

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November's article The Night Watch takes a poignant swipe at web developers and web designers when explaining why he needs a systems programmer at his side when the apocolypse comes (something we should all ponder deeply). What follows is a funny take that compares those in our craft to the United Nations and the nation of France.

In most situations, GUI designers should not be forced to fight each other with tridents and nets as I yell “THERE ARE NO MODAL DIALOGS IN SPARTA.” I am like the Statue of Liberty: I accept everyone, even the wretched and the huddled and people who enjoy Haskell. But when things get tough, I need mission-critical people; I need a person who can wear night-vision goggles and descend from a helicopter on ropes and do classified things to protect my freedom while country music plays in the background. A systems person can do that. I can realistically give a kernel hacker a nickname like “Diamondback” or “Zeus Hammer.” In contrast, no one has ever said, “These semi-transparent icons are really semi-transparent! IS THIS THE WORK OF ZEUS HAMMER?”

He continues

I picked that last example at random. You must believe me when I say that I have the utmost respect for HCI people. However, when HCI people debug their code, it’s like an art show or a meeting of the United Nations. There are tea breaks and witticisms exchanged in French; wearing a non- functional scarf is optional, but encouraged. When HCI code doesn’t work, the problem can be resolved using grand theories that relate form and perception to your deeply personal feelings about ovals. There will be rich debates about the socioeconomic implications of Helvetica Light, and at some point, you will have to decide whether serifs are daring statements of modernity, or tools of hegemonic oppression that implicitly support feudalism and illiteracy. Is pinching-and-dragging less elegant than circling-and-lightly-caressing? These urgent mysteries will not solve themselves. And yet, after a long day of debugging HCI code, there is always hope, and there is no true anger; even if you fear that your drop-down list should be a radio button, the drop-down list will suffice until tomorrow, when the sun will rise, glorious and vibrant, and inspire you to combine scroll bars and left-clicking in poignant ways that you will commemorate in a sonnet when you return from your local farmer’s market.

Read the full article over at ;Login: Logout.

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Sr. Director, UI Engineering, PayPal. Former Netflixer, Y! Pattern Curator. UX & Engineering Leader, Author, Speaker. Early Mac game developer (1985)

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