Buzz Web

On the slagging of buzzwords

Since the September that never ended (the point where the unwashed masses – us – got on the internet), the web has been rife with buzzwords. New buzzwords came and old buzzwords went, or worse, kept on lingering waiting to be revived (I’m looking at you Web 1.964beta). Amongst all this madness some people, trying to put some substance into the buzz, have tried to redefine them.

A recent example of this is Cameron Moll’s recent article on A List Apart. I must note here that redefining wasn’t really the point of the article, but some (read: quite a lot of) people (mis)took it as such. In this article Cameron talks about re-alignment versus redesign of websites, explaining that an incremental approach to designing an existing site is quite a good thing. You can think of it as evolution versus revolution; the former might seem slower, but it does bring a lot more refinement than the latter.

Good advice right? Well I’d say so, but certain people got hung up on the use of re-align, saying it brought a new word with new buzz, thus creating confusion. People, get over it. New ways of using words to express ones ideas better are being created all the time. It’s the way language works. Just saying that restyling vs. redesign already means redesign vs. re-align is ridiculous. Redesign used to be a broad term, being used for little tweaks as well as full-blown new designs of an existing site. However, as time passed, redesign became synonymous with the full-blown new design of an existing site. The May 1st Reboot and CSS Reboot events have pretty much cemented this into the collective mind of the web (no I’m not going to say blogosphere..yuk!). Ironically, this slagging of re-align only increases it’s exposure as a buzzword so I really feel they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Others have different reasons for calling it harmful.

That same Anne (who I had the pleasure of meeting at the last Happy Clog meeting) mentioned in the a former post that xHTML has quite a number of downsides. As these include forward and backwards compatibility, they’re quite hefty. The upsides however seem to be zilch at present (excepting, maybe, search engine optimisation). HTML, on the other hand, seems to be getting a proper spec, written with the web in mind. I myself have half a mind to change over to HTML 5 once the spec’s finished. Note that this is simply a reconsidered position and has nothing to do with inflammatory dead horses.

Moving on to the curious post on SimpleBits about using ‘CSS patch’ instead of ‘CSS hack’ to get rid of the negative connotation that’s associated with the term ‘hack’ (even though it has noble beginnings, one can’t deny that due to server crackers being known hackers, hack has a negative meaning now). Thus it’s handy to use another term when you’re explaining your hacks to Pointy Haired Bosses. This doesn’t mean that CSS hacks should be endorsed or encouraged, in my eyes it’s still a last resort.

So do I disagree with everything in those twin-posts? Nah, Web 2.0 is just as meaningless as three (or was it four?) years ago. After seeing the OSCON keynote by Dick Hardt on Identity 2.0 I have some hope that server-side client-focussed (i.e. stuff requires nothing extra of the user but does make life easier for them) innovations like Identity 2.0 seems to be get as much attention as the client-side stuff (like remote JavaScript).

That’s another thing. JavaScript has become cool, nay, acceptable again! After the nightmare that was DHTML, we’ve now got a footballing cleansing acronym for ‘cool JavaScript stuff’ called AJAX. (Thanks Adaptive Path!) Even though they saw it as ‘a new approach to web applications’ it seems that everything connected to JavaScript has the tendency to over hype beyond belief. Compared to DHTML (Dynamic HTML) AJAX does have one saving grace. It provides a method of shoving more heavy lifting to the server-side where, in my mind, it belongs (certainly if the mobile web ever takes off).

So are there any buzzwords worth slagging hard? Absolutely.