Sunday, October 25. 2009
I haven't had much to say about Israel lately. Part of this is "same old, same old": the Goldstone report merely confirmed the obvious about Israel's criminal siege of Gaza; the Obama focus on curtailing settlements has been inept and, I think, misses the point; on the other hand, Netanyahu's far right regime continues to make enemies and revulse friends, with Turkey an interesting example; and the Iran focus continues to be a distraction, which is exactly the way Netanyahu wanted to play Obama. But another part is that I've pretty much given up on what used to be my best source for intelligence on Israel, Mondoweiss, and that I blame on a website redesign that limits posts to 80-100 words after which you have to click to read further. The theory there most likely has to do with forcing page hits up, but in my case it's having the opposite effect.
One reason I mention this is that Salon has a redesign to make it look more like, well, a bunch of websites I don't recall because I never look at them -- Daily Beast, Huffington Post, stuff like that. The visual clutter on their home page is worse than the norm, but the thing that's most annoying is that they've propagated the design to their blogs. I've lately been keeping How the World Works, War Room, and Glenn Greenwald open in tabs, but their usefulness is declining: not only are the posts getting chopped up to force extra clicks, the number of active posts is being cut back (except for Greenwald).
I suppose advertising has something to do with this, but I don't see a lot of advertising on either site, and increasingly advertising only counts for something if you actually click it. But as likely as not the root cause is bureaucratic self-deception. The easy way to prove that a given site or feature is popular is hit counts, so they start to turn into a fetish. And like most arbitrary measures, if you can't beat 'em, scam 'em. Something like this happened at MSN to drive the redesign of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, breaking up a column that we normally run on one page at robertchristgau.com into more than a dozen separate clicks. (User guide hint: look for the Next links.) I have no idea whether that redesign resulted in more page hits, let alone whether more page hits were a good thing for the publisher. It certainly meant more work for everyone else.
The other driving force is likely to be the designer mafia, who need frequent redesigns for career practice. Sometimes I think I should put more effort into design than I do, but in the end I'd rather put the work into content. The design of robertchristgau.com hasn't changed since the prototype I threw together in an hour or two back in September 2001. It certainly could be improved, but I've never had a complaint from Christgau, who appreciates that it leaves the focus clearly on his writing, and doesn't feel compelled to change for change's sake. Don't recall when I put my current design in -- the blog dates back to Jan. 2005, at which point I adapted a somewhat older design that I had started using (and still haven't propagated throughout the whole website). In principle, I'm not opposed to putting some effort into website design. I just think it should enhance the content -- not bury it, nor substitute for it, which has been happening way too often.
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