Ignorant Swedish tech hype

This morning, when I read the headline technical article in Computer Sweden , I got upset, tired and saddened. Basically, the article is calling Swedish companies out of date just because they aren’t using AJAX for their web sites. It also somehow manages to convey the notion that AJAX = Web 2.0.

First, AJAX is not Web 2.0. A Web 2.0 company/solution might use AJAX, and that’s it. Using AJAX doesn’t automatically make it Web 2.0. Period.

Second, calling AJAX modern is just ignorant. The technical possibilities have been around for years, the only thing that’s “new” is the acronym and the hype.

Third, even if it were a modern approach, why would everyone benefit from it? The web is already filled to the brim with unmotivated AJAX solutions; web sites that have sacrificed accessibility and usability just to be doing the latest thing. Now this magazine, probably the technical magazine/paper with the highest amount of readers and vastest reach in Sweden, helps to spread the word that everything has to be AJAX-based, which will, without a doubt, lead to a lot of web developers out there start doing it right away, and managers will run to their employees proclaiming that they just can’t miss this.

The article is written by a reporter who, last week, published an article stating that web sites would have to be re-written for IE 7. Sure, if it were amateurs doing the job the first time around… So, needless to say, his track record reveals that maybe he hasn’t gotten a technical expertise. Which is fine, but then please do the proper research before publishing such pieces. With such a job, there’s a responsibility that goes with it.

One company that is mentioned and quoted in the article is hitta.se , who proudly announces that their AJAX-based preloading maps are so much better than their competitor Eniro’s are. Ok, let’s take a swift look at hitta.se and see for ourselves:

  • With JavaScript disabled, no maps are shown at all (compared to Eniro’s that at least show up initially, but then the navigation of the map doesn’t work).
  • The code is riddled with inline styles and inline scripts, completely forsaking the professional approach of having this in separate layers.
  • The word semantics doesn’t seem to have gotten through at all to the web developers; the state of the HTML code is appalling.

So, where does this leave us? They’re proud to be using the “new” technology AJAX, while totally forsaking everything else when it comes to good practice, accessibility, usability and proper web interface developing. If you implement such a simple thing as a map on a web page, and especially for such a popular service on the web, your responsibility is to make sure it isn’t dependant on JavaScript.

Does this mean that AJAX has to be inaccessible then? Absolutely not, it’s all about doing it the correct way. Also, I don’t have a problem with AJAX itself; on the contrary, I agree that used in a proper context, it can make using a web site a lot more interesting, useful and fast to use. But it should never be used at the cost of excluding users or normal web browsing behavior such as using the forward and back buttons in the web browser, bookmarking, reloading etc (this is all something I wanted to address with ASK – AJAX Source Kit).

Do I have a beef with hitta.se? Not at all, I just get tired when people make statements and say that they’re so much more in the loop than other companies, and then it’s obvious that they haven’t done their job correctly. In fact, I know the people behind specifying the concept, and I think it’s great! It’s just sad that the web developers implementing it didn’t have the skills to match it.

Conclusively, I’d advise hitta.se to make their next statement when you’ve done your job right. Till then, do your homework…

16 Comments

  • Kalle Wibeck says:

    Robert, I couldn't agree with you more…

    It seem like there's a journalistic codec within the entire IDG group to let any writer write about any subject no matter what they actually know about it ;(

    Unfourtunantly Computer Sweden has lately turned more towards the tabloid type of journalistics usally found in their sister magazine Internetworld. Good thing they have a comment feature on their articles, let's do some comment spamming! Nah, just kidding ; )

  • Robert, the situation is the same in other countries.

    It's also why I really don't like tech magazines anymore â€â€Β they're horrible, they spread stuff like this without having any clue whatsoever.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Kalle,

    That sounds a bit harsh, but some pieces do make you wonder. Even if they sometimes write about something that they don't know everything about, but just because it has been a requested article, it still means they have to do the proper research and make sure it's presented as nuanced as possible.

    Faruk,

    I'm sorry to hear that.

    Krijn,

    Absolutely right. Let's call it "new-ish" then. πŸ™‚

  • Robert de Mildt says:

    I'm afraid this is partly due to the emphasis our society puts on image. Any new technology that can add visual glamour will automatically attract more attention. If it looks good, it must be good is true for a great lot of people unfortunately.

  • Have you tried contacting them and pointing out what you say here? Perhaps they are willing to accept a better article if you write one? Or perhaps someone else reading this post have more time on their hands and could try?

  • Robert, I would question the competence of that publication's editor. His knowledge about web technology is pretty much non-existance, I would guess. Otherwise he would not have equated AJAX with Web 2.0. Nor did he hype them at the expense of accessablity, usability and good semantics.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Robert de Mildt,

    Most likely an important reason, yes. I just wish the glamour would have a stronger connection to reality or a proper job.

    Emil,

    I have been in contact with the journalist and I have to say that I'm happy with his initial reaction. We will continue our talks next week.

    Mohodin,

    Defining Web 2.0 is apparently a hard thing, and for many people it means different things, but, absolutely, it should really be mentioned in a context with factors like accessibility, usability and semantics.

  • Reine says:

    Thanks Robert! I'm glad I wasn't the only one who reacted strongly on that article.

  • Robert: Good to hear. People willing to accept that they were wrong while presented with proof is always a good thing. Looking forward to a correction or additional article from him.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    The people at Computer Sweden are mostly ignorant about anything to do with web technologies. They seem to publish press releases from just about anyone without even examining them for accuracy.

    I felt the same way as you did when I read that 'article'. They're right about one thing, though: lots of Swedish 'web developers' are behind the times. I'm not talking about Ajax, but about supposedly simple things like HTML and CSS.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Reine,

    Thanks for sharing my reaction!

    Emil,

    Absolutely, as long as people are open-minded enough to see all sides of an issue, there's hope. Article-wise, we'll see what happens.

    Tommy,

    I don't feel that I'm in position to make a statement about all of their articles/press releases, but I get what you're going at.

    Swedish web developers are behind the times, definitely, but just making everything AJAX-driven won't solve that problem.

  • […] other thing that makes me happy is that the journalist that interviewed me is the same one whose article I expressed my opinions about two weeks ago. Kudos to him for und […]

  • Henrik says:

    Hehe πŸ™‚ congratz on the interview! That's really great for your! perhaps even my link to this blog entry helped a bit :).

    Now I'm off to read those two articles :).

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Henrik,

    Thanks, and enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • […] Update: Robert Nyman is spot-on in his post on the subject. […]

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