Modern Technology: Please stop trying to be helpful July 17, 2022 cliffski A minute ago, I tried reading an article on a super-popular news site. The page it opened had no scrollbar, and as with all modern ‘writing’, the top 800 pixels is a large image, rather than any text. Luckily, my laptop has a touch screen but….no joy. I still can’t scroll. I just assume that this is some stupid clash with ghostery, so turn it off. The site still cannot scroll. I’m sure the content must exist, I just am not technically able to access it. I’m not an idiot, I used to be an MCSE qualified systems engineer. And yet in 2022, I cannot scroll a web page. The problem, as I’m sure you have guessed, is some sort of stupid bug in what passes for web development code these days, where the scroll bar is handled by the page, not the browser, and it has decided, given various parameters, that it should hide the scrollbar from me, when in fact it is totally and utterly fucking wrong. I am unsure as to precisely what this is trying to achieve. Back in the 1990s, web browsers just added vertical or horizontal scroll bars when they were needed, and we all got on with our lives. Apparently, in 2022, there is mass hysteria at the thought that I MIGHT see a scrollbar when I do not really immediately need it, and this would be a mortal threat to me. The sight of a scrollbar at any point in my life other than one nanosecond before I intend to use it, is apparently a fate worse than death. GMail, before I gave up on its frankly appalling spam filter, used to pull the same trick on me. I have a lot of email folders, and this requires a scrollbar, which apparently would give me cancer if I saw it before I went ‘hunt the scrollbar’ with my mouse in its general direction. I get it. Some graphic designer, who probably got into a lot of debt to get that degree, thinks that a scroll bar breaks the ‘clean simple’ look of their art / web page, and that my life would be simpler if I could never see it. Apparently it compromises the artistic vision of the designer if the web page includes any actual functionality. Sadly, its not just functionality, but content that is actually offensive to these people. The layout of a web page is apparently an exhibit at the Guggenheim museum, not actual information that anybody would wish to consume. All news articles must contain a massive stock photo of some vaguely related phenomena with a proud GETTY logo in the corner, lest we confuse it with anything actually relevant. After scrolling past this waste of time, we are lucky if 50% of the available space contains any text, and thats even after ghostery has blocked all the ads, and after we ignore the ‘sponsored’ content. Once you scroll past (tech permitting) the stock photos, the ads, and the sponsored concept, you are left with an amazing display of unfettered white-space. Acres and acres of plain white background. This is apparently clean. This is apparently simple. This is actually ridiculous. Apple removing the headphone jack was just the white-space/scrollbar trend in real life. Remove everything. Pad everything. Everything you buy must be a multi-layered unboxing ‘experience’ designed for Instagram, not common sense. Just like the curse-of-white-space and the banishment of scrollbars, I find almost all modern tech trends designed to help me, actually hinder me. The chief example is of course the dreaded social media ‘algorithm’. I am yet to find a single tech site or service where I prefer their algorithm over a simple search/browse/directory structure. The worst possible offender has to be youtube. Youtube’s algorithm is like a hyperactive puppy on amphetamines. You dared watch a video of someone playing a van halen song? Well OMG DO WE HAVE THE VIDEOS FOR YOU. Expect 50% of your suggested videos to be variations on that theme. If you dare watch another one, the puppy will get even more excited. WATCH MORE OF THE THING!!! it shrieks at the top of its voice into your eardrums. Meanwhile, a second puppy constantly pimps already-stupidly-popular but absolutely unsuitable videos that you have never shown any interest in, while a third puppy keeps suggesting you re-watch a video you literally watched an hour ago. Streaming services are no better. Netflix is so in thrall with its algorithm that it actively lies. ‘Popular today’ means fuck-all. It means ‘stuff the algorithm thinks you want…which is popular today’. At one point I had to create a completely new Netflix profile called ‘not korean’ to escape its dumb-as-fuck constant pimping of NOTHING but Korean dramas to me. Amazon prime is even worse, actively promoting the latest football matches to me whenever there is some tedious football event. I have been an Amazon customer since the month the site launched. I have never, ever, in all these years, ever watched/streamed/bought/rented anything even tangentially related to any sport, ever. I assume there is a ‘sport’ section, which I could presumably find, if I suddenly change after 50 years. Stop trying to help me. You are rubbish at it. If I go into a book store, back in the real world, (the one that is not infuriating), I see a ton of shelves, nicely labeled, showing me all the content on offer. Amazingly, my primitive brain enables me to browse, to decide what to show an interest in, what to look at, where to go. This works. Its worked for hundreds of years now. Its fine. But… imagine a bookshop where there were no shelves, no departments, no books, just a fucking annoying sales assistant holding up a ton of books that were the same as the last book you bought, yelling BUY THESE! THESE ARE WHAT YOU WANT! I yearn for simpler times, not because I’m a technophobe, I’m a fucking computer programmer, but because I despise seeing so much effort go into efforts to actively make my life worse in so many tiny ways. If the text doesn’t fit in the box, show a fucking scrollbar. Not only when your machine-learning bullshit thinks I need it, but ALWAYS. If I have something that is laughably called a ‘timeline’ in your social media app, then ONLY EVER show it by time. In a line. Its not much to ask.