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Nederlog

February 15, 2015
Crisis: On the  destruction of The Guardian's (formerly) fine website
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















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Sections
Introduction

1. The destruction of The Guardian's fine website
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 15, 2015.

It so happens that today I looked but found no - good - crisis items. I really looked, and really did not find any, and so today there is space for the destruction of the - formerly very fine, now very ugly and far less useful - Guardian's website.

I have also hesitated whether to make this a crisis item or not, but decided it is, mostly because I owe quite a lot to the - alas formerly - very fine website of The Guardian, that I visited daily for some 1 1/2 years, and always found quite enjoyable, clear and helpful, and a fine example of how the website of a real paper could be made to look.

There are 4 dotted links in this Nederlog.

1. The destruction of The Guardian's fine website

This is not about an article but about a website, namely of The Guardian.
But there will be quite a few links, and the first is here, from my own site on December 22 last year:
That was a very brief item with the following text:
I discovered that I really like The Guardian, especially the last 1 1/2 years, in which I wrote a daily crisis report (a daily activity that has now ceased, as daily activity, for I need the time to do some other things, for which I now also have the health, though there will be more crisis reports).

It is not that I agree with all (I certainly do not) but it is usually fairly detailed, it is normally well written, and it takes its readers seriously, and the last two things are no longer true in Holland, where the papers have radically fallen in quality since 2010 and have also been considerably simplified.

Also The Guardian has a really well designed site - or did so until today, and it is this that the present Nederlog is about:

The present opening of The Guardian has just three photographs; has lots of colored pieces that are totally dysfunctional; shows a lot of text; has just two videos, and that is it.

No warnings, nothing available about the US (though you can get there by typing "/us", after "guardian" in the address) and there also is nothing to be found on the site, except that I found below an article this statement:
We’re doing some maintenance right now. You can still read comments, but please come back later to add your own.
I say. I much hope this - "some maintenance" - is the explanation, for the site presently looks a lot worse than it normally did, the last 1 1/2 years.
Since then the same - the site changed into something horrible - happened some three times more, all without any explanations or excuses, until the bell struck on January 29 of this year:
That is my article but it was directed at an article of the same title on The Renewed Guardian, by the man who worked 1 1/2 years on it, with 44 others:
For me, that last article was and is pure propaganda and pure bullshit, but I will explain it once more. Here is a list of points:
  • I can't find anything anymore: it's an ugly mess
  • I have to read everything: there are hardly any pictures
  • The font is just horrible (and can be overriden only by brute means)
  • Most of the links and the contexts have totally disappeared (!!)
  • The few photos that remain are too large and manipulative
  • The "color coding" is ugly, useless, manipulative and far too large
  • The videos look awful and have no controls nor any information
  • This is not a paper's site anymore: it is a site of disjunct postmodern narratives (possibly soon set up for individual payments?)
  • The present (text-)site (may have) looked (a bit) modern in 1992 but not in 2015
  • The present site has far too much Javascript
I will deal with them below, point by point, but here I first want to say that I find Herr Blau's insistence that the Guardians fine website was oldfashioned utter baloney:

I have been using computers daily since 1987; I have excellent degrees and a very fine mind; and I despise his attributions that I do not know what a modern site should look like (I have a 500 MB site, and have it for the 19th year now) or that his horrible bullshit, with a definite 1992 look (nearly all text; nearly no pictures), in a definite 1935 font that may look good on paper but looks horrible on screens, makes any sense.

No, it does not - but I suspect there is a deeper reason behind these truly horrible stupifications of a formerly excellent and very satisfactory site.

And here is another point: Although this is supposed to have been going on for 1 1/2 years now I can hardly find anything about it. For example, a search with
"The Guardian's new website" gave precisely one article not on The Guardian, namely the Huffington Post's
This mostly laps up Blau's propaganda:

The biggest transformation is that the website now uses a "container" format, which the paper determined better reflects how readers actually read the news. The new format aims to bridge the gap between readers and journalists, making it easier to share stories, participate in conversations and forums, and engage in videos and interactives.

"Containers can be customized in a variety of different ways to highlight stories, and allow editors to think beyond simply building a page, to creating a collection of stories that bring each day’s news to life for readers," the Guardian wrote in a press release.

This is just baloney: The "container" format is a bullshit term for clustering;
"how readers actually read" certainly is not known to "the paper"; "the gap between readers and journalists" is total crap (and if there is a gap it should be maintained); and I am not interested in "reader participation": I want good journalism. (The next paragraph is also pure propaganda crap, but I will leave it alone.)

Besides, The Huffington Post publishes a photograph that contrasts the fine old site and the horrible new one - but it does not say that the new Guardian, with the Guardian logo now on the right, while it was on the left, as a rule shows
far less photographs than the Huffington Post's picture does.

Indeed, here are some pictures from today's site. First, a colored one, in the horrible font, without any pictures and huge empty expanses of white and red:



Next, the ordinary middle section, that seems to be the typical New Experience:
This is how most of The Blauified Guardian looks like:


And here is The Blauified "Guardian"'s website announcing "the container" "highlights": again vast expanses of even two colors, that were quite trendy circa 1992, but now only stand for utter emptyness:



In contrast, this is how the old Guardian used to look (and I am sorry it is vague):

Better fonts; much more information per square inch; many none too large
pictures that help finding things; most titles with clear and brief explanations
- all gone, all destroyed; all thrown away with bullshit and propaganda.

Now for my points:
  • I can't find anything anymore: it's an ugly mess
Compare the last picture of the old Guardian, and the above pictures of the Blauified "Guardian": I do not want to have to read through pages and pages of emptiness with very little text and no or hardly any pictures simply to find something. But I have to, these days, if I want to read the Blauified "Guardian".

That may have been a modern and exciting idea circa 1992: Today it is just ugly emptiness with bits of unclear texts. (See above!)
  • I have to read everything: there are hardly any pictures
What Herr Blau also completely does not see (nor anyone of his 44 assistants, it seems) is that pictures are more easily seen and much faster recognized than text (which must be read to be understood), and besides are a lot prettier or clearer ("a picture is worth a thousand words") and more informative, especially when conjoined with texts.

No, says Herr Blau: We have determined that what Our Readers really want is the 1992 text experience....
  • The font is just horrible (and can be overriden only by brute means)
I am sorry, but the font is horrible and the reason should be obvious to anyone working with computers: On a backlit screen serifed fonts are ugly, precisely because the backlighting takes away the need for serifs, that indeed are quite useful on paper.

But no, Herr Blau wants everything unified; hates pictures; and wants the
paper Guardian and the website Guardian to look the same...
  • Most of the links and the contexts have totally disappeared (!!)
A - good, real - paper is a unit: Things hang together, combined by a vision. This is easier to do and convey on paper, for there the paper of the day is a unit, but there is an excellent means on computers that are not available on paper: One can place links on many places, to all manner of related material.

In the old Guardian, this was quite skillfully done, and most articles came with the article on the left, and a series of links to other related materials, with pictures and/or brief explanations, on the right.

That seems also a thing of the past:

The articles I read are all almost completely decontextualized; start with an enormous photograph of the writer (if popular; if less popular with a smaller picture), followed by the article (sometimes even with another picture), all in that horrible font - and no contextual links whatsoever (apart from at the top and the bottom, that link again to the extremely ugly mostly empty and apart from that nearly only text site (as if pictures are luxury things, that should be used only very, very, very rarely).

This made the old Guardian's website look like the site of a real paper, for there were everywhere informative links to other materials, while this makes the Blauified "Guardian" look like a random collection of thoughts by random authors without any connection, any shared vision, or any shared background.
  • The few photos that remain are too large and manipulative
I am not especially interested in how journalists look: They are not filmstars paid for their looks and their looks hardly matter for their styles or opinions, which is why I read them if I read them.

And while I don't mind a picture of a journalist's face, it is not at all essential (for a non-politician, non-filmstar, non-actor), and it should not be too big - but no: In the Blauified "Guardian" all looks now are Personalized, and the Most Popular journalists get pictures of some 3 square inches, of the upper half of their bodies; the Less Popular journalists get smaller pictures, of their faces; and journalists who do not write about popular subjects get no pictures.

In my eyes, this is mostly Personalized Stupification, and also subtly discriminating.
  • The "color coding" is ugly, useless, manipulative and far too large
Then there is the utter bullshit of "color coding" (illustrated above by vast empty expanses of fairly to very ugly colors). I do not know who thought of this "feature", but it certainly is an utter bug: I do not want to see 3 square inches of red to convey I don't know what, according to some crazy scheme of sorting dreamt up by Herr Blau.

I can make up my own mind, and expect a paper to show text and pictures,
and not vast expanses of colored emptiness.
  • The videos look awful and have no controls nor any information
In the past, on the old Guardian, a video looked like a video looks everywhere:
A picture from its contents; a triangle in the middle to start it; and the minutes and seconds it took on the bottom.

But no, that was too good, too clear, and too informative for Herr Blau:

The picture of the content remains - but in a half or three quarter see-through format, that makes it a lot less clear; the triangle in the middle is removed, and replaced by the picture's total disappearance if you touch it with the mouse (?!?!); and also it would be too informative to tell you how much time it takes: The time has totally disappeared.

  • This is not a paper's site anymore: it is a site of disjunct postmodern narratives (possibly soon set up for individual payments?)
For me, The Guardian, that I used for 1 1/2 years with considerable joy has been almost totally destroyed:

An extra-ordinarily ugly font; quite ugly completely non-informative, partially blanked out videos without any duration or any means to change anything; almost completely without links in articles to related content and therefore quite incoherent; with enormous photographs of the upper half of popular journalists, small photographs of somewhat popular journalists, and none for the rest; and with totally
useless vast empty expanses of "color coding" ("colour" for real Brits)....

The experience of the Blaufied "Guardian" is that of a postmodern collection of
postmodern narratives, without truth, without vision, without character, without links, and also without visual style (other than utter ugliness), and without context and all presented without politeness or care, for no one but Herr Blau owned up to all these awful changes, and Herr Blau only writes in postmodern propaganda terms.

Besides, he also wants to present his destruction and reduction of an excellent modern site to a format that might have won some popularity ca. 1992 ("O, look at those colored squares: how large! Too much!") as if it is 2015. But no:
  • The present (text-)site (may have) looked (a bit) modern in 1992 but not in 2015
For that is how it appears to me - and I was using a desktop computer then, and daily since 1987, and that is how The Blauified "Guardian" looks to me: Back to text and no pictures and vast empty color expanses - that is: back to 1992.

But there is one difference with 1992:
  • The present site has far too much Javascript
My sites do not use Javascript; the Blauified "Guardian" wants to know everything and puts its text, that is significantly less than 21.3 Kb in the case of Blau's text (I tried it) in a context of 295.5 Kb of mostly Javascript - and so for any and every article.

And that seems to be the new norm: X% of text, joined to 14*X% of Javascript.

Finally: Do I think it will change? I hope so, but I think not. I expect The Guardian to go the way of the Dutch NRC-Handelsblad and the Dutch Volkskrant, that were utterly stupified between 2010 and 2014, quite intentionally also, and I will not be amazed if soon one has to pay to see the narratives of their Star Performers.

What can I do about it? Nothing.

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