Christian Heilmann

Everything wrong with your product in 140 characters or less

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 at 8:19 pm

The video series “Everything wrong with $movie in $length minutes or less” by Cinema Sins is a big YouTube success and for a movie buff like me a lot of fun to watch.

statler and waldorf of muppet show

The team behind it take a lot of time to meticulously analyse goofs and issues in movies and mercilessly point them out in short movies. Frankly, I am amazed they can show that much footage of current movies without take-downs and that they have such a quick turnaround time. It is funny, it is parody and satire and it shows that even the most polished and expensive products of the entertainment history aren’t safe from slip-ups. What I like most about them though is that they are also pointing out how they themselves are not without fault: “We are not reviewers – we’re assholes”.

I see a lot of parallels in how people criticise products on the web – we don’t really look at the why and how something was built but from the get-go try to find the simple to prove fault and talk about that instead. The fault that probably only us web developers will ever see or even remotely care about.

This, in itself is not a bad thing as it shows that we care about our craft and look at what other people do. This can be gratifying which is why we leave code comments and easter eggs – a secret handshake from one professional to another. We want people to look at what we do. We do not, however need people to nit-pick at one small detail and disregard the rest of our work as that is hurtful and makes the person reporting the issue (and only this issue) appear as intentionally hurting or trying to find a flaw at all cost.

Things go wrong, and in many cases we don’t know the reason. It could be that the place the content is published has limited access to the writer, thus forcing us to use an image where a text with CSS would have been better. Zeldman put that eloquently in his Get off my lawn! essay where he explained that it is not ironic if an article about a certain best practice gets published on a platform that doesn’t follow that practice.

It could be that the product had to be shipped at a certain date no matter what and corners had to be cut – a fault of the project manager, not the developer/designer. Many things are impacting the release of a web product (and that includes apps in my book); it is unfair to blame the executing party.

Maybe it is a good idea to reconsider publishing that one fault publicly and instead do a two minute research finding the makers of the product and report the fault there. Instead of public naming and shaming and – let’s face it – gloating we could thus either report an unknown fault to those who can fix it or learn why something happened. In either case, this means you are a constructive critic and don’t come across as a know-it-all. It is very simple to point out a flaw, harder to fix it and hardest to prevent them. To the outside, our constant nit-picking doesn’t make us look an inviting bunch, and is the small moment of fame finding the obvious bug worth that?

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