Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Self-Serving Rant on Standardization

I finally had my fill of an obnoxious little function of modern-day life: browser incompatibility. I've learned in 2014 that:

a) Internet Explorer doesn't work with a lot of things
b) Chrome is really convenient to use, but only works well when one consistently uses it
c) Firefox is nice and plays nicely with a lot of things but . . .
d) . . . for some reason won't work with the website of my favorite magazine, The Week 
e) my employer will not allow Chrome on its computers
f) that Internet Explorer doesn't work well with a critical website at my workplace makes a good-natured colleague turn to me for something s/he could otherwise do if it wasn't for this browser idiocy
g) and tonight I learned that the e-version of the textbook I'm piloting has one chapter (of 31) that won't work with Chrome . . .

So, I lost it. Kind of.

I filed a complaint to the company who maintains the website referenced in g) and when the IT person recommended that I try Firefox instead I replied with a comment saying a) I get it and b) I'm sick of this being the answer.

I don't fault the IT people who put up these websites. Full disclosure: I'm married to someone who does this stuff (and I see how she works tirelessly to test these glitchy things).

I blame the usual suspects: Microsoft and Google. Firefox, this time you're escaping my wrath. Same with you, Apple. I'm laying this at the feet of Microsoft and Google. Obviously, they've over-worked features into their over-engineered programs (that we seemingly get for free) to create hiccups like this.

Allow me to don my history teacher's hat for a moment. When I teach my students about our industrial past, I like to highlight the value that standardization* played in the world of America's growing commerce. The railroads standardized gauge and time. Stapler makers standardized the size of staples. Typewriter manufacturers standardized the keypad. As we took to the roads, we standardized signage of highways and the systems by which we assigned route numbers. Standardization promoted efficiency and productivity.** Our worlds will work faster, too, if the damn browsers can play nicely.

*Enjoy the irony, those who read of my fight against the homogenization of teaching. I resist standardization when dealing with human beings, especially children. But I'll champion it for things like staplers, the gauge of railroads, and web browsers.

**I know, I know, the QWERTY keyboard actually slows us down.

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