Monday, November 21, 2005


I have nothing against Adobe. I have nothing against PDF. Listen PDF, it's not personal. I'm just tired of PDF popping up as a ubiquitous format on the web. Everyone uses it now-a-days. Want to download something? Put it in PDF. I can take that to a certain degree. Want to display information? Put that in a PDF file. That makes me mad. What happened to HTML or some other language that your browser will understand? If you put information in PDF format, you can't read it unless you have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. Yes, I know the Reader is free. So is the browser, and it usually comes with the operating system. The other problem is that when you just want to view something online, you can't do it so well with PDF. Yes, I know that you can download an extension (or whatever it's called) but that's the point, more stuff to do. I have no studies to prove this but in my experience the size of a PDF download is usually much bigger than a HTML download. Plus, when a visitor comes to your website, she is not interested in downloading something that might not be of interest. If she wants to download your article or whatever, you let her do it AFTER she views it. For viewing online, HTML is a good option to consider. The IBM developerWorks website used to allow you to view an article online through a browser and also download it as a PDF, if you wanted. Good design sense. And, just for kicks, go visit the Adobe website ( and see how many PDFs you can download from the home page.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The server that had an error

I understand that programs have bugs. I also understand that there are errors that programmers may not be able to anticipate. What I don't understand are messages like these:
Server Error This server has encountered an internal error which prevents it from fulfilling your request. The most likely cause is a misconfiguration. Please ask the administrator to look for messages in the server's error log.
There are so many things wrong with the message. First, even if I am interested in contacting the "administrator" I have NO way of doing so. There is no email address, no hyperlink to click, no phone number, nothing. Then, it's a question of which administrator: the server administrator, or the web page administrator? I don't know. You also have to wonder that if the message tells a user to contact the administrator, why can't the program tell the administrator directly? Why use me as the conduit? And, what does the user do in a situation like this? Try again later? Give up? Bang his head against the wall? (Correct answer: Blog about it.) Another problem with this message is that it doesn't offer the user a way to recover from the error. There is nothing the user can do and most likely the user will end up irritated. Irritated users don't stay as customers for very long, especially when there are other options. It's one thing to have a message like this in a back-end system, quite another to present itself to a user. PS: This is a real problem that I encountered a few minutes ago while trying to login to a website that wanted some information from me. I can't give the information because I can't login.