Meanwhile, in a Century Near You…

In which The Author and his friend have some technical difficulties

I know you might find this hard to believe, but Huw F. and I have just spent the best part of an hour buying train tickets to London.
I’d already spent twenty minutes or so online this afternoon, comparing alternative modes of transport for a little excursion next week. I’d eventually found a decent train journey which was fairly affordable, and Huw arranged to meet me this evening to sort out the booking on his plastic.
We negotiated the maze of the National Rail Enquries website yet again, going through hoops until we finally managed to find the tickets we wanted. Then we had to pay for them. Easy!, I hear you cry. If only…
The situation was complicated by the fact that Huw’s phone refused to connect to The Cloud in the pub. We had to use my Netbook, which (of course) didn’t have Huw’s details for his First Great Western account. Huw keyed in his email address, which it rejected, needless to say. We fucked around for about quarter of an hour more while he requested a password reset, a further ten minutes while he accessed his emails to retrieve the reset link, and five minutes or so while he went through a three-stage process to verify his credit card details. If we’d left Aberdare on a train when we started sorting it out, we could actually have been approaching Cardiff by the time we finished.
Earlier this afternoon, I’d wasted about half an hour trying to change the registered email address for my YouTube channel. (I’d spent a similarly fruitless hour-plus trying to revive my dormant Flickr account a few months ago. On that occasion, after verifying and re-verifying my information with Yahoo! a dozen times, I thought ‘fuck it’ and uploaded my photos to Photobucket instead.) This afternoon, I thought ‘fuck it’ and set up a Vimeo account. My Flickr and YouTube accounts need to be accessed through email addresses which I no longer use. Eventually, no doubt, like abandoned buildings in the Digital City, the content I’ve uploaded will be left to decay and fall to pieces.
I imagine that there must be millions of these derelict websites and crumbling archives in Cyberspace, like some hybrid vision dreamed up by J.G. Ballard and William Gibson. Their upkeep has become prohibitively expensive. In the real world, people run out of money. In the online world, people simply don’t have the time (or maybe just the patience) to try and maintain them. (I mentioned the real-world relationship between Time and Money in The Travelling Ex-Salesman’s Problem. In the virtual world, the relationship isn’t inverse, but linear.)
After my experiences with various websites (see ‘What Do You Want?’ – ‘Information!’, A Farey Tale, Digital By Default (almost…) and W.W.W.W.W.W (Part 1), amongst other posts), I’m starting to sympathise with people for whom the Twenty-First Century feels like an unnecessary imposition. As someone who’s fairly au fait with the ‘new’ technology (see I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue), I should be able to negotiate this virtual obstacle course with relative ease.
Nevertheless, I’m getting a sinking feeling that the people who design websites aimed at ‘the general public’ never actually use them. They look very nice, and have all the bells and whistles, and I’m sure their source code are veritable paragons of W3C specifications – but if you end up wanting to throw your own Netbook across the fucking pub, do we really need one of the Loteks to do it for you…?

6 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in a Century Near You…”

  1. “I’m getting a sinking feeling that the people who design websites aimed at ‘the general public’ never actually use them.” – One word Stakeholders.
    No matter what is designed (albeit even a sensible, user friendly one), stakeholders always have the last say as they are funding it. Drives me nuts too being a developer as a ‘design by committee’ approach is usually a very painful road to walk.

    1. Didn’t Winston Churchill once describe a camel as ‘a horse designed by a committee?’ 😉

  2. Sympathies from one who has spent the best part of the evening trying to print a census page from ancestry…from a new laptop that can’t detect my new printer….As for the travel plans I would go by bus next time LOL

    1. That’s one of the many beauties of Linux, Carrie – it is LITERALLY Plug & Play. I’ve yet to throw a piece of software or hardware at my system that it won’t handle in a few seconds 😉

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