The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: February 10th, 1999


By: The Lizzard

As both a long-time Sailor Moon fan and a professional website producer, I take a special interest in the quality of Sailor Moon pages on the internet. So do many of my co-workers, almost all of whom are fans of anime. Spare moments at the office are often used to visit standards-enforcement pages such as this one. We find them to be amusing. We find them to be true. And we find them to be totally necessary.

Yes, yes, we've all heard the plaintive wails from those who have been (or fear being) targets of enforcement gangs like the Amazoness Quartet. It's said that they are unfair, cruel, and elitist. Bullpoop.

The fact is, the world has this funny little thing called standards, and those standards extend to the internet as well as to everything else. As a student, you would not turn in an incomplete, incorrect, or generically awful homework assignment and expect to get away with it. Why, then, should you expect to be allowed to commit such sins online? It doesn't matter if your website project is dear to your heart, nor does it matter if your entire low ego is tied up in it. You have made it public, and as such have made it fair game for other to develop opinions about it. That is the nature of public work. If you wish to avoid the possible humiliation of constructive criticism, then you need to keep your work to yourself, not put it on a website.

I may sound harsh, but that is because I have had it up to the crown of my head with inexperienced website makers crying foul when others note that they are less than perfect. No one is infallible. Everyone can learn. Even those of us who make websites for a living gracefully accept suggestions for improvement, be those suggestions in the form of flames or well-thought-out arguments. So quit protesting like a pampered brat. The "crime" of those who point out your mistakes is telling the truth. Your crime, on the other hand, is sticking your bloated head in the sand and wagging your rear in the air as you beg for special dispensations from the standards of society. Grow up.

If after reading the above, you're still too stubborn to admit your own faults, then you need to proceed to the following Suck Factor ChecklistTM . My colleagues and I have put this together over a business lunch. Are the rules harsh? Yes. Cruel? Maybe. True? Absolutely.

1) Do you know what you're doing?

This is the major mistake made by most page creators. The recent boom in WYSIWYG website makers has led to the false belief that one does not have to understand the basics of HTML in order to create a website. Baloney. Many people do not realize that WYSIWYG editors were originally designed to assist those who already understood HTML in saving time performing repetitive actions. Though greedy software companies have now begun to bill them as programs that make the inexperienced look experienced, the truth is that everyone can easily tell whether or not you know what you are doing.

How can people tell? Simple. WYSIWYG programs are much like those language translators now available online. You can enter something in English and the program will translate it into French or Spanish for you, but the translation is approximately as eloquent as Koko the gorilla. Sometimes it doesn't even preserve the original meaning of the words. Using a WYSIWYG editor is the same kind of crap shoot. If you know a bit of HTML, you can correct the WYSIWYG's imperfections easily. If you don't know HTML, then nine times out of ten you end up with a really poor-looking page. Even other HTML-ignorant users will notice that it's not quite right, or worse yet, completely wrong.

I have seen people brush off the suggestion that they learn HTML with excuses such as "I don't have time," "I don't have the money," or "It's too hard." The people saying such things have obviously never even looked into the issue. Learning HTML is easy, cheap, and faster than light. Most people can teach themselves the basics of HTML in a week or less merely by using free online tutorials. No books, expensive software, classes at universities, or months of private studying are required. So either learn HTML or at least tell the truth when you beg off... You just don't want to do anything that requires the remotest bit of extra effort.

2) Do you have original content?

This is a close runner-up as far as frequency of crime goes. Do you like hearing your friends repeat the same stories over and over? Well, guess what? Internet surfers don't like seeing the same thing over and over again either. If another site has done a good job presenting certain material, that doesn't mean you should put the same thing on yours. Why?

a) It's pointless. The material is already available. Sailor Moon fans know their websites by heart, and they will recognize something they've seen before. They will leave your site quickly, bored. They may also idly wonder if you are really as lacking in imagination and original thought as your page makes you seem. Perhaps you are that lacking. If so, then you're not someone who should have a website.

b) It's rude. You have taken what someone else slaved over creating and repeated it as though it was the result of your own research and skill. It reminds me of a two-year-old child who has nothing better to do than irritate his brothers and sisters by endlessly repeating whatever they say.

c) It's ILLEGAL.) Yes, illegal. Did you know that 99% percent of the time material is replicated on a new site, it is done without permission? That is infringement of copyright! In a worse case scenario, you can be sued for it. In a best case scenario, you will gain a reputation as a lazy, corrupt, uneducated lout with no morals. This is especially the case when you link directly to the graphics, sounds, or HTML stored on someone else's server. It's called stealing bandwidth. It is a particularly heinous crime because there is no such thing as free bandwidth. Not only do your links slow down the server access speeds for legitimate users, but the person housing the items to which you are directly linking has to pay for the resources you use. Yes, pay. With money. Congratulations, your direct links just made you guilty of fraud.

To further illustrate this matter, let me present you with a brief case study. Among the many websites I house on my own server, I provide space for Beej's Compleat Sailor Moon CD List ( ). As the webmaster, it is my job to review the server statistics to discover who is accessing the files stored on the space for which I am paying. Almost every week I come across new pages that are directly linking to Beej's graphics or HTML, often in conjunction with copying his website outright, word-for-word and occasionally HTML-for-HTML. And then they have the gall to claim it as their own, either in so many words or tacitly, by making no mention of the original source. What is this? They can make the effort to carefully remove all reference to Beej from the page, but they can't make the effort to create something original? Hear now, Sailor Moon music fans. Beej doesn't want or need the material he has sweated over so profusely mirrored elsewhere. And I don't allow direct links to items on my server. If I catch you, and I will, your ass is grass and I'm a lawnmower. I don't make enough money to pay for your pages, and Beej doesn't make enough to write them for you.

3) Do you employ the standards of good taste?

There are plenty of good websites that are not spectacularly attractive. But there are almost no bad websites that are not spectacularly tacky. This tackiness can refer not only to surface appearance, but also content. Read carefully. How many of these laws of taste have you broken?

a) Do not promote your site as "cool," "number one," or "the best." That is an opinion. Your opinion. Your very biased opinion. It shows poor judgment as well as lack of tact. When most page visitors see such declarations of superiority, they turn away in disgust, whether or not your page is deserving of the statements. Note that prominent displays of private awards, "cool page" voting ballots, and gratuitously complimentary feedback from e-mail or guestbooks fall under the heading of tasteless self-promotion. I'm sure such things make you feel special, but your site visitors couldn't care less. Every visitor judges your page anew, irrespective of previous opinions.

b) Don't talk about yourself unless it has direct relevance to the topic at hand. Your page visitors don't give a rat's rear end about you. And why should they? Unless they're your friends or members of your family, they'll never meet you or have any need to know so much as your name. And case you've forgotten, your friends and family already know about you. They don't need to hear it again. Save the ego stroking for your diary and spare yourself a reputation as a spoiled, self-centered, pompous twit.

c) Design your page to be as professional looking as possible. (Design, incidentally, includes both graphical and structural elements. Never forget that.) It's understandable that some websites will be better looking than others, as design relies on talent. Let's face it, some people are meant to be artists, and others aren't. Yet being one of the artistic lowlies doesn't allow you to avoid providing understandable page structure and tolerable images. By way of example, putting tons of data on one page and making graphics that are fuzzy and unreadable is inexcusable. Study pages that are well-designed and learn from them. Recruit help from your friends. But don't put crap on the internet and don't steal from others to make up for your own inadequacies.

d) Be consistent. If you have a Sailor Moon page, don't use Ranma graphics on it. If your page is about anime in general, don't include links to your chess club. People come to sites because they are interested in the subject at hand. Honor them by giving them what they want, not feeding them a vomitous mass of unrelated leftovers.

e) For god's sake, use a spell checker. Please. Every computer has one, and they take only ten seconds to run. Those ten seconds can make a huge difference in the impression your page makes. Having misspelled words makes you seem uneducated, lazy, and unreliable. Even if your misspelled commentary is profound, no one will pay any attention to it. They'll notice only your silly persistence in spelling "soldiers" as "souldiers."

f) Get your facts straight before you publish them. I won't bother explaining what being caught in a lie or major mistake can do to your page's reputation. I'll just limit myself to pointing out an example. SOS used to be the grand poo-bah of all dubbed Sailor Moon websites. Then came Prince Uranus. Enough said. (See AQ Rant # 9 for some background on this.)

There are many more rules and regulations that my office would like to impose, but the truth is, they're merely desirable, not necessary. Those listed above, however, cannot be ignored. Fail at merely one, and your page goes from excellent to pathetic in one fell swoop. Some of the sins could get you in serious trouble. Others will just get you humiliated. But all are integral to having a good website. Whiners of the world, read up. Either redirect your defensive energy into making your page better, or get lost. And remember not to let the door hit you on the ass as you leave.

Comments on this article can be sent to: The Lizzard.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

  Current Lemures Top || Main || Email   
© 2002 AQ