“Dear Newsnight team: you’re fabulous at what you do, really terrific journalists (though that guy Paxman gets on my nerves occasionally). Here’s a comedy drama series I’d like you to make. Thanks. Yours, The Commissioner.”
You’d never see a memo like that. Obviously. Current affairs journalism is clearly a different specialism to, say, drama script editing. An individual might happen to be good at both, but one’s expectation is otherwise. Even technical staff will be different; a studio camera operator is a long way from a drama Director of Photography.
Yet, many of us still approach the web like this. We assume that we can ask anyone who ‘knows about websites’ to build us any type of site. Newsflash: those days are over. I suspect they never really existed, we were just all rubbish at building all types of site, which flattened out the differences. We still don’t really have the language to describe the specialisms, and we’re a long way from an appreciation of each others’ values. Communication is hard, bordering on impossible.
This is why the SciCast site doesn’t have an RSS feed. In my world – the bit of the web in which I move – building a site in 2007 without things like comment counts, pervasive RSS, metadata tagging, view counts, and so on, is completely bizarre. Incomprehensible to the point of being inconceivable.
The people who’ve built the site, however, aren’t in that world. They do different sorts of websites, for different sorts of people, that are run in different sorts of ways. I’ve lots of reasons to believe they’re very good at it, too – but from what I know, and where I stand, I simply don’t understand what they do. There’s no connection to the web in which I move. In return, they don’t understand my obsession with feeds, and with community, and with dynamism.
They’re not wrong, they just see a different world. And the site they’ve build isn’t bad, it’s simply different. For teachers – who are, often, quite a long way behind the technology curve – their implementation might be more appropriate than mine.
But it’s an interestingly stark lesson to have learned. And I’m profoundly thankful they aren’t Flash developers.