The Rudest Comment this Blog has Received

From this post:

Blog posts about GRPC/Google Protocol Buffers, Splunk, Python…put all of that on hold, I need to address a rude comment I received on “We Need HTML.” I don’t really want to engage in a comment dialogue, since users like this tend to usually just leave something scathing and then get on with their lives; I also don’t really want to tag him. The important thing here is that he is not wrong.

Kiwanis is a non-profit organization, and our club developed this website on a budget of virtually nothing. It is built on a WordPress template. I did not define the classes, or “slop in the aria roles,” or get hired to make it mobile or disability friendly. This is how I imagine Jason would respond, had I written this all in a comment:

Him: Just because you didn’t get paid is no excuse to pass off this garbage website
Me: FINE. Why don’t YOU make us a better website that is more accessible?
Him: FINE. I WILL. I will show you how to write a cleanly-built website with helpful documentation on the improvements I made!
Me: FINE. What is your hourly rate? It’s lucky Kiwanis has infinite money!
Him: DONE. Invoice attached. Good day to you, sir!

Ugh…if only all Internet arguments ended this way.

The really, truly mature response to this criticism would be to engage in an unemotional dialogue and then become friends/allies. I mean, clearly this guy is passionate about proper web design and improving the world for the disabled. So is the nonprofit he is taking a dump on. We are also not exactly famous for our modern web stack. In our division alone, two websites were subjected to hacking.

The more realistic, mature response to this criticism would be to act completely unfazed, and calmly take it as free consulting. I think you can tell from the way that I am writing this that I am upset, and did not see the comment in a positive light. But let’s see…

Addressing Criticisms

Okay, that’s not the only comment this HTML codex post received. “And most web pages today are faceless worms.” Was the above a criticism of my post, of my website, or of websites in general? What is a face in this analogy? JavaScript doesn’t care if something’s complete or incomplete as long as it pays? What is this comment arguing?

Moving on…

Being 2022, I have to ask “do you even need the DIV” — but looking at the (bloated train wreck ode to the 1990’s) markup, It’s hardly a shock you have “problems” going off learning other things before learning HTML.

The line about centering a div was supposed to kind of be a meme. AlgoExpert has joked about it. But is there actually merit to arguing that in 2022 we should not be using divs at all, or am I missing the point of what Jason is saying? A <div> is important for dividing HTML into sections. This is especially important in something like Vue.

Imaginary Jason: Vue is garbage

Why is Vue/Bootstrap/Tailwind garbage? I don’t think this was properly explained at all. But Jason Knight has his own blog with 1000+ subscribers and tons and tons of tech content. I’m not qualified to respond to that without reading them. He advocates for vanilla JavaScript, and PHP in the backend.

Here is a post arguing that <div> tags are overused. They do not impact useful information if you are trying to make your website accessible, and they’re not very easy to read. In fact, he goes on to cite this from web standards:

Authors are strongly encouraged to view the div element as an element of last resort, for when no other element is suitable. Use of more appropriate elements instead of the div element leads to better accessibility for readers and easier maintainability for authors.

Inspect Element

Your Kiwanis page is a stunning example of how utterly jacked up and wrong people can learn HTML, with it’s endless DIV soup, endless classes for nothing, etc, etc. I mean it certainly doesn’t help it’s the typical train wreck of turdpress ineptitude, but just for example take everything from the body tag opening up to opending div.container. That’s 7k of HTML, several dozen DIV, five or six dozen classes, and a general lack of proper semantics. It is in fact utterly devoid of semantic markup and therefor in violation of accessibility norms! A laugh since you seem to have slopped in some aria roles, though that’s probably just more turdpress stupid. (so that’s not your fault)

Meh, at least he added that it wasn’t my fault at the end. That definitely makes me feel better…

Hey, yeah, that’s a ton of <div> tags! Why does WordPress produce so many div tags? First of all, WordPress, or turdpress, as he calls it…is kind of overloaded. This was a WordPress template. There are other ways to use WordPress that afford the user a little more control. For all intents and purposes, making this website was not web development. There was little to no HTML involved, just some WYSIWYG.

I don’t really know why this template, GivingPress, produced so many <div> tags.

Imaginary Jason: I just LOVE how you are pretending to understand my points, instead of correcting your garbage website!

Look, today is Sunday. I have a lot of things I had wanted to do, including studying system design. You’re telling me I have to study system design AND gain a fundamentally better understanding of HTML and deal with JavaScript problems? Dude, it’s my day off and before I read your comment, I was hoping to just play with GRPC and read the Modern Love book I just purchased.

In all seriousness, I don’t know why the template produced things in this way. A lot of <div> tags that don’t do very much. Some aria usage that, according to data point of Jason, is utterly worthless. I acknowledge that I can’t just use a template and then shrug off responsibility for having used it. Again, the most mature response would be to either ditch the template, or (better yet) make a NEW AND IMPROVED one that the entire Kiwanis division can adopt.

Accessibility sources:

The Social Menu

To deliver a social menu that has only two links in it, an incomplete and improperly formed form, what SHOULD be the site’s H1, and a main menu navigation that doesn’t even have a dozen links in it.
And it’s not even coded to be mobile friendly.
ALL of that not even doing a fifth that’s code’s job. THAT’s why ALL of these “shortcuts” tend to be MADE by people not qualified to write HTML. And when all these media darlings screaming “we’re easier, don’t do it yourself” are CREATED by such inept, ignorant, incompetent scam artists, what chance does a normal person have of making a rational informed choice?

According to Jason, it is much more significant that the website is inadequately accessible than that it screwed up the social media integration. But don’t worry…he s***ts on that as well.

Okay, so he’s not wrong here. There are only two social media links…a LinkedIn and a Facebook. But is that an issue? Is there a stylistic requirement that a main menu have a dozen links in it or more?

I can’t find any sources that say you NEED to have a dozen links or more, per se, but we are using a div with attribute class menu-links-social-container. Now this is yet another <div>, and I find the whole div argument interesting. Here is a Reddit thread on r/webdev about it. The issue they have is using <div> unnecessarily. Yes, you can still use attribute class menu-links-social-container…but not on the nondescriptive <div> tag.

As for “incomplete form,” what is he referring to? The search feature? I think the search feature is fine, but I did not make it. H1 is probably referring to how it doesn’t use the <h1> where he thinks it should. Mobile friendly?

Pulls up on Android

Looks okay to me.

Imaginary Argument Continued:

Him: LOL this is hilarious. You have no idea what I was talking about and still felt the necessity of writing this post
Me: Fine. What were you hoping to achieve by writing this comment?
Him: I want you to stop spreading garbage content on Medium and your other blogs. I want you to LEARN HTML!
Me: It’s a template. If I had built this in SquareSpace, would you have complained about the tags there as well?
Him: No, because SquareSpace does not have this problem

Okay, I keep using this as a bad joke…it is not like our organization is severely lacking in funding. But we have full-time jobs. We have funds reserved for scholarships, and activities for high school students. None of this, I think, would appease imaginary Jason. He might get even more angry at my apparent attempts to trivialize his statements.

I suppose my argument overall is that if you, a clearly qualified developer/professional, leave people comments like this, you just discourage them from learning. Maybe your goal is precisely that…you want them to stop making websites. It won’t work. We still need websites. My argument, continued, is that without me maintaining this, the website would probably have been overtaken by scammers at this point and would be used to traffic malware.

Others Have Felt Jason’s Wrath

You can follow the whole thread here

So, if the two of us had a direct confrontation, I think I know how it would go down: He would tell me that people like me have no business building websites. It’s similar to the Jeff Atwood argument…fine. I disagree. My web development license still has not been revoked, so why not tell people how to improve?

Final imaginary argument:

Me: I AM qualified. I have a computer science degree. I know C++, too! And I have Security Plus Certification
Him: The f*** does that have to do with anything
Me: I earned this. I worked hard.
Him: You produced a garbage website that is not disability-accessible, not mobile friendly, and does things in an extremely s*** way
Me: And if no one had produced this website? No one would know about our fundraisers, about ourservice leadership projects, about the things we do and the free events we sponsor for the good of the community. All because you are such an HTML elitist that you believe only you should be allowed to create anything
Him: I want you to learn HTML, THEN create a website that is good, THEN blog about it. Would that be so hard?

Closing Thoughts

There is still a lot to learn.

I checked his LinkedIn. He has been a consultant for 15 years, mostly focused on HTML and CSS. He dislikes React, Vue, and JavaScript frameworks in general. He also uses his LinkedIn to write about a severe sleep disorder, making it impossible to work a normal 9–5 job. Consulting is how he is able to eat, in his words.

Is this really someone I want to try to tear down, in retaliation for how I perceive he disrespected me?

It could be the typical “kind, but not nice” example, but I think it’s more “not nice and not kind.” What we want is to solve problems that exist.

But in terms of negotiation, there is no deal to be made. I am not going to take down the Kiwanis website, which is probably what he wants me to do, because of its inferior design.

You can fix the world, you can criticize it, or you can critique it. If he had wanted it to simply improve, maybe we could have reached an understanding.



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Evan SooHoo

Evan SooHoo

A software engineer who writes about software engineering. Shocking, I know.