Real interviews with real people. Unlike the rest of
BBspot there's nothing made up here. I know it's a difficult transition
but I'm not fooling. We did e-mail these questions and these were
In the second of the world famous interview series
we converse with Vincent
Flanders who in addition to creating the great web site Web
Pages that Suck also has a
book by the same title as well as the
sequel. When I first started designing web pages Vince's site
and tutorials were an invaluable resource for me. I give thanks by
subjecting him to 11 Questions.
BBspot (1): Since BBspot is a geek site we'd
like to know what kind of computer system you have? Processor? OS?
Browser? Details please.
Vincent: Dell Inspiron 5000E laptop running windows 2000,
IE 6, NS 6.2, NS4.7 Only 128Mb of memory.
Compaq Presario 5420 running XP Pro, IE 6, NS 6.2. Allegedly 500Mb
of memory, but the system says something like 430Mb or 480Mb. Hmm.
Dell Dimension Desktop. Running NT 4 workstation service pack 4.
IE 5.5, NS 6.2, NS 4.7, Opera 5
I have 2 Imacs -- one is a DVD version, with the DVD running OS
9 and the older running OS 8.5.
I've got a couple of other older machines lying around.
BBspot (2): Who would you like to face in a Celebrity Death
Match and why?
Vincent: Wow! What an interesting question. I'm not sure
because the question implies I hate someone. I really don't hate
anyone enough to want to fight them. Hmm. Probably whoever writes
the "documentation" (and I use that term loosely) for all
those low-end CMS systems. On most systems, you can't install the
software if you follow the directions. If I could make one suggestion
to your community -- and you say your site is a geek site -- please,
please, please get somebody to write ACCURATE installation instructions
for your software. Please? Thank you. End of begging.
BBspot (3): How does it feel to have a site like
this about you on the Internet, frightened? Flattered?
Vincent: Well, there are two reactions. The first reaction
is that you are only as important as the people who disagree with
or hate you. Jakob Nielsen has lots of people who hate him and I
only have this one site so I guess I'm not very important.
I'm even less important because this person isn't smart enough or
didn't take the time to read my material to understand that I'm the
only person in the usability community who doesn't feel the way he
thinks I feel. Okay, I'm hated by one person who isn't smart enough
to understand what I really say. Jeez. That makes me totally unimportant <g>.
BBspot (4): How did you make the transformation from interviewing
rock stars to teaching good web design?
Vincent: The only reason I interviewed rock stars was so
I could get into the concerts for free. I really wasn't interested
in the rock scene like most people are. I love the music, but the
world of the rock star is just too weird for my tastes. Yes, there
are some wonderful benefits (women, money, and more women), but the
downside is too great. It's a totally insecure world driven by ego
and hate and greed and I'm just not that hateful, greedy and monomaniacal.
Looking back, the most interesting thing I noticed was that I never
had my picture taken with any of them. I wondered, "Why?" but
I realized that rock stars live in a completely unreal world. It's
hard to explain, but if you've ever been around any of them, you'll
understand. The movie Almost Famous is perfect in its depiction of
being behind the stage. I can't talk about the other parts since
I never wanted to hang out with the band. In fact, it never occurred
Becoming a Web critic was easier. I was teaching people how to hand-code
HTML and to showcase bad techniques I would show them sites and then
I'd say, "That sucks." They'd all laugh because back in
1996 "sucks" was an edgy word -- now, only fundamentalist
Christians and companies who have to be politically correct (all
big corporations) are upset by the word. My boss wanted me to teach
a course on good design and I thought I'd take the easy way out and
just put up a small site. Big mistake. It's been six years and I'm
still working on it <g>.
BBspot (5): I imagine webmasters get a bit up set when they
see their site listed as a "Site that Sucks". Who's gotten
the angriest and what did they do?
Vincent: Ironically, I get more negative mail when I say
something is good than when I say something sucks. As I point out
in <blatant plug> my new book "Son of Web Pages That Suck" </blatant
plug> most people agree on what's bad but they argue over what's
good. Is Monet better than Manet? I've heard stories that when David
Siegel was running his High Five site for good design that people
would get very upset when they would submit their sites and David
wouldn't put them on his list. Really upset. I suspect many of the
bad sites I criticize -- especially the smaller companies -- look
bad because "the nephew made it" or somebody in the steno
pool, or the president's son. I remember this one site -- it had
something to do with Corvettes -- where the person suggested it because
all the employees hated the site but the boss loved it. You have
to watch out for bosses. They can be pretty stupid.
There was one site that made the
Daily Sucker -- where the owner took his site down and just
put up a page that said I was an idiot or something. Of course,
*he* was an idiot because he took down his business site just to
rag on me. His local customers would go to his page and see this
rant and wonder, "What's up with Bob? Has he flipped out?
I've never heard of this Vincent Flanders fellow. Do I want to
do business with somebody who has flipped out?"
I used to have a bulletin board and the day I criticized Jerry Pournelle's
site (the Science Fiction writer), there was a lot of flak over his
inclusion. If my memory serves me well, it seems that some of Jerry's
followers got upset. I remember one argument was that his site was
a personal site and that it shouldn't be criticized. My response
was he was charging money for subscriptions or something. His site
still sucks (at least it did a couple of weeks ago which is the first
time I looked at it in a long time) which I find truly amazing because
there is all this blogging software out there with templates that
don't suck. C'mon, Jerry. Sign up for one of these services or buy
the software. That brings up a good point. There really isn't an
excuse for a personal or a Web site with just a few pages to suck.
We've got all these nice templates and blogging software.
Web design firms love it when I use their site -- and I only use
them if they use what I call Mystery
Meat Navigation -- because they get new customers when I mention
them. One guy thanked me for the free trip to London to meet with
a prospective client. As you might imagine, I don't want to perpetuate
bad design so it's a rare Web design firm that's featured. Their
attitude is "Vincent doesn't like me and that's good." Hmm.
Maybe I should start praising them -- "This doesn't suck." That
would get them upset <laugh>.
Check out Part
II of the interview where Vincent addresses people who tell
him that he sucks and what he would change about the history
of the web.
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