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Stupidity That's Hereditary

Things like this happen all the time. Cringe at the moment.

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Human and IT history are full of examples of really dumb things that only persist because they're backed up by even dumber things. As elements of stupidity in the human race in general are (or should be) already well known and as they're not really germane to The Technological, the following concentrates on IT and related gems instead.


The Scandinavians got it right. When printing a date, one always uses the above formula. It obviates ambiguity and lends completely to lexical sort. It's obvious.

Now look at the state of affairs elsewhere. One finds DD.MM.YYYY and DD.MM.YY and MM/DD/YY and who knows what else. Complete chaos. Regard the propensity of US sites to print 'Month Day, Year' as MM/DD/YY and put it alongside a tendency to instead print 'DD/MM/YY' found especially on British sites and you see Armageddon is a fait accompli. Those lovely journos don't seem to grasp that '08/09/10' is obscenely ambiguous, meaning either 8 September or 9 August, either 1910 or 2010. Their empty-headed response would surely be 'but we format all our dates the same way at our site!' To which the casual site visitor would be justified in commenting: 'so fucking what - do you expect us to spend half a day at your stupid site trying to figure out what your format really means?' For unless one of the two first digits is in excess of 12, there's no way of knowing.

Total fail.

Apple - beloved Apple - insist on MM/DD/YY and then put special algorithms in their Loser Finder to deal with the shit. And it's ugly even if it works.

The stupidity continues. It's hereditary.


Yes it's a legacy from the days of actual physical printing. Typographers always put double quotes outside full stops even when it defied logic. Why? Because the other way didn't work well.

But that was then and this is now and now we're on the InterWebs.

Not to speak of the folly of beginning a quote with double quotes. It doesn't work either - you're only allowed one nested quote that way. Brits often got it right - start with a single quote, then advance to double quotes if you want to nest another quote, and so on.

The British are known for being able to think on rare occasions.

The US invention of the ASCII character set admitted only of single quotes (apostrophes) and double quotes. We'll always need the single quote for use as an apostrophe, but starting with a double quote means some language constructs simply won't work.

Fail. Stupidity is hereditary.


The HTML definition regards successive white space characters as a single space. This permits paraplegic applications such as Microsoft's FrontPage and who knows how many other lamers to format HTML text any way they want - to break lines arbitrarily, and so forth. The HTML will render well anyway, as the extra white space is ignored.

Now enter a really bad habit - namely the double space after a full stop. This is mostly prevalent (but not exclusive) to North America and particularly that country south of the Canadian border (yes it's them again).

That double space won't show up anywhere in HTML. It's ignored.

Now enter - Microsoft. (You guessed right.) And they start using the HTML escape ' ' (non-breakable space character) to force in a second space where it's not wanted.


Add up all the sentences on sites using either non-breakable space or simply wasting source with the idiotic double space, then count how many terabytes of storage are wasted worldwide simply because some people insist on being stupid.

It's hereditary.


ASCII - the lifeline of the Internet - admits of only one hyphen. That hyphen is good for all purposes. It binds words together that have not yet been bound without one (most words eventually take the plunge) and it's also used as dash for grammatical detours.

Too easy. So HTML's UCS admits of several more dash types such as '—' (a loooong one) and '–' (the short one). Who cares? A dash is a dash is a dash! But this also leads to yet another instance of hereditary stupidity. See below.

Pretty Quotes

If there's something that causes maximum confusion, it's the 'pretty quote'. This is a character that functionally and visibly resembles an ordinary quote (single or double) but is also supposed to be prettier.

Clue: if you don't think your quote characters in ASCII are pretty enough, make a new fucking font, morons.

Pretty quotes are not ASCII, and as such don't translate into plain text. Trying to transfer them back into HTML only exacerbates the issue unless the HTML file is for example marked for UTF-8. (And not all pages can tolerate UTF-8.) Otherwise what you get is mush.

Sites such as Wordpress automatically convert ordinary quotes to pretty quotes. But they don't even use the formalised W3C USC escapes - they use things like ’ (probably because the programmers weren't aware of W3C standards). So we get another system that can break like a brittle toothpick.

Add to the above the fact that Microsoft are always attempting to defy open standards and so assign their 'pretty quotes' values that work only with Microsoft products (and not on the Internet in general) and you have the ultimate witches brew for Ragnarök.

Utter fail. Stupidity is hereditary.


The historical reason for the mess that's webmail is that Microsoft's 'EDIT' control couldn't wrap lines of text, something Apple's NSText does admirably. (But NSText has a more difficult time doing it the other way around. Whatever.)

[Microsoft 'hack' a way to toggle line wrap. It involves first making an invisible window behind the current one, setting the line wrap toggle at creation time (which is the only time you can do it) then copying and pasting all the text from the visible window into the invisible one, then quick as a jiff making the new window visible and blasting the old window to smithereens. Microsoft 'technology'.]

This gets immediately compounded into the mess that's webmail today. One would think teh Googels would have advanced beyond this with their Gmail - but no. They're being held back - by Microsoft. Who still can't handle text that wraps.

So we get the messes we're used to - indented quotes with >s all over the place, lines broken - a real sorry mess.

Text is just text is just text. It should wrap to its container. Now try telling that to Microsoft.

[Or try telling that to Richard Stallman. RMS breaks his lines himself at about the 35th column. True. So much for the 'guru' of open source.]

But if there's no reason to worry about text not wrapping, then there's no reason to manually insert hard line breaks in webmail text. And then you can use the format Apple long ago adopted - 'format=flowed'. But again: it's Microsoft fucking up.

Lynne Truss Screams

Bad punctuation isn't just bad punctuation - it's a failure of school systems and the seemingly innate inability for grown human mammals to think. Lynne's been going on about this for years. Yet wander over to any major or minor site and see how it goes off track time and again. You don't have to agree with everything Lynne says but you have to give her credit for at least thinking - something the new generation of online troglodytes rarely do.

Clue to teh Googels: it's not 'U.K.', it's 'UK'. And it reasonably shouldn't be 'C.I.A.' anymore either. Who knows who they're trying to impress but it's not working. The culmination was when David Pogue complained it was so difficult with the iPhone keyboard to add punctuation to addresses that no one in any other country ever used or needed.


Grammar online isn't good. One is frightened by the lack of linguistic chops amongst those who should have got enough education. Other gems include 'DEFINATELY' and 'their' for 'there' and 'they're' and so forth.

Bring a toast for human civilisation. What's left of it. Incredibly gifted and hard-working people are doing their utmost to bring tools (and gadgets) to the rest of humanity, and their interfaces seem to gravitate to the stupid. But all the work and education is for what? So droolers can play with iPhones?

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