The World Wide Web has been chock full of annoying crap since it’s inception. There’s no doubt about that. You may even see some of it right here on this page. If it isn’t my content, it’s the ads: none of them are mine. I didn’t select them, they aren’t representative of my opinions, and certainly aren’t promotional on my part. They’re just plopped here by the hosting company without my approval. And while ads are annoying, it seems likely that we may have to accept them as a necessary evil.
But what about the way that ads are presented? Is there no decency? Does every tactic have to be used to try and confuse people into looking at and clicking on advertising they don’t want to see? And do publishers and site owners have to collude to make sure their audience has this junk crammed down their throat? Are websites waging a war on our enjoyment of the Internet? If the items on this list are any indicator, the answer is yes.
37. Pagination Purgatory
It’s been nearly two centuries since the first known use of the word pagination, and when you’re interacting with a website (or Web site) that implements it poorly, that’s about how long it takes to read the content. Look…if you needed to start a new page after each and every paragraph, the Library of Congress would be so big that we’d all live in it.
We know you need to make money off of your website, and that ad impressions make that happen. We know if you’re short on substance, that the header and footer of a page can make your content seem bigger. But come on. I’m not going to hurt my finger scrolling, so don’t do me any favors.
36. Wait InLine
Grabbing the readers attention is important to people for different reasons…I guess. How many times have you found yourself scrolling through a website and suddenly been confused as to why you’re looking at a completely out-of-context, sometimes even inappropriate, image? Too often, right? And it isn’t even just images. Sometimes entire blocks of text are just placed directly into the middle of the page as advertising. Who thought this was a good idea? This is like getting people to sample your new wine by walking up to them and pouring it into their already-full glass of wine.
Maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the flow of the text as you read often breaks around these elements, the effect of which is similar to that of trying to read a novel as it’s being put through a wood chipper. Sure, some of the stuff you’re trying to read would be better off in a wood chipper anyway, but you should get to choose if the content you’re attempting to absorb is cut into tiny chunks Fargo-style first.
35. Should All Headlines Be Questions?
Using questions that will divide the readership is a cheap way of getting page views when your material really isn’t all that interesting. This isn’t a problem with the Internet, specifically, but these days it’s certainly more likely to be seen at the top of a website than it is on the printed page.
But I can sympathize. It’s got to be hard to make money at journalism of any sort. Never mind if you don’t even have a story to share with people. So I’d imagine it’s an easy trap to fall into as an author. Especially if you’re an asshole that’s playing dumb for the sake of spinning things in the most polarizing way possible. Stuff like, “Should a Goat Be Able to Run for President?” and “Why Should the Rich Pay Taxes at All?” should set off your bullshit detector.
34. Oh Great! It’s a Video!
Yeah, don’t post a story and pretend it’s a write-up when all you have is a video. That’s annoying and I can’t even imagine the number of legitimate pieces of information I probably missed out because I hit the back button when I realized you didn’t bother to write anything. When the battery in my phone almost dead, or I’m counting down the gigabytes until my cell provider dings with me with some complimentary fees, the last thing I want is a movie of two guys talking about the thing that you posted about them talking about.
33. Oh Great! Audio!
Oh and while I’m at it, I should mention that when you have audio play automatically on your website, you’re basically just asking everyone to throw coffee on their computer and storm out of their office. It’s even better when it’s and ad that the audio comes from. Because we all love it when Pandora gets interrupted with ads, or the radio, or TV.
Bonus round: when the audio unexpectedly comes from another browser tab ten minutes after you stopped looking at the page. Out of sight, out of mind, and then someone starts talking to you. Awesome! There’s nothing like a caffeine-fueled leap from your chair at 2 a.m. to remind you of why you love the Internet.
32. Follow The Arrows
Remember our friend pagination? It can be done correctly, and then it can be done the way that forces you to get to the next page by trial and error like some sick advertising-driven find-your-fate book. If a significant motivator for you is tricking people into clicking on the wrong “Next ->” button so that you can get a nickel tucked into your wallet, go to hell. You know who you are. I shouldn’t have to work on reading something like I’m sort of drunk, futuristic Columbo, leaning into the screen with one keen eye and slurring something about how the victim’s body was found at his keyboard.
By the way, I solved how you murdered my experience on your site, it was stabbed in the back…button.
31. I’ll Read More if There is More
Pagination…wow do I feel like a broken record. The next time I have to “click through” just to find out that there isn’t anything else to read, I’m going to lose my mind and write an article about…oh wait. Well I should take this opportunity to state that I hate it when you have nothing else to say other than, “Hey you idiot! Look at these ads!” Yeah, thanks for that.
And by the way, stop saying “click through”. If I’m reading your content on anything other than a desktop computer with a mouse, that statement doesn’t make any sense, and makes you sound like you should be an operator for a 1930’s telephone exchange. You might as well ask me to buy some war bonds, or drive a Studebaker. It’s basically just admitting that you more interested in ad impressions than you are in making an impression.
It isn’t a trick, it’s not weird, and it doesn’t work. Shut up. Variations on this theme are:
“You’ll Never Believe…”
“A Totally Incredible…”
“Everyone Is Talking About…”
“You Won’t Want To Miss…”
And so on, and so forth. Invariably, none of it is earth-shattering or important. If you fall for this, you deserve it, and you’re part of the problem because you’re the reason this is still in style.
29. When Ads Aren’t WRitten As Ads
Perhaps the most subversive and manipulative content is that which is presented not as advertising, but as the written opinion of some honest Internet user. Look for things like:
“Hey guys, I just found this awesome…”
“Wow! I can’t believe the deal I just found…”
“My friend just showed me this cool…”
“What’s up, did you guys see…”
It reads like spam email because it essentially is spam email. How it’s making it’s way onto the rest of the Internet is depressing: people aren’t savvy enough to realize they aren’t being addressed by a real person. This sort of thing is most common in the comments sections of websites, and on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Not cool man.
28. All Turtles, All The Way Down
I thought nobody liked plagiarism. It’s supposed to be this terribly taboo thing that everyone learns to avoid, like sitting too close to your TV or licking the elevator buttons. Yes, there are many examples of people simply coincidentally spouting the same garbage as their online brethren, but CTRL+C, CTRL+V has, all too often, become the substitute for independent thought. Have you tried to follow these trails of tears before? How about those YouTube video ripoffs that have become a postage-stamp-sized version of the original after a dozen idiots who didn’t understand aspect ratio recorded the video playing on their computer screen with their phone in portrait orientation? Bootlegging their own computer!
What is going on here??
I appreciate that there are individuals out there who are simply sharing the wealth of things that they’ve discovered (millions of them, as it were), but when a website lacks any sort of reference to the material that it’s references are referencing (and so on) it makes the Internet feel like one giant headache-inducing echo. Like the feedback from Jimmi Hendrix’s guitar, only forever, and $100 per month. His catalog is amazing, but $100/mo buys you a lot of Led Zepplin.
At least try to make an effort to find out of there’s an original source for the thing that you’re posting about, and if you are going to post about it, add something to the picture. Our world is dominated by SHARE, LIKE, and RETWEET so badly that nobody is offering up anything more complex in the global discourse than the noise a happy chimpanzee makes when it bangs on the lid of a plastic tub filled with bananas. Yes I know you’re a good chimp, but say something about the world.
1. Top Whatever Lists
Yes I skipped a couple dozen items. Yes it has to do with the fact that I’m getting tired of these lists. The Internet is becoming a huge, fake Guinness Book of World Records where everything listed as being the top something-or-other. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it, it generally isn’t funny, and so little effort goes into them that I’m surprised most of them even bother to include the numbers. Let’s have a one-year moratorium on these puppies, ok? They’re about as substantive as high school yearbook superlatives, only worse, because at least when you’re in high school you still have an opportunity to make the world a better place.
It’s difficult to comprehend what technology enables the average person to accomplish today as compared to just a half-century ago. And it’s even harder to comprehend how enthusiastically that advantage is squandered on a glorified game of “Marco Polo”. I’m all for celebrating our species with a collective high-five, but that doesn’t mean the Internet has to be a hall of mirrors.
At first, the repetition sneaks in like the ugly patterns you find in the wallpaper of a dated dental office. You’re a captive audience, clicking through and reading the material. Tracing the material with your eyes, distracting yourself from the smell of charred enamel and droning whistle of a high-speed drill-bit that seems like it’s working just a bit too hard to possibly be in someone’s MOUTH.
You scroll like someone shuffling through the pile of battered periodicals on the coffee table, as though some articles about weight loss and a new travel destination will rescue you from that high pitch vibrato coming to you from the chamber of horrors down the call. You can’t ignore it though. The ads…the repetition of the same terribly layout mistakes…the cliches.
Even though you aren’t in the dentist’s chair yet, you start to feel that drill in your own bone. That whistle becomes a real vibration. Those web pages start to get to you. Your eye begins to twitch. You start to click on things you don’t even want to read. Your nose begins to bleed. The curtains of the waiting room catch fire. And before you can click the back button and shuffle yourself out to the parking lot to get away from the mad scientist and his gleaming, sharpened instruments of horror, you’re amidst a conflagration of terrifying Internet trends.
Just moments ago you were safe behind the wheel of your car, turning off your car radio at the end of a song you sort of like, wondering what was happening on Facebook or whether or not a blog you like had any updates. A few miles and a couple clicks later, you’re waiting for someone with a bunch of extra letters after their name to stick their fingers in your mouth and pull out your hopes and dreams, all in the name of a clean smile and some ad impressions.
Don’t let it happen to you. Now spit.