« Teens and Elders Together Against Ageism | Main | New Elder Blood Pressure Guidelines (and Chicken) »

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Chasing Crabby Old Lady Away From the Internet

Crabby Old Lady is spending less and less time online. That ought to be a good thing but it is not.

There are many useful websites Crabby likes that supply her with good information for her blog and her life, let her manage financial accounts, shop for herself and others, find interesting entertainment, etc. But the majority of them have, in recent years, made their sites impossible to use – and it seems to have gotten much worse during 2013. Among the aggravations:

Autoplay blasting music
Autoplay commercials
Irritating moving gifs
Advertising that slides in from the sides over the story text
Pop-up boxes that hide the X to close them
Two or three pop-ups in instant succession
Any pop-ups at all

Then there are the gigantic images that drop down from the top of the screen over the words Crabby is already reading. The New York Times is a frequent but not the only offender of this particular annoyance.

As Crabby desperately tries to hang on to the thought she was just reading, the damned image sits there and after too long, zooms up to the top and she can't find the place where she was reading.

The home page of TheAtlantic (and others) jumps through a succession of photos illustrating headlines before Crabby has time to read the accompanying headline. She usually just leaves the site.

And she quit Huffington Post altogether several months ago. Somehow their techies missed the basic internet101 class that teaches how to code so that the site updates in the background instead of reloading the page when it updates.

Crabby long ago lost track of how many HuffPo headlines she was about to click that disappeared when the page finished reloading.

What the operators of annoying, irritating and badly designed websites don't seem to understand is that with the exception of a few specific writers a reader likes or a user's own bank, for example, none of them – not a single site – has a monopoly on what their website provides.

Be it news items, music, retail items, books or, actually, anything at all available online, one way or another it can always be found somewhere else online too. Crabby has recently changed her surfing habits to take that into account; if anything on any website is really worth knowing, it will appear elsewhere.

Crabby has come to believe the irritations and annoyances have been rotting her brain.

It cannot possibly be good for anyone to be subjected to constant interruptions and distractions with extraneous music, jerky movement from all sides of the screen, pop-ups and other kinds of images interrupting reading and, most important, thought.

Crabby Old lady gets jumpy as the web distractions pile up during her time online. Sometimes she can't make herself finish reading even short, two- or three-paragraph stories. Too often, she lets it go with just headline reading. And that needs to stop.

Getting old is hard enough on an elder's mind. Even without a threat of dementia, it is normal for an elder to sometimes forget why she walked into the bedroom. For some, sleep interruptions leave them fuzzy headed in the morning. And it takes more effort to make new memories in old age.

So the last thing Crabby Old Lady needs at her age is anything that compromises the functioning of her mind. What that means now is a dramatic cutback in web time.

Crabby feels bad about this. The internet held such promise but it is becoming so degraded now, it is almost useless. (And Crabby hasn't even mentioned how awful – even illiterate – the writing increasingly is even on some of the most respected sites. )

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: From China Today

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Yes, I'll jump onto your bandwagon. Much of the news sites are becoming tabloid-like as well. More than anything, the passing of in-depth, balanced articles might lead to increasing ignorance and indifference. Could they evolve into being mere pop-ups themselves (shudder)?

Save me a place on the bandwagon. I do most of my reading on my iPad. Seems a little better. More and more I read headlines on Twitter to decide an article is worth reading.

One hundred percent agree. I used to have ten or so newspapers bookmarked and I enjoyed reading stories from everywhere.

Now, everything has to be joined, signed in, passwords, paywall. So what did I do? I quit reading those papers that try to shove me this way and that.

Now I only read the headlines, then go search out the article somewhere else.

We get our Montreal paper delivered.

Next thing you know, I might break my index finger, and then I won't be able to read at all.

I want my news without crawling ads, sneaky change agents and other debris floating across the page.

Yes, the internet has all changed, certainly not for the better and it's all happened in such a few short years. I agree with the descriptions of all of the above irritating, crazy, interruptions and also the use more and more often of very light gray print which is unreadable for me. Very sad since the internet has been like a dream come true for looking up all sorts of things at the click of a mouse.

I gave up HuffPo too -- took forever to scroll down to read next lines. Listening to public radio more and more -- even during fundraising weeks, still better than the messy visual assault of on-line data.The Week magazine is a decent (and entertaining) digest of news stories, with more than one viewpoint expressed.

You can add to the list: Those artistic folk who believe that white print on a black background can be read.

However, one hint - locate the sound button on your computer and keep it turned off until you actually need it for, oh, maybe a YouTube video. It's blissful to have quiet back.

I think the auto music ads bother me the most and the ads that slide in over top of the text. Sometimes I turn my speaker off to avoid the ads but that also negates my desktop alert sound for when I get email. Anyway-I do miss just looking something up and reading it like I would in a regular book. The internet is still packed with information if a person can stand all the interruptions. I am the type of person who needs quiet to concentrate. It is nice to know that others understand. Thank-you Ronni for the wonderful job you do in pulling like minds together, giving us a place to debate, and generally to enjoy this community online (without pop-in ads and annoying auto music).

Hope the bandwagon is big. All of those things have been irritating me lately, too. Another thing that bothers me a lot is having passwords for everything even if there is no reason. I like Twitter which I use as an aggregator for news, baseball and science stories. But, I am beginning to get irritated with them lately for all the sponsored tweets.

And if I have a paid subscription to newspapers (NY Times and Chicago Trib), why do I have to put up with the pop ups and auto play video, etc.? There seems to be fewer and fewer things I want to read online lately.

The same things annoy me, but there are some partial remedies. Adblock Plus is an essential browser extension that blocks a huge number of ads and pop-ups. (I actually forget how much garbage assaults other people.)

Much of the autoplay stuff can be blocked/silenced with FlashControl for Chrome or FlashBlock for Firefox. You'll be left with a gray placeholder so you can't see what the video is about, but you won't be subjected to autoplay.

Newspaper paywalls are understandable but annoying when you aren't a regular reader. When the dreaded black screen drops down, google the story's headline, find it mentioned elsewhere, and then go back to it via the external link. Or simply delete all your cookies from that publisher and clear your browser cache and you'll be good to go for another 10 articles.

Unfortunately I've no cure for my current biggest complaint -- the conversion to responsive layouts by most of the popular news sites. The badly fragmented, chaotic pages, with each of many stories appearing repeatedly in different formats and lists, are graphically ugly and hard to wade through on a large screen. They may be dandy for people reading on mobile devices, but I don't read on a tablet or phone. I want a nice "old fashioned" magazine or newspaper page on my big computer screen.

here is another crabby old lady who has been made even crabbier by all the things you mention. everything is so jumbled and geared to the use of newer, faster, more and more at once technology that i have just about given up. before i read your post today i was convinced i had an attention problem, undiagnosed, that was leading to a brain tumor. i am also convinced that this kind of information feed is leading to the inability to concentrate on a book for any extended period of time.
i am just going to have to go backwards in time and try to stop keeping up. i can't.
And i don't care.
Let me add, in my crabby fashion, why not design sites that can be converted easily, with the check of a box, to "senior" (i hate that word) reading.

sflichen, PiedType and others:
Crabby Old Lady does not believe that using plugins and turning audio, etc. on and off is her or anyone else's job when online.

It is the job of the website to make the user experience - well, usable.

Crabby was among the earliest pioneers of website building when she joined cbsnews.com as managing editor of its first website in 1995.

Crabby and her colleagues there, along with the few other commercial websites of that period, were inventing how websites functioned. It was understood then how difficult and disorienting trying to read online can be and it was our job to make the user experience as easy, fluid and pleasant as possible.

Today, Crabby has no patience for the disintegration of website functionality and has no intention of spending her time making up for the deficiencies - often deliberate - of those sites.

There is absolutely no earthly reason to visit an irritating website.

No sound here, that helps. I miss the easier to read BBC and Huffington/Post. Their content still beats that of others; if you can read it. No more real newspaper here either. Our paper has gotten so conservative that I can't bear to look at it. Since I am Deef, no NPR here either. Perhaps some of us will just sink down into a newsless void.

I remember when the internet was new and they had not yet figured out how to make money off of it, there was hardly any advertising. Unfortunately, this is the price we have to pay for "Free". But remember there is always...ctrl, alt., delete.

I'm with you. Seems like someone let loose a band of immature coders as most of the sites I read have all been "redesigned" -- and not for the better.

I've stopped actually reading most of them. Less content, more trash and what content there is, is so frustrating to access -- there are no "journalists" today who are worth wading through all this for.

Yes, yes, yes! Ads getting worse, Huff Post (and others) structure impossible, and the writing everywhere is horrible.

I've posted on CNN's Facebook twice about the abominable grammar. Now I just don't read it anymore.

I agree with PiedType. AdBlock works really well for me. I rarely get interrupted.

I have another pet peeve. I am very interested in politics and started out with a few informative web sites. I signed tons of petitions and my e-mail address was passed on to every liberal site on the internet. I have from 50-65 e-mails to delete before I can begin to read the few I want to check out.

I know there are programs to avoid this, but I agree that I shouldn't have to work to get rid of a nuisance. I subscribed to one once that made it possible to unsubscribe to the annoying ones, but the site itself became annoying.

Blame the hackers for having to sign in on every web site you use. They have made internet security so precarious that it is becoming necessary to add that level of protection. All of the new sites are destroying my pleasure in using the "net'. I now do puzzles on line and watch NetFlix videos.

I've quit going to sites that have become venues for pushing ads over content. I use Firefox because it blocks the majority of pop-ups, but it can't do a thing about dozens of ads, video commercials, ratty formatting and lack of writing skills.

Having been the editor of a webzine beginning in 1995, I understand that you need to pay the bills, but when a site stretches a 300 word story out over four pages, and inserts 30 or 40 ads which drop down, pop-up, pop-under, line each side of the page, interrupt paragraphs and push content to the next page I scream **enough** and cross them off my reading list.

You need one heck of a big bandwagon. I agree totally and find my self also avoiding a lot of once useful sites for the same reasons.

I get protection from most of the irritants via my Panda Security software, which blocks all the garbage, pop ups, etc. and thereby lets me read what I focus on. That's in addition to using firefox, which does a good first screening job.

Oh, have you hit a button! Wouldn't you think Huffpo would be getting tons of complaints with their herky-jerky editing. That's annoying whatever your age.

Thank goodness my computer-savvy son has made some of those background adjustments that eliminate some of the mess. Surfing with the sound off helps too.

As someone mentioned above, sound-off browsing doesn't work for many of us. In my case, I often need to know when email I'm waiting for arrives and I frequently set timers during the day when I need to be reminded to do something at a certain time.

Bottom line is - never, ever should users be required go through all these machinations and screw up their desires for their own computer operation to accommodate asshat web owners and designers.

The flashing ads from all sides is a real turn-off for me too. I must add one irritation that, unfortunately Crabby Lady and the TGB website are afflicted with and that is the use of san serif fonts in large text blocks. I find it increasingly difficult to read the ubiquitous Arial font for more than a couple of lines. I think this may be my problem with reading almost anything on a tablet. It is truly uncomfortable.

Ever since the beginniing of the internet, it has been shown again and again that sans serif fonts are easiest to read on screens.

Serif fonts with all their extra decoration and curlicues are a nightmare especially on old eyes but they are a bother for some young eyes too.

The main text font used at TGB is Verdana (unless readers change the font on their computers) which was expressly invented for ease of reading on a screen.

As for large blocks of text, TGB is deliberately formatted in short paragraphs. The only place here you'll find longer graphs is in the comments which, of course, I cannot control.

All the irritations expressed here (me too!) could have been envisioned back when PCs and the internet were young. Earlier, media presentations were largely controlled by trained journalists, whose coursework included ethics, or others with experience in designing media to attract readers, listeners, or viewers.

Where I worked, a trend to put the newly important computer techies in charge of communications began. It seems nearly universal now--the techies are fully in control and the communicators are largely out of work or serving in subordinate roles.

How this will all turn out remains to be seen, but the prognosis isn't good.

For me the saddest decline is in the Atlantic website. When they first "upgraded" to the current iteration, I complained to James Fallows and he urged me to pass along my horrified reaction to their designers which I did. I can't have been alone as some bits got a little better. But mostly they seem to substituted white space and air where content used to be.

I use most of the workarounds mentioned -- AdBlock in Firefox in particular. I refuse to turn off sound, but I won't go back to anyplace that turns on a video on contact (though I did it myself once to my own blog when I uploaded a BBC clip -- sorry!) The internet I see is not quite so annoying as what many endure, but I'm on this bandwagon.

Make room for me on this bandwagon too. I recently took a hiatus from the interwebz and found it an extraordinary time. Byte by byte(ha!) I worked my way back in. Detoxing again is in my future.

Seriously, I think most sites are designed for those with some form of "Millenials" ADD. I watch my granddaughter cruise without pause from her laptop to her android to her (paper) book without a blink. She is 2nd year university. Hons student. All her cohorts are similar in their attention. But astonish me with their grasp of these quick scans of incoming data, Twitter feeds, instagram, poetry slams, etc.

It hurts my head even to look at her doing her stuff.

I've resorted to turning the sound off too and use an ad blocker. But like you say, Ronni, why should I have to work so hard to read the Irish Times?

Self-service (i.e. no service) in extremis.


Dear Crappy Old Lady,

I concur. As NPR pointed out a few days ago there is no such thing as multitasking and what we call multitasking is not good for children.

"Some argue that the current generation of students grew up with digital devices and are much better at multitasking than their parents. But the idea of multitasking is a myth, Goleman said. When people say they’re “multitasking,” what they are really doing is something called “continuous partial attention,” where the brain switches back and forth quickly between tasks. The problem is that as a student switches back and forth between homework and streaming through text messages, their ability to focus on either task erodes. That trend is less pronounced when the actions are routine, but it could have significant implications for how deeply a student understands a new concept."

So these webdesigns are not only annoying for us they also have a detrimental effect on children and teenage brain development.

Thank you everyone who took the time to reiterate and grow what Ronni started
to say. I now don't feel so old or like I'm loosing my thinking ability. Amen to everything!

AdBlock in Firefox generally suffices for me.

Occasionally I have to "opt out" using an AdBlock window, which is sufferable for me.

It's free.

Whenever I encounter a new distraction or screen high-jacker, first I try the Escape key, or else Reload the page. If they persist, I hunt them down and kill them with Ad Blocker. I take a certain satisfaction when they DIE.

I couldn't agree more. I was a fairly early user of the web, but now it's a jumbled mess. Like almost everything else that turns into a mess, all we have to do is follow the money! Corporations figured out that there was money to be made, and things went downhill from there. We're deluged by ads of one kind or another everywhere we turn.

As far as "multitasking" goes, it shouldn't be any big surprise that so many kids are being diagnosed with ADHD. They have grown up with this c*&p and many have never read a newspaper from front to back or focused on one task at a time unless perhaps forced to do so for a school assignment.

I wonder what kind of society will emerge over the next 50 years and what kind of leaders, workers and citizens these fragmented young people will turn out to be. Many are intelligent and most are technologically sophisticated, but that's not all there is (I'm with Ronni that the writing on too many of today's websites isn't exactly a testament to literacy.)

Firefox plus Adblock works for me. I also have. I also have an other plug in that limits cross link request from one site to another which although it is a security feature also blocks lots of ads and annoying popups that might otherwise slip through.

Once installed it takes no maintenance. The cross link monitor can be annoying but the security benefits make up for it.

Google Chrome with Adblock and Flash Block or Firefox with Adblock and Flash block. My friends complain about ads and I truthfully say 'what ads??"

The list of the disenchanted goes on and on and on.....and includes me.
TV is a Farce.
Netflex is right behind it.
Surfing the web is time consuming and annoying.
What I do now to entertain myself (since I have given up newpapers, online newspaper annoying crap, tv, online "news" from the tv news I won't watch anymore for news, radio talk shows, all of Hulu and most of Netflex) is I watch tv "news" to catch the verbal mistakes of the young and middle aged. They put us oldies to shame! It is horrifyingly entertaining.
"up front" becomes "upstairs", "Karen" becomes "Sharon. Did I just say Sharon?", "big picture" becomes "long picture" "Galileo" becomes "Galeo" and on and on and on. Quite the mess.
Oh, I read blogs of older people. At least they are sane! Don't any of you go getting insane on us. We DEPEND on you! You (we) are the last bastion of those who make sense.

Adblock for Firefox or Chrome web browsers allows you to block advertisements so you don't have to deal with ANY of that nonsense at all.
Just google adblock

I have come to the very same conclusion as you. I'm spending more time reading good books and out walking in the wonderful Southern California sunshine while I kick the Internet habit!

Happy Un-Net Holidays to all!!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Related Posts