Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Facebook Hates Your Link and other stories from arts meets geeks

2011-08-26 13:37:49
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Ever grab a link and share it on Facebook only to have a weird, random image show up and NO description of the page you're sharing? This happens because Facebook really hates your link.

Well, not really, but if the programs had emotions when they have to read the page, figure out the picture and the text, I think more of our links would be streams of profanity rather than nonsensical photos and snippets of text that read like Rain Man's random recitations.

You see, websites need to be visually pleasing, and the way we make them pleasing is often with some very ugly code. Heck, sometimes the code isn't even really on the page, but hidden in some movie file or in a PDF document. So when this poor little program goes to read your link, it rolls back like Harrison Ford in Raiders... "Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?"

There's always been this tug-of-war between design and code, between form and function, between the right and left sides of our brains... And I think there is no better place to see that conflict than when we watch programmers try to make things easier for us in a world of pretty pictures and dancing hamsters.

The problem isn't just that the artsy and the geeky don't talk, it's that they don't even understand each other when they do talk. So the programmer sees that the designer has created something completely impossible to read and creates a Linter to let the designer see how screwed up the page is.

And the designer says, "R-i-i-ight... What's a linter?"

I have to admit that even I, the son of a poet and of a scientist, even I with my artistic bent and my technical twist (or is that the other way around?), even I found the whole idea of making a page "Facebook Friendly" confusing.

There are all those new meta tags I wrote about a couple months back, and then there's creating images that actually make sense. Oh, and there's content -- the most important, and most ignored knife in the drawer (you know the drawer -- it's in the kitchen with the twine and some kind of plastic thing that you think came with the microwave but you're not sure).

Basically what I'm saying is this -- there is a lot of technical stuff that just about every website on the planet has to do if they want their "shares" to make sense. But technology alone isn't going to do it -- it has to look good and there have to be words that make sense. And making it just pretty isn't going to work, either -- it needs to play well with bots and crawlers.

And while I've called myself a "geek translator" for years, sometimes it feels more like being a mediator in the Middle East. Lots of tools, lots of words, but no one really wants to understand what's going on.

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