Why Ask Why?

Why Ask Why?

Then, that was a standard tag line in those annoying Bud Dry commercials from maybe 15 years ago, remember?

Now, it's how many of us rant at our industry's sense of irony, or at what Cory Treffiletti insightfully identified last week as our industry's habit of making things hard on ourselves. What is it about interactive specifically, and the Web in general, that makes us look so silly at times?

I'm not talking about the porn or the spam - the nonsense I've referred to in this space as our industry's stigmata. I'm referring to the many daily idioms and practices in the respectable side of our business that just make no sense whatsoever. People write to me about them all the time, and of course, I've noticed a few myself.

Let's start with this one, sent to me by recent OMMA "Rising Star" honoree Kristy Fulwider, interactive supervisor for Crispin+Porter Bogusky in Miami. Kristy asks, "Why is it that none of the rich media companies has a product that can be seen, let alone rendered by creative on Apple computers... when just about everyone in the creative world that actually does the rendering is using a Mac?

Good question, Kristy. My guess is that critics of these companies who claim that there isn't enough innovation in rich media would have less to complain about if the people actually using the tools were able to do so while working on platforms they prefer.

Obviously, with 95 percent of the online world using PCs, rich media companies' products have to be tailored to the PC. Nevertheless, you'd think there would be some accommodation for the creative's world.

Here's one sent by Steve Daily, an engineer in Sacramento. "Is it just me, or does it seem ironic to anyone else that once you remove the Panicware Pop-Up Stopper from your hard drive, you suddenly begin to get daily pop-ups from Panicware telling you about updates?"

That sort of sounds like a Beelzebubbian bargain to me too, Steve - even if it is a free download we're talking about. The fact is that many of the "fear" companies, which make their money preying on the mostly justified fears of consumers regarding spyware, pop-ups, and other nuisances, are really too close to these industries to know why their own practices are sometimes comparable. Sort of like that "Police and Thieves" thing that Perry and Junior Murvin wrote about back in the 1970s.

After all, would we have been spending so much time on cookie deletion if it weren't for SpyBot, et al., and their practice of deleting harmless publisher cookies, as well as usually harmless third-party cookies, from users' hard drives? At what point does a good guy in this battle become a villain?

How about something more benign, but no less silly? "Anyone who has their own domain has, at some point, needed to use that domain's Web mail access screen remotely to see their mail," wrote Katie Mitchell last week. "Why is it that the first screen users see from almost any host contains the language 'if you encounter difficulties, please use your Web client.'? I mean, it's not like anyone would ever use the Web interface when they could be using their Outlook, or whatever, instead."

Good point, Katie. This is what happens when lawyers get in the business of writing Web copy, I guess. Hedge, then hedge some more. Protect yourself, even if it doesn't really make any sense how you do it. Try calling an airline to book travel, and see what all-too-obvious reminder they provide, along the same lines. See if it doesn't make you actually mouth the word "Duh" into your phone's mouthpiece.