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Wow. This was a quick year. Seems like it started just yesterday. But there were weeks – like the one that spawned When it Rains. That was a week that dragged on for a month as best I can remember. We were all a bit stressed and out of sorts here at <engine/>, but we persevered and got through it.

But overall, 2022 kinda seems like a blur to me. And with roughly 99.657768% of it in our rearview mirror, perhaps it’s time for a moment or two of reflection. In the interest of full disclosure, much of what you’re about to read – if you decide to read on – isn’t the least bit profound. Some of it will be quite mundane I suspect. Maybe you’ll find humor in some of it, maybe not. What tickles me often escapes others.

On with it then…

Spammers Still Suck

Yeah. I’ve pretty much had my fill of these dirtbags. I don’t get their endgame, but somebody must be falling for their garbage because companies are paying the likes of Eric Z. Jones to constantly assault every contact form I monitor. And Eric, if you’re reading this, we should get together. Timmy has something he’d like to give you.

And my all-time favorite is the moron who tells our clients that their site has been hacked and if they don’t pony up some bitcoin (usually around $2,500 USD worth), they’ll auction off their databases to the highest bidder. Wow. That (il)logic is flawed on so many levels that I’d have to write a white paper to get to the bottom of it.

Perhaps my favorite line from this threat is:

“…thusly damaging your reputation and having angry customers/associates with whatever angry customers/associates do.”

Okay. These mopes should hire me to convey their threats. I just don’t get it. And let me reiterate – if you get garbage like this, I hope you’ll check with us before doing anything.

And another little tidbit on this one – when it first came out, the CTA – which was really a veiled threat – was unbelievably weak because it started with “PLEASE” and was written in all caps. Apparently, that didn’t get the desired result because in the second iteration, it looked like this:


I guess using random lowercase characters and throwing in the occasional zero in place of an ‘O’ makes a threat hackier and therefore more credible. These humps are actually laughable.

If you’ve the inkling, take a few minutes and read a little more on how I feel about spammers in Thanks to Henry and Spammers, Scammers and Ne’er Do Wells.

Stock Photo Search Results Are Often Just Insulting

I have to search for stock photos for our clients on a regular basis. And I’ve about had it with every stock photo search tool I’ve ever encountered. I don’t know if it’s about broken algorithms, an AI that just doesn’t care, or incredibly bad curation.

No matter the cause, I expect more of Adobe, Getty and even Shutterstock given the prices they charge.

As an example, when I searched for “About Us” in a panoramic view for a header many months ago, I didn’t think it was unrealistic to expect that I’d get some snazzy graphics with the words “About Us” front and center. Maybe even some fireworks or something.

Imagine my surprise when the sixth image that came up was “raw chicken gizzards on a white background.” And it darn near triggered me, me bein’ vegetarian and all. It was panoramic though. But clearly, something went horribly wrong. If you think I’m making this up, nope. I grabbed a screen cap and can prove it. I mean this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I just can’t display it here because oddly enough, I opted not to buy that particular image.

So I’ll admit that’s an extreme. More mundanely, I often search for images of food. I have no idea why – when I search for something like “veggie alfredo lasagna” – I get an image labeled “chicken mushroom stuffed peppers in baking dish on light concrete background.” I wish I could make Adobe feel my pain, Timmy. Or not. I don’t wanna go back to prison. JK. Never even been in jail. That I can remember.

And while we’re on the subject of image hunts, searching en Español for a photo will get a much different result that searching en Ingles. I once entered “burrito in red sauce” and turned up nothing of note. But I accidentally hit a site in ‘es’ instead of ‘en’ and there they were. And yet today, even though I bookmarked that link, the images I so loved are now nowhere in evidence. Oh how I hate this stuff some days. Download while you can.

To all you image curators out there – this ain’t rocket science – get your act together. Wait. Never mind. I’ve just lowered my expectations.

Good Sources for CSS Tips and Tricks Abound

Quora and Reddit aren’t two of them. As much as I loathe the phrase “stay in your lane,” this is the one time it actually applies.

I doubt you’re wondering why I so dislike that phrase, but in case you are, I’ll tell you. It’s downright condescending. And whenever anyone tells me to stay in my lane, I’m liable to pull to the right and wave ‘em on by. Then just as their rear quarter panel reaches my front bumper, I’ll PIT ‘em and wave as they metaphorically tumble end-over-end as I move back into the lane they thought I had no business occupying.

But truly, anything you see about CSS or coding on Quora or Reddit likely got there by accident, and it’s not to be trusted. Although I’m not sure what their lanes are, I respectfully suggest that they stay outta the coding lanes.

And whenever you find something about something on authoritative sites, check the date of the reference before you dive in for answers. I’ve gone in headfirst only to find that whatever they were talking about was back in 2011. Things have likely changed a bit since. Unless it’s the DOJ’s Title III ADA pdf which was last revised in 2010.

A Little Thing That Helped A Lot

When I type these blogs and include links, out of habit, if not out of necessity, I enclose those links in straight quotation marks (" ") because code doesn’t always know what to make of smart quotes (“ ”). I searched high and low for a keyboard shortcut for straight quotes in Word. The best answer I found was to turn off smart quotes in the preferences and use the keyboard shortcut for smart quotes when I wanted them to be all curly and cute. What a hacky workaround that seemed.

Then I found the simplest and most elegant solution ever – just type a regular smart quote and hit “Command+Z” and you got your straight quote marks. Brilliant. Wish I’da bookmarked that page so I could give that person due credit. How I love the simple things…

The Labrador In A Field Of Butterflies Effect Is Real

Don’t create distractions. I talked about this briefly in my piece on Top 10 Trends. Probably in UX as well. And you must engage your visitors quickly to provide that instant gratification they’ve come to expect. People just don’t seem to have any patience these days. While I still don’t buy the two second rule the pundits profess, I do think your visitors will bolt if they don’t see some something engaging pretty quick.

Things Break

Sometimes quite spectacularly. And there are consequences. We recently had a client who essentially lost their entire site in the blink of an eye. Seems they didn’t pay attention to the advice I offered in The Trouble with Trees and opted not to check in on their site daily.

For reasons unbeknownst to us, on DDI (Disaster Day One), all the plugins and themes that The WordPress used to display their pages vanished. On DDII, no one noticed. On DDIII, somebody noticed and asked The Giant Host to restore from a backup. Sadly, The Giant Host only had a backup from DDII, which was nothingness. Seems The Giant Host overwrites the backup from the previous day and doesn’t see fit to keep more than one. Oops.

There’s so much going on here. Where to begin Timmy?

First, while The Giant Host isn’t a fly-by-night outfit, they do offer cheap website packages and somebody didn’t read the fine print as I may have mentioned in my Website Tonight! piece. Regular and redundant backups are usually an “add-on” at an additional cost with bargain deals, and somebody didn’t catch that bit of noise.

And for what’s it’s worth, I laugh out loud every time I look at the featured image on that post. It’s just perfect.

Second, companies like The Giant Host don’t care about you. They’re only interested in turning a buck. When you ask why they didn’t tell you about this or that, they’ll likely send you a link to their TOS, which will take a layperson just short of a month to read. And they’ll know little more for having read it.

For the record, here at <engine/>, we actually care. While we’re no giant, we run our own servers and take reasonable steps to ensure the integrity of your site.

Third, this particular disaster felt a little bit like there was some kinda hack going on. Or perhaps a disgruntled ex-employee got removed from the payroll, but not from the web admin list. It’s rare that plugins and themes just vaporize on a whim.

So remember Timmy, even if someone quits on good terms, you’d be wise to delete their accounts on servers and such. Ex-employees might get drunk and forget the separation was amicable. And there are a number of plugins and things that will generally keep ne’er-do-wells from accessing the root directory of your site. Use them.

My Dad Was Right

Okay. This isn’t something I learned in 2022 Timmy. But it’s something that generally factors in daily.

Dad (and Mom too) taught me a lot and I’da learned a lot more if I’da listened even a little more.

And one of the things I learned from Dad – while certainly not the most profound, but useful nearly every day – I wrote of in Phil’s First Rule of Appliance Repair.

I won’t go on about it in detail here, but suffice it to say, the simplest solution may not fix the problem, but it’s the best place to start looking for answers.

And on that note, I’ll bid 2022 a fond adieu as I prepare to warmly welcome 2023.

Can’t wait to see what lies in store for 2023? I’m in. Let’s get this party started!