Media should Create a Code of Ethics, Regarding their Websites

created May 2, 2019

Apr 30, 2019 - LA Times guest opinion - A Facebook request: Write a code of tech ethics

Someone outside of the newspaper wrote that opinion.

Mike Godwin is a senior fellow at R Street Institute, and was elected in April to the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society.

About R Street Institute:

R Street Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government.

The LA Times opinion was also published at R Street.

The opinion is all text, containing a little over 930 words. Both versions, however, contained useless stock images.

Last night, I dropped the LA Times' version of the opinion into webpagetest.org. Here are the results.

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
5/1/2019, 7:28:26 PM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 23.446 seconds (???)
Requests: 579
Bytes in: 3,234 KB

579 web requests for a 900-plus word opinion??? That should be a crime.

Does the LA Times produce a quarterly security and privacy audit report that explains to its readers, at least to its subscribers, what in the hell its website is doing?

Of those 579 web requests, 126 were for JavaScript.

And for the 3.2 megabytes downloaded to read 900-plus words, 2.2 megabytes were for JavaScript. That should be a crime.

This hostile web reading experience needs lambasted by R Street. Demanding Facebook create a code of ethics is low-hanging fruit time.

In my opinion, too many people ignore the atrocious and possibly nefarious web designs unleashed on readers by the media.

126 web requests for JavaScript, resulting in 2.2 megabytes of JavaScript being downloaded is why I read websites, especially media websites, with JavaScript disabled. If the site is blank with JavaScript disabled, no biggie. I move on.

Best-designed media website: https://text.npr.org

Here's a May 2, 2019 text.npr.org article that contained around 990 words, slightly longer than the opinion published by the LA Times.

And here are the webpagetest.org results for that article.

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
5/2/2019, 4:05:31 PM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 0.487 seconds
Requests: 3
Bytes in: 4 KB

Two text-based media posts with nearly identical word counts that are worlds apart, regarding useful, empathetic web design versus egregious, hostile web bloat.

           LA Times    text.npr
           ========    ========
    Time:  23.446 s    0.487 s
Requests:  579         3
Bytes in:  3.2 MB      4 KB

Excerpts from what might be the best (and funniest) article on web design, especially for media orgs that produce text-based content.

http://motherfuckingwebsite.com

You probably build websites and think your shit is special. You. Are. Over-designing. ... you have no fucking idea what a website is.

What I'm saying is that all the problems we have with websites are ones we create ourselves. Websites aren't broken by default, they are functional, high-performing, and accessible. You break them. You son-of-a-bitch.

"Good design is as little design as possible."
- some German motherfucker


As to the code of ethics discussion, I enjoyed this HN comment.

Just don't be a piece of shit. If you need a list of rules to do that, lord have mercy on your soul.

The HN thread contained 125 comments. Here's the second highest comment.

we hackers - more or less - already have [a code of ethics] for about 35 years:

1) Access to computers - and anything which might teach you something about the way the world really works - should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!

2) All information should be free.

3) Mistrust authority - promote decentralization.

4) Hackers should be judged by their acting, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.

5) You can create art and beauty on a computer.

6) Computers can change your life for the better.

7) Don't litter other people's data.

8) Make public data available, protect private data.

Originally penned down by Steven Levy in "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" and slightly modified by the CCC after that.

Source: https://www.ccc.de/en/hackerethics