I find it entertaining to watch heterosexualists and their primitive mating rituals, like telephone chatlines and <airquotes>hookup</airquotes> Web sites. I’m sorry, but we were doing that in the mid-’90s. It seems you people needed to develop your own parallel vocabulary before you could permit yourselves to do what we already found passé.

I was going to write a whole post on this, but what the hell, let’s sum up: Gay guys have a basket but straight guys have a package. We have fuck buddies (indelicate, but that is the term) and you have friends with benefits. You have two concepts unknown to us, dating and going out with, which never seem to be defined or to have prerequisites. (A Mormon and a stripper could both claim to be “dating” – possibly each other.)

There’s also that incomprehensible scarlet letter A of the heterosexualist argot, to hit on. It seems that any display of interest, real or imagined, constitutes hitting on someone. The term flirt having apparently been forgotten, so much as a glance or standing too close to a stranger on the subway can be and is interpreted as “hitting on.” I was once accused of hitting on someone when, at a party, I sat down on a sofa a foot and a half away from him. He was the hostess’s teenage son, and I was just chatting.

These days, of course, you’re all terribly au courant and so very Aughties. You consider yourselves bundles of risqué, envelope-pushing naughtiness whenever you cruise Nerve or Craigslist. (Or, G-d help us, Jdate – admittedly less of a joke than GayJews.) You puny heterosexualists, you. What’s it like to have only a couple of sites? We’ve got so many that the kottkeist job posting for an assistant to keep one’s social-networking-site profiles synced and up to date is a position we actually need to fill.

And here is the best part: I read these sites for amusement. This is literally true. I met one fellow once as a result of these things. Of course “ordering in” is ostensibly convenient, but even that is a hurdle I do not wish to surmount. Merely ordering in is itself too much trouble. I do, however, like to track, and frequently mock, people’s personal ads in the comfort and privacy of my home. I will send a note with an occasional compliment, always meant sincerely and generally interpreted as the opposite. I do occasionally correct their spelling, as there are really only so many ads for guys declaring themselves “discrete” that one can stand before going ballistic. (Then there’s the logical inconsistency of posting an ad on the Web calling for discretion.)

Now the question I wish to pose: Why do these sites, like so many of the guys who post on them, suck?

I already did a markover of BigMuscle(Bears) for some godawful reason. (And I wrote a series of BigMuscle best-ofs for Fleshbot; see archive.) That site is a piece of shit, but a quick glance at the owners’ own profiles indicates the degree of acumen we could have expected in the first place. (The bear standardista is a contradiction in terms. He is all about abundance and consuming what he wants. You can’t tell him what not to eat, let alone what HTML he cannot include on Web page.)

We had a classic Failed Redesign this week of one of the other “dating” sites, Men4SexNow. (Again, truth in advertising. How exactly does “Nerve” indicate “casual sex” to heterosexualists?) It’s an amazing piece of work, straight out of ’98 and with all the agility and finesse of an Olds Ninety Eight. The G-rated homepage won’t load in an old version of Safari (though it does so in Lynx – great browser-sniffing there, lads) and it has all the usual errors. Why bother listing them when I can just show you how it looks in Firefox with outlining of table cells turned on?

Screenshot shows ‘M4SN’ page with dozens of overlapping red, green,a nd blue outlines on navbar, content area, and login form

I set up a profile you can look at, with the inevitable username of FailedRedesigns. Nothing outré, though the rest of the page might be.

Regular guy in some respects, 41. Turnons include redheads, Web standards, Strict types. Turnoffs include mean people (who suck), tables for layout, tag soup. Enjoy long walks by the beach and validating other people’s work. No unclosed tags!

(I saved a PDF. Yes, it’s tagged. No, it isn’t accessible per se.)

  • My profile page has 29 tables, 143 validation errors (CSS: one error), dozens of images without alt text (admittedly difficult on a “dating” site, but each profile owner could be compelled to write their own), the fabled “font tag” 35 times, and of course iframes.
  • Oh, and none of the profile links work; they’re all JavaScript calls that take forever to load. I guess these people never browse their own site in anything other than IE6, while the rest of us open multiple tabs to cruise through every profile of interest on a given page. It’s as though they’re penalizing us for using their site efficiently.
  • Profile thumbnails are now too small to be usable anyway. Not only do the links not work, you have no way of selecting which link to hit, because you can’t see the pictures anymore.
  • And the link to the page that shows who viewed one’s own ad has a URL ending in WhoseLooking.cfm. (I dunno. Whose “looking” is it? Humphrey Bogart’s? And is it “discrete”?)

Could the following line tell us everything we need to know?

<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft Visual Studio.NET 7.0">

Incidentally, my profile hadn’t been up an hour when I received the following response:

<title>Great Ad!</title>
I laughed out loud! Nice attitude. Hope you can find the redheaded web-designer geeks you’re looking for!

So now we know what it takes to get noticed in this town: Put up a parody personal ad with codewords that one person in 10,000 could ever understand.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.04.15 15:39. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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