Time once again for our annual reminder why Canadian Web sites suck. They do – and the Canadian New Mediocrity Awards conveniently gather evidence together in one place.

As mentioned previously, CNMA never met a site built on tables, frames, Flash, and/or tag-soup “HTML” it couldn’t give an award to.

I looked at this year’s finalists from categories where Web standards and accessibility are mandatory:

  • Excellence in Learning
  • Excellence in News, Information
  • Excellence in Cross[-]Platform
  • Excellence in the Use of Social Media
  • Producer of the Year
  • Programmer of the Year
  • Company of the Year

Results were about as bad as last year’s. And note that CNMA’s page listing the finalists cannot even hyperlink correctly, providing the naked URL as a link. (The Remember Us exhibit in Second Life is essentially a blog post and was disqualified.)

Good ones first

  1. CBC.ca/News: Valid XHTML
  2. Terminus1525.ca: Valid HTML with Flash
  3. Corby Simpson
    • Valid HTML Strict, but with unencoded ampersands
    • Polite warning about missing Flash, and link to transcript: “Please upgrade your Flash Player: If you upgrade your flash player you will see a video and why you should hire me. To download the most recent version of Flash, click here. Alternatively, you can view the transcript of the video here”
  4. Wmode Inc.
    • Two validation errors
    • Warns that Flash and JavaScript are required, but does so in an image
    • Poor semantics

And the rest

There seems to be an odd inability to capitalize “Flash.” And a tendency to overuse it.

  1. Le Québec au naturel/The Nature of Qubec (sic):

    • Tables for layout
    • Animated GIFs with nothing clickable
  2. Independent Learning Centre, a site specifically addressed to people with disabilities

    • Tables for layout
    • “This site is best viewed with browser versions 5.0 or more recent, and requires the use of the following plugins”
  3. Formation en ligne/Online Training (e-Learning)
    • CSS layout, but missing alt texts
  4. Tracks to Freedom

    • Combined tables and CSS for layout
    • Flash
    • Most links are Flash or JavaScript
  5. NFB – Filmmaker-in-Residence (two nominations)

    • Claimed XHTML 1.0 Strict, but uses tables for layout, illegal presentational attributes, upper-case tags
    • “You need Macromedia Flash Player version 8 or higher to view the content on this site. Please download the player here and return to this site when you have installed Flash 8 or later. If you are sure you have flash installed you can enter the site by clicking here”
    • “To find out more click here” four times (in all caps)
  6. The Bata Shoe Museum – All About Shoes
    • Claimed XHTML Transitional
    • Hundreds of lines of JavaScript
    • divitis
    • Asked if I wanted to download a new Flash player, but showed some content
  7. Crash Addicts (two nominations)

    • Choice of HTML (“low-bandwidth”) or Flash (“big-pipe”) versions
    • HTML version has 25 errors, tables, no alt texts
  8. Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction (two nominations)
    • Asked if I wanted to download a new Flash player, but showed some content
    • Simply doesn’t work without Flash and JavaScript
  9. ZimmerTwins

    • Good effort with minor code bloat, unescaped ampersands, but no alt texts
  10. The ReGenesis Extended Reality Game II

    • Offered only a fuck-off page entitled Flash Not Detected with an URL ending in /indexnoflash.html, and only a top logo
  11. caf[é]sonique.com

    • “You do not have the required flash player. Please go here to download it.”
  12. James Cogan, Dailypixel Inc.

    • Unescaped ampersands and poor JavaScript handling
    • Everything seems to be an h3
  13. Patrick Crowe, Xenophile Media

    • “You don’t have the latest version of Macromedia Flash Player. This web site makes use of Macromedia® Flash™ software. You have an old version of Macromedia Flash Player that cannot play the content we’ve created. Why not download and install the latest version now? It will only take a moment”
  14. Michelle & Colin Gay, Steamworks Media, for Charter of Rights

    • Spacer GIFs
    • Innumerable tables
    • Incorrect language handling on this ostentatiously multilingual page
  15. Artificial Mind and Movement

    • Flash animation completely takes over browser
    • Character-encoding mismatch
    • Tables for layout with errors
    • <img src="images/mainpage_right.gif" alt="mainpageright" width="11" height="256">
  16. MyThum Interactive Inc.: Frames!

Official response

I sent queries to the advisory board and the first 45 members of the selection committee asking:

  • Why are sites that use all- or mostly Flash (eight), tables for layout (seven), or frames (one), or sites that only work with JavaScript and Flash enabled (four), still nominated for awards?
  • Why are sites that use CSS for layout, but with seriously invalid HTML (including missing alt texts [three]), still nominated for awards?
  • Why does the CNMA site itself use tables for layout (and, curiously, sometimes-valid HTML)?
  • Why does the entire CNMA process pretend that Web standards and accessibility guidelines do not exist or do not matter, and that sites can be developed with 1997-era techniques yet still be nominated for an award?
  • How closely do CNMA volunteers and staff scrutinize source code before allowing a nomination to be published? (Is the answer “not at all”?)
  • Why does the CNMA process perpetuate the impression that Canada’s Web developers are second-rate and easily outclassed by developers in much-less-populous countries, as in Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, or the Netherlands?
  • What, in effect, will it take for everyone involved in CNMA to stop congratulating each other for creating sites that are functionally identical to the first sites its participants ever saw?

You will, in addition, be graded on whether or not you top-post or use HTML in your response.

There was exactly one response (and two autoresponders). But it wasn’t really a response. It came from Robert Scales of Rain City Studios (yes, Will Pate’s former employer). It was addressed to Tannis of CNMA, it Cc:ed me, and it read:

For the record, Joe is a well known accessibility designer and speaker at conferences… His post couldn’t be more honest.

And I would tend to agree with some of his comments despite having won the CNMA for best graduate of the year 2006 and being selected as a judge for two categories this year.

I find myself displeased with the CNMA organization, selection process, and criteria, let alone the submission and selection process. (For example, I was asked to judge on the Game category which has nothing to do with my field of expertise.)

The CNMAs don’t reflect the quality of the work or even the best talent of this country. It is a clique operated by wannabe elitists that barely understand the Web, design and the social space.

To say “We do not control the quality of the submissions or who submits. We simply facilitate the submissions that come in to be judged, and to promote the finalists and winners” completely proves the point that Joe was making: The CNMA are not real awards – compared with the Webbys, which are a real reflection of the industry and the active players in it.

To send an E-mail such as the one below to all the CNMA mail list shows that the CNMA organization has no clues. Joe is being honest and that is the right of anyone. Sadly for you, his voice carry further than the CNMA’s and, after seven years of farce awards, nothing has been done to increase the quality of the submissions or judging process. A majority vote would do better – at least it would give the industry a voice.

And surely you’re thinking: What E-mail does Scales refer to? Why, yes, there it is top-posted:

On 23-Apr-07, at 1:37 PM, Tannis Wengel wrote:

You may have recently received an unsolicited E-mail from a person by the name of Joe Clark criticizing the CNMA and the finalists. We have not and will not be responding to Joe’s comments. He has tried to cause problems in the past – for what reason – we have absolutely no idea.

For background, last year, our team responded to his comments, but we had to decide to stop responding, as our responses resulted in his being even more confrontational and abusive. He is clearly on a mission of some sort, but has chosen to publicly criticize everyone around him as his approach – which we do not condone or support.

The CNMA is a not-for-profit initiative for people to submit their work or themselves to be judged by their peers from across the country. We do not control the quality of the submissions or who submits. We simply facilitate the submissions that come in to be judged, and to promote the finalists and winners. We do the best we can with the budget that we work within. If people complain about the quality of the submissions, then they need to make sure that people with quality work submit their work, or provide sponsorship to help us further promote the initiative.

We apologize for any inconvenience that Joe may have caused.

Two quick things here, Tannis (setting aside the nonsensical concept of “unsolicited E-mail”):

  1. Don’t apologize on my behalf.
  2. I’ve got all the E-mails from last year and, if you wish, I can publish them. Then we’ll see who’s “trying to cause problems” in a “confrontational and abusive” manner. Are you sure you want that?

However, it is commendable that the producer of the Canadian New Media Awards has admitted that they’ll take any old nonsense that passes over the transom. That explains everything.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.05.02 15:29. 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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