Not Following the Script

13 April 2015

I frequently run across the problem of websites whose coders silently presume that all their visitors of interest have Javascript enabled on their browsers. Yester-day, I found this presumption affecting a page of someone whom I know (at least in passing), which prompts me to write this entry. (The person in question did not generate the code, but could suffer economic damage from its flaw.)

The reason that one should not presume that Javascript is enabled on the browsers of all visitors is that Javascript is itself a recurring source of security problems. Careful users therefore enable Javascript only for sites that they trust; very careful users enable Javascript only for sites that they trust and even then only on an as-needed basis; and paranoid users just won’t enable Javascript ever. Now, in theory, the only visitors who might interest some site designers would be careless users, but we should look askance at those designers and at their sites.

(And trusting a site shouldn’t be merely a matter of trusting the competence and good will of the owner of the domain. Unless that owner is also owner of the server that hosts the domain, one is also trusting the party from whom the site owner leases hosting. In the past, some of my sites have been cracked by way of vulnerabilities of my host.)

A designer cannot infer that, if-and-when his or her site doesn’t work because Javascript is not enabled, the visitor will reälize that Javascript needs to be enabled; many problems can produce the same symptoms. Most of the time that sites don’t work with Javascript disabled, they still don’t work with it enabled. Further, the party disabling Javascript on a browser might be different from the present user; the present user might have only vague ideas about how web pages work. (An IT technician might disable Javascript for most browsers of users at some corporate site. Some of those users, perhaps very proficient in some areas but not with IT, may be tasked with finding products for the corporation.)

The working assumption should typically be that Javascript is not enabled, as this assumption will not be actively hurtful when Javascript is enabled, whereäs the opposite assumption will be actively hurtful when Javascript is not enabled.

The noscript element of HTML contains elements or content to be used exactly and only if scripting has been disabled. That makes it well suited to for announcements that a page will work better if Javascript is enabled

<noscript>
<p class="alert">This page will provide greater functionality if Javascript is enabled!</p>

</noscript>

or not at all if it is not enabled.

<noscript>
<p class="alert">This page requires Javascript!</p>

</noscript>

(It is possible to put the noscript element to other uses.) So a presumption that Javascript is enabled certainly need not be silent.

However, in many cases, the effect got with Javascript isn’t worth badgering the visitor to enable Javascript, and the page could be coded (with or without use of the noscript element) so that it still worked well without Javascript. In other cases, the same effects or very nearly the same effects could be got without any use of Javascript; a great deal that is done with Javascript could instead be done with CSS.

Am I Very Wrong?

24 February 2015

Kindness come too late may be cruelty. I wonder whether I am too late.

In the Spotlight

18 December 2014

The most effective way to hide some things is to shine a light directly upon them. People will then not believe what they are shown.

καταγέλως μῶρος

17 December 2014

There’s a recurring joke that proceeds along these lines:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual What do you call someone who speaks just one language? American.

Sometimes, the reference is instead to the British. But let’s consider the reality that lies in back of this joke.

The vast majority of people who are bilingual speak English as their second language. Why English? At base, because of the economic significance of those who speak English, especially of those for whom English is their native tongue. This significance originates in the past scope of the British Empire, especially in North America. The American economy was once the world’s largest — at the present, the matter is muddled — and the combined size of the American economy with that of other primarily Anglophonic regions still exceeds that of the Sinophonic[1] or Spanish-speaking regions.

If no language had something like the economic significance of English, then most people who are now bilingual would instead be monolingual. As it is, they had good cause to know English, but it wasn’t their first language, so they learned it as their second.

Thus, mocking people for being strictly Anglophonic generally amounts to mocking them for having been raised amongst the peoples of the linguistic group that has the greatest economic significance. It would be actively stupid to mock them deliberately on this score, and doing so thoughtlessly is not a very great improvement.

(I’m certainly not saying that there are no good reasons for those who know English to learn other languages.)


[1] It may also be noted that the differences amongst what are called dialects of Chinese are often greater than the differences amongst what are regarded as separate languages. These variants of Chinese are labelled as dialects as part of a more general effort to create an illusion of national unity. Mandarin is a widely spoken language, but Chinese is really a family of languages.

To Write, or Not to Write, That Is the Question—

16 December 2014

I wonder whether I’m engaged in soliloquy. Some people have accounts on this 'blog, allowing them access to restricted entries, but I don’t know that anyone is actually logging-in and reading those entries.

Fated

30 November 2014

Off-and-on, I work on the plans for a couple of pieces of serial fiction. And thus it is repeatedly brought to my attention that, for the stories really to work, a profound necessity must drive events; essential elements must be predestined and meaningful.

This characterization contrasts markèdly from my view of real life. I think that people may be said to have personal destinies, but that these can be unreälized, as when we say that someone were meant to do or become something, but instead did or became something else. And, if I did believe that the world were a vast piece of clockwork, then I’d be especially disinclined to think that its dial had anything important to say.

Fifth Rejection and Sixth Attempt

30 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning. And, yes, that’s just how the previous entry began.

This time, an editor at the rejecting journal informed me that an unnamed associate editor felt that the article didn’t fit the purposes of the journal. I got no further critique from them than that. (It should be understood that, as many submissions are made, critiquing every one would be very time-consuming.)

With respect to my paper on indecision, I had some fear that I would run out of good journals to which I might submit it. With respect to this short article, I have a fear that I might run out of any journal to which I might submit it. It just falls in an area where the audience seems small, however important I might think these foundational issues.

Fourth Rejection and Fifth Attempt

11 November 2014

My short article was rejected by one journal yester-day, and submitted to another in the wee hours of this morning.

At the journal that rejected it, the article was approved by one of the two reviewers, but felt to be unsuited to the readership of the journal by the other reviewer and by the associate editor. Additionally, the second reviewer and the associate editor suggested that it be made a more widely ranging discussion of the history of subjectivist thought, which suggestion shows some lack of appreciation that foundational issues are of more than historical interest, and that the axiomata invoked by the subjectivists are typically also invoked by logicists. (I say appreciation rather than understanding, because the reviewer briefly noted that perhaps my concern was with the logic as such.)

I made three tweaks to the article. One was to make the point that axiomata such as de Finetti’s are still the subject of active discussion. Another was to deal with the fact that secondary criticism arose from the editor’s and the objecting reviewer’s not knowing what weak would mean in reference to an ordering relation. The third was simply to move a parenthetical remark to its own (still parenthetical) paragraph.

The journal that now has it tries to provide its first review within three months.

December Song

24 October 2014

As he lay in his death-bed, he expressed his profound sadness that he’d just never found the woman with whom he were to share his life. Some day, the right one will come along. insisted someone reflexively.

A nurse entered the room. Before the light completely faded into darkness, he saw her look at him and wink.

The Little Pink Little Blue Book

20 October 2014

I have made available a PDF file assembling scans of Little Blue Book 1564, Homosexuality in the Lives of the Great, by J[ames] V[incent] Nash. The file size is 51,140,131 bytes.

This Little Blue Book seems to be one of the more difficult to acquire. I don’t know if that’s because the existing stock is peculiarly small or because those who have copies are especially reluctant to part with them. Meanwhile, though my investigation concluded that the work has slipt into the public domain, I have not found the contents reproduced elsewhere.

Though the scans are imperfect, I believe that the whole body of the text is easily read. As to that imperfection, I was reluctant to increase wear-and-tear on my copy, and I did not want to commit a great many hours to the project.

There are passages in this booklet that will make many modern readers wince, but it represented a relatively enlightened view for the time in which it was first published (c. 1928).