[conspire] We don't support Mozilla

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat Apr 23 12:21:27 PDT 2005

Quoting Bill Moseley (moseley at hank.org):

> My goal is more to get management to ask their designers why they are
> not designing for standards and not testing on other platforms.  And
> to make them aware that their customers are not all using Windows.

A sane, worthy, and public-spirited goal.  Let's talk for a moment about
what happens, and the obstacles you'll likely face.

Bank manager Alice orders IT director Bob to develop a home-banking Web
site.  Bob knows this will be among the big items his annual review will
rest on, but mostly delegates the matter to henchman Carol.  Together,
they do a search of outside Web-design consulting firms, and eventually
engage the services of Jerry the Javascript Junkie.  (Bob and Carol
heave gusty sigh of relief at being able to outsource the job, since
they don't know bupkes about the Web.  They're old COBOL crankers.)

Several months later, Jerry demos the site he developed, and submits a
suitably ghastly invoice to Bob.  Alice thinks the site looks spiff, so
the bank deploys it for customer use.  (Maybe, in some cases, the bank
also puts Jerry's firm on retainer to handle any future matters that
come up, including customer problems.)  But note:  The site's _done_, 
Jerry got paid, and there's no staff (or mandate) to further modify it.

Feedback links on the home-banking site exist, marked as usably by
customer to send the bank comments about the site.  (Usually, this will
be a customer-opaque and infuriating Web form, but in rare cases an
actual mailto link.  But even the latter will show as going to a
non-personalised address such as homebanking@ .)

You try to use the site with Firefox, get advised to "upgrade" your
browser to blah blah blah, and make a beeline to the "feedback" feature, 
seeking to enlighten bank management about what a dumb error they're

That mail will go to... whom do you think?  Alice?  Fat chance.  She's
out at Olympic Country Club with her nine-iron.  Bob?  No, he's off
reading "Java Design for COBOL Users".

More than likely, your mail goes to Carol and/or Jerry's lowest-ranked
employee Dave, whom Jerry delegated the task of placating client customers.
Jerry's firm got paid a boatload of money for his basically awful site
design, and is currently trying to get a contract to do it again for the
bank's Australian subsidiary.  Dave's under orders to make any
perception of problems with the site go away, so that Alice keeps
thinking it's perfect.  Fortunately for him, Carol's absolutely his ally
in this effort, because her and Bob's asses are on the line.

So, Carol and/or Dave send you soothing form e-mail informing you that
they're sorry about your problems with the site, but regrettably Firefox
is not a supported Web browser, and [insert bogus justifications a, b,
and c, which will all be patently ridiculous to any technologist, but 
are designed to sound faintly plausible in the unlikely event of Alice 
ever hearing them].

You've probably collected a nice set of those wacky justifications:
They might, for example, be that only browsers foo and bar are supported
for security reasons, that non-standard browsers like Firefox cannot be 
guaranteed to render the site properly and so are excluded for reasons
of quality control, etc.  They go on from there.

Basically, you've hit a brick wall because the situation's been
deliberately set up so your complaint and advice will reach _only_
people powerfully motivated to drop it in the oubliette, make
double-sure Alice never hears it, and "thanks for your feedback".

As I see it, you have two choices:

o  Jump the hierarchy.  You want to make your case to Alice, not Carol and
   Dave.  One essayist calls this the "Art of Turboing".  You'll find his 
   essay linked from http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Essays/ .

o  Sidestep the problem (without assuming the task of enlightening your
   bank).  E.g., install User Agent Switcher, a Firefox/Mozilla XUL
   extension that lets you change your User Agent identifier on the 
   fly, to make your browser claim to be any other browser of your 
   choosing.  http://chrispederick.com/work/firefox/useragentswitcher/

In the "jump the hierarchy" department, occasionally sending mail to
some suitable departmental e-mail address like "sales@" is useful,
but probably not for banks.  In any event, heed essayist Rob
Levandowski's advice carefully:  Don't try to hit Alice (let alone her
executive assistant) with a long quasi-technical screed about how
important real Web standards are.  She probably won't get it, and won't
have time.

> Does anyone else do this?  Any suggestions on how to craft a reply
> that might actually make it to someone that manages their design
> process?  Think it would do any good to point out specific IE
> security issues?

So, the biggest question is:  _to whom_.

If you send what's perceived as a technical critique, it'll get referred
to Bob, who of course will bury it really deep.  Alice might be
motivated to listen, but not for long or in great depth.  (Again, read
the Art of Turboing essay.)

As to what to write:  I'm sure there's sample text out there.  I just
haven't looked for it.  (I'd go for the "sidestep" solution, myself,
while looking for a smarter bank.)

> I also grip about fonts (as my eyes get worse with age....). 

You know, there are ways to specify your own CSS style sheet to apply to
pages you're browsing.  I don't have anything about that in front of me.

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