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Awful state of web design in Malaysia
I was absolutely shocked recently when my friend Ken, who has been working in a web design agency for several years, admitted that he didn't know what XML was and had only "heard of" PHP. His only expertise were the use of the Adobe Suite, HTML (Dreamweaver, not hard-coding) and Flash.
He works for company, part of famous worldwide network of ad agencies and web design companies, that charges between RM100k - RM300k (USD$28k - USD$82k) for corporate web sites and maintenance for a year to international clients like Nestle, Kraft Foods and British American Tobacco.
His idea of sticky web design is pretty much cookie cutter. Every single recommendation he makes, whether it is for the local Ford distributor or Artic mint sweets includes chat rooms, corporate FAQs and Flash games. When I questioned him on making web sites more business-oriented rather than merely for communication, he gave me a blank stare.
In his defense, the vast majority of websites are made for communication only, as is this blog. But it does not make sense for businesses not to take advantage of the uniqueness of the internet as a medium of dissemination of information but also that of feedback retrieval. More importantly, it is also a medium that allows the conduct of sale of products, sometimes their distribution, as well as the collection of money. How can a web designer ignore that fact?
I can't generalise that this is the state of web design knowledge in Malaysia unless I take into account that Malaysia's business environment does not make a habit of partnership or supplier loyalty. Every job is a pitch between several web design agencies. To think that Nestle, Kraft Foods and BAT could not find any other agency that offered better knowledge of the web and web users is a sheer disappointment to me.
I had to spend an hour the other day showing Ken all the places that I go to on the internet and how to empower himself with the search engines in order to find the tools that he wanted. I had to explain to him that the web is the aggregator of human knowledge and experience. And that he could find any tool or service on the internet as long as his imagination let him.
The saddest part was: he wasn't motivated at all.
I can't say for certain that Ken is just one bad apple in a barrel of good ones. I can only hope his attitude doesn't contaminate the rest.
My father does this strange thing. He picks fights with me for no reason other than to assert his authority.
I would not have liked to have met my grandfather since he could produce a son who has such conflicted ideas of respect and parental rights that he would risk alienating his own son for the sake of gratifying his sense of self-worth.
The other night at dinner for instance, he brings up the topic of my using the lounge.. I say I only use it to watch some VCDs or DVDs.
Thinking that he would want to participate in this solitary activity, I mention that he probably wouldn't like the movies I watch since they were often in foreign language or art movies.
He replies as long as they were not pornography. You don't have any pornography in the house, he adds. I reply no. Then he emphasises No, I don't want any pornography in the house. I start to take offense at this and I repeat myself, No. Then he says "I am making a decision that there there is no pornography in my house" or something like that. And I take his bait and say "Are you accusing me of something?".
Thinking back along the line of progression of the conversation, it seems obvious now that he was merely prodding me. Goading me to take him on so that he could win the exchange, thereby making himself feel a bit bigger. More importantly, bigger, over me.
And he did win. I left the dinner table rather than be provoked further.
I have decided to watch out for further provocations in the future and attempt to change the subject to something that would flatter him or placate him such as mentioning the huge size of the fish he brought back for dinner or mentioning how hard he works every day for his family.
There's only so much a person can do with a family like that.
Yesterday a nosy bird in the office confronted me with the rumour that I come to the office in a chaffeur-driven car.
I felt embarrassed. Because that rumour had its basis in truth.
On occasion I arrive do arrive at the office in a Honda Accord with Shan, my step-mother's driver.
I grew up with my mother's side of the family after she was divorced from my father. It was the rich side of the family but I did not see a penny of it nor any of the privileges. On some days, I remember going without food, sometimes by choice because I wanted to save up for a school trip or because I bought some candy. I could never approach anyone for extra funds.
Through my experiences in childhood, I never associated wealth with high status or any of the affluence or intelligence that often goes hand-in-hand with it. Rather, I link it with cruelty and neglect.
My father has since then found his second wind after splitting with my mother and her family's connections. Being in the property development and management business, he has succeeded financially to the extent that he has a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz E-class and can live in a condominium in an exclusive tree-shaded part of town.
But to be seen as wealthy myself, by other people, is to be included in a group that I have little respect for and that deserves none of the admiration that's often accorded.
How To Be Verbally Abusive Without Verbal Abuse
With all the things that people do to me or the things I observe people doing to each other, I think I could write a book about how to treat other people badly.
There are numerous techniques with various goals:
1) Make someone feel less important by
- recalling past failures without reason
- being unresponsive
- refusing feedback
- avoiding him (not really verbal, but still serves its purpose)
2) Confuse a person to weaken his position
- recalling his words said in a previous conversion but changing them to diminish him
3) Make someone feel less capable
- suggesting that he should be incapable of making a mistake
- suggesting personal inadequacies
- refusing to work with the person
- exerting your own capability over his with the old favourite: I told you so/I knew you would do that
This list isn't inexaustible. Thanks to human ingenuity (and inhumanity), I don't think it will ever run out.
I called my friend Yasmin just now. She's in Thailand attending a conference for creative directors. It was 11pm in Chiang Mai, but she still picked up her phone. I can't understand it, but she's always there for me when I really need her.
I was really upset today. An art director at the office got really upset at me. She became very vocal. You'd think there wasn't enough oxygen in the world to continue her supply, but there she was, going on and on. And when she was through, she began a campaign among all our colleagues to blacken my name.
I told Yasmin about it (discreetly leaving out the details of the art director and the subject of the photo shoot) and she said, "Didn't you once shove a burger in the face of [another copywriter who was behaving like a jerk]? So tell her to fuck off. You're leaving anyway."
Yasmin has a way of putting things plainly. She made me laugh. And that was all I really needed. Thanks, Yaz!
Things are winding down at the office. I was stuck for several days and nights preparing a presentation to a client for the launch of the new Kuala Lumpur city air terminal and airport train service. ("Fly to the airport in just 28 minutes!")
Everything has basically been approved and I am proceeding into pre-production for a television commercial that's supposed to look really big but has a teeny tiny budget. That's the regular SNAFU at the office.
So for the last few days I managed to find the time to arrange a white-water rafting trip to Sungei Lipis, a river in some hills in central Malaysia, for a few colleagues and myself. Unfortunately we found out that at this time of the year, the river was a grade 1. We were hoping for a grade 4 river -- roller-coaster rough -- but that happens only during the monsoon season at the end of the year.
Sorry I haven't finished updating the Indore trip yet. I'm still writing it.