Geoff Chappell - Software Analyst
As an experiment—and it might never be more than that—this website has a button to enable communication with Facebook. After all, if readers have in mind to talk about computer programming on social media, then I should like that they talk about this site.
A detraction to Facebook’s buttons to Like or Share a web page is that Facebook’s directions would have the page “phone home” to Facebook just for being browsed. People sometimes express both awe and anxiety at how Facebook and other social media are so well able to suggest interests, music, reading, people and whatever else. But there’s no surprise. If you browse the Internet such that you run scripts and accept cookies, then you’re giving the world a licence to track what you do.
You visit a page for the My Obscure Interest company and you may or may not notice some buttons that invite you to share your interest on social media. Such buttons may be inert until you click them. The text at My Obscure Interest’s website may be from HTML files on My Obscure Interest’s web server. The images on the buttons could all be GIFs and whatever, again at My Obscure Interest’s web server. It could be that you browse all day at My Obscure Interest’s website and only you and the My Obscure Interest company know about it unless you click on a link or an icon because you actually do want to follow an idea to another website.
This, however, would not help the Social Media company with their business model. Instead, those buttons are tied to scripts and cookies. Whether you click the button or not, your computer which you—and possibly the My Obscure Interest company, too—think of as browsing just My Obscure Interest’s web server has already contacted Social Media’s server. Cookies on your computer from when you were logged on to Social Media can tell Social Media not just that someone visited My Obscure Interest but that you specifically did. If you’re not logged on at the time, Social Media’s scripts that you’ve run while browsing My Obscure Interest can save cookies for later and put two and two together when you do log on.
Maybe you like the world this way, maybe not. At this website, you can involve Facebook if you want. Indeed, if you’ll speak well of the scale and depth of my work, then I should very much like that you spread the word. But I won’t force you to talk to Facebook just for reading what I write.
If you run this website’s scripts while browsing this website, then each page gets a Facebook icon at its upper right. It is as inert as any link. It does nothing unless you cilck on it. Only when you click on it is Facebook contacted for Facebook’s script. If you choose not to run Facebook’s script, the icon disappears. If something goes wrong with running Facebook’s script, then the icon may disappear. Ordinarily, however, it will be replaced by Facebook’s Share button. Whether you then click it or not, Facebook already knows you’re here!
But please do share. I do a lot of research and writing for this website, mostly in a lot more detail than you might have thought possible, and all published for free. It only works, and can only continue, if supported by consultation (but not overwhelmed by it), and there won’t be enough of that without recommendation. So, please do share.
If the Facebook icon misbehaves or is just too cumbersome, then please write to me. If you can, please include some ideas of what to do about it. After all, I’m not a web author: what’s meant to be this website’s real work, of mining Windows for insights that help programmers program more confidently, is more than hard enough.
It is clumsy to have to click twice, first to see Facebook’s intended button with the count, and then to call up Facebook’s Share dialog. I may yet automate this.
I may also have my own scripts “carry” the readers Facebook preference from page to page, as already done for instance with the TOC expansion.
Facebook’s scripts make a bit of a mess when run on Internet Explorer 7, not because of the way I run those scripts, but even if on a page that follows Facebook’s directions. It’s one thing if Facebook, with all its resources, doesn’t write its scripts to work for Facebook’s purposes when run on old browser versions, but it would be nice if they at least took care not to affect anything else on the page. Of course, my own pages probably don’t present well with even older versions. It’s the way of progress in this industry. Yet it unsettles me that large companies who have the resources to attend well enough to compatibility prefer not to, and then benefit, albeit in a small way, from cultivating the mass market to think that software has some intrinsic need to keep being updated.