"On David Blaine."   British tech-blogger Ian Betteridge links to a screed about magician David Blaine in hopes that people will think less highly of the man. Sadly, the Internet does not click through, and even thinks Blaine can cure chronic disease.
From Technovia . Filed under: celebrity,help me,money,youth —  Comments (4)
i’m from bulgaria.i have multiple sclerosis/ms/and i cann’t walk.dear david [blaine],would you help me,would you get me start to walk.

This is not in the comment thread on the linked page, but sometimes the email that site managers get related to gumbabies is even stranger than the comments. The email was passed along to a friend of mine who passed it on to me with the blogger’s permission.

The blogger expressed bafflement that commenters are “asking David to intercede on their behalf with… God I presume.” From some other comments in the thread, it appears that perhaps Blaine was alleged to have helped someone win the lottery.

By the way, I say “British tech-blogger Ian Betteridge” merely as a guess. Like so many of us, dude does not have a page explaining his blog or himself at all. The more I do this work, the more tired I get of this kind of stupid oversight. Betteridge was clever enough to title this article “ON David Blaine,” making it clear this wasn’t Blaine’s site, but then he undoes that useful work by failing to describe who HE is. Clueless 1, Blogosphere 0.


  1. Oh, you missed the clearly-marked “About” link then? It’s over on the right of the page. At the top. Just above the picture of me. You really can’t miss it, but it links to if you can be bothered.

    Comment by Ian Betteridge — December 10, 2008 @ 7:05 am

  2. Link all you like, Mr. Betteridge, but it really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s in the right hand column: . Not to mention that the link is hanging out with a bunch of ads and banners (see and also ) The header to its right, meanwhile, is not a link, and stylewise, headers don’t usually go anywhere.

    OK, OK, I’m hardly one to talk, with my own craptacular antiquated design here, and you really do better than most people. You’ve satisfied Nielsen’s first two conditions here: (yay author pic, and yay About page, which I missed, yes). Personally, though, I’m about ready to say Nielsen ought to amend that and say “put a written bio on the front page.” Seriously, though, I’m not a style wonk; I’m just reading so many pages like this for my dissertation that I get as tired of bloggers and their readers calling average Internet users idiots as I do people who’d like David Blaine to bring their ancestors back from the dead and make them twice as bright and shiny and friendly as they were before.

    Not that a written bio matters, though. I think my upcoming analysis of turn-taking on blog comment threads is going to demonstrate that people only read what is onscreen at the moment — and if they have scrolled down to the comment box on an already-long thread, they won’t see your About link at the top of the page, only the five or so comments which precede their own. (I imagine someone else has already come to this conclusion; there is nothing genuinely surprising in new user interface studies.)

    Comment by Gus Andrews — December 19, 2008 @ 12:47 pm


    I think you may be over-egging the usability pudding. If the lowest-common-denominator of user you’re aiming at is the kind of person who posts on random web pages asking a cheap stage magician they’ve never met to deliver them a miracle, then you’re going to be designing some very interesting pages. With no words longer than two syllables, and very large type.

    Comment by Ian Betteridge — December 19, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  4. I think you’re under-egging the user.(?) Bloggers tend to stereotype errant commenters as ignorant, illiterate inbreds, but frankly, I think the problem is more that the Internet doesn’t behave like anything else we’ve been trained to read in school. That goes for both search engines and blogs, not to mention everything else.

    My favorite example to demonstrate that is in the Maury Povich thread: Search for “alvena” and you’ll find the comment. This letter is written in a very literate style, right down to the line spacing and addressing. The writer is a college student. Her major error is that she put this letter in the wrong place — not something she is likely to have been taught by a teacher, especially in the U.S. where technology education at most schools has been basically crap for years and most teachers don’t even have reasonable Internet access at school.

    Similarly, see this comment directed at Dean Kamen: . I’m not sure what “lowest common denominator” we’re talking about, here, but my perspective after having read literally thousands of comments like these on blogs (blogs which are frequently written by the people who create the Internet on a code level, by the way) is that blogs are simply not written or coded as transparently as bloggers assume they are. And I started out as someone angrily trying to cope with comments like these on my own site:

    P.S. I hear you know Yoz Grahame? We worked together at Linden Lab (speaking of usability nightmares).

    Comment by Gus Andrews — December 20, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

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