Oh, What A Wicked Web

(For you local folks, this post has nothing to do with your recent web drama. In fact, the internet troll reference wasn’t just aimed at that situation either, though I think it obviously fit in some regards. Mainly, it was more of a broad-sweeping generalization on the current state of things i’ve been experiencing online in mutiple situations like the one I want to talk about right now.) 

As a designer, i’m using the web for researching, networking, working, and inspiration all day, almost everyday. You begin to take it personally. You know the ins and outs, the lingo, the ways to mind your manners and the ways to tick people off. But those are generalities, too, because you’re dealing with people on the other end of that ethernet connection, and people always bring with them their own sets of thoughts, actions, histories, and humanity.

Talking about, thinking about, and dealing with communicating on the web has turned into a sort of morbid hobby for me over the past year. What’s set me off recently has really been the hype surrounding the release of Shaun Inman‘s stats app Mint. I didn’t plan on writing about it, but the backlash made me mad. 

The abridged version is that Shaun is a designer and programmer who released a free stats program called ShortStat a while back. ShortStat eventually evolves into an app called Mint, which is then dispersed to friends to beta test before its release. These friends happen to be some of the more out-in-front and well-known designers and programmers in the web-standards design crowd. The beta testers make suggestions, Shaun makes changes, and the week before the release, the beta group, in a coordinated (by themselves) move, all talk about Mint on their respective blogs and sing its praises. Mint releases with a sale price of $30 per site. End of story, right? You would think so. But this is the internet, so you’d be wrong, thinking so-er.

What followed in the next 3-5 days was a lot of (well-deserved) praise from most and some isolated cases of outright stupidity, igonorance, etc. I was amazed to watch this thing play out, especially considering how quickly it went from release to hate/trolling. I think I sometimes forget how small the web itself can be (in a community sense) especially once you start breaking it down into the sub-groups like web designers, graphic designers, etc. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t that many of us. But let’s try to be objective and respond: 

1.There’s no excuse for Mint not working on Windows Servers.

There’s an excuse for ignoring Windows. It’s two-fold I think: getting the product to the market quickly and not trying to please everyone. Know the audience, deliver what they need. Sounds like good business. (And I don’t hear Apple users complaining about the array of things we can’t use because they’re Windows-centric.)

2. Mint isn’t worth $30, other stats programs are free and so Mint should be free. Where are the charts and graphs and why isn’t it just like every other stats program? Mint is useless. 

Mint is worth whatever people will pay for it. If you don’t think it’s worth $30, don’t buy it. What’s the magic number that would make these people happy? Maybe $20? $10? Why stop there? Maybe Shaun should pay me to use Mint. 

It’s his product, he set a value on it, and plenty of people were willing to pay for it. Again, you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I’d wager that Mint is very useful for ALL THE PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT IT. Projecting ideas and expectations of something onto everyone else and then being shocked if they like it is childish. “If I don’t like it, NO ONE can like it (or they’re stupid.)” Very lucid thought process. 

As for charts and graphs, Mint is a quick look at your stats in a rolling database. In short, perfect for some of us and our needs. If it doesn’t suit your needs, enjoy whatever does. Don’t hate on a product for not being what you want it to be. I don’t get mad at a Powerbook because it isn’t a G5.

3. I was excited about this, but now that it’s released, I feel cheated. 

Were we owed something? Did Mint promise something it didn’t deliver? Entitlement is the single most annoying facet of my generation. The mentality is that we are owed everything and when we don’t get it, the only option is to scream as loudly as possible about it to anyone who will listen. My parents’ generation had a phrase for those types of people; they called them “two-year olds.”

4. I know he developed it, but does he deserve $30 for every license?

Siiiigh. If he gets $30 for every license, then I say he’s got a viable app on his hands and I wish him all the luck with that. Again, good business. What would happen if you charged a client for work and they just arbitrarily said, “$30 an hour? I don’t think you deserve $30 an hour.”

5. It’s all a big marketing push from celebrity bloggers. You’d hype it too if you got a free license for saying you liked it.

Even though the reality is more along the lines of “some friends of Shaun’s beta tested Mint and liked it and so together, they decided to write about it”, if that wasn’t the case, since when is marketing the devil? It’s ok if Apple or Microsoft market products to us, but not one guy with a website trying to make some money on a very well-designed app? I think the majority of folks making these claims don’t realize that they’re going to need a lot of help to be successful in this industry. I, for one, enjoy the fact that his friends helped him make a better product, and then they loved it and told people they loved it. I want friends like that.

6. Why is everyone talking about this?

Double siiiigh. Because you’re listening. Everyone isn’t talking about it, just the sites YOU CHOOSE to read. They don’t force themselves on you. If you don’t like what you read, don’t read it. We choose to insulate ourselves into a very small community by our blog choices. Mint’s release didn’t make a blip in most circles (online or not), but if you’re the fanboy checking all those blogs, a small section of the population talking about one thing at one time is going to feel like hype. It’s all about perspective.

7. Caca poo poo.


And so, again, we’re back to everyone voicing their negative opinion. The web allows us to do this in an anonymous, accountability-free environment that most of us don’t live in during our daily lives. 

In this case specifically, if people don’t like Mint or don’t have a use for it, they shouldn’t buy it. But I wonder why so many felt the need to list all of the reasons they hated a product they’re not going to buy and cast disparagement on anyone who bought it, developed it, and tested it? What is it in us that makes us even open our mouths (or our laptops) for the sole purpose of saying, “Ugh, this SUCKS”? I’m all for intelligent debate, but more often than not, the online world is full of unintelligent debate and hate for hate’s sake. 

I think the old agade “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” needs to launch a huge comeback tour.