A Visitor from the Planet Clueless

On 1 March 2002, a listserv I'm on for Web developers received the following email:

From: Joe Diggwert
To: wwwac@lists.wwwac.org
Subject: [wwwac] dealing with A**holes
Date: 01 Mar 2002 15:23:19 +0000

can someone PLEASE explain to me the difference between Dreamweaver and HTML? I've been interviewing for jobs (fresh out of school! yay!) and I spent the last couple years in school becoming, quite frankly, an expert in the web. But I've had several interviews where they asked whether I knew HTML, CSS, DHTML etc., and I told them no, no one uses those anymore!!! I use Dreamweaver and most websites are coded IN Dreamweaver, NOT HTML. I don't want to embarass these numbskulls, but can anyone help me out? how do I politely take them to school?


Joe Diggwert
Designer to the Stars

G.E. responded to Joe with:

Oh my god….I'll have whatever he's been smoking…

can't think of something hurtful enough to say…..mind…reeling…

J.G. responded to Joe with:

It's ok. 10 years from now he'll be able to look back on this and feel stupid and hurt all over again.

J.F. responded to Joe with:

This is a troll, right?

Ma.F. responded to Joe with:

Joe has to be someone's online community sociology experiment.

O.A. responded to Joe with:


J.G. responded to Joe with:

Dreamweaver classes: $450
Hotmail Account: free
Summing up everything you know in one email: 5 minutes

Starting a Friday flamewar that nobody can resist joining: PRICELESS

S.S. responded to Joe with:

Hey everyone!

Please give me 5 minutes to put on my flame-retardant suit and grab a couple of beers.

I'm gonna set up the lawn chair and watch the fireworks.

Thanks, gang!

D.D. responded to S.S. with:

wait for me!!!

M.F. responded to Joe with:

Oh, no, please, you didn't actually say that to anyone did you?

Please take a deep breath and read on.

I just asked my wife, who has a background in pottery, what the difference wasbetween Dreamweaver and HTML, and she said "Dream weaver is a program and HTML is a language". Works for me.

Dreamweaver is a software product that generates Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and so on. Saying that you are an "expert" in the web and equating the product "Dreamweaver" with HTML is akin to declaring that America Online is the Internet.

Worse still is your assertion that these people are "numbskulls" when in fact, the person who must have had a spinal block installed is you.

Perhaps you are just out of school, but apparently it was a school of animal husbandry or welding, certainly not anything to do with the web or the internet.

I'd propose that you get a few basics in line before you declare yourself an "expert" in things web.

J.L. responded to Joe with:

It's an uphill battle. I'm a literary professor, and trying to get the kids to understand that English has been deprecated in favor of speaking Microsoft Word has been the greatest challenge of my life. I actually have to keep reverting to English on lists like this because people are so far behind, they're still preparing for y2k.

Oh well, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make them drink though a crazy straw.

G.M. responded to Joe with:

So us some of your work, oh 'web professional'. We could all do with a laugh.

In response to G.M., Joe Diggwert responded with:

I was tempted not to reply to this obnoxious emailer, but since there have been repeated requests for examples of my Dreamweaver works, here's a couple:

http://www.morehead-st.edu (my alma mater)
http://www.louisvillelaw.com/law_office_management/ (a website I designed. someone else took over, I don't know what they've done to it so no guarantees)

B.B., trying to be helpful, responded to Joe's initial questions with:

i will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're not trolling.

HTML, CSS, and DHTML are the languages that web pages are written in. When you drag little bits of text and images around your screen in Dreamweaver,Dreamweaver is writing your page in HTML, CSS, and DHTML. I don't mean to be rude, but: don't consider yourself an "expert in the web" (or even close!) until you can look at some of the code Dreamweaver turns out and understand how it relates to the page itself. Learning basic, old-school HTML doesn't take very long (surf the web and "view source"; look for "html basics" on google), and will help you begin to understand what Dreamweaver does.

Also: many people use a combination of hand-coding and WYSIWYG, or all hand-coding—not everyone uses Dreamweaver & the like.

Good luck!

Joe Diggwert responded to B.B. (and others) with:

First of all, thank you for responding in a mature manner [B.B.]. I really appreciate it. And thanks for your response. However, I believe you are incorrect. There is HTML, and then there is FrontPage "HTML", Dreamweaver "HTML", GoLive "HTML" etc, which have nothing to do with the original programming language of HTML. Dreamweaver "HTML" has become the standard programming language of the web. Can someone confirm this?

Second of all, pardon my french, but WTF? why is this a flame-worthy topic? I asked a simple question. Requiring old HTML for web design is like sending someone to car repair school, teaching them computerized diagnostics systems, and then not hiring them because they can't replace the pistons on a 52 DeSoto.

J.J. now responded with this email, sent to both the list and CC'd to faculty at Morehead U.:

Morehead State faculty,

A recent Morehead State web design course(s) alum remains unconvinced that his own understanding of markup language fundementals contradicts the standards set forth by the W3C and the standard practices of the professional web development community at large.

Can you be of any assistance? I found your emails on the www.morehead-st.edu site.

See below, starting with his initial post at bottom. His initial post (at bottom) received a number of responses figuring it for an attempt at humor,as one might imagine on an active list of professional web designers and applications developers (wwwac.org list). However, there have been several serious attempts of veteran development professionals to explain matters to him but, still, he remains unconvinced. In addition to his misguided idea of Dreamweaver being its own language "have [having] nothing to do with the original programming language of HTML," he continues to shun the helpful suggestions of the community of professionals on the list regarding how he might come to work in the industry. The professionals suggest, to no avail with him, that even entry-level professional web design candidates require hand-coding skills in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, etc. due to the needs of custom development and the cookie-cutter limitations and artifact-laden drawbacks of WYSIWYG website authoring tools, in addition to other factors that limit the tools' use in the professional marketplace.

Perhaps he might be more receptive to advice from his former teaching staff?

Thanks in advance.

K.T. now responded to Joe's initial post with:

I sincerely wasn't sure if you were joking or not. The reason is that no one who actually creates web pages professionally (as opposed to maintaining a page actually created) would ask what you asked—and I'm not saying that to be mean.

Joe responded to K.T. with:

Well it sure sounds mean doesn't it? I AM a web professional. A DREAMWEAVER professional. Maybe my understanding of HTML is slightly off, but that's no reason to insult and slander (not you KT, but all the other know-nothing web "experts" on this list who are too busy talking about flame retarded suits to respond intelligently).

I will go to W3C and all the other sites recommended. However I believe my fundamental understanding is correct. Frankly I'm confused. How are you guys designing browser-readable sites if not in Dreamweaver or one of the other programming applications (FrontPage etc.)??

M.F. responded to Joe's response to K.T. with:

Don't make this worse than it already is. You can be a Dreamweaver professional in the same way that you can be a Photoshop or Quark or Avid professional. But put it into context.

My brother is a professional woodworker. He makes furniture. He's particularly talented with a Lathe and also he's a wizard with a band saw. But his business card does not say "Professional Lathe Operator" it say "Maker of Fine Custom Furniture"

Again, don't confuse the TOOL with the TALENT.

Your confusion over how people code sites without Dreamweaver is indicative of a disconnect between the underlying principles of markup languages and related information presentation and rendering tools.

Not only is it possible to code a web site or web page or template without Dreamweaver, it is common. Have a look at this web site: www.stickydata.com and look at the work they do for Dow Jones. Virtually all of the web page code they do—the HTML and all that—is done "by hand" meaning that they use text editors like BBedit, vi, emacs and so on to write the instructions that various web browsers will interpret into a display of information. …

So back to my earlier points. Just in general, you won't have much success coming right out of school declaring yourself to be an "expert" at anything. You aren't an expert at anything at all and that may be your greatest advantage. With no preconceptions, and some skills you have an opportunity to learn much more than they taught you in school.

… if you are willing to listen to the cranky old folks on this list, in between the sniping and nasty notes, they are telling you something, loud and clear.

They are saying: You were given wrong information. You have an opportunity—and an obligation to yourself—to quickly and without hesitation expand your thinking about web development.

I'd suggest that you consider yourself an expert perhaps in a single tool that is used in web development, but like a carpenter who can only use one kind of saw, you have much to learn. Take this chance to listen to what is being said, and realize that the people who make a living at this stuff have much deeper and fundamental knowledge of of the complexities and idiosyncrasies of HTML, DHTML, CSS, JavaScript, ActiveX, Shockwave & Flash and so much more. People who do this stuff for money are here right now on this list. LISTEN TO THEM. It's worth more than any college degree to get real-world advice and opinions from the people who do this stuff every day.

There are over 2,000 people on this list. Your words will be remembered and what you say here WILL intersect with your "real-world" life, whether you want it to or not.

Soon afterward, Joe was kicked off the list. It was later determined that he was, in fact, a troll. When I emailed the folks overseeing the list, asking them how it was determined he was a troll, I received the following from S.B.:

Several things contributed to the conclusion. Things like the fact that the name didn't register any hits on any of the major search engines, like Google. Or that his claimed alma mater didn't have any records of him. Nor could any "Diggwert" be found in any people finder. None. He also refused to respond to several queries from the List Team, though none of this was enough to be the fatal strike against "him." The final straw was that the only other time his IP was used was with a different identity used to ask about getting a list of subscribers.

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