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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of December 6, 1998

Ever get the feeling that you've entirely missed the point?!?

What the heck does that cartoon have to do with anything? I'm still not sure, but the answer will come to me hopefully . . . before the end of this update. It's been almost a week since the last news in this corner, but I've been sick most of that time and just haven't felt up to doing much of anything. However, I did spend more than a few hours going through the entire Hot Links file and dropping in on all 535 sites currently listed . . . and trying to reach a few dozen more that have disappeared since the last update of that page.

During my cyberspace travels, more than once I felt like reaching for another barf-bag as what I kept finding was enough to make one retch at times. What a wasteland of mediocrity, bad taste, bad design, bad spelling, bad grammar and just plain badness.

When I first joined the internet community nearly a year ago, the world wide web seemed like a shiny new toy. For the first few months I happily surfed around blindly, following every link I could find, trying to find everything that was out there. As time went on though, the "shiny" wore off and I began to look at the web with a slightly more critical view. And as my own website began to take shape and improve, I found myself venturing into the unknown less and less.

While there are certainly more undiscovered "treasures" out there, waiting for me to find them, and more being constructed every day, my travels have devolved to the point where, apart from the occasional visit to see if anything has happened lately at some sites, I find myself only visiting about 20 sites on a regular basis. Gee, that great big web got a lot smaller in a hurry, didn't it?

The plain truth is that most of the websites connected to drag racing have very little content, are very poorly constructed and do absolutely nothing to encourage a return visit. Some of the sites that I checked earlier this week had not been updated at all this year, in fact some hadn't been touched for nearly two years. Like many aspects of modern life, the web has a very high "refresh" rate and if it doesn't move forward quickly and regularly, then interest for the public fades just as quickly. Today's hot topic is simply tomorrow's old news. Andy Warhol's "fifteen seconds of fame" is rapidly becoming the web's "fifteen nano-seconds of fame".

What right do I have to criticize anyone's efforts though? Didn't everyone of those websites take some effort and time and money to create? Just like at the track, we can't all run a Top Fuel car (much as we'd all like to, right?), the same as we can't all be the next Horsepower Heaven. But, just like at the track, there is no excuse for showing up with a tired, old, primered beater instead of something with fresh paint, some go-fast parts and generally a piece that you can be proud of. And going slower every week, (metaphorically speaking) instead of going faster, is definitely not the way to go.

So, for all you webmaster "wanna-be's" or those who've put together something and just let it die of boredom, here's my personal TOP TEN Pet Peeves on the Internet list. They're not in any particular order, but are simply a collection of the elements that turn me off -- big-time. And if you can see some of the "attributes" of your site on this list, don't come bitching to me about it, get off your butt and fix your mess . . . then complain about me unfairly slagging your "effort". NO, I'm not going to put together a list of the ten worst sites on the net (at this time) but believe me, it would be a lot longer than ten . . .


    I've seen every glaring, clashing, poor taste, unwatchable, hard-on-the-eyes background in the universe during my travels. Almost every "home-made" site on the net uses the worst possible combination of backgrounds and font colours to drive people away as fast as their mouse can click. Ever heard the phrase, "Less is More" folks? You've got to put something up for a background (grey gets old in a real hurry) but why not go with something simple and light that doesn't detract from the text and graphics? Yeah, black is the cool colour of the late nineties, but in MODERATION . . . Please!


    This complaint is part and parcel of the previous "bitch". Combining bad backgrounds with unreadable text in colours that virtually disappear into the background . . . quite a combination, eh? Like putting together a 500 cid Brad Anderson fathead motor . . . with a 750 cfm carb on top. Ever hear the word "consistency" too? While I'm far from a "design" expert, one of the basics of good design is CONSISTENCY.

    Changing fonts (typefaces) every few lines, not to mention the chaotic colour changes that seem to go with them, just makes the viewer work that much harder to get the message. (Assuming you have any message to convey -- another foreign concept at many websites). As for spelling, grammar and punctuation . . . well, that's a whole 'nother topic. Did anybody go to school and learn any of this stuff? Presumably, but the lack of literary skills displayed all too frequently on the web is simply astounding.

  •    FRAMES

    Flavour of the year -- last year that is. In professional hands they can be useful for tying together varied elements on a page and making navigation more convenient. The majority (it seems) of sites employing them don't seem to have a clue (or even care) how ugly and obtrusive they look. Nothing, well almost nothing except for the first two items on this "bitch" list, turns me off faster than a site that seems to be constructed almost entirely with frames. (NOTE: I don't have Internet Explorer 4 or Netscape Navigator 4 or a 15" or 17" monitor, but neither does everybody on the net. Maybe with those upgrades, frames wouldn't look so bad . . . but somehow I doubt it).


    Tricks are for kids and so are "pop-ups". Forget 'em, if you haven't got something on the front page that grabs people's attention, then no amount of pop-ups is going to keep them. Not to mention the hassle of "killing" them so you can see what you came looking for in the first place. Thankfully this plague has not descended on too many drag racing sites . . . yet.


    Yeah, very trendy. What "business" are we in? Putting together "cool" websites or functional websites? You can have both, but just like all the other bells and whistles that are used to disguise a lack of content, no amount of java is going to make a dog into a pony. Not to mention the fact that most of the "scripts" have errors that cause big, ugly, noisy windows to pop-up announcing the error. Best analogy for this that comes to mind is the moron driving down the freeway in the fastlane with his left-turn signal on . . . I keep hearing the words "I'm stupid, I'm stupid, I'm stupid" every time it flashes.


    This could be sub-titled "how to make your site look like CRAP in a few easy steps". Let's ignore how long some of these atrocities take to ooze onto the screen, let's forget how they clash and detract from the content, let's just ask what the heck are they doing there? Of course, I still wonder why people willingly pay for t-shirts that advertise somebody's product. I don't go shopping for clothes too often (ANYBODY who knows me would testify to that), but everytime I venture into the stores, I'm amazed at how big the LOGOS have become on every item of apparel you can think of. What a great marketing concept . . . people pay for the stuff and then go out and advertise it for us for free - it's a win-win deal all the way. Yeah, for everyone but the shmoe who's paid for the right to promote the product. Simply put, if they haven't EARNED the right to be there, what are those banners doing on your page??

  •    "FREE" SITES

    Hope you're all sitting down to read this one. There is NO SUCH THING AS FREE. If it's "free" how much is it really worth? If an internet service provider is offering "free web space" do you really think its free? For those who don't have a website, do you have any idea how quickly 1 or 2 or 5 or even 10 MB of server space gets filled? Quicker than you can upload a dozen high-resolution photographs, a few banners and logos and a page or two of content.

    Then where do you go? Oh, for only -fill in the blank- per month we can give you your own "virtual" website. With an "address" so long that Einstein would go nuts trying to follow it. Of course, these free sites usually come with a "wizard" to set up the page, so even if you know nothing about HTML code, you can be a webmaster in a few easy keystrokes. And embarass yourself in public.


    Yeah, right!! Okay, I'll admit it, I've had those banners on some pages on my site for a while, in a few cases way too long, but if they're still up six months after the site goes on-line . . . I've got to wonder whether the creator has either died, moved to another continent, gone bankrupt, or what? The "under construction" ploy only works for a short time, don't try and stretch it or no one will believe you when you say the site is really up and alive.


    The original premise of the internet was the display and exchange of information. Get it?? INFORMATION. If you haven't got anything to say, then why are you wasting my time (and yours) cluttering up the internet. Three pictures of your 13-second GM-whatever and two lines of text under each photo and two lame links to ... oh, let's say .... NHRA and the local library do not a website make. If that's all you can provide in the way of content, then just forget it until you've got something useful to provide, something that somebody other than close friends and relatives could spend more than 10 seconds viewing.

    Of course, there are those that go right off the deep end in the other direction; telling us their life-story in excruiating detail ...last Tuesday, I had a Ham on Rye for lunch, then a Pepto-Bismol for a chaser . . .. Try spending a little time actually thinking about what people might want to see on your site and then sit down, stretch your fingers and start creating something.


    Like I said earlier in this update, nothing gets old faster than content on the "net". If you want any return visitors, you've got to have something to bring them back . . . BUT, if you don't have anything new or nothing's changed three months later, that first return visit will be their last. I got quite a chuckle out of sites that promised "regular" updates during the year, then didn't do anything. Oh sure, some had the results from the first race or two, or three, but then they just gradually ground to a halt. When the reality of how much work it is to keep things moving ahead sinks in, some poeple just give up and find another hobby. Or maybe they're just too busy. Well folks, if you're "too busy" why did you ever think you had enough time to "do" a website in the first place? Do it right, or don't even bother.

Whew, what a bunch of nasty words about websites. You might well ask, "Who the hell is he to criticize anyone else's site when his own is pretty lame in many respects?" I'm not claiming (far from it) to be anything remotely resembling an "expert" at this game, but in the eleven months or so I've been working on the NORTHERN THUNDER website, I feel I've learned a bit about how it's supposed to be done.

Not to say that I've exhibited any of that, yet, but I feel that I'm getting there . . . slowly. Maybe if I invested some money in a "turn-key" program like FrontPage, PageMill, HotMetalPro, etc., then I could get there a lot quicker. But that's not my style. I'd rather create everything from scratch, actually writing all the HTML "code" by hand and trying to understand what's going on as I'm doing it.

That's enough "web whining" for now, let's move on to some DRAG RACING News. While the only race in North America this weekend is taking place in perpetually (?) sunny Florida - the Snowbird Nationals (wonder if they're sponsored by the "Greater Miami Coke Dealers Association"?), the downunder racing season was active on two fronts.

Out on the West Coast at Perth's Ravenswood Raceway, the Golden State Championships featured the 2nd Round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championships. Victor Bray was the star from the start of qualifying and won the event to begin his run towards a possible fourth consecutive season championship. (The 1st round of the series, scheduled for Calder Park on Nov. 28th, was rained out and has not been rescheduled).

Claiming Low ET and Top Speed honours with 6.54 - 227.27 performances in the hot and humid conditions, Bray gained maximum points with his final round victory over local driver Dave Simpson. The "dark horse" entry of Gary Phillips, yes, the defending Top Alcohol (dragster) champion in a Perth-based Top Doorslammer, failed to materialize as problems during qualifying led to his withdrawl from the event. For further details on the meet, visit our NEW Race Report index.

Action was even hotter on Saturday night at Melbourne's Calder Park, site of the Victorian Championships featuring the 2nd Round of the Australian Top Fuel Championships. Making the action even hotter was the $50,000 bonus posted by Calder owner Bob Jane for the first 300 mph run in Australia. The bonus is still in "Uncle Bob's" pocket as no one produced the magical number, although Darren DiFilippo came closest at 298.40, but the bonus is now increased to $100,000 for the Australian Nationals, scheduled for March 18-20 at Calder. If the 300 barrier is broken beforehand, at Willowbank's New Year Series, the bonus goes out the window, but top speeds have never been that great at the "Bank", so the money seems safe until March.

More details on the Calder meet as soon as we get them; At the moment we don't even know who won the race, but we'll give you the "goods" as soon as we can. And next weekend we will have the details of the 3rd round of the Top Doorslammer series being run at Adelaide International Raceway on Saturday, December 12. Stay tuned for all the news.

Black Bar
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