Hand Written Code Versus Auto Generate

The pages of the Scriblum web site are not generated using templates or WYSIWYG software programs, but written using coding editors such as Dreamweaver or even sometimes Windows Notepad.

Is this a good thing?

It’s a good question. Which is better, for example, the old style ribbon and percussion typewriter, or a snappy word processor running on a lightening computer? Come to think of it, extending that idea back a little, are hammer and chisel better than pen and paper?

One would think the arguments for or against any of these writing technologies would consider more than just the relatively superficial factors. Factors such as speed and ease of correction. Starting a new sheet of paper if you make a mistake is quicker and vastly more convenient than hauling out another slab of stone from the corner of your cave.

The same applies to comparisons between paper-and-pen and the ribbon-typewriter, and also, it is clear, between the ribbon-typewriter and the computer-word-processor assemblies. Typewriting is faster than handwriting if neatness and legibility are considered. And cutting and pasting from one section to another rather than re-writing, that is certainly an advantage of a word processor over pen and paper.

Each new technology has brought superior benefits to the writing process, and without such advances we would be literally stuck in the stone age.

Can a similar comparison be applied to software tools? Specifically, coding editors such as Dreamweaver and Notepad on the one hand, and template/WYSIWYG applications such as WordPress, Blogger and Weebly on the other? Coding editors preceded templates and WYSIWYG, and indeed are much “slower” and take some skill to master. So it would seem that using templates and WYSIWYG is an improvement.

But someone who is coding using Dreamweaver, and possibly even just Notepad if they are inclined towards masochism, may like to argue that what they lose in speed they gain in flexibility and power of creation. Templates are limited they might say, because they are fixed both in diversity and individual design, and to alter them you do need to know something about raw code. WYSIWYG tools are also limited, since you can create websites only using the features that have been programmed into the software. Things are set to improve that is true, as the technology advances, but currently, creating dynamic and powerful websites using templates and WYSIWYG without programming knowledge is very difficult, the hard coder will argue.

However, for most of the time and for most people, what they are creating is not the actual website. It is the content, the majority of which is text and images and perhaps other media such as sound and video files occasionally. For most people all they want is for the website to work reasonably well, and for this, templates and WYSIWYG serve the purpose. They are not interested in being the world’s best website creator, just as a novelist doesn’t care to be the world’s best typist or indeed how to repair a typewriter or PC. Likewise, beyond a competent grasp of how to use them to write down or display your ideas, nothing more needs to be known about template software and WYSIWYG tools.

As such, and especially as they evolve and become more powerful, templates and WYSIWYG tools represent a real advance, enabling the majority to use media that was once only accessible to the “scribes” and “high priests” of the programming elite- just as writing was the preserve of an elite in ancient and medieval times.

But with all these advances down the ages from one media to another, and now from one form of a single media to another (that is, advances among different kinds of software), has something been lost along the way? Is something sacrificed with gain in speed and flexibility, and in overall convenience?

Possibly. One could argue that stone tablets are not simply information-carrying media, but also sculptures with some aesthetic value in addition.  Engravings on temples and pyramids certainly look impressive, and they last a long time as well.

But realistically, there can be no argument over whether the advance to paper was an improvement. The first novel would still lie unfinished, surrounded by a wasteland of botched tablets and blunt chisels, with probably the author’s own gravestone in among them somewhere, had pen and paper never been invented. The gain then, in transitioning from stone to paper, is clearly greater than the loss.

Unlike stone tablets, the argument in favour of “older tech” appears at first glance to be rather stronger in the case of pen and paper, as compared to print and typewriters. Hand scripted works are certainly more attractive than type, and, extending the comparison, printed matter is certainly more attractive than a flickering word-processor screen.

Yet, if need be, or if we simply feel like it, can we not print or write by hand that which is speedily written on-screen? And even carve it in stone if we so wished?

Probably nearly everyone would like to see their works on paper and without doubt engraved in stone, but given these media are laborious and more crucially, time consuming, the fact is we are quite content with getting our works out and in circulation by the simplest means available.

But perhaps there is one reason for valuing the laborious, or shall we say, more challenging method of creating a website using hand written code. Simply, that one knows the personal effort and work that has gone into it, like a da Vinci or Rembrandt if you’ll permit, and for that reason it is more a product of the author, and somehow more genuine.

So perhaps something could be said in favour of a roughly hewn website, one that spectacularly fails to sing and dance in front of your eyes. Though it doesn’t sing and dance, it is at least unique. The sentiment is akin to the turnaround in the prestige of mobile phone ownership, wherein these days a person without one is to be admired and their company sought rather than be scorned and looked down upon as they would have been a decade ago. And if you are lucky to know anyone without a mobile device of any kind, and perhaps also without even a clunking desktop-PC at home, you’ll also know they are thankfully not given to singing and dancing.

Though of course this could all be an apology for the Scriblum website, and employing a clever programmer who can do the singing and dancing for you is could be a better option.

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