Friday, July 20, 2007

Compulsive clickers, unite!

When I read on a computer, I do this thing -- I click on the words. More specifically, I double-click and highlight words on either edge of the text, in a sweeping pattern that roughly follows my eye movement. If you're not a clicker, I can't explain to you why I have to click on the words. It's just how I do.

Why do I bring this up? Because we compulsive clickers are being persecuted. News websites, starting with, have been adding a "feature" that displays a pop-up dictionary entry for any word you double-click in a story. Kriston Capps explains how tragic this is for "screensifters" who read the Times here.

Now I discover that my college paper, The Michigan Daily, has joined the dark side. And this iteration of the pop-up dictionary is even worse than the original: It evades pop-up blockers by using Flash or something to display a definition from instead of opening a new window.

The Daily's current editor tells me College Publisher, the paper's Web provider, added the pop-up "feature" a few days ago. He's not sure whether it can turned off, and he thinks he'd probably leave it on because, in his estimation, the only people who obsessively highlight random text are current and former Daily news editors. His other comment for the record was vulgar but quickly retracted.

This raises two questions:
  1. How much money is College Publisher (which is owned by a division of MTV Networks) getting from in exchange for adding the pop-ups to its 450 or so sites?
  2. Why not let users turn the pop-ups off? I would go so far as to call this an accessibility issue.
I'll report CP's response when I get it.

1 comment:

i am northwestern said...

the times website drives me CRAZY as well. that function seems quite useless to me... i wish they would knock it off.