Gill Smith
Gill Smith - Comedy Writer & Performer

Gill's Journal, Issue

Eureka
Quarterly magazine of The ARM Club the Leading Independant
RISC OS Computer User Club.
An interesting phenomena that I've noticed recently is the fashion for websites designed specially for women. Suddenly the web is becoming all equal opportunities, and we girls get sites with content specially designed for our interests. Of course, all we women are interested in is make up, cooking, and having babies. Oh, sorry, I forgot, we all really love ironing too.
Gill Smith looks into girl power on the web where womens' interests extend futher than make-up, cooking, babies, the joy of ironing and even handbags.

A lot of specific websites can be a little bit patronising, especially for those of us who aren't that concerned about what the very most fashionable colour of nail varnish is (yes, girls paint their nails - they aren't a different species!) Do we really need to be treated as some sort of minority group, when women mildly out-number men in this world? However, there is an interesting point, which is that lately, sisters are surfing it for themselves. Or at very least, the people with money to invest think so. Statistics do back this idea up, and some of these sites do manage to get beyond the obviously 'girlie' stuff, into something worth spending your phone bill on.

It's also been said, many times (I clearly hang around the wrong people), that on the internet, no one can tell you're a dog. That's not an insulting term, it's supposedly referring to the canine breed. Theoretically, if your dog can type, it can log itself onto a chat room, and have deep and meaningfuls with anyone who'll listen, without anyone knowing what gender they are, let alone species. (That might explain the phone bill!)

It is an interesting concept that chat rooms, and the web as a whole, allow close relationships to develop between people in different continents, who generally use aliases better suited to small animals. But now, all of a sudden, instead of the internet catering for all, everyone seems to be designing web pages for specific groups - from us girls to 'Silver Surfers' like Toby's gran.

Why do we need these specially targeted pages? Maybe it's simply because you have been lied to all along. That wonderful relationship you had with 'sparky' on the other side of the Atlantic was actually a seventeen year old geek, acting out his fantasies to be a girl. He knows he's too sad to meet one, so it was the next best thing... Please, at least postpone the proposal until you've met in person. You might not want to be married to an axe-murdering cyclops, and Americans are almost as good at suing as I am at generalising!

In my opinion regular sites remain more male focused. One of the most popular competition prizes does happen to be a DVD player. Now I crave a DVD player as much as the next person, but that's only really because the next person is Toby. He regularly reassures me that he can cope without all the gadgetry of his friends, and much prefers having a wife, but I know he would secretly still like be better equipped to join in the 'My-widescreen-is-wider-than-yours' contests. If we had that bigger TV with surround sound, he might even stay awake for the whole of 'Frasier'!

However, I'm sure there were some girls out there trying to win portable mini-discs, rather than the expensive shopping spree, even before the launch of handbag.com. (Yes, it does exist.) So what's changed - why do we need these sites now? Maybe because women have decided that there's really no reason why they should all pretend to care about the internal workings of their enormous digital TV, so long as it works. Women are actually trying to be their varied, complicated selves. Even on the internet.

It's only the 21st Century after all. We've got the vote, those career thingies, and can now get nannies - women of course - to look after our children while we try to have a life. We can even BeMe.com. Hmmm. Is this Emmeline Pankhurst's dream come true? At least these days it isn't quite so uncool to bookmark the world's largest collection of bread recipies, alongside the TV guide and the ARM club's page. Well, you never know when you might need to impress the in-laws!

Recently, however, we've seen that in the internet business, age certainly doesn't come into making money, which allows gender to be less of an issue. The making of twenty-something millionairess Martha Lane Fox, or the-blonde-one-from-Lastminute.com, as you'll probably know her, hasn't been stopped by her having to take months off on maternity leave, or hitting an industry glass ceiling. The web cash possibilities still haven't found any sort of ceiling.

Perhaps that's what means women are suddenly interested in it: money, power, freedom... yep, I'm tempted. All it seems to take is adding 4 characters to make your fortune. Excuse me while I launch "Gill.com"... Rodney, you plonker, this time next year we'll be millionaires! In fact, this time next year, 'Thingumiejig.com' will have spent a fortune on marketing, have never made a penny, and float on the Stock Exchange for at least a pound a share, promptly rising to silly heights, before plummeting back again. The following year it'll announce record losses, and the share value will go right back up. I don't know much about the money markets, but I have spotted something a little strange going on here.

So does this pretend money actually move into the RISC market, or is it still awaiting the female touch? Perhaps feminine intuition tells us that the market really needs something extra. How about marketing? Is it too late to turn around the industry, corner a decent market share, and end up with people reminiscing about the days when you used a PC, and could get away with doing far less work by blaming it on the machine? I'm not sure. But it will be easy for RISC systems to get lost when there's so much new technology going on.

What with WAP - the web on your mobile, and all this web-through-your-TV stuff, many companies are focusing on developing web sites for those, rather than for your old A5000. The spoddier among you could have a lot of fun e-mailing web-site designers with exactly what is wrong with their site, and why it doesn't display correctly in your browser. Tell them how to fix it too, after all, the poor fools have probably only tested in the browser supplied by our friend Bill.

So what I'd like to do is start a competition. If 'Yell' can do it, so can we. I'd like your nominations for best websites. I don't mean ones that you surf from the work PC. I mean ones that you can actually see every single bit of, and where the functionality works well from your Acorn browser of choice. Please also nominate the most totally pants ones that mean you only know what site it is because someone kindly left a URL at the top of the page. I'll have a look over them, and we'll announce the winners at RISC OS 2000 at Epsom, and in the subsequent magazine. We'll also announce the most rubbish, in a valiant attempt at shaming them into doing something helpful.

Please nominate Best and Worst in the following categories: website, news site, ISP. Please state which browser(s) you used, so I can get an idea of whether a site works or fails for a lot of people on different browsers. I'll then get the ARM Club committee to judge and when we've announced the news, at Epsom, I'll e-mail the webmaster at each of our winners and losers, and let them know. It might not do anything at all to change the way the industry looks at RISC machines, but at least we'll have fun trying!

Written by Gill Smith. Published Summer 2000. Reproduced with permission.