Pitchfork Web Developers – Rating: 3.4

danieltalsky | Reviews | Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

(…as snottily posted to the Pitchfork Media contact form last night after seeing a stupid error on their site)

In the modern 2.0 era of web development, AJAX and Social Networking features are easy to come by.  It seems that people need to be able to see each message they type to fade out to a soft grey before it's promptly cross-posted to Twitter, Friend Feed and Facebook.

It seems strange then, that meta-meta-meta reviewers Pitchfork Media have managed to leverage their brand online so poorly.  Like the sad old print media music reviewing they've only barely begun to edge out, they seem stuck in the past, with an "if it were good enough for my grandpappy, it's good enough for me" attitude.

Either that, or the poor publication is so impoverished that they can only afford to whip a poor tired intern into writing and maintaining a sadly aging PHP web application.

For basically a glorified blog, it doesn't have to do much to succeed at its task: serve ads, produce a competent full-text search (not too difficult in 2008, Lucene, guys), perhaps even separate its content into one RSS feed for the reviews and one for the news, and serve ads.

Alas, it fails even in these regards.  The design is pretty enough, but I suspect "Some Odd Pilot", much like some agnostic's conception of God, created the site and left it for dead.

For instance, one thing professional web developers tend to do, is in their PHP config files, turn debug output OFF, so that hapless users don't see a stack trace including SQL statements and file paths like tonight's excellent partial-showstopper:
Warning: Table './pfork_media/sessions' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT u.*, s.* FROM users u INNER JOIN sessions s ON u.uid = s.uid WHERE s.sid = '6c20c3ddb945e1dcb13e6c0bfcdd2e43' in /usr/www/users/pforkm/media/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 128

Really though, all of this is nitpicking.  Reviews are the core of the site.  Why can't I see a list of reviews by month?  Why do reviews show up on the RSS feed before they show up on the website?  Why is there no good way to page back chronologically through reviews on the site?  Why can't I sort them by Artist?  Album?  Are these guys actually generating revenue?  They seem so smart!

And hey, I don't want to drop the 2.0 bomb on you guys.  It doesn't have to fade or anything, but has anyone heard about this idea of building community around a website by allowing users to have profiles and communicate with each other?  Want a tip guys?  WordPress, out of the box could do a better job.

(Final note: I love Pitchfork Media and totally worship at their altar.  For those who don't get the joke, this is me writing a Pitchfork-Style review in something like their format.  I hope they find it 1/3 as clever as I do, they're kind of the original music snobs.)

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