October 25, 2016

TL/DR: I made a friendly script to go under your website. Download it here.

Since moving to Greece, I’ve been using Facebook a lot more. I’ve never liked it, I still don’t, but everyone here uses it and usually nothing else, and I do find it fascinating in many ways. Anyway.

While trying to do something which is probably against the TOS earlier today, I opened the developer console in my browser while on Facebook, and was confronted by this message:

Facebook screenshot

If you’re not familiar with the developer console, it’s a tool which is part of your web browser which allows you to see the underlying code of the website you’re visiting. You can see the source code of the website, what it’s doing, some of how it works, and you can manipulate it in certain interesting ways.

I have actually seen the console used in this way before: several of my own projects include secret messages in the console for the more curious visitor, as do projects by other digital artists I’ve come across. But I’ve never seen a console message that’s so aggressive.

I understand why Facebook has done this: their users are subjected to many different and many nasty attempts to hack them, some of which include persuading them to do stuff in the console they shouldn’t do, like Self-XSS attacks. I also understand – but cannot condone – the way they’ve phrased their warning.

See, view source is a human right. Since the beginning of the web, thousands, probably millions, of users have bootstrapped their way to technical understanding through exploring the way the existing web is put together. I did. You might have done. And you, we, should be able to. And more than that, we should be encouraged to. For fun, for experience, for education, for revolution.

We should not be putting off those who are seeking to understand and explore. We should not be talking down to them. We should certainly not give the impression that code, the stuff that makes the world work and increasingly runs it, is not for you, little person, leave it to the grown-ups. It is for everyone.

So, I made a little script which will place a short, friendly message on any website, encouraging those who stumble upon it to explore further:


The message welcomes new users, and supplies them with links to learn more about where they are, what is happening, and how they can educate themselves further, if they wish.

You can find more information on the github page. Download it, use it, star it, send feedback, as you will.

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