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photos by Lara Shipley

Let My Mouseclicks Go!

February 28th, 2007 · 7 Comments


When I first heard Kriston Capps complain about the new “contextual dictionary” on the New York Times‘ website, I thought he was overreacting. Until I tried to read an article on the New York Times‘ website. Now I’m ready to join his Bring Back Free Clicking Campaign.

The new “feature” truly is beyond obnoxious: If you click around on the page as you read—which you almost certainly do if, like me, you tend to scroll down by highlighting text and rolling the mouse down as you read—you get a practically constant stream of popups defining whatever word you happen to have clicked. This has the double demerit of being both extremely annoying in itself and totally superfluous: How often do you actually have a pressing need for a definition of a word in an article written at a 10th grade level? And when you do, do you really need an embedded dictionary when it requires about three seconds more to just type the word in your search toolbar and pull up a definition that way? I suspect this is a feature that nobody had ever thought to ask for, but that someone on the tech side thought sounded vaguely nifty (look how we’re making it interactive!) without having given any serious thought to whether it was actually useful.

UPDATE: Commenter Jagadul notes you can stop the madness by installing NoScript for Firefox.

Tags: Journalism & the Media



7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ??? // Feb 28, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    I concur. It is extremely annoying if you are prone to highlighting and unneccesary clicking. I was waiting for someone to point out the idiocy of this feature.

  • 2 Jadagul // Feb 28, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Julian: download the noscript extension for Firefox. It prevents websites from running scripts unless you specifically allow them to; I went to the nytimes.com website and couldn’t figure out what you were complaining about until I remembered to turn it off (and jeez, that is bloody annoying). It makes your computer more secure, since websites can’t do stuff to you that you don’t know about; it makes stuff load faster; and it’ll stop the contextual dictionary at the Times.

  • 3 Jadagul // Feb 28, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Incidentally, something I should have mentioned earlier: if you install noscript, make sure you remember it’s there. It breaks a lot of websites (usually, but not always, because the site had a crappy designer), so you’ll have to disable it sometimes when you actually want to let the site run scripts (for instance, Gmail, google maps, and most other google apps depend heavily on javascript, so you’ll want to let *.google.com sites run scripts on your computer).

  • 4 Alex Knapp // Feb 28, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Just out of curiosity, why do you highlight to scroll down when it’s significantly easier to just use the scroll wheel on your mouse? That’s what I’ve been doing since about 1997.

    Seriously–not trying to be snarky. Is there an advantage to highlighting? Seems like a pain to me.

  • 5 Julian Sanchez // Feb 28, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Because I’m using a Mac laptop with no scroll wheel.

  • 6 Alex Knapp // Mar 1, 2007 at 9:33 pm


    Gotcha. Makes sense now. Thanks–I’ve heard you and Yglesias and others and I’ve been trying to work out the problem. Knowing that they didn’t design for Mac now makes everything clear to me.

  • 7 Lane // Mar 2, 2007 at 12:26 pm


    Does your trackpad not do the two-finger scroll thing? I am so used to that now that when I use a Windows laptop where I have to mouse over to the scrollbars I am completely befuddled.