“Without admitting guilt,

I promise to appear at the time and place indicated below…”

A few months ago, my driving was noticed by the California Highway Patrol… in a not-so-flattering way.1
Anyway, a small, triple-digit fine and some clickity-clacking on the Superior Court’s website later, I was all signed up for traffic school.
I had never gotten a speeding ticket before, so to be honest, I was a bit curious about what traffic school was going to be like. Being a “child3 of the Internet,” I opted for taking it online.
This, of course, meant using Firefox. I was also curious whether the myriad traffic school sites would work with Firefox, especially a Firefox running NoScript, with “Ask me about all cookies…”4 turned on.
Some observations about the experience:

  • A lot of the sites listed on that page are seemingly run by the same company, just with a different domain name. I’m basing this off the fact that the URLs and content for a lot of the “How does it work?”-type pages were exactly the same; apparently, one of the major differentiators is domain name?!! (Ala “Do I want to learn about stoplights from my couch in my underwear from or!! I just can’t decide!!”)
  • Some online schools supposedly use Flash and other multimedia as teaching aids; since there were so many to choose from, I randomly picked one and apparently its concept of “multimedia” was stealing images from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation5
  • Given my disappointment about the lack of (proprietorially driven) multimedia content, I popped up LiveHTTPHeaders6 to see just exactly what information was being sent to the server. Much to my dismay, there wasn’t any fancy JavaScript, doing… well… anything I figured they’d be doing…
  • … like timers to see how long you’ve been on a page7, or which answers you initially selected, but then changed. I would imagine this data would be interesting, sociologically, if not useful for designing better teaching content. It’s all about data8, right?
  • Scrapbook is a super-useful extension for such things. Just saying.9
  • The National Traffic Safety Administration uses FreeBSD. Good on them.

In some sense, the entire experience was a little underwhelming. It’s almost as if the application—Coldfusion, by the way—was some enterprise app that hadn’t been touched in a few years. I suppose since the competition in the space is pretty rough and you can only get away with charging about $15 for online school, the margins are pretty slim.
As I was reading through my “You’ve successfully completed your traffic school requirements. Your certificate will be delivered to the court listed”-email, I had a thought that these types of sites are great indicators for us.
I figure we can probably declare the Web to really be “open” when sites like these are presenting their content using SVG and <video>, not “something else.”
Having said that, I hopefully won’t have another chance to test it out before that’s the case…
1 Unless you find summons flattering.
2 In my defense, the officer really didn’t have a case. I probably was going a bit fast, but asking the person you just pulled over “Hey, what speed do you think you were going?” and then writing the ticket for the numerical value they responded with, along with a “You had to be going fast; I didn’t get you on any [legally admissible evidence like, oh... say...] radar” isn’t very inspiring.
3 Ok, ok… teenager
4 To which I pretty much habitually deny… yah, yah… I’m still grasping at privacy straws…
5 Yes, no squeezing, plz.
6 Extensions, FTW!
7 They “solved” this problem by putting “little tidbits of useless knowledge” into the content, such as—I kid you not—how the author found Jesus, and then quizzing you on that each chapter, in addition to the actual relevant material.
8 To improve user-value and -experience, of course.
9 This is not to imply that I skated through the lessons and didn’t read any of them. On the contrary, I considered this a bit of a BFR-only-for-driving, but I must admit I didn’t learn much new.10
10 I must also admit that I’m a bit saddened by that.