PDF warnings
May 30, 2007 8:06 PM   Subscribe

PDF warnings are always appreciated by me. Lack of a PDF warning is annoying. PDF seems so outdated and unnecessary.
posted by longsleeves to Etiquette/Policy at 8:06 PM (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

link hovering is always appreciated by me. lack of link hovering is annoying. not knowing how to browse seems so outdated and unnecessary.
posted by quonsar at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2007 [15 favorites]


I agree that PDF warnings are good, and that lack thereof is bad.

But the fact that PDF seems outdated and unnecessary is something to take up with the folks who create the content on the interwebthinggies, not the people who post links to them. For example, I bet the government printing office would really appreciate a nice email from you explaining why their online content is in an outdated and unnecessary format.
posted by The World Famous at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2007


Having a topic with an example is always appreciated by me. Lack of an example is [sometimes] annoying. What are you getting at here? Are you asking people to warn if they're linking to PDFs, or not to link to PDFs? USE YOUR WORDS. Please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Link hover. If you haven't figured that out yet I feel sorry for you.
posted by puke & cry at 8:11 PM on May 30, 2007


I was with you all the way up to the "outdated and unnecessary," longsleeves. Why did you fall on your sword like that?
posted by Dave Faris at 8:12 PM on May 30, 2007


It's nice of people to post PDF warnings, but the onus is on the clicker. Look before you load.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe if you wore shortsleeves you could handle the mouse better.
posted by brain_drain at 8:24 PM on May 30, 2007


the onus is on the clicker. Look before you load.

i hear a song in there somewhere.
posted by quonsar at 8:25 PM on May 30, 2007


I really don't understand why Firefox hangs every time I accidentally click on a pdf link (rather than downloading the pdf). Warnings would be appreciated, but isn't always better to be more aware of what you're clicking anyway?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2007


Ah, it's not just me having problems with PDFs and Firefox. I use Link Alert, a Firefox add-on, to make it just that little bit easier to see what I'm about to click on.
posted by booksherpa at 8:35 PM on May 30, 2007


PDF seems so outdated and unnecessary

Why? HTML does not do what PDF does (and vice versa).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:46 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


(and vice versa)
load before you look the clicker is on the onus
posted by hortense at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2007


the clicker is WHERE?
posted by mendel at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2007


Can you people PLEASE indicate when the linked page is in HTML rather than CSS!!!! HTML is so outdated and unnecessary. If we keep clicking on HTML pages, the people who write the web will have no incentive to migrate to the cooler than hell, the future is now CSS.
posted by The Deej at 9:15 PM on May 30, 2007


On firefox, i click on a PDF link and... Nothing. i click again and... Nothing. What the...? (look down at status bar and if the url isn't too long see the .pdf extension) Switch to my desktop and find 2 versions of the PDF.

Links to PDFs work differently than normal links. It would be nice if they were marked.

btw, this can actually be done with javascript quite elegantly.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:17 PM on May 30, 2007


kamelhoecker, you can fix that by going into Tools > Options > Content > Manage and setting PDFs to open with the Adobe plugin (the bottom option). You need the Adobe plugin for Firefox, not just the standalone desktop reader.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 9:28 PM on May 30, 2007


PDF seems so outdated and unnecessary.

Yes, because these days there's so many ways in which to get a print-ready document that is viewable on almost every platform and looks the same on all of them.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:38 PM on May 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


At least we know your life is wonderful. I mean.. annoyance, pain and trauma are pretty relative things.. so if this is pissing you off that much, life must be all cake and puppies for you... I'm happy for you.
posted by twiggy at 10:02 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


My Firefox tends to hang when I try to open PDFs too!

Here's the thing, though, it's better than Last Measure. That's a great rule of thumb, actually. When you're tempted to complain about something on the Internet, ask if it's worse than Last Measure. The answer will certainly be no, and your gripe will be put in perspective.

Things could be so much worse.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:03 PM on May 30, 2007


Try using the pdf download Firefox extension.

Also, you can apparently speed up Adobe Reader 8 by removing the "read aloud" capability.
posted by stefanie at 10:04 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the PDF warning. But I have set my browser NOT to pop up Adobe or Preview because it just slows things down.

PDF is great when formatting matters a lot and you can't control what kind of system you'll be printing on. Or for things like outputs from LaTeX.
posted by wuwei at 10:28 PM on May 30, 2007


Where do I sign up for the cake & puppies?
posted by aubilenon at 10:49 PM on May 30, 2007


I find the usage "My Firefox" to be creepy as fuck.

And jesus people, if you're stuck using Windows, you might as well use FoxIt Reader to ease your pains.
posted by blasdelf at 11:32 PM on May 30, 2007


Am I the only person who uses a text based browser, sometimes, still? Sometimes you can't link hover, ya know....
posted by nomisxid at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2007


But I don't want to be exposed to onus!
posted by loquacious at 12:25 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ethereal Bligh: "PDF seems so outdated and unnecessary.

Yes, because these days there's so many ways in which to get a print-ready document that is viewable on almost every platform and looks the same on all of them.
"

Right. It's very important that the document looks the same on my computer as it does on yours. You don't see how I might be annoyed if I asked you for a web page and you handed me a book?

I care about the content, not the format. If you plan on printing something, by all means create a PDF and bask in the ubiquitous appearance. But keep it off the web. I click on the link because I want to read the content. When I accidentally click on a PDF link and Acrobat starts loading its 5000 plug-ins and searching for updates and eating up memory, my brain quickly shifts from mild interest in reading something into closing that shit as quickly as possible.

PDF doesn't belong on the web. It's a print format. Nobody prints web pages1. Please don't encourage its usage. It's not crazy to say it is outdated and unnecessary to so strictly control layout. Everything has been steadily moving away from that paradigm.

There's nothing wrong with offering a printable document, but that's not what the web is for. If you're going to put content on the web, put it in a format that is actually portable. Something that will load in a web browser.

1. People print web pages. You know what I mean.
posted by team lowkey at 1:03 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


PDFs are great. On my ancient laptop, Firefox still loads them perfectly quickly with Adobe Reader 7. If you're still struggling, you can delete most of the plugins.

It lets me read millions of journal articles at JStor, going back to the nineteenth century, in a readable, copy-and-pastable format, with equations, graphs, tables and figures. Without PDFs, JStor would be stuck with displaying journals in images, which makes copy-and-pasting, zooming in and usable searching impossible, or in HTML, which would mean complete reliance on fallible OCR, and no way of seeing equations and graphs without JStor wasting years manually exporting stuff to images. PDFs mean anybody with a free plugin for Word can put content on the web that looks the way it is intended to look, without worrying about browsers' HTML and CSS incompatibilities. It's not perfect, or a solution to every problem, but without PDF, there would far less interesting content on the web.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 1:38 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


i hear a song in there somewhere

Ohh, if only you had said "feel" instead of "hear"... It could have been a total Supremes thang...

Personally, I rarely click on PDF links, but I don't fault the poster... It's MY responsibility to decide what to click on.
posted by amyms at 1:39 AM on May 31, 2007


I don't actually care enough to keep up an argument (there was something recently about defending Green Day?), but it's really the "put content on the web that looks the way it is intended to look" that bothers me. Content doesn't have an intended look. That's what mark-up languages are all about. You tell me the context, and I'll format it the way that makes sense to me.

Yes, people have scanned old documents, and it's nice to have electronic documents available. Turning printed media into electronic documents is awesome. But it's just that. Transforming print into a computer readable format. That's not web content. That's print delivered over HTTP.

I gotta have another beer and go to bed, so... eh. Enough. I just get pissed that government documents and software/hardware manuals are PDF. This is new content meant to be distributed on-line. Why is it created in print format?
posted by team lowkey at 2:16 AM on May 31, 2007


team lowkey says There's nothing wrong with offering a printable document, but that's not what the web is for.

Damn straight. The web is for porn.
posted by carsonb at 2:33 AM on May 31, 2007


All you people whinging about Adobe Reader - download Foxit, you'll have far fewer problems. Linky.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:16 AM on May 31, 2007


"link hovering is always appreciated by me. lack of link hovering is annoying. not knowing how to browse seems so outdated and unnecessary."

I will say this again and again. NOT EVERY BROWSER INTERFACE ALLOWS YOU TO HOVER. Please remember there are a handful of idiots who occasionally browse the site on handheld devices, for example. Adding a quick textual warning is a simple solution that helps everyone. Why do you hate diversity, quonsar?

I recommend TargetAlert for FireFox users. Alto, thanks for the suggestion. I plan to try Foxit later!
posted by Eideteker at 4:29 AM on May 31, 2007


(and blasdelf! Sorry, didn't see your comment, blasé.)
posted by Eideteker at 4:31 AM on May 31, 2007


I gotta have another beer and go to bed, so... eh. Enough. I just get pissed that government documents and software/hardware manuals are PDF. This is new content meant to be distributed on-line. Why is it created in print format?

To me PDF seems the best format for things like manuals, reports, journal articles, books, etc.

Sure, they're all things that I might get over the net but I really want to have a portable copy readable offline on any platform.

As an example, I'd be pretty annoyed if the manual for my router was a series of web pages on the manufacturers site.
posted by Olli at 4:39 AM on May 31, 2007


OS X plays nice with PDFs, so no problem there. Windows is capable of not sucking at PDF display, as altolinguistic mentioned: Foxit.

That being said, throwing in a nice [pdf] warning with the links is just good post authorship.
posted by mullingitover at 5:10 AM on May 31, 2007


Do you neckbeards genuinely hover over every link you are considering clicking on and scrutinize the URL for clues as to content before clicking? That seems like a weird and paranoid behaviour. I don't really understand the 'onus on the clicker' responses in this thread. The medium of the Web is hypertext, and it seems like basic politeness for any author who is linking to something that is not a web page to provide that information. Clue: the file-type is not necessarily evident in the URL. Exhibit 1 from earlier this week. Now my computer works properly, so these things don't bother me, but I can sympathise with those to whom a surprise PDF means wasted time watching Adobe Reader launch and demand updates. Why is the onus on the clicker to link-hover and guess the file-type? Why would it not have been better for the poster to add a little "[pdf]" (or indeed link to the plain html version)?
posted by nowonmai at 5:44 AM on May 31, 2007


You need Adobe Reader Speed-Up. Since I ran that I love the PDFs, since they load in seconds instead of minutes.
posted by reklaw at 5:54 AM on May 31, 2007


Do you neckbeards genuinely hover over every link

Hey! I resemble that!

/speaking on behalf of Koy Detmer
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:24 AM on May 31, 2007


Cripes, is this another MeTa posty that boils down to "get off my lawn you kids!"?

PDFs exist. Get over it. If it's burning you up so much, go boil the ocean.
posted by GuyZero at 6:26 AM on May 31, 2007


nowonmai, provided the link itself supplies information about it's nature, why do you want the linker to write out the same information himself?
Your argument about it being basic politeness cannot be countered very well. Politeness is a concept that can take on strange and unneccesary forms and in the case of situations were etiquette are not well defined like in the present case, it can be debated what is and isn't politeness and neither side can be judged wrong.
posted by Catfry at 6:43 AM on May 31, 2007


I don't use the browser plugin, so when I click on a PDF, I get a popup that asks me what I want to do with it. Works for me, since I don't really see why I'd want a PDF crammed into the browser window in the first place
posted by smackfu at 6:46 AM on May 31, 2007


Cripes, is this another MeTa posty that boils down to "get off my lawn you kids!"?

Yes, and I for one am waiting for longsleeves to show up waving a chainsaw and have to be taken down by the Action Squad.

I don't get what's so bad about the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, anyway.
posted by languagehat at 7:14 AM on May 31, 2007


Can't you just use Google to translate PDFs to HTML?

I know Adobe offers a free utility to translate PDFs, but I doubt it does permalinks.
posted by chlorus at 7:27 AM on May 31, 2007


Catfry: why do you want it to be cryptic? As Eideteker and others have pointed out, even in the cases where the URL contains a description of the filetype, not all browsers are capable of displaying this information. Examples would include browsers on phones and PDAs, screen readers for the sight impaired. For my part, I mostly use Safari which can show the URL in a status bar over the bottom of the screen, but I have not (and do not intend to) cultivated the habit of positioning the cursor over every fucking link and moving my eyes to the bottom of the screen to see if I can detect whether the URL is a link to something other than plain html. Because the default expectation is that a hypertext link in a web page will link to more hypertext, and it is normal practise to indicate when a link leads to a different kind of file.

I am of course aware that politeness is subjective, but to me it seems clear that providing information about a link when it is easy to do so is always polite, whereas potentially causing thousands of MeFites to inadvertently stall their enjoyment of the MeFi experience whilst their computer downloads media and launches or complains about the lack of an appropriate viewer or player could be somewhat inconsiderate.


GuyZero: you are an ass. It is worth discussing this. Either providing information about the nature of links to files is deemed a good thing around here or it isn't. I think it's a good think, and that it would make MeFi a nicer place if people would indicate file types. If this is accepted as normal practise, then it might fall on the lovely talented admins to amend posts that omit this kind of information. Much like the back-tagging exercise, it would make MeFi a nicer place. The opposing view, espoused here by Cortex and others, is that the onus is on the site users to do the detective work to determine what media type they are about to download and if their browser won't help them then fuck 'em. If we discuss this as a community, we can discover which is the prevailing view. Once we know that we know a little more about how to compose our posts, and whether it's worth dropping a line to an admin to ask them to insert media tye warnings into people's mystery-meat posts.
posted by nowonmai at 7:29 AM on May 31, 2007


To clarify, that last paragraph should have said: "It is worth discussing this. Either providing information about the nature of links to files is deemed a good thing around here or it isn't. I think it's a good thing".
posted by nowonmai at 7:31 AM on May 31, 2007


Yeah, PDF can suck it. I hate waiting for that shit to load. Plus, I've always found their interface to be completely obtuse. PDF==YUCK
posted by Afroblanco at 7:46 AM on May 31, 2007


GuyZero: you are an ass.

An ad hominem and a non-sequitur.

Look, do you go to a cocktail party, pick a canape off a tray, pop it into your mouth without looking at it and then spit it out and complain that you're a vegan and no one told you about the liver pate?

For the majority of internet users, PDF files are zero impact. If they're a big deal for you, the onus is on you to avoid them. This isn't peanuts in school lunch rooms, no one is going to die. I still cannot determine exactly what the negative impact of clicking on a PDF link is for you. It takes some extra time? Time wasted following links on MetaFilter isn't something that link flagging is going to fix.

Modern browsers make it very easy to determine what you're about to click on. Again, I have seen no description of why standard browser mechanisms are insufficient. If your only actual data point on this one is a small minority of handheld device users then I'll say that mysterious links are the least of their problems.

If someone has some actual data or specific use cases, by all means speak up. Otherwise, let us return to the ceiling cat pictures and name calling.

This problem already has multiple solutions and just because you don't like any of them doesn't mean we need to create more of them. Use an existing solution to the problem.
posted by GuyZero at 7:52 AM on May 31, 2007


Am I the only person who uses a text based browser, sometimes, still? Sometimes you can't link hover, ya know....

Which browser? In w3m, 'u' is the standard binding for "peek url"—it'll display it there at the bottom of the screen for a couple seconds on keypress. Been too long since I've used lynx, no help there.

Do you neckbeards genuinely hover over every link you are considering clicking on and scrutinize the URL for clues as to content before clicking?

Nope, just the ones where I've got some spidey-sense reason to wonder. Site nav links? Known quantities? Links from sources not likely to need consideration? Non-issues, all of em. A little bit of common sense and discretion.

And it's not scrutinize so much as glance; once you've put in the minimal effort to "cultivate" the habit, it's pretty effortless stuff, if your browser has any capability to help there.

nowonmai, your argument seems to be that you shouldn't have to have any responsibility for your own browsing: that despite the media-agnostic nature of hypertext, you should never have to consider the possibility that a link would go to other than the media you want it to go for without tweeting a whistle and holding up a white-gloved hand. No, I don't buy that; it would be nice if people would warn about pdfs (and other speed-bump media types) in unexpected contexts, but it's not the law. It's not compulsory.

If it was the law, that'd mean we'd need enforcement. What then, a new "user totally didn't tag his pdf link" flag for us to chase after? Timeouts and bannings for failing to mark up a pdf correctly? Why not just stick with the de facto system of someone writing us an email now and then if there's a particularly problematic specimen?

I can see an entry in the FAQ, maybe; no harm in a gentle note there suggesting tagging of alternate media types in posts. But we can't force people to read the FAQ, just as most mefites don't likely pay much if any attention to Metatalk.

What else might work—and I have no idea of Matt would be game for this—would be an opt-in media-type icon system beyond the current YouTube inline icon. It could warn on links to a specified set of content types when they're embedded in the URL, with a small icon or whatnot. It wouldn't be perfect, since stealth media wouldn't get noticed, but it would provide a quick clue to people incapable of or unwilling to hover.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:03 AM on May 31, 2007


As Eideteker and others have pointed out, even in the cases where the URL contains a description of the filetype, not all browsers are capable of displaying this information. Examples would include browsers on phones and PDAs, screen readers for the sight impaired.

As far as I am aware:

Opera Mobile: Latest version offers to download the PDF, previous versions say "Cannot open blah.pdf"
Nokia KHTML: Offers to download PDF
Nokia Services: Offers to download PDF
SonyEricsson Services: Offers to download PDF
Nintendo DS Opera: Cannot open blah.pdf
JAWS Screen reader: Reads the PDF to the user

Thats much better than what would happen if you tried to load a flash page with any of those browsers.
posted by Olli at 8:23 AM on May 31, 2007


Your analogy is risible. If I was standing by the canapes at a cocktail party, and an alluring temptress in a tiny red dress asked me to close my eyes, then attempted to force a fly-blown possum carcass down my throat, then I would consider her behaviour rude and inappropriate. Perhaps this is best discussed without pointless cocktail party analogies? I am amused that you resort to this right after bringing up the subject of logical fallacies.

If you were reading my comments, and those of Eideteker et al, rather than scanning the status bar of your browser, you would understand that NOT ALL BROWSERS, EVEN MODERN ONES, IN FACT THE ONES ON CELLPHONES ARE PROBABLY THE MODERNEST, ALLOW YOU TO SEE URLS BEFORE SELECTING THEM and perhaps even have grasped that EVEN WHEN THEY DO, THE MEDIA TYPE IS NOT NECESSARILY PRESENT IN THE URL. The mechanisms that are present in most browsers do not tell you whether a given link is going to cause a media file to be downloaded. See the example above. They only tell you what the request to the server is going to be, not how the server will respond. I personally have no problems with PDF files, but I think that indcating links that lead to downloadable media files rather than html pages would be make MeFi a nicer, more useable place. It's a cultural thing. It has negligible impact on me if people hide links to realmedia files, trojans, exe files or anything else in ther posts, but I want MeFi not to be that kind of place.

I don't know what point you are trying to address with the bit about "creating more solutions" at the end of your comment there. The solution is already there and many posters already use it - just say when you are linking to a non-HTML file. It's not hard. Why not type a few extra characters to avoid causing people minor inconvenience? I don't understand why people campaign against simple politeness. It's like the people who demand the right to post book and movie spoilers on the front page.
posted by nowonmai at 8:24 AM on May 31, 2007


Am I the only person who uses a text based browser, sometimes, still? Sometimes you can't link hover, ya know....

And browsing the web on phones sucks too, but that's life.
posted by smackfu at 8:24 AM on May 31, 2007


Nonwomai, my argument was simply that the kind of information was already present in the url, so it seemed like wasted effort to duplicate it in plain writing, but the problems that eideteker screamed about seems like a valid rebuttal.
That said, I think you ought to reconsider not previewing links. Are you never afraid of goatse?
posted by Catfry at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2007


nowonmai, your argument seems to be that you shouldn't have to have any responsibility for your own browsing

In which case I am not expressing myself clearly. I think it would be nice if people would indicate links to media files as such, and it would also be nice if admins would gently amend posts that omit this information. I'd like that to be the standard around here, because that would make MeFi a nice place. Hell, I thought that was the standard around here, which is why I paid my $5 and have modified all the keys on my computer to compulsively refresh one part of the site or another. I'm not suggesting laws and punishments and new technologies. I just want people to be nice and kind and considerate. I think, from the rest of your comment, that we are pretty much in agreement.
I don't think any new system needs implementing, just for MeFites to be nice enoughfor there to be a nice [pdf] or [realmedia] or [cluebyfour-over-IP] warning in the right places.
posted by nowonmai at 8:35 AM on May 31, 2007


The mechanisms that are present in most browsers do not tell you whether a given link is going to cause a media file to be downloaded.

Eh? any sensible browser will ask before it downloads a media file.

I'd rather have a "Do you want to download this PDF" dialog pop up on my phone than have posts littered with redundant link metadata. Personally I'd regard the latter as (very slightly) more of an inconviniance - on a mobile device screen space really is precious.
posted by Olli at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2007


Catfry, I am terrified of goatse, but the standard around here is that links to goatse are marked with "NSFW", and if somebody posted a warning-free link to goatse on the front page it would swiftly be fixed (or removed it was a goatse that was somehow not the best of the web). Of course, goatse could very well have an innocent-looking URL, and that is partly a point that I was trying to make. Link-hovering is not a prophylactic against all the horrors that lurk in the tubes of the Internet.
posted by nowonmai at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2007


I am amused that you resort to this right after bringing up the subject of logical fallacies.

I hope you're actually amused and not merely rhetorically amused, as that's my actual objective.

The cost of attempting to enforce this as a norm outweighs the benefits. Plus, there are a number of people who see it as being without benefit - merely neutral, thus not justifying any cost.

But again, what's so bad about a surprise PDF? I have yet to hear any articulation of the problem here.
posted by GuyZero at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2007


But again, what's so bad about a surprise PDF?

They annoy longsleeves.
posted by grouse at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2007


I'm not advocating any kind of "enforcing" beyond perhaps editing of posts by admins. My point is that the cost of providing this info is so low, why not? And although the poster of this thread has a hair up his/her ass about PDFs, my point is more general and extends to all links to unusual files, such as really large graphics files*, executable programs, whatever. I'm not going to claim that being caught unawares by a PDF file is always a bad thing, but if it's a large one with very detailed graphics that takes a long time to render then it would be nice to have been warned.
* (these are the things that can really bork my browser and force me to lose my open tabs, and there is no warning in the URL, although maybe the onus is on me to open a telnet session to query the HTTP server)
posted by nowonmai at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2007


i wish people would label .jpg's. if the medium of the web is hypertext, why is there a fucker in a blue shirt and a floating porkchop in the middle of my hypertext? is that hypertext that happens when i click an .xls file in IE? i just like saying hypertext. hypertext! hypertext! hypertext! tune in again tomorrow when we discuss "hot links". hot! hot! hot!
posted by quonsar at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't think any new system needs implementing, just for MeFites to be nice enoughfor there to be a nice [pdf] or [realmedia] or [cluebyfour-over-IP] warning in the right places.

I think I'm in sync with you now then. It would be thoughtful, and if it happened that'd be great. It doesn't never happen, and it may be that it happened more a few years ago than it did now.

But I'm going to say the annoying thing: there's no way to make that happen. We can't just flip the Be Nice switch, because even if this thread ends with unanimous agreement that using [pdf] denotations on links is best practice and should be done whenever context doesn't otherwise make the PDFness of a link clear, most posters and commentors will never know.

That's why I was going on about the system: we can't just get people to suddenly know to do this. For that to happen, we have to tell them. Which means having a system to make and reinforce the point.

We could put a note on every post and comment page saying "by the way, tag your pdfs", but that might be a bit much for what is a niche (if however valid) issue. Likewise, we could sidebar a request, but that too seems heavy handed and is not what the sidebar has been traditionally used for. We could put an entry in the FAQ, but reading that is pretty much opt-in: most people won't see that, either. Matt and Jess and I could just hunt for every pdf linked on the site and tag them, but that sounds like an awful lot of work for limited return. We could build a system to autolink 'em. We could set up a flagging option. But we'd have to do something, because we're talking about trying to effect a change in the behavior of a large, untrackable population of individuals who we can presume have no big incentive to want to make this change, or to even be aware that it's an issue for some folks.

The only real do-nothing option here is for folks reading this thread and sympathizing with the issue to maybe drop the admins a line when they see what seems like a particularly problematic PDF link. And in fact, that sort of thing happens now and then, though I can't say particularly often. It may be that the issue doesn't have profound enough of an effect on a large enough group of mefites to generate serious backlash.

This is just my pragmatic take on it. I don't think it's a non-issue, though I do still stand by the onus-on-the-clicker issue when you get right down to the bare metal. If there's an easy and appropriate way to encourage people to do the nice thing that I haven't considered, I'm interested in hearing it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2007


I loathe pdf's.

have a nice day.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:33 AM on May 31, 2007


Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To link me to a P-D-F
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your F-P-Ps

Chorus:
longsleeves was all my joy
longsleeves was my delight,
longsleeves was my heart of gold,
but you linked him to a PDF

Your links you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
Stupid gosh darn Ah-dough-bee

(chorus)
posted by GuyZero at 9:39 AM on May 31, 2007


I'd like that to be the standard around here, because that would make MeFi a nice place.

If you want a nice place, you've come to the wrong place, because MeFi is never going to be a nice place. That said, yes, of course it would be a good thing if everyone would be considerate and mark any links someone might find objectionable. It would also be a good thing if war disappeared for good. Neither of these things is going to happen, so it would be best not to invest too much of yourself in either.

And where the fuck is longsleeves? It annoys me no end when people make contentious MeTa posts and then wander off and smell the daisies instead of sticking around to discuss the issue.
posted by languagehat at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2007


It annoys me no end when people make contentious MeTa posts and then wander off and smell the daisies...

because the odds of a flameout are so horribly low. I feel your pain, l...hat.
posted by GuyZero at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2007


MetaFilter: If you want a nice place, you've come to the wrong place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on May 31, 2007


I guess I'm late to the party, but for everyone who says "hover before you click", do note that very long URLs are truncated in the status bar, and frequently the extension is not visible. So yeah, providing a surely-visible way to know whether something is a PDF is nice.
posted by Godbert at 1:12 PM on May 31, 2007


that is clearly a porterhouse, not a pork chop.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:25 PM on May 31, 2007


"the problems that eideteker screamed about seems like a valid rebuttal."

Sorry for shouting; quonsar's hearing aid has been on the fritz. Fritz was unavailable for comment.

It seems to me that the question here is about the difference between ettiquette and a rule. I don't think there should be a rule, with enforcement and callouts and whatnot. But I do think that it should be a guideline and encouraged. I've never had an FPP that linked to a PDF, but I usually try to indicate whenever I'm linking if there's mixed media (anything beyond a moving .gif) on the other end of the link. I have too many memories of the days when Flash used to crash every single one of my browsers to not feel sympathy for someone who hates auto-loading flash, quicktime, etc. PDFs are generally a pain, and have been on every system I've ever owned. At my new job, they load pretty much instantly, but that's the first time I've ever seen that happen (and I assume it means that Adobe is running in the background all the time; PDFs are about the only thing that doesn't take five seconds to process when you click).

If you're linking to something that's not HTML or an image, just please, please, please put a little note in parentheses next to the link that specifies "YouTube" or "PDF" or "Java". Java still crashes my browser fairly regularly. Stupid Java. It lets you do cool things, but it runs Jared before he met Subway.
posted by Eideteker at 3:56 PM on May 31, 2007


All I know is, I can't imagine what my life would be like if component data sheets weren't in pdf format. The ability to know unequivocally that page 9 is page 9 on any computer has helped me a lot when communicating stuff to my team members.

For what it's worth, if I ever make a post that includes a pdf file, I'll mention it and/or include the Google html version.
posted by Green With You at 4:05 PM on May 31, 2007


[Note: the following content is of type text/html. Please be aware of this and only use supported browsers to view.]

This discussion is silly.

[Note: the previous content was of type text/html. The poster hopes you used only a supported browser to view it.]
posted by aberrant at 4:12 PM on May 31, 2007


I couldn't see it.
posted by The Deej at 5:22 PM on May 31, 2007


team lowkey writes "Content doesn't have an intended look. That's what mark-up languages are all about."

Content with an intended look has an intended look. Content without an intended look doesn't have an intended look. Photographs on the web don't use html tables full of single pixels (with one recent exception I saw on another blog). People who want to display photographs use the power of jpg files instead of html files. People who want music to sound a certain way link to mp3 files instead of html pages with sheet music. People who want text and graphics to look a certain way link to pdf files.

Or, more briefly:
"Markup languages are used for content without an intended look. These pages can be identified by urls ending with things like 'html', 'php', and the like"
"Non-markup languages are used for content with an intended look. These pages can be identified by urls ending with things like 'pdf""

So you've got three types of PDF use:
1) Content providers want it to look a certain way. You agree. Everybody wins!
2) Content providers want it to look a certain way. You disagree. You lose, nobody is at fault.
3) Content providers don't want it to look a certain way, but they use PDF anyway. You disagree. You lose, they're at fault.
posted by Bugbread at 3:55 AM on June 1, 2007


(That said, writing "[pdf]" after a link in a post I make takes no effort, so if I ever link to a PDF, I'll do it. The issue here is "wouldn't it be nice if people noted it". The "PDFs are goddamn useless dinosaurs!" bit was just a little self-derailing by longsleeves)
posted by Bugbread at 4:02 AM on June 1, 2007

Content doesn't have an intended look. That's what mark-up languages are all about.
I hate to derail your rant with actual empirical facts, but we routinely survey our customers and actually ask them in what kind of medium they prefer to receive our manuals.

For the five years I've been here, the percentage of our users that strongly prefer PDF has stayed consistent at between 80 and 85 percent. During the same period, our number of users has increased roughly hundredfold.
posted by scrump at 2:34 PM on June 1, 2007


Derail to your heart's content. Customers want their manuals in PDF. Give them PDF. I can see the benefit. They want to have a self-contained, portable copy on their computer. PDF is good at that. They are probably accustomed to reading manuals in print form, so they're more comfortable with a print layout. Hell, they might actually be printing it out on paper to read it. That's what my parents do. If you asked me, "How would you like to receive your manual?", I would probably say PDF. I sure don't want it in Word format, or a paper manual mailed to me.

But I'm talking about online browsing. I'm quite aware I'm only speaking for myself, and I don't like PDFs. I find them more difficult to navigate, and unnecessarily bloated. And I hate Acrobat, and how it seems to think it is the most important piece of software on my system. That it should run in resident memory, and still take 2 minutes to load, and that every time I open it I should know that there are updates available that will make my experience so much more robust, and I should download them right away and restart the program, and open the document again. All of this to read a few pages of text(!) that I wasn't even sure I was interested in. If it weren't for Acrobat, I probably wouldn't have any acrimony towards PDF at all. And I definitely would have never developed this hostility if it weren't for the ongoing experience of clicking links that I think are webpages but turn out to be Acrobat summoners. I have switched to FoxIt, and it helps, but I'm still rankled.

If I'm browsing a webpage looking for information, why should I load a separate application to see that information? HTML isn't good enough? Yes, I would appreciate having the option of downloading a manual for later use. But 95% of the time, I just want to click a link and glance through to see if the information I want is there. Links to PDFs hinder that. That's frustrating. So I rant, you see?

And bugbread, I'm not coming close to saying all content should be in a mark-up language. We're talking text with graphics. If I want to listen to a song, I fully expect that it be in a different format. But a page full of words and pictures on the web? You want me to launch a separate application because... why? The only reason I can see is that you want to strictly control the layout. That isn't a benefit to me. That's a hindrance.
posted by team lowkey at 5:49 PM on June 1, 2007


Weeeow!!! Are we still discussing PDfreakinFs?????

Can you say... beanplating????
posted by The Deej at 11:00 PM on June 1, 2007


Well, um... yeah. That's kind of what this thread is about. It's a bit of rediculous (you know that thing reporters do to mark a misspelling as the original author's error? I can't remember it now, but that's what I would like to do here), but where else can I express how inherently iniquitous are these unmarked PDFs? Nowhere, that's where. Portable Document is a Format up with which I will not put. And you can quote me on that... if you dare!
posted by team lowkey at 12:45 AM on June 2, 2007


Sick.
posted by carsonb at 2:26 AM on June 2, 2007


Anyone who sics their own writing should be shot. If you want to make it obvious that something is an intentional misspelling, just scare-quote it.

Also, if you're a TV Without Pity recapper quoting dialog and you feel the need to include sics for every supposed grammatical error in casual, idiosyncratic speech...you should be fucking shot. I know this doesn't apply to you, but it's something everyone should keep in mind for a better tomorrow.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:52 AM on June 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's... just.... polite. Yikes!
posted by longsleeves at 9:05 PM on June 3, 2007


And although the poster of this thread has a hair up his/her ass about PDFs

You don't know me.
posted by longsleeves at 9:14 PM on June 3, 2007


Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To link me to a P-D-F
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your F-P-Ps

Chorus:
longsleeves was all my joy
longsleeves was my delight,
longsleeves was my heart of gold,
but you linked him to a PDF

Your links you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
Stupid gosh darn Ah-dough-bee

(chorus)
sing it.
posted by longsleeves at 9:21 PM on June 3, 2007


laughing, thanks!
posted by longsleeves at 9:24 PM on June 3, 2007


No, You don't
posted by longsleeves at 9:25 PM on June 3, 2007


no me Pn D F
posted by longsleeves at 9:27 PM on June 3, 2007


Clearly you don't know how this works.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:34 PM on June 3, 2007


I can clearly see your nuts. NON PDF
posted by longsleeves at 9:48 PM on June 3, 2007


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