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January 3, 2013 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Concerning small text.

I'm probably stupid, but I really don't have good strategies for reading comments that are in small text, like say this one, or ones mods sometimes make when trying to use "soft voice." Maybe it's a browser setting thing, maybe there are other tricks. Often I end up pasting something into a search box in the browser just so I can read it, but obviously that's impractical where it's a whole comment.

So, sorry for being stupid, but how do you read small text? It doesn't really bother me that we have it - I sometimes use it myself - but sometimes it becomes sort of an obstacle to smooth reading.

Thanks.
posted by Miko to Etiquette/Policy at 10:37 AM (129 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

On an Apple laptop you can put two fingers on the trackpad, then pull them apart to quickly zoom in on everything. That's what I do. (Same thing works on other Apple products, like an iPhone or iPad). It also works on my non-Apple laptop.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ctrl +
ctrl -
ctrl 0

Enjoy!
posted by phunniemee at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


[warning: link goes to a comment in a 2500+ comment thread. Take our word for it, it's a big chunk of small text.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


If using a scroll mouse in Windows, hold CTRL and scroll up and down to change font size.
posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I wish people would give the small text a rest. It's not cute, it's not clever, and I'm just going to skip it. It reminds me of people who are always making sarcastic little mutterings under their breath, which is equally annoying.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Afroblanco is smalltext-ist!
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you can use a browser extension like Stylish, you can make small text bigger. Here's the rule I use:

small {font-size:96%;}

That makes the text just a little bit smaller. But you can adjust to something you feel comfortable reading. Or you can set it to 100% and there won't be any size change.

Unfortunately, yeah, linking to an example in a thread with over 3000 comments is going to make it hard for everyone to contribute.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2013


I've modified my preferences so that small text isn't radically smaller than regular, but I did it so long ago I have no idea what the defaults are. I think when I go to some MetaFilter site on a computer other than my own and I'm not logged in, the basic text is larger than I have it set for in my preferences as well. If I ever have an issue with the size the way I have it set now, I'll just bump it up a notch.
posted by LionIndex at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2013


Everything is smaller in textist.
posted by griphus at 10:44 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


ctrl +
ctrl -
ctrl 0


Or on a mac,
⌘ + to zoom in
⌘ - to zoom out
⌘ 0 to reset zoom to default.
posted by zarq at 10:45 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those little asides in small text are known as "texticles."


I should know, I just named 'em.
posted by Mister_A at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, I'm still pissed about the Zalgo text.
posted by Mister_A at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also additionally, since you are already comfortable pasting things into search boxes, why not paste it into Notepad instead?
posted by LogicalDash at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2013


Those little asides in small text are known as "texticles."

An argument can be made that small text is the Truck Nutz of MetaFilter.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on January 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


If you don't like it you could always just skip it.

I'll keep in mind that some people don't like small text, but I like it when people do it to make jokes or to keep large blocks of text (especially quotes) reasonably sized, so keep in mind that some people like it too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I zoom text only on FireFox. Its not for me, really, its the damn reading glasses.

Yet I find myself unable to resist ...
posted by infini at 10:53 AM on January 3, 2013


I think small texticles are cute. Don't use them, though.

Ah. Ctrl+scroll. Thanks.
posted by mule98J at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2013


I really don't have good strategies for reading comments that are in small text

Did you try squinting?

Maybe you can explain more about the problem. Like, why would you need a "strategy" for dealing with that text? Is it an eyesight problem? Monitor resolution? Malfunctioning device?
posted by DU at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you use Firefox (or maybe Chrome) you can try this user script which embiggens the text when you hover over it.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:56 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Miko, I have felt your pain. And there are some good tips therein.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2013


Huh, ⌘0 is default? I just found out I've been zoomed in. Now I feel like such an old lady. Curse you whippersnappers and your fancy ⌘!!
posted by amanda at 11:08 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scroll wheels works on Linux, too. I suspect it's a Firefox feature, not an OS one.
posted by DU at 11:10 AM on January 3, 2013


There is far less small text in this thread than I expected to find.
posted by brain_drain at 11:11 AM on January 3, 2013


Dan Rodney's List of Mac OS shortcuts lists ⌘ 0 under Preview. But it works in many other apps.
posted by zarq at 11:13 AM on January 3, 2013


Heeeyyy... Let's get small!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did you try squinting?

A ha ha ha.

It's not a physical problem. The text is so small it is unreadable to the naked eye, for me. I hate overlarge text as it makes me feel like a second grader, so I keep my default text pretty small to start with, which means smalltext ends up looking like a row of crumbs.

It's not like I'm a Luddite, but there are keyboard tricks I never knew about, like ctrl+.

Thanks for the helpful tips.
posted by Miko at 11:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, sure. Single out the helpful tips. I see how it is. Well excuuuuuuuse meeee!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


/does this reference make me look old?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:19 AM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suspect it's a Firefox feature, not an OS one.

Works in IE and Chrome as well.
posted by griphus at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2013


If it's too small to read and I think it's worth reading* I usually cut/paste it into Notepad.

*this is almost never the case. Sometimes it's ok to not read everything.
posted by bondcliff at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2013


so I keep my default text pretty small to start with, which means smalltext ends up looking like a row of crumbs.

Maybe you should keep your default text larger? You can adjust the size of text on Metafitler in your profile preferences.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2013


Why am I just now realizing how much ⌘ looks like the Under Armour logo?
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:37 AM on January 3, 2013


Maybe you should keep your default text larger? You can adjust the size of text on Metafitler in your profile preferences.

Yes, I do know that, but as I said I hate the look of large text. And since 99.999% of MetaFilter is in the default size text, that's made sense as a tradeoff.
posted by Miko at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2013


The Apple Daisy icon is an ancient symbol.
posted by zarq at 11:46 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I wish people would give the small text a rest. It's not cute, it's not clever, and I'm just going to skip it. It reminds me of people who are always making sarcastic little mutterings under their breath, which is equally annoying.

That sounds exactly like an endorsement to me. If select readers are going to be all "act just like me or I'll ignore your ass," then... okay, good to know. Thank you, in fact.
posted by heyho at 11:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Miko, I also keep my text very small since I like to get as much on a page as possible. Plus it just looks better to me.

Most of the time I just skip the stuff in super small text.

Edited to add: Heyho, that's not it. I figure if the poster isn't willing to communicate it fully it's probably not all that important.
posted by 26.2 at 11:47 AM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh. More from Wikipedia:
The ⌘ came into the Macintosh project at a late stage. The development team originally went for their old Apple key, but Steve Jobs found it frustrating when "apples" filled up the Mac's menus next to the key commands, because he felt that this was an over-use of the company logo. He then opted for a different key symbol. With only a few days left before deadline, the team's bitmap artist Susan Kare started researching for the Apple logo's successor. She was browsing through a symbol dictionary when she came across the cloverleaf-like symbol, commonly used in Scandinavia as an indicator of cultural locations and places of interest (it is the official road sign for tourist attraction—Sevärdhet—in Sweden, and the computer key has often been called Fornminne—ancient monument—by Swedish Mac users and Seværdighedstegn by Danish users). When she showed it to the rest of the team, everyone liked it, and so it became the symbol of the 1984 Macintosh command key.

The ⌘ symbol, known as a Gorgon loop, Saint John's Arms or sometimes referred to as Saint Hannes cross, dates back to pre-Christian times.

The symbol was included in the original Macintosh font Chicago, and could be inserted by typing a control-q key combination.

In Unicode it is encoded at U+2318 ⌘ place of interest sign (HTML: ).[6][7][8]

posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Or on a mac,
GORGON LOOP + to zoom in
GORGON LOOP - to zoom out
GORGON LOOP 0 to reset zoom to default.


FTFY
posted by griphus at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


keep large blocks of text (especially quotes) reasonably sized

What a weird bit of reasoning. Who is reading Metafilter with the default text set to an unreasonable size?
posted by ryanrs at 11:53 AM on January 3, 2013


I meant in terms of amount of actual inches taken up in someone's scroll by something somewhat tangential. I use it when I'm quoting something interesting but long and often un-link-to-able. If you want to read it you can use any of the methods described here. If not, cool.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:56 AM on January 3, 2013


Firefox has a Minimum Font Size setting. I don't see something similar in Chrome. Maybe there's an extension for it.
posted by odinsdream at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2013


A Gorgon Loop is when I have a three-way with Medusa and one of her sisters.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Edited to add: Heyho, that's not it. I figure if the poster isn't willing to communicate it fully it's probably not all that important.

I was really just speaking to the bit I'd quoted, but since you responded... aren't you really saying that if posters aren't willing to communicate in the manner you prefer, that it must be unimportant?! Ha! That's precisely what I was saying! Like I said... good to know. Thanks.
posted by heyho at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2013


Oh I'll communicate something fully.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 PM on January 3, 2013


I like and use it for small asides, but there is no reason to have huge blocks of text in small print. Don't quote such big pieces of articles. Link it, maybe grab a couple lines, move on.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:07 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not cute, it's not clever, and I'm just going to skip it.

You aren't?? *sobs into beer*
posted by DU at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2013


Why even bother with zoom when you can set the default smallest font size as something readable? Mine defaults to 14 and the smallest it can ever be is 12.
posted by elizardbits at 12:09 PM on January 3, 2013


I'm a bit confused, what's wrong with setting your MetaFilter preferences so that Small text is either the same size or slightly smaller than regular text?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:13 PM on January 3, 2013


I figure if the poster isn't willing to communicate it fully it's probably not all that important.

That "isn't willing to" attributes a negative motive without much evidence. Here's a stab at a more generous attribution: one reason people make text small is precisely to *signal* its relative unimportance, say, because it's tangential, or supplementary, or in service of a different conversational purpose than the bulk of the comment (or of the thread). So, if you assume it's unimportant and so choose to skip it, then... the system works, I guess, and I'm not sure why you're annoyed by people making signals that you find so useful.
posted by stebulus at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


what's wrong with setting your MetaFilter preferences so that Small text is either the same size or slightly smaller than regular text?

Not knowing that that's a thing you can do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I set my MetaFilter preferences so that Small text is pasta. Is that wrong? Because your asides are all so delicious!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2013


It's a thing you can do.

If you dare.
posted by stebulus at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2013


I've had my fonts set at 12 and 10 instead of the default 10 and 8 since pretty much forever and am always a little surprised when I see the defaults.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:21 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


So my former business partner and I had an inside joke whenever we'd get to arguing about something that was neither relevant to the big picture at hand nor particularly important, and usually, it was something we'd fundamentally agree upon but for a detail.

We'd say "Oh, you're just arguing over font size"
posted by infini at 12:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why you're annoyed by people making signals that you find so useful.

I'm not annoyed and I didn't say I was annoyed. I said that I skip stuff in small text. Perhaps I'm not the person attributing a negative motive without much evidence.
posted by 26.2 at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This goes out to It's Raining Florence Henderson:

I want to thank each and every one of you in the audience. So,

Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You
posted by Mister_A at 12:26 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, you're just arguing over font size

Font size is very important. Almost diacritical, even.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ha! I enchuckled myself if no one else.
posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2013


What's up with all the weird personal snipes? Save that bile for something more interesting!

Like fucking snake-haired mythical beasts
posted by Burhanistan at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2013


I like small text. There's not a lot we can do to mediate our presence here on MeFi and flavor our communications, especially when you consider that italics have been claimed for quoting purposes. I understand that small can be tricky for folks to read, but there are so many options for mitigating that difficulty, both within MeFi itself and without, that I consider that inconvenience a fair trade off for a little extra bit of expressiveness.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:29 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not annoyed and I didn't say I was annoyed. I said that I skip stuff in small text. Perhaps I'm not the person attributing a negative motive without much evidence.

My mistake. I conflated your comments with Afroblanco's, since you were replying to heyho's reply to Afroblanco, and used language (that's not it) which I took to mean you were correcting heyho's take on Afroblanco's remark. I should have checked the attributions more carefully.
posted by stebulus at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2013


stebulus - That happens. We're cool.
posted by 26.2 at 12:35 PM on January 3, 2013


Glad to hear it.
posted by stebulus at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2013


I wish people would give the small text a rest ... It reminds me of people who are always making sarcastic little mutterings under their breath, which is equally annoying.

I would make my sarcastic mutterings with the BIG tag but that was taken from us.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:37 PM on January 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you use Firefox (or maybe Chrome) you can try this user script which embiggens the text when you hover over it.
posted by tonycpsu at 13:56 on January 3 [+] [!]


I second this user script. It makes my Metafilter experience 112% better.
posted by slogger at 12:44 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not knowing that that's a thing you can do?

For what it's worth, here are the options one can control for their MetaFilter experience. The preferences are accessed by editing your profile (click your username in the top right corner to go to your user page, then click the 'edit your profile' type that appears next to your user name on the profile page:

Display Settings: Contact Preferences Personal Info Optional Fields (note, most of the above fields are also optional)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:46 PM on January 3, 2013 [41 favorites]


Receive In Real Life (IRL)alerts if a meet up is happening hear you

Now see, this makes me think that if I enable it mathowie himself will pop out from behind my desk and say HEY PHUNNIEMEE THERE'S GONNA BE A MEETUP SOON CHECK IT OUT.

Pony request!
posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on January 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


The ability to forward MeFi Mail (that envelope in the top right corner) to your email

Bloody hell.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on January 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sorry, but that pony is impossible. Because mathowie is hiding behind my desk.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:54 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, I call foul - I just re-set the preferences and it didn't work for the example of supersmall text used here.

So, I guess it doesn't work after all?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on January 3, 2013


I can't believe I'm saying this but...

Can we sidebar BB's comment above? Not everyone shows up here
posted by infini at 1:01 PM on January 3, 2013


Yeah I was thinking we should do that.

EC: I am not sure we have a contingency plan for seven nested small tags but if we see them anywhere other than MeTa we'll "fix" them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2013


here are the options one can control for their MetaFilter experience

But I'd like a pony to change that to "customize" the experience... I have issues with authority.
posted by infini at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


if we see them anywhere other than MeTa we'll "fix" them

You'll send them off to live on a farm with other nested tags?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bloody hell.

Yeah, sorry 'bout that.

But I'd like a pony to change that to "customize" the experience... I have issues with authority.

You're the authority on your MetaFilter experience. Unless you have issues with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2013


A choice between between two themes...

We should specify that they are "Enchantment Under the Sea" and "Winter Wonderland."
posted by griphus at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Okay, I call foul - I just re-set the preferences and it didn't work for the example of supersmall text used here.

So, I guess it doesn't work after all?


Here's an experiment to see how deeply the small font size option works.

This text has one set of small tags.

This text has two sets of small tags.

This text has three sets of small tags.

This text oh something shiny!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2013


We should specify that they are "Enchantment Under the Sea" and "Winter Wonderland."

With falling snowflakes until the 4th of whenever? (GRAR)


point taken, BB ;p
posted by infini at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2013


The preferences are accessed by editing your profile (click your username in the top right corner to go to your user page, then click the 'edit your profile' type that appears next to your user name on the profile page:

Or they could simply click the "Preferences" link in the menu under the Metafilter logo.
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on January 3, 2013


Note that the default display behavior of nested small tags may vary from browser to browser a bit as well. I remember some version of IE that I used at an old job would basically stop smallerizing after two recursions, for example.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:27 PM on January 3, 2013


yes, you can choose a different font for smaller type

True for smaller type used in post and comment bylines. But the 'smaller font' setting will not affect text that people have marked up with the <small> tag in posts or comments. You'll need to use a browser add-on to style small-tag text in a different way.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:45 PM on January 3, 2013


I just re-set the preferences and it didn't work for the example of supersmall text used here.

The minimum font size setting is a browser setting, not a MeFi setting. I just found it in SeaMonkey, thanks to this thread!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fonts must be this big to ride the SeaMonkey.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:55 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You arguing about font size again, IRFH?

makes a run for it
posted by infini at 2:02 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am more of a Do-Monkey myself.
posted by Mister_A at 2:13 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


if we see them anywhere other than MeTa we'll "fix" them
You'll send them off to live on a farm with other nested tags?

No, I think it's more like what people get done to their cats.
posted by dg at 2:19 PM on January 3, 2013


A Gorgon Loop is when I have a three-way with Medusa and one of her sisters.

It's particularly important to keep the lights off when engaging in one of these.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:20 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I say we bring back the big tag, because I'm getting older and I need certain words and phrases in my Metafilter to match up with the huge print in the Reader's Digest: Elderly Americans Edition that my grandmother got back when I was a child.
posted by item at 2:21 PM on January 3, 2013


smallerizing

The much ignored antonym of "embiggening."
posted by Panjandrum at 2:28 PM on January 3, 2013


I will pray for the BIG tag and I will meet it in a big church.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:46 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


You're on your way.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:49 PM on January 3, 2013


WHAT ABOUT USING IT FOR SMALL CAPS? IS THAT OK?
posted by aubilenon at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm making it.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should specify that they are "Enchantment Under the Sea" and "Winter Wonderland."

I wanted 'Winter Wonderland Enchantment under the Sea'. I already had mockups of the sea-reindeer and Neptune Santa!

/pouts
posted by winna at 2:55 PM on January 3, 2013


If using a scroll mouse in Windows, hold CTRL and scroll up and down to change font size.

Which is to say, in case people are (like me) unfamiliar with 'scroll mouse' as a term, if you have a mouse with a wheel (and what mice don't have wheels these days?), holding CTRL and rolling the wheel will do magical things with size in browsers and MS Office and many other places as well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:22 PM on January 3, 2013


I have moaned about this too, and as you can see, people here will use it in a thread complaining about its very use. Childish.
posted by marienbad at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, just to add, on no other website do I have to fuck around with preferences and ctrl + or ctrl scrollwheel to read the fucking text. It should be an easy to read experience seeing as it is mostly text, for everbody. So if you kids want to have your little back-and-forth in small text you can, but the old people probably won't read it.

And if it is worth saying, say it properly. Jesus.
posted by marienbad at 4:12 PM on January 3, 2013


I am Jane's INCREASING PRESBYOPIA.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:25 PM on January 3, 2013


on no other website do I have to fuck around with preferences and ctrl + or ctrl scrollwheel to read the fucking text.

I guess you've forgotten MySpace and geocities in the early days.
posted by arcticseal at 4:25 PM on January 3, 2013


Asides in small text have been a way of speaking sotto voce for effect or humor on the site since its inception, as far as I can recall. I honest don't think it's going to change, marienbad, so I hope that it isn't something that continues to annoy.

That said, massive blocks of smalltext are stupid and annoying, so if that's what has people exercised, I'm down with that.

But the 'smaller font' setting will not affect text that people have marked up with the [small] tag in posts or comments.

Wait, what? I had assumed for the last 10 years (or however long we've had font size prefs) that that was the case. I'm mildly shocked.

It seems like it would be a very good (and easy) CSS tweak to make that preference setting apply to smalltext as well, doesn't it? Is there any deliberate reason why it doesn't?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apologies in advance for my ignorance. How do you actually make small text? When y'all refer to the "small tag" is that literally "small" with the brackets things and then /small to close?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:33 PM on January 3, 2013


LIT-rlly! Yes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


/Chris Traeger
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:39 PM on January 3, 2013


Is there any deliberate reason why it doesn't?

Because having a completely separate font face within comment text would be jarring. If you set your bylines to be comic sans, you wouldn't suddenly want any use of the <small> tag to be in comic sans as well. That just isn't how that feature is set up to work. It's an option to change the font face and size for bylines.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2013


Did he just say comic sans?
posted by infini at 5:06 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you kids want to have your little back-and-forth in small text you can, but the old people probably won't read it.

Working as intended.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 5:07 PM on January 3, 2013


Seethe less: skip moar
posted by lordaych at 5:07 PM on January 3, 2013


While I have your attention, I have never had a huge [ha!] problem with small text to denote a sotto voce aside, even when I'm reading on my iPhone, on which I struggle to read normal text to begin with. But I've noticed an uptick in the use of small text in block quotes for quoted material and--while I know this convention has its own history in the printed medium--I find it much more annoying and superfluous than the use of small text to denote an aside.

I'm not going to go so far as to say "knock that shit out." However, if you are one of the people who are doing this, I ask you to please THINK OF THE OLD PEOPLE. There are many fine ways to indicate that you are quoting someone else, and the use of a smaller font is one to which you need not resort.
posted by drlith at 5:17 PM on January 3, 2013


Because having a completely separate font face within comment text would be jarring. If you set your bylines to be comic sans, you wouldn't suddenly want any use of the [small] tag to be in comic sans as well. That just isn't how that feature is set up to work. It's an option to change the font face and size for bylines.

Well, it would be pretty trivial with well-targeted CSS to avoid the problem you describe from happening, but shrug, I guess, and I suppose it would need introduction of another preference setting that does what I assumed the 'small font' one was doing all along, which I understand isn't something done without deliberation. Not that I'm bothered, really, because I'm fine with the way I have things set up.

I'm just gobsmacked that a feature I thought I understood for over a decade doesn't work the way I thought it did.

For what it's worth, I'd suggest changing the label for the preference to Byline Font/Byline Font Size from Small Font/Small Font Size, though, to reflect what it actually does. 'Small font' for the site never equated to 'Byline font' for me until this very moment, and I'd assume (perhaps incorrectly) that the same would apply for most people.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:30 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and then you could apply the preferred small font-size (but not font-face) to smalltext within comment bodies (with a note against the more-clearly labelledpreference that that's how it worked). That would bring it into line with the expected behaviour (or at least the behaviour I always expected. Heh.) without the need for any new preference options.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:41 PM on January 3, 2013


You know, or not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:41 PM on January 3, 2013


Vision issues struck me twice in 2012. I have clumsy ways to get around the nested small text tag issue, but I have to say I am so glad to see mentioned THINK OF THE OLD PEOPLE.

Seriously, I've had major insomniac worries that MetaFilter would be yet one more website that I would age out of participating in. And I couldn't live with that idea because I love MetaFilter much too much, nor could my sleepless nights dream of a way to address this issue successfully.

Once again, with feeling, we're all in this together THINK OF THE OLD PEOPLE!
posted by vers at 6:01 PM on January 3, 2013


stebulus: "one reason people make text small is precisely to *signal* its relative unimportance, say, because it's tangential, or supplementary, or in service of a different conversational purpose than the bulk of the comment (or of the thread)."

On sites that let you hide text behind spoiler buttons, a lot of times these kind of tangential asides will get spoiler-hidden even if they're not technically spoilers. Maybe we could use those kinds of buttons here?
posted by radwolf76 at 6:02 PM on January 3, 2013


I have never had a huge [ha!] problem with small text to denote a sotto voce aside,

I just have a philosophical quibble with it when people do it in AskMe as if putting a bunch of stuff in small tags is like not saying it. If the bulk of your comment is an off-topic non-answer, putting it in small text just draws attention to it. We had a discussion about that in MeTa a while ago, iirc.

I've noticed an uptick in the use of small text in block quotes for quoted material

Me too, I find it unhelpful. Having a block of text take up physically less room on the screen isn't really that useful if it's in a harder-to-read font size. I've got 20/20 vision but I don't think it's that debatable that smaller text is harder to read no matter how well your eyes work. If you're blockquoting so much stuff that you feel you need to shrink it down some, I feel you and the site would be better served by selectively quoting, not by shrinking the text down. I get the impulse, but I don't think the outcome is in line with it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


'Small font' for the site never equated to 'Byline font' for me until this very moment...

To be fair, we use the term "smaller font" on the preferences page. And I know you translated that into <small> font, but I'm not positive that's a universal assumption. The idea behind the small tag is that it makes the text smaller than the surrounding text. So if you set an explicit size for that somewhere in the CSS, you're going to have situations where that text could be the same size or bigger than the surrounding text. That breaks the expected behavior of that tag.

I see where you're coming from, but I do think this is a situation where you can break that behavior explicitly with a browser add-on, but it's not something we want to add to the site as a feature.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:01 PM on January 3, 2013


All good. Like I said, for me at least, the status quo works well enough for me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:03 PM on January 3, 2013


(Hope I didn't accidentally skip past this above…) Don't most browsers have an option for "minimum font size displayed" or something like that? That would seem to solve the problem — if minimum font size is set to something like 10pt, even multiply-nested <small> tags shouldn't cause a problem, right?
posted by Lexica at 9:16 PM on January 3, 2013


A Gorgon Loop is when I have a three-way with Medusa and one of her sisters.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:58 AM on January 3


Excuse me?
posted by medusa at 6:02 AM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Awkward! Someone ring up Super Medusa and we'll have a proper row!
posted by Mister_A at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2013


To be fair, we use the term "smaller font" on the preferences page. And I know you translated that into font, but I'm not positive that's a universal assumption.

May not be universal, but I know it's certainly what I assumed....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on January 4, 2013


Yeah, we've discussed this a bit today and we think calling it the "byline font" on the preferences page as stavros mentioned would make that setting more clear.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:05 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Late to the party, but: you know you can override this as a browser setting, yeah? I'm on Firefox, but I'm sure this exists on other modern browsers, and maybe even on IE.

In Firefox: Tools -> Options -> Content -> Advanced (under Fonts and Colors) -> Minimum font size

I have it set to 9, and <small> tags will visually sort-of-nest to 2 layers if someone's trying to be cute with sub-sub-text, but they never drop to unreadable size. I configured this like 3 years ago, and it makes the site a lot more readable without requiring client-side scripts or CSS overrides.
posted by Mayor West at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2013


Chrome has this too:

Preferences -> Show Advanced Settings... -> Web Content, Customize fonts... -> Minimum font size

You can adjust the slider there. There's some sample text so you can find the minimum readable size.

In Safari Preferences, the advanced tab has a checkbox that says, "Never use font sizes smaller than..." with an option to set the size.

I don't think IE9 has this feature, but you can override all font choices in the accessibility menu in Internet Options.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chrome has this too:

Preferences -> Show Advanced Settings... -> Web Content, Customize fonts... -> Minimum font size


....Okay, I'm not seeing a "preferences" option in Chrome, and under "Settings" I cannot find any "advanced settings". Help?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 AM on January 5, 2013


Do you have the option to search settings in the upper-right corner? Try a search for 'minimum'.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:58 AM on January 5, 2013


And here's the Chrome help page that explains how to get to this setting.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:00 AM on January 5, 2013


d'oh! I just didn't scroll down far enough - thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2013


MetaFilter: THINK OF THE OLD PEOPLE
posted by scrump at 8:50 AM on January 7, 2013


They did. All the post titles are disproportionately large for me on the Front Page since about 7 hours ago.
posted by infini at 3:24 PM on January 7, 2013


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