pdfs, the silent killer... February 27, 2015 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Small feature request: can we have pdfs mark themselves as such automatically?

For example when someone makes a(n) fpp that includes a link that ends in .pdf that it automatically appends the [pdf] to the end (preferably in bold: [pdf])...just so we can avoid the inevitable "oh great, I'm on my phone and now I'm downloading like, a whole thing" and "hey can someone label this properly?" and then someone has to go and do that. Bonus points: for those who do remember to add the [pdf] it doesn't add another: [pdf][pdf] (the "it" here being the text entry box on new post...hm, or all of them,actually) Thanks!
posted by sexyrobot to Feature Requests at 9:05 AM (37 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

We've talked about the idea in the past and stayed away from it for a few reasons combined:

1. We don't see a ton of PDFs in posts. It's something like an order of magnitude less than youtubes I think based on numbers pb has run.

2. People often do a good job of labeling PDFs as it is, vs. youtube videos which at this point are so normalized as Just Web Content that for there's not the same expectation of labeling there.

3. Fixing these by hand is pretty easy in the cases where someone doesn't in a blind-link sort of situation; with PDF links infrequent enough, a quick display error flag or note to the contact form won't eat up much of our time to address it manually and we can fix it pretty quick.

4. Supporting another option in preferences for conditional display is that much more fiddliness on that page, which we try and avoid if it's not super necessary. My personal feeling based on the above is it doesn't really hit that super-necessary threshold.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It might make sense in the mobile theme though. Hitting a pdf link on either my phone or tablet makes them very unhappy, and there's no way to preview a link destination.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Perhaps a warning at post creation time: "Hey, this link ends in .pdf, do you want to make a note of that?".
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:25 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


It might make sense in the mobile theme though. Hitting a pdf link on either my phone or tablet makes them very unhappy, and there's no way to preview a link destination.

I agree that this would be great on the mobile theme.

fffm, on iOS and Android, if you hold down your finger on the link in most browsers, a little popup should come up that shows the link, asking how you want to open it.
posted by zarq at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Perhaps a warning at post creation time: "Hey, this link ends in .pdf, do you want to make a note of that?".

This sounds like a good idea.
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2015


Maybe this instead: "Hey, this link ends in .pdf, do you want to reflect on the life choices that have led you to this moment?"

I kid. But really, pdf links are the worst.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:28 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


For those of us who _do_ usually label PDFs as such, though, this will result in a double marking if we're not paying attention (then we'd need another feature to detect that!). I like the idea of a preview warning better, if anything.
posted by advil at 11:29 AM on February 27, 2015


uh:

"Bonus points: for those who do remember to add the [pdf] it doesn't add another: [pdf][pdf]"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:36 AM on February 27, 2015


What's the issue with a PDF on a mobile device?
posted by dfriedman at 11:43 AM on February 27, 2015


A lot of data used, hard to read.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


dfriedman: "What's the issue with a PDF on a mobile device?"

Data costs and speed for me. I am usually ok making the decision to use the data (WiFi!), but not so okay if someone makes that decision for me especially if I am somewhere with no LTE and no WiFi
posted by 724A at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2015


It's weird – PDFs are far from a problem on my mobile devices. Aren't most web pages on the NYT and Salon and such much heavier than PDFs these days anyway? Those are the ones that kill me. I can load most PDFs in a second or two, but get an ad-heavy news site, even with a mobile theme, and it's a killer.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on February 27, 2015


That's probably true, but the issue for me is most PDFs are a pain to read on a phone because the text doesn't resize or flow.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:49 PM on February 27, 2015


I get the reflow thing, but yeah, I did a quick check with a web size meter and the the only PDF links on the front page are 2.0MB and 2.1MB while most other web links are far above that. And my Android and iOS devices all have 0 issue with PDFs (other than reflow, which is not mobile-specific) and omit the ads and tracking JS shit in favor of sweet, beautiful content.
posted by neustile at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2015


Oh geez, just label the dang PDFs already! Sometimes the culture of this site makes it seem like it's run by a bunch of old people. "Oh no, change!" Seriously. Not to sound angry or anything but this is not some big drastic change to site policy OP is asking for, it's something that has a lot of upsides (lots of us hate PDFs!) and literally, zero downsides. It could even be a preference box you could check.
posted by MattMangels at 1:39 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


THERE ARE ALREADY TOO MANY CHECKBOXES ON THE PREFERENCES PAGE

...and trying to get a multi-page profile would be like walking through fire, I suppose
posted by disclaimer at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2015


"vs. youtube videos which at this point are so normalized as Just Web Content that for there's not the same expectation of labeling there"

Unless you live in a very rural space and accidentally loading a video can have you rushing to turn off your internet before you go over your stupid fucking bandwidth limits. Or if you are using your phone in a rural place where you are likely to have 1 bar of "service" (but still pay the same damn amount of money as folks who think that 4 bars of LTE are the norm).
posted by terrapin at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


another option in preferences for conditional display is that much more fiddliness on that page

Javascript: that much more fiddliness .
posted by four panels at 5:17 PM on February 27, 2015


But really, pdf links are the worst.
Let me link you to a Word file that contains troff markup that describes far worse options.
posted by plinth at 6:26 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is so far into greasemonkey's wheelhouse that I can't even finish this analogy.
posted by Jpfed at 8:52 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there Greasemonkey for mobile?
posted by Gordafarin at 5:04 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Absolutely no problem with PDFs on mobile or on desktop. I usually tag 'em if I link 'em, but they're benign.

Since most websites flow text into about ⅓ of my browser window width, or scroll precisely 105% of my browser height, I'd say that it's the web that has the problem with reflow.
posted by scruss at 7:12 AM on February 28, 2015


I support this request. I hate clicking PDF links on mobile. Not so much because of data usage, but because it opens a PDF viewer and saves the document on my device (Android). Not a pleasant experience.
posted by alligatorman at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Don't bother doing this, PDFs are typically smaller and faster loading than Web pages and this request is invalid
posted by aydeejones at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


You should ask Google to FTFY
posted by aydeejones at 8:42 AM on February 28, 2015


And especially don't do it because someone was like "just do it and don't be olds." Get over it Maan you're the one acting like and old
posted by aydeejones at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2015


++ plz label pdfs. okthxby.
posted by Dashy at 8:58 AM on February 28, 2015


You can fix this with a user CSS, for instance with the Stylish extension available for (at least desktop) Chrome and Firefox. Not sure if you can do anything like that on any mobile browser.

Once you have Stylish installed, you can go here to install the stylesheet I made which inserts a little PDF icon after links that end in ".pdf". It does insert it even if someone has helpfully put [pdf] in the link text. I don't think I can prevent that from happening with just CSS.
posted by bjrn at 12:46 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a Stylish extension for Firefox on Android as well.
posted by bjrn at 12:57 PM on February 28, 2015


I'm another that has no real problem with .pdf links, except the issue that, when they're loading, nothing happens and it makes me wonder if something has stopped working (or, when I'm on the train, whether I've exceeded my allowance for the train's WiFi which is stupidly small). Regardless of what device I'm using, I always check the destination of links before following them anyway, so I'm not surprised by the apparent lack of things happening if I follow a .pdf link.

I do like that .pdf links aren't going to try and surprise me with a bunch of flashing ads or additional pop-up windows, though.
posted by dg at 1:28 PM on February 28, 2015


+1 on autolabel of pdfs based on extension in mobile themes. It's a one rule a:after css fix, in the dumbest implentation. I also claim that (pdf) (pdf) is the lesser of two evils. My issue is mostly the unreadability thing). I always feel slightly annoyed after clicking on one, which rubs off onto my perception of metafilter.

Even I don't have Greasemonkey for mobile Firefox and I work at the darn place :).
posted by gregglind at 2:25 PM on February 28, 2015


I am super-old and I have the same problem as alligatorman - both my tablet and my phone run the native Chrome browser, which irritatingly drops you out of browsing to show you your brand new pdf even if you scream "NO DON'T GODDAMMIT".
(I scream that a lot at my devices because Google helps me soooo often when I don't want it to. If you know and show me how to set preferences so that the Google voice-search microphone can't be turned on, I will cover you in rubies.)
posted by gingerest at 8:45 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's the issue with a PDF on a mobile device?

Even on the top tier performing, current generation mobile devices i've used(iPhone 6, LG G3, etc) PDFs still resulted in like 10 seconds of white screen, and then when it finally loads it's a stuttery or checkerboard mess and a little loading icon informing me that 2-10mb or even more of my data got sucked down. I recently got tricked in to clicking a something like 40mb PDF. Not on here, but still, ugh.

But really, on phones that otherwise steamroll through any task and generally only stutter in poorly made apps, or stuff that doesn't take advantage of modern hardware... PDFs are just a total bog down bear to deal with in so many ways. On one hand i can't believe this hasn't changed since like, 2007, but on the other hand i'm not surprised.

Oh, and especially fuck the PDFs that are just entirely scanned pages of something as images, and nothing is actually rendered as text... so when you try and zoom in on a touch screen device it's just a blurry mess. I've definitely seen that at least once on here in the past year. Such garbage can crap.
posted by emptythought at 1:54 AM on March 1, 2015


I would pet this pony.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where are all these gargantuan PDFs that are being posted to the blue and left unlabelled? Can you cite a recent example?
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:36 AM on March 2, 2015


If you know and show me how to set preferences so that the Google voice-search microphone can't be turned on

Android 5: Settings > language & input > keyboard & input methods, then you can allow "enhanced" for the full buggery, "basic" which keeps speech to text, but turns off the voice commands, and nothing (deselect both) which turns voice interactions off entirely.

If you have Android 4, it's similar as I recall. You want to disable "voice typing".
posted by bonehead at 12:53 PM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It won't let me deselect both? But thank you very much for getting me that far.
posted by gingerest at 2:54 AM on March 3, 2015


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