Tiny text is hard to read! March 19, 2007 2:08 PM   Subscribe

The tiny text that some posters tend to use as asides (example here in miss lynsters comment) is truly hard to read in anything longer than a sentence, particularly for those of us born to the mole people. This seems to be the best place as any other to ask that people consider that [small] font is rather difficult to read in chunks! ( I realize that yes, the actual answer is to Ctrl-+ on FireFox read it and reverse, but then everything else goes huge. )
posted by canine epigram to Etiquette/Policy at 2:08 PM (91 comments total)

You can personalize the font size of the [small} text under your preferences settings, link top left, this page. Set it to something bigger than tiny...
posted by Rumple at 2:17 PM on March 19, 2007


Yes, it's true that tiny text is hard to read.

*waits for the other shoe to drop*
posted by dg at 2:23 PM on March 19, 2007


Get better eyes, mole man.

One day, I too shall be old and infirm, and the indignities that I have heaped upon the aged will be visited upon me.
posted by klangklangston at 2:34 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you can read this, you're too close!
posted by kirkaracha at 2:35 PM on March 19, 2007


Consider that the purpose of using small text is that it is harder to read, and therefore perfect for an off-topic aside that many might want to skip. It's a feature, not a bug.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:38 PM on March 19, 2007


Firefox lets you specify a minimum font size for all web pages: Edit > Preferences > Content > Fonts & Colors > Advanced
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:40 PM on March 19, 2007


Yes, the tiny type is impossible to read on my phone. We should shut down Metafilter.
posted by birdherder at 2:41 PM on March 19, 2007


Custom stylesheeting and temporary browser-font changes such as you reference will solve this at a user level; what else can be done, short of banning <small>?

Also, the phrase "over my dead body" pertains.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:42 PM on March 19, 2007


If you don't use it already, the good old plain theme makes small text easier to read (at least to my short-sighted eyes).
posted by jack_mo at 2:48 PM on March 19, 2007


This thread moves me

..to a bigger house!
posted by Plutor at 2:54 PM on March 19, 2007


One day, I too shall be old and infirm, and the indignities that I have heaped upon the aged will be visited upon me.

Hogwash. Either science, or a lucky run in with a vampire, will undoubtedly save we youngsters from such an unkindly fate, Klanger. For more, see my novel, new to Amazon, My Octo-Life Crisis: Miles to Go.
posted by The God Complex at 3:13 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


One day, I too shall be old and infirm, and I shall wear <font color="#AA00FF">.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:18 PM on March 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


perfect for an off-topic aside that many might want to skip

At least in AskMe, if the user has an email in their profile, that's always seemed like a better option for an off-topic aside.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:38 PM on March 19, 2007


But jessadmin, how would the world know of my wit and charm if I were to send emails instead of using tinytext?

I know! I should go through everyone' user pages and harvest email addresses! Then I can mass-mail my witticisms to everyone!
posted by SpecialK at 3:43 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least in AskMe, if the user has an email in their profile, that's always seemed like a better option for an off-topic aside.

I disagree. I often find them as interesting--if not more interesting--than the threads themselves. They add the organic character one cherishes: two users, spurred by the conversation at hand, pull each other aside for a quiet word away from the din of the raucous Metafilter crowd. It's quaint.
posted by The God Complex at 3:46 PM on March 19, 2007


I think jessamyn is speaking specifically of the green, where raucous din is not so in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:51 PM on March 19, 2007


What a coincidence! Raucous din is the name of my band.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:55 PM on March 19, 2007


I know she was. But. as I've said before, a bit of an organic exchange in the otherwise inorganic RRP (regimented response protocol) for AskMe is a welcome respite. It adds character.

I just realized I've somehow started to channel the spirit of early Miguel. Excuse me.
posted by The God Complex at 4:00 PM on March 19, 2007


Highlight the text, right click and select "View selection source."
posted by Eideteker at 4:17 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


cortex: "One day, I too shall be old and infirm, and I shall wear <font color="#AA00FF">."

Deprecated HTML? Wouldn't suicide be a more graceful exit?
posted by Plutor at 4:24 PM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just realized I've somehow started to channel the spirit of early Miguel.

How early? Like, pre-first-martini early, freshly woken in the pre-dawn by a gnawing absence in his soul, whispers from the ghosts of The Night Before still echoing in his ears?
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:33 PM on March 19, 2007


Jeez, I don't know, that "No other comments" thing right next to my name below ain't lookin so large either.
posted by nevercalm at 4:44 PM on March 19, 2007


wha????????????????????????????????

Get yourself some reading glasses.
posted by caddis at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2007


what else can be done, short of banning <small>

I used to pine over <big>, but then I realised that bold can do almost everything I wanted big for. Meanwhile, we lost <img>, so I'm just as irritated as ever :)
Of course, if we could have marque back...
posted by Chuckles at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2007


First they came for Blink. I didn't care, I'm not a blinker. I never said a word.

Then they came for Img. Not having a massive cache of hilarious GIFs anywhere handy, I cared but it didn't effect me.

Then they came for Small. And I'm yelling it to the hills that this is a fascist state now but there's no one left to hear.
posted by nevercalm at 5:19 PM on March 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Blink still works.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:25 PM on March 19, 2007


In related font news: Does anyone know why italics doesn't work when reading the site thru a Wii? It makes it surprisingly hard to make sense of things since the quotes look the same as the responses.
posted by smackfu at 6:24 PM on March 19, 2007


you maybe opening up a terrible can of worms.
posted by josher71 at 6:37 PM on March 19, 2007


I cut my toenails too close to the quick the other day.
posted by killdevil at 6:38 PM on March 19, 2007


THERE ARE A LOT OF COMPUTERS ON THE INTERNET. AND I'M TYPING LONG DISTANCE HERE!
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:39 PM on March 19, 2007


but nobody really cares what we think.
posted by killdevil at 6:40 PM on March 19, 2007


I love a spurious metatalk thread in the evening.
posted by killdevil at 6:43 PM on March 19, 2007


I remain firm in my assessment that you are all indeed a bunch of tards.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:51 PM on March 19, 2007


Also.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:54 PM on March 19, 2007


Thanks Burhanistan. It's good to know I'm not the only person wasting his life. At least I haven't resorted to tickling rats.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:03 PM on March 19, 2007


Yeah, I realized right after I hit submit that I meant "Marquee," not "Blink." Oh well. So here's what it should be:

First they came for Marquee. But I don't move from left to right. Or right to left. I'm right here, man. It didn't bother me much, so I didn't say a word......
posted by nevercalm at 7:07 PM on March 19, 2007


I'm surprised at cortex and jessamyn being entirely unhelpful in this thread.

The answer as mentioned by Rumple above but almost inaudible in the din of followup grabassery is that you can set your font preferences sizes for regular and small-text in your profile on this very site.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:29 PM on March 19, 2007


what else can be done, short of banning <small>

The ColdFusion code that enters comments could replace one or more instances of <small> with <span class="note">, then a font size for "note" could be set in the style sheet. ("Note" instead of "small" for semantic reasons.)
posted by kirkaracha at 7:32 PM on March 19, 2007


you can set your font preferences sizes for regular and small-text in your profile on this very site.

...and if that doesn't do what I claim it does, I don't know what the fuck.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:34 PM on March 19, 2007


This is an issue that, a year or two ago, used to come up almost daily. I think the fact that you can change your font size in your profile is a good solution.

I also think that you really ought to change that font size if you're having trouble reading the small text.
posted by koeselitz at 7:41 PM on March 19, 2007


... ... .... .... ...... ....? ...?
posted by buzzman at 7:41 PM on March 19, 2007


perfect for an off-topic aside that many might want to skip. It's a feature, not a bug.

Tiny text isn't used that often (thank goodness) but in longer threads it therefore seems to stand out, effectively highlighting the text so that it's the opposite of an aside. Not less distracting, but more.

But if we make tinytext exclusion a profile option, why not italic exclusion?

I know I don't want to live in a mefi without italics.
posted by conch soup at 7:42 PM on March 19, 2007


It's just a web forum.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 PM on March 19, 2007


OMG. I have been dying for months to know how to write small words. Font size never seemed to work! Thank you! Thank you! You have spared me my two weeks!
posted by acoutu at 8:27 PM on March 19, 2007


Definitely the minimum font size in Firefox is the option you seek. On my desktop, the small text is smaller than normal, and perfectly readable. On my laptop, small text is the same size as normal, and perfectly readable. This is a client-side issue.
posted by knave at 8:42 PM on March 19, 2007


This will have no impact whatsoever on my use of the 'small' tag. I consider it a vital part of my metafocabulary.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:58 PM on March 19, 2007


Sometimes I want to punch you, MetaFilter.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:03 PM on March 19, 2007


I'm surprised at cortex and jessamyn being entirely unhelpful in this thread.

Well Rumple answered it in the first comment, so other than that it struck me that it was going to turn into a discussion like about spelling and whether you hate bad spellers or whether it should be okay to speak in the new "organic" lingua franca of teh w3b. So, my vote was "it would be great if people would stop using the small tag" but I don't have the ability to block the small tag at a site level, and I don't have much of a mandate to go on small tag patrol and eliminate it when I see it. So what sort of help were you looking for here?

Listen to Rumple, he got it in one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 PM on March 19, 2007


Huh. Should I not be using small? I just tend to do that if I feel like I'm typing a lot or if it's an aside or something off topic or something...

Didn't realize I was being all troublemakerlike & inspiring a MeTa! :)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:30 PM on March 19, 2007


Huh... I can't seem to make that work. I tried to enlarge the small text, and that didn't solve the problem of tiny text with the 'small' tag; instead, it just enlarged the non-body text (the 'posted by' line, for example). The tiny text was still tiny. What the am I doing wrong here?

I do tend to think that small is best reserved for quick asides, and that in longer posts it's kind of a pain to read.
posted by stefanie at 9:36 PM on March 19, 2007


stefanie, are you talking about small text like this, or ridiculously tiny text (and next little squiggly bit says 'like this', for reference) like this?

Because much as I may disagree with jessamyn in my druthers about the former, the latter is silly, indefensible mucking about that no one should ever have to worry about decoding.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 PM on March 19, 2007


Changing your text size preferences on your user profile only affects "body text" and "smaller text". The "smaller text" distinction is made for things like comment taglines (posted by..., etc.) and doesn't help modifying <small> text unless you choose to increase "body text" altogether.

Looks like setting the minimum font option (Tools->Options->Content->Fonts & Colors->Advanced->Minimum font size) on FireFox is the best option.
posted by carsonb at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


...without even deigning to consider eliminating <small> as an option, of course.
posted by carsonb at 9:51 PM on March 19, 2007


Goddam right, buddy. You're gonna want to rein that deign right in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 PM on March 19, 2007


Rein it in? I just sent it off on a dinghy to Shanghai two inches off the ground where all my deign will reign over a perpetually precipitative paradise.
posted by carsonb at 9:58 PM on March 19, 2007


The "smaller text" distinction is made for things like comment taglines (posted by..., etc.) and doesn't help modifying <small> text unless you choose to increase "body text" altogether.

Ugh, wot bad Englich. Pardon this attempt to clarify. "Body text" is most everything that's not "Smaller text"—comments and posts and all that. Increasing the body text setting will increase nearly all of the text you see on the page—including, yes, stuff hocked into a <small> tag—but, as mentioned above, increases all of the other text as well. An ungainly solution. Changing the settings detailed above on your browser will keep most of the text a normal size whilst displaying small text at the preferred size.
posted by carsonb at 10:05 PM on March 19, 2007


Yes, micro text is just insane, and I don't even bother trying to decode it. But sometimes even the regular small stuff makes me do the old-person squint.

carsonb has the perfect solution, though (except I found it in Preferences) and now I can read even the super-teeny-tiny-secret-code text. Whee!
posted by stefanie at 10:09 PM on March 19, 2007


now I can read even the super-teeny-tiny-secret-code text. Whee!

So you're up to speed on killdevil's podiatary predicament, par example? Good.
posted by carsonb at 11:33 PM on March 19, 2007


Everyone should have an opportunity to learn about that.
posted by killdevil at 11:44 PM on March 19, 2007


carsonb has the perfect solution, though (except I found it in Preferences) and now I can read even the super-teeny-tiny-secret-code text. Whee!

The other option was always to cut and paste it to the comment box at the bottom of the page and read it there (or just right-click and view source).
posted by The God Complex at 1:05 AM on March 20, 2007


So what sort of help were you looking for here?

Listen to Rumple, he got it in one.

That.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:05 AM on March 20, 2007


*sighs*
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 5:51 AM on March 20, 2007


Then I demand recognition that I got the real answer in 6! Rah!
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:52 AM on March 20, 2007


in longer threads it therefore seems to stand out, effectively highlighting the text so that it's the opposite of an aside. Not less distracting, but more.

But the comment is meant as an aside regardless of its practical effect. Or the comment is meant to be distracting. Either way, I don't see the sense in taking away a tool to convey that additional meaning ("this is an aside" or "look-at-me") for what amounts to a browser configuration issue. If you aren't set up to see small text on MetaFilter, then there's other huge pieces of the web that you are missing too.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:09 AM on March 20, 2007


Rumple's local solution, and Carsonb's global one seem to be just what I was aiming for. Wasn't aware I could do either of those things. Despite the grabassery

Too bad there isn't some other generally accepted practice for asides.

I often find them as interesting--if not more interesting--than the threads themselves. They add the organic character one cherishes: two users, spurred by the conversation at hand, pull each other aside for a quiet word away from the din of the raucous Metafilter crowd. It's quaint.

That's exactly why I'm so interested in reading them!

caddis - I hope your mockery makes you happy.
posted by canine epigram at 6:36 AM on March 20, 2007


Despite the grabassery

Whoops.
posted by canine epigram at 6:37 AM on March 20, 2007


But the comment is meant as an aside regardless of its practical effect. Or the comment is meant to be distracting.

Yes, it's a stage whisper. It makes things more interesting.
posted by cillit bang at 6:55 AM on March 20, 2007


Excuse me canine epigram, I have to find my reading glasses before I can read that stuff after your bold display of my username.
posted by caddis at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2007


I didn't know about minimum font size -- thanks, hoverboards don't work on water. Now quit calling me four-eyes, you young whippersnappers! I can see what you're writing now, you know.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:20 AM on March 20, 2007


I can name that tune in four notes!
posted by Kwine at 7:22 AM on March 20, 2007


Virtual Magnifying Glass 3.2.1, open source for Windows, Linux and FreeBSD.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:58 AM on March 20, 2007


Either way, I don't see the sense in taking away a tool

Where did anybody get the idea that this was about taking away small type? I keep seeing this in the thread and I don't get it. The request was to: ask that people consider that [small] font is rather difficult to read in chunks. That's all.

I don't really see how we got from "could we not use small font in large chunks" to "I want to take small font away"
posted by stefanie at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2007


Unfortunately, stefanie, the history has been that complaints about a tag are a precursor to losing the tag. See big, img, marquee et al.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2007


Slippery slope! Slippery slope!
posted by Dave Faris at 8:36 AM on March 20, 2007


*slides*
posted by Kwine at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2007


I don't really see how we got from "could we not use small font in large chunks" to "I want to take small font away"

Bit of an inferential hop-and-a-skip, I suppse.

One of the practical limitations of this sort of discussion on metatalk is that it's non-trivial to go from here:

- General agreement on the worthiness of a proposed stylistic change

to here:

- Actually seeing that change occur in the behavior of mefites in general.

Only a fraction of the posting/commenting membership seems to read metatalk at all, and fewer read it religiously, so agreeing that something is a good idea (say, showing some restraint in <small> tag use) doesn't really get the word out. We talk about it, we come to something more or less resembling loose concensus, and...that's it.

Metatalk is a good sounding board, but these discussions themselves have no direct sway over how folks use the site. And so, I figured, people who've seen a lot of these threads play out of the years may make the connection that asking to actually see a change in use of the tag is essentially asking for an actively enforced (partial) ban on use of the tag—whether pro-active (viva l'img, et al) or reactive (admins stripping small tags deemed inappropriate after the fact). Anything less is, well, more or less impotent: we're left with people who read this thread and agreed with it being provocative to other small-using users in-thread, which is not something that scales well at all.

For context: the small tag has come up a few times before [1, 2, 3, etc], famously, in previous discussions—most notably, y2karl got shouted down a few times, at least, over his use of small quoted blocks of text in his posts, and eventually stopped doing it. That's an example of where these threads might see direct results: addressing (however rightfully) an individual user's behavior, or a very specific case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:42 AM on March 20, 2007


Paul Simon forgot to write that song.


When I look back on all the crap I saw on AOL
It's a wonder I can post for you
And if my life of websurfing hasn't hurt me none
I can see tiny writing on the blue

Tiny type
It goes on all the colors
It goes on the green of AskMe
Makes it seem all the web is a snarky thread
I got a MeFi account
I love to post comments
Momma don't take my tiny font away

If you took all the posts I made
When I was a noob
And brought them all together for one thread
I know they'd never match
my small tag application
everything looks worse in bigger type

Tiny type
It goes on all the colors
It goes on the green of AskMe
Makes it seem all the web is a snarky thread
I got a MeFi account
I love to post comments
Momma don't take my tiny font away

Momma don't take my tiny font
Momma don't take my tiny font
Momma don't take my tiny font
Momma don't take my tiny font away
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I know! I should go through everyone' user pages and harvest email addresses! Then I can mass-mail my witticisms to everyone!"

That sounds like a wonderful idea!
posted by davy at 9:23 AM on March 20, 2007


Um, you do know that if you hold down the Control key and click on the Plus key (in Windows) that you can increase the size of your display, at least in Firefox, don't you?

Of course the opposite is true, you can decrease the size of your display by holding down Ctrl and clicking the - key
.
posted by Lynsey at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2007


Um, you do know that if you hold down the Control key and click on the Plus key (in Windows) that you can increase the size of your display, at least in Firefox, don't you?

That method (and its drawbacks) was brought up in the question, Lynsey.
posted by stefanie at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2007


The 'a' in got shouted down a few times leads to a Meta thread that links to the first time I ever used the small tag in front page post, where the first comment was:
I love this format. Can we get all FPPs in this format from now on?
posted by jonson at 3:17 PM on July 18 [+] [!]
So, blame jonson.

As for the small tag, I quit using it so much when my eyes got worse. So. alternately, blame God.

But I prefer to blame jonson. That should be the golden rule: If there are any doubts, if all else fails, blame jonson. Works for me!

I know I'll get at least one favorite for this comment !
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2007


*adds 'y2small' to site's Things That Are jonson's Fault db*
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2007


I have bad vision.
Probably worse than yours is.
Nothing wrong with <small>.
posted by oaf at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2007


cillit bang: Yes, it's a stage whisper. It makes things more interesting.

I prefer the term 'sotto voce'.

Err, sorry. Make that 'sotto voce'.
posted by quin at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2007


I hate terms. And things that are small. I hate myself.

What?
posted by cgc373 at 1:31 PM on March 20, 2007


NEEEEEEEEEEEEAR!

faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!
posted by brundlefly at 2:48 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Um, you do know that if you hold down the Control key and click on the Plus key (in Windows) that you can increase the size of your display, at least in Firefox, don't you?

Of course the opposite is true, you can decrease the size of your display by holding down Ctrl and clicking the - key.


Don't forget Ctrl+0 to return to your normal text size settings.
posted by carsonb at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2007


I hate terms.

So - you're for term limits, then?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2007


You can also hold control and scroll your mousewheel to get larger font sizes.
posted by !Jim at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2007


I did not know that, !Jim! Thanks.
posted by Mister_A at 7:52 AM on March 21, 2007


I just made the !Kung clucking noise when I read that back to myself.
posted by Mister_A at 7:53 AM on March 21, 2007


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