Curious about MeFi/AskMe in relation to Safari 5.0's Reader function. July 10, 2010 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Curious about MeFi/AskMe in relation to Safari 5.0's Reader function.

I'm not sure if it's wanted or not, but for some MeFi posts (yet not others) Safari shows it's new little Reader button in the address bar. But clicking on it just shows the text of the main post—none of the comments, just a bunch of white space.

Are there any plans to make MeFi/AskMe Safari Reader compliant? (although, since it strips out ads, maybe that would be counter-productive as far as traffic from non-users went. Also, I'm not sure if Reader allows for interaction such as favoriting or flagging...)

Anyway, just curious.
posted by blueberry to Feature Requests at 10:22 PM (45 comments total)

No plans to make MeFi Safari Reader compliant, and we'd be happy to disable those buttons if we could. AFAIK, the Safari Reader algorithm is still a bit of a mystery and no one knows what exactly turns it on or off.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:25 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never tried the feature out, is there any documentation for it?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:28 PM on July 10, 2010


I love Safari's Reader function and if Safari itself didn't crash all the friggin time I'd use it more often.

Matt, if you want to try it, go to this article, for instance, and click READER in the location bar. You'll see a window pop up and the 9 page New Yorker Article can be read on one page.
posted by dobbs at 10:32 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


No idea if this is the issue, but if you just recently started having crashing-all-the-time problems you might want to try turning extensions off, there's some crazy bug that was giving me daily crashes.
posted by floam at 10:43 PM on July 10, 2010


Safari has extensions?
posted by dobbs at 10:49 PM on July 10, 2010




The Reader feature is just a port of the popular Readability bookmarklet, if that helps.
posted by chrismear at 11:10 PM on July 10, 2010


Although I have to say, since MetaFilter is already just text in a font of your choice on a white background (if you have the right preferences), what benefit does switching on Reader bring?
posted by chrismear at 11:15 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


>what benefit does switching on Reader bring?

While I'm starting to use the Reader function for some non-MeFi pages (like multi-page articles on NYTimes.com), this question just stemmed from curiosity about MeFi's relation to it because of the few times I'd seen the Reader icon appear on a MeFi page.
posted by blueberry at 12:53 AM on July 11, 2010


I believe this is algorithmically determined based on the largest block of content, with some various heuristics applied. The comments being stripped out is intended behavior. This is how Readability works as far as I know.
posted by cj_ at 2:20 AM on July 11, 2010


Now that they have co-opted 'Shift/Command/R' for 'Enter Reader', how are we supposed to do a 'Super' Reload?
posted by woodblock100 at 2:35 AM on July 11, 2010


I don't think shift-cmd-R ever did anything different than cmd-R in Safari. It certainly doesn't in Chrome. Just ran into this today when changing content-type headers on a webserver. I had to touch the timestamp of the file in question to get anything but a Not Modified response. Couldn't find a way to clear the cache either. :(
posted by cj_ at 3:02 AM on July 11, 2010


Actually, I've got it. Keyboard and mouse behave differently. Holding the shift key while using the mouse to select the menu item 'Reload' does indeed seem to do a Force Reload (fetching images, etc. from the server again). But using just the keyboard - Shift/Command/R - gets the Reader (when the 'Reader' button is visible ...)
posted by woodblock100 at 3:10 AM on July 11, 2010


Now that they have co-opted 'Shift/Command/R' for 'Enter Reader', how are we supposed to do a 'Super' Reload?

Safari barely caches anything anyway (hence all the "are you sure you want to resubmit a form just to go back and see what the previous page said?" dialogues) so unlike browsers with proper caching like (amazingly) Internet Explorer, you don't really need a "super refresh".
posted by bonaldi at 7:45 AM on July 11, 2010


(ha, unless you're developing. In which case: cj_ you clear the cache from the Safari menu. And what woodblock100 said)
posted by bonaldi at 7:49 AM on July 11, 2010


I want the Reader stuff documented. It drives me nuts that on some sites I get the content I want and other sites not so much.

On my own site it only gives you the first third of the content. Crazy if you ask me and totally breaks the site, since someone hitting it with reader might not realize there was additional content right there on the page! I'm not even doing crazy pagination tricks.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on July 11, 2010


Matt, if you want to try it, go to this article, for instance, and click READER in the location bar. You'll see a window pop up and the 9 page New Yorker Article can be read on one page.

I don't know if I've ever said "holy goddamn" before just this moment.
posted by soma lkzx at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2010


(ha, unless you're developing. In which case: cj_ you clear the cache from the Safari menu. And what woodblock100 said)

Yeah I meant to say Chrome. I swear the "Clear Browsing Data" button wasn't there when I looked for it.
posted by cj_ at 3:35 PM on July 11, 2010


For those interested: a chart of reload key behaviors in various browsers.
posted by koeselitz at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


[Doesn't include Safari, unfortunately, but it still seemed mildly related.]
posted by koeselitz at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2010


Admins on a site known to use unreadable line lengths and colour combinations would go out of their way to sabotage one of the growing number of last-ditch tools used to make Web pages basically readable?

And you people claim to be too busy to actually make the site readable, which involves max-width and almost nothing else?
posted by joeclark at 9:45 PM on July 11, 2010


whoa joeclark. The feature is confusing people. If we can stop that confusion we will. Apple has been completely silent about how this feature works—how is that making things better for everyone?
posted by pb (staff) at 9:47 PM on July 11, 2010


Admins on a site known to use unreadable line lengths and colour combinations would go out of their way to sabotage one of the growing number of last-ditch tools used to make Web pages basically readable?

The hell?

Look, Readability (which this feature is based on as far as I know) works by stripping out shit like comments and ads. It's working as intended. What is it you want out of this feature? Mefi doesn't have ads for logged in users, and the comments are there in default view. That and Apple is silent on how it works, probably to foil sites from gaming it so the content you are trying to strip show up anyway.

Re: max-width, you can accomplish this by clicking the lower-right hand corner of your browser and dragging the window to the desired size.
posted by cj_ at 10:02 PM on July 11, 2010


And you people claim to be too busy to actually make the site readable, which involves max-width and almost nothing else?
Yeah, you know, for people who are too busy to resize their browser window. You don't even need to use the lower-right corner - you can click any corner to resize, which can save several nanoseconds of precious time by using the corner that is closest to the current location of your cursor.
posted by dg at 11:35 PM on July 11, 2010


joeclark: “Admins on a site known to use unreadable line lengths and colour combinations would go out of their way to sabotage one of the growing number of last-ditch tools used to make Web pages basically readable?”

Says the apparently self-anointed readability expert with the painfully unreadable personal website.
posted by koeselitz at 11:41 PM on July 11, 2010


we'd be happy to disable those buttons if we could.

Don't be anti-user.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


People are coming to us confused about how their browser is behaving at MetaFilter. We have no way to make their experience consistant because Apple won't give us the tools necessary to make that experience consistant. So when I say I'd be happy to disable the feature, it's because I'd like to make things consistant for people. I'd like that confusion and poor experience to be gone. I don't feel like that's anti-user.

Perhaps I should have said: we'd be happy to make the Safari Reader experience consistant across the site if we could.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, is that chart really indicating that there's no way to force an uncached reload in Chrome? Is that right?
posted by NortonDC at 6:44 AM on July 12, 2010


Perhaps I should have said: we'd be happy to make the Safari Reader experience consistant across the site if we could.

I would vote for this. Safari Reader is great because I can go to any site, hit Cmd+a, and the hotkey to read text out loud and immediately get the content to a screen-reader without it also including inline ads and clutter. Not fucking with Reader is an accessibility win.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:57 AM on July 12, 2010


...I can go to any site...

That's how it's supposed to work in theory. But the algorithms used to enabled Reader are apparently a closely guarded secret so sites like us can't game the system. (?) But without the ability to know when/why the Reader icon is enabled we're stuck with Reader working on some pages and not others as many users have reported. We're stuck with Reader showing some content, not all. We're fine with it stripping ads, but comments are sort of a core piece of what we do around here.

I think you might have better luck with other accessibility tools. RSS + a screen-reader would probably be better combo. And RSS is a completely open standard that we're committed to supporting. There's no ads or clutter in RSS either.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:04 AM on July 12, 2010


I think you might have better luck with other accessibility tools.

It's a convenience, not a necessity. I just want to help stop any developing trend among web developers to want to try and defeat it, which I think is totally wrong-headed.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:07 AM on July 12, 2010


Space Coyote: “It's a convenience, not a necessity. I just want to help stop any developing trend among web developers to want to try and defeat it, which I think is totally wrong-headed.”

That's like saying you want to help stop a growing trend among scientists to want to try and defeat God. What is the mystical algorithm behind Safari Reader? Unless you give that to web developers, they can't write pages that work with Reader. At the point, we have two options: no Metafilter via Reader, or a completely broken Metafilter via Reader. Given that there are currently no other options, I think the first is preferable.
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 AM on July 12, 2010


I just want to help stop any developing trend among web developers to want to try and defeat it, which I think is totally wrong-headed.

Take my site as an example (in my profile if you care). It has four sections to each post. 1. The letter to a company. 2. The thumbnail graphic of the response with a link to a larger jpg. 3. A transcription of the response. 4. Lame commentary.

I don't do fancy multi-page pagination designed to get page loads. The content is all right there in one long column, but in reader you only get the letter that was sent (the first fourth of the page). This not only defeats the purpose of the site, but also returns a result that is a disservice to the reader (in my opinion).

So I am forced to either ignore it, redesign my template and hope that I can get it to all load (and pray that Apple doesn't change it again), or do a browser detect and deliver a different template that basically says, "You're hitting this site with Safari. Sorry, is does not display properly in Safari. Please use Firefox." I'm not going to do that last part (my former bank used that solution to keep me from using Safari to bank with them), but for the first time I understand the sentiment.

I'm not a designer, or a web geek (obviously), but I try to use valid HTML and CSS. I proof my site in Safari and as long as it validates I don't much care how other browsers display it (I am a hobbyist, not a professional). Reader is changing this for me. I'm lazy so probably won't do a redesign. Instead I'll continue to design (as best I can) to standards and proof in Firefox. If it looks like crap in Safari or content of value is missing that Apple's damn fault (unless they publish a standard so I know what needs changed).

Content delivery on the internet is supposed to be dictated by standards and protocols, not manipulated by hidden algorithms. This is just one Apple fanboy's take on it.

Completely set aside the argument that I think fully justified text is an abomination and an affront to man and I can't understand why anyone would want to view articles in this manner.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 AM on July 12, 2010


You can use WebKit's web inspector to look at the Reader view. I downloaded the html and did a bit of tweaking to try to reverse engineer it. Tricking it into showing the comments appears to require that all of the page content get included in that <div id="page"> element, which is not semantic and would probably break a lot of GreaseMonkey scripts. To get rid of all of the extra whitespace that shows up in reader you could remove the <br><br>s in between comments and replace them with the css rule:
.comments { margin-bottom: 2em; }
since reader is filtering the <div class="comments"> and associated <span>s but not the <br>s.

On long threads that would have the added benefit of reducing bandwidth.
posted by Frankieist at 8:32 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Granted it would be a really trivial reduction in bandwidth. Except maybe in obituary threadys.
posted by Frankieist at 8:38 AM on July 12, 2010


threadys? jeez.
posted by Frankieist at 8:39 AM on July 12, 2010


Threadies is preferred.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010


Look, Readability (which this feature is based on as far as I know) works by stripping out shit like comments and ads.

The Reader feature is just a port of the popular Readability bookmarklet, if that helps.

Actually, the two work quite differently in my experience. I don't really suspect one was a port of the other at all.
posted by kingbenny at 9:24 AM on July 12, 2010


I was wrong.

Still, in my experience, the two behave differently on quite a few sites.
posted by kingbenny at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2010


"Used some code from" != "is a port of"
posted by koeselitz at 9:44 AM on July 12, 2010


"Used some code from" != "is a port of"

So true, but I was surprised to learn there was any code used from one to the other.
posted by kingbenny at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2010


No, me too. I wasn't saying it so much to you, it's just a general point.

I was surprised, too; I've seen the interfaces of both, and they look vastly different. I know that looks can be deceiving, but it's pretty clear to me that Apple at least added a lot of code. I mean, for one thing, Safari Reader isn't really as hands-on and customizeable and everything; it seems like they thought (right or wrong) that all that makes it crufty, and removed it to make things absolutely simple.
posted by koeselitz at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2010


I believe they are just friends-with-benefits.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:23 PM on July 12, 2010


I dunno what else to say about this. Reader works by looking for the largest block element. The entire concept is to remove ads/comments/sidebars. It's really handy for sites that have a bunch of clutter when all you want to see is the article.

Metafilter doesn't have a bunch of clutter.. If you're logged in and viewing an article you get two things: The OP and the comments. Ya'll are complaining that the comments don't show up. That is exactly what it's supposed to do. What do you want here?

I imagine sometimes when there are really long comments and short articles it gets confused. I don't think there is any way to prevent this short of enforcing a maximum comment size and minimum post size, or truncating comments with some ajax bullshit.
posted by cj_ at 1:14 AM on July 13, 2010


Safari has extensions?

http://extensions.apple.com/
posted by blueberry at 11:06 PM on July 28, 2010


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