Feature request: plaintext April 6, 2020 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Give us .txt, please. In an expandable box beneath the main post on the blue.

I swear, I can't even read articles any more, these sites are so hostile especially to mobile. Just let me read an article. I just want to read an article without these weirdass sites that mess up the formatting with ads and suck 20% of my battery in a few minutes.

Websites suck these days. Give us text.
posted by Sterros to Feature Requests at 9:43 PM (37 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not sure what is being asked for here. Can you explain what you mean, please?
posted by frimble (staff) at 9:44 PM on April 6


It sounds like Sterros wants the text in links contained in posts syndicated to post page? But given that posts have multiple links and non-text links etc. etc., I don't see how that would work?
posted by Jahaza at 10:11 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Text Mode?

I mean, I feel for you. I tried sharing something nice with people recently and got grief for it. But browser plugins might help make the web a better experience.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:16 PM on April 6


Yeah, I mean it would be nice to have an automated thing that would copy all the text (with proper formatting) from a piece of shit unusable website, then throw it into .txt file cloud storage that could be linked below the fold, but that is like twenty kinds of complicated so.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:47 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


It seems somewhat unfair to observe (correctly!) that the internet kind of sucks now, and then conclude that it is on Metafilter to fix that.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:14 PM on April 6 [20 favorites]


Websites suck these days. Give us text.

*shrugs, looks around*

You have arrived.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:43 PM on April 6 [26 favorites]


You're saying you want Metafilter to scrape the linked webpages for you?

I feel your pain, but there are other solutions for this. Have you tried adblockers/noscript, Pocket, Textise?
posted by Glier's Goetta at 1:08 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Reader view (the little doodad at the left end of the URL bar) on ios devices isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s not perfect, either, but it makes some articles at least sort of readable.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:18 AM on April 7 [5 favorites]


I feel your pain, but MetaFilter scraping and re-hosting a bunch of text in possible violation of copyright is probably not a workable solution. And believe me, I'd *love* to have access to a plain text version of articles.

Others have mentioned most of the possible solutions: Safari on iOS and Firefox on Android both have workable reader views. I think Firefox's is particularly good. Pocket is pretty good for this, though it often fails to recognize the article — but if it does it will even read it aloud to you. I haven't used Instapaper in a while but I believe it does the same thing. And finally there's always Select All + Copy + Paste into a plain-text app or textbox on a website. Sure that's a pain but it gives you the option of choosing how to read the article. For example you could paste it into a text-to-speech app and have your device read it to you.
posted by Tehhund at 3:45 AM on April 7 [9 favorites]


Others have alluded to this but just to be clear: hosting an unauthorized, publicly available, full-text version of every article ever linked on the blue would be a very good way to ensure that Metafilter is sued into oblivion.

There are probably more thorough and dramatic ways to ensure that Metafilter dies so completely that it can never be reconstituted, but short of just wiping the servers and deleting all the backups I can't think of any off-hand.
posted by firechicago at 5:33 AM on April 7 [7 favorites]


Websites suck these days. Give us text.

MetaFilter has previously provided a solution for this; follow the first link in this page for a web-free experience:

gopher.metafilter.com:70
posted by Wordshore at 5:33 AM on April 7 [8 favorites]


Seconding Glier's Goetta. At minimum, install an ad blocker. NoScript (a script blocker, not an adblocker) will also help. If they don't work on your browser, use Firefox.

The above options are really simple; maybe using NoScript effectively requires some patience, but it sounds like your level of annoyance is such that you might find it a good tradeoff (as I do). If you really want to go farther you can also look into text-only browsers, whether as separate apps or via environments like termux.

All the above is based on my experiences on Android. Not sure what the situation is like on iOS, but I'm pretty sure it least has ad blocking.
posted by trig at 5:48 AM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Is it possible you have some sort of adware that is making MeFi wonky? It's not awesome on mobile, but it is not jittery and doesn't have ads or flyovers for me. I use the classic version.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 AM on April 7


On iOS, the Firefox Focus app works quite well for blocking ads in Safari.
posted by oulipian at 8:26 AM on April 7




Firefox has Reader View, and Chrome would have an addon with similar functionality. Instapaper has a Instapaper Text bookmarklet.
posted by WCityMike at 10:42 AM on April 7


I get it. I hit paywall links from the blue almost daily and Instagram links? I can't see those either. I dunno what the solution is but thanks to posters who add the content in the first place, I'm not complaining about you, really.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:59 AM on April 7


One of my all time favorite comments on metafilter.

yhbc: I remember when we lost our dear friend elizardbits
posted by hanov3r at 11:59 AM on April 7 [12 favorites]


...everyone's reading that thread.

oh, Lord.
posted by clavdivs at 12:41 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]


What if we put the suggested solutions aside for a moment here and focus on understanding the primary issue a bit better? If we can explore the problem, it's easier to come up with a feasible solution or a more sensible approach that is within the realm of what MetaFilter can build/control.

By understanding the need, we might find that better RSS integration would do the trick, or mobile enhancements, or accessibility options, etc. Right now we don't know, we're making a lot of assumptions and batting down solutions that might not even be relevant.

I feel bad for the poster, who was clearly frustrated when they made the post (we've all been there). This thread is spiralling into unhelpful territory from the second comment onward.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:36 PM on April 7


iamkimiam did you read the thread? There have been quite a few comments, including mine, that pointed to solutions for OP.

This isn't a complaint about MetaFilter, it's about other sites that MeFi has no control over. The fact is that MetaFilter can't fix other websites, nor can we legally or ethically re-host their content.
posted by Tehhund at 1:41 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


And now I have to admonish myself a bit because I focused too much on your last paragraph and not enough on your first. Sure, if Sterros wants to come back and describe the problem in more depth we can try to come up with other solutions.
posted by Tehhund at 1:54 PM on April 7


Exactly my point. Everybody so far is discussing solutions and ones that aren't feasible or ethical, which is frustrating and unhelpful. If we focussed on understanding the problem first and then relevant solutions that are in scope, we wouldn't be proposing and dismissing things that aren't realistic.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:55 PM on April 7


Argh, timing. I left that last comment just as you posted your clarification, sorry!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:57 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


I figured the problem Sterros referred to is the fact that every website requires you to log in, will detect ad blockers, has pop-up ads, ads that show up in the middle of the article, will redirect you to some other site that serves ads, needs a Facebook/Google login, will pop you in the middle of some Twitter thread that you have no idea how to navigate, will be an hour long video when the part you want is only 3 minutes long, and even if it grants you access to the content will download untold megabytes of scripts to both delay your experiencing of the content and slow your device down, killing your battery in the process, and then you'll see nothing but ads about it for the next 3 weeks.

And he's wishing for the minor miracle of being able to click on a link and just get the content in a text window, because most of the time the content is just text anyways, without having to deal with any of this bullshit.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:17 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


This interests me, I like it:
"And wishing for [solution to come later here] without having to deal with any of this bullshit."

It makes me want to know:
What's the first annoying part?
What's the most annoying part?
What, if anything, have you seen elsewhere that's worked to avoid this?
How often does 'dealing with the bullshit' pay off?
If it isn't worth it, what if anything do you need to know before clicking a link to decide if it will be worth it?
Anything you've tried already?
What do you do instead? e.g., avoid links, save the links for later, go do something else
Does anybody else relate to this? In the same way?
Is there a related problem that could also be solved here?

Learning a bit more about even one of these questions fundamentally changes the solution. The solution might be a discussion and acceptance, it could be implementation of some mefi script, could be building something new, who knows. It's worth exploring.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:38 PM on April 7


Turning off javascript often makes many of those pages much more readable. It also bypasses many paywalls. Of course, it'll also render some sites unusable. Two steps forward, one step back.
posted by COD at 2:52 PM on April 7


I honestly think there isn't a Metafilter solution and this post was just Sterros screaming into the wind but I see you're trying to be constructive.

On the MeFi side for Twitter links, some people will also provide a link to the threadreader version which is helpful. For paywalled sites, usually in the comments someone will post a link to a non-paywalled version or a "print" link, if its available. I don't know if the link rot for the more accessible versions is any worse than for the original sources but that could be a concern. Most websites will have some way of accessing the content with less scripts and ads but there isn't one thing that'll work everywhere and its a moving target. Maybe we ask posters to provide a "no BS" link in addition to the "canonical" one if possible. But you could imagine that if people were passing around links to MeFi posts with the ads stripped out it wouldn't be great for this site so should we be encouraging doing that to other sites at some official level?

And then you have suggestions on how to configure your own devices so that they're less affected by it too. Changing browsers and settings, using ad blockers or extensions, setting up blacklists/pihole on your network or using a VPN are all things to help.

On some level the "solution" is to burn it all down and start over but we'd just end up back where we already are, or worse.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:26 PM on April 7


If you use Pocket to save things for reading later, sometimes that view can bypass formatting weirdness and paywalls.
posted by Lexica at 4:07 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


If auxiliary questions are allowed (?) ... is there an another phrase that would have made the content unequivocal?
I didn't readily understand what .txt was referring to either, is why I'm asking.

I immediately thought "plain text". I.e. with no formatting. So, no CSS?
posted by abuckamoon at 4:14 PM on April 7


That's what .txt means to me. Just ASCII text - no formatting possible. I would like this feature also, but as others have described up-thread, not possible without upsetting the Copyright Police. Another hack I can sometimes use to achieve this is searching for and then extracting the text out of the raw HTML, which you can still get to via the browser's Developer Tools.
posted by Rash at 5:28 PM on April 7


Was this post a reaction to this FPP? Because that site's UI is... WOOF.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:46 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]


I use Lightning Browser (Android 4.4 +). Simple, very basic, and 5 short steps to blocking images. And using epic browser on desktop which also helps reduce bandwidth.
posted by unearthed at 5:55 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


unearthed, thanks for the recommendation for lightning browser. I just gave it a shot and really like it. It's got some pain points like every browser but I might make it my daily driver.
posted by Tehhund at 6:07 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I've found outline.com quite useful for news sites – it doesn't work on everything though.
posted by lucidium at 7:11 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


@any portmanteau in a storm did say it better than I did. Those are the matters at hand.
posted by Sterros at 2:23 PM on April 11


Reader View, now in Chrome, Firefox and Opera, does this in the browser. I'm a recent covert.
posted by k3ninho at 12:57 PM on April 19


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