Tiny Text - Please Stop January 12, 2021 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Can I respectfully ask the metafilter community to not so frequently use tiny text font?

I see this most often with jokes or some sort of implied whisper but I really hate it. My vision is bad enough as it is and forcing me to either squint, shove the laptop to my nose, or enlarge the screen just to read a comment is annoying. And some people like to shrink the font to practically the smallest size available. This is not cool.

I'd like to just be able to read MeFi, please.
posted by NotTheRedBaron to Etiquette/Policy at 6:00 PM (166 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Oddly, it seems like notes from the Moderators sometimes use the small font. It seems like those notes should be just as big as everything else.
posted by jonathanhughes at 6:12 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


I agree with this request so hard. I never, ever read the tiny text -- it might just as well be invisible. If you have something clever to say (and we know you do!) please write it so others can read it. THANK YOU.
posted by Corvid at 6:36 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


Speaking as an Old whose eyes don't adjust as well as they used to, even with the aid of alleged bifocals, what NotTheRedBaron said.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 6:38 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


As a fellow old person, I just enlarge the font on Mefi so that tiny text is easy to read.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


Is there some way we could restyle <small> to some-other-how indicate a stage whisper or moderator message?
posted by aubilenon at 6:48 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Is there some way we could restyle <small> to some-other-how indicate a stage whisper or moderator message?

This bit of CSS will restyle small text to be full size with "<small>" and "</small>" visible around it:
small::before {
    content: "<small>";
}
small::after {
    content: "</small>";
}
small {
    font-size: 100%;
}
So instead of seeing a small-text "[mod note]" you'd literally see "<small>[mod note]</small>" at regular size.

On desktop one can add that CSS with the extension Stylus. On mobile I'm not sure if there are good solutions. I've suggested before that it would be useful for user accounts to have a setting for custom CSS to handle stuff like this, but there was some concern about users being tricked into pasting in malicious CSS I guess.
posted by john hadron collider at 7:39 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


If you don't want to adjust text size on the fly (Ctrl+plus/minus, or Ctrl+scroll wheel on Windows/Chrome), you can also run a basic userscript to disable the small tag:

small { font-size: 17px !important; }

I just published one to Userstyles.org; you can install it in Firefox (with Greasemonkey or Stylish), Chrome (with Stylish or Chrome User Script Handler), and jailbroken iOS (with Userscript Loader, using this URL)
posted by Rhaomi at 7:42 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


(Though if users being tricked is a concern with having a custom-CSS field in settings, there's maybe even more potential for that when the best advice is to find a third-party browser extension and install it and then paste something in, or to jailbreak iOS. For example Stylish recommended above is owned by an advertising company and has a skeezy user tracking feature. I dunno, despite apparently getting in an argument with myself I don't actually feel strongly about this CSS thing, just brainstorming.)
posted by john hadron collider at 7:48 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I'd like to echo this request. Please.
posted by medusa at 7:52 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I'm visually impaired myself, so zooming in and out has just become such second nature that I had never considered that it might be prohibitively difficult for others to do the same. I now see that was not a great thing to not consider. I will come up with some other way to convey the same sort of expression.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:04 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I saw a comment earlier today that seemed to be wrapped in three or four levels of small text. Yes, I'm getting old, but even when I took my glasses off to go into myopic superfocus mode, I couldn't read it.

People reading on tablets or other mobile formats don't have the option of adjusting text size via styles etc. People reading on desktop who haven't set styles have fewer (and less convenient) options for zooming in. This seems like something that would be good to constrain (or warn about before the comment is posted).
posted by Lexica at 8:05 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


FFS enough with the tiny text footnotes and asides.
posted by jointhedance at 8:12 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


Maybe instead of asking mefites to do their own coding people could just stop messing with font sizes? Because I legit don't understand the suggestions of inserting CSS (maybe most people know what that means but I sure don't) and having to install stuff just to make reading a text-based site slightly easier is frankly frustrating.

I like having the screen view at a level where the regular text is comfortable to read, which is the majority of the site. Sometimes zooming in (command +) means that I lose my place in the thread (as everything readjusts and reloads) and that's a real problem in the megathreads to figure out where the heck I was. Sometimes I will use my laptop's trackpad to forcezoom however that means text ends up offscreen and I'm awkwardly trying to scroll through it.

And honestly, there is almost nothing that's actually gained from the text shrinkage. I understand that it visually indicates a tone shift but there are other ways to do that.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 8:13 PM on January 12 [25 favorites]


If people would like mods to stop using small text, that is certainly possible (though would take a little doing to change the widget we use that does that) but I 100% agree that nested small tags are really hard to read and don't really denote what people think they are doing (i.e. a "you don't have to read this" aside). Realistically if we had some dev time we could make it so that nested small tags weren't allowed, but for now I don't think that is practical but just nodding along "Yeah the small tags are a problem."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:15 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Since I started the post, I'll say that personally the mod notes haven't bothered me too much although if you did decide to make them regular sized, I'd certainly be happy with that.

But there has been an awful lot of abuse of the small tags, especially today with the weird Van Halen M&M derail in the current politics megathread where it continues in random comments in like 1-point font as what, a way to hide the derail?
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 8:20 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.

I’m conversant with css and have an on-the-fly editing plugin installed on my laptop for other reasons and...I’m not going to hand code web pages when people could just be considerate and use normal size font. Also I mostly read on my phone.

There are things for parenthetical remarks. They are called parentheses. I love people’s weird asides, but I encourage people to boldly use regular text for them!
posted by warriorqueen at 8:51 PM on January 12 [19 favorites]


I would prefer a box around mod comments instead of small text. That would make it read as more like a notice and set it apart from the thread which means folks might actually pay heed.

I have always had bad eyesight so I’m very used to zooming in and out at will. On most touch devices it’s the typical un-pinch motion. But on many sites it doesn’t work so well because of terrible coding and images and popup nonsense. On mefi it works smoothly and is one of the things I appreciate about the design. (Of course as with everything megathreads do become problematic in this respect. Are people being reminded that chat exists if they want to have off topic tangents?) Multiple nested small tags are kind of rude, though I have used them in the past for shenanigans. I agree that it’s an accessibility issue, and if culturally the site could shift to something else it would be better, like maybe some of the underused brackets? Elsewhere I see strikethrough text used in the same tone as small tagged text is here, but that’s a nightmare for readability.
posted by Mizu at 9:21 PM on January 12 [20 favorites]


Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that everyone restyle things themselves, I was suggesting that Metafilter change the style for these elements, for everyone.
posted by aubilenon at 9:25 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


I'm totally blind, and support the OP's ask 100%. Some better mechanism needs to be provided to separate moderator comments from the rest, though I guess the "Staff,"label beneath them helps a bit.

As a point of interest, I had no idea until tonight that the comment text was in any different for mods or anyone else, because my screen reader completely ignores things like font sizes by default. I rarely ask it for formatting info because I find the verbosity overwhelming. So if we can find a way to distinguish the comments and make that distinction accessible to screen reader users at the same time, that would be ideal.
posted by Alensin at 9:26 PM on January 12 [32 favorites]


You can also change the minimum font size displayed in your browser, so the text is at a reasonable size no matter how teeny a user tries to make it. I'm fairly sure I learned this from a previous discussion of small tags way back in the day but I'm unable to find it at the moment.

Here are the instructions for changing font appearance in Firefox.
posted by stefanie at 9:54 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


stefanie, thanks for that suggestion. I use a different browser but it was simple enough to do. Apparently my default smallest font allowed was 9 point so I changed it to 12 and that helps.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 10:13 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


It has been eight years since I asked this very favor myself, and I hope that this time someone listens this time because it still chaps my ass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:53 AM on January 13 [14 favorites]


Realistically if we had some dev time we could make it so that nested small tags weren't allowed, but for now I don't think that is practical but just nodding along "Yeah the small tags are a problem."

Even if it would be a long time until implementation, could this get added to the queue?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Seconded, and in agreement with the commentators above. Tiny text, sometimes compounded with tiny footnotes (also, why footnote here? use parentheses or just make the damn point) are difficult to read and distracting.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 6:51 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I have used the small tag in the past and I won't anymore. Thank you for bringing this up and I hope that the small tag can be added to whatever configuration file blocks the use of img and blink and the other unusable tags soon.
posted by kimberussell at 6:59 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I like the way that moderators notes don't distract from the thread at hand. It's particularly useful when the note is explaining that they've removed a derail. But another marker that fulfils the same purpose would be fine.
posted by plonkee at 7:35 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Blink is still supported on Metafilter. Cortex paid to get it re-enabled when mathowie was running the show. It just doesn't work in modern browsers unless you take steps to enable it.

Personally I like the use of small tags for something orthogonal to the thread flow but still on topic (and therefor like jessamyn said can just be ignored/skipped). But I'll try to avoid it's use in the future.
posted by Mitheral at 10:20 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I don't mind <small> text <\small>, but when it's <small><small><small><small> text <\small><\small><\small><\small> it gets to be much more of a problem. One layer of small, maybe two, should be enough for anyone.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:09 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Blink is still supported on Metafilter.

Thanks for correcting me.
posted by kimberussell at 11:13 AM on January 13


I think we could get a similar side comment/whisper effect going with the use of parentheses. It's a similar effect of separating the main and whisper comment, but in regular type that is more readable. I'm not sure how people who use screen readers interact with punctuation, though, so maybe this isn't helpful. Like this:

The main comment that I am making is here, in regular type. I will put a couple empty lines after it, say three or four.




(The whisper comment I am also making is in parentheses at the bottom, but not smaller than other type.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:16 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Staff comments could be regular type but with a bolded marker, like this:

Moderator note: the comment the moderator is making is here.

That plus the mod designation in the username seems like it would do it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:19 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


As a screen reader user my default position is to ignore parentheses, mostly because they're easier to skip over than listen to open parenthesis in speech close parenthesis. Of course, that goes out of the window when coding, or reading in Braille which fortunately makes them a single character, more or less.

Anyway. If we could do something like a bold "Moderator note:" that would help, and be perceivable by everybody.

On a semi-related note, maybe we could investigate more semantic markup one of these days, so that each post becomes an article, or whatever. Pardon my web site accessibility dreams. :)
posted by Alensin at 11:40 AM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I feel like it should be easy enough to figure out what is recommended for accessibility and then do that and not leave it to users to make the site usable. As far as I can tell, use of small text serves no critical purpose and the site would be fine without it. Also, I am unclear on who needs a hug because small gray on gray type.
posted by snofoam at 12:16 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Thank you, yes!!
posted by holborne at 12:32 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]



posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


That was a test that didn't work.

Let's try again:

[whisper]
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on January 13


That worked! As someone who loves using small text, I'm completely down to use the bracket format above to replace it, if that helps people and it's cool with the mods.

[please say yes]
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:44 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I've always used brackets because I never can remember how to make small text happen.
posted by JanetLand at 12:52 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: Neither of the text experiments you did looked any different to me, was there supposed to be an effect on the text? Using Firefox here, are brackets suppose to change the text in some way? Also, I used the "strong" tags to bolden your name, did that work?

If we're looking for an unambiguous way to distinguish staff posts from everyone elses, can't we use those green bars to the left of the text that appear in every AskMe when the original asker responds? Why is a separate new style guideline necessary?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:18 PM on January 13


Thank you for asking this. I asked it last month in a thread on the Blue and the response was an explanation of how to zoom. I was not best pleased.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:28 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Why is a separate new style guideline necessary?

Sometimes there are mod comments in AskMe.
posted by Mitheral at 1:29 PM on January 13


NotTheRedBaron THANK YOU! Also EmpressCallipygos and anyone else who has asked for this. It is driving me crazy, and primarily because I know it is a big problem for others as well as a small problem for me. (No pun intended; not a punster and please don't start now.)

Plus can we please please please not only kill the small tags with fire but also get Alensin's list of what would make this place more accessible and then do each of those things? Because this place should be the A number one no-kidding accessibility gay space luxury communism website and let's start with accessibility.

I am having a hard day for other reasons; thank you if you read this far.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:31 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


I think mod notes should be REALLY LARGE instead. :)
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:39 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I’ve used the small text in the past to denote an aside, and appreciate this thread for bringing the accessibility issue to mind. I read on the iPad where it’s trivially easy to size up the screen if something is small, but it definitely is not similarly easy to do on other platforms. I’ll stop doing it.

As for MOD notes, I sense that the reason they use small text is so their comment is less obtrusive and doesn’t break the flow of the discussion, or has that implication of being an unobtrusive nudge, instead of a full-throated MOD directive (even when it is one). I’d endorse a new style for their notes that didn’t make the text smaller, though.
posted by darkstar at 2:28 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Legit question, since screenreaders can already handle small text, what if this was added to metafilter's normal CSS?
small:hover, small:hover * {
  font-size: 1rem;
}

small:hover::before, small:hover small::before {
  content: "(";
}

small:hover::after, small:hover small::after {
  content: ")";
}
So if you hover over any <small> text, it and any nested tags go to full size and add nesting parentheses around them.

Example fiddle, if there's anything that breaks people's experience please say so.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:31 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Ooh, no - reflowing text on mouseover would be terrible.

Setting up a profile switch that lets people switch the display of small tags to something more accessible via site-wide CSS would be my preferred fix, along with disabling nested tags; count me in as well on thinking it would be nice to see more semantic markup for accessibility.
posted by sagc at 2:35 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


That's a good point, sagc, and I'd agree with you on that fix.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:36 PM on January 13


I'd agree that making the mod notes larger font or bold might be better than making them small, if we want them to stand out with standard tags. I don't mind the one step smaller myself, but I am sure there are people with marginal vision where even one step can be a serious degradation.

And a general yes please to everyone stopping with the stacked ones, it becomes extremely irritating at a certain point.
posted by tavella at 2:47 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


And I like the idea of improving the accessibility -- I would be happen to contribute extra for a funding drive to pay for that, or even to scope it out to see what we can afford (since that in itself requires work that someone should be paid for.)
posted by tavella at 2:50 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


I'm an inveterate 'small' tag user, and do use it as mentioned (to indicate an aside or something that's tangential or orthogonal to the discussion, to avoid derailing things).* Accessibility needs had not occurred to me, my thanks for raising this concern; I will change that habit.


* - [it's like, did I read too much David Foster Wallace in the 90s and that po-po-modern, quasi-stream-of-consciousness writing style is just kind of imprinted; or do I actually think in the same kind of nested and contrapuntal, rapid-fire way as many in my age cohort, because I was cooked in the same cultural stew with the same communication/media habits, and so it's more a natural expression of how our brains work instead of some of kind of temporal stylistic marker?...probably just a style thing, increasingly anachronistic: it doesn't really matter, this whole aside was to test the suggested new formatting style, see how it feels. Seems fine so far.]
posted by LooseFilter at 2:59 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I’m very glad to see this thread. My goodness, can this community ever overthink a plate of beans. This seems straightforward and shouldn't be controversial. If members of the community are explicitly stating that they can’t see small text, that’s an access issue and makes the site unwelcoming for many and simply unusable for some. Just eliminate the capability to use small text, please, when finances and dev time permit.
posted by cheapskatebay at 3:16 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I ... did not realize one could *nest* <small> tags. Looking at the Van Halen comment in question, I hadn't realized that the "small" text was any smaller than normal. Testing follows to demonstrate what nesting <small> tags looks like in MeFi.

This is 0 layers of <small> tags, aka regular paragraph text.
This is 1 layer of <small> tags, standard mod note size.
This is 2 layers of <small> tags.
This is 3 layers of <small> tags, the size used in the aforementioned Van Halen comment.

My understanding is that use of "small" text on MeFi has a couple cultural components:
* mod text, to note that it is meta to the actual conversation
* slight off-topics or responses to other commenters that also aren't really meant to be part of the main conversation, but where historically they've been allowed

I do like that right now, font size conveys how central something is to the actual conversation, and I would be reluctant to completely zero out that ability. But I agree that we should use other tools such as color or contrast in addition to size to communicate these characteristics, and that we should limit the size difference to one level so that it remains legible. With color and contrast, we do need to be careful to not cause additional visual accessibility issues as well. And it would be nice to be able to distinguish mod notes from OP replies

(Though yes, everyone using browsers dependent on vision should check what their browser's default font size is! 16 is the norm, IIRC.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 3:20 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Never realized you can set a minimum font size; sounds like a better option for people who don't want to run a script.

Firefox: Options -> Language and Appearance -> Advanced... -> Minimum font size

Chrome: Settings -> Appearance --> Customize fonts -> Minimum font size

I don't have Safari atm, but it should be in the Accessibility settings.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:41 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Sometimes there are mod comments in AskMe.

Right, but I feel that’s still the same use case, since in the context of their own Ask, the OP does function somewhat like a mod in shaping the discussion and tone.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:44 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


In Safari preferences, it's under Advanced -> Accessibility -> [ ] Never use font sizes smaller than ____. (I often use one <small> for parentheticals and never more than one but I'll try to remember not to)
posted by fedward at 4:29 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I endorse this proposal. Accessibility for all should be prioritized over the need to make sotto voce comments, or whatever else you're trying to convey with the small text.
posted by zeusianfog at 4:31 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


OP's ask was "please don't overuse small tags"; not sure about going from there to "ban them for everyone immediately", especially when there are already multiple ways to disable them if you want. I rather like having (reasonable) small text as an option, and don't think we should axe it unnecessarily. Maybe a profile setting to ignore the tag or set a minimum font size would work, like the font options in the classic theme?

As for mod notes, would it be possible to just use the background highlight thing that AskMe uses for best answers? Or the sidebar thing used for OP comments, if a full highlight is too distracting. Maybe do it as a toggle, so mods can decide whether to leave a [mod note] or a regular comment. It's existing code, so hopefully it wouldn't be too difficult to repurpose.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:03 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I have used these many times. I will no longer do so.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:49 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I only hope that those who use this on a near constant basis see this Meta thread.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 6:25 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Do the ways to prevent too small text work on all mobile browsers?

Related Thought: Aren't US websites required under the ADA to be accessible?
posted by Chrysopoeia at 6:33 PM on January 13


I'm not seeing anything in the MeTa html category, but in the last six months to a year, something has changed in the server-side filtering of HTML, right?

It used to be, for me, that the immediate preview-as-you-type, and the HTTP-posted preview from pressing the “Preview” button, were identical; but now code is changed in the round-trip to the server for both “Preview” and “Post comment”, sometimes radically.

The most prominent example, for me, is that beforehand, if you were going to indent multiple paragraphs, inside of a single <blockquote> tag you could put multiple <p> tags. But now, while it shows correctly before pressing “Preview”, once it's been round-tripped to the server all <p> tags have been filtered out, so a multiparagraph quote from an article you link to, for example, gets crushed down to a single unbroken wall of text and not only looks bad but doesn't match the source any longer.

I bring all of this up because a few times now, what I assume is some unusual combination of the disparate server-side filtering rules and... maybe CSS styling rules which change in their effects because of different containing blocks, maybe? 🏁 I've seen text which looked correct in the in-page preview become much smaller once I'd posted it. 🏁 ←my tl;dr main point

I haven't figured out what the initial conditions which cause this behavior are, because so far it has taken me by surprise when it happens and been accompanied by other unexpected changes, or I forgot the filtering disparities and accidentally used <p> tags and they unexpectedly disappeared, and rather than investigate I'm stuck with the 5 minute time window, minus lag, to fix and re-test everything the filter broke.

I feel like I noticed stripping and re-writing of individual characters, specifically at least whitespace characters, start happening around the same time, but I don't remember exactly.
posted by XMLicious at 6:36 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Chrysopoeia,

It's unclear at best, unfortunately. People have been trying to get the ADA to explicitly mandate web accessibility for a long time, but I don't believe it's been finalized explicitly yet. Of course, I'd like to believe Metafilter will do things because they are worth doing, not because they're required to. :)
posted by Alensin at 6:39 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


"ban them for everyone immediately"

I wouldn't characterize it as a "ban," for reasons of actually understanding a few things about web accessibility, its implementation, and resistance thereto. The scenario you mean to describe is filtering of small tags to make sure, for reasons of accessibility articulated through the user feedback here, people don't have to trawl through MeTa threads to find workarounds depending on their accessibility requirements, OS, and browser.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:43 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Related Thought: Aren't US websites required under the ADA to be accessible?

It's a bit of a quirk (for a whole bunch of reasons) that section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act governs website accessibility, and not the ADA itself.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:54 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Maybe this has changed but it used to be live preview only used a portion of the validation code. One reason for that is the preview/post code will add closing tags, strip some white space, etc. that the live preview box doesn't but there used to be other differences too. The wisdom if you were doing anything complicated was to hit the preview button before posting.

I'm sure a lot of that has been cleaned up over the years because it used to be a real mess. Live preview was introduced quite a bit after preview and preview itself was a new feature at one time. And IIRC the exact coding was different between Meta and the front page (I think Ask didn't exist yet) when preview first came out.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't characterize it as a "ban,"

If small gets added to the filtered tags like marquee or img we won't be able to use it which doesn't seem functionally different than a ban. And while that wasn't the OP's request at least some people have advocated for that step in the comments.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I have used these many times. I will no longer do so.

Me too. I didn’t realize, and I’m sorry.
posted by mochapickle at 7:14 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


something has changed in the server-side filtering of HTML, right?

I honestly don't know, not to the best of my knowledge. I'd drop a note to the Contact Form to ask.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 PM on January 13


Can we please not talk about efforts to make the site more accessible and inclusive in terms of "bans" or "banning" anything? I have previously used the <small> tag as a way to indicate a side comment. I'm perfectly happy to shift to using square brackets or whatever else we as regular users come to agree makes sense.

It's not a "ban" any more than "no more direct .img links allowed" is.
posted by Lexica at 7:22 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


If small gets added to the filtered tags like marquee or img we won't be able to use it which doesn't seem functionally different than a ban. And while that wasn't the OP's request at least some people have advocated for that step in the comments.

The reason for that is that any change in this regard can't be reliant on people stumbling upon a buried thread months or years hence. It either needs to be a functional change or not. Otherwise, it's down to people flagging stuff that uses obnoxiously nested small tags and so on.

And hey, I've totally used small tags for the reason most people use them. I'm happy to never use them.

I guess where I come around to on this is: Is there a running list of accessibility concerns about the site raised over time (either through posts here or via direct contact with the mods/cortex) that's being dealt with in a systematic way? And I'm not talking about "deal with this right now," but rather "stuff we're committed to addressing and its status." Something like this could be added to it for a look-see.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:22 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Count me in as another Mefite who enjoyed using the small tag without realizing how much of an accessibility issue it causes. I love square brackets almost as much; I'll use those instead from now on. I'm cool with the tag being disabled, too.
posted by desuetude at 7:42 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


FWIW, text with one small tag is the same size as the byline under each comment, and the navigation at the top of each subsite, and the sidebar text, and the flagging box, and several other basic UI elements. Even Windows menus have smaller text, at least on my display. There may be people for whom this marginally smaller size is unreadably small, but that's what common accessibility options such as upping the default zoom or setting a higher minimum text size are for. It takes care of the problem site-wide for those who have it, without barring its use by those who don't. (Nested tags can probably go, though; ditto using it on large blocks of text.)
posted by Rhaomi at 7:51 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Thank you for this thread. Small text is like whispering to someone who's nearly deaf.
posted by Beholder at 8:50 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Just make a javascript bookmarklet that translates <small> into <span>.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:38 AM on January 14


mandolin conspiracy asked whether there is a running list of accessibility concerns that are in the queue for staffers to address. I don't know of one but in 2019 in one of the MetaTalk threads about disability this list was compiled. Scroll down to the "Some broader ideas that might help?" section.
posted by brainwane at 2:03 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Do mod notes need special styling? The small-tagged mod notes are an artifact of when mods had to participate in a thread as moderators rather than participants in the conversation.

These days the mods have flair next to their names when they're acting as mods. The text doesn't need styling any more.
posted by ardgedee at 5:10 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Small text has some tradition, some usage that is cultural. It makes sense to do something like Lexica proposes, to replace small with a reasonable substitution.

Many people never read MetaTalk, so getting new usage accepted is a challenge.

Why the fuss over the word ban? Sometimes we make things unavailable, and calling it what it is and looks like is more straightforward. There's no moral stance about having used it, but we've learned it doesn't work for some MeFites, so we're adapting.
posted by theora55 at 5:32 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


These days the mods have flair next to their names when they're acting as mods. The text doesn't need styling any more.

Yeah, that's a new-ish thing and makes mod notes much more obvious than the old styling. I'll go through this thread and make a list of accessibility stuff to address when we have a little tech capacity back and are caught up on the backlog. Suggestions/resources/gripes absolutely welcome.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:59 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Why the fuss over the word ban?

More of a connotation thing that's probably unnecessarily de-railey at this point. Consider the derail dropped on my part.

Ah, thanks for that brainwane. For some reason I'd misremembered that as being more recent-ish in poking around for that. 2019 seems oddly distant and not at the same time.

There's also a lot of stuff that works well here thanks in part to the site not being a nightmarish sea of ads and tracking whatnot, and thanks to it being taken seriously. I know that frimble considers accessibility when they're implementing features or fixes.

Where I was going with this is that it would be helpful to know that there's a running list of accessibility concerns/requests that are being tracked over time so they can be pecked away at as (understandably) limited time and resources permit, or where, after consideration, something has been bucketed into "this is something we'll ask people to not do so much/at all anymore but there's no technical fix that's really needed/feasible."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:56 AM on January 14


theora55: "Why the fuss over the word ban? Sometimes we make things unavailable, and calling it what it is and looks like is more straightforward. There's no moral stance about having used it, but we've learned it doesn't work for some MeFites, so we're adapting."

Because it's a long-standing useful feature, and there are already multiple ways to solve the problem without taking that feature away? There are people for whom even the regular text is too small to read comfortably. That doesn't obligate the site to start using a default 24- or 36-point font for everybody, and it's not ignoring their needs to expect them to use widely available accessibility tools to change the text to something that works for them. Modern browsers already have built-in ways to increase text size per-site as well as set a minimum size everywhere; barring people from using smaller text is unnecessary overkill.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:56 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


In my original post, I stated that I was not calling for a ban, but rather making what I called a "Sarah-MacLachlan-holding-a-kitten-and-trying-to-make-you-feel-guilty" kind of appeal. I was relying on the compassion of other Mefites to recognize that "oh, hey, this thing I do makes it difficult for other people, how about I cut them a break and just not do it". This was something people still were able to do, but how about being nice and cutting back on it.

....It seems that since this is still a going concern eight years later, and there are still people whose attitude seems to be "but it's a longstanding useful feature" and are placing the onus of solving the problem on the backs of the people with the problem, suggests that a) maybe this should be a ban, and b) maybe appealing to other Mefites' compassion is less successful than I thought.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on January 14 [15 favorites]


Modern browsers already have built-in ways to increase text size per-site as well as set a minimum size everywhere; barring people from using smaller text is unnecessary overkill.

You have this desire to set the text small for a reason, right? To impart some kind of meaning about its importance or relevance to the ongoing discussion? If those who are small-print disabled have to work around that by disabling small text on their end, then that meaning is lost to them anyway. So what was the point of setting it that way, versus using some other indicator of decreased importance or relevance that more mefites can actually benefit from?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:51 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]



I set my browser to the smallest size I can comfortably read. Chrome on mobile scales text, so the small is scaled differently than the normal font. I want as many words on the page as possible generally for speed of reading. My default is set up and small tag overrides it by being smaller to start with.

I'm sure there's ways I could use scripts to override it, bit I like that the built in accessibility tools are set and forget.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:57 AM on January 14


Asking each user to handle this personally is bad form.

I do appreciated the can-do suggestions via userscripts or greasemonkey, and have used some in the past, but I am a web developer and my level of comfort with these things is different than most people.

As indicated by multiple users above, people read the site with a variety of browsers and devices. Consistent web standards will make accessing across browsers and devices more consistent.

There are web accessibility standards for contrast and readability, we should try to adhere to current web accessibility standards. Contrast requirements change based on the site of the text and the style of the font.

I understand there are mefi cultural considerations, but sites with long legacy were created without too much consideration for overall readability.

Is it more important to adhere to historic mefi cultural styles or to be better accessible to everyone - members, nonmembers on all devices?

aside: I'm not against having some consistent text sizes to be able to emphasize parts of communication, just feel that they should also be readable.
posted by dreamling at 9:18 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


idk if this has been brought up before, but could mod notes be flushed right? They'd still be readable but also like... noticable
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:21 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I wrote a big long thing, but it doesn't really matter. I just wish MeFi weren't so immobilized by austerity mindset and technical conservatism. It forces us into a position where when these sorts of issues come up the only available community responses invariably pit people's access needs against other people's desire to augment the expressiveness of a very limited text channel. I don't think these things have to be so at odds with each other.
posted by wordless reply at 10:23 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


The website text in general is quite small. I wonder if one solution might be to bump up the body text size across the site. This way we could still use "small" tags, but they would show up at same size as the current default text.

I agree that nested "small" tags should not be allowed.
posted by oulipian at 10:58 AM on January 14


Any chance of built in user pref that skips small tags when rendering a page?

Accessibility is most important, but I'll miss the kidding uses of small text if they vanish, it's a small but distinctive part of mefi's forum culture.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:58 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


jacquilynne: "You have this desire to set the text small for a reason, right? To impart some kind of meaning about its importance or relevance to the ongoing discussion? If those who are small-print disabled have to work around that by disabling small text on their end, then that meaning is lost to them anyway. So what was the point of setting it that way, versus using some other indicator of decreased importance or relevance that more mefites can actually benefit from?"

You can disable it, or just up the default zoom so small text is more readable and regular is a bit bigger. Again, small text is only a bit smaller and the same size as many other parts of the site and OS, so folks who find it too small are going to be having a bad time regardless of whether it's allowed in comments and would be better served with a higher zoom level anyway. Same thing for people who can't read the regular text. Referring them to zoom/minimum size/etc. isn't an unreasonable burden -- it's what accessibility options like that are *for.*

Also, it would be great if people who disagreed with the idea of banning it weren't implied to be lacking compassion about accessibility or people's needs. I took time out of my day yesterday to write and upload a script to help people avoid the issue if they want, which is a pretty far cry from "who cares, go screw." Preferring a compromise that helps people who need it without removing useful functionality doesn't make you a jerk.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:15 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I've been thinking about this request.

I myself have impaired vision, for which I constantly bump text size up and down on most web sites, using the browser hotkeys viewing from laptops usually, and I'm also partially colorblind which I sometimes need special settings in software to compensate for; with colorblindness, in most contexts there is no single color scheme that will provide high contrast for all variations of the condition, so there's no getting around per-user tailoring.

On top of that, I'm professionally pretty familiar with web accessibility standards and technology.

At the same time, here at MeFi I'm a prolific user of just about every HTML tag available, and I wish more were available, so that and the above feeds into my perspective.

Also, the mere mention of Markdown prospectively replacing HTML for MeFi commenting in a recent MeTa caused me to hiss like a cat and smoke to emanate from my collar and cuffs as I writhed, like a vampire who has stepped past the threshold of a church.

While I'd be in favor of trying to make it easier for people to use one of the available techniques to constrain or standardize text sizing in their own browser (an approach involving what john hadron collider suggests above, wherein it'd still be possible to see that the post or comment author intended to specially mark the text up, seems like it might have potential) preventing authors from using the <small> tag does not seem like a great idea to me.

It's like, if someone had a preference for one of the Professional White Background skins—a preference that could actually be based on a vision-related accessibility need—it's like wanting to also require every other MeFite to use the same skin.
posted by XMLicious at 12:16 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Please get rid of <small>. Like unreadable characters in post titles, it's merely clever and gets in the way of accessibility. You have <em>, <strong>, punctuation, etc.; I hope you can get your point across with those.
posted by introp at 12:49 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


As a compromise, it might be enough if the tags could not be nested. Only one level of small text.
It would never get as small as some people make it now, but it would still be smaller.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:53 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I was going to play around with the [big] tag, to see what it does, since I never see big text. It turns out the big tag is obsolete, and the comment box strips it out automatically. You could do something similar for the [small] tag if needed.

(Substituting square brackets for angle brackets because I don’t remember how to show angle brackets, and I’m on my phone.]
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:55 PM on January 14


Another analogy I was just thinking of: what if someone said, “I really like bell hooks and I'm concerned for the dyslexic, and most writing systems do just fine without having any capitalization distinction, so I think everyone should be required to view the site in exclusively lower-case letters and a special dyslexia font.”

(Note, by the way, that this could actually be achieved with CSS in 2021.)

Or we could go the other way and turn CAPSLOCK DAY into CAPSLOCK ETERNITY.
posted by XMLicious at 1:05 PM on January 14


XMLicious, I'm hoping we can find a solution here that leaves at least some of the <small> capability intact, because I do like it as a paratextual device. But I think that was a really uncharitable comment.

People aren't objecting to small text because of some weirdly unrelated topic. It's not being raised as concern trolling or a hypothetical situation; it's affecting specific people speaking for themselves in this thread, for instance. And <small> is used rarely enough that banning it would be a negligible impact on the site, even for the people who like it. It's not remotely the same as changing all text on the site to uniform capitalization or a dramatically different font (edit: plus you already can change the font in the site preferences, so there's already a mitigation there).
posted by Riki tiki at 1:20 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


"Writing a script" doesn't offer help to the people who wouldn't know how to use it or don't have a browser that would let them use it. "Stopping using small tags as much as you do" is a means that can be used by everyone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Riki tiki: Ah, I mean, yeah, I was writing that sentence as something someone might hypothetically say. But people with dyslexia are not a weird hypothetical, they're entirely real—I worked for a dyslexic guy who constantly, in written communication, called all of my co-workers named Brian “brain”, though not 100% of the time because of course it's not a consistent thing.

Yes, impaired vision is much more common than dyslexia because the former is age-related as well as having congenital and other causes. But it's not less ableist to say, “this is the more common ‘condition’, this one is more ‘normal’, so accommodating it has priority”. I didn't say what I said above because I don't think there are tons of MeFites experiencing vision problems and difficulties when they read the site—my point is what happens if you just fix things for yourself or whoever you're concerned with at the moment.

Yeah, there's a setting to change font: that's part of my point, a per-user setting, rather than saying that someone's own accessibility needs or aesthetic preferences are unimportant because they're “rare” and thus can be swept away or disregarded, not like important aesthetic preferences such as capitalization.
posted by XMLicious at 1:46 PM on January 14


XMLicious: I was writing that sentence as something someone might hypothetically say.

Can you please not? It makes it really hard for some of us to parse what you're actually saying. The more often I read it, the less of it I understand.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:50 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Too-Ticky, are you really saying that it would make a big difference to you if I'd written,
...what if someone said that they really like bell hooks and were concerned for the dyslexic, and that most writing systems do just fine without having any capitalization distinction, so they think everyone should be required to view the site in exclusively lower-case letters and a special dyslexia font?
I mean I could do that, and if the quotation marks really cause unusual difficulty I'm willing. It's just that for me, having a long sentence broken up with punctuation actually makes it easier to understand, which is why I wouldn't have suspected the difference would be major, or consistent in favor of one way or the other.
posted by XMLicious at 1:58 PM on January 14


I was speaking more generally, not just about that specific sentence. Please leave out the hypotheticals, and just say what you mean. I'm trying to get your point, and failing.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:02 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Okay, trying to wrap it all into one sentence: when there are actually options available already to accommodate special needs then making those options easier to use is good, while on the other hand seeking, through technological control of behavior, to steamroller a naïvely-chosen path that may or may not actually be better on the whole once all considerations are taken into account, and may in fact disadvantage minority user populations (minorities like people with particular capitalization preferences or small-tag-related preferences, not ethnic minorities or anything like that in this case) is bad.
posted by XMLicious at 2:15 PM on January 14


The nested small tags probably needs to stop, or at least be discouraged under normal circumstances; you can produce text that's legitimately really hard to read that way.

But a single <small> tag produces text (e.g. like this) that's the same size as a lot of other elements on the page, including usernames, dates, the top-bar menu, etc. If someone has trouble reading that on their display, I think the best solution is probably to increase the overall size in the user's browser. All modern browsers that I'm aware of are smart enough to have per-domain settings, so increasing the size of MetaFilter won't affect everything else.

Personally I don't think using square brackets really conveys the same thing as the <small> tag. In my head, it's a sort of sotto voce thing.

As an aside, I find large blocks of italicized text difficult to read, but I'm not sure the solution there is to disallow italics.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:16 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]


I swear I saw a thread on here like a couple months ago where it was generally agreed that the "small tag" was bad due to screen reader issues and that we were all gonna use them less but I guess that could have been a dream?
posted by some loser at 2:17 PM on January 14


Seems pretty straight forward:

Can I respectfully ask the metafilter community to not so frequently use tiny text font?

I have used these many times. I will no longer do so.

EOS
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 2:24 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Maybe one important note to make: I think there's already an enforced minimum text size through CSS, limiting how small text can get at a certain number of nested <small> tags, isn't there? To prevent SEO-fiddling by sneaking microscopic keywords into threads, and such mischief?

Nothing I'm saying above should be taken as opposition to changing the minimum text size, only to completely eliminating the use of small tags.
posted by XMLicious at 2:26 PM on January 14


when there are actually options available already to accommodate special needs then making those options easier to use is good, while on the other hand seeking, through technological control of behavior, to steamroller a naively-chosen path that may or may not actually be better on the whole once all considerations are taken into account, and may in fact disadvantage minority user populations (minorities like people with particular capitalization preferences or small-tag-related preferences, not ethnic minorities or anything like that in this case) is bad.

This assumes that the "options available to accommodate special needs" are universally available. Many of the solutions involve people writing a script that other uses somehow do....something with, but a) those scripts don't work for all browsers, and b) in order to apply them, a given user would have to know HOW to do that in the first place. Zoom functions on browser windows don't always work for phones. Et cetera, et cetera. So relying on these options still leaves a good number of people without help.

I mean, at the end of the day this isn't going to make or break anyone's bank account or relationship status or anything of that nature; this is a First-World problem, and I admit that. But it is starting to appear that there are those among us who are still prioritizing the ability to type like this despite hearing that other members of the community are having difficulty with it, instead of just....y'know, being nice and not doing it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:28 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


This assumes that the "options available to accommodate special needs" are universally available.

No, it doesn't. I was asked to be brief and straightforward and not make lots of complicated caveats and hypotheticals, remember? This is exactly what I expected to happen.
posted by XMLicious at 2:30 PM on January 14


> This assumes that the "options available to accommodate special needs" are universally available.

No, it doesn't.


...Why not? That is a sincere question.

I was asked to be brief and straightforward and not make lots of complicated caveats and hypotheticals, remember? This is exactly what I expected to happen.

Dude, my disagreeing with you is not a result of my not understanding your communication style.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:38 PM on January 14


But a single small tag produces text (e.g. like this) that's the same size as a lot of other elements on the page, including usernames, dates, the top-bar men

This is not really true, since those are customizable. As a test, I just set it so that usernames and dates are MUCH larger than normal body text, and that works [set the font size for Byline to 18, for example].

However, the "small" text is unaffected and cannot be increased.
One solution would be to add a setting for that.

I have customized all my fonts/font sizes but since that means "normal" text is readable, small text is not. [Yeah, you can zoom in/out, but that doesn't work very well on a phone for me. On PC it's a little better due to keyboard shortcuts]

(edit: my normal fonts make username/dates the same size as comment text, so I was confused at first until I realized you meant the defaults)
posted by thefoxgod at 2:43 PM on January 14


Dude, my disagreeing with you is not a result of my not understanding your communication style.

You didn't actually disagree with me—I was asked to make a streamlined, easily-digestible version of my arguments, which you quoted without the first several words indicating this and then added an assumption which did not exist. Which is exactly, in my experience, the kind of thing that happens when someone in a discussion starts making rules about how you have to express yourself.

Not that the combination of events was somehow planned or anything like that, just that I expected it.

Why not? That is a sincere question.

As an example: Limiting minimum font size via CSS in the MeFi stylesheets, or inserting john hadron collider's CSS modification, would affect all browser clients. Then there are a variety of ways to make it easier for users to change that styling—Riki tiki points out the Preferences setting changing the font, but this wouldn't need to be as heavy duty as anything which interacts with the database; you know how some web sites will just have a thing in the corner like “Text size: A ᴀ ”, and you click one and the base text size changes? It could be like that, setting a browser cookie.
posted by XMLicious at 3:00 PM on January 14


"Maybe one important note to make: I think there's already an enforced minimum text size through CSS, limiting how small text can get at a certain number of nested small tags, isn't there? To prevent SEO-fiddling by sneaking microscopic keywords into threads, and such mischief?"

Big difference between what is microscopic and what is legible. I started this thread because there was some serious abuse of the nested small tags being used in the politics threads. I'd been mostly ok with a single small tag until that point and then things got ridiculous.

But thanks to this thread I learned that it was a result of nested small tags which I didn't know or understand was happening because my knowledge of code is very limited. All I knew is that people had the ability to make their text really tiny and it took a lot of effort on my part to zoom and push my nose to the screen to read. And then people started suggesting I implement some code somehow.

I did appreciate learning how to adjust my browser's minimume font size as there will help me elsewhere on the internet. I have no clue if the code suggested would have only affected metafilter or everything or what. Where is it supposed to be implemented? I don't know...

[the next part is directed at code the user would have to implement, not code that is being suggested to the mods to implement...at least I think that's possibly what some of the suggestions are...I'm legit at a loss as to which is which in the suggestions above]

What I do know is this. I asked the community to stop abusing this and the response from some have been wonderful but the response from some others have been straight-up ableist privilege. If you don't think that what you were saying in this thread was ableist, then I have some news for you and I hope you take a little time to examine your own privilege.

Disability is huge and wide-ranging and the hunt for accessibility for all is pretty much a never-ending one but it is a worthy pursuit. If your response to making a minor adjustment to how you communicate on a website is to ask the requestor to do everything on their own end to circumvent it because you don't want the inconvenience, then the problem is not the request but the response.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 3:06 PM on January 14 [17 favorites]


Big difference between what is microscopic and what is legible.

To try to be clearer: what I'm saying above is that, because the limit already exists, it can be changed from just preventing microscopic text up to even preventing illegible text.
posted by XMLicious at 3:11 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


XMLicious: I think I see the disconnect. When I was speaking of means to fix the size issue not being available to all users, I was referring to things that users themselves could do, because I assumed that that is what you were trying to advocate us users who dislike small tags to do.

So:

As an example: Limiting minimum font size via CSS in the MeFi stylesheets, or inserting john hadron collider's CSS modification, would affect all browser clients.

This is something that I think only the mods can do, which would affect MeFi overall. But I'm not clear why you thought I would be, since - as I understood - you have been arguing against a site-wide change because users individually have their own ability to customize things as they please. I was saying that relying upon that capability for the individual user to customize things is an imperfect solution itself, because of limitations on either the browser being used or the user's own ignorance.

For example:

you know how some web sites will just have a thing in the corner like “Text size: A ᴀ ᴀ”, and you click one and the base text size changes?

No, I don't. The browser I am using doesn't have that, and this is literally the first I've heard that there are browsers that do. So - expecting me to know this is a thing that can be done, or even knowing enough to ask whether it can be done, does me a disservice - especially since other people just....not using the small tags as much would be a friendly community gesture.

Can I make small font larger? Probably. Do I know how to do it? At present I don't. If I were taught, could I? Probably, but I would then be disgruntled at having to do it a lot, which then creates a new problem; having to continuously stop-and-start the viewing of a MeFi post because someone's decided to play cute tricks with how they type. This isn't even the first time that there's been a fad that users have been asked to cut back on so other users don't have to stop-and-start their reading; there was an ROT13 craze for a while to keep "spoilers" obscured when discussing pop culture events, and after a while a number of other users got annoyed with it and pleaded with everyone to dial it back a little.

What I am puzzled by - genuinely - is that in that instance, when asked to dial back on the ROT13 usage, everyone seemed to say "oh, gotcha, yeah I get how that can be annoying" and all was well. But here, for some reason the request to dial back on the use of nested small tags is getting pushback, and I am genuinely not understanding why.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


The end use is different so hypothetically: Asking ROT13 be minimized is like asking people at a party not to talk in pig latin. Asking for small not to be used is like asking that no one whisper. IE one feels ruder. [Is rudeness a spectrum? If not it should be.]

The website text in general is quite small. I wonder if one solution might be to bump up the body text size across the site. This way we could still use "small" tags, but they would show up at same size as the current default text.

Note text size is already setable in your profile settings and individually so for title, comments and byline. Very handy if you want to tweak sizes relatively such that page zoom doesn't work. So for example I've got my title size set to 1 so I don't see them on the front page; body text at 12 and byline text at 10. Small for me looks about 8; there is a significant difference that makes mod text stand out from bylines by being smaller than everything else.
posted by Mitheral at 5:47 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


"Note text size is already setable in your profile settings and individually so for title, comments and byline."

Except that the small tag still overrides that. I just checked now and see that I had my preferences set to 10 for comments and the nested small tags still made the text super super tiny. I was only able to override the effects of the small tags by changing my browser settings.

"Asking ROT13 be minimized is like asking people at a party not to talk in pig latin. Asking for small not to be used is like asking that no one whisper. IE one feels ruder. [Is rudeness a spectrum? If not it should be.]"

Depends on who is at the party. If it's populated by a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people (which would include me as a hard of hearing person) then asking the larger group to not whisper would be completely fair. In fact, I often tell people not to whisper to me but to speak in a low voice if they need to share something quietly with me because I can't understand whispered speech.

A bunch of people in this thread have said that they themselves have had issues. Maybe consider that small text asides aren't even being read because people don't want the hassle. Doesn't that then defeat the purpose of even writing it in the first place? Why is it so hard to simply use an asterisk or some other notation for the aside and keep the text the same size?
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 6:12 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


The text of the OP here seems to distinguish its above-the-fold request from And some people like to shrink the font to practically the smallest size available, and the first comment is,
Oddly, it seems like notes from the Moderators sometimes use the small font. It seems like those notes should be just as big as everything else.
and there are comments like Please get rid of <small> so I took this all to mean that we're discussing all reductions in text size (I guess except <sup> and <sub>, they haven't been mentioned yet), not just nested <small> tags, and making all user-supplied text the same size.

you have been arguing against a site-wide change because users individually have their own ability to customize things as they please

Well, a site-wide change of the user interface or comment HTML filtering to control how everyone authors posts and comments if they wouldn't do it willingly, is what I've been arguing against. But when I advocated for making those options easier to use, i.e. the available methods for altering text size on a per-user basis other than eliminating all variation in text size for everyone, I wasn't saying to not add entries to the FAQ or buttons anywhere because it would be a change on MeFi, the web site.

Sorry, the "Text size: A ᴀ " thing is something a web site itself can do, to offer the visitor an easy, immediate way to change the base text size as each visitor alone sees it (which is using yet another method, technically, different from the measures discussed above) not something in the browser. MeFi could do something similar, with relatively simple code.

I'm guessing, if perhaps you mostly use a phone for browsing, this kind of control might be automatically hidden to save real estate on a small screen, on the (relatively few, but I think I still see a few per month in my desktop browser) web sites which offer it?

It's very similar to the way the "Dark Mode" button on MeFi's front page sidebar works, I would expect, though I've never looked at the code of that.
posted by XMLicious at 6:15 PM on January 14


I only hope that those who use this on a near constant basis see this Meta thread.

Agreed. To the point it may be a wise idea to add it to the banner for a while.

I have done the nested small thing, and I am happy to stop it.

Some suggestions for compromise:

1. small generally reserved for mod comments. small small (one layer of nesting) allowed for asides.
2. no nesting. small generally reserved for mod comments. curly brackets { } used for asides. Those don't have history here, right?

In either case (or any other case people would like to suggest... I would love to hear more ideas!), some light self-policing in threads by the users suggesting that nesting smalls is essentially deprecated and would the person who nested be willing to use the new norm of *whatever is chosen*?

For asides and whatnot, I don't find anything inherently special about the small tag or nesting small tags. That it makes it incredibly harder for many here is more than enough for me to say get rid of it.

{ Now you come for swears, we'll have a real fucking problem. See how easy those curly brackets work? }

{{I did have to bold and ital for them to really stick out, though... }}
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:24 PM on January 14


I use it as like, a footnote without a specific insertion spot. I do like the "this part can be safely ignored" effect. But I can do less of that, sure. Maybe even none, if I can remember better than I can remember the "nobody does two spaces after a sentence anymore (except at work where it's required)" thing.
posted by ctmf at 9:49 PM on January 14


I have given myself a simple solution -- if the type is too small, I don't bother reading it. I have found over time that usually it is an inside joke that, despite having read here daily for years, I won't understand. That in itself is frustrating. I just move on.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 10:16 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I find the tiny text charming, and I say that not having the best sight in the world either. Since this is a longstanding habit Metafilter-wide, I wonder if either Metafilter or a browser app exists that could increase the font size (act as a magnifying glass) in a single tap or two. Is this possible, mods?
posted by Violet Blue at 12:14 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


@ a non mouse: I disagree about your brackets. The small font stands in obvious contrast in size, scale and dimension while the brackets just introduce a single new character that can be easily overlooked.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:16 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I just want to respond to this to be clear that I don't consider users with dyslexia to be weird or hypothetical.

My use of "weird" referred to things like the bell hooks example, that are unrealistic just for the sake of it. And "hypothetical" referred to issues ostensibly raised on behalf of a group, by someone without that lived experience, and without seeking their input on the topic.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:38 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Since this is a longstanding habit Metafilter-wide, I wonder if either Metafilter or a browser app exists that could increase the font size (act as a magnifying glass) in a single tap or two. Is this possible, mods?

If you are on a computer with a keyboard and wheely mouse, you can hold down Ctrl and scroll the mouse wheel to increase/decrease font. (or, Ctrl + / Ctrl -)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:39 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Except that the small tag still overrides that.

Sorry I unwittingly suggested otherwise. My comment was in response to a suggestion that text size across the board could be larger (and there for the proportional small text would be larger but still smaller than the new default text size). My comment was meant to inform that the default text size on Metafilter is already a user settable setting wholly within Metafilter (IE not device or browser or coding dependent) via profile settings. I didn't mean to imply that changing profile settings would depreciate the effects of the small tag.
posted by Mitheral at 8:21 AM on January 15


My comment was meant to inform that the default text size on Metafilter is already a user settable setting wholly within Metafilter (IE not device or browser or coding dependent) via profile settings.

This appears to only be true if you use the Classic (or Plain) theme. I use Modern, and these options aren’t there in Preferences or Profile.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:51 AM on January 15


To try to further elucidate and specify what I have not said and have not objected to above, I'm not saying that it hasn't been a failure of both the mods and the community all these years to address this issue better. It's evident that, as a person with impaired vision but a software engineer familiar with assistive technology and most aspects of web accessibility, my familiarity has prevented me from seeing (ha) some extremely low-hanging fruit for changes to the MeFi web site that could have helped others.

So I applaud NotTheRedBaron for starting this thread, and everyone else who has been the squeaky wheel to make sure this gets grease.

That said, addressing it by 1) changing the user interface or HTML filters to technologically control the behavior of post and comment authors to prevent them from using the small tags, or 2) essentially accomplishing the same thing as a social solution by having our thousands of users refrain from doing that one thing the user interface allows us to do, and collectively chiding and educating new users, and collectively castigating established users who forget or don't get the memo, are both “bazooka to kill a cockroach” solutions, when a simple button and code change or something along those lines may suffice. (“Cockroach” not being used to say the problem or issue is small nor unimportant, but that the technical goal, font size on the internet, is a very modest one.)

And of course, we can try that first, through strident demands for the simple changes initially, and then move to something like the “all text must be the same size” measures if the simple approach proves inadequate.

I also don't want to undersell the amount of work for frimble—even a simple javascript-only code change you have to multiply by all the sites, cross-browser testing, code maintenance in the future, documentation, etc. But maybe we could take up a special donation collection for a project to implement it.

Another couple of things: there's also, as mentioned above, the existing limit which I believe prevents microscopic text, which can be raised to prevent illegible text; this should be an extremely simple, quick change, but perhaps frimble or another mod can pipe in to comment. In that case, the community decision would need to be how many nested small tags we want the cutoff to be at (after which further tags simply would not make the text any smaller; as I've said above, I would be okay with just one or two levels.)

And I haven't mentioned it yet but in the scenario where we implement something like the “Dark Mode” button, which when pressed makes all text the same size and maybe styles it with john hadron collider's code—if this issue is an especial problem on phones, it sounds like? Then there can be conditional rules so that on phones, or just on anything with a small screen, the button is pre-pressed—the default is for all text to be the same size on phones. (And this could also instead be the default all the time for all visitors in all browsers, though I'd be inclined to vote against it; but that's my aesthetic preference talking, rather than my accessibility expertise.)

And a third, final note—jhc's code can be modified to automatically style it as bracket-wrapped, or wrapped in any other characters, instead of his example; so even people who don't code, feel free to continue making suggestions on how that should look.
posted by XMLicious at 9:47 AM on January 15


First, folks, if you want to talk about the small tag, you have to either escape out the brackets or not use them. If you actually type angle bracket - small - angle bracket, that uses the small tag, the word "small" does not appear, and hey, it turns out the parser doesn't auto-close them. So don't do that unless you mean to, and in this conversation it would be most polite not to mean to.

Second, XMLicious, it would be very helpful for us if you would not set yourself up as the devil's advocate for accessibility changes. You don't have all the context, it's not your call, and it just makes what should be a straightforward discussion contentious where it doesn't need to be.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:35 AM on January 15 [12 favorites]


I have not said anything above, nor in the deleted comments, as a devil's advocate. But I'll refrain from participating further.
posted by XMLicious at 11:01 AM on January 15


if you want to talk about the small tag, you have to either escape out the brackets or not use them

It ain't pretty, but writing "&lt;small&gt;" will show up as "<small>" when you post your comment, instead of actually making the text smaller.

("&lt;" is HTML code for the less-than symbol, "&gt;" is code for the greater-than symbol)
posted by Riki tiki at 11:09 AM on January 15


Metafilter has a theme system. Can we add a theme specifically tailored to meet the needs of people with visual impairments? Or a few such themes, since not all visual impairments are the same? Obviously there is a lot in the technical implementation queue right now already, but I would hope that this would be a matter of just researching what is needed and then adding a few CSS rules. The <small> tag could then be disabled or restyled for this theme while not requiring any other change to the site or any change in user behavior, but it would also be good for the site to offer a theme that is as accessible as possible for users with visual impairments in other ways as well.

Personally I find <small> to be useful, and it seems like providing a simple profile option to disable/restyle it for those users who can't read it is a better solution than disabling it for the entire site. Conversely, I think nesting the <small> tag to produce extremely small text is not so useful. I wouldn't mind seeing the following rule added to Metafilter's standard stylesheet:
small > small {
  font-size: 100%;
}
(For those who don't CSS, this makes any <small> tags nested inside others render at the same size as the first one, so essentially only 1 level of <small> has any effect.)
posted by biogeo at 6:11 PM on January 15 [13 favorites]


Also, the "<small><small><small><small><super-absurdly-tiny>" comments are from my observation (and cough, self awareness) mostly quite lame jokes, not worth expanding. no really, just lame
posted by sammyo at 7:03 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


As the OP, I would be perfectly happy with biogeo's suggestion to disable the ability to nest small tags because that's really the problem that I had. The use of a single small tag wasn't something I loved but it didn't bother me too much. It was the continuous shrinking down via nesting that I found to be a problem.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 7:15 PM on January 15 [13 favorites]


Seconding biogeo's suggestion. I think that's a good solution.
posted by Chairboy at 1:35 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I suppose I'd be sad to lose the small tag entirely because I do sort of find it amusing. But definitely not at the cost of anyone else's needs, and I'll certainly reconsider before using it myself in the future. Since font setting is possible in user preferences, I also wonder how feasible it would be to make biogeo's suggestion a per-user setting rather than a global one.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:17 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Just make small render as comic sans and see that $4!+ disappear overnight!
posted by kaibutsu at 4:09 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


↑ Great April Fool's day joke idea
posted by biogeo at 5:00 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Hey there -- just checking in to say that we talked about this at the staff meeting and the plan is to likely make sure there's a floor on the size of small text, so that for example you can nest ten small tags if you want to but nothing gets smaller than the current <small>. We'll look into mod-comment visibility and possibly re-styling at a later time when we have more available time and energy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:48 AM on January 17 [20 favorites]


That sounds like a good compromise!
posted by tavella at 11:09 AM on January 17


And thus progress is made by a small change.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:27 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

(j/k, this is a fine compromise!)
posted by Rhaomi at 1:23 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Thanks, jessamyn! Much appreciated!
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 3:43 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


First you came for the Marquee tag. Then the Blink tag. And now this?!? When will it end?!?
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


btw, you can no longer end comments with "!?!"
posted by taz (staff) at 11:29 PM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Team Interrobang for life.
posted by Lexica at 4:19 PM on January 18


Luckily it's team Banginterrobang which is being relagated to the dust heap of history!
posted by kaibutsu at 4:45 PM on January 18


Better interrobang than enterobang. Which is what punctuates bean burrito day.
posted by biogeo at 10:56 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


I'm still mad that I have to zoom out to see the little down arrow to get to the bottom, but since there will be no megathreads, this is no longer important, right? ;-)

Did you know that on a Mac, holding down the Control button while scrolling on the mouse (or trackpad) will zoom the entire screen. As my eyesight gets worse, I find myself using this more and more frequently.

Speaking of usabilty hints: on Apple TV, if you hold down the Siri button and say "what did they say"? the video will rewind about 10 seconds, close captioning will be turned on, and playback will resume, and CC will turn off about 20 seconds later.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:50 PM on January 19 [4 favorites]


"Speaking of usabilty hints: on Apple TV, if you hold down the Siri button and say "what did they say"? the video will rewind about 10 seconds, close captioning will be turned on, and playback will resume, and CC will turn off about 20 seconds later."

That's a neat feature! I don't happen to need it because I always have captioning on but that's a really cool thing for apple to have thought of for those who don't habitually watch with closed captioning on.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 6:20 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


> btw, you can no longer end comments with "!?!"

At least I still have ‽!
posted by ardgedee at 5:35 AM on January 20


Hmm, this controversy reminds me of something.
posted by y2karl at 10:36 PM on January 20


(Someone may have brought this up already, I'll admit I haven't read the whole thread, but one benefit of special mod-comment styling that isn't just the small tag would be that the mods wouldn't have to worry about people mimicking mod comments by doing <small>[Hurf durf official-sounding pronouncement]</small>.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:48 AM on January 21


That's actually already blocked. You can make a comment in small text, or you can make a comment surrounded by square brackets, but unless you're a mod you can't do both at once.
posted by biogeo at 10:32 AM on January 21


I think I found this out in a previous MetaTalk about small text when I was trying to show an example of Mod Voice for some reason.
posted by biogeo at 10:35 AM on January 21


Ah, never mind then. I remember it coming up years ago, but, uh, maybe let's not think too hard about how old I am and how long I've been here. :)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:45 AM on January 21 [2 favorites]


You can make a comment in small text, or you can make a comment surrounded by square brackets, but unless you're a mod you can't do both at once.

[Sounds like a challenge.] [Well, then.]Challenge accepted.

Hmm. Maybe you can actually do it in Metatalk, even without fancy tricks?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:50 PM on January 24


It's not blocked, most people just don't do it, and if it's even a little confusing we'll delete it, or contact the poster and say, "hey, I removed your small tags and/or your square brackets, here's why." Most people are either goofing around, or didn't realize it was "how mods make a mod note."

Now that we can use the "staff" tag on all subsites it's not such a big deal as it was back in the day when there were metatalks about it. But I also can't remember the last time I saw someone doing it in a jerky or provocative way rather than just not realizing the MetaFilter convention.

Sometime a couple months ago I saw someone properly quote an academic text that used square brackets, but in a footnotey way after the MAIN text so they small-texted it, and I looked at it for a while before deciding that with the regular-text comment above it it wasn't confusing and the thread wasn't likely to give offense or draw flags, so I shrugged and moved on.

Also I just typed "shruggled" and couldn't figure out what was wrong with the word, it's been a long 2021.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:02 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Lest someone think these threads don't do any good, I have at least twice since reading it refrained from doing the small text at the end thing when I REALLY WANTED TO.
posted by ctmf at 10:30 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


[Really, this actually works? I could have sworn I encountered some kind of block when I tried it once. Don't know how I confabulated that. Sorry for the error!]
posted by biogeo at 10:53 PM on January 24


No, turns out it's like when they said you can't pee in the pool.

I'm not saying I'm some sort of martyr, but I think people need to be more careful about distinguishing between impossibilities and local norms.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:31 AM on January 25


biogeo: "[Really, this actually works? I could have sworn I encountered some kind of block when I tried it once. Don't know how I confabulated that. Sorry for the error!]"

There actually is! But it's only if you try combining a [small] tag with "posted by" to make a fake comment byline. Here's the message that appears:
Please remove the "<small>posted by..." line from your comment. This can create confusion about who posted a given comment and should be avoided.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:56 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Oh my God, thank you! I thought I was losing my mind.
posted by biogeo at 11:58 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Was the font size for normal text increased recently? Did the line separation go a bit higher? Because I seem to perceive the text as "bigger' somehow, but I can't be sure about that.
posted by runcifex at 12:27 AM on January 26


Hm. Hasn't changed for me.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:36 AM on January 26


I can't say for sure because I frequently zoom in/out while reading a long thread depending on my position in my chair. But I'll say the difference in font size between the comment textarea and the rest of the text on the page seems really dramatic right now, enough so that I can believe something changed.

Here's a screenshot. I use the "Classic" theme and I may have customized my body font preference at some point as well, maybe it's something related to that, taz?
posted by Riki tiki at 12:55 PM on January 26


Yeah I use Classic and the white color scheme and I haven't noticed this either. Feel free to drop us an email, see if it happens in other browsers, etc.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:26 PM on January 26


Oh, I think most likely it was some form of visual illusion or (even more likely) accidental change of browser setting on my part. Updated browser and its "back to normal".
posted by runcifex at 12:10 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


« Older Fuck fuck scary fuck   |   Team Metafilter on Kiva Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments