Turning a blind eye

Turning a blind eye

: Seth Godin is the god of listening to your customer, giving your customer what your customer wants, giving your customer something extra, making your customer feel special.

But for some reason, he refuses to give many of us customers what we want: HTML.

I ranted about it again and again. No response then.

Doc Searls just ranted about it:

See, the manifesto is a @#$%^&*()+!!{{{{{FUCKING}}}}}!! .pdf. Have I made it clear I hate .pdfs? I do.

Says here “our PDFs don’t suck.” Because they’re beautiful and “a joy to read.” Excuse me, they do suck if what they contain isn’t also on the Web in relatively ugly but open, unowned, nonproprietary, standard and non-infuriating HTML (or its more modern and no less standard successors and derivatives). PDFs, no matter how beautiful, are not a joy to quote (how about all them line breaks you have to edit out?), or to link to.

Forgive me. I’m in a bad mood today about people breaking the Web.

Now Seth replies (in HTML — because you can’t reply in .pdf):

We got some mail on this as well.

I hear you. But I think the comparison is not apt. The right comparison is to compare our PDFs to books.

Books are not searchable. They cost money to reproduce. You can’t print multiple copies and Google searches them even less well than they search PDFs.

You don’t hear anyone whining about books. You don’t hear about anyone sending long, detailed emails to book publishers explaining why they should abandon printed books and start publishing in HTML.

Well, actually, yes, I’ve been reading fewer books lately because they’re staler and duller looking and you can’t link or interact. Just like .pdfs.

What’s the deal, Seth? Why the format orthodoxy? If customers want HTML, too, what’s the harm? Hell, you can put ads on my HTML pages and sell me stuff. That’d be OK. I agree with Doc. I @)_*[email protected]_*([email protected]*[email protected]#[email protected] HATE .pdfs.

  • youd also think that people who put out their pdfs would want people to quote them accurately.
    something that is time-consuming and sloppy using that format.

  • Tim Windsor

    It is ironic that Seth Godin, of all people, is running around with his fingers jammed in his ear canals, sing-songing “I can’t hear you!”
    Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. His blog doesn’t allow comments either.

  • praktike

    Hey, what’s with the lack of swearing?
    I FUCKING DETEST PDFs, and I will never ever read any of those manifestoes as a result.

  • I would like to humbly point out that our rants at The Social Customer Manifesto are created with 100% HTML, for the convenience of those customers who prefer it.

  • Holy fuck. I thought I was the only person on the planet who hated fucking PDF format — it scrolls funny, won’t let you highlight or search… it’s just butt-ugly. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  • Old Grouch

    …and if you don’t religiously check the URL extension before you click, you get surprised by an unanticipated coffee break while you wait for Adobe’s &*@(&#$)(*^ 5.1 Reader to load all its [email protected]#*&(*%) extensions. (Memo to the Mozilla guys: How about a browser plugin that colors “.pdf” links differently? Something ugly like Orange on Purple, maybe?)
    And hey Seth, BOOK != SCREEN, either.

  • The reason I don’t like so many f words is that I don’t want to be filtered by more f’ing nannies. See PaidContent.org today; they were filtered from innocent blogs as I was while sitting at Panera. I have no personal objection to the F word but please don’t use it just so I won’t be filtered. Thanks.

  • I love PDF. I have crates of books all over the place, but I can put all my PDF’s in one box. They save me tons of room.

  • Jeffy,
    I’m all for using four-letter words on TV, but from an asthaetic PoV, why does Fox need to broadcast worthless programs like Married in America anyway? It’s trash that panders to our more prurient natures. Who needs it?
    Why should anyone, man, woman, or child, be exposed to Joe sixpack and his inamorata playing the fool in Vegas during their proverbial 15 minutes? Modern socialogists like Jerry Springer have demonstrated that many of our contemporaries will act like complete jerks for a thousand bucks and their 15 minutes. Must we prove it over and over again?
    Frankly, I’d rather watch an old Doris Day film.
    Keep defending those freedoms!

  • MtN: Ah, but the beauty of it is that the marketplace, the audience, the public took care of Married by America. It was canceled, as well it should have been. But it was canceled by the market, not the government.

  • Bob Owens

    I’m a web usability expert, specializing in competitive benchmarking.
    From a purely professional standpoint, PDFs are inappropriate for online content delivery. PDFs have no higher on-screen resolution that HTML pages. 72 DPI is what you get on average monitor hardware, and until technology changes, any advantage in on-screen readability of a PDF is wishful thinking, not fact.
    In my work, companies are strongly encouraged not to use PDFs for online content delivery. The correct approach is to offer up an HTML-compliant page and offer a link to a printer-friendly PDF of the same information.

  • To play devil’s advocate:
    LOTS of people who (still) matter don’t read the web as compulsively as you and me.
    LOTS of people print long stuff out to read in the bathtub and/or pass along to colleagues. HTML looks horrible when you print it. (I recently forwarded Gladwell’s ChangeThis Enron essay to a colleague, who printed it and read it on the bus home and quoted the article extensively the next day in an argument about hiring.)
    I rarely read anything longer than 500 words online. Do you? (Yes, I glaze over 1/3 of your posts Jeff. :) I’m impulsive and utilitarian online and hate to plow. For me, reading longer stuff (yes, like books) is about joy and pixelated unpages don’t turn my crank.
    But… I too would prefer an HTML option with every single essay on one long page for a fast skim and some copy/paste and linking (to paragraphs!), with PDF as an exit strategy for the bath or forwarding to offliners.
    (Disclosure: you can now buy Blogads on ChangeThis, so I may be biased.)

  • Henry: I’m merely being greedy and selfish and asking for it both ways.

  • Penschool

    PDF maintains provenance and the exact method of presentation the author intends.

  • Amy

    The only thing that annoys me more than .pdf files, is links to them that aren’t clearly identified. It amazes me how many professional, big websites still do this. And noting that links are to .pdfs only at the end of a paragraph or sentance, which you only read AFTER having already clicked is no better.
    Old Grouch: that’s a great idea. You could nip over to Mozillazine forums and suggest it (I just did a quick search and find no mention of such a feature).

  • Steve

    One way to speed up Adobe Reader is to delete a lot of the extensions. I forget which extensions are necessary, but a quick Google search should show that there’s only 2 or 3 of them. Doing this cut my Reader startup time by about 80%.
    There’s a Firefox (and I assume Mozilla) extension called Target Alert that puts a little PDF icon next to any link to a pdf file. It also alerts you to zip files, MS Office files, and links that open a new window.
    BTW, I also hate PDFs.

  • Especially if the author intends to annoy the reader.

  • Amy

    Ah! Looks like we’ve been beaten to it. Thanks Steve.
    Here’s the TargetAlert entry on the Firefox extensions page.
    Good old Mozilla!

  • pdf’s have a place in the world as does html… the energy spent on this topic might be better spent trying to really solve a big issue. pick one, there are quite a few worthy ones out there. freedom of choice goes a long way, and I give thanks for that freedom every day.

  • Old grouch

    Steve & Amy… this is why I LOVE the Internet! Thanx.

  • What is more important: the content or the presentation?
    If the presentation, then by all means, use pdf. But don’t expect as many people to actually see the content.
    Like Jeff says, it’s all about control. You can’t control my screen size or resolution. You can’t control whether I read it in pixels or print. If you try, you’ve lost a lot of eyeballs that will never appreciate how pretty it looks.
    Here’s a hint: The CSS “media” attribute can be used to make your site printer friendly without pdfs.

  • I’ve been reading fewer books lately because they’re staler and duller looking and you can’t link or interact.
    Oh c’mon Jeff – does everything have to be interactive? I don’t read a book to engage it in conversation or see pretty pictures. I read it to appreciate the writing, the story, the plot, the tension, the turning of the pages. Do people who are deeply engrossed in a story suddenly think – Oh, I wonder if there’s a Web site with a message board?

  • I’ll also defend books. I wish I had time to read more of them. And I’d much rather read something on paper than on a screen.
    But I do hate (expletive deleted for fear of filtering) PDFs.
    Some writer’s original presentation was in illuminated manuscripts or another language. But they are reproduced in other forms which makes them easier for some people to read.
    It really doesn’t take much to put up both HTML and a PDF. The site can say the PDF is the intended experience, but allow us to make our own choice.
    I’d say the same about sites which put text in flash. Sites for movies do it most often, but others do as well.
    I have tendonitis and it is a pain to scroll in flash to read a short text. And you can’t cut and paste and it is difficult or impossible to link to.

  • heson

    Quite obvious why they use pdl, they are so proud of their mad design skillz. “Oooh I can make it look like a glossy folder.” My “commercial ad” alert went off and my mind tried to block the information. I call it design masturbation, and I think the author should move into weekly magazine busieness and get off there instead.