Hacker News Re-Imagined

We are drowning in churn and noise. I am fighting by switching this site to PDF

1 hour ago

Created a post 91 points @ColinWright • 29 comments

We are drowning in churn and noise. I am fighting by switching this site to PDF

@stayux 10 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Thanks. I am starting self-hosted blog about design fundamentals, best-practices, etc. Using only PDF is not a solution for me. Combining minimalistic web-site design with pdf/e-pub will suit me well. I like your approach as a statement against web "pollution".

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@sammalloy 9 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

One problem I noticed on mobile, is that if I click on a link in the PDF and visit another page, and then try to traverse back, it takes me to the first page in the PDF, rather than the page I linked from.

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@zabzonk 43 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Sorry, I'm not a Web developer - what is meant by "churn and noise" in this context?

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@xvector 42 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I think simple HTML + print to PDF (supported by default in most browsers) is a much more elegant solution.

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@Santosh83 40 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Why not just publish static HTML with CSS only? It is, to my mind, better and more accessible than either PDF or a Javascript SPA.

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@rado 6 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

This is terrible for accessibility. Please just use semantic HTML and your web will be usable on 10yo devices and unknown devices 10 years in the future.

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@dvfjsdhgfv 39 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I don't agree with author's choices (yes, I'm disciplined enough not to add irrelevant elements to my content), but it's really sad that things got to the point where someone actually suggests PDF as an alternative to the web.

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@KEITH_PETERSON 39 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I just opened your website on mobile and it's very user friendly, I got to scroll in many directions to read the content.

We build our own website with gatsby and only use js if it's really needed (when you click interactive links, we're still trying to improve a bit. We customized Gatsby because doesn't support this out of the box) that gets 100 score on mobile on Google page speed: https://marxcommunications.com/

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/MOAvBOe

Or run it yourself: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?url=...

It's possible but takes some work.

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@shortformblog 38 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Even though Jakob Nielsen is very much still alive, he’s rolling in his grave.

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@halayli 2 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

pdf a major attack surface too.

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@trhoad 33 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I just ran your PDF through an accessibility checker and it failed magnificently. For this reason alone, suggesting people make more use of PDFs instead of well-formatted HTML is a total non-starter for me (and should be for everyone).

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@cerved 33 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

this is a joke right?

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@Symbiote 33 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

> PDFs used to be unreadable on small screens, but now you can reflowthem.

(Pasted verbatim, retaining the missing space.)

I don't see this feature in Firefox's viewer, or the default Android one. Can anyone recommend a FOSS PDF viewer that has it? (It must be FOSS, otherwise the point about using PDF to avoid tracking is lost.)

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@GrumpyNl 32 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Instead of pdf, why not the most basic HTML?

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@justanotherguy0 1 hour

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Not optimized for mobile so I didn't read much and bounced.

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@the_other 1 hour

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

If you don’t want churn, don’t churn.

PDF is not a web format and you’re wasting effort trying to shoehorn print content and a print format for display on the web. Just use HTML and don’t update it, it’s probably easier.

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@0xcoffee 1 hour

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Excellent! Excited to see the next PDF generator framework.

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@greatgib 59 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

What is the summary?

Same as someone else, to read on mobile I have to download and open a pdf so i just cancelled the download and ignored the link

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@kissgyorgy 58 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

It's a terrible "implementation", but interesting observations we should consider.

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@prox 58 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I love the basic idea here. Needs polishing if you want to blow this up to the masses.

It’s like my Pi who just does one thing really well, and allows me to tinker on every level if I so choose.

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@MichalSternik 57 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Well, what's wrong with static site (generators)?

I certainly get the argument, but using something like hugo or gatsby or jekyll when you want to avoid the "churn" also seems like a perfectly valid solution.

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@LightG 56 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Appreciated the sentiment of it.

It's not ideal, but in a non-ideal world where the big boys have ruined the web, I tip my hat to this effort with a large dose of empathy.

Cheers,

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@eloisius 21 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I'm not old enough to remember Gopher being "the internet" but I have browsed a few retro sites that still run it. I wouldn't mind seeing some slightly upgraded gopher-like protocol that allowed for embedding images and maybe form submissions (without any scripting). Most of what I want to do online is read, and I'd be more than happy for everything to come with a standardized look and feel rather than whatever scroll jacking weirdo design every website feels like having.

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@JorgeGT 55 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

While this may be extreme, I do notice that it is becoming harder and harder to print webpages to PDF/paper. Is there a good approach for this besides the standard print dialog?

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@throwawayswede 54 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't think PDF is the way, at least in the way you're currently doing it. PDF maybe supported by browsers, but they're not intended for it, it's secondary feature. Same for search engines. Same for mobile.

Most browsers have Print to PDF. If you want people to be able to download an immutable version of your content, then just have a simple static version of your page with a valid print css, better yet, leave everything default.

If you want to fight churn with PDF, just have a simple HTML website with a link to download a versioned PDF of your issue. Your website can be as simple as https://motherfuckingwebsite.com/ or https://bettermotherfuckingwebsite.com.

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@dalbasal 19 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I found "PDFs are files" kind of compelling. Perhaps this was a flaw of the original www concept. Web pages were always technically files & documents, but this was always abstracted away from userland. "Save webpage" was never a core feature. This did disempower users.

PDFs are downloaded, saved, emailed around. They can also be linked to. Userland maintains a closer relationship with what's going on. A typical user know that you can have a copy of a file, which may or may not be identical to the online one. WWW, from its initial version, was mysterious. The transition between the model of requesting files from a server by clicking a link to a programmatically generated stream of code executed on your browser happened below typical users perspective.

The wb has obviously gained a lot, but has also lost something.

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@Aeolun 54 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

All of the stuff he says PDF is, is the same for HTML.

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@vimy 53 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Reading PDFs on a phone isn’t an enjoyable experience.

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@emptyfile 51 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Instead of writing text let me make some more noise by shoving PDFs for no reason.

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@schipplock 18 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

The text is too small to read on my phone. I can zoom in, but then I have to scroll horizontally. I’m afraid this website isn’t targetting me.

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@pornel 51 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Maybe the author doesn't realize how difficult PDF is to work with. In PDF it's ambiguous whether any two spans of text belong together in the same sentence or paragraph. It can even be unclear where are spaces between words. PDF also allows "optimizing" font usage that makes text unreadable without OCR-ing the custom font. The messy hacks go on and on:

https://filingdb.com/b/pdf-text-extraction

OTOH it's totally possible to make a self-contained HTML page without using a JS framework of the day. It's going to be way easier to consume than a PDF.

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@bambax 50 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

He should offer PDF in addition to basic HTML, not as a replacement.

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@keiferski 50 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I think if one designed a “crisis-proof” version of the web, it might end up being a network of PDFs. My reasoning being:

- PDFs are universally understood by most people and can be read on phones, desktops, laptops, and eBook readers.

- Once you’ve downloaded a local PDF version of the site, there is no risk that it can be changed or removed by the host.

- File size is predictable ahead of time, which is useful if your connection is limited or slow.

- PDFs are designed for printing (moreso than most sites) which may be useful in situations where electricity is in low supply.

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@mark_l_watson 16 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

I also enjoyed the sentiment of the article. I used to blog a lot but in the last decade I have preferred more long form writing. Now I use the leanpub.com [1] service so when I write, I get generated PDF/ePub/Kindle formats, and material is readable online as HTML/CSS. For me leanpub is a way to make content free and accessible, but people can pay if they want. The relatively few people who pay for my material have a large effect on what I decide to write about in the future or which writing projects to drop.

I consume the web mostly by following a few very interesting people on social media and following their links. As an author, my goal is to keep producing interesting enough material to be worth people's time reading.

[1] https://leanpub.com/u/markwatson

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@snksnk 49 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

Why not use TeX/LaTeX instead and also include a link to the code?

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@petercooper 47 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙

In a sea of cynicism, I gotta say.. bravo. This genuinely put a smile on my face. It has a lot of problems, sure, but it's a creative use of the Web and would surely work for some use cases. It's certainly no worse than using Flash ever was.

It reminds me a bit of a "newsletter" I'm subscribed to called, ironically, "Not a Newsletter" (http://notanewsletter.com/). You get an email from the author each month and it just points to a Google Doc where he puts the actual content. Why's this good? The content can't set off any spam filters, he can edit the issue after it's "sent" if there are mistakes or broken links..

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@midrus 13 minutes

Replying to @ColinWright 🎙



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