Thursday, August 4, 2011

Painful Procedures

I love First Monday. Along with Code4Lib, it is probably my favorite open access—nay, favorite journal, period. But it also epitomizes one thing that's wrong with the web today: almost everything is unreadable. This post is going to piggyback off my How I Read post about Readability and InstaPaper, which really shouldn't be necessary services but totally are.
In First Monday's instance, here is the process I go through every time I encounter an article I'd like to read in full:
  1. Navigate to the article. In an ideal world, this would be the only step.
  2. The goal is to get this article into InstaPaper, where font size will be increased and dynamic so I can read it on my iPod Touch. But InstaPaper cannot handle frames so I can't work with the typical HTML article. I click "Print version" over in the right-hand column of Open Journal Systems.
  3. Cancel the unwanted print dialog that pops up. Now, normally I would click my InstaPaper bookmarklet and be done, but because this is one of those weird functionless pop-ups my bookmark bar is nowhere to be seen.
  4. Copy the URL, paste into the main browser window.
  5. Cancel the second unwanted print dialog that pops up.
  6. Click the InstaPaper bookmarklet. Now I'm ready to read.
Now, this isn't entirely First Monday's fault, and I don't want to blame Open Journal Systems either. OJS is a great and has aided the spread of open access greatly. But they should know better than to expect people to read their lengthy articles in only one place. No one—well maybe not no one, but very few people read entire articles in one place. PDF would be a substitute except PDFs suck - the have a fixed width so if you have a small screen, like my iPod, you have to zoom in and scroll horizontally to read each line. They're also super annoying for people who don't use Chrome, with it's built-in PDF reader, or who use Windows and thus are forced to download Adobe Reader.
It's a frustrating situation and really very few websites are readable as is. Part of the reason I picked Blogger over Wordpress or another service is that I have more control over page width, font size, and mobile display. But that's a topic for another post.
For a related and better treatment, check out Orbital Content over on A List Apart. Cameron Koczon explores InstaPaper, Readability, and what happens in general when content is freed from its context and starts to revolve around its consumers, not its original site. I think this is a trend that will only continue to increase as more social sites, types of aggregators, and great cross-platform services show up.

No comments:

Post a Comment