02.08.12

Dear CCAS

Posted in Life, Rants, Software at 5:51 pm by

What follows is the text of my email reply to CCAS’s recent email announcing the availability of the latest newsletter.

At 4:17 PM -0500 on 2/8/12, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies wrote:

But I am delighted to present to you a new, redesigned newsletter using a cutting-edge technology, ISSUU. Rather than downloading a PDF from this e-mail, all you need to do is click on the link to ISSUU on our website and read the newsletter there! Note that ISSUU offers users some attractive features via the row of icons under the newsletter, such as searching the newsletter for key terms or names, leaving comments about the newsletter, posting the newsletter to social media, and downloading or printing the newsletter.

Seriously, Flash?! In this day and age? That’s not cutting-edge, that’s edge-of-extinction. Even a PDF is more accessible, and more widely supported, than Flash. (And, btw, PDF supports searching, too, since it’s *real text* and not an image. And those buttons that let you post to social media aren’t hard to implement; you could stick them next to a link to a PDF newsletter on the CCAS site. And if you really, really wanted comments, embedding something like Disqus on a page for each newsletter would still be easy, and far better than forcing everyone off to a third-party Flash content-locker.)

Plus, the Flash viewer is so buggy (it won’t zoom-on-click to a scale at which the text is readable, and using the zoom slider, the viewer gets stuck in pan-or-zoom mode, so any movement trying to read jars either the position or the zoom scale). It’s absolutely not a pleasant reading experience by any stretch of the imagination. Moreover, the content is stuck inside a Flash “window” specifically designed to show that it’s a container holding the content, inside a tab, inside my browser window with normal browser chrome; when I was viewing the old PDF Newsletters inside my PDF viewer, it’s just the Newsletter content inside that window (which has minimal chrome, allowing me to focus on the content and not the container). I gave up on trying to read the Newsletter in the Flash viewer very quickly. So I figured I’d just download a copy, hoping it’d let me read in my PDF viewer like I had been doing since you discontinued the print version (I loved being able to grab the printed newsletter and take it with me, reading it wherever I was), but, wait, now I have to sign up for some third-party service just to download a copy of the CCAS Newsletter that used to be freely available on the CCAS website?! Seriously?! And what happens when this third-party service shuts down or is bought out? There go all the CCAS Newsletters posted there. :-(

I can understand if you wanted to move away from PDF to reduce download sizes, or improve accessibility, or improve the ability to “mash-up” and share the content, or to make the newsletter more widely available to multiple device types and to support reading habits/preferences, but to do that, you need to take a step forward, not backwards. Move to a nice HTML newsletter in that case. But not to Flash.

Please, can you make the newsletter available again as a simple PDF download from the CCAS site, instead of this Flash monstrosity and its “you must create an account with a third-party service and sign in in order to download a readable version” content wall?

Thanks,
Smokey Ardisson
MAAS ‘03

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