Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Trackback: With everybody talking about Trackback these days and, in my opinion, correctly assessing it as a good thing™ my question is: Is there a way to abuse the existing Trackback infrastructure of Movable Type for other webpages on my site? Without to much fiddling around? Foolproof?

Google News: Man and dog bitch about the low journalistic quality of Google News after somebody discovered they included press releases along with the news they 'collect' from other sites. Did anybody really think the random collection of sources offered by Google could serve anything than complement proper media, say, to get different perspectives on a given topic? Apparently Google does as otherwise they wouldn't have 'Top Stories' and their site would be more research-like. And apparently many other people did as well, thinking that it being Google implied it was useful. Whom were they kidding? A crap news site turning out to be crap. What's the big deal?

Copyright: Another thing that's really popping up all over is that 'Creative Commons' license. Do we really need licenses for what we write? What bad can/does happen if we don't? I am not a lawyer, I don't want to be. To me it's pretty clear what of my writing is my own and what isn't. If it's not, I attribute it adequately. Who's too daft to need a license or fries to go with that. Don't all those endless disclaimers, licenses and other pseudo-legal-blurbs degrade what we're doing? They do. – As do all those fears induced in people that lead to the most interesting, yet depressing, results.

And as a follow-up question to that, considering that there was the final Ally McBeal episode on German TV yesterday: How comes that none of the law students we see running around uni every day are degenerate in an amiable way?

Safari: Isn't Safari overly optimistic concerning my language skills? And why do people think everyone is blind? Would you want to read 16 point text in print? Probably not. So why have it on-screen if there is to be any meaning to that 'points' measurement? Just a fixed point size will never please everybody. A size that's fine on a 12" iBook is bound to look too large on a 15" iMac. I thought people had realised a while ago that the screen's resolution does in fact play a role in how large fonts look. Back in the 'good old days' of fixed resolution screens knowing the screen's resolution wasn't hard. With Apple selling TFTs only these days there's nothing to keep them from knowing a screen's resolution in most cases these days. But judging from the non-scalability of other UI elements, OS X's design may have been a bit short-sighted for such treats.

April 10, 2003, 2:15

Comments

Comment by mpt: User icon

“Would you want to read 16 point text in print? Probably not. So why have it on-screen if there is to be any meaning to that ‘points’ measurement?”

For three reasons.

Firstly, computer screens have quite a lot lower resolution than paper does. An order of magnitude lower resolution, in fact (even with anti-aliasing). Lower resolution makes text harder to read. Therefore, text on the screen needs to be larger than text on paper, to achieve exactly the same level of readability.

Secondly, a computer screen at a comfortable distance is typically further away from your eyes than a book you’re reading at a comfortable distance. So text on the screen needs to be larger to compensate. (In CSS, a “px” isn’t actually a pixel — it’s an angle in your field of view, rounded to the nearest pixel.)

And thirdly, text on paper is subject to economic constraints which mostly don’t apply to the screen. If paper was much cheaper and much stronger than it is now, so large-print books could be published as cheaply and compactly (using thinner paper) as small-print paperbacks are now, we might all be accustomed to reading books printed in 14pt rather than 10 or 11. With screen text, on the other hand, it hardly matters how much vertical space it takes up — you spend the same number of cents on the same number of bytes no matter how luxuriously large your text is.

April 10, 2003, 14:19

Comment by ssp: User icon

Interesting arguments - still I’m not convinced…

(1) That’s true. However, people just managed to read 12 point fonts for a while now. There are many fonts that are very readable even at small sizes and on low-res displays. I don’t think this really is a problem.

(2) That’s an interesting point I hadn’t thought about before. Probably that’s why I tend to consider 14 points on screen ‘large but acceptable’ in place of the 12 points I’d normally use.

(3) Surely vertical scrolling keeps the price of long pages down on-screen. Still, every bit you have to scroll is a bit annoyance. And - this may be more of a ‘web-design’ than a browser issue - frequently large type just forces you to have rather large browser windows to be able to use a page reasonably. This may not be an issue for Windows users who don’t know the concept of seeing many windows at once, though…

But my point wasn’t really concerned with. Basically, the question asked was the wrong question. If people ask 14 or 16 point today they do so because 14 point type looks like 12 point type or even smaller on higher resolution displays. As resolutions increase we’ll have the same question with 18 point type in a couple of years etc.

The proper way to do this seems to be taking into account the display’s resolution. Allegedly Windows can do this - although things just tend to look ‘too large’ on Windows machines - and Apple has always refused to take this into account.

Particularly in the days of digital TFTs, knowing your display’s resolution should be trivial and everything should be sized accordingly.

So while your points are valid, I think they’re secondary. Adjusting a font size should mean you’re adjusting the size and not the number of pixels it occupies (just as the “angle” thing in CSS is intended, I suppose). But that’s not what’s happening right now. Choosing font sizes in today’s model mean that my dad won’t be able to read the text on a high-resolution iBook screen and I’ll find the type too large on a lowish-resolution 15” iMac screen.

April 11, 2003, 1:25

Comment by mpt: User icon

“However, people just managed to read 12 point fonts for a while now.”

Yes, but for most of that while, “people” largely meant teenage or twenty-something computerheads. The sort of people who’d have no qualms about downloading the latest Netscape 3.0 beta, and fossicking around in its preferences dialog(s!) to increase the font size if was uncomfortably small. Now, however, there are more people using the Internet who aren’t so comfortable changing preferences, and more people using the Internet who don’t have perfect vision.

In a parallel fashion, for most of that while, “Web authors” largely meant people who didn’t really care that much about which font they were using. (There were of course some people sweating blood out of the Netscape 4 stone, but they were much less numerous than the CSS artisans of today.) So most text was in Times New Roman, which — while certainly not an ideal screen font — was provided in finely tuned versions by all the OS vendors who mattered.

“Still, every bit you have to scroll is a bit annoyance.”

That is exactly the reason for the word “mostly” in my previous comment. Many sites — especially the Web portals of yore — tried to cram as many links into the first screenful as possible, similar to newspaper designers. However, times have changed — mousewheels and pan-scrolling are more widely used, and people are more comfortable with the idea of scrolling.

“Basically, the question asked was the wrong question. If people ask 14 or 16 point today …”

No, Dave asked for “arguments in favor of using 16 px instead of 14px”. Pixels. Nowhere did he mention points.

April 11, 2003, 10:35

Comment by d.w.: User icon

Gak, 16 point. Maybe that works fine for big monitors, but for those of us stuck at 1024x768, 16 point makes pages look cartoonish. Worth taking into account is that OSX does a better job rendering small fonts than Windows does (IMO)

April 11, 2003, 14:52

Comment by mpt: User icon

“Maybe that works fine for big monitors, but for those of us stuck at 1024x768, 16 point makes pages look cartoonish.”

No-one is suggesting the default should be 16 point. Just to repeat that, for the third time: No-one is suggesting the default should be 16 point.

“OSX does a better job rendering small fonts than Windows does”

That depends on which you value more highly: preserving readability, or preserving glyph shape.

April 12, 2003, 2:27

Comment by ssp: User icon

Interesting discussion and points made.

I created a new post that includes some testing and hopefully clarifies what I want to get at.

April 12, 2003, 15:44

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