Tech Savvy

Matthew Yglesias sees either a conspiracy or gross incompetence on the part of those who released the Senate report on intelligence via a scanned photocopy rather than a searchable PDF document. Steven Taylor offers a simpler and more plausible explanation: the vast majority of people don’t understand the technology they use or even consider such things.

Since I began blogging, I’ve cared much more about the format of things than I once did. It now annoys me greatly if a web page isn’t easily searchable and, more importantly, cut-and-pastable. Things like the insertion of (news – web sites) references in Yahoo and other news sites is annoying, in that it’s something I have to clean out. But virtually no one who isn’t blogging would care at all.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hanlon’s Razor – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

  2. bryan says:

    I came across a site recently (I think one of the chicago papers) that had a javascript that made it so that you could not easily cut and paste, which was really annoying. You had to select all the text and copy the whole thing, then paste it in your word processor to get out what you wanted.


  3. 42nd SSD says:

    Actually, I can think of some very reasonable explanations for this. Likely whoever was responsible for putting the document on the web couldn’t get access to the original source used to produce it, and if you don’t have a copy of Distiller with OCR (or whatever they call it these days) it’s quite painful to make a searchable PDF from a scanned document.

    This happens frequently enough that a PDF reader with builtin OCR capability would be very useful, and quite reasonable too–OCR is mainstream technology and home machines are plenty darn fast these days.

    My pet peeve of the day are blogs (and websites in general) that insist on using absolute fixed-width columns and screen offsets instead of relative sizing. Not all the world is 640×480 (or even 1024×768), and on a larger screen these sites look a little ridiculous with more empty border than content. It’s not hard to use relative percentages and offsets in CSS (I know–I’ve done it myself more than once), it just takes a bit more effort.