Why I Want HTML Export (from Keynote)
Lately, I’ve been complaining that Keynote still can’t export to the web. Now, I’ve been remiss in ensuring all of my writing is in HTML. I’ve been slowly going back and converting things, as I have a few minutes, or as I want to link to something I’ve said. Today, in posting a comment to Joi Ito’s blog (not yet approved), I wanted to link into the middle of a presentation. And I discovered that Powerpoint isn’t really exporting to the web, either. I saved this presentation to HTML, and got GIFs of my pages. Now, there are times when a picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case, it’s only worth about fifty, or perhaps fewer.
Why would it be fewer? There are 50 words there, but they’re no longer words. They’re pictures of words, which is a technical difference. But it makes it harder for search engines to read the page and know what’s there. (Google has solved this problem, but Google is not the only search engine out there.) It makes it harder for programs for the blind to read the page to someone. It makes it harder for a summary service to read and summarize the presentation. It makes it harder for someone to copy my words and re-use them in a presentation of their own. It makes it harder to deep-link to my words. I don’t want to give you pictures of my words, I want to give you my words. (I’ll mention in passing that I’m fully aware of the dangers of bad presentations.)
Now, it may well be that your presentation requires more. That you actually use moving images to convey information, rather than to make your presentation ‘visually interesting.’ You may have movies, or other data which requires you to put part or all of the presentation up in a more powerful format. And if your presentation really requires it, good for you. My presentations don’t require that, and I suspect that 99% of the presentations created use nothing more than text and static images.
So I want to make it easy. There’s a lot of things competing for attention out there. I skim about 150 RSS feeds daily. I am somewhat title- and summary- centric. I am very HTML centric. For example, there’s a new NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, with an inaugural issue focused on Hayek. I’m a big fan of Hayek. I think he’s one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century. The name of this blog is partially inspired by Hayek, and I’ve been meaning to comment on that sometime. But the articles are all in PDF. The editors have made the choice to put form over function.
There’s a great paper in Nature, Online or Invisible. The paper shows a very clear correlation between papers being easy to get to and their being cited. I strongly believe that this is evidence that scientists are subject to intense attention competition, and that that competition leads to them citing the easy to find works.
Moving from my web browser to a PDF file means that I don’t view your work now, because it requires a focus shift. I can’t use a pile of tabs to ‘stack’ what I want to read. I have about 18 files on my desktop waiting for attention. And by the time I get to half of them, I’ll have forgotten why I got the file.
I don’t believe that I’m unusual in this. I would like to be challenging in my writing, not how you get to my writing. I’d like you to think about what I’m saying, not about the hoops you have to get through to get to what I’m saying. And so, I’d like a presentation tool that allows me to put my presentations online in HTML, to make it easy for you. Why is that too much to ask?
[Update: Clarified title]