Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


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]

7 comments on "Why I Want HTML Export (from Keynote)"

  • Iang says:

    Since 1995 when I first started writing documents, 99% of my output was written in HTML. It has been the only cost effective way to deal with documents, AFAIK. If I was a “bigger company” I’d be able to purchase a windows laptop for DOC files and an Adobe package to create and edit PDF. But I’m not. So I write in the formatting that I know even people in the third world can handle.
    HTML – honky as it is – is the most universal format out there for doument sharing. 1 billion browsers cannot be wrong, and using any other format means you have some purpose other than the narrow focus of sharing ideas and information. From HTML we can (with some degree of difficulty) translate to PDF, PS, and sometimes even DOC. Text is easy too.
    The only real challenge that HTML was not able to cope with was double columns that was required for an IEEE paper I did recently. For that I had to use Word and a script (written in english). But the formatting of academic papers is an arcane process not necessarily relevant to normal every day scientific life!

  • adam says:

    Heck, I’d argue that double columns are wrong, too. I read papers on a 12″ monitor, and the up-down scrolling involved drives me nuts. So I print those papers. The stack is about 5″ tall right now.

  • DM says:

    Doesn’t your browser support one of the pdf reader plugins? I tab stack pdfs with firefox all the time.

  • Online or Invisible – the case for open publication

    Adam has pointed me to a paper on citation rates for open work. In brief, it suggests that if ones work is openly available on the web, it is cited 3-4 as many times in others’ work….

  • Iang says:

    🙂 If a paper has to be printed, that’s the end of it for me. PDF reduces its readability by about a factor of 10 (I too have to scan up and down on the page to get just an ordinary page on there!). DOC reduces it by about 30 which is mostly because I have no DOC reader. But paper reduces it by about 100.

  • adam says:

    Nope. I’m using Safari as my main browser.

  • DM says:
    are both support inline PDF viewing with Safari.
    Also just for kicks, I exported a powerpoint presentation to html, using PPT 2003 and it actually did the right thing with regards to text versus gifs..

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