Saturday, December 15, 2007

PDFs and Film Festivals

Whoever invented the PDF file format should be sent to the same sort of hell reserved for whoever took the auto-fill thingamabob off of gas pumps. In this hell, Mr. PDF and Mr. "Stand there and pump gas instead of doing something useful like checking the oil" will argue endlessly about exactly who has wasted more of modern humanity's time--while the guy who invented internet blogs looks on. Here's why:

I send a lot of films out to mountain film festivals, of which there are now hundreds. I receive three or four emails a week asking for my films, which is a really nice compliment in a way, and I usually take the time to send each one a DVD. Unfortunately, most film festival entry forms now require either a convoluted on-line system (total waste of time, usually resets on page 7 of 11) or PDF documents, which are the single greatest waste of time, paper and energy ever invented. PDFs must be good for something, but they are totally worthless as a form of two-way communication in the digital age. You can't fill them out electronically--unless you pay extra for some sort of Adobe secret de-coder ring to open 'em up and actually work with them, instead of just admire the pretty layout some frustrated art-school dropout produced.

I hate it every time I see that file extension on a document; unless it's really important, like a film festival entry form, I'll usually just ignore it. In fact, I've started ignoring even film festival PDFs and just sending back a plain email with the info they want. Seems to work, who would have thought?

Anyone who sends someone else a PDF is obviously either plain clueless or actively dislikes the recipient, perhaps both. The sender is asking the recipient to print it, fill it out by hand (anyone who has seen my writing knows that this is a further waste of time as far as any actual communication goes) and then scan it and email it or fax it back. Twenty years ago this process would have seemed kinda high tech and cool; now it's like a brick-sized cell phone or a voicemail instead of a text: a total waste of time. Lawyers also seem to love PDFs; "Here's a 27-page contract, mind finding a printer while in some no-star budget hotel and faxing that back tonight? We know we've got you by the short hairs on this one, so don't even try to use something modern like a digital signature." Send me a Word document, a text file, a simple email with questions, an "Open Office" form, a Keynote form, even an ancient Quark file and I'll fill it out. But the next person who sends me a PDF? I'm going to do what my mother used to do with those "postage guaranteed" solicitation forms: attach a brick to it and send it back "postage due."

PDFs suck, BAN THE PDF! PDF stands for, "Pretty Damn Fecking Useless," they just forgot the U.

In other news, climbing sure has been fun lately. Fully analog, all physical, no computers, no PDFs, what a great sport. I had so much fun yesterday I ripped a stomach muscle, so today I can't really sit up. Kinda cool to have a new injury. On the left side of my body I have the following problems: Elbow tendinitis, jacked knee, strained oblique, infected cut from the Whistler rock gym's hand crack, and a some sort of pustilence where a spider bit me. I'm really not making this up; my right side is totally fine, but my left side appears to be about age 75 right now. Which is why I'm surly and writing about PDFs. I hope your day was PDF-free and outside.

16 comments:

loren said...

PDF's do have the ability to be filled out electronically, just like a web form... it's just that most of the "art school dropouts" don't pay for a full version of acrobat so they can have the capability to embed that ability into the PDF. That said, I'm sure there's some open source software way around that, I've just never had to look since I use the full version so that people DON'T have to print it and completely usurp the entire idea of the digital form. But, that's a good argument for the format being useless if one of it's key features has to be paid for so it will be properly utilized. If there's a free, cheap, easy alternative (text email) then what good is it.

Jim said...

Freakin' spider! It's no longer karma neutral, letmetellya.
....hope it runs into a huge ant in a dark crack somewhere.
Have a better day Will!

David Glover said...

Maybe Nintendo will provide a game that lets you fill them out with the Wii. Will, do you have Roboform, It will transform your online form and password filling life. Everyone who starts using it loves it and wishes they had found it sooner. PS how about getting the ladies to do some naked ice climbing. PPS one of my college friends ended up marrying Duane Raleigh.

kimgraves said...

I hate PDF's too. BUT I've found a work around for the gas pump - stick the gas cap in to hold the handle up until it burps full. Works great.

Craig said...

Loren defends the PDF for forms, but it is indefensible. Even if the developer provides a PDF form, that document is worthless for doing business in the digital age. Yes, you can fill in the blanks and print it using Adobe Reader. However, you cannot save the filled in form. The only recourse is to print the damn thing and fax it mail it or scan it. Oh, yeah... if you scan it, you lose either all the text or all the formatting in the PDF, because the entire page turns into a graphic or a simple OCR text output.
Dave is right, PDFs are an abomination for two way communication.

Craig

Aron said...

I ride a motorcycle and don't have a car; I couldn't care less about the auto-fill on the gas pump. I've also never had trouble with PDFs and remember the sheer pain of life before the PDF and think they are awesome. Sure there are problems but it beats trying to find something that will open the file from the latest version of whatever app some jackhole has installed. PDF has its problems but they are mostly related to the idiots creating them. In other news PDF is an open ISO standard now so we should see tons of new and free apps that allow people to work with them more easily.

Quinn said...

I think you'd like this page:

http://hpac.ca/forms/

Ignore the .docs. And the .pdfs are in french and english!!! You can even save the safety accident form and fill it out to email your local HPAC Safety rep. :-)

Will Gadd said...

Fellow PDF haters unite! You have only your frustration to lose....

Anon--there is a time and a place for PDFs (as for motorcycles!), but using PDFs for two-way communication is like trying to ride a motorcycle in Canada in January--grim. What is wrong with a simple email?

Quinn--I do like the Word docs on the HPAC site, thanks!

I tried to find a good open-source PDF editor for Apple with little success, be great if anyone knows a good one with a GUI, I don't play well in Terminal land.

Spider bite and other maladies healing, thanks!

WG

Knumb said...

PDFs are the only type of document that anyone can open, but they can be frustratingly limited.

They beat the snot out of faxes.

By the way, you butchered "whomever." "Whom" (and by extension "whomever") is never used as the subject of a sentence. It was born to be an object. Whomever you despise for creating the .pdf, and whomever you despise them with is your business, but trying to sound fancy by using "whomever" improperly just makes you sound unedumacated.

dara.hogan@esatclear.ie said...

PDFs aren't quite as bad as you say. I, too, despised them until I realised that the software I needed to save and write write PDFs was already sitting on my hard disk. I edit all my pics in PhotoShop Elements which reads and writes PDFs (they're both from Adobe). I'm suspect that I'm not the only one who overlooked this possibility.

Cheers,

>>> Dara <<<

AlexCV said...

PDFs are great at what they are meant to do: reproduce printed documents exactly on a computer monitor. In that respect it is the logical successor of PostScript.

The implementation of features not part of the "core" standard is lacking in third party implementations and Adobe has a ridiculous tiering practice that seriously hampers the evolution of the format. They lack the balls to move away from the "paper" analogy a bit and give some editing capability to their free viewers and to encourage third parties to implement robust support for forms and the likes.

In essence they want to keep Adobe Acrobat Professionnal on the "must have" software lists for offices around the world along with Office and a web browser...

Lawrence Van Garrett said...

And what the heck is "Grilled cheese sammich con binkie" Knumb?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it amusing that a PDF topic has generated so many comments on a blog dedicated to outdoor fun & adventure? Are all outdoorsy people really just closet tech nerds?!?!

Mike Dufty said...

Foxit pdf editor works well for editing pdfs, eg. filling them in. I think it is only for windows though.
Another option is to print to pdf after filling in the form fields, rather than to a printer, lots of free pdf printing programs around, I suspect you can even get one for macs.

Anonymous said...

I get paid to present information in a certain standardised way... pdf's are the best thing ever..

Anonymous said...

Thank god for file sharing and Acrobat Pro. Alleviates most of the anxieties to do with filling out .pdf's & well, it's free!

Hehe!

Doesn't help with the outdoor part tho...