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Adobe Pushing For Flash and PDF In Open Government Initiative 172

angryrice tips news that Adobe seems to be campaigning for the inclusion of Flash and PDF in the Obama administration's efforts at increasing government transparency and openness. A post from the Sunlight Labs blog is critical of Adobe's undertaking, in part since PDF is often "non-parsable by software, unfindable by search engines, and unreliable if text is extracted." They also say government's priority should be to publish datasets and the APIs to interact with them, rather than choosing how they're displayed in fancy graphs and charts.
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Adobe Pushing For Flash and PDF In Open Government Initiative

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  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:29AM (#29933975)
    I have no problem with PDFs, there are a number of free and commercial applications out there that can work with them.

    Flash on the other hand is absolutely an abomination that must be wiped from the net. They still haven't released a proper version for *BSD and they commonly don't bother with less popular OSes. If they want it to be used for this sort of purpose then they need to get their act together and make it available for all operating environments on an equal basis. Which I don't think they have the resources to do.
  • Nobody likes flash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:31AM (#29933993)
    Nobody likes Flash, and they probably shouldn't use it for anything. But there's not much wrong with PDF, if it's done right. When publishing something, one could offer "source" (some sane, machine-readable format) and PDF (autogenerated from the source, and prettified for easier reading).

    PDF shouldn't be used as a way to encapsulate scanned JPEGs and pretend they're a real electronic document.

    I would also note that many of the complaints about PDF as a format in TFA are really complaints about Adobe's abysmal PDF reading software. For example, the concern about the visually impaired: KDE's Okular does speech synthesis and has a high-contrast mode.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:38AM (#29934023) Homepage Journal

    but specially html5+js+canvas+svg+ogg vorbis/theora for rich web content.

    Who has announced authoring tools for this stack that are anywhere near as capable as even Flash 3, let alone Flash CS4? Say I want to make an animated SVG like the Flash animations I see on Newgrounds. What package should I start with?

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:40AM (#29934043) Journal
    The summary does not do a good job of reflecting the original blog post's point. The point was that the government should make data available in a machine-parseable and generic format. PDF is a great format for storing typeset pages, but it is a terrible format for publishing data. It's easy to generate beautiful PDFs from well-structured data but it's much harder to go the other way. Would you rather have budget figures (for example) as a CSV file in a well-defined format or as a PDF of tables and graphs? If the data is available in the former format, it's easy for you or a third party to produce the latter format. If it's only available in the PDF form then it's much harder to create the CSV.
  • by Cochonou ( 576531 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:42AM (#29934051) Homepage

    In order to read a document, what I really need to replace the heavyweight Adobe Reader, is a bloated modern browser ! :D
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31, 2009 @09:54AM (#29934121)

    The future is typically whoever gets there first; Adobe is shipping a great product (from a producer's prospective) right now today. SVG has been around for how long now? And it's still just a minor player; same with ogg. HTML5 will eventually make inroads, but the spec doesn't mandate any specific codecs. On top of that, it requires the browser to implement basic navigation controls; producers are going to want to keep their own in-house player controls.

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Saturday October 31, 2009 @10:00AM (#29934175) Homepage

    That is not really a format issue though, in any format that supports images I can insert an image containing text.

  • PDF Yes, Flash No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @10:11AM (#29934261)

    I am OK with PDF. I would RATHER see documents in plain HTML, but there are times when formatting is important. In those cases, if it is to be read/print-only, PDF is the way to go. Otherwise, the gov should use ODF.

    But Flash? Are you kidding? The last thing on earth we need is more Flash.

    * Does not work on all devices
    * Slow and/or consumes tons of CPU
    * Consumes tons of RAM
    * Consumes more bandwidth
    * Makes it difficult or impossible to cut and paste
    * Impossible to "search/find"
    * Violates the native UI look and feel
    * Fonts and font sizes are uncontrollable by the end user
    * Can't scroll correctly much of the time
    * Almost completely proprietary
    * Rarely adjusts to screen size
    * Often introduces extremely irritating animation.
    * Doesn't allow text to be "seen" by the browser (or OS), making other plugins (like a screen reader) 100% useless

    At least that SilverDark stuff isn't even on the radar- thank God for little favors.

  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @10:40AM (#29934509) Homepage

    PDF/A is already open. However, that doesn't mean that anyone knows how to produce it, especially some R.O.A.D. staffer or random hourly GS1.

    Open or not, PDF/A is a display format and, in most cases, useless for information retrieval or automated data processing. PDF/A is a useful alternative to paper [digitalpreservation.gov]. However, the open government initiative is not talking about paper. It's about 'born digital [wired.com]', machine readable data.

  • by gaspyy ( 514539 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @10:55AM (#29934611)

    Most of what you say is implementation-related rather than format-related. It's like saying that C sucks because there are so many crappy programs. I know about feeding the trolls, but for all those who don't know better, here we go:

    Nothing "just works" on all devices and in this area flash fares better than most other technologies; agree is slow; not really agree on RAM usage.

    Flash uses less bandwidth than alternatives, it's quite very well optimized. Sure, someone can stuff some 10 min. mp3s encoded at 256kbps and and bunch of 2048x2048 bitmaps but that's another story.

    Cut/Paste is more tedious because of security reasons but keyboard shortcuts work. Search works too and static text is indexed by Google.

    Agree on native UI, but then so it's Java. Font size is controllable by user if the app is done properly -- granted, user can't override any settings.
    Scrolling - never had an issue. Specs are open. Rarely adjust to screen size - are you kidding me? it's vector, by default it will adjust to anything and can be programmed a lot better than CSS/HTML.

    Irritating animation - not a fault of the format itself.
    Works with screen readers -- seriously, have you TRIED it?

    What Adobe is pushing is most likely their "Flashpaper" format, something similar to PDF but lighter.

    One more comment from the summary: "unfindable by search engines" - where does this come from? Google and all have been indexing PDF files since 10 years ago.

    I know Slashdot crowd loves to hate flash, but at least hate it for the right reasons: its lack of speed and real 3d hardware acceleration.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @11:26AM (#29934813)
    Because Flash is now a crucial part of the internet. Until HTML 5 comes out with video standards and the like, Flash is about the only way you can embed videos in sites without ruining the layout of the site with a third-party media player and without your users searching for codecs.

    If Adobe would simply release the source to the Flash player, they could -save- money, have full platform compatibility and perhaps make more money with the Flash creation products. Think of it this way, if there was a fast language (most apps in Flash seem to load, run and interact faster than Java) that you could truly write once and run anywhere, it would be a hit. Flash could be this language if Adobe just opens up the player. Until they open it up, I expect them to do a good job and port it to every single OS or platform where it is allowed because it is good for business for them and helps that platform (which in all honesty Adobe should want to kill Windows as quickly as possible and move the world to OS X and Linux).
  • by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @11:29AM (#29934835)

    I know Slashdot crowd loves to hate flash, but at least hate it for the right reasons: its lack of speed and real 3d hardware acceleration.

    Those are very lame reasons. We are talking about open government initiative here, not about "standard for web games" initiative. Flash is:

    Not portable: Many platforms lack proper support. Flash can't be legally redistributed, alternatives are poor. It is no open format in any way.

    Bad for accessibility.

    Not a web standard or anything close to it.

    Nothing "just works" on all devices

    Then make the format 100% free to get, 100% easy implement and to 100% redistributable without royalties. So that the device and platform makes actually can make it work instead of asking for Adobe's charity. Ever wonder how come XHTML more than just works on all devices? Without those things, flash is terrible for this job in question which is as a tool to give access to all the citizens to government information.

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @01:56PM (#29935737)

    Yes, and then they SUED Microsoft for putting PDF support in Office. It's only "open" as long as you're not big enough to compete with Acrobat. If you even get within a mile of stepping on Adobe's business, you're sued up the wazzoo.

    "Free and open" my ass.

  • by NotBorg ( 829820 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @03:25PM (#29936327)

    But there's not much wrong with PDF, if it's done right.

    I'm sure they won't fuck this up, after all it is the US government.

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Saturday October 31, 2009 @03:36PM (#29936423)


    It's either an open standard, meaning anybody can use it-- ANY BODY-- or it's not. There's no such classification as "it's an open standard, except we don't let companies we don't like use it because they have a big marketshare, but other than that it's an open standard believe me!"

    By your argument, Microsoft should also be prevented from parsing HTML files in IE because they're a monopoly. Does that make sense? No. Does your argument make sense? No.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson