Realizing The Commentariat: Phase 2

CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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85 Responses

  1. Vikram Bath says:

    So, I’ll ask the site-conservatives among you all to give the new puppy a chance.

    There shouldn’t be colors in GoG! (I think.)

    Everything else seems great. I notice clicking our site logo actually takes you to the home page, which is nice.Report

    • North in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I have observed that the colors serve a purpose, one color to the family of comments affiliated to a specific post. While I also find it jarring I see utility and while my knee jerk dislike of change is twitching my for-brain says this is a beneficial innovation and thus I’m extending my all important endorsement.

      Also thanks for all the work you do around here CK, it is appreciated.Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to North says:

        North: I’m extending my all important endorsement.

        Well that settles that then, and you’re welcome.

        I tried to emphasize least-jarring shades, but needed a large number to choose from, and at the same time wanted to avoid colors too close to each other to be clearly distinguished.

        Involved an interesting side-excursion into color theory and coding, with potential solutions for generating and assigning colors programmatically complicated by the desire to have a post that appears in, say, cornsilk yellow on page 1 also show up in cornsilk yellow on page 2, but not the same color as a post that would otherwise be colored cornsilk yellow… I decided not to make perfect the enemy of the I hope good enough here.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Vikram Bath: I notice clicking our site logo actually takes you to the home page, which is nice.

      Never was quite sure why the other, unusual alternative was utilized here: Is an option not widely available, built into the theme (which latter I have criticized, but I should note was authored by a leading WP developer).Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        FTR, once upon a time the site logo did take you to the front page. This functionality was lost along the way due to administrator (which is to say, my) inadvertent error. As always many thanks to CK for cleaning this up.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Confession may be be good for the soul, @burt-likko, but further examination of the code, and observation of some functionality/display problems I’ve now noticed indicate that the problem runs deeper and may have more to do with unwanted innovations on the part of the theme designer than any mistake you made. Have a kludge in place for the moment.

          Still not sure about how best to address issues Kazzy alerted me to. May have to leave a kludge in place on those, too, for a while.

          Am pondering the problems some seem to have with colors on the (lower) front page.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    I find the GoG setup confusing and hard to navigate, especially on mobile. I like that if I click “More” or whatever I can see that layout but, again, it doesn’t really work on mobile. It also displays far too few comments on the main page, even on desktop.

    tl;dr: Wah… change is hard!Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

      Thanks, Kazzy – made a mistake there (for technos: remember that JS-pre-determined window dimensions will carry over unexpectedly on mobile). Will address shortly, but in the meantime point the “View More” link to the regular SotD page.Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        (actually may not be precisely accurate description of underlying problem – anyway – for now is pointing to the “big” page, which should squeeze down appropriately on mobile displays.)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Additionally, I’d soften the color blocks. I like color coding them, but for a page that is otherwise all white save for the post images, to suddenly see giant blocks of color is a bit jarring. It also wasn’t immediately clear where to click to actually read the post (I’ve discovered that clicking the “XX minutes ago” does it) so maybe something making that more obvious…Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Kazzy says:

          I think if you (and others) weren’t used to the old GoG linking style, you might find the current display more intuitive, but I’ll think about it.

          On the jarringness of the colors, I think the underlying proble might be as much the drabness/whiteness of the current site design than the colorfulness of the new app, but I agree it’s a problem or a design imbalance. I think a visually richer – which isn’t to say busy – site design might be a better solution to work toward.Report

  3. I was confused by the new commenting system and had a private conversation with CK, where he helped me figure things out. In case this helps anyone:

    One way I used to navigate the blog was to go to GoG, look for interesting comments, starting with the newest ones, and using “Older” to page backward, and open the best ones in a new tab with a right-click. To do that now, navigate to Commentariat->State of the Discussion, which will list the most recent comments, and page backwards with the Next button. Open the best ones in a new tab by right-clicking “N minutes/hours ago”, which is a direct link to the comment. It wasn’t obvious to me at first that that was a link, but everything in the box except the comment text is a link (and long comments contain a link for expanding them.)

    As always, many thanks to CK, both for his work and for his patience in explaining the result.Report

    • Thanks Mike. You’ve made me recognize that probably I should have compromised more with the existing site linking style, which you and probably a lot other people are used to, among others because it’s one of the most basic on the internet and may go back to the very first “web” sites: Links in dark blue (or some other basic color). Don’t want to go quite that far, but I’ve solidified the link-underlining as dark blue: It was meant to be more in the manner of a hint (dotted, light gray), but you shouldn’t have to explain things. I’ll also add tooltips.

      There’s probably a better way to do it – certainly there are better-looking ways to do it based on trusting present-day users to hover over whatever to make things happen, but maybe not a good idea when transitioning from something more traditional that people are comfortable with.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    Video embedding in comments seems to be broken? I tried to add a couple on Christopher’s James Horner post.

    The native YT embed didn’t work; I went and looked at what Christopher had used in the OP (and those look strange too), but even copying that format into the comments didn’t seem to work either.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

      Answered over on the thread – not sure what isn’t or wasn’t working for you – other than in relation to shortcode embeds and the “multiples problem” as mentioned. Incidentally, though the author’s shortcode format worked well enough in his post, it wasn’t really necessary, or even the preferred format for embedding YouTube videos via shortcode. For YouTube videos, the main reasons you’d use shortcode or the YouTube iframe method is to have greater control over presentation. You’d mainly use the “video” shortcode to play a video saved as a file.Report

      • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        @ck-macleod – sorry, I just replied over there. What is happening is that the IFrame code is being converted to shortcode when I post.

        Any idea why, since you seemed to have no issue with same?Report

        • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

          Testing again, after logout/in/clear cache


          Nope, still does it. Weird.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

            I also noticed that in OP’s, the html tag “center” gets nuked now. If you use it, the minute you save the post it vanishes. There may be another tag that works for that, I haven’t looked yet.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

              Not sure about the functionality you’re encountering there with centering. Preferred method via the Visual Editor is just to use the “center” icon. On Text Editor side, you’d use appropriate in-line CSS, if so moved, but the Visual Editor is a lot faster!Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

          As for why the comment system converts or tries to convert iframe code into shortcode when encountered in a comment that you’ve posted… Idunno. Never ran into this one before. Could have something to do with another plug-in that offers or is meant to offer its own extra-specail embedding features, and resultant conflicts. Will look into it but with no guarantees of a solution!

          Did you try the “normal” method of simply pasting the URL? Are you logged in?

          I THINK that in this installation was set so that you do have to be logged in just to paste the video url on its own line and let the oembed magic go to work. I don’t think you have to have special/higher permissions, just to paste the video url on its own line Not sure about iframe/shortcode relations.

          Sometimes, YouTube embedding fails for other reasons, including on YouTube’s side. You want to try again with one naked URL, on its own line, while logged in?Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

      Now aren’t you going to weigh in on the (meta-)commenting system? I’m not really happy with the current display (underlined links), but may keep it for now because a) I’m not seeing straight, and b) I can view it as “re-training wheels” for users used to the good ol’ ways.Report

      • Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Here are my thoughts (sorry, you asked!) 😉

        1.) I’m not crazy about all the colors and additional features/buttons in GoG, but I have a preference towards minimalism. So this is really an aesthetic point, not a functionality one.

        2.) When you click the […] it’d be nice if the comment simply expanded, like it used to, instead of going all the way to the actual comment. But I understand this functionality may have been lost along with the obsolete GoG platform, like tears in rain.

        3.) If new users are like me, they may take forever to realize you need to click the timestamp of the comment, to go to it. Or maybe, not having been habituated to the old way like me, they will figure it out faster.

        4.) I haven’t had a chance to see whether my broswer (Firefox, on Mac) is part of the problem, but when you click the “View More” link and the new “child” panel browser window for all comments comes up, it always comes up in a very narrow window (1 comment/column wide – optimized for mobile, maybe?) so I end up click-and-dragging (or plusing it) it to a full desktop window (three comments/columns wide). This task gets annoying the twentieth time you have to do it in a day.

        5.) Along those lines, the new “child” comment panel/window that gets opened doesn’t have all the usual browser buttons (back, refresh, etc.) and my computer doesn’t see it as a separate browser instance, so I can’t just set the window the way I want and leave it open and toggle back and forth to it (once it’s behind another window, you have to move windows to get to it). Again, kind of a hassle, and GoG is a big part of how I use the site.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

          Oh, disregard #2. I see the plus/expander button now. I didn’t notice that before, sorry.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

          No, very useful feedback, Glyph. You usually do offer excellent feedback (except for #2!, as you note in your latest comment).

          1.) I’m not crazy about all the colors and additional features/buttons in GoG, but I have a preference towards minimalism. So this is really an aesthetic point, not a functionality one

          I prefer minimalism, but I also like function and the form that follows it. The colors serve a purpose, the icons serve purposes – e.g., I can click right then and there to see whatever else you’ve said on the particular topic, don’t have to do any scanning or re-locating. I think the colors actually balance the current display, since the left column “below the fold” will typically be taken up by images. I have, however, considered the possibility of leaving color-coding to the “dashboard” display on the full page.

          2.) When you click the […] it’d be nice if the comment simply expanded, like it used to, instead of going all the way to the actual comment. But I understand this functionality may have been lost along with the obsolete GoG platform, like tears in rain.

          Thought that adding a second “+” would be redundant in the context of a short excerpt. I think I am right about that. Habituated users will know it’s there. I could make it larger or more obvious, but, once you know it’s there, it doesn’t have to be huge. The first-time user is a uniquely important category of user, but not the only important one.

          3.) If new users are like me, they may take forever to realize you need to click the timestamp of the comment, to go to it. Or maybe, not having been habituated to the old way like me, they will figure it out faster.

          See above, but this is still a live question for me – I mean how to go about handling links for these features specifically, sitewide, and even in general as a matter of design theory/best practices 2015.

          On 4-5: The current format is a kludge, and some of the problems you note reflect that.

          My original idea was to have a separate style of pop-up with a link to what I’m calling the dashboard display. As with any feature designed to combine both readability and quantity of results, the bigger the screen, the better. (Otherwise you’re engaged in some version of painting a mural on a postage stamp.) Unfortunately, the code I used to bring up the pop-up display didn’t work as expected – automatically adapting to screen size, still have to figure out exactly why and what to do about it – producing terrible/disastrous display on mobile in particular.

          I’ll get to something OK. I also expect to experiment with different formats augmenting the State of the Discussion page, or alternate “Commentariat” page, as a dashboard or alternative landing page.

          So all of this FB is useful in relation to that larger project, but I promise that before I move on to it (and to other projects) I’ll focus on getting GoG, the Sequel, better.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            I’ve got some comments!

            1. Is it possible to have more comments listed of the GoG, Jr. section without it getting too big?

            2. Also, when you click to expand GoG it opens up a new window in which that comment appears. Does that happen every time you click on a non-front page comment? (That’d be a lot of windows.)Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

              Stillwater: 1. Is it possible to have more comments listed of the GoG, Jr. section without it getting too big?

              Is a judgment call. I just upped the number to 10. Could ensmallen the comments if desired.

              I figured 6 was a good number for an at-a-glance/just-the-latest scan, and that anyone who wanted to scan a larger number, or use recent comments as a dashboard, could go to the State of Discussion page (or use the pop-up version of it). I could even make the number user-selectable, I suppose, but that strikes me as gilding the lily, and might impose some pointless memory overhead in order to cater to a very small number of users.

              Stillwater: 2. Also, when you click to expand GoG it opens up a new window in which that comment appears. Does that happen every time you click on a non-front page comment? (That’d be a lot of windows.)

              I don’t understand the question – or what you mean by a “non-front page comment” or what precisely you mean by “expand.” Where you go when you click on a link (that isn’t coded to impose a particular behavior) will depend on your browser settings. So you can view the comment in thread, you can view the comment being replied to, you can “expand” a long comment to read it in place, you can click on the post title if you want just to go to the post, or you can view the commenter’s archives.

              To view a larger selection of comments, you can click the View More link, which currently pops up a thin window that will present the comments in a column on load.

              Originally the pop-up window contained a unique page-variant. At present it’s just the regular page automatically adapting to the size of the window, and (pursuant to feedback on the kludge) I’ve changed the code to make it an otherwise normal window: re-sizable, all normal menus/toolbars present. One alternative would be to have the link just go to the regular page, replacing the front page in the active window, or a second alternative would be for it to open up what will be a new tab according to common default browser settings, a new window in other browsers.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:


                I get that the number of comments listed in GoG is a personal preference issue. My own preference appears to be on the higher side of things.

                To view a larger selection of comments, you can click the View More link, which currently pops up a thin window that will present the comments in a column on load.

                Yes. I’ve done that, and when I do I get a long window of all the older comments. But when I click on a comment in that window, it creates a new window in my browser. Could just be my rig over here, but my worry is what every time I respond to an older comment – and I tend to troll thru older comments quite a bit when I first get back to the OT – I might end up with a slew of windows that I can’t keep track of. Again, could be my rig, or my general ignorance about this stuff.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m assuming when you say “click on comment,” you mean click on the link to the comment. What kind of browser behavior that causes will depend on your browser setting and sometimes on your mouse and other clicker settings or techniques.

                So, for me (Firefox/Windows), when I left-click on a link in normal course of business, my current window is replaced by the new window. When I right-click, a get a “context menu” that gives me, currently, up to 14 options, of which the first two are “Open in New Tab” and “Open in New Window.” It’s similar on Chrome, except I have few options because I’ve installed fewer add-ons.

                So whether I create a bunch of tabs, a bunch of windows, or neither, will be up to me. The simplest way to proceed, without making choices and just clicking with my index finger, will have one window replace another. The exception will be a link like the current “View More,” which is set to create a new window regardless of settings. If I right-click on it, however, I can make it produce a new tab instead.of the pop-up thin window, or a new full-sized window.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:


                OK, I’ve tried it out a few times, and it appears that when I link to a comment on the “view more” button it opens another window, but it doesn’t open up any more. I think I got it figured out on this end, anyway.

                And thanks for throwin in 10 comments in GoG. We’ll see if anyone besides me likes that many. 🙂Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

                In the meantime, I’ve upped the number to display in the sidebar, and, if no one complains or we don’t find a more important use for all that real estate, your preference will win. Or do you want some other number?Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Glyph says:

          Two small things to add here.

          1. Yeah, colors are too saturated for my taste… nifty if there was a way to visually cue the topic in a much more muted or semi-transparent palette.

          2. Would prefer the Article Title be on the top for quicker scanning… I think associating the comment with the Article should be first; as it is the comment happens then you link it to the article. Possibly this is just idiosyncratic to me; but, feedback nonetheless.Report

          • CK MacLeod in reply to Marchmaine says:


            I had considered it preferable to match the sidebar display to the “full display,” so that a post identifiable by a certain color in the sidebar would be identifiable in the same way on the State of Discussion page. For the latter, an extended color palette is necessary, since otherwise you end up with different posts using the same or nearly indistinguishable colors. The presentation of a mere 6 to 10 comments, as in the sidebar, will much less often re-produce this confusing effect. Most of the time, even 10 comments will cover at most five, and frequently fewer, posts. Indeed, much of the time, even 48 comments will cover only a few posts at a relatively busy blog like this one.

            I’ll try divorcing the sidebar display from the full display, and try relying on six or so shades conforming to the current site palette (white, gray, blue) for the former. I’m going to stick with the current title placement though. For one thing, you’re the only one who’s mentioned it. For another, the color-coding itself emphasizes or compensates for the subordination of the post-title, while still allowing for implementation of the “site upside down,” comment(er)s on top concept.

            In other words, the objective is not precisely to equalize commenter and blogger, but to emphasize the element of mutual necessity or reciprocity of “reader” and “writer,” or to bring out the writer in the reader. The rest I’ll leave to a broader discussion at some other time.Report

  5. CK MacLeod says:

    One thing I’ll say on behalf of my own work: It’s now possible to read or make out some interesting avatars that never signified much of anything to me before. Thinking I might make the thread-avatars larger, too.Report

  6. Glyph says:

    @ck-macleod – Youtube embedding still isn’t working for me in comments. I tried simply posting naked links, and they just show up as naked links. See here:

    Curious if anyone else is having the trouble that I am. As I noted, your Iframe embeds preserved the formatting, while mine got converted, which makes me suspect that somehow WordPress is “trusting” your login in comments in a way that it does not trust mine.

    While this is perhaps a wise choice for any number of reasons, I would like to be able to embed video in comments again…any ideas?Report

  7. CK MacLeod says:


    The above are various attempts to re-produce your links comment, or the links within it, while I was logged out. I’d have to go where gentlepeople were not meant to go – into the esoteric mysteries of oEmbed – in order to explain why we get the behavior we get, but the general rule seems to be that it’ll take one video link per comment, and that multiple video links will be rendered somewhat unpredictably, but generally one link per. (Assuming that all included links are in fact renderable – sometimes music and movie videos will be posted on YT in non-embeddable form.)

    OK. So, now that I’m logged in with my superduper privileges, lessee whappens – a direct paste of the raw version of your comment – clears throat – wait – let’s make this a separate comment…Report

  8. Stillwater says:

    One other comment CK:

    I was, as you feared, one of “those” folks who really loved our old GoG layout and was … resistant to (ie., feared!) … change. But I like it alot now. One thing I do miss is the “+” feature in GoG which allowed a person to read the whole comment without linking back to the OP the comment resided in.

    I think you may have talked about this already (apologies if so) but anyway to get that feature back?Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

      Good and thanks, @stillwater

      The or a “+” is right there (or should be for you) on comments longer than the default excerpt link. Its usage is also demonstrated in the screen-capture I used when introducing it in the OP.

      Twas a bit excessively proud of myself for incorporating it in the design and fully properly according to WordPress Javascript usage standards… but maybe I need to plus-size the plus…Report

  9. Glyph says:

    Unrelated, but would it be possible to get a way to scroll backwards in time for OTCs that have rolled off the FP, like we can with comments and OP’s?Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

      Absolutely, and I’ve been toadly in favor something like that for months. It also just so happens that the “Mini-Posts” plug-in that produces OTC is another “designated orbitally nukeable error-factory.”

      Just some questions about what EXACTLY to do with it. Without getting into the weeds, I think it means turning its posts into items in the OTC “category,” with their own archive, eventually to become a “sub-blog” whose entries appear in a sidebar widget.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:


      Now installed. Involved some behind-the-scenes work. See also email to League Contributors list. Archive linked in sidebar and main menu, among other places, for instance here:

  10. clicking our site logo actually takes you to the home page

    I like that too, but it seems to have gone away,Report

  11. Michael Cain says:

    I’m impressed. I just happened to look at the bottom of the Commentariate page, where there are the little boxes representing the “pages” of comments available. 1, 2, 3, …, 10729, 10730. Commenting fools, we are.Report

  12. Michael Cain says:

    Also a deserved “Well done!” to @ck-macleod from an unusual perspective. Carrying out the threats of my previous rant, I have a piece of JavaScript that runs on every page that I download.* Today I decided for some reason that I wanted the Commentariat parts rendered in a smaller font size than my code enforces as the minimum. 15 lines of code to recognize all of the text elements and make them the size I want (two lines with just a curly brace**, and one to remove the bottom padding on the plus/minus sign that expands/reduces the comment text). One of the regular expressions is kind of long, but I could fix that if I really cared.

    * Except Facebook. FB downloads almost everything through JavaScript code, and from time to time its scripts and mine disagree rather violently about what’s supposed to happen.

    ** There are almost enough old coders around this site to start a flame war on where the curly braces ought to go :^)Report

    • I’ve always preferred

      if ()

      but my current employer enforces

      if() {

      with an iron fist (that is, an automated script.)Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I’ll be honest, I’ve never cared, so long as the indentation is right.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to nevermoor says:

          if (
           if ()
          ) {
           if() {

          Maybe OG Cain can Regexify it for us…

          In PHP, when I’m cobbling a script together from diverse snippets, I sometimes find myself having used four different conditionals formats, and a ridiculous heterogeneity of switches between PHP and HTML.

          As for JS… and jQuery and AJAX and so on and on, I’m still a long way from sorting out the further complications with WordPress: security vulnerabilities, execution priority, inline event handling vs properly enqueuing and/or registering which scripts where and how (even before we get into interaction with minifiers and movers), not to mention what’s in which libraries and how and whether to load which when, not to mention fratricide and overlap issues…

          Maybe we should just go back to mimeograph machines. I still fondly recall the aroma.Report

          • There’s a contemporary language that would actually accept that structure? Something Lisp-like might, and maybe PL/I if you were tricky since it denies the concept of reserved keywords. If so, I’m just glad that I didn’t ever inherit any code written like that. If I were a manager and that came up through my organization, I’d be inclined to suggest that someone should be taken out back in the alley and shot.

            I couldn’t see your code, but the resulting DOM is very nice. All of the tricky commentariat elements are clearly identified, but none of them overspecified. Why are there so many people who think that just because they’re classing something for one reason, they should specify every single detail of the element including the use of otherwise unknown fonts in ridiculous sizes?Report

            • There’s a contemporary language that would actually accept that structure?

              If “if blocks” returned a value, its meaning would be clear. Not that I can think of a language where they do.Report

              • Such strict constructionists you guys are. Was just a sketch! Mr Sch’s original wouldna done nuthin neither.Report

              • If you stretch the definition, in Perl — it would be Perl, wouldn’t it? — the following statement

                $z = do { if ($x == 3) { 10; } else { 1; } };

                leaves $z with a value of either 10 or 1. From the perspective of the do {} statement, the single if-else statement returns a value which gets passed along. And, in fact, it’s the value that a reasonably experienced Perl programmer would expect. I think it’s a good idea that Larry Wall requires the do {} wrapper even for a single statement. If not, there are too many people who would abuse the syntax (see “take them out back in the alley and shoot them”).

                When I worked for the Colorado legislature and had to deal with stacked committee reports, which are structured as amendments to previous amendments, I was quickly recognized as someone that you could take a complicated report to to check the syntax. On more than one occasion, in response to the question of “How can you understand this?” I responded with, “Oh, this is easy compared to parsing Perl…”Report

            • No one’s every said such a nice thing about my resulting DOM before. hue: 342 (342.0779), saturation: 33 (32.766), value: 92 (92.1569)Report

  13. Michael Drew says:

    @ck-macleod , my good friend, thank you for your fine work.

    Concurrent with the latest round of enhancements being made operational, I have seen arise one important bug(?) in comments: at the deepest levels of indentation comments no longer reliably appear in vertical order according to submission time. Rather, it seems (maybe? I can’t quite tell) they are sometimes ordered so that replies to other comments at deepest indentation level appear next to the comment to which they reply. Needless to say, this makes following the sequential course of discussion difficult for anyone reviewing the thread, or even for those participating in it in “real time.”.

    Perhaps this is an intended change, but if so I would have to object, as I think it is both objectively a less comprehensible way to display the record of comments, and also a profound departure from what has been established as a fundamental principle of site design.

    Were you aware of this result? To see an example, the effect is on full display in yours, mine, and Mr. Schilling’s et al. discussion of Justice Scalia’s dissent in the last day.Report

    • We’ve discussed this result of implementing “infinite replies” (IR) previously, OG Drew. It’s more path of least resistance (and work) than intended or unintended consequence, since the various alternatives all entail some degree of creative re-coding, to ends that might not actually qualify as sufficient improvement to justify the work.

      What occurs under the current arrangement is that comments continue to “nest,” but simply are not indented any longer, while another piece of code tells the system to keep on adding reply buttons, and accepting replies “in place.” The result is a quasi-nested column in which new reply-comments appear in place, under the comments to which they are replying. For the purpose of following and continuing a discussion or side-discussion or side-side-discussion, etc., I think the current format is superior to the main alternative of switching to a simply chronologically ordered column of the sort you will encounter in non-nesting comment threads, where a commenter all the way down at the bottom at, say, comment #100 is replying to comments #88, #89, and #94, while commenters at #95-6 are taking up what was said mainly from #70-6, #80-7,and #93, etc.

      Another alternative is to nest deeper. Just for the heck of it, I’ve upped max-nesting depth from 7 to 10. So, if you return to the sub-thread – – you’ll now see the comments in the same order (chronological within nesting levels), but with additional indentations. Looks to me that 10 isn’t a problem at desktop width, and only mildly irritating at smartphone depth, so I may stick with it until or unless someone complains.

      Now, the display won’t make best sense or most readable display out of all discussion contingencies, but it’s also up to a commenter, especially a commenter with posting privileges!, to determine how best to continue a “deep” conversation: First option is to reply “in place” to a particular comment at its depth, but at what may be or turn into a great screen distance due to intervening side- or sub-discussion. Second alternative is just to start all over again all the way to left way down below, perhaps with a link to comment-replied-to. A third alternative is to create a new post – with links and summaries if you really want to help people stay engaged.

      Alternatives involving new coding might include:

      1) snaking nested comments back in the opposite direction with some kind of formatting signaling that it was under way. (Always thought that, though this might be fun to look at, it would be too novel, and so confuse many users.)

      2) allowing replies only at the bottom of threads at max depth, which would be some improvement over default behavior (in which, if you will recall, we had to continue to scroll up to a last repliable comment moving ever further away up above), but would sooner or later get us back to mono-columnar drawbacks.

      3) adding one or a set of doohickeys to make re-locating or transporting a discussion easier, either by actually moving the sub-thread in one mode or another, or by automating or semi-automating link-connections and adding formatting cues (e.g., special background shades for continuation sub-threads and their “parents”).

      4) adding capacities to isolate or re-order sections or sub-threads, for instances by visually collapsing/disappearing already-read comments or however-else-defined comments… (nevermoor had some ideas along these lines)

      Over time, I expect to look into variations on the above themes as much for my own amusement as because I think they will really improve discussion. I think at a certain point you’re, as ever, fighting a doomed technological battle against entropy, and the better option will be to stop, step back, take a look, try to figure out what a discussion is really about and what deserves to be salvaged from it, and get a new discussion started on that basis somewhere else.Report

      • I still like the threaded Usenet reader style:

        There are two panes, one above the other, both scrollable. The top one lists the author and posting date. It used a few spaces of indentation a few spaces to show nesting, and allows expanding or collapsing a set of replies, thus:

        (two levels expanded)
        -Mike 10:45
        ..-CKM 10:46
        …..Still 10:47
        …..Kazzy 10:48
        …JB 10:47

        (one level expanded)
        -Mike 10:45
        ..+CKM 10:46
        …JB 10:47

        (all collpased)
        +Mike 10:45

        That is, it’s basically Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Because the lines are short and the indent so small, you can display 30-deep nesting easily, and anything deeper just requires horizontal scrolling.

        To read a comment, click on its heading, and it displays in the second pane, which scrolls both horizontally and vertically.

        But I’ve never seen a blog that uses anything like this.Report

        • That’s an interesting suggestion, though my impression is it would point to or would feel like a more technical rather than conversational/or quasi-literary discussion. Ideally for a site like this one, I think, the commenting apparatus would be just visible enough so that users remain aware of options, but generally so that it will still tend to disappear, and not get in the way of scanning down (and simply searching) a long page of discussion. (Not sure how available to simple Ctrl-F type search the collapsed elements in a UseNet style (or other user-manipulable) presentation would remain.) I’d be worried that less technically proficient users would find anything too decision-dependent to be intimidating and aesthetically unappealing or unwelcoming.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I think discussion about this question and the options should continue with broader participation.

        In my view chronological display is an important established style at the site. Note that so lng as further infestation is available, comments will continue to be displayed in vertical order according to submission, unless ey are visibly moved into a different nest of thread. Visually I think it is a major departure if comments appear out of chronological order without clear nesting establishing their referent. for now I think deeper indentation will help, but I don’t think it will provide a comprehensive solution. I’d need to consider the other options you give further to say whether one of them might be the best choice. I invite other OGmn & OGlds to review these options as well.

        But I do definitly recall the problem of the lack of reply buttons past last indentation, and there is certainly a measure of optimally that I am willing to trade off to address that.Report

        • Another alternative I’ve considered, and that might be RELATIVELY easy to code, is a more geometrical approach to margin widths as nesting depth increases. So at some point or at some rate indentations would decrease in absolute size, but maintain approximately the same proportion to text. So we could allow depth up to whatever point we reached 1-pixel indentation, and could conceivably add additional formatting to accentuate the difference.

          Another possibility not mentioned above: reach max-depth, whatever it is, and start over max-depth + 1 again further to the left at some new indent, maybe paint an arrow across the screen from last comments at max-depth to new beginning point, and color the new thread with a special background…

          However, and in line with my reply to OG Schilling, I think we want to avoid making a display that strikes the non-technoid as ugly and scary and attention-dominating. Why don’t we see how many discussions really need to go beyond 10-deep, and how big a problem out-of-order commenting remains?Report

        • Infestation = indentation.Report

  14. CK MacLeod says:

    @vikram-bath @mike-schilling gotcher your clickable site-logo guys… will be futzing with it later, but fernow it oughta work ok both on desktop and mobile and without telltale unexpected characters sneaking into the bgReport