New developments…

CK MacLeod

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

Related Post Roulette

50 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    Man, I clearly do not make enough use the State of the Discussion page. It’s pretty damn cool.Report

  2. Roland Dodds says:

    Excellent work. The time it takes to make these fine revisions deserves more praise.Report

  3. Seriously, this set of upgrades feels like when PacBell Park replaced Candlestick, and we went from one of the worst ballparks in baseball to the absolute best. CK’s put together an absolutely state-of-the-art commenting system; I honestly don’t know of another site that has anything close.Report

    • Thanks, @mike-schilling – I appreciate the appreciation. Still a couple things to add before the Suite I envision is done.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      SBN, in my view, has the gold standard for comment-heavy blogging, though its a professional-brew custom system that I certainly can’t come close to replicating. Unread comment tracking here has room for improvement (at minimum, tracking across machines for logged in users).

      That said, it’s come a long way in a short time. And these new developments are definitely welcome.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to nevermoor says:

        @nevermoor , Can you be more specific about what you like most about SBN? I’m noticing myself that
        1. They allow for collapsing of parts of the thread by clicking on them.
        2. They have comment titles.
        3. They have hotkeys for some things.
        4. They have color coding, which I haven’t really figured out the scheme for yet.
        5. They have a bunch of different ways to register into the commenting system.

        Is there anything else you like about it? #1 above seems like a potentially useful one to me.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:


          Was expecting a little more from SBN commenting after that build-up.

          1) Adding a show/hide children feature wouldn’t be difficult. Not sure how beneficial.

          2) We could add comment titling – or “comment subject designation” – pretty easily. Would people like that? It would lengthen the threads (visually), but people might like having it. Could replace the “to [person]” link in the upper right with “on [title]”.

          Not sure what else about the system stands out for nevermoor. I don’t think I’d personally use the SBN hot keys. Also, “register/log-in” to comment might decrease participation from new commenters, although “social sign-in” can be a nice convenience feature for people who are annoyed by having to fill in the name/email form.

          In private emails and occasionally in discussion, he’s also suggested: 3) showing new-since-last-visit comments only. Different ways of implementing, but easiest would be a “New Comments Only” button. Click it and all the old comments disappear.

          Another addition would be 4) “comment-featuring”: Authors and editors highlight certain comments. which can be separately archived in “Extraordinary Comments” widgets or archives, and show up highlighted in State of the Discussion. (Would be melded with an easier “comment rescue” facility – authors/editors could one-click a comment into a draft new post, and easily email notify the commenter he/she’d been…. honored in that way. – the resultant “rescue” posts would also automatically be archived.)

          5) Can be democratized by adding “up/down-voting” or “liking” features.

          So three new buttons: “New,” “Featured,” “Liked” – click on any of them to view thinned down versions of the thread.

          6) Other possibilities include “Medium” or “Project Syndicate” style commenting, where comments appear in the margin of the post, like annotations – possibly linked to particular passages in the post. I don’t like it as a substitute on a site like this one, but might an interesting additional option, possibly restricted to registered users

          7) Then there are types of social media integrations: Tweets as comments, Facebook comments as comments also the flip-side: easier sharing of comments.

          8) Then there the sometimes elaborate systems that tech sites like StackExchange and “forum” style sites like Reddit offer. Sometimes users at different levels have different capabilities regarding up and down voting (or “answer providing”), and there are different kinds of comments you can leave: In an OT context, answers to the top post (comments at “Level 1,” all the way to the left) might be in a larger font than comments-responding-to-comments. Could even reverse telescope comment size by level, so that the further to the right you got, the smaller the font got! (Could also employ background-shading and decreasing indentation… But all would tend to make threads visually even more busy.)

          9) Audio- and video-comments are also a possibility, but I think I’d find them annoying if anyone actually tried them – assuming we could even do it practically.

          10) I’ve been thinking about how to implement a “re-start thread” button that would let commenters move a discussion from the far right to the far left, leaving a continued link and visual indicators behind. .

          (Have also got to remember to make trackbacks/pingbacks look better. For a while, trackbacking didn’t seem to be working very well at the site at all, but lately it seems to be working better, so need to make them more attractive (which also might subtly encourage more people to link to OT posts).)Report

          • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            No titling! Definitely no replacing the automatic “to [name]” which is a feature I don’t know how we ever lived without.Report

          • Vikram Bath in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            CK MacLeod: Adding a show/hide children feature wouldn’t be difficult. Not sure how beneficial.

            Among the things I saw at SBN, that’s the one I’d steal. It’d be occasionally useful for me, especially to collapse a discussion I know has gone off the rails.

            CK MacLeod: We could add comment titling – or “comment subject designation” – pretty easily. Would people like that?

            I’m guessing “no”.

            You gave us bold and italics, so we could make titles and subtitles if we wanted.

            CK MacLeod: showing new-since-last-visit comments only

            I’m pretty happy with the highlighting of new comments you’ve got right now.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            Sorry, should have been clearer. The key features they have are:

            1. Unread comment tracking across devices
            2. Keypress navigation (so on a 100+ comment thread, you can hit a key to jump between unread comments, drastically reducing the need to scroll past old stuff). Example of how it works at any thread (like this) when you hit the “Show speed reading tips and settings” link. This is actually what I’ve been trying to suggest (inartfully!) in email, and something that I think would be easy to implement here.

            3. Live comment updating (with feature to allow user to disable) so you can leave a thread open and watch the discussion happen (or choose not to).

            4. AJAX comment posting, so posting a comment doesn’t reload the whole thread and lose down-thread unread comments.

            Other than Vikram’s 3, I agree those features aren’t necessary (especially if folks like Will don’t like titles.

            The SBN coloring scheme is that users can “recommend” comments and comments with sufficient recs turn a special color. I’m not sure that’s really appropriate for a forum like this, and wouldn’t advocate for it.

            They replace the “to [USER} link with an “Up” link in the bottom row, but I don’t care either way. That’s just a design choice.

            Agree that more tech-y things like tweets-as-comments or video-as-comments aren’t a match for a forum like this which isn’t trying to churn a billion low-quality hits.

            Really like your #10. That’s an ongoing problem at any comment heavy site so I’ll look forward to how you solve it.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to nevermoor says:

              1. Oh boy… without a log-in?

              2. I’m not even getting how to use the speed keys – or they don’t seem to be working in my configuration.

              3 – 4 would be related, I think. Still haven’t checked out how Ajaxification would play with other customizations. Might be no big.

              Hard to put a finger on why Ajaxified commenting rubs me the wrong way. May just be prejudice, but bear with me: My own concept is to make commenting more lasting: To heighten quality, not frequency of commenting. Especially at a somewhat intellectually engaged, “club” site like this one, I’d rather see threads with a relatively smaller number of great, re-readable comments by recognized comment-authors adding unique content, than with hundreds of +1/This!/Kobe sucks! comments.

              So, for me, commenting as most sites I’d ever be interested in will be “posting in another format,” though the differences between the two formats will also remain relevant, so you never quite get to “commenting === posting” until and unless a comment is formally re-posted as a post.

              All that said, I still do plan on seeing what Ajaxification might do for the Commenting Suite, and don’t mind your continuing to prod me in this direction. Even if we don’t adopt it here, I owe it to my own development as a developer to familiarize myself thoroughly with it.

              Highlighting/color-coding well-liked comments would be part of “democratic” comment featuring. Sites and services that continually track up votes or up and down votes introduce an element of competition/popularity contest in commenting that I think might be taken as ungentlepersonly. I think if used sparingly it might feel empowering or be useful, but am not sure.

              (There is also the possibility, incidentally, of adding real-time chat features, probably Ajaxified though also potentially 3rd party-hosted, for particular live events.)Report

              • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                1: No, logged in only.
                2: you have to be logged in so that there are unread comments marked.
                3 is, I think, much harder to implement than 4. But 4 alone would be a big improvement with no other changes to this site’s function. Just the ability to comment and keep scrolling for other unread stuff would make life easier.

                Your point on 3 leading to dumb comments is a definite risk (and it perhaps heightens heat in heated exchanges). Perfectly valid reasons not to go there. I don’t think they apply to 4 though, which is just reducing the server load / time lag / information loss related to posting a comment.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            I also really like a bit of my own homebrew that creates an AJAX-refreshed list of posts with comments a specific user hasn’t read, though as poorly-coded by me it’s a resource hog that probably doesn’t work on broader-audience sites.

            My dream version of SotD here would be to:

            1. Like “The posts in play” at top, add another section like “Since you’ve been gone” that shows posts the specific user has commented in (or, viewed/subscribed to/whatever you choose) with comments they haven’t read.

            2. Make all sections of the page refresh via AJAX, so I can just leave it open and check it periodically to see what has come in.

            3. (far less necessary with the special section in (1)) Allow me to “ignore” posts to exclude from all three sections.

            Obviously that’s a LOT of work, and my preferences are not equivalent to the sites, but there it is.Report

            • Vikram Bath in reply to nevermoor says:

              That all sounds awesome. I understand why I didn’t get any of that from just looking at a SBN thread as a first-time viewer though.

              It also sounds like potentially a hell of a lot of work if there aren’t WordPress plugins that implement each of those things. Also, I wonder about bandwidth.

              One of my first world problems here is that I have the new comments highlighted and then post a reply to one of them and now a whole new set of comments are new, so I missed whatever old new comments there were before. If that makes sense. It sounds like SBN’s read vs. unread distinction would be a way to handle that.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                Another possibility this makes me think of is a bookmarking function. So you could scan the thread in whatever format, and have a ready list of comments for special attention.

                Thanks to you all for this granular-level (meta-)discussion, by the way.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                I understand why I didn’t get any of that from just looking at a SBN thread as a first-time viewer though.

                Definitely. I shorthanded WAAAAAAAY too far.

                I’d be happy to send my homebrew code, but it definitely does not solve the bandwidth / optimization issues and is old/messy.

                #4 in my top comment is the solution to our mutual first-world problem.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to nevermoor says:

              1 Yeah – kind of new-since-last-visit for the SOTD page. Haven’t yet checked how hard that would be – may just require adaptation or emulation of the existing NSLV code, and “show only new” option, for the SOTD environment… Since was planning to take another look at NSLV in relation to aspects of the display we’ve discussed before, may get into it fairly soon.

              2. Would likely require systematic ajaxification of the underlying code. May be worth trying for a really cool SotD dashboard, might be especially cool for an even busier site…

              3. Might as well throw it in while doing all the rest!Report

  4. Vikram Bath says:

    SotD is gradually becoming something I use. I do wonder whether the tool-tips for “The posts in play…” section should reveal the excerpt/blurb for the post though. 🙂

    In general, I think that section is nice because it still lets you see most of what you’d see on the front page.Report

  5. Vikram Bath says:

    I just want to check what everyone else thinks about this. I personally don’t like receiving a confirmation e-mail when I subscribe to comments. I’d rather just get the e-mails and have a prominent button that makes unsubscribing easy. How do others feel about this?Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Am always wary of signing anyone up to anything without their clear, positive consent: People who won’t be reading this thread or any thread asking for feedback, and who won’t be looking closely when they hit Post Comment, will be among the first to complain when emails start filling up their inboxes unexpectedly.Report

    • I agree,though I think that’s something WordPress changed rather than something CK did. Hit Coffee changed at about the same time.

      Anyway, it seems a weird precaution given that we send unsolicited emails when tagged.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:


      Sorry, cancel that prior response – I leapt to a another alternative when editing out my initial reply.

      What would you think of auto-subscribing with every comment (unless specifically clicked “NO SUBSCRIPTION”), but still requiring a confirmation email? (Plus advanced management options including easy un-subscribe.) So, would still require positive consent, but only one time, but via email.

      Plus also re-adding “Subscribe without commenting” option. Requires transition back to an improved version of the alternative system that crashed a couple months ago.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        I’d prefer the status quo to that.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

          You like VB’s request tho? (No confirmation emails.) Or is the problem going to a different comment subscription system?Report

          • Will Truman in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            There didn’t used to be the confirmation requirement and I objected when it was first implemented years ago (then it went away, then it came back) . It’s honestly not as big a deal as it used to be because it’s a tap on my smartphone, but it’s a disincentive.

            What might by ideal is a way to opt out of confirmation, so I can say “yes, going forward I want you to subscribe when I say so and I’ll unsubscribe if I made a mistake” though that may be a lot of work for a minor issue.Report

            • CK MacLeod in reply to Will Truman says:

              Alternatively could disable confirmation (in other words auto-confirm) for all subscriptions made by logged-in users. Not sure right now how much of a hack, how much of a stable modification it would be on either of the comment-subscription systems. Might be simple.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                CK MacLeod: What would you think of auto-subscribing with every comment (unless specifically clicked “NO SUBSCRIPTION”), but still requiring a confirmation email?

                Like Will, I’d prefer the current system to that.

                CK MacLeod: Alternatively could disable confirmation (in other words auto-confirm) for all subscriptions made by logged-in users.

                That would be great! Another option would be to maintain a list of e-mails somewhere that have previously confirmed subscribing to a thread and not ask them anymore if they want to subscribe or not. Once you’ve hit “confirm” once, I think it’s safe to say that’s a affirmatively consenting user.

                Then again, I don’t see anyone chiming in about this other than me and Will, so maybe it’s just us.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                Well, I figure you and Will are cockroaches – or maybe scarabs – unusual users but your views/experiences are still somewhat reflective of more usual users. It was a sugestion by Will months and months ago, after all, that got me started on the State of the Discussion project.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    Is there any way you could do the “redacted” stuff (as distinct from the “spoiled” stuff) that doesn’t include !important attached to the element? It’s a pain for other transformation scripts to deal with.Report

    • Possibly. I’ll look into it. That’s part of what I meant by duct tape, but part of the reason I went to it was specifically to overrule scripts and styles that are loaded (and affect text) AFTER the spoiler styling loads, and tend to cancel it. I MAY be able to defeat them by some other means, but almost anything I do will, I suspect, go to battle with the kind of personalization you like to do.Report

      • @ck-macleod
        Never mind. I looked at the DOM structure more closely, and your JavaScript, and I can handle it as another special case. I was being lazy and hoping that I could lump “spoiled” and “redacted” into a single special case, but they’re really different things (as they should be, now that I’ve looked more closely).Report

        • (Part of it also related to making it easier for me to to making it easy for writers to “redact” (also with the single option of changing redacto-block color), but still, as I said, have a redaction that would stand up to other treatments, not just on this site, but in initial implementations at other sites.Report

          • Yeah, I sympathize. Writing a package that stands up to a bunch of other unknown JavaScript manipulating element properties or even the DOM structure is hard. Eg, I dislike the visual esthetics of using location.reload() to revert redaction; OTOH, we’re up to HTML5 and there’s still no really safe way to attach package-specific data to an element, so matching original colors to individual blocks for reversion is problematic at best.Report

            • I want to agree with you, but, though my Java skills are slowly improving, I’m nowhere near expert enough to declare what is and isn’t practicable in this respect. I only just discovered last week, for instance, that there isn’t a Java “undo,” though there are complicated undo-ish libraries that I haven’t examined in detail.

              Going to location.reload() was just plain simple. It’s putting a “refresh” button within easier reach, no more, no less. If it turns out that this approach to spoilerization is popular at all, it would make more sense to me to look at more complex but possibly more aesthetically pleasing alternatives, but so far no one but me has even used it in a post.Report

  7. Dand says:

    Is there anything that can be done about the information that appears on hovercards? I know that at least one person was surprised by the amount of information on his hovercard.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to Dand says:

      What shows in the hovercard is all determined by your profile settings at, which overlap profile settings. Worth going back to and checking if you haven’t futzed with it in a long time.( I used to have my personal email showing via hovercard, but now have it going to a contact form, for instance. Still haven’t gotten around to replacing the photo I use for my avatar, which shows up too-big and pixellated on the profile page.)Report