Ponyfilter: Highlight Multifavorited Comments for Easier Skimming December 31, 2007 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Ponyfilter: highlighting high-favorite comments in threads, for when you want to do a quick skim of a long(ish) thread.

This basically occurred to me while I was skimming through the Benzir Bhutto thread. I was coming late to that party and really didn't want to read the tons of comments, so I was searching for the word "favorites" to look for multiply-favorited comments, to catch the best of the thread.

Then it occurred to me: what I'm doing is, yeah, fine, but skimming larger threads for the highlights without wanting to read each and every comment must be a fairly frequent activity among a lot of Mefites. I don't think it would be a desirable option to have on by default, but what if comments over a certain threshhold (user-set, perhaps, or maybe say over 5 or 10 if it's easier to program using a systemwide default) had a very slight highlighting to them -- like, say, halfway between a "best answer" coloration and the norm background color. Enough to make them slightly punch out from the other comments.

Favorites aren't necessarily always endorsements, I know that from a previous Mefi question. But they do usually highlight hub comments in the thread, and as such would be pretty ideal for those skimming the larger stuff.
posted by WCityMike to Feature Requests at 10:53 AM (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Seems like an easy thing for greasemonkey.

I'm not really interested in doing it as a feature because I like to think comment threads are best read in order instead of cherry picking just a few.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah I was just thinking greasemonkey would be perfect for this sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:58 AM on December 31, 2007


I think we should just delete any comment with less than 5 favorites. They're really not worth reading.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


People around here have always resisted efforts to "diggify" (or before that, slashdottify) metafilter. But on the other hand, if we're going to be having more and more users, it would make sense to figure out some way to filter threads.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2007


How about highlighting users you have have as a contact/have you as a contact?
posted by Pants! at 11:04 AM on December 31, 2007


I'd think a pretty high proportion of the highlighted comments would be jokey asides, rather than anything of actual importance to the thread. You'd probably get a pretty poor distillation of a thread with this method.
posted by ssg at 11:07 AM on December 31, 2007


ssg: That's actually not been my experience. Mefi likes its well-crafted snark, so, yes, they get faves, but usually insightful stuff reliably gets faved, too.

mathowie: I agree, and I think that's why it should be turned off by default. But Mefi puts out a lot of output, and that'll only increase as more Mefites come on board. I'm just thinking that at some point, skimming will become necessary for all of us ... and tools that facilitate that will be useful. This struck me as one such possible useful tool.

As for doing it in Greasemonkey ... good point. Unfortunately, unless a Greasemonkey-savvy Mefite is captivated by my idea, it's not something I can slap together.
posted by WCityMike at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2007


a 'hide comments with fewer than N favorites' script would be fantastic... rarely... but still, fantastic. :) maybe I should learn me some greasemonkey.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 11:19 AM on December 31, 2007


If you spent more time on MeFi, you wouldn't have this problem. Try and keep up, slowpoke.
posted by desjardins at 11:27 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let's take the Bhutto thread as an example. Do you think that this comment:

Screw you too, pal. Did you know her personally? Then I call bullshit on your "humanity and compassion." You "mourn her loss" because you saw her name in the newspapers. Unless you're equally full of hot burning compassionate tears for every single human who dies anywhere, you're a canting hypocrite. I don't see any reason to pretend to feel emotions I don't in fact feel, but that doesn't make me lacking in humanity, it makes me lacking in bullshit. You, on the other hand, are full of it.
posted by languagehat at 7:44 AM on December 27 [61 favorites +] [!]


Favorited the most because:
a) it was the most insightful comment in the thread?
b) a pile-on into a flamewar by a bunch of people who find it easier to click a 'fave' button than to write anything of substance?

I usually ignore numbers of favorites. I like Pants! idea better. I'd rather highlight comments made by my contacts. And continue to add to my contact list.
posted by vacapinta at 11:28 AM on December 31, 2007


It sounds like a good idea at first, but I'm concerned about small steps towards a moderation system. The general expectation of quality distinguishes MeFi from sites that let people engage in a rapid fire free-for-all, where the mods sort it out. The discussions here benefit from the even playing field.
Besides, the snarky one liners seem to be favorited way more than the longer, insightful posts. I'll read the favorites, but don't expect that to be an automatic indicator of quality, or even on-topic.
posted by dosterm at 12:13 PM on December 31, 2007


@vacapinta: Honestly, I really don't use contacts much at all. Perhaps I'm alone in that regard. If I was using it as a tool to keep track of people who I thought were good posters ... well, it'd be useful if I could make some a contact right from their comment.

Anyway, I'm not making the argument that high-favorite comments are always insightful. Were I to be making that argument, it'd be a piece of cake (so deliciously moist, look at me still talking when there's science to — AHEM, sorry) to cherrypick comments in any thread that were favorited because they were well-crafted snark or just general YAH! comments ("sex is great!!!" [ 1,073 favorites + ], "America, fuck yeah!" [ 9,999 favorites +]).

But high-favorite comments often are either insightful or intelligent or funny, however, though, and I think that's why I think the above-described concept would be useful.
posted by WCityMike at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2007


We discussed & shot down something very similar to this just a couple months ago. I still think that keeping the comments in their context is key to maintaining the flow of conversations that makes MetaFilter rise above other community sites. Monkeying with that, except in a limited way ala a Greasemonkey script (err, so to speak), is a recipe for failure.
posted by scalefree at 12:42 PM on December 31, 2007


> We discussed & shot down something very similar to this just a couple months ago. I still think that keeping the comments in their context is key to maintaining the flow of conversations that makes MetaFilter rise above other community sites. Monkeying with that, except in a limited way ala a Greasemonkey script (err, so to speak), is a recipe for failure.

Optional features affecting individual users' view of the site, especially ones that would be turned off by default ... well, unless they're absolutely horrendous, I don't know as the opposing position is strong.

In other words, the difference is that I'm very much NOT proposing that each and every person automatically and non-configurably sees high-favorited comments with a lightly highlighted hue. I agree, that would be a horrendously bad idea.

I'm proposing that individual users be able to go to their Preferences, click a button, perhaps type in their individual threshhold for highlighting if that doesn't exponentially increase the implementation difficulty, and then — themselves, their view, not the global default view for everyone — said high-favorited comments would be highlighted.

And it actually to me is a much better implementation than the discussed sorting -- because since they are highlighted and not resorted or moved out of order, the flow of the conversation is not really affected for the reader. Responses wouldn't be moved before the thing they were responding to, etc.
posted by WCityMike at 12:50 PM on December 31, 2007


I really don't want MeFi to turn into Slashdot. :(
posted by Mikey-San at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2007


Someone should do a blog that summarizes MetaTalk each week. Posts get 200+ responses in no time at all, and who really has the time or will to read that? And then it turns out there was a meaningful comment by an admin at the 350+ mark and people are actually chastised for not knowing about it. It's nuts.
posted by smackfu at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2007


smackfu, I had that thought this week too. It would be impossible though. Not that you were seriously proposing it, but I think it would just bein impossible to know all the in-jokes, context and true meaning of actions and words. Not only that, but then people would get seriously upset when the synopses mischaracterized anything they'd said. It would be a catastrophic failure. I'm sure this has been thought of and dismissed years prior.
posted by cashman at 2:19 PM on December 31, 2007


Unfortunately, unless a Greasemonkey-savvy Mefite is captivated by my idea, it's not something I can slap together

Ya know, if you have or can borrow even rudimentary regex knowledge, this has been possible with existing Greasemonkey script(s) for a couple of years now.
posted by mdevore at 2:31 PM on December 31, 2007


WCityMike, what I dislike about the idea as an in-built feature—even an opt-in one—is that it's officially not just supporting but condoning and encouraging people to view threads disjointedly, to cherry pick instead of reading. I understand the reality that people will skim regardless, and like Matt and Jess think that this would be an able application of Greasemonkey, but to make it a functional part of the site is a little too close to home for me.

As Matt said upthread, threads are best read, not chewed on out of context. As a matter of how the site presents itself to users (rather than whatever perverse things folks outside the site decide to put together), encouraging people to read the threads in toto as they developed is a good thing.

@vacapinta:

Wait, that's the other thing I don't like. Death to the amphora.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:31 PM on December 31, 2007


I was half-joking. I've seen this done successfully before, on the linux-kernel mailing list. It's a high traffic mailing list that is hard to follow, but it is where THE linux decisions get made. So there are/were a couple of sites that summarize the important threads each week, so you could keep a finger on the pulse without wasting hours reading what was mostly junk. For instance.

But you're right that it would lead to capital-D drama. LJ levels.
posted by smackfu at 2:33 PM on December 31, 2007


I'd think a pretty high proportion of the highlighted comments would be jokey asides, rather than anything of actual importance to the thread.

Nope, it actually works really well. But like many nice things, it'll turn to suck if everybody does it. So I'm not sharing.

(Also, my script won't work unless you also have my out-of-date hacked Safari binary. Sorry.)
posted by ryanrs at 2:34 PM on December 31, 2007


I just knocked up this greasemonkey script that should help. It's messy, since I don't have much experience (read: little to none) with greasemonkey, but it does the job. Picture it as a puppy who really wants to help with the groceries but smashes all the eggs.

This is cannibalized from Plutor's 'Welcome Back Mefite' script.
posted by flatluigi at 2:34 PM on December 31, 2007


Someone should do a blog that summarizes MetaTalk each week.

I have thought about this sort of thing, actually. It'd be kind of fascinating, if someone were to pull it off, and I'd be all over it if I didn't have every other goddam thing going on as well.

but I think it would just bein impossible to know all the in-jokes, context and true meaning of actions and words.

I was just thinking about the givewell thread next door, in that context: it's possible that some folks otherwise wholly unfamiliar with metafilter and especially metatalk will end up reading that, and what will it look like to them? Wouldn't it be fascinating to take that thread and mark it up in terms of everything that needs some greater mefi context to really make sense, versus the portions of the discussion that essentially stand up to outsider scrutiny without explanation?

Fascinating, I say.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:36 PM on December 31, 2007


Er, not Plutor. Jacalata.
posted by flatluigi at 2:36 PM on December 31, 2007


Someone could probably do it much better and actually highlight it like the 'best answer' comments on AskMe, but again, that's not me.
posted by flatluigi at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2007


tip: anything with more than 15 favorites is always worth reading.
posted by ryanrs at 2:43 PM on December 31, 2007


I'm all for anything that makes MetaFilter more competitive.
posted by The Deej at 2:46 PM on December 31, 2007


For 'Best Answer'-style highlighting, use #28b on the blue and #888 on meta.
posted by ryanrs at 2:50 PM on December 31, 2007


flatluigi: Someone could probably do it much better and actually highlight it like the 'best answer' comments on AskMe, but again, that's not me.

Unfortunately, it also kills the MefiQuote script dead. But thank you for doing what you did.
posted by WCityMike at 2:58 PM on December 31, 2007


Following up, not to seem too incredibly lazy (though I certainly qualify), even if you don't have regex experience, a magic regex answer for highlighting/flagging/whatever 5 or more favorites in a comment is:
(5|6|7|8|9|([0-9]{2,})) favorites
Not much to it, actually.
posted by mdevore at 2:58 PM on December 31, 2007


I can't get my 28b pencil to mark the screen without pressing so hard it cracks. But I think I have a #888 marker somewhere.

Hold on. I'll be right back.
posted by koeselitz at 3:03 PM on December 31, 2007


*races Deej to the finish line, cramps up and collapses 10 feet from winning*

Damn my competitive nature... and lack of exercise.
posted by quin at 3:03 PM on December 31, 2007


Favorite comment!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2007


Re: You know who else had a competitive nature?      score of 2.5 nuanced
by MAYORBOB

And while we're on the subject, someone should call Carl and let him know his server is hosed. Yes, really.
posted by ryanrs at 3:34 PM on December 31, 2007


So where do I get a greasy monkey? And how much do they cost, my car just broke down so I can't afford an expensive monkey.
posted by nola at 3:37 PM on December 31, 2007


My most-favorited comments are frankly all pretty stupid.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2007


I WIN METAFILTER!!!!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 6:05 PM on December 31, 2007


heh heh, weasels!
posted by ryanrs at 6:12 PM on December 31, 2007


Ctrl-F/find-as-you-type "favorite(s)".
posted by Eideteker at 6:22 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just knocked up this greasemonkey script that should help. It's messy, since I don't have much experience (read: little to none) with greasemonkey, but it does the job. Picture it as a puppy who really wants to help with the groceries but smashes all the eggs.

This is cannibalized from Plutor's 'Welcome Back Mefite' script.


I wanted a highlighter that was a little more clear (sorry flatluigi!) so I cannibalized flatluigi's script to create my own Greasemonkey script. This one lets you set the "threshold" for how many favorites a comment should have before it's highlighted, and then puts a colored bar (colored to match up with www/ask/metatalk) on the left of the comment, making it easy to scan for them but not getting in the way of reading the comment (hopefully!). Let me know what you think.

Cheers and Happy New Years everyone.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:45 PM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Death: Yours wins hands down. Good work!
posted by flatluigi at 7:02 PM on December 31, 2007


Deathalicious, thanks so much! That one doesn't kill the MefiQuote script, either. Quite cool.
posted by WCityMike at 7:14 PM on December 31, 2007


Threshold: 5 favorites, Flat, Oldest First (Ignore Threads) [Change] [Reply]
posted by blue_beetle at 1:57 AM on January 1, 2008


Deathalicious and flatluigi both rawk. Thanks guys!
posted by tarheelcoxn at 4:13 PM on January 1, 2008


I hate this idea as I think it will tend to increase snark, which we aren't exactly hurting for around here. Highlighting comments from contacts though, is a great way to extend their utility.
posted by BigSky at 10:35 AM on January 2, 2008


I'm jumping into the Greasemonkey fray here with Thread Highlights. It adds a tabbed interface to the comments, which allows you to see only the favorited comments. The name might be a little deceptive, considering it doesn't actually highlight anything.
posted by Plutor at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2008


> I'm jumping into the Greasemonkey fray here with Thread Highlights. It adds a tabbed interface to the comments, which allows you to see only the favorited comments. The name might be a little deceptive, considering it doesn't actually highlight anything.

Wow, that's freakin' brilliant. Color me impressed, I didn't even know Greasemonkey could do something with that level of change.
posted by WCityMike at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2008


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