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Line Break Issues in "Preview"
October 6, 2008 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Suggestion: In AskMeFi (and perhaps elsewhere, Idunno), line breaks in preview ought to look/work the same as when published.

It sounded, at the time, like my suggestion here might be implemented, but the issue remains. So I'm just reminding....
posted by jimmyjimjim to Bugs at 9:47 AM (25 comments total)

We strip line breaks from questions for the front page to keep initial questions there concise. If you have more than one paragraph it should probably go in the More Inside section. But you're right that preview should match what you'll end up with, and I updated the post preview so it matches how Ask treats line breaks.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2008


thanks, pb


"If you have more than one paragraph it should probably go in the More Inside section"

Makes sense. But you should say so somewhere. There are many reasons loss of this formatting might aggravate and mystify a newbie. It helps greatly for the preview to be more "honest", but that's only going halfway, IMO.

copy might read:
"Your question itself will appear as one solid paragraph. If you need to use multiple paragraphs, continue in the "More Inside" section."

I'm assuming, btw, that "more inside" DOES retain carriage returns (and that the tweak you just made won't inadvertantly compress paragraphs there, too! ;: )
posted by jimmyjimjim at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2008


Here's the current copy: "This will show up on the front page, so try to ask your entire question while keeping it to a paragraph or so (if you must go on longer, use the optional extended area)."

It's a bit casual, but I think it gets the idea across without going into formatting details. And yep, line breaks work in More Inside and the preview reflects that.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:00 AM on October 6, 2008


"try to ask your entire question while keeping it to a paragraph or so "

Hmmm....but in light of the fact that the software will crunch all paragraph breaks, this phrasing seems oddly unsuited.....sort of like putting a road sign up before a ten foot high overpass reading "try not to drive much further if your vehicle is higher than ten feet or so".
posted by jimmyjimjim at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2008


heh ok, "or so" has been removed.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2008


Better, but how about:

"This will show up on the front page, so you'll need to ask your entire question in one paragraph (i.e. with no line returns). If you must go on longer, use the optional extended area
posted by jimmyjimjim at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2008


That shuddering noise you hear is dozens of metafilter users having flashbacks to their last content review meeting
posted by ook at 11:38 AM on October 6, 2008


I don't think that it makes any sense to assume that the average user will even have any idea what "line returns" are.

And if the average user does know what "line returns" are, then said user ought damn well to know that "with no line returns" means the same thing as "keep it in one paragraph."

And if that increasingly hypothetical user happens to know what line returns are and yet doesn't know that line returns separate paragraphs, then that fantastical user ought to be able to look at the preview and see that the line returns have been and will be stripped.

And, finally, if our magical, wonderful imaginary user knows what line returns are, doesn't know that they break up paragraphs, and is also concurrently blind and lacks the special technical support software to explain patiently and clearly in a slow voice to a person that doesn't exist that the preview box clearly shows that the line returns will be stripped, then I suggest that we ban them immediately and instruct them never to return or even to mention Metafilter to any of their other imaginary friends ever again.
posted by koeselitz at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2008


yeah, "line returns" was sloppy. How about "blank lines"? that's clear.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2008


--------
"That shuddering noise you hear is dozens of metafilter users having flashbacks to their last content review meeting"
--------


Without having attending that (or any other) meeting, I do understand. Hey, I'm just tossing ideas from the peanut gallery. Nobody, like, needs to take action...or even reply!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2008


Best advice: Do not post, it is too much trouble.
posted by Cranberry at 12:03 PM on October 6, 2008


jimmyjimjim: yeah, "line returns" was sloppy. How about "blank lines"? that's clear.

But, jimmy: it's already clear. Why change it more?
posted by koeselitz at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2008


Because I don't find it clear. And before an hour ago, it was phenomenally unclear.

If you guys feel likewise, fine, no offense. But do consider whether your clarity is born from good copywriting or simply your long experience here! :)
posted by jimmyjimjim at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2008


crap, typo, meant to say "otherwise", not "likewise"!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 12:23 PM on October 6, 2008


Just add a line that says: "We know there are lot of rules. Don't sweat it! Any screw-ups will be flagged within seconds and will be fixed within minutes by our patient staff. We aim to serve."
posted by smackfu at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2008


What about saying that the question will be reformatted into a single paragraph? Using the word "try" but then forcing a single paragraph seems a bit disconnected.
posted by niles at 2:16 PM on October 6, 2008


that's my point, niles.

Also, to non-tech people, the term "paragraph" is ambiguous. The user needs to know that carriage returns/blank lines will be stricken. that's the information we're trying to convey...so why not say it?
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:32 PM on October 6, 2008


Also, to non-tech people, the term "paragraph" is ambiguous.

You, sir, are a lunatic.

I never had the guts to say that in a content review. It feels good.
posted by ook at 9:57 PM on October 6, 2008


Actually I'm not a newbie and I've been screaming about the line break loss every time I post a question (and then forgot about it of course, it's not the end of the world). I never knew that it was intentional, and I never gathered that the line about trying to keep your question short had anything to do with the forced removal of line breaks. I figured it was a bug.

... and now I can't remember if I'm just writing this to make my stupidity really clear or if I had a point.
posted by Skyanth at 12:06 AM on October 7, 2008


ook, you absolutely SHOULD feel good! How fortunate that your guts have erupted past their prior constriction! Cherish this newfound freedom to expel senseless rudeness! (now we know: trolls are made, not born).

Skyanth, it's not just you. It's very poor copywriting (there's no reason a non-techie would anticipate, much less understand, the compaction of paragraphs from the request for brevity). Yesterday it got a tad better, though, so that's good.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:38 AM on October 7, 2008


jimmyjimjim: but I am a techie! :(

But I agree with ook that saying "paragraph" is too lofty a concept for the average user to grasp is taking it too far. And I wouldn't call that trolling, if that is what you were actually saying.
posted by Skyanth at 7:17 AM on October 7, 2008


There's a very common pattern that people get into when editing a piece of text or a design or whatever -- I've certainly caught myself doing it too: you go through an iteration or two which actually are improvements, but then get so caught up in the details of it that you lose all perspective and start second-guessing everything. Will they understand this? Is it clear enough? I better add another explanatory clause. Will everyone know what that word means? Maybe instead of using this common word "paragraph" I should say "line breaks;" it's more specific. Etcetera. Eventually you end up with something so full of convoluted helpful explanatory phrases and over-specific verbiage that it ends up far worse than when you started. (The paragraph was invented a long time before tech people; I think we can safely assume that most people who can read will be able to suss out what it means.)

I had hoped that my earlier comments here would come across as more jocular than cruel; I'm sorry if that's not how you read it.
posted by ook at 8:17 AM on October 7, 2008


All I know is my middle-school aged brother knows what a paragraph is, but thinks a carriage return is where you drop off the carriage when you're done driving it around.
posted by niles at 9:17 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


ook, no problem, just so long as I can call you a weenie breath.

Yeah, I'm well aware of the endless iteration/endless deterioration issue re: copywriting (I do this sort of thing for a living, so I've been there).

But I can't for the life of me imagine why smart folks, viewing with a fresh eye, would assume that the current copy is anywhere near clear, or sufficiently telegraphs the line break compaction.

OTOH, I also totally respect the notion that everything doesn't always need to be so freaking clear all the time! Triage is certainly not my call to make! :)
posted by jimmyjimjim at 11:35 AM on October 7, 2008


so long as I can call you a weenie breath.

Awesome. I think we're on the same page here.
posted by ook at 12:44 PM on October 7, 2008


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