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December 8, 2012 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Any chance we could add a post to our recent activity without commenting?

I lean more toward lurker than poster in some discussions because I don't like to comment unless I really feel I have something useful to say.

It would be nice if I could follow posts without having to include a comment. A link similar to "add to favorites" would be wonderful. Technically speaking, perhaps it could include comments after the last one at the time "add to recent activity" was clicked?
posted by zug to Feature Requests at 3:54 PM (82 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I would ride this pony for ever.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:55 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


One way you can do this today is to mark the thread as a favorite, and then hit the "my favorites" second tab on the Recent Activity page, where it will be.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2012


But that'll totally mess up pepople's score if I start using favorites as a bookmark.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


But that'll totally mess up pepople's score if I start using favorites as a bookmark.

[HEAD EXPLODES]
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:20 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


"One way you can do this today is to mark the thread as a favorite, and then hit the "my favorites" second tab on the Recent Activity page, where it will be."

Is there a reason why the two tabs are kept separate? I'd get a lot more functionality out of them being combined.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:51 PM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Someone break it to him gently.
posted by alms at 4:51 PM on December 8, 2012


Someone break it to him gently.

OK.

the man of twists and turns - one day, your pony will stop breathing and go to pony heaven and then you'll have to hop off.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe a convention like the obituary dot, where you just post some symbol instead of an actual comment. Then everyone will know "It’s just zug following the thread". Then in the secret MF gossip lounge everyone will say "zug follows some weird shit, why is zug so weird?".

This suggestion is my best shot at getting the powers that be to institute your plan, since I know mine just made them shudder.
posted by bongo_x at 5:09 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but favoriting-to-follow is a ridiculous solution. I favorite many, many things where I have no interest in following the discussion that goes with the links. As such, a bigger problem is created when you're trying to scroll through lots of discussions you don't care about in "my favorites" to find the recent comments in posts you do care about. Then once you find the discussion you want to follow it's very hard to figure out where you are because you have no marker of when you favorited it or the last comment you read. Plus of course you then have two separate places to check to stay current on the discussions you care about...the threads you commented in but don't want to favorite, and the threads you favorited specifically because you didn't comment in them. Lastly, then my favorites is junked up with a whole bunch of threads that I only favorited because I wanted to follow the discussion. So then I either have to do favorite maintenance and unfavorite discussions I'm done following or rifle through all those useless favorites to find the post I favorited because I thought it was cool or interesting or whatever. Basically, it creates clutter on both sides of the fence.

In my dream world, I'd have a lurker button; it'd be like leaving an invisible comment in a thread so that it ends up in recent activity, just like all the threads I comment in.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:35 PM on December 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


Maybe a convention like the obituary dot, where you just post some symbol instead of an actual comment. Then everyone will know "It’s just zug following the thread". Then in the secret MF gossip lounge everyone will say "zug follows some weird shit, why is zug so weird?".

This suggestion is my best shot at getting the powers that be to institute your plan, since I know mine just made them shudder.


Also, the secret symbol should be "@".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:37 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


@
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2012


I always assumed there was a way to do this and was meaning to ask but never got around to it. I'd like an option to choose to follow my favorites under recent activity (under one tab), or a separate follow button to put threads there.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2012


Actually, I just figured out the easiest solution for this. Pardon me if it has been discussed before.

The way to do this is to create a way to mark a comment or a post to remind yourself that it was interesting and that you might want to refer to it later. They could be called "bookmarks" and kept track of in your profile.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a pretty good idea, everyone is already used to using the favorite button to mark things as "I agree and approve of this comment and want to give positive feedback to the poster!" so having a seperate button for "I wish to follow this conversation!" should not be a big deal.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2012


@
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:52 PM on December 8, 2012


I'm sorry, but favoriting-to-follow is a ridiculous solution.

I disagree entirely. As far as I'm concerned, that is the purpose of favoriting a post, and is the reason I favorite posts. Using favorites on posts for any other purpose is what is ridiculous.
posted by grouse at 6:02 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey super, we haven't had this argument since maybe July.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just do what I do: make a comment in a thread to mark where you stopped reading and to put in your recent activity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2012


I'm wondering if the people posting "@" in this thread are actually trying to follow the discussion or if it's an "I am Spartacus" sort of thing
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 6:17 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're doing it instead of favoriting the suggestion. Oh, wait...
posted by alms at 6:27 PM on December 8, 2012


I would be very happy to have this feature.

And I've got a question: Is there any mention of "following a thread" anywhere in the FAQ or on the Wiki? I couldn't find any. Is this some emergent property of MeFi, where the software doesn't have any concept of it, but most of the participants fairly explicitly use the concept in dealing with the site?
posted by benito.strauss at 6:51 PM on December 8, 2012



posted by odinsdream at 6:52 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Favourites are not a score - or at least they're not meant to be only that. So the status quo really is okay, but the discussion partly arises out of different ideas of what a favourite means.
posted by undue influence at 7:06 PM on December 8, 2012


Sorry, zug. Your pony is now going to be eaten alive by the Forever War between those like favorites and those who hate them. It is the de facto subject of about half of all Metatalk threads.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:44 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


@
posted by homunculus at 7:51 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


But that'll totally mess up pepople's score if I start using favorites as a bookmark.

Favourites are not a score


How on earth did you not smell that hamburger
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 7:56 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


@
posted by zug at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2012


Favourites are not a score

Said the guy with the low score.
posted by bongo_x at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


My sense is, this is trickier to set up on the back end than it seems, and that is why this pony hasn't come home to roost.

I don't think it's a "no, never" situation but a "maybe someday, but it will take some doing, and we have other things we're working on before that" situation.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:42 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's something I've often wished for too. I end up making vapid comments in the thread just to move it into recent activity. I never view the site by favorite, so I'd never have thought of following a discussion that way. I think it would be pretty cluttered, since I use post favorites almost exclusively as a 'find this again someday' filter.
posted by Miko at 8:46 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


pony hasn't come home to roost

The idiom is come home to stall. God, you people.

Would also accept barn.
posted by axiom at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2012


You are clearly not considering the needs of pony chickens.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:52 PM on December 8, 2012


Drinky Die: "You are clearly not considering the needs of pony chickens."

And, here I thought that was going to be a link to Scootaloo coming out of Fluttershy's coop. One, I should have known that that was too "inside baseball" for a general audience, and two, I should have looked closer at the username.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:05 PM on December 8, 2012


How on earth did you not smell that hamburger

Sorry, I missed the hamburger. I am sadly really bad at hamburger detection, gah.
posted by undue influence at 9:30 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long the election thread would have been if everyone who only wanted to follow it just posted a symbol. I bet it would be really long.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:29 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps even the longest.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:37 AM on December 9, 2012


the man of twists and turns - one day, your pony will stop breathing and go to pony heaven and then you'll have to hop off.

FOR.
EV.
ER.

posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:28 AM on December 9, 2012


I favorite many, many things where I have no interest in following the discussion that goes with the links."

You would then be able to use the helpful button already in recent activity for removing the thread from it.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:53 AM on December 9, 2012


If I commented in the thread, sure. But I rarely comment in discussions that I have no interest in.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:17 AM on December 9, 2012


I quite like this pony too. I'm mostly interested in the links and favourite a lot of posts where I have little interest in the discussion, this would be a handy way to keep the discussions I'm interested in in one place.

That said, it's a minor thing, so if it's a massive hassle in the code, probably not worth it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:20 AM on December 9, 2012


This is a familiar pony. I still want it.

As far as I am concerned this is the most broken thing about Metafilter.

There's no way to simply follow threads of interest the way one did almost thirty years ago with RN. In order to get the same functionality on MeFi, one must use both the favourite tab and the recent activity tab, as well as cope with the fact that my expressions of interest (favourites) are public. And still I don't get the "show all of the new comments since I last checked" functionality of RN.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:56 AM on December 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I, too, want to clamber aboard this stagecoach.

If it's too much work at the backend perhaps someone could write a Greasemonkey script to do it?
posted by Talkie Toaster at 6:17 AM on December 9, 2012


The way to do this is to create a way to mark a comment or a post to remind yourself that it was interesting and that you might want to refer to it later. They could be called "bookmarks" and kept track of in your profile.

We already have that — they're called "favorites."
posted by John Cohen at 7:18 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


@
posted by DoubleLune at 8:17 AM on December 9, 2012


The idiom is come home to stall. God, you people.

It's what we in the business call a "stalled pony."
posted by Nomyte at 9:05 AM on December 9, 2012


Duh!

Matt, add an NNTP interface! Then we can just use the newsreader of our choice!
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:06 AM on December 9, 2012


Unsurprisingly rss-to-nntp gateways already exist.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on December 9, 2012


If your newsreader is also a mail client, there's a good chance that it's an RSS feed reader, too.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 5:30 PM on December 9, 2012


You know, I'm totally doing the "@" thing. In the absence of an official feature, this is a pretty simple workaround. It also provides the mods with some pretty instant visibility into how many people would actually use such a feature.

Furthermore, I'm going to keep a line of text in a handy text file which will include a link to the comment in this thread explaining what it is so no one has to post "What the hell is that about?"
posted by DWRoelands at 6:48 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, I'm happy to change the semantics of @ so that it no longer means only a Twitter-style reply to another commenter. THis pleasantly confounds @ for me.
posted by Miko at 6:51 AM on December 10, 2012


DWRoelands: You know, I'm totally doing the "@" thing. In the absence of an official feature, this is a pretty simple workaround. It also provides the mods with some pretty instant visibility into how many people would actually use such a feature.

[+]
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2012


It won't work if the mods delete your @ comments, which they should.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why?
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2012


I don't know about anyone else, but I don't particularly want to have to scroll through a forest of nethack creatures to reach actual content. The dot for obituaries is traditional at this point, but adding more content-free options is a bad plan.

one might retort that all my own comments are content-free, to which I must reply touché.
posted by winna at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


winna: but adding more content-free options is a bad plan

I do think such a content-free comment is clearly deletable under the guidelines, but I hope the mods would consider allowing it, as it relatively painlessly solves a problem that a good number of MeFites have. One imagines it would be trivially easy to write a Greasemonkey script to eliminate it from appearing in one's browser.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:36 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Considering that what I do now is make comments empty of content, the @ is not meaningfully different from that. The semantic difference between

@

and

Commenting so I can follow the thread

is functionally nil. If the second isn't deletable, the first should not be. We don't have a policy of deleting comments just because they don't further the conversation.
posted by Miko at 11:23 AM on December 10, 2012


winna answer your question for me.

Yes, I could easily modify the same greasemonkey script that filters out all of the dot-only comments, or wait the 30 seconds it would take for someone else to post it. But the larger question that goes unanswered with this proposed solution is: aren't we all here to add more signal and less noise? This seems to do the opposite.

Also, just because I'm a Linux neckbeard who hasn't touched IE in years doesn't mean that I don't care about the poor, damned souls forced to use it at work.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:25 AM on December 10, 2012


On non-preview, I'm more in favor of a technological solution if it doesn't kill the server or create some sort of nightmare for pb.

Actually, I'm using my wife's iPad right now. Your solution would also make this experience suck even worse that it already does.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:28 AM on December 10, 2012


double block and bleed: I'm more in favor of a technological solution if it doesn't kill the server or create some sort of nightmare for pb.

Don't get me wrong, I am too, but this doesn't seem like an awful solution to me if there are problems with other approaches.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:31 AM on December 10, 2012


Sorry, I forgot I was editing and not creating a new comment.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:33 AM on December 10, 2012


Considering that what I do now is make comments empty of content, the @ is not meaningfully different from that. The semantic difference between

@

and

Commenting so I can follow the thread

is functionally nil. If the second isn't deletable, the first should not be. We don't have a policy of deleting comments just because they don't further the conversation.


It would actually much easier to skim through a thread with the symbol, rather than reading a bunch of mostly meaningless comments and trying to pick the real ones out.
posted by bongo_x at 1:15 PM on December 10, 2012


Content free place holder comments to register a thread in recent activity or to mark your place in a long thread are verboten. I haven't been able to google up mod pronouncements to that effect (surprisingly hard to google for) but I know they have been made in the past.
posted by Mitheral at 6:36 PM on December 10, 2012


What does Showgirls have to do with this?
posted by bongo_x at 10:31 PM on December 10, 2012


Content free place holder comments to register a thread in recent activity or to mark your place in a long thread are verboten.

And if they're not, they should be. Options that increase the signal to noise ratio or force the use of bespoke scripts to remove threadcruft are not the solution.

The favorites/bookmarks discussion can run until the end of time, and I suspect most people do use favorites as a form of endorsement and consequently most people see favorites as a form of endorsement.

From previous iterations of this discussion the existing mod view is pretty clear and while I don't like the whole upvoting-as-curating aspect to other sites and don't want it here, the "Popular" tab does nonetheless bring in an aspect of favorites as endorsement. However, the flipside is that if favorites explicitly do become endorsement, then clearly three scenarios are:

- an upvoting subculture, and more requests for upvoting functionality
- favorites just become a flat out popularity contest, and threads become more like jousting contests
- the nature of how people comment or post, and what they comment/post changes fundamentally

A possible solution is that if bookmark functionality were introduced, favorites were hidden or masked and/or more limited in quota. It would not cure the upvoting aspect, but could moderate it somewhat and mitigate some abuse. But while I like the idea of bookmarks as distinct from favorites because they are intuitively not the same thing I can understand why, from an admin and development perspective it involves more work, more risk of a fundamental change in both how Metafilter works for the community and arguably a key change in the USP of Metafilter.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:52 AM on December 11, 2012


.     (it's for the ailing horse)
posted by de at 5:39 AM on December 11, 2012


Content free place holder comments to register a thread in recent activity or to mark your place in a long thread are verboten.

I haven't seen that confirmed here by any mods, and I see those comments routinely.
posted by Miko at 5:47 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would you really say it happens that often, Miko? I don't really see much of those, outside of MeTa or really longboaty (in length and spirit) threads that have already pretty much devolved into content-free zones. Or am I misreading you?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:16 AM on December 11, 2012


Metafilter: you never know what's just a content-free placeholder.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:42 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen that confirmed here by any mods, and I see those comments routinely.

If we see comments that are clearly just "commenting to add this to recent activity" we'll often axe them as noise but I rarely see them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:56 AM on December 11, 2012


It's funny, I really do feel I see them about once a month.
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's possible you see them between when they get posted and when the get flagged and deleted; it's also possible that some of them don't get flagged even though they ought to be.

I share the fondness for this pony request; I'm a big fan of it myself. But until/unless we find a way to implement it that's sane on the backend, it's not happening, and we've basically always taken the position that a "I am commenting but declining to engage for the sake of placeholding" comment isn't a good comment and will be deleted if we see it.

Mustering up some minimal amount of engagement so as to accomplish your purpose without overtly thumbing your nose at the guidelines is not a whole lot to ask. We'd appreciate people making that effort rather than proposing a new policy of literally, blatantly chucking contentless chaff into threads as a solution.

Look at it this way: if you need to string a conversation along on a phonecall where you don't plan to do much talking, you make the effort to "nod" conversationally somehow; you don't just shout "beep!" every ten seconds. This is basically the same spirit as that. Whether there's a fundamental structural difference between a minimally engaged contentful comment and a lone piece of line noise is somewhat beside the point; here's a perceptual difference on the flow of the thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2012


Mustering up some minimal amount of engagement so as to accomplish your purpose without overtly thumbing your nose at the guidelines is not a whole lot to ask

No, and this is generally what I do, so I guess I'll keep doing it, even if it's not really something that's furthering the conversation.
posted by Miko at 8:07 AM on December 11, 2012


I tend to think a short positive comment saying "Nice post!" or "This is an interesting issue and I'm enjoying the discussion" is less disruptive to the flow than a plain @ or a "Don't mind me, I'm just adding this to Recent Activity" would be.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:16 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nice post!
posted by bongo_x at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting issue and I'm enjoying the discussion.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:38 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Harumph.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If "Nice Post!" is an acceptable way to bookmark a discussion in this manner, then I'll use that.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:35 PM on December 13, 2012


I tend to think a short positive comment saying "Nice post!" or "This is an interesting issue and I'm enjoying the discussion" is less disruptive to the flow than a plain @ or a "Don't mind me, I'm just adding this to Recent Activity" would be.

This seems like a really bad idea to me. If even 10% of favorites turned into garbage throwaway comments like this, metafilter threads would be overwhelmed by cheery upbeat noise. Please, say you're not serious about this suggestion as official policy.
posted by alms at 1:56 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please, say you're not serious about this suggestion as official policy.

We're trying to give people advice on how to use the site given the limitations that are built into the back end here. This place could do considerably worse than having some cheery upbeat noise in it in my opinion but no there's a difference between a suggestion made by a mod and "official policy". People who leave a lot of throwaway noise-seeming comments will see them being dealt with the same way we deal with noise comments. People who can manage to be subtle and useful with their comments have made a useful comment and it will be treated as such.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:05 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean that as official policy/mod pronouncement at all. Just musing. But if 10% of favorites were going to turn into something in threads, I think "@" or "I'm adding this to RA" would be more disruptive than brief positive comments.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:02 AM on December 14, 2012


This is what 'favorite' is for.

This is what 'favorite' is for.

This is what 'favorite' is for.
posted by victory_laser at 6:28 AM on December 14, 2012


We don't have a policy of deleting comments just because they don't further the conversation.

Flagged as Noise.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2012


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