Comments pagination pony June 13, 2014 7:24 AM   Subscribe

May we please revisit the issue of comments pagination for the mobile site?

I've searched, and I *think* the last time this came up as its own issue was 2012, and that was in the context of true longboat threads, which isn't precisely my concern.

I understand the argument that the site is purposely not designed to be accessed principally by mobile devices. However, obviously the mobile version of the site is just that. Tablets have become a mainstream device, and smart phones represent such a large part of the market that the term "smart phone" is vanishing.

As a user in a time zone on the other side of the planet from the majority of the userbase, my primary opportunity to participate in fast-moving threads is during my morning commute (if I don't steal time from my employer as I, uh, might be doing right now.) Often the fastest-moving threads are the ones about site culture, and I would like to take part in those. My phone isn't bad, but it chokes on fast-moving threads more than a couple hundred comments long. My tablet is a good one, but even it has problems after about 500 comments, especially if the thread's moving rapidly.

May we please discuss the possibility of a comments pagination option for the mobile site, so that we can throttle loading to a couple of hundred comments at a go?
posted by gingerest to Feature Requests at 7:24 AM (102 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

throttle loading to a couple of hundred comments at a go?

This doesn't even have to be done with pagination anymore, does it?

*sticks layman hands into layman pockets, wanders off whistling*
posted by carsonb at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, we've talked about this feature before and thought about it a bunch, but there are several stumbling blocks even though I think it's generally a good idea for sites to offer this for very long pages.

- pagination introduces a fairly big culture shift where we hope everyone reads previous comments before posting, giving them an end-run around previous comments that could change behaviors on the site in a less than desirable way.

- Going with a "Load More Comments" widget every say, 200 comments, would make sense on long threads on mobile. The problem is after you hit it 5 or 6 times, you'd still have the same memory/performance problems as simply loading a 1200 comment thread on a phone, right? Also, revisits to see new comments would require 5-6 more presses of the "Load More Comments" button.

- if we went to true paginated comments, we'd introduce some URL/permalink problems. If you want to link to a comment, you'd have some "page six of ten" kind of cruft in the URL, if it linked to a single comment, you'd want to see that in context, so we'd probably want to show people where that comment was in a full 1200 comment thread if linked to it. There's also some weird SEO stuff around duplicate content, where the same info could be seen on the thread, but then in pagination URLs as well.

There are other issues and I'll let pb and cortex and others weigh in, but those are three pretty big stumbling blocks to implementation.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:40 AM on June 13, 2014

This doesn't even have to be done with pagination anymore, does it?
For the love of god, please don't implement the "Load more comments" pattern on the mobile site, because that's also the "Follow a link or switch browser windows, then click 'back' and watch your browser lose your place and have to scroll and click all the way down all over again anyway" pattern. If content is worth chunking up, then it's worth actually chunking up into separate pages that are accessible by predictable URLs.
posted by usonian at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2014 [26 favorites]


I'm also open to hearing more about how the existing setup causes problems in certain situations. Is it always with mobile? Is it older phones? Is it a particular OS and version? Is it a browser for mobile causing issues?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2014


Just to give us a sense of the scope of the problem, here's how epic threads break down so far in 2014:

1000+ comments: 4 threads
500+ comments: 15 threads
200+ comments: 116 threads
100+ comments: 400 threads
<100 comments: 4,083 threads

Those few threads at the very top represent the most popular threads to comment in, so I understand the frustration of not being able to load it on every device. We also have to balance years of expectation of how the site will work with having things work on a wide variety of devices. So far we've erred on the side of keeping site expectations (like direct comment referencing) knowing that not every device will be able to load every MetaFilter thread.

As Matt mentioned, it'd be nice to get a sense of how widespread this problem is. When we test epic threads locally with iPhone and Android phones and emulators, we don't experience crashes or problems participating. But we're definitely testing with a limited number of devices. And we're not testing out in the wild where connectivity can be limited. But it'd be nice to know that x browser on y device behaves in z way when threads get to n length. Then we can match that up with our site stats and say things like, "x number of users are probably having problems with y number of threads." That would give us a better sense of the scope of the problem and let us know if it's time to change some of the expectations on mobile.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Pages would load a lot faster if we just removed all vowels.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2014 [12 favorites]




While we're on the mobile interface, it'd be nice if there was some way to see tags. Tags don't have to be on by default, but some way to see them without switching to the desktop site would be useful, especially for overly clever posts where tags provide important context as to what they're actually about.

My other miniscule gripe about the mobile site is the 'tiny text before the first comment' bug, but that's a very minor issue.
posted by zamboni at 8:40 AM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Infinite scrolling could solve the issue by loading new comments and not maintaining earlier comments. We have the technology to show 100 comments at a time and never have more than that on the device. They just don't always have to be the same 100 comments.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


zamboni, what "tiny text" bug are you talking about?
posted by Night_owl at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2014


While we're on the mobile interface, it'd be nice if there was some way to see tags.

I think we may have brainstormed previously about the idea of some sort of small-footprint "show tags" link that could expand to a full tag list or tag widget; we could think some more about that, maybe as something to put under the body of the post in a thread, though I don't remember if there was any significant gotcha there that complicates things.

My other miniscule gripe about the mobile site is the 'tiny text before the first comment' bug, but that's a very minor issue.

Which with the what now?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:46 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Infinite scrolling could solve the issue...

It might solve one issue (unresponsive thread) but it introduces a few more issues. For example, if someone references a comment in the URL how do we handle it on mobile? Do we skip that feature? Do we jump to page three if the comment is on page three of the thread? It's an interesting idea but it introduces some problems. And are those problems worth introducing based on the scope of the existing problem? I think that's what we're trying to determine.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Infinite scrolling also requires a phone browser that supports JavaScript. Most of them do these days, but it would completely eliminate some devices from using MetaFilter at all. There probably aren't many of those around anymore, but how many are there compared to smart phones that can't load threads with over 200 comments? Getting to 100% on all devices is a great goal but it's also very difficult.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Infinite scrolling is horrible. Please never use it here.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2014 [38 favorites]


I do most of my surfing on a phone or tablet these days and I've never had performance issues. I also loathe infinite scrolling and show more and the like and hope you don't introduce pagination at all. I use a Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Note 8.0 and the default browser (just labelled "internet", not chrome or whatever). My (admittedly expensive) phone is just on two years old at this point and loads even huge threads just fine.

If you added something I could easily avoid or turn off while still using the mobile site then cool. But I wouldn't like to be forced on to the desktop view due to a fix to a problem I don't have.
posted by shelleycat at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


cortex: "My other miniscule gripe about the mobile site is the 'tiny text before the first comment' bug, but that's a very minor issue.
Which with the what now?"
Posts without a more inside or any comments do something funny on the mobile site with iOS Safari. On the post page (not the front page) the text of the post is tiny, as it had been formatted as small. As soon as a comment is made, it goes back to normal. It's been happening since at least iOS 4, and I just saw it recently on iOS 7.
posted by zamboni at 9:00 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the extra detail, zamboni. I've definitely seen mobile safari make odd choices with text sizes. This feels like a browser bug because we are setting a font size on that text. I'm not sure why the browser would want to display it smaller than the set size. I don't think there's a way to say, "no, really, use the size we set!" But I'll take a look and see if something looks off.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2014


I've never had a problem reading MetaFilter on my phone. I don't thing adding extra JS processing like infinite scrolling is going to speed things up at all, and I think it makes everything more awkward to use (except maybe huge photo galleries).

I think a way to see tags on mobile would be very nice. Occasionally I see references to the tags when I'm reading an article on my phone and am disappointed that there is no way to check them out.
posted by demiurge at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


To answer mathowie's question, the problem that I have is that my mobile phone is older - an iPhone 4 with 8GB capacity - and if I open a new window and go back to the previous window it reloads the entire thing (a known issue with low-memory iPhones).

Loading a monster thread takes forever on the phone, and scrolling through said thread with my thumb is a nightmare. If I forget to click a timestamp to "bookmark" my place before opening a new tab (sometimes I'll click on a username or on an outbound link or something in a big thread, for example), I have a lot of thumbing to do when I return. In my mind, the actual answer here is an easy bookmarking option (I could also use favorites for this I suppose but navigating favorites on the phone is also pretty annoying to me) and not pagination of long threads.

Alternatively, there is a way to "skip" to the bottom on the mobile... I wonder if there's a way to "skip" to the 200th comment that wouldn't be terrible on the interface? That might be really great. Sometimes I find myself going all the way to the bottom when I knew I was more than halfway through a big thread and reading the thing backwards which can be just... well, a bit goofy and disjointed.
posted by sockermom at 9:08 AM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


My suggestion:

Make any links that link to a specific comment only load the 10 or 20 comments above the linked comment, as well as the ones after. Replace the hidden comments with a link that says "show all comments."

This would help in the cases where people click "(x new)" or follow a link in their Recent Activity, without requiring changing the experience for everyone.
posted by smackfu at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd love a "skip to nth comment" ability!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Infinite scrolling in itself isn't horrible, but it shouldn't be used whenever there's important stuff pinned to the bottom of a page because then it becomes a pain in the ass to access said stuff. And since mobile versions of MeFi put a navigation menu at the bottom of the page, I don't think infinite scrolling would be a good fit for it.
posted by xbonesgt at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2014


Related issue, but every once and a while there's a post that will make all the text slightly wider than the mobile browser window (and my phone's screen), caused by someone having an unbroken string of characters. I'm pretty sure this is a known issue and pb has "fixed" it before by changing the offending post. It's not a huge deal, but is there a way to automate it? I'd rather not bother bug you guys every time it happens. If not, that's cool.
posted by ODiV at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2014


...is there a way to automate it?

Not without eventually breaking something in an even more conspicuous way. Go ahead and bug us! It doesn't come up that much and it's quick to fix. Humans can make a judgement about where the text should break and that works pretty well.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2014


A simple flag as 'display error' is usually enough to let us know about something like that.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:34 AM on June 13, 2014


Pages would load a lot faster if we just removed all vowels.
posted by shakespeherian


shksphrn hs t!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2014


Posts without a more inside or any comments do something funny on the mobile site with iOS Safari.

I noticed this the other day, and I couldn't figure out what was causing it, and then someone made a comment and the problem went away. Definitely a weird edge-case bug that only happens in iOS.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2014


So I think the consensus here is that everyone who accesses the site through a mobile device needs to go into cryogenic sleep until phones have more muscle. Which may result in a hilarious overshoot, Army of Darkness style, but it will totally be worth it.
posted by XMLicious at 9:52 AM on June 13, 2014


I realize you're joking, XMLicious, but I don't think there's a consensus. Some folks have said that epic threads are working fine on their phones. Some have said that epic threads are cumbersome to navigate. Some have said they have trouble loading the threads at all.

We want MetaFilter to work on mobile devices and I think it does for the most part. We're talking about how we might improve some mobile edge cases here. If it sounds like we're asking people to give up on using MetaFilter on their phones that's not our intention.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sockermom, I use the same phone for browsing, and if I am opening a new tab I click on the timestamp for the last comment I read, then when I go back to the thread and the page reloads, it jumps to that comment.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:07 AM on June 13, 2014


I think I found a way to work around that small text problem, zamboni. Thanks again for letting us know.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


I would just like to say that Metafilter provides the best mobile reading experience of any site I frequent. I often get frustrated on other sites because the text is too small or keeps shifting or whatever, and think, "Why can't they just be like Metafilter."
posted by visual mechanic at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is by far the best mobile site I read. In large part because it doesn't have any ridiculous cruft that slows down loading. The "skip to menu" link already jumps to the bottom of the thread - maybe that's a solution for people?
posted by stoneweaver at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


mathowie: "I'm also open to hearing more about how the existing setup causes problems in certain situations. Is it always with mobile? Is it older phones? Is it a particular OS and version? Is it a browser for mobile causing issues?"

Phone-wise, I surf mefi on an HTC Incredible II (ADR 6350) running Android 2.3.4. Older phone, older OS. I use firefox to surf mefi in part because the built in "Internet Browser" has focus issues when it comes to writing mefi comments, and also because loading >1000 comments at a time can cause weird crashes. Firefox seems to do okay but not great on threads >1000 comments. It does slow down, and on occasion will either freeze or crash. There's a weird salon.com and mefi-related error which comes up every once in a while where I'll try to load a large page, have the browser crash and then have to clear my cache and history in order to get anything other than a blank page when trying to load a specific url.

I always figured this was just an issue with trying to view a website on a mobile device. I don't have these issues on my Quanta tablet, but always use the desktop stylesheet.
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2014


I can't typically load comment threads over 100ish comments on my phone. But it is a 4-year-old Android with Virgin Mobile service, so, well...
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:09 AM on June 13, 2014


Also, since we're discussing the mobile stylesheet, would y'all possibly consider moving the "HTML help" link away from the upper left corner of the comment box? I often find I'm trying to click the cursor to before the first character at the beginning of the text in a comment box and click that link instead.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2014


This is by far the best mobile site I read. In large part because it doesn't have any ridiculous cruft that slows down loading. The "skip to menu" link already jumps to the bottom of the thread - maybe that's a solution for people?

What they said.

However, if for some reason, I end up in the middle of a longboat, getting to either the top or bottom requires basically infinite scrolling. Or, opening a new window. Neither are mind killers, or anything, but it seems sub-optimal. It'd be nice if maybe there were occasional links to top or bottom interspersed in comments. Or something.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt, sometimes phone browsers have built-in mechanisms for this. If you're on an iPhone you can tap the very top of the screen to scroll to the top. If you're on an Android, you can scroll a bit to get the address bar and then reload the page to start at the top again. Once you're at the top there's a 'skip to menu' link that will take you to the bottom.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:47 AM on June 13, 2014


pb: "I think I found a way to work around that small text problem, zamboni. Thanks again for letting us know."

Looks good- thanks, pb!
posted by zamboni at 11:56 AM on June 13, 2014


If you're on an Android, you can scroll a bit to get the address bar and then reload the page to start at the top again. Once you're at the top there's a 'skip to menu' link that will take you to the bottom

Except if you followed a comment link to the thread, then reloading takes you back to the comment in the middle somewhere. And that's generally how I end up deep in the bowels of a longboat anyway - the new comments link or following contact activity.

But yeah, once I get the address bar, I usually just open a new window and move on. Like I said, not a huge deal, but... sub-optimal, I think.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:15 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pagination would break the ability to search for text globally in a thread. Quite often, especially in the huge threads, when someone quotes a part of someone’s earlier comment (which could be hundreds back) I use search to see it in context or see other instances where people have quoted and commented on the text. I just did this on an iOS device this morning.
posted by D.C. at 12:18 PM on June 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


...but... sub-optimal, I think.

Yeah, absolutely. Though I think it's a problem with Android browsers in general—not just a MetaFilter problem. If you're willing to experiment with other browsers, Dolphin puts a little arrow in the lower-right as you scroll. If you tap that it takes you to the top.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:26 PM on June 13, 2014


I haven't had crashes on my phone, but if I don't have a ultra-high-speed connection, the long load times sure can be annoying on threads with hundreds of comments. As can the fact that the browser seems to reload the page from scratch every time I switch tabs.
posted by grouse at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2014


As a developer, I've never seen "infinite scrolling" implemented in a way that didn't just add more and more comments as you scrolled down. I suppose you could remove the previous ones as you went but it seems wonky at best.

The reason that solution works for a lot of sites is most people only want to see the newest stuff: If you have a list of photos, very few people want to see the oldest ones from years ago. The issue with MeFi is most people probably want to see the newest comments the most. So you'd have to end up reversing the page and loading the newest comments first which... would get hairy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:36 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


All the points you (mathowie) raise about the problems of pagination make sense to me. I have no insights as to how to a address any of them.
Since you (pb) asked: my tablet is a Nexus 7 running Android 4.4.2 and the browser is Chrome 30.something. My phone is a Nexus S running Android 4.1.2 and the native browser which is some sort of unnamed Google product. I recognize this makes me sound like an Android/Google freak but it just kind of happened.
I will check Dolphin out, since I don't like Chrome or the mystery browser. Thanks!
posted by gingerest at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2014


I'm also open to hearing more about how the existing setup causes problems in certain situations. Is it always with mobile? Is it older phones? Is it a particular OS and version? Is it a browser for mobile causing issues?

The truly large pages, like once it reaches past 300 comments cause an issue on every system i use except for my quad i7, 8gb of ram, SSD equipped macbook pro. At work i have a fairly decent, recent(as in, shipped with windows 7 pro i think even when windows 8 was an option) hp "pro" workstation with an SSD. It CHOKES. It stutters, it sputters. Sometimes it hangs for 4-5 seconds on these threads completely unresponsive.

As does my iphone 5, ipad 3, dell windows 8 tablet, and anything else i regularly use. I realize none of this is state of the art stuff, but it's all stuff that is still more than serviceable and generally deals with web browsing and everything else i do great.

I do the "tap a comment to make a url that keeps my place" thing, but i really wish we could just have at least the option of multiple pages for comments. I hate the tumblr/other sites style "scroll down and it loads more" infinite-scroll thing since if you leave and come back then you have to fight the stupid script however many times to find your place. I also, however, get really annoyed with loading an enormous page with all the lag it entails and then waiting to see if it's going to sucessfully jump back to the comment tagged in the URL.

I really wish there was just a "view X number of comments per page" drop down box. I think my phone would do best with maybe, 200? it's only the REALLY huge threads that cause problems. The isla vista shooter thread made my phone scroll like i was browsing it on a pentium 2 running windows 2000 with 64mb of ram.

PB, i hear what you're saying, but we're only 6 months into the year. Even if you only count 500 and 1000 comment threads, that's minimum 3 threads a month. And they're generally popular for at least a week, if not more. In addition, it's the threads over 300-400 comments that really start to cause a problem and i'd wager there's really more like 30, or possibly even more of those when you add in some of the higher ones from the "over 200" category.

I just really wish there was a solution here that wasn't "buy more hardware". I realize a quad core phone with 3gb of ram would probably glide through this, but this is the only since i can think of with endless comment pages like this that doesn't have some kind of "show 50 comments" or whatever drop down box.
posted by emptythought at 2:56 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there any way that this issue could be addressed with separate RSS feeds of the comments in each individual thread (non-threaded comments being an advantage there...) and a form page for posting a comment? I have no idea how mobile devices deal with RSS feeds normally or what software is available.
posted by XMLicious at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2014


Sorry you're having so much trouble with the site, emptythought. I am surprised to hear that MetaFilter isn't running well on a fairly new Windows machine when threads are at 200 comments—that isn't good. I don't think that's a typical experience, but maybe this problem is more widespread than I understand.

The ability to link to a specific comment breaks when you add paging. That's one of the biggest issues here. It sounds like you'd be willing to give up that feature to have paging, but I don't think we're at the point where we're willing to do that for everyone. Adding paging is not simple with the way MetaFilter works and the expectations that people have for how it works. I understand you're frustrated, but I hope you also understand that it's not simply a matter of adding a drop down box.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2014


The ability to link to a specific comment breaks when you add paging.

Sincere question - how do other sites handle this? Almost every discussion site I can think of offers both permalinks and user preferences for the number of comments displayed per page (e.g. reddit, most if not all forum websites, etc). Is this somehow a result of the lack of threading in our discussions, or is there some other technical reason I'm missing?
posted by dialetheia at 3:40 PM on June 13, 2014


Reddit puts every individual comment on its own page. So you can link directly to a specific comment but it will be out of the context of the conversation.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:43 PM on June 13, 2014


They also have options for how much of the conversational context you want to view, but now that I think about it, that context is entirely determined by the threading position (parent/children comments), which would indeed be super tough here.

I'll just add that I've had the same problems with longboat threads (>~300 comments) in multiple browsers on a modern windows 8 machine. I find that it's a lot worse if I've repeatedly used the "show new comment" function a bunch of times in a row without fully reloading the thread - is that a complication for you too, emptythought? Do you get the same behavior on a full thread refresh, vs. after using "show more comments" a bunch of times?
posted by dialetheia at 3:51 PM on June 13, 2014


vBulletin forums allow you to have comment permalinks afaik. It just takes you directly to the specific comment within the thread.
posted by ODiV at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2014


I have an s3 and have no problems loading big-ass pages on my phone - however, it is a total pain to do it when I'm not on wifi, sometimes slow and always annoying.
posted by smoke at 3:57 PM on June 13, 2014


For what it's worth, I don't think you have to break comment linking to do dynamic/infinite pagination. I think you could layer pagination on top of the comment linking system as-is so that the two could interoperate seamlessly. The scheme is fairly straightforward: if no comment link is present, load the first n comments. If a comment link is present load it and the next n-1 comments. The "more comments" link is just a direct link to the next comment, effectively turning the comment anchor link into a means of persisting state for the pagination system. You'd need to special case deleted comments and maybe a few other things like that, of course. I suspect that there's a fair amount of overlap with whatever runs the new comment notification feature (unless that is coming from a script and I forgot about it?). The fallback to support scriptless scenarios is paging as-is.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:58 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Note that I'm talking about a mobile situation there. I'd hate to see the main site go that way.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2014


Sorry you're having so much trouble with the site, emptythought. I am surprised to hear that MetaFilter isn't running well on a fairly new Windows machine when threads are at 200 comments—that isn't good. I don't think that's a typical experience, but maybe this problem is more widespread than I understand.

To be fair, i just looked at it has 2gb of ram(!). I distinctly remember ordering more ram for this machine at some point but...?

Still, that's not some completely garbage amount. Especially on a text-only site.

As for linking to comments, why not just have something that parses the commentid, figures out what page that would be on, then loads that page? Maybe with that little "lol you were typing some text sure you wanna leave?" popup some sites have, if you'd been writing a comment.

I'd also accept it trying to pop out that other page in a new window, but i recognize that on a lot of mobile devices opening a second tab can cause the first tab to nuke... so hmm.

I'm still kind of at a loss as to what it is about this site that causes so many issues though. Really scripty/image/content intense sites like the slickdeals front page load perfectly fine on all these machines. but a big mefi thread chokes?

I think i'm going to dig more in to ram usage and stuff and see if i can find anything insightful. I think that somewhere in the days we've traversed since say, firefox 0.8/ye olde webkit and now some kind of path was taken to optimize for that sort of content that made rendering out gigantic pages of mostly text like the threads here somehow gobble down resources.
posted by emptythought at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2014


Ugh. I know some other people have, but I've never had trouble reading Metafilter on my phone, and quite like things the way they are. If you do implement pagination, I'll end up asking for a way to turn it off and go back to the current staus quo as my pony.
posted by JiBB at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


My laptop is a three year old dual core i5 with 4 gig of ram and it's fine on any size thread. I use Firefox and don't run any extensions or whatever. My internet connection is OK but not great so pages (any pages) can take a second or two to load but no more. I don't know why it all works OK for me and not others.
posted by shelleycat at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, my laptop runs Windows 7 if that's relevant.
posted by shelleycat at 4:05 PM on June 13, 2014


i also just remembered, amusingly, that the only problems i have are on windows or iOS. my seven year old imac plowed through the isla vista thread perfectly fine. go figure.
posted by emptythought at 4:13 PM on June 13, 2014


I just loaded up (and scrolled around) that 900+ comment MeTa thread on a variety of my old/cheap/slow devices and had no problems on a 7" Galaxy Tab 2, 10.1" Galaxy Tab 2, cheap Chinese knockoff Galaxy S4 and a Samsung Galaxy Wonder. All were loaded with the standard 'internet' browser. This makes me think it is something other than a processing problem causing the slow ups.

I did, however, realize that getting trapped mid-thread on a mobile browser is a real hassle. I usually avoid threads with tons of comments because they almost always seem to involve lots of grar, but it would definitely be nice to have a better way to navigate.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:13 PM on June 13, 2014


The logistics of handling long threads is an issue as old as 1142, and I haven't found any other site find a way to handle them better... but then, almost every other site is either embarrassed by its comments or should be.

I recently traded up from a 4GB Windows 7 machine to a 8GB Windows 7 machine and noticed an improvement in performance all over, including MeFi MegaThreads. Still, on my old machine, even with more memory than emptythought's old machine, "hangs for 4-5 seconds on these threads completely unresponsive" wasn't that a big deal. I must've spent long enough in the 'dial-up age' to appreciate any performance faster than my old tortoise Terrance.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2014


The only thing that has ever made my phone choke is the script that loads new comments. But you can turn that off in preferences. I think that's the "fast moving" piece that may be contributing.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:22 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


mathowie: The problem is after you hit it 5 or 6 times, you'd still have the same memory/performance problems as simply loading a 1200 comment thread on a phone, right?

drjimmy11: As a developer, I've never seen "infinite scrolling" implemented in a way that didn't just add more and more comments as you scrolled down. I suppose you could remove the previous ones as you went but it seems wonky at best.

Web visualizations with tons of data do this all the time. As you change the range of data being observed, you replace or remove HTML/SVG elements representing data that is now not in the current range.

All iOS table views work the same way. As you scroll, cells that are no longer in view are recycled to contain content that corresponds to the cells that are in view.

The Netflix web UI at one point actually went to great lengths to never create new DOM elements for the sake of terrible TV web browsers and browsers on platforms like PS3 or the Wii that could handle that. It followed a similar scheme.

This is not to say it's easy to do on this site; just a point of information.

There is also that chance that if you wait long enough Mobile Safari itself will quietlly do this automatically with DOM elements someday.
posted by ignignokt at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2014


(On my phone, where typing at mefi is harder than reading it)

1. Thank heavens for "skip to menu".

2. Alternative solution to the "lose my place on reload" problem: URL hash change on scrolldown, to give more hints to mobile browsers.

3. Alternative solution 2: show occasional "comment x" way posts / anchors to aid in recall.

4. Echoing infinite comments is the pits for metafilter.
posted by gregglind at 4:52 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have an s3, run Opera, and find things get hard to deal with at about 300 comments.

Also the menu at the end is in this huge font, much bigger than anything else on the site.
posted by jeather at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2014


pb: "Sorry you're having so much trouble with the site, emptythought. I am surprised to hear that MetaFilter isn't running well on a fairly new Windows machine when threads are at 200 comments—that isn't good. I don't think that's a typical experience, but maybe this problem is more widespread than I understand."

As a counter example my eight year old, middle of the road at the time, Vista laptop with 2GB of shared RAM doesn't have any problem with posts up to about 2000 comments. After that it can take a second or two to completely load a powt. But I also run a few greasemonkey scripts for the site and I usually have 50-100 other tabs open as well. I do have an SSD though.

This seems like it's a problem that the site will Moore's law out of as the rate of thread growth isn't anywhere near as great as the pace hardware is improving.
posted by Mitheral at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2014


Everything sockermom said but especially this:

Alternatively, there is a way to "skip" to the bottom on the mobile... I wonder if there's a way to "skip" to the 200th comment that wouldn't be terrible on the interface? That might be really great.
posted by billiebee at 5:20 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I have a surface and a nexus 5 and have been following the 1000 comment meta with zero issue. (other than scrolling a Lot with my now sore thumb)

I'm echoing others. Any feature like this would need a disable option for me!

Maybe this would be possible in the metafilter Android app? (ahem)
posted by chasles at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2014


Pages would load a lot faster if we just removed all vowels.

Gd thght, bt thr mght b sm dsdvntgs t t.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:15 PM on June 13, 2014


I'm another regular mobile device user that hasn't had any issue loading long pages here. I played in the world-record alphabet thread on an iPad 3 (using Safari) without any issues at all and regularly read long threads on that device in Safari and Chrome and an iPhone 5s on Chrome with no real drama apart from an unusually muscular thumb, which will probably be useful come the zombie apocalypse for digging out eyeballs. I do come across that annoying constant reloading of the page sometimes, but I find closing other applications makes that a lot better and that happens with all sites anyway and is not specific to MeFi.

Pagination would, in my view, fundamentally change the expected behaviour here, being to participate after reading all the comments. I wouldn't like to see anything change that lowers the barrier to participation that much - it's definitely a feature, not a bug.
posted by dg at 7:21 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


God thought, bite thoreau might oboe sumo disadvantageous eat too

Really? I think no vowels is a great idea.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:46 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


shelleycat: "If you added something I could easily avoid or turn off while still using the mobile site then cool. But I wouldn't like to be forced on to the desktop view due to a fix to a problem I don't have."

chasles: "Any feature like this would need a disable option for me!"

As the OP I want to underscore the point that I didn't and wouldn't ask about a change that wasn't optional (i.e. opt-in through Preferences).
posted by gingerest at 8:09 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is a pony where per-browser preferences in local cookies are going to be very helpful.
posted by immlass at 9:07 PM on June 13, 2014


An infinite list scroll can be implemented in such a way as to work with a fixed memory size and recycle the data structures used to show the visible cells. IIRC this is actually built into angular.js.
posted by humanfont at 9:14 PM on June 13, 2014


Just chiming in as another almost exclusive mobile user here. Never had problems with long threads on either a Galaxy S3 or Droid Razr. In contrast, on sites with "load more comments" I seem to always be losing my place. And I'm one of those people who wants the "printer friendly" long page rather than having to click multiple times to read everything, so I personally prefer it how it is.

If you'll excuse a slight derail, my greatest mobile challenge is adding favorites. I miss the (+) and find myself on the list of users who favorited the comment. (My subconscious thinks that hitting the (!) automatically flags the comment and errs to the left.) I've long wondered if it would be hard to add the option to favorite a comment from that page, like this:
1 user marked this as a favorite:

so and so user June 13, 2014 8:41 PM

Mark this comment as favorite

Return to comment
Being able to easily mark it from that page would stop the repeated attempts I sometimes will make if, say, I'm on transit surfing one handed and not easily able to zoom in.
posted by salvia at 9:45 PM on June 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


I hate infinite scrolling with a passion - it's annoying, mystery navigation, and it breaks the page metaphor just to be clever. For example, I often look at the vertical scrollbar to see how many comments are left, as well as checking the overall size of the thread by comparing the slider length to the window size. This is super usefull for example in deciding wether to reply to a specific comment - if it's at the top of a long thread, chances are the discussion has moved on by now.

I am not very hot on pagination either (never really encountered any performance issues, even on crappy/limited hardware) but it could possibly be made to work. Something like the approach suggested by feloniousmonk might be a good way to go about it, changing comment IDs from straight anchors to query parameters.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:31 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I use a model MC008LL ipod for MeFi. IOW, probably one of the oldest handheld touch devices accessing MeFi. It only starts having issues with the very, very longest threads.

Just a data point, worth no more than this decrepit ipod.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 PM on June 13, 2014


For any Android Firefox users out there having issues with long threads, the Three Finger Swipe add-on has made my megathread browsing so much better. You can set what each swipe direction does, so I made swipe up jump to the bottom of the page and swipe down jump to the top.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:46 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


My work around for very long pages when I want to jump about midway or so is to use the search on page in Safari iOS to find a word I know is near there. Or to go through my favourites and click on an earlier comment in that thread that I had favourited.

One more question - my ipad mini recently set metafilter to the desktop version and I cannot figure out how to go to the mobile format. Is there a link to reset it to mobile only or a url or have I just buggered up somehow? It's super annoying because while the iPad is a bigger screen, the mobile format is still much easier to browse than the desktop.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:09 AM on June 14, 2014


It's a url: http://mobile.metafilter.com/
posted by gingerest at 3:04 AM on June 14, 2014


Just a data point, worth no more than this decrepit ipod.

Ah, so putting in your 2¢ worth.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:41 AM on June 14, 2014


My iPhone and ipad are both about a year old and both get iffy somewhere past the 200 comment mark. Sometimes it's fast and smooth, but other times it chokes and typing turns into a hit the letter, wait, letter appears, hit the next letter, wait....

I'm sure connection speed plays into that as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:01 AM on June 14, 2014


I think it's a problem with Android browsers in general—not just a MetaFilter problem. If you're willing to experiment with other browsers, Dolphin puts a little arrow in the lower-right as you scroll. If you tap that it takes you to the top.

A Metafilter thread is pretty much a browser's plain vanilla simplest possible use case: one HTML page with only text on it. The most enormous MeFi thread ever collectively written requires less data transfer than a typical Google Images search. If your browser can't deal with that, it's not MeFi that's broken, it's your browser: get a better one.

Dolphin is the least unpleasant touchscreen device browser I've used so far.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 AM on June 14, 2014


I have the opposite request-- can we get a skip button on the desktop site?
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on June 14, 2014


Count me as -1 for infinite scrolling because it breaks searching for text within a page. (It seems like most web developers have forgotten that people still do that)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2014


I'm getting a "this page is still loading please wait" error when I try to favourite comments. I'm using the dolphin browser on Android.
posted by knapah at 11:02 AM on June 14, 2014


can we get a skip button on the desktop site?

Other than the 'End' button on your keyboard?
posted by stopgap at 11:49 AM on June 14, 2014


It sounds like a necessary background file isn't loading for you, knapah. Adding favorites is checking out ok for me in Dolphin. Try restarting the browser—that should force it to try fetching all files again. If you're still having trouble, send me MeFi Mail and I'll help you troubleshoot a bit more.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:01 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nth-ing that a solution to jumping down/up x number of comments at a time would be great on mobile.
posted by NikitaNikita at 3:45 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


What about a drop-down field button at the top that took you to automatically-generated anchors - jump to 50 comments - and only appeared when the comments were over 150 as that's where people are reporting difficulties. You could put anchors every 25-50 comments so a long thread would have about six plus jump in points.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2014


I have this problem with the in-built browser on HTV (I don't know what kind but it's an older one). My browser keeps telling me that it needs to restart the process.

The inbuilt browser is shitty anyway, but it's especially buggy on long Mefi threads in ways that it's not with other longform sites. I also find it frustratingly difficult to comment on Mefi on my phone because the text box keeps refreshing itself, and it eats my battery like crazy.

Also on my Asus Transformer TF3000 tablet with Android I find Dolphin to be less reliable than Chrome for loading anything, including Mefi. Dolphin won't let you go straight to a specific comment even if you have a link to it and sometimes pages just don't work at all.

Seconding that this could possibly be useful for a standalone Mefi app.
posted by divabat at 4:38 PM on June 14, 2014


*bah, HTC!
posted by divabat at 5:10 PM on June 14, 2014


Seconding that this could possibly be useful for a standalone Mefi app.

You know, I'd pay for a Mefi app. Maybe with notifications for watched threads and memail?
posted by jason_steakums at 12:00 AM on June 15, 2014


The mefi mobile site is by far the best mobile site I use. "Skip to Menu" is such a useful feature that I'd like to see it on full version of the site, especially since apple scrollbars are pretty much useless these days...
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


As does my iphone 5, ipad 3, dell windows 8 tablet, and anything else i regularly use.

This surprises me. I browse mefi on my iPhone 5 all the time, including long threads, and I've never noticed any problems at all like the ones being described here. I don't know what would account for the difference, but I wanted to add another data point...
posted by primethyme at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2014


I think HTML5 might solve one of the navigation issues. You may be able to use window.history.pushState() to update the anchor of the current page when infinitely scrolling, if each newly-exposed comment calls it in turn. Leaving and then navigating back would presumably bring you back to the 'breadcrumb' that pushState() set. You could use jQuery's appear()/disappear() callbacks to that end. You could expose comment IDs as API endpoints and load them dynamically to avoid chunking (i.e. pagination per se) calculations on the server side. Then reimplement the site in Erlang so you can scale horizontally in the cloud with elastic reflection just in time web-scale big data oh dear I broke my brain.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:10 PM on June 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The mefi mobile site is by far the best mobile site I use. "Skip to Menu" is such a useful feature that I'd like to see it on full version of the site, especially since apple scrollbars are pretty much useless these days...

I assume you are not using an extended keyboard with obvious home/end/page-up/page-down keys. If you are using an Apple laptop or the wireless keyboard:

fn + left arrow = home
fn + right arrow = end
fn + up arrow = page up
fn + down arrow = page down

The trackpad also has multi-finger swipes for home/end available within System Preferences – on mine, three-finger swipe up or down when “Swipe to Navigate” is selected.
posted by D.C. at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


And D.C. has blowed my mind. Thanks!!
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:14 AM on June 17, 2014


BTW for iPod and iPhone users, there is a hack for jumping to the bottom of a page - see Jimmer07's solution here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2303020
posted by Kiwi at 3:15 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


BTW for iPod and iPhone users, there is a hack for jumping to the bottom of a page

It works on iPad too. Thanks, Kiwi! I didn't know about double-tap at the top of the screen to jump to the top of the page either.
posted by grouse at 5:42 AM on June 18, 2014


I'll just add that I've had the same problems with longboat threads (>~300 comments) in multiple browsers on a modern windows 8 machine.

If we get rid of the longboats, we'll no longer be Vikings, and that's unacceptable.

Anyway, big threads on my iPhone 5 do ok in Dolphin, but lately Mercury seems to handle them better (plus it has a real scrollbar). Never any issues on desktop browsers. But navigating long threads on mobile does tend to get tricky after a while. If my connection isn't great this can result in pages hanging on reload or in commenting (which results in a page reload after posting).

Please don't ever implement endless scrolling. Pagination navigation tends to be very fiddly in most mobile browsers and often sacrifices usability, but it's workable. Endless scrolling is like a hall of mirrors where you appear to be moving but you keep seeing the same place where you began over and over. It's like the purgatory of discussion navigation.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:02 AM on June 19, 2014


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