Bug and bad UI in 'blank link' detector August 8, 2016 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Error: Your post contains a blank link. Please check your HTML for a a href= or a href="http://" tag and remove it or add a full URL., O rilly? Do tell me more!

I've had this error a few times now on creating new posts, and I think it could be better behaved. I wonder if others have had a similar experience, or have thoughts on making error detection and correction easier.

It's not always correct in its diagnosis, which I think qualifies as yer actual bug - on my latest post, I had no blank links but had managed to mangle the closing quotes on two anchor URLs, so I spent some time looking for a problem that wasn't there and missing the ones that were. Plus, the links rendered correctly in the preview, which ambiguity further bewildered,

This problem is compounded by what isn't a bug but is painful UI: there is no help in finding where the error is in the text, leaving inspection by eye the only option, Not an easy task with densely packed or complex URLs. Plus, because the extended description input field is windowed, there's a good chance in a longer post that the error is off-screen, meaning even Ctrl-F won't help without a lot of precision paging, or cutting and pasting to an external editor. (mutter mumble 1980s C compilers mutter IDEs mumble)

Any number of things would improve this - a more accurate error message, a form of highlighting or pointer to the location of the error, or even just a way of displaying the whole extended description input text at once, not in a window.

(Related pony request - 'one of your links has been used previously' takes you to that post but does not say which link it is. This happened to me with a post with a huge list of links, and it was not apparent from their descriptions which one I'd duplicated, Why you tease me, computer, why?)
posted by Devonian to Bugs at 8:49 AM (20 comments total)

The link checking is really quick and dirty – expanding and improving it would be admittedly worthwhile, but a bit of an undertaking. The situation you describe, though, is incredibly frustrating, so I've tried to improve the UI as best I can without digging in and making major changes, namely: I've added some text to the error message to try and give an indication of what link has problems.

As to the related pony request, it's a very good point, but will take a little longer to get working. For now, I've added it to my list of things to look at, but can't promise a fix overnight.
posted by frimble (staff) at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


What frimble said!

A really thorough overhaul of that error detection/reporting UI isn't something we're putting on the schedule any time soon, since it'd be a significant chunk of work and we have other stuff already waiting to be done, but hopefully that tweak will make locating an error a little easier. Beyond that, detective and repair work will basically remain the responsibility of the poster.

The double-specifying pony is a good point and hopefully not too tricky to add a little extra verbosity too, yeah. We'll see what frimble finds.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:01 AM on August 8, 2016


"We'll See What Frimble Finds"

Title of my next children's book.
posted by HuronBob at 10:35 AM on August 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


I've never gotten this error message. Otoh, I second the need for better "double finding" - recently had a whole series of posts deleted - maybe tags in addition to the links might be valuable to offer the OP to scan "just in case"? A helpful reminder type of thing, sort of like how AskMe offers other questions in case you find an answer.

Especially if article has different URL but its the same topic or theme or even article already FPP'd
posted by infini at 1:44 PM on August 8, 2016


Thanks! I realise it's not going to be a high priority, as it will occur infrequently and be a real problem even less pften.. It also disproportionately impacts those who don't have great eyesight, like yrs truly, so there's a bit of snowllaking on my part.

Even the 'somewhere around' addition is most welcome, and I'm happy this small corner of teh ugly is on a buglist somewhere to help you fill in those long hours of idleness when everything else is shiny and perfect, which as we all know is the natural state of complicated, decades-plus old code...
posted by Devonian at 2:04 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've never gotten this error message. Otoh, I second the need for better "double finding" - recently had a whole series of posts deleted - maybe tags in addition to the links might be valuable to offer the OP to scan "just in case"?

Double-detection for posts using entirely different links is basically a wholly different problem than finding identical/similar links; doing a url search on the server side is something we can do fairly reliably, quickly, and automatically without having to develop any complicated heuristics. Tag comparison is likely to be extremely porous and to turn up a lot of false positives and thus create confusing extra work for the poster.

So beyond straight link checking I think looking for previous posts on a subject will just have to remain part of the post construction process: if you're concerned, do a bit of searching first, then put the post together after if nothing turns up.

Still totally possible to get unlucky and miss something that way, so I sympathize there, but as much as it's a bit of a bummer to get a post deleted it's not something that anyone is going to look poorly on, especially for reasons as nominal as doublehood.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


My artistic nature craves perfection.



yeah, okay, thank you for the explanation... I thought it'd be as easy as picking up the tags i.e. here's stuff that tags what you did --->link click through just like search results
posted by infini at 2:18 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cut-and-pasted curly quotes that don't look curly are the usual problem I have.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:24 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've never gotten this error message.

When a post has 100 or more links, seeing that message gives a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of one's stomach.

I've asked friends on twitter to help me spot broken links once or twice on posts like that, when they weren't immediately obvious.
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on August 8, 2016


I tend to mispaste URLs more than leave them blank. that's another horrible thing in a multi link post
posted by infini at 3:06 PM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


This may be impossible with current technology, but anything that makes post-composition easier on a handheld device would be great.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:53 PM on August 8, 2016


I've now updated the post preview a little bit in order to show which threads contain what link.

Here's a screenshot, or try previewing a post with a URL you know has been used before. I've tested it, but things might still be strange. If so, please let me know.
posted by frimble (staff) at 9:33 AM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK - I'm getting somewhat confusing results from this on a test post on preview.

I picked a couple of recent (< last week) links for inclusion in the body text, but got a "Error: You don't seem to have a link in your post. If you want to post a question, try Ask MetaFilter instead." thrown on preview.

I then added a much older link, and got the 'One of the links you entered was found in 1 previous thread. ', as per the screenshot above - bu still got the 'you don't seem to have a link' error as well.

Again, all three links were rendered correctly in preview.

Is there a caching issue? That wouldn't explain the 'you have a dupe link' and the 'you have no links' simultaneous errors though...

The links I used (picked at random from threads to hand)

https://shop.hillaryclinton.com/products/jenn-visocky-o-grady - recent link, not spotted by preview
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloan_(band)#Discography - recent link, not spotted by preview
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098802/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_69 - link from Feb thread, flagged by dupe checker

I'll leave the test post open here in case it helps.
posted by Devonian at 6:58 AM on August 11, 2016


Thanks. I'll take a look shortly.
posted by frimble (staff) at 9:28 AM on August 11, 2016


Just to follow up - I'm on my phone at the moment and can't check thoroughly, but when I search for your first two links in the site search, I come up with no results, either in posts or comments.

Is that also the case for you? Could you add links to the posts in which they appear, please? Thanks.
posted by frimble (staff) at 9:40 AM on August 11, 2016


Now that I'm home and can take a better look, I have explanations:

https://shop.hillaryclinton.com/products/jenn-visocky-o-grady was in a comment rather than a post, and comments are not and were never searched for duplicate links.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloan_(band)#Discography I can't find anywhere.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098802/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_69 was in a post and thus flagged.

As to the 'Error: You don't seem to have a link in your post. If you want to post a question, try Ask MetaFilter instead.' message, that was because in your test post (thank you, BTW, for leaving the draft open so that I could take a look) there were no links in the description, only in the extended description.

Does that clear things up? Am I still missing something?
posted by frimble (staff) at 11:00 AM on August 11, 2016


Ah, OK - that's odd, I absolutely seem to remember getting a 'duplicate link' error on comment links. Obviously not. Sorry about that.

Also, I didn't realise that the description had to have one link or more if there was an extended description too.

So PEBCAK applies. Thanks!
posted by Devonian at 11:02 AM on August 11, 2016


Huh. Odd that the Sloan link isn't turning up at all in a site search. I've added that to my ‽ pile.
posted by frimble (staff) at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2016


Related bug report:

I have two links to pages on deathpenaltyinfo.org in a post I'm currently working on. When I previewed, this happened:
Some of the links you entered were found in 12 previous threads.

deathpenaltyinfo.org/ (24)
Foster v. Chatman (May 23, 2016)
Still Boston strong (April 9, 2015)
"A system that serves no penological purpose... is unconstitutional." (July 16, 2014)
State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma (May 1, 2014)
Prop 34 (November 4, 2012)
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history": Illinois abolishes the death penalty (March 9, 2011)
Dark days for the death penalty (March 15, 2007)
Another spineless Democrat (October 15, 2005)
Cruel and unusual? (April 15, 2005)
The Serial Killer Who Hugged Me (April 4, 2005)
Supreme Court declares Juvenile Death Penalty unconstitutional! (March 1, 2005)
botched executions: (May 13, 2001)
Foster v. Chatman (May 23, 2016)
Still Boston strong (April 9, 2015)
"A system that serves no penological purpose... is unconstitutional." (July 16, 2014)
State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma (May 1, 2014)
Prop 34 (November 4, 2012)
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history": Illinois abolishes the death penalty (March 9, 2011)
Dark days for the death penalty (March 15, 2007)
Another spineless Democrat (October 15, 2005)
Cruel and unusual? (April 15, 2005)
The Serial Killer Who Hugged Me (April 4, 2005)
Supreme Court declares Juvenile Death Penalty unconstitutional! (March 1, 2005)
botched executions: (May 13, 2001)

deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty (1)
Prop 34 (November 4, 2012)
It lists all 12 threads twice in the first section.
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on August 25, 2016


Aw hell. I'm an idiot. I listed the same URL twice in the post by accident. Please disregard.
posted by zarq at 12:33 PM on August 25, 2016


« Older Olympics on FanFare   |   Amazon links for other countries? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments