'My Comments' page rolled out! August 18, 2005 10:41 AM   Subscribe

The My Comments page is up and ready for testing. It scours the comment databases to find all the comments you've left in the past 7 days, then shows you the thread you left them in, along with the comments that followed yours, up to the last ten comments. I've been using it for the past hour or so and it's great for keeping up on threads I left comments in days ago.

I'll clean up the layout and look eventually, but for now, it's the companion to the My Posts page, and I'm open to feedback or any problems you find. The URL will stay there, so feel free to bookmark both.
posted by mathowie to Feature Requests at 10:41 AM (71 comments total)

Props for the "35 minutes ago" style of dates and times.
posted by grouse at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2005


Wonderful!
posted by odinsdream at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2005


Though I'd add that it would be nice, for those cases where there have been enough comments after yours that yours is no longer listed, to still show your comment.

So, you'd have the text of the post on the left, like you already do, but immediately to the right of it, first item in the comment list would be the last comment you left in that thread. I'd suggest putting it in a slightly different background color, just a darker or lighter shade of the rest of the page. Then, immediately below that, you post the last 10 comments in the thread, like you're already doing.
posted by odinsdream at 10:51 AM on August 18, 2005


THIS.
IS.
AWESOME.
MATT.
posted by Plutor at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2005


Also, er. a little bit of wonkery with the margins, currently showing on my own My Comments page. If the list of comments is shorter than the text of the post (in the left margin), then that text flows right past the comment list, beyond the left margin, spanning the whole screen. Something with the CSS float, I'm sure...
posted by odinsdream at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2005


"You have not commented on any items in the past 7 days... you need more MeFi in your life."

True. So true.
posted by karmaville at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2005


fannnnnnnnntastic
posted by papercake at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2005


yeah, the css layout will change so the columns are more stable, and I'm considering putting usernames below comments to be more like comment pages, as well as putting background colors behind each link + comments to mimic the site section it came from (gray background for metatalk, etc).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2005


What Plutor said (one can even see comment totals for metatalk threads).
posted by If I Had An Anus at 11:00 AM on August 18, 2005


Ponys, because I'm never happy:

It's 30 screenviews long with no navigation. Maybe list all the post titles at the top with anchors to down below?

Just because I commented on something doesn't mean I still care about the discussion. For instance: "86 total comments. 76 since your most recent comment, last 10 shown below...". Don't know how to solve this without implementing a proper subscription system that allows me to unsubscribe.

I think it's much more useful for Ask posts and I wish I could limit it to that.
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2005


i like it.
posted by fishfucker at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2005


I'd like to second odinsdream's suggestion to always show your comment, regardless of whether it's one of the last 10.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:18 AM on August 18, 2005


I like it. I can tell I'm going to find it very useful. Thank you, Matt.

Thinking of how to solve the weirdness of: "86 total comments. 76 since your most recent comment, last 10 shown below...". Could there be something you click on that takes you directly to your last comment in the thread? Like perhaps when clicking on the title of the post, could it take us to the anchor for our most recent comment - that way it's easier to follow the discussion since we last comment, instead of starting at the beginning of a thread again and searching for our comment.
posted by raedyn at 11:29 AM on August 18, 2005


Looks pretty. Real pretty.

What's great about this is that it'll allow me to keep an eye on all the news posts I've made contentious comments in. I used to get bored with the argumentative posts as soon as they got difficult to find. Now, nobody's going to be able to get the last word on me.

It's a good move forward. Making Metafilter more about the comments and less about the posts.
posted by seanyboy at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2005


I'm getting some weirdness on posts to the blue. The linked text at the beginning of an FPP is not displayed, and the link shows up in the "description" text. For example, it looks like this:

in a St. (MetaFilter)
in a St. Louis Schnuck's parking lot in 1996 or 1997.

rather than like this:

"I found an abandoned grocery list in a St. Louis Schnuck's parking lot in 1996 or 1997.
posted by grateful at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2005


It's a good move forward. Making Metafilter more about the comments and less about the posts.

Should that have had sarcasm tags?
posted by If I Had An Anus at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2005


smackfu: "It's 30 screenviews long with no navigation. Maybe list all the post titles at the top with anchors to down below?"

Maybe you just need to comment less? Let this be a lesson!
posted by Plutor at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2005


Thanks Matt. I agree with the desire to see our own last comment.
posted by peacay at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2005


You get someone to recode parts of the site to make it more efficient and robust, and then you yourself add features like this. :)

Seriously, I advise that you watch how people are using this, and then (if heavily used enough to matter) switch from a dynamic on-demand creation of the page for each user to a dynamic scheduled creation of the page.

A good rule of thumb is that the majority of real-time dynamic data generation for web stuff doesn't need to be on-demand.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2005


EB: I'm guessing that you're not a programmer.
posted by seanyboy at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2005


One more for keeping your last comment visible no matter what.

One more for username below comment.
posted by cortex at 12:03 PM on August 18, 2005


(also this is totally awesome)
posted by cortex at 12:03 PM on August 18, 2005


Ethereal Bligh: How would generating these pages (you know, all ~20,000 of them) every {hour|15 minutes|day?} be any more efficient than generating each on-demand and caching that copy (like matt is already doing)?
posted by odinsdream at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2005


Yeah, this is incredibly cool, and might actually help askmefi a lot since people are more likely to revisit questions they commented in and see if there were followups or additional questions posted.

It does need some interface tweakage but I'll leave that to the experts.

Thanks, Matt!
posted by selfnoise at 12:16 PM on August 18, 2005


I'm getting some weirdness on posts to the blue. The linked text at the beginning of an FPP is not displayed, and the link shows up in the "description" text. For example, it looks like this:

Yeah, it's not pulling in the title tag and it's stripping out the first link. I'll fix it up in the next day or two.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:35 PM on August 18, 2005


sweet!
posted by Aknaton at 12:42 PM on August 18, 2005


V. cool, Matt. Thanks!
posted by gleuschk at 12:53 PM on August 18, 2005


Mkay. Thanks, Matt
posted by grateful at 12:55 PM on August 18, 2005


Nice. I'm pretty sure I've gotten my 5 bucks worth. Please don't make any more improvements or I'll feel obligated to send more.
posted by hellbient at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2005


Love this. Thanks, Matt!
posted by Frisbee Girl at 1:05 PM on August 18, 2005


Very cool.
posted by dejah420 at 2:02 PM on August 18, 2005


Whicked pissah.
posted by 27 at 2:12 PM on August 18, 2005


This is the best pony you have gifted us in a long time. Nice work.
posted by caddis at 2:21 PM on August 18, 2005


I wonder if this feature will keep people commenting in threads for a week more often instead of the usual 2(ish) days.
posted by raedyn at 2:25 PM on August 18, 2005


I've already used it to catch a slightly older comment directed at me and thank the person for posting the information.

It would be cool to have an option where you only see the new posts in the various threads since last refresh. Dunno if that's possible, though.
posted by selfnoise at 2:28 PM on August 18, 2005


I think it's much more useful for Ask posts and I wish I could limit it to that.
posted by smackfu at 11:02 AM PST on August 18 [!]


Variant pony request: could we have check boxes for "follow this discussion," maybe unchecked by default? and then, you know, we could follow threads or not at our own discretion (I could foresee watching a thread for awhile, and then not watching it if/when it turns into a train wreck or the thread comes to some sort of conclusion)? Or would this be more trouble than it's worth?

Otherwise, very cool. Thanks.
posted by Tuwa at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2005


Tuwa, I have plans for that very thing you ask for.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:57 PM on August 18, 2005


This is good, because I really don't care enough to go to my user page and search for comments to keep up on replies to comments. Thanks!
posted by angry modem at 3:39 PM on August 18, 2005


"EB: I'm guessing that you're not a programmer."

You're wrong. And I have experience with the design and troubleshooting of much, much higher-traffic websites. Multi-million dollar, multi-national coporation's websites. I have written whitepapers on efficiency design in this context for one of the leading enterprise-class vendors of this sort of software.

As I said, it depends upon the loading made by on-demand requests. I suggested that the loading be analyzed.

Do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. If there's a small minority of users who generate the vast majority of comments, and they are active at all times of the day, and they are so comment-oriented that they begin to use the recent comment pages as their primary interface into mefi, then the load on the server for generating all those essentially identical pages, over and over and over will be higher than generating 19,000 pages with no entries and a few thousand pages with a moderate number of entries every hour.

On the other hand, move the numbers in the other direction, and dynamically generating the pages is computationally/bandwidth cheap. It depends upon how users are using that data. But as a general rule, it's just not smart to keep doing the same work over and over and over for no reason.

If there's anything I have experience with it's high-traffic, highly robust db-driven dynamic websites from the early days of the technology. These days, sure, you can have tech, soft and hard, that's engineered to handle absurdly high loads...but why? Why, when it's still the case, as it was ten years ago, that the vast majority of on-demand content that web designers supply does not need to be on-demand. With something like someone's comment history, where they're reloading the comments history page as a means to participate in conversations, 90% of the data generated is identical. That is, it's a waste to regenerate it. And the entire system, from the web server to the db and the interlinking systems, are involved in that needless work.

I've thought about these problems, in this context, for a long time. I was making dynamic websites in 1994 using SSI and sh. I fell in love with dynamic content generation before anyone I know. But in doing so I came to realize that the majority of the things that a designer is inclined to provide dynamically are much cheaper to provide pseudo-dynamically. This is always going to be true.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:04 PM on August 18, 2005


EB, the processing of these dynamic pages was of course my first worry, but after looking at the processing time it's about equal to serving up the front page of metafilter, which is highly optimized now.

So my thinking was this one page, which is about as taxing as any other one page of metafilter, might ultimately prevent pageviews, since people can just see that two people answered their question, three people added to what they earlier said, and be done with it. Basically, the page can be a one-stop-shop for tracking their conversations without having to load up ten different comment threads to see where people are at.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:35 PM on August 18, 2005


So people are asking for this page to show their own last comment, and then the latest 10 comments.

I think a better approach would be to show your last comment, and then the immediate following 5-10 comments, and then a link that says "X more comments..." that brings you directly to the comments that are not visible on the aggregated page.

I think this is a seemless approach for a user to follow the discussion.

Thoughts on that?
posted by Errorik at 4:36 PM on August 18, 2005


Matt, that's good reasoning and you're the only person in a position to judge these things. It'll be interesting to see how people actually use this.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:46 PM on August 18, 2005


Thanks Matt!
posted by LeeJay at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2005


However, I do realize that I'm now officially an old fart. My father was an old mainframe programmer who was always obsessed with squeezing every tiny bit of efficiency out of everything--we're talking about the sorts of guys who figured out super-efficient weird disk-reading algorithms that were optimized to an obscure hardware defect. I had trouble explaining to him that at some point, it ceased to be worth the effort. Maybe today worrying about the workload of generating dynamic web pages is antiquated. Or maybe, when servers keep crashing, it isn't. I dunno.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2005


Ah, thanks, Matt. You're right that I missed that comment earlier.
posted by Tuwa at 4:58 PM on August 18, 2005


Matt, this is awesome. One pony: Can you make the usernames stand out a bit more? Both to see them easier, and to provide more of a divide between the comments? You mentioned moving them below the comments, and this might resolve the second half of the request.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:01 PM on August 18, 2005


"Maybe today worrying about the workload of generating dynamic web pages is antiquated."

Processing power is cheap. The time and attention of capable humans isn't. Sometimes the best thing to do, from a management perspective, is to take an educated guess about the time cost of optimization and compare it to the cost of throwing hardware at a problem.

Not every time, but most of the time, throwing hardware wins by a mile. Some especially piss-poor designs don't benefit from this, and the best option is an engineering solution in those cases. Cases like these are reasonably uncommon, however.
posted by majick at 5:02 PM on August 18, 2005


I think a better approach would be to show your last comment, and then the immediate following 5-10 comments, and then a link that says "X more comments..." that brings you directly to the comments that are not visible on the aggregated page. [...] Thoughts on that? - Errorik

I think it's a terrific suggestion. Matt, please consider this.
posted by raedyn at 5:12 PM on August 18, 2005


I rather like the idea of keeping the user's last comment visible at all times. It provides a bit more of a usable context.
posted by majick at 5:18 PM on August 18, 2005


I (also) find the username said: up top a little jarring, since it's the opposite we expect from normal threads, but I'll get used to it, I'm sure, if it stays that way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2005


It is a bit odd to see my own comments highlighted, though: I first "read" the highlighting to mean "best answer," and first saw that in a thread I had started ("I marked my own answer 'best answer'? What the hell was I thinking?") ... Is there some other way they can be marked? maybe a couple of carets or brackets to the side, something without the same connotations/visual baggage?
posted by Tuwa at 6:00 PM on August 18, 2005


Thanks, this is much faster at satisfying my rat brain than reloading a bunch of open tabs.

I'll put in another vote for placing the "posted by" after the comment, because I like to read what people say before I read their username and remember I'm not supposed to agree with them.
posted by fuzz at 6:06 PM on August 18, 2005


I think a better approach would be to show your last comment, and then the immediate following 5-10 comments, and then a link that says "X more comments..." that brings you directly to the comments that are not visible on the aggregated page. [...] Thoughts on that?

If you're reloading this all day, you'd keep seeing the same 5-10 comments afterwards, with "23 more" growing to "37 more" etc. I don't know if that would be a useful tool over time.

The page works exactly as it does at flickr, and though they get much less comments per image there, I do have a few persistent threads that keep popping back up long after I commented. The way it works though, I can keep up, since I can see that there are maybe 8 new ones and I still remember the two previous that show in the last ten.

And stavros, as I mentioned earlier in this thread, I will definitely work on the layout so that it's more like metafilter, with usernames on the bottom. I just wanted a clone of the flickr recent comments page to start with.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2005


Considering that threads are closed after 30 days, could the upper bound in 'My Posts' be extended to 30 days?
posted by Gyan at 7:28 PM on August 18, 2005


Great point, Gyan. It's been added to the dropdown.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:00 PM on August 18, 2005


Sweet, thanks Matt.
posted by gd779 at 11:04 PM on August 18, 2005


Matt, your point of "23 more" just growing to "37 more" is a very good argument. You are right that that would not be useful at all - if you were interested in getting all your reading done directly from this aggregated page and not having to visit the comments page.

But that is from a stand-point of a user that is not contributing to the comment discussion.

If a user is contributing, than the data changes a lot more than just that number.

The way I look at it, a user decides to leave a comment on a thread... they leave the site for some period of time... later they come back and check their comments page, and can see the immediate discussion following their own comment, and then can decide to leave another comment, or maybe the discussion went in another direction and they no longer care. If they do comment, the cycle repeats over again and when they return they see the new immediate discussion following their own comment... they don't just see that the number of comments after theirs has climbed.

You have mentioned that you plan on releasing a "tracking" or "subscribe" feature to watch to a thread. I think that that page should act in a manner of showing me the latest entries as the current "my comments" page does, because a user is saying "I want to watch this" not necessarily "I want to participate in this".

Thats my two cents.
posted by Errorik at 11:49 PM on August 18, 2005


Most excellent.
posted by dg at 12:44 AM on August 19, 2005


Sexy!
posted by JanetLand at 7:57 AM on August 19, 2005


Fantastic! Revolutionary! Thank you!

Now can you change it please? It doesn't reward frequent reloading to the degree my ADD demands... Can you link the thread titles at the top in a "position: fixed; overflow:scroll;" div, with the number of "new" comments shown as on the home pages?

Here's a hacked-together demo of the idea. (Works in Firefox and Safari, no promises elsewhere. Not sure why the content div's too wide...)

(And I'm not sure the (very elegant!) two-column thing is worth the wasted space on the left; isn't the thread title enough, given that you commented and presumably remember what to?)
posted by nicwolff at 9:43 AM on August 19, 2005


(Note that that layout requires some Javascript to manage the content div position and anchor-tag link scrolling.)
posted by nicwolff at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2005


(And I meant "overflow: auto" not "overflow: scroll".)
posted by nicwolff at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2005


meh, I dunno nicwolff, it's kind of a tall frame on top that obscures most of my browser window.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2005


Thank you, Matt!
posted by Alt F4 at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2005


This is really cool.

One small problem: when I click on "Recent Activity on my posts" and try to adjust the drop-down, nothing happens. I'm not sure if that's because you're not done with that part of the programing, but I thought I'd mention it. I'm using Safari. Everything else works and looks just fine.
posted by carmen at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2005


carmen, you haven't made a post in the past 30 days to any mefi subsite. I'll add a helpful error message stating that.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:57 AM on August 19, 2005


Oh, sorry. Cross-web-speek confusion about the word "posts." I keep forgetting that comments are not posts. Now I feel silly.
posted by carmen at 1:04 PM on August 19, 2005


I'd like it if they weren't grouped by thread, but rather were all in chronological order (at least as an option). That would make it much easier to see what's changed when you come back to the page a second time.
posted by cillit bang at 6:47 AM on August 20, 2005


cillit bang - they are ordered chronologically.

Unless someone can prove otherwise here is how they should be displayed...

First the system grabs all the entries you have commented on in the past 7 days.

Then the entries are ordered by the date/time stamp of the most recent comment by any user - with the most recent at the top.

So with each comment the entry is bumped to the top of your "my comments" page.
posted by Errorik at 10:40 PM on August 20, 2005


Can the "your most recent comment" link to your most recent comment?
Very frequently what I want to do is jump there, then scroll down. Right now there's a link provided to the whole thread, but I don't see one to my comment.
posted by Aknaton at 4:58 PM on August 21, 2005


This is so great - thanks, Matt!
posted by caitlinb at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2005


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