A vote for threaded comments March 20, 2006 11:32 AM   Subscribe

If MeFi had threaded comments like most forums, it would be easy to simply delete a comment and all of its followups in one swoop. I used to do this all the time on a forum I moderated, and it was really nice.
(This comment was going to be appended to the prematurely-closed thread two below.)
posted by agropyron to Feature Requests at 11:32 AM (75 comments total)

assuming people use the thread system correctly; all it takes is one sibling node referencing another to get back to the existing problem.
posted by boo_radley at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2006


If Matt's committed to a heavy-handed moderation style (as he seems to be) he should at least take steps to make things easier on the site's users and himself.

boo: sure, someone would occasionally slip up and post a reply in the wrong place, but the majority of the time things would make more sense, don't you think?
posted by agropyron at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2006


That would confine derials too.
posted by orthogonality at 11:49 AM on March 20, 2006


Matt has commented before on his desire for a single (or roughly single) conversation to result from an FPP, not a collection of disparate conversations. True, in a non-threaded format, there are still multiple conversations, but they number much, much fewer (3 or 4 max per thread, for what I can see, as opposed to the much larger number that would result from branching). While this solution would solve the deletion problem, to some extent, it would do so in a way that goes against a more primary goal of Matt's.
posted by Bugbread at 11:50 AM on March 20, 2006


(Er, this is not to say that you shouldn't try to convince Matt that a threaded format would be superior to a flat format, just that perhaps you didn't know that MeFi uses flat instead of threaded as a result of a preference of Matt's, not because of inertia or the like)
posted by Bugbread at 11:52 AM on March 20, 2006


I can see the point of this in terms of making life easier for admins, but as a reader and commenter, I'll always prefer the simple non-threaded comment style - I can never follow the discussion at sites like Slashdot or Kuro5hin where everything is muddled up in threads-within-threads. (And I'm pretty sure that when this has come up in the past, most folk have been anti-threading...)
posted by jack_mo at 11:55 AM on March 20, 2006


It's much better the way it is.
posted by grouse at 11:59 AM on March 20, 2006


*jumps on anti-threading bandwagon*

*balances pancake on head*
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:00 PM on March 20, 2006


I hate threaded comments. All that clicking drives me crazy. It's much better the way it is.
posted by sic at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2006


Threads? Are you high? Please tell me you're high.
posted by loquacious at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2006


Another vote against threads.
posted by aberrant at 12:07 PM on March 20, 2006


bugbread: I knew that Matt preferred it flat. However, I didn't know that it was because he wanted only one conversation to result from a post. That strikes me as slightly crazy, and very limiting.

Thread haters: I certainly wouldn't want it to be like Slashdot. That is indeed one ugly site, and very hard to read through comment threads. Maybe there's a compromise or something. Something innovative!
posted by agropyron at 12:08 PM on March 20, 2006


Loquacious: yes, I'm high. High on threads.
posted by agropyron at 12:08 PM on March 20, 2006


If Matt's committed to a heavy-handed moderation style

I really wish people wouldn't do that. I understand your point about threaded discussion agropyron, and I don't mean to single you out (this is more of a general complaint since there are certainly are much more egregious members). But I don't think it is fair to say that Matt and jessamyn are committed to a heavy-handed moderation style. In many instances, he (and jessamyn) are remarkably lax. He certainly isn't heavy handed in comparative terms. I know many sites where curse words aren't allowed; sites where personal attacks aren't tolerated. Both of those things occur with great regularity here. Many sites have teams of moderators who monitor everything. We have two who see only a fraction of the comments.

I think we need to be conscious of the position we put matt and jessamyn in. We aren't all going to agree with everything they do. But how we disagree goes a long way. It's the difference between being hostile with our criticism and plain, respectful disagreement. matt and jessamyn are insulted and criticized no matter what editorial decision they make. And that's unfortunate because they have to make some decisions. This site would go to hell in a hand-basket without any moderation. I don't think anyone would want that. As it is Matt's livelihood, he can't let that happen either. Which isn't to say we shouldn't constructively criticize moderation. Surely they need some feedback; they are just two people trying to do what they think is right and feedback is usually helpful in such situations. But the words through which one offers the feedback is important---it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

What do I mean by this? Well, for instance, I agree that the previous thread was closed prematurely. I could voice that by saying "Jack-booted Matt closed a thread too soon to protect X," but that would be nonsense. Or I could say "As a practical matter, I think we ought to reconsider the practice of closing threads early. There are a lot of people who might have valuable contributions to a thread, and their views shouldn't be foreclosed merely because they don't get to a thread in the first two hours before it is closed."

It's a difference in style that shows a degree of respect for their efforts. (But I really do agree that the other thread was closed prematurely and don't see the point in doing so.)
posted by dios at 12:09 PM on March 20, 2006


"MTrue, in a non-threaded format, there are still multiple conversations, but they number much, much fewer (3 or 4 max per thread, for what I can see, as opposed to the much larger number that would result from branching)."

Unfortunately, the screaming nutjobs who have nothing better to do than make these comments all day long comprise these 3 or 4 conversations, whereas in a threaded system, it would be easier to ignore them. (works for me on slashdot)

I'd actually like to see a slashdot-style user-end comment interface. You want threads? You got 'em. You want last first? Ok.

MeFi is pretty unreadable as it is now. But it's #1's site.
posted by Eideteker at 12:09 PM on March 20, 2006


I'll vote against threads, as well.

If you want threads in all their of fabulous tangentality, read Slashdot. It's a mess and I'm convinced that it's due to the fact that everyone reads and comments from the threaded interface.
posted by bshort at 12:10 PM on March 20, 2006


I love threads. Really, really love threads.

But not here.
posted by Ryvar at 12:12 PM on March 20, 2006


I don't read any threaded sites. But the problem I see on a large-scale system is redundancy. Surely one can't keep up with all the threaded discussions. And my guess is that people who are reading and responding in one thread often have the same discussion as people in another thread. It seems to break apart the community in a discussion group. And I think you also lose some of the social pressure to not change the topic too much.
posted by dios at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2006


MeTa is full of vitriol today. Can we all just step away from the keyboards. Maybe go get a hug from a loved one or something. Have a nap, and start fresh tomorrow.

To paraphrase Gene Spafford, "(Metafilter) is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea - massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind-boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it."
posted by blue_beetle at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2006


What Ryvar said.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:17 PM on March 20, 2006


dios and blue_beetle: Does my post really read as disrespectful and vitriolic? Maybe in a preschool run by hippies, but here?
posted by agropyron at 12:21 PM on March 20, 2006


I agree with dios' next comment.
posted by Plutor at 12:21 PM on March 20, 2006


Threaded comments would fix one problem and cause ten more.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2006


Hate threads.
They're ugly, a pain in the ass to navigate, probably a bigger pain to moderate, encourage chatFilter, derails, segregation, and other bad behavior.
MeFi is elegant, clear, and clean.
Everything you need to see is there, and everything you say and do is accountable.

Hate last first, too, but that's just because I forget and then get confused and scared.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2006


I like threads, but, once again, not for Mefi, for exactly the reason that dios mentions: "...the problem I see on a large-scale system is redundancy...my guess is that people who are reading and responding in one thread often have the same discussion as people in another thread". Though a threaded format would be nice in terms of making derails pretty much transparent.
posted by Bugbread at 12:25 PM on March 20, 2006


dios and blue_beetle: Does my post really read as disrespectful and vitriolic?
posted by agropyron at 2:21 PM CST on March 20


No. Nor did I intend to suggest it was. That's why I said I didn't intend to single that comment out; it was more of a general complaint. And on re-reading, your comment strikes me less of a scornful comment about "heavy-handed" moderation. So please don't take it as specific to your comment. That being said, I don't know what blue_beetle was referring to vis-a-vis vitriol.
posted by dios at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2006


I can't imagine dealing with a threaded site, personally.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2006


There haven't been threads here for seven years now, so don't expect them to magically show up anytime soon.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2006


Yeah, lay off the threads, daddy-o.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2006


Threaded comments suck and I hate them.
posted by puke & cry at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2006


If Matt's committed to a heavy-handed moderation style (as he seems to be)

What a joke.
posted by crunchland at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2006


I can't believe matt took over this thread, again.

Just let us breathe man!
posted by sic at 1:04 PM on March 20, 2006


Threaded comments are the worst thing in the world.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2006


[comment deleted by heavy hand]



I'm kidding, Matt and Jess, really I am
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2006


I always thought that the flat style comments with unobtrusive thread following doohickies on Dunstan Orchard's site were neat.
posted by togdon at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2006


agropyron: my comment was more of general observation on the site, not necessarily aimed at any one thread.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2006


It's much better the way it is.

Yes. Just for emphasis:

It's much better the way it is.
posted by languagehat at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2006


This idea has been proposed and shot down a number of times before. Maybe the wiki should have section for oft-rejected ideas. We could call it "orphaned ponies" or something.

Also, another vote against threads.
posted by LarryC at 2:56 PM on March 20, 2006


This place is like a pub.

One does not have threaded conversations in a pub.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:56 PM on March 20, 2006


NO threads! ("At these times, a dangerous, parasitic lifeform known as Thread attempts to make its way to Pern, with disastrous effects to any living material it comes in contact with.")
posted by Lynsey at 3:05 PM on March 20, 2006


Threads seem to lean more to conversation promotion, and since I've always felt the links were more important, I'd vote no, not that I think there was a chance in hell of matt going for it (thank god).
posted by justgary at 3:19 PM on March 20, 2006


It could be argued that everything great about MeFi is a result of avoiding the many mistakes of Slashdot:
  • unlimited free user accounts
  • ability to post without an account
  • comment ratings and karma
  • a laissez faire attitude towards double posts
  • signatures
  • threaded comments
  • LAMP stack running on a load-balanced cluster
OK, maybe not the last one. But you get the point.
posted by Galvatron at 3:35 PM on March 20, 2006


If Matt's committed to a heavy-handed moderation style (as he seems to be) he should at least take steps to make things easier on the site's users and himself.

posted by agropyronPoster at 7:41 PM GMT on March 20


Nah. I liked the polite way you put it, but Matt is far from the mad pruner you characterise him as.
IMHO.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:35 PM on March 20, 2006


slashdot is impossible to read.
posted by quonsar at 3:37 PM on March 20, 2006


AlterSlash
posted by crunchland at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2006


Another NO vote for threads. I love Mefi just the way it is.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe the wiki should have section for oft-rejected ideas. We could call it "orphaned ponies" or something.

"Orphaned ponies" implies they need adopting. I would humbly suggest: "radioactive, diarrheic ponies".
posted by R. Mutt at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2006


Thread haters: I certainly wouldn't want it to be like Slashdot. That is indeed one ugly site, and very hard to read through comment threads. Maybe there's a compromise or something. Something innovative!

Innovation: transfer the responsibility for the threading of multiple conversational vectors off of an mechanical framework and onto the shoulders of the users involved in the conversation. Here's the idea: you put it to the individual conversants to note what the purported topic of the post is, and to track the actual branches and variations of topic that have been produced; and then those individuals use a sort of heuristic judgement to decide how and to which sub-topics to respond. And they can express formal threadedness clues by embedding small quotations, salutations, and other direct references to previous comments.

OH WAIT THAT'S EXACTLY HOW IT WORKS RIGHT NOW
posted by cortex at 4:03 PM on March 20, 2006


cortex : "OH WAIT THAT'S EXACTLY HOW IT WORKS RIGHT NOW"

Yeah, but this has to be innovative. How about you do all that, and then you write down the timestamp of each message on a pad of paper near your computer, with notes about what comment it is in response to. Not only does that provide the best of both worlds in a completely opt-in format, but it's innovative!

And you can circle comments written at times with repeating numbers, like "11:11 PST"!
posted by Bugbread at 4:08 PM on March 20, 2006


"If MeFi had threaded comments like most forums, it would be easy to simply delete a comment and all of its followups in one swoop."

If a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his ass when he hopped.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:14 PM on March 20, 2006


Well, he wouldn't bump his ass when he flew. Or swooped, I guess. Hopping as an activity seems to require some some degree of ass-bumping by its very nature.

More ass-bumping at Metafilter! Swooping is for the winged frogs, and we all know they suck!

Also, threads are bad. At least for MeFi.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2006


agropyron >>> "If Matt's committed to a heavy-handed moderation style (as he seems to be) he should at least take steps to make things easier on the site's users and himself."

wtf? You've obviously never been to a site that actually has heavy moderation. Of all the sites/forums/etc I've participated in over the past ten years, MeFi comes in at the absolute lightest of the moderated ones.


Eideteker >>> "MeFi is pretty unreadable as it is now. But it's #1's site."

If it's so unreadable, the door's over there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:35 PM on March 20, 2006


More ass-bumping at Metafilter!

More skin on Love Boat! And threads suck. Off to the tub.
posted by yerfatma at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2006


And you can circle comments written at times with repeating numbers, like "11:11 PST"!

That's the sort of initiative that I can get behind.

There are 3 "n"s in the previous sentence. We need a symbol for that.
posted by cortex at 4:56 PM on March 20, 2006


It's much better the way it is.
posted by shmegegge at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2006


wtf? You've obviously never been to a site that actually has heavy moderation

Based on the number of "wtf"s my comment got, apparently I haven't. I spoke from my own experience as a forum moderator, and from what appears to be an increasing number of comments deleted over the last few years. I'm with those who call for very rare comment deletions and very very few thread closings.

How about you do all that, and then you write down the timestamp of each message on a pad of paper near your computer, with notes about what comment it is in response to. Not only does that provide the best of both worlds in a completely opt-in format, but it's innovative!

I'm absolutely doing this from now on.
posted by agropyron at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2006


still, if two people want to argue each other into the ground why should it stink up the entire rest of a thread?
posted by Space Coyote at 7:15 PM on March 20, 2006


To paraphrase Michiko Kakutani:

"Metatalk is a collection of sadistic hooligans, delusional wannabees, social-climbing sycophants and smarmy hustlers all linked to one another in a nasty web of sex, corruption and mutual use and abuse."
posted by mlis at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2006


"We could call it "orphaned ponies" or something."

The Glue Factory.

"hard to read"? Are you high?

And "heavy-handed moderation"? Are you high? (The defense that you had fewer moderations on the forum you administrated can probably be answered by comparing the relative levels of traffic/user bases). The moderation isn't heavy-handed enough here. Too much bullshit slides through.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on March 20, 2006


agropyron >>> "and from what appears to be an increasing number of comments deleted over the last few years."

Yes, and how much has the userbase climbed over the past few years? More input == more noise.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:03 PM on March 20, 2006


what would be the website design equivalent of xenophobia?

'dont come 'round this here website with yer newfangled ideas, ya hear? we don't take kindly to outsiders 'round these parts'
posted by tweak at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2006


Xenophobe
posted by mlis at 8:21 PM on March 20, 2006


*heavy-handed moderation style

Go have a look at the daily probation, ban, and permaban list at the Something Awful forums. Then we can talk about heavy moderation. There were forty-one users put on probation or some form of ban yesterday.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:50 PM on March 20, 2006


"If it's so unreadable, the door's over there."

Thanks for telling me where to go and how to get there, but I stay for the links. I'd like to participate in the discussions, but it's getting to be a full-time job wading through them. And then if you do make a comment, it's ignored because the post is already at its 3 or 4 discussion limit, and what you have to say is not political and therefore not part of those discussions. Like /., I read the FPP and follow the links, but largely ignore the comments. At least on slashdot, I can ignore entire threads at a time and look for comments that strike a chord. On MeFi right now, it takes about 4× longer on a thread with a quarter as many comments.

I reiterate my desire for each user to be able to choose how comments are viewed.
posted by Eideteker at 10:11 PM on March 20, 2006


Eideteker writes "And then if you do make a comment, it's ignored because the post is already at its 3 or 4 discussion limit, and what you have to say is not political and therefore not part of those discussions."


As someone who has maintained excellent karma at /. for years, there's a method to it, straight out of classical Rhetoric:
  • Quote a comment rated at 2 or higher;
  • Summarize what you're going to say.
  • Refute the OP
  • Add a bunch of bulleted links to different sites supporting your argument
  • Ask the reader to perform some action (possibly implicitly)
  • Restate your argument
  • End with an emotional peroration
The whole thing should be long enough in vertical space to stand out and catch the eye of anyone scrolling through, should explicitly (for political subjects) or implicitly (for tech subjects) castigate some person or entity, lament the loss of some golden age or orthodoxy, and include a call to re-discover/adhere to that tradition ("our Founding Fathers") or standard ("RAII", "The Rule of Three").

This guarantees a four or a five.
posted by orthogonality at 10:45 PM on March 20, 2006


I don't know if anyone noticed but Digg recently switched its commenting system from flat to threaded. I'm not so sure I like the threaded aspects all that much, but I do like the fact that noisy posts can get modded down by users, though they still remain accessible with a click. I know we've been over this many times before, but I think that some sort of permutation of that feature might work well here.
posted by crunchland at 11:29 PM on March 20, 2006


I noticed the change at digg, but have always used the site as a linkmine, and avoided the comment threads entirely, because they almost always seemed far more noise than signal (to drag out that old chestnut).

It'll be interesting to see if things change there. I still reckon that such a system just encourages the SHITCOCK!1! Brigade to futher excesses, though, knowing that their drolleries will just be hidden, and taking secret joy in making people annoyed enough to notice them mod their crap down.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:44 PM on March 20, 2006


Digg recently switched its commenting system from flat to threaded.

That was a sign of desperation. Talk about unreadable. At it's worse metafilter is no where near the sad state that digg was.
posted by justgary at 12:15 AM on March 21, 2006


stavrosthewonderchicken : "I still reckon that such a system just encourages the SHITCOCK!1! Brigade to futher excesses"

I never would have figured you for a Penny Arcade reader.
posted by Bugbread at 6:23 AM on March 21, 2006


I never would have figured you for a Penny Arcade reader.

I don't much like the implications of that statement.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on March 21, 2006


them's fightin' words, cortex.
posted by shmegegge at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2006


Verily, sir.
posted by cortex at 8:20 AM on March 21, 2006


One of the arguments for adding any feature that is designed to hide noise is that it gives it a permanent home. When Slashdot added moderation and auto-hiding to their threads, they gave the -1 NATALIE PORTMAN'S BOOBS brigade a permanent home on the site.

I checked out digg's new setup earlier this week and 75% of all the comments were complaining about mod points. I don't know if that's an improvement.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2006


I don't think that's the case with Digg, Matt. It's not users who are modded down, it's their individual comments.
posted by crunchland at 4:22 AM on March 22, 2006


Eideteker writes "And then if you do make a comment, it's ignored because the post is already at its 3 or 4 discussion limit, and what you have to say is not political and therefore not part of those discussions"

Come over to any one of these fine threads posted in the last few days. None of them have more 25 comments. I guarantee your voice will be heard.

PS: Please Matt no threads.
posted by Mitheral at 7:20 AM on March 22, 2006


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