Can we reorder comments by favoriteness? September 8, 2006 4:27 PM   Subscribe

So now we have a visual indicator of how popular a specific post is. Cool. Could we take this one step further?
posted by Pontius Pilate to Feature Requests at 4:27 PM (38 comments total)

Much as I would love to read every single MeFi post, there's just not enough hours in a day. So lately, particularly when it comes to AskMeFi, I find myself shortcutting it by only reading the posts that at least a few users have marked as favorite. This usually gives a pretty good indicator of where the discussion is heading in MeFi, or what some of the better responses are in AskMeFi.

Here's my thought - would it be possible to add some sort of a sorting function that, when selected, would display the comments following the post not in chronological order, but rather in a descending order of most-favorited comments?

One downside that immediately comes to mind is that this can have a kind of a self-perpetuating effect on favorited comments, in that the more people see the highest-favorited comment, the more of them will favorite it as well (presumably at the expense of the lower-ranked comments). However, this can be ameoliorated by enabling the comment sorting for a specific post only, say, 24 hours after the first comment has been made. That would ensure that the vast majority of responses will not be adversely affected by this potential problem, and those of us that usually have to catch up on MeFi days after the topic has been posted will be able to get the gist of things without reading the entire thread.

How say you?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 4:28 PM on September 8, 2006

Doesn't that pretty much destroy any sort of "discussion" and unduly favor "witty" one-liners (which are already dominating most threads?)
posted by muddgirl at 4:53 PM on September 8, 2006

Ick. Ick on a stick.
posted by cortex at 4:54 PM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

...Well, no; as I said, it can (should) be something that only kicks in 24 hours later (hell, 48 hours, whatever); until that time-limit expires, the discussion proceeds as normal.

I can see people trying to milk something like this for immediate effect; however, carefully planting witty one-liners for something that's not going to pay dividends for another 24/48 hours (if at all, considering how few people will actually go back and revisit the thread 24/48 hours later) - not so much.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 4:59 PM on September 8, 2006

posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on September 8, 2006

This idea would facilitate the imminent death of MetaFilter. In the words of Jon Stewart, "Please stop. You're hurting [MetaFilter]."
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:02 PM on September 8, 2006

I appreciate the passion, but it would be neat if someone could explain why this would result in the destruction and annihilation of everything we hold dear, as well as dogs and cats living together.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2006

Anything that (1) disrupts the natural linear progression of the conversation that is a hallmark of metafilter threads, or which (2) encourages disruptively attention-getting comments at the cost of natural conversational interplay is bad.

Anything that does both is doubly so.

The reward gained for one or both of those had better be pretty wildly goddam compelling to be justified. That's not the case here. That's why the idea is a bad fit for Metafilter.
posted by cortex at 5:09 PM on September 8, 2006

How many of the favourite comments would even make sense completely outside of the conversational context in which they first appeared?

Some of the really, truly great comments would be fine. But a lot of what gets favourited relies on whatever comment it's a response to.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:12 PM on September 8, 2006

MetaFilter isn't a popularity contest. The use of favoriting is very much a mixed bag. People say they use it as a bookmarking method, but so many favorited comments are one-liners, flames, and goofy garbage. I would hate to see a method implemented that actually benefited those who, IMHO, abuse the system.

In addition, though we haven't seen much of this yet, this system has the ability to hone the hive mind further, creating an even more obnoxious echo chamber. As an example, some person writes an extremely partisan, snarky, condescending comment that seeks to alienate those who oppose it and, lo and behold, the comment is favorited to death. The number that follows the post could be interpreted as a sign of intelligence or "being right", when in reality it's just a number.

Finally, as I've mentioned many times before here, no comment should be considered more important (on the site) than another. Of course not all comments are equal, but the decision to judge a comment's validity, veracity, and popularity should be a decision made by the individual user, and not one thrust upon a reader by the site.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:17 PM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

All right. Would this still be a terrible idea if applied only to AskMeFi? The answers there tend to be self-contained responses that, for the most part, do not reference any comments aside from the posted question, and there is typically a fairly good correlation between the number of users who have favorited the answer and its quality.

(As an aside, the one upside of this thread so far is that I have managed to unify the usually disharmonic MeFi members into a single (albeit vehemently angry) organism. Huzzah for angry unity!)
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:17 PM on September 8, 2006

I often favorite comments because I agree with them, not because I want to be able to revisit them.

But your idea of quickly getting the gist of a big old thread has merit in my opinion. Perhaps it could be better addressed by allowing the OP to select best comments, in similar fashion to AskMe. Then you could scan for highlighted items.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:30 PM on September 8, 2006

>I have managed to unify the usually disharmonic MeFi members into a single (albeit vehemently angry) organism

Impassioned responses are always strongly represented when the question of comment value and votes is raised. Personally, I also don't think your idea is a good one as outlined -- though I don't consider it an apocalyptic site-breaker and the general concept contains possibilities which are less obtrusive and controversial.

In the responses you may have overlooked a post which contains what many (including yours truly)consider the proper answer: SeizeTheDay posted "the decision to judge a comment's validity, veracity, and popularity should be a decision made by the individual user". Exactly right. Why do you think Greasemonkey scripts flourish here, to the point they are a standing joke response when anyone wants Metafilter to have a new feature or enhancement? Because many people like to customize how Metafilter works, and the ability to do that is a fine one. But please do it on your own and don't try to make any type of filtered comment viewing an official Metafilter feature, lest you press that big red button labelled Religious War.

Really, what you want wouldn't be that difficult to implement on your/client side if a) you know how to program (or can bribe someone) and b) you're willing to use Firefox plus extensions. There are scripts that veer close to what you want to do already.
posted by mdevore at 5:47 PM on September 8, 2006

Of course favorite comments are not universal for everyone. However, all things being equal, if you showed a set of 100 posts that 5 or more users marked as a favorite and a set of 100 random posts pulled out of MeFi without telling me which is which, I have a really hard time believing that I would not be able to distinguish the "favorite comments" set from the "random comments" set. There is at least some correlation between how good the individual post is, and how many people have marked it as their favorite.

This goes double for AskMeFi, I would argue, because there the criteria for evaluating a particular response is much more limited - instead of the user evaluating the response's insightfulness, pithiness, humor, phrasing, etc. (all value-criteria that vary widely from user to user), the main factor of evaluating quality is how well the response addresses the question presented by the poster.

I'll admit that though I do use Firefox, I don't use GreaseMonkey, and I don't know the first thing about programming, so the possibility of doing this at the client-side level had never even occurred to me. That's a great suggestion. What are the scripts that, as you put it, "veer close" to this capability?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 5:59 PM on September 8, 2006

How say you?

Please cease your foolish madness before you doom us all.
posted by loquacious at 6:17 PM on September 8, 2006

Would it be appropriate to laugh maniacally at this point?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 6:18 PM on September 8, 2006

>What are the scripts that, as you put it, "veer close" to this capability?

I suppose it depends on your definition of veer, but here's the basic idea on why existing scripts already come close. Once you have a script which breaks each individual message into its own entity -- and several scripts available do that -- then you own Metafilter for your browser. Why? Because you have the ability to modify the individual messages anyway you want. Practically speaking, you are only limited by your imagination of what you want to do with them. The heavy lifting has already been done.

One recent script (not mine, don't know the author without peeking) changes a Wikipedia caret to different text; judging by its votes in Projects it is pretty popular. My own script allows you to highlight or delete messages based on various criteria. There are several other scripts for navigation and suchlike. Presumably most embrace discrete message manipulation.

My script would allow you, for example, to always highlight favorited messages for quick scanning, or, uhhh wait...shhhh!...don't tell anyone else, some people get Really Annoyed by this, you could, uhhh, also delete from sight any message which doesn't have a favorite vote. Doubt it's an ability which ranks as extremely useful, since a lot of favorites depend on preceding remarks, as has already been pointed out by jacquilynne. So you take my script, or the caret script, or a navigation script, or whatever, strip out the footer info (not difficult, as some scripts already directly access it), count up the favorite votes, sort them by count, and place the sorted listed back into the page. Voila! You have what you want.

As an alternate approach, there are several of Greasemonkey programmers here. Convince one it could be cool to do, or would earn sufficient Projects' brownie points, there's a good chance they'd write it for you.
posted by mdevore at 6:38 PM on September 8, 2006

No, Ponty, no maniacal laughter, please. You were not cast as the Evil Villain, you were cast as the over-ambitious man of science who 'tried to touch the face of God' and got slapped down big-time. A woeful "My God, what have I done?" Would be much more appropriate.

And we'll let you know when an Evil Villain role opens up.
posted by wendell at 6:40 PM on September 8, 2006

posted by fire&wings at 6:47 PM on September 8, 2006

Oh man. Icarus was nothing compared to this. Sadly, there is no Daedalus here to bemoan my plunge into the cold, freezing waters of MeFi.

mdevore, thank you for the detailed explanation. My current plan is to go hiding into Mexico for about a week until this whole thing blows over, then return triumphantly like MacArthur to the Philippines, a giant sombrero tilted to cover half my face, and issue a plea for one of the resident Greasemonkey programmers to help me with my far-out, way-ahead-of-their-time ideas. Except, you know, more humble.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by fire&wings

Wow. My beautiful Icarus analogy pre-empted due to my failure to refresh the page. Damn you, fate!
posted by Pontius Pilate at 6:53 PM on September 8, 2006

sounds like digg.
posted by Kifer85 at 6:59 PM on September 8, 2006

Naw, I'll never do anything to move comments around, that would just be a confusing mess.

Now, there could be a sort of the front page which is posts ordered by most favorited over the past day or two (with some sort of minimum to show up).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:26 PM on September 8, 2006

One simple greasemonkey approach would be to display only those comments within a thread that did not match on "[+]" — which is to say, those comments for which at least one person has provided a favoriting.

Not sorted-descended-by-most-favorited, but it'd get you ninety-percent of your desired functionality and be dirt simple to write. Buy ortho a beer and you'd probably be solid.
posted by cortex at 8:26 PM on September 8, 2006

So say we all1

1I heartily endorse this product and/or organization.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:09 PM on September 8, 2006

Afroblanco, stop being a jackass. Not every comment is a precious snowflake, to borrow languagehat's oft-used expression, and anything that can improve the noise-to-signal ratio - especially if that anything is a feature that can apparently be installed locally using Greasemonkey - is a good thing.

I've never read Digg; as far as Slashdot goes, however, the presence of throngs of iditos all but requires some kind of a minimum cut-off point and a filtering system. The number of its users also far outstrips MeFi, so comparing the two is well, kind of stupid.

On preview & further thought: Jesus Christ, the criticism of this thread is coming from a guy who saw fit to vociferously argue against the use of "that said"? Seriously?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2006

Come on, Pilate. Wash your hands of us.
posted by crunchland at 10:06 PM on September 8, 2006

Would this still be a terrible idea if applied only to AskMeFi?

It would be worse applied only to AskMeFi. We're already seeing an increase in wisecrack non-answers getting favorited there. Your idea is just plain bad. (By the way, so is micro-managing a thread you started.)
posted by mediareport at 10:28 PM on September 8, 2006

Can we have an option of hiding any thread where the OP posts in it more than ten times?
posted by Falconetti at 6:53 AM on September 9, 2006

I was going to say that if this guy is so very busy, he should confine his precious reading time to the page of posts and comments marked "fantastic" and lay off the drama queeny flouncing around. Except, um, I couldn't find it. Has it been supplanted by favorites entirely? Have I been wasting my time marking things fantastic?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:36 AM on September 9, 2006

I use a comment's anchor to bookmark it (for whatever reason). I don't use the favoriting system. how does your proposal, Pontius Pilate, take into account the fact that favorites is a self-selecting demographic of MeFi? not everyone uses the +. so where do my favorites fit into your further step? why don't you want to read the comments we non-favers fave?

anyway, the importance of a good discussion on MeFi (as silly as that sounds sometimes) overrides the value of the proposed feature. good discussion does not come from shortcut reading and willful ignorance. as for AskMe, if you're reading the q&a for the sake of reading the q&a (or with no intent to offer an answer) that's fine, but don't ask for features that don't make asking or answering a question easier.
posted by carsonb at 7:37 AM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I cannot locate this thread
posted by matteo at 7:56 AM on September 9, 2006

posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2006

MetaFilter isn't a popularity contest.

Proscriptively, yes. Descriptively, not so much.
posted by bardic at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2006

You must be Jesting Pilate.
posted by jamjam at 2:09 PM on September 9, 2006

The number of its users also far outstrips MeFi, so comparing the two is well, kind of stupid.

It's only gotten worse with more users. I was a user of slashdot (and actually read it then, for that matter) when it had less users than mefi does now, or about the same. (though maybe it had more active users -- I'm basing this solely on the fact that my user number there is around 10k, by the way, but I think they were using linearly increasing numbers too; I just checked and when metamoderation was added I'm guessing from user numbers there were around 40-50k users.) The effect of the comment scores was basically the same (though I think I joined before open moderation; I can't exactly remember). It is not something I would ever want on mefi, and exactly what people who are comparing the two sites (in this and in any number of other MeTa threads) don't want.
posted by advil at 2:58 PM on September 9, 2006

I was just thinking about how MetaFilter could more closely resemble my painful highschool years by attempting to approximate a popularity contest.
posted by ninjew at 4:22 PM on September 9, 2006

Bad, bad, bad idea. Even suggesting this idea clearly shows either a complete lack of understanding of how this place operates or that a bizarre form of conversation is prevalent on your planet where people make comments in random order instead of responding to what other people say.
posted by dg at 8:31 PM on September 10, 2006

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