Highlighting the original questioner's comments in Ask Metafilter - good idea or bad? May 24, 2007 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Often in Ask Metafilter the original questioner chimes in with clarifications or extra information, but answerers don't necessarily read all previous comments before chipping in. Do people think it might be a good idea to highlight the original poster's comments in thread? (Obviously this only makes sense for Ask).
posted by handee to Feature Requests at 9:21 AM (51 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I see that as enabling. People who don't read the whole thread, and don't admit it by saying something like "I didn't have time to read all the comments, but ..." deserve to be embarrassed. As I have been when I overlooked an earlier exposition of the exact point I want to make.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:32 AM on May 24, 2007


I don't think it would make a difference, and wouldn't induce people to read later replies before replying.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:34 AM on May 24, 2007


I notice that some other sites highlight the author's comments as distinct from the others.

I find it useful and informative, and agree with handee's idea — particularly because AskMe is focused on answering the asker's question, and the asker's further input is valuable to that end.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:37 AM on May 24, 2007


*cough* MeFi Navigator...
posted by Rhomboid at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2007


Often in MetaTalk people start new threads without looking around the archives.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:40 AM on May 24, 2007


I'm inclined to agree with the "do your damn homework" line of reasoning: folks should be encouraged to read the whole thread carefully, and anything that makes them less likely to do so—that seems to even officially condone not doing so—seems like a step in the wrong direction.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2007


I dunno, I kinda like the idea (I like it on other blogs), but since we already highlight good answers, it may lead to more confusion than it'd solve.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2007


Once a best answer is marked the OP's comments can be unhighlighted.
posted by bigmusic at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered why this wasn't a feature or built into Askme posts too.

I personally don't think the laziness factor would outweigh the usefulness factor, mainly because people who would take advantage of the new feature (in a negative way) aren't people who are going to be motivated enough to read the whole thread anyway if the feature is not there. Basically, I don't think the feature is going to change people from being attentive thread-readers to lazy thread-jumpers.

Rules: The good people don't need 'em, and the bad people don't follow 'em anyway.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2007


Did anybody say anything about rules?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:03 AM on May 24, 2007


You don't have to highlight the whole comment, just the username, like the MeFi Navigator does.
posted by team lowkey at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2007


I also tend to use "best answers" as visual placeholders if I'm trying to find a specific comment in a particularly long thread. Having callouts/highlights gives points of reference. Hell, I sometimes mark my own comments in my own threads as best answers, just so I can find them later (and the total comment count isn't even that high!)

And using some add-on isn't always the answer either, since I use MeFi on several different computers and browsers (which I'm sure is the case for many). We gotta have our hourly MeFi break!!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:06 AM on May 24, 2007


I like team lowkey's idea of highlighting just the username. It would make it more obvious what the highlight meant as well if all instances of the questioner's username were the same.
posted by handee at 10:09 AM on May 24, 2007


Did anybody say anything about rules?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:03 AM


ack, misunderstanding. I wasn't trying to pull a rule card. Sorry, I guess what I was trying to get across is the idea that instating certain things generally can't dictate or promote healthy behavior from people who are hell-bent on being lazy, or bad, or whatever it is people do that the construct is designed to prevent.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:12 AM on May 24, 2007


It would help, especially for the longer threads. It great in theory to read the whole thread carefully prior to commenting, but in some threads, especially relationship threads, many people will leave rather long answers. The number of answers and their length combine to make reading the whole thread quite a chore.
posted by caddis at 10:16 AM on May 24, 2007


Good idea. Maybe use a darker green background for them, and the lighter green for best answers.

Even better would be to make the background to the original question match the responses from the questioner below.

I don't buy the arguments against. It's not like reading the whole thread always makes it easy to find the questioner's posts, unless they say "yo, here's more info".
posted by smackfu at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2007


I like the suggestion of simply adding "Poster" after the username, like in the MeFi navigator.
posted by pithy comment at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2007


in some threads, especially relationship threads, many people will leave rather long answers. The number of answers and their length combine to make reading the whole thread quite a chore.
I have a low-tech solution for that problem.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:29 AM on May 24, 2007


But, really, seriously, try the MeFi Navigator greasemonkey script. It makes MeFi better. I can see why you might not want to highlight admins or posters in the blue, but the rest of the navigation elements are incredibly useful.
posted by team lowkey at 10:30 AM on May 24, 2007


It makes MeFi better

For Firefox users, maybe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on May 24, 2007


I suggested last time this came up that the asker's responses should be indented less, the same way the original question is.
posted by cillit bang at 10:35 AM on May 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


folks should be encouraged to read the whole thread carefully

And this would help them do that.

I agree that it probably wouldn't solve the problem that Handee mentions. But I think it's a good idea and ought to be implemented, anyway.
posted by cribcage at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2007


It would also help those of us who are perusing old AskMe threads. There's no reason someone who's not posting should be obligated to read every post, and I find a combination of looking at best answers -- if they're even marked -- and follow-ups from the original poster gives a good overview. I often search on the poster's name, but that gives a lot of false positives.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2007


Anybody who says arguing on the internet never changes minds take note: I think I've changed my mind. Good points, all.

My curmudgeonly motivation for my now-conceded position remains intact in its resplendent black oily violence, mind you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2007


I love the feature in the greasemonkey script, but I tend to think the clean look of metafilter is a boon, and that cluttering it up should be optional.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2007


I often search on the poster's name, but that gives a lot of false positives.

I use MeFi navigator, but I often find myself searching for specific users' contributions anyway. To avoid the problem of false positives, I picked up the habit of always searching for "by [username]" instead of just "[username]." It saves a lot of wear on my F3 key.
posted by Partial Law at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2007


I didn't know about MeFi Navigator before this thread. Installed it. My life has new meaning. Thanks!
posted by misha at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for the hack that'll allow the Easy Button to be used with MetaFilter. Corey said it was supposed to be out already.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:25 AM on May 24, 2007


I haven't read this thread in its entirety, or the OP's question, but I don't think fat people should be allowed to vote.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:53 AM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ambrosia Voyeur: "I love the feature in the greasemonkey script, but I tend to think the clean look of metafilter is a boon, and that cluttering it up should be optional."

I agree. I already edit the greasemonkey script to make it as lean as possible (sorry, matthewr, but I don't need it to tell me a user has "No other comments"). I don't think highlighting the poster's name in AskMe would be too intrusive, but the navigation stuff shouldn't be implemented into the site proper unless it was an option you choose to enable in your profile. And that would probably confuse people even worse.
posted by team lowkey at 11:55 AM on May 24, 2007


Yeah, I use a copy of the script edited to do only the poster/admin highlighting and none of the "previous/prior comment in this thread by the user" stuff. The visual fingerprint of a dropdown widget next to every by-line was too disruptive.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:19 PM on May 24, 2007


sounds like a good addition to me.
posted by modernnomad at 12:45 PM on May 24, 2007


Hey, while we're talking about the MeFi Navigator, I've been meaning to update mine so it only marks Cortex as moderator in threads after March 8, 2007, and Jessamyn as moderator in threads after whenever she started moderating. Problem is, I don't know when that was. Anyone got that date handy?
posted by Partial Law at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2007


I picked up the habit of always searching for "by [username]" instead of just "[username]."

::smacks forehead::
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2007


I lose the dropdown, but leave the comment count and the arrows. They have a pretty small visual footprint by themselves. It's useful to jump through someone's activity in a long thread, but having a quick link to a specific comment number doesn't have any utility for me.
posted by team lowkey at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2007


Anyone got that date handy?

I started filling in a little bit in late 2004 and went quasi-official in early 2005.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2007


Great, thanks. I'll probably just round it off to January 1.
posted by Partial Law at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2007


Even if you don't like the navigation stuff, the little poster/admin/self indicators in MeFi Navigator are pretty swell. They would make a really nice addition to the site.
posted by Gamblor at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2007


Back on topic: I think the idea is great and Cillit Bang's suggestion of outdenting the text the most subtle and least confusing and yet totally valuable. Instead of scrolling/scanning for lighter/darker green, you look at the left margin and scroll until something's in it. Depending on how the CSS is done, this might be difficult due to the box model.
posted by Brainy at 1:04 PM on May 24, 2007


I picked up the habit of always searching for "by [username]" instead of just "[username]."

Great, so now I can search for [by Partial Law] and I won't get any spurious matches to comments posted, say, by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg that are just referring to a comment posted by Partial Law? That is an amazing trick, by George.
posted by grouse at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2007


*goes nuts, starts mutiny, deletes everyone*
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:32 PM on May 24, 2007


Again?
posted by dersins at 1:42 PM on May 24, 2007


I think it is a good idea, and I like the suggestions that have been favorited as well.

Although I'm a little confused as to why cortex went off the deep end (in this thread specifically, I mean).
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:25 PM on May 24, 2007


I like the idea. A possible low tech solution would be for the original poster to put *** as the first three characters of any followups. Simple searching would find all the instances of the three asterisks. Would take a little while to catch on (and, come to think of it, countless MeTa threads) but no coding would be required.
posted by ontic at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2007


... (and, come to think of it, countless MeTa threads) ...
If you get annoyed by people asking what "." means, just imagine what this would cause. Bad idea, bad bad idea.
posted by dg at 3:11 PM on May 24, 2007


I like cillit bang's idea. Subtle, but effective.
posted by trip and a half at 3:38 PM on May 24, 2007


I agree with Greg Nog. I'd also like a mandatory exemption for myself.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2007


I recently started using MeFi Navigator and find it really useful, especially for picking moderator comments out of hot threads!

Since Matt said he doesn't mind the idea (I noticed it was Matt because he had 'Admin' next to his name), wouldn't the simplest solution here just be for him to "borrow" the implementation of MeFi Navigator and put it into the site?
posted by ranglin at 8:57 PM on May 24, 2007


Must I always be the one to see the obvious answer?

The Original Poster's question should be highlighted in bright green. The WHOLE question. This will prevent people from answering before reading the whole question. Like "What's a good book?" And someone answers "Fahrenheit 451!" But they didn't read the next sentence which says "I HATE BRADBURY, PLEASE NO BRADBURY." So, that takes care of that part.

Next, any reply by the original poster should be highlighted in bright pink. That would make SURE that everyone answering would "get it" and not give stupid answers to the questions.

Also, in order to make sure no one gets confused about which comment the OP was responding to, they should have a corresponding color border around them, because every reply by the OP is not necessarily right after the comment being replied to. So, if there is a black border around the bright pink highlighted OP reply, you can look for the comment with the black border, and know they go together. Just use the 216 color "web palette" to choose border colors. This will allow plenty of colors for clarification purposes. The more color borders, the more clear and lucid the thread will be.

If the OP picks a best answer, then that answer is highlighted in the same bright green as the original question. Any OP replies to that answer would also automatically be highlighted with the same bright green, to further clarify things.

Some answers are just stupid. I vote the OP can select these. To show their diminished value, they should be grayed out; still legible, but not as legible as the other answers.

Now, things are really starting to get clear.

Additionally, I think a weighted importance indicator should be implemented. Some users' answers are just more astute and useful than others. Mathowie can keep a list of "order of trustworthiness" and use varying frequencies of blinking text to indicate trustworthiness. If a highly trusted user (Quonsar, Jessamyn, LanguageHat, Cortex) leaves an answer, the text can blink faster than when a lower rated user (The Deej) leaves an answer.

To finish things off, when the thread is closed to new comments, the order of the comments should be sorted by color, then by frequency of the blinking text, faster at the top, slower at the bottom.

With just a little more work by Mathowie, we can assure that no one misunderstands anything ever again.

Now, I have some ideas for Projects...
posted by The Deej at 11:44 PM on May 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


While we're at it, I'd love just a teensy bit more white (green/blue/grey) space between comments than between paragraphs. When people use multiple paragraphs, it's confusing to tell where it ends.

I know that makes me sound like a moron since it has "Posted by the Deej" but its late and I can't quite describe how it does, but it does.
posted by Brainy at 1:13 AM on May 25, 2007


I get it. I know what you are saying. "All those paragraphs above were ONE post????

Noted.
posted by The Deej at 3:52 PM on May 25, 2007


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