Pony. If no pony, then sub-threads. January 4, 2008 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Give me super-speed-reading abilities, or give me death. No--wait! I mean, give me sub-comments. Not death.

Often, by the time I get to reading an FPP, it's reached its peak freshness, and accumulated its critical mass of comments. Where the posts have spawned lively conversations, it gets difficult for a slow reader like me to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Your chaff may vary.)

Is there a feature you all can work on that would turn me into a speed-reader? A sexually irresistable speed-reader? No? OK, then, how about the ability to add sub-comments to particular comments, so that in a post with a large number of comments, I can squelch for content. (I'm only asking for my own convenience, yes.)

e.g. The comments onThis post (where I was an early reader) devolved into a (coff coff) serious conversation about why one should or should not "adore" GWBush. The post, yes, did link to some YouTubery of silliness which involved Bush; the post also linked to the same silliness with FDR as the butt-of-joke, and it linked to more information about the artist. When I came back to the post, there were 80+ comments, mostly eloquent and impassioned, but which had nothing at all to do with the FPP. They were all spawned by this comment.

Now, I like a lively, intelligent derail just as much as the next person (pointing at user 61171). But I'm not a quick fella--if all the noise had been contained to its own sub-thread, I wouldn'a had to scroll (slowly) down to see if I was missing any gems in the rough that actually pertained to what interested me in the FPP in the first place. It was truly frustrating. If all the off-topic-commenters could have posted their comments in the, "Did he just say what I think I thought he just said?" box, there'd be ten minutes of my life I could have spent procrastinating else-how.

(I understand, in my ignorance, that this would require much change, and I know how much people hate change. And work. I hate work, too, but I like good changes.)

Oh, and I want a pony, too. Is that why they call these types of feature requests PonyFilters? Cause I know I ain't getting a pony.
posted by not_on_display to Feature Requests at 6:13 AM (155 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

The thing you are asking for is called "threading." It's been asked for before and turned down before, so I'm not sure what you think has changed. Personally I like threading, but a lot of people don't for what seem to be valid reasons. Matt's been one of those people when this last came up.
posted by majick at 6:21 AM on January 4, 2008


nested comments, or threaded comments. Some people (me!) think nested comments are awesome. Those people don't appear to include matthowie, pb, cortex, or jessymyn. They also don't include many mefites. They believe that flat is more like a conversation with friends, that evolves a topic as the conversation goes. I agree when it's with 5 friends. When it's with 25 + friends, it's certainly more confusing to me as well.
posted by garlic at 6:22 AM on January 4, 2008


If you're suggesting a threaded comment model, that pony's been beaten to death.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:23 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is that why they call these types of feature requests PonyFilters?

yes. you may enjoy these graphics.

pony
cortex w/ pony
no you can't have a pony

we've had a discussion about threaded discussions here many times and the general consensus is that it's not going to happen here at MetaFilter. There are some interesting Greeasmonkey scripts that can help you manage unruly threads, but sub-threads is a whole change of How This Place Works.

there'd be ten minutes of my life I could have spent procrastinating else-how.

To be truly happy and at peace with yourself, you have to realize there is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:23 AM on January 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


'Sub-comments' implies threading. Threading has been discussed on Mefi many a time, and it's a pony that isn't going to gallop into life anytime soon. From March 2001: "I haven't heard a call for threading in over a year now, and after looking at slashdot and the userland discussions, I'm glad I never went with threading."
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 6:24 AM on January 4, 2008


Comment threading would throw commenting behavior into chaos, as it would completely negate the cardinal notation married to the comment box in the blue:

Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.


It's just a suggestion, and sometimes it's not followed. If comment threading existed, I'd imagine individuals would be more inclined to forget our little favorite passage, and discourse would suffer proportionately. Your only real complaint here is scrolling, maybe you need a new mouse, or more patience?

There are some interesting Greeasmonkey scripts that can help you manage unruly threads

Mefi Navigator for comment tabbing, etc

Mondo Meta for intelligent blacklisting/highlighting based on custom defined text including header/footer exclusion. This would be helpful in this instance if quoting was built in, and it would automatically add "XXX said" because then you can filter for "XXX said" in comments and those replies will be truncated. As it stands it can depend on user behavior for this to function well, but it is better than nothing in most instances.
posted by prostyle at 6:32 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


flat posts means that a new poster has to post on the last comment, and only on the last comment to keep from derailing, or trying to deal with the confusion of 2 + conversations at the same time.

flat posts work great when there's only 1 conversation going on, and if metafilter only wants one conversation per post, that's fine. It makes derails a lot more annoying to people new to the post, but whatever. Only one conversation at a time when there's what, 1000 + active users, that's tough.
posted by garlic at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2008


Threading?

nice voice acting, but kind of meh.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:53 AM on January 4, 2008


And greasemonkey script suggestions may work great for those who can use firefox -- but sometimes people are locked down to IE. Didn't Matt say that only recently has the number of firefox hits exceeded IE hits?
posted by garlic at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2008


To be truly happy and at peace with yourself, you have to realize there is no calamity greater than lavish desires.

I disagree. I think that it is not desire that causes suffering, but the fulfillment of desire. Lavish desires give one a purpose, something to work for. That is true happiness: a sense of purpose. Once you have achieved the goals you have set for yourself, you are left empty. You have the big house, the nice car, the great life and you just sit there and think "Okay, I have it all. Why am I not happy?" And the funny thing is that every person out there who hasn't reached their goals thinks "Man they are just sad. That won't happen to me. If I can get out of debt/meet Mr./Mrs. Right/buy a house/get a good job/buy that thing I have been saving for/make it as an x/buy my own private island then I won't sit around wondering what now. I will be happy." And one of two things happen: they never reach their goal and so never know, or they do and find out that we were all right when we said "'When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept. For there were no more worlds to conquer' (benefits of a classical education)."

So I say keep chasing your beautiful pony not_on_dispaly. Just make sure that you never catch her.
posted by ND¢ at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


or trying to deal with the confusion of 2 + conversations at the same time.

Oh, the horror! However will we manage! It will drive us INSANE!!
posted by languagehat at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter is about the links. You want it to be about the comments. That is not what metafilter is for.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:15 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be truly happy and at peace with yourself, you have to realize there is no calamity greater than lavish desires.

I disagree. I think that it is not desire that causes suffering, but the fulfillment of desire.


This thread seems to have veered into a discussion on the nature of hapiness, which has caused my head to explode. Is there any way to add sub-threads to this thread to prevent further cranial detonations?
posted by burnmp3s at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2008


Lavish desires give one a purpose, something to work for. That is true happiness: a sense of purpose.

At some point you realize you're never going to live in your cloud castle and you have to deal with the very present reality of your cloud castle desires and your otherwise-acceptable house. But that is why you are a lawyer and I work here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:18 AM on January 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


I never understood how people can be in a ridiculously locked down environment and yet still be free to browse metafilter as they like. Surely anywhere you actually can't run firefox, they'd want to restrict browsing altogether? (I actually suspect many 'forced to IE' people could easily run Portable Firefox if they really wanted to)
posted by jacalata at 7:23 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is not what metafilter is for.

I guess, then, what MetaFilter is for is having people tell you* what MetaFilter is for.

*and so authoritatively!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2008


This is a bad idea. And it was a bad idea all the other times it's been suggested.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2008


I'm glad that threaded conversations will never happen here because I hate them so so much. And, while I usually slavishly agree with everything jessamyn says, I actually think that it is burning and irrational hatreds (like mine for threaded discussions) that are the greatest calamity.
posted by OmieWise at 7:34 AM on January 4, 2008


Why do you hate Metafilter so much?
posted by flabdablet at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2008


blue_beetle typed "Metafilter is about the links. You want it to be about the comments. That is not what metafilter is for."

No, it is about the comments, which is precisely why threaded comments would be such a nightmare. Even if a discussion goes in lots of different directions, it should still be fundamentally one discussion. Otherwise, Metafilter would turn into a bunch of little cliques just having the same conversation over and over.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, the greatest calamity is probably a hurricane made of biting red fire ants, all of them asking why you don't have kids yet.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:01 AM on January 4, 2008 [25 favorites]


I wonder if it's a coincidence that:
(1) Mefi has some of the best general conversation on the entire internet, and
(2) Is one of the relatively few conversation-centred sites not to have threaded comments.

Anyone?
posted by Zero Gravitas at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is a too-complex solution to a reasonable problem. Want to get a quick intro to a long, complicated thread? Use one of the three Greasemonkey scripts suggested in this pony request. As an unbiased observer, I suggest Thread Highlights.
posted by Plutor at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2008


I come to Metafilter for the pie.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:06 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


^ flagged as sexist
posted by iconomy at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


roll truck roll : "No, it is about the comments, which is precisely why threaded comments would be such a nightmare. Even if a discussion goes in lots of different directions, it should still be fundamentally one discussion. Otherwise, Metafilter would turn into a bunch of little cliques just having the same conversation over and over."

Was this intended sarcastically? I can't tell...
posted by garlic at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2008


^ flagged as now that the rickroll meme has faded into unfunny, what do we have left?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:22 AM on January 4, 2008


flat posts means that a new poster has to post on the last comment, and only on the last comment to keep from derailing, or trying to deal with the confusion of 2 + conversations at the same time.

not true, dude -- check this shit out!

it's like i'm doing a comment wheelie or something. WOO I AM BUNNY HOPPING OVER THOSE LAST TEN COMMENTS TO MANUAL ON YOUR SCREED
posted by fishfucker at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


As an unbiased observer, I suggest Thread Highlights.

Thank you for making my script obsolete.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:25 AM on January 4, 2008


I wonder if it's a coincidence that:
(1) Mefi has some of the best general conversation on the entire internet, and
(2) Is one of the relatively few conversation-centred sites not to have threaded comments.


That's totally a coincidence.

Limited membership during the community blog boom period and the current entrance fee is the real cause of mefi goodness. But flat threads are nice, anyway: they keep us all stuck in the same world, rather than allowing schism.

To be truly happy and at peace with yourself, you have to realize there is no calamity greater than lavish desires.


While normally a font of erudite and sage advice, jessamyn has here steered you horribly wrong. The greatest calamity is loneliness and despair, brought on by unnecessary hair-splitting and logic-chopping without need. Or else it's heresy and schism, which cause that Church which is Mathowie's body to be severed limb from limb, where all die alone. I can't remember which.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:27 AM on January 4, 2008


Deathalicious: "Thank you for making my script obsolete."

Actually, I really like your script for casual reading, but I prefer the way mine works when I'm trying to catch up on a long thread. Anyhow, right now I've got them both installed.
posted by Plutor at 8:31 AM on January 4, 2008


Why not have threading for the people who like it and turn it on, on a per-user basis, and leave the default to flat viewing? It's not like that would be a novel idea *coughSlashdotcough*.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:39 AM on January 4, 2008


Why not have threading for the people who like it and turn it on, on a per-user basis, and leave the default to flat viewing?

The general rationale is

1. it's a huge change to a site that operates another way. This isn't just changing the way the site looks, it's changing how it operates in a way that many see as non-positive
2. it would means people are viewing the thread different ways and goes against the whole "we're all in this one thread together"
3. it's good news that this place is not like Slashdot.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


jacalata: I never understood how people can be in a ridiculously locked down environment and yet still be free to browse metafilter as they like. Surely anywhere you actually can't run firefox, they'd want to restrict browsing altogether? (I actually suspect many 'forced to IE' people could easily run Portable Firefox if they really wanted to)

"Forced to IE" means "forced to use at least an IE tab for work," usually combined with "server station that I either can't install on or would have to install on every day." That's the case for me. Really, though, I've never heard of a company banning Firefox. But even the IE tab extension for Firefox doesn't replicate my company website, with its multiple popups and resizings. It's not my fault, and I'm sure that plenty of the guys in IT are pissed off about it too, but it's the way things are. For the first four days or so that I worked here, I installed Firefox every day and ran an open Firefox window alongside my open IE window for work stuff. But you can probably imagine how quickly that became a hassle.

Unfortunately, Firefox doesn't do everything. At least for those of us with company intranets that are complex and strange and necessary moment-to-moment for our jobs.
posted by koeselitz at 8:49 AM on January 4, 2008


^ flagged as now that the rickroll meme has faded into unfunny, what do we have left?

There's still the Treaty of Westphalia.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:54 AM on January 4, 2008


3. it's good news that this place is not like Slashdot.

Oh, come on. Do you honestly believe that adding a threading feature (enabled on a per-user basis) would turn this site into Slashdot, or in general that adding a feature xyz automatically makes a site abc into def? It's not like adding those B-I-link buttons below the comment field turned Metafilter into Wikipedia.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:55 AM on January 4, 2008


3. it's good news that this place is not like Slashdot.

Seconded in stentorian tones.
posted by languagehat at 8:55 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


The only good thing threading is, is so you can complain about it in multiple threads
posted by edgeways at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2008


Unfortunately, Firefox doesn't do everything.

Firefox doesn't even work consistently. It's an embarrassment on a Mac.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2008


Blazecock Pileon: Why not have threading for the people who like it and turn it on, on a per-user basis, and leave the default to flat viewing?

That would work, but only under one condition:

Users who view a particular thread with threading are not allowed to comment in that thread.
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Seconded in stentorian tones.

If there's something about threading would so drastically change the site that all of Slashdot's users would come over here, instead, then consider me against the idea, too. But I think that would be a pretty ridiculous prediction to make, if I gave it more than reflexive, knee-jerk consideration — especially since the Metafilter culture already has its patois and quota of in-jokes (hey, just like Slashdot).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:03 AM on January 4, 2008


Oh, come on. Do you honestly believe that adding a threading feature (enabled on a per-user basis) would turn this site into Slashdot

No, and I didn't say that. Save the handwaving and logic lessons for someone who needs them.

koeselitz ftw.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2008


No, and I didn't say that

It sounds like you did, though: "The general rationale is... it's good news that this place is not like Slashdot." That is, threading would make this site like Slashdot, which would be bad news.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2008


Just say no to threading. One conversation, however bouncy, per thread. If you can't follow it, do what I do- give up and close the thread. Any thread that's too all over the place isn't probably worth reading, anyway.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:17 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's the danger with visiting a city. Most folks find the main street and never look down the side roads. They don't see the city, just the main road. That main road isn't the city. Hell, half the time it's just some strip of asphalt with a lousy diner and a couple townies killing time cracking jokes about tourists and the fuzz. No, if they really want to see the city, the side roads are where it's at. Maybe they won't like some of the little enclaves here and there, but maybe they will. No matter what though - they'll be able to say they KNOW that city.

Now, you'll get those new fangled tourists with their expensive road atlases, tour buses, picture postcards, and bird's eye view helicopter tours, and yeah, they'll SEE the enclaves, might even get to know a thing or two about them, but they're not gonna KNOW the enclaves till they walk through them, say hello to the shop keeps, get bubblegum stuck on their shoes, help from a stranger, and generally stay there long enough to notice the people's accents, attitudes, environment, hopes, and aspirations. Yeah, THAT's when they "know" the enclave. Without that they might as well have dreamt it all, because they'd see and learn more that way than whatever they did their way and not waste everyone's time in the process.

This city doesn't generally cater to those types. If people come they better be prepared to explore the side streets and their sometimes cute and sometimes ugly little enclaves. It's part of the package. It's MetaFilter.
posted by jwells at 9:20 AM on January 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


I loathe threaded discussions. Every conversation instantly splinters into dozens of essentially unrelated one-on-ones; the same ideas get repeated in multiple threads, because nobody can bother to read them all; and the noise factor instantly gets upped by a million percent because now people can derail with glee because, hey, it's not a derail, it's just its own thread!!! Kewl!!!

if all the noise had been contained to its own sub-thread, I wouldn'a had to scroll (slowly) down to see if I was missing any gems in the rough

Oh, yes, this is a fine idea. Every page gets two subthreads, one for "gems" and one for "noise". Implementation is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by ook at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


veto.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on January 4, 2008


post hoc ergo propter hoc, geez.

Well, you wrote it; I'm just quoting you. Proposing that a per-user preference be available is not the same as proposing that one site become like another, that's all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2008


I refer the honourable member to the answer I gave previously.
posted by patricio at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2008


Threaded conversations are for nerds that like to keep their eggs from touching their pancakes.

If you can't follow the conversation at the big-boy table, go sit with the ugly kids.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:35 AM on January 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Every time there's a feature request, and there's even the smallest debate over it, someone inevitably suggests it be made an option that can be turned on for those who like it. How is that scalable at all?
posted by danb at 9:35 AM on January 4, 2008


I decided I didn't want to start a latin argument battle, but I was making a larger point that you interpreted narrowly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2008


    Metafilter is about the links. You want it to be about the comments. That is not what metafilter is for.
I read Metafilter almost exclusively for the comments. I can find perfectly serviceable "best of the Web" links in many other places, but the quality of discourse here is far above what can be found most anywhere else.

Threading makes it easier for users to avoid engaging with each other before they hit the "Post" button. Were it to be implemented here, I think we'd likely see a decline in civility and an increase in noise - and the last thing we need here is more of the FRIST POST and THIS SUCKS AMIRITE style of drive-by commentary that's so rife in other forums. Articulate dialogue and a sense of community are what make Metafilter special, and threading would threaten both of those things. A threaded Metafilter would look sort of like an arts-and-letters-oriented Digg, which fills me with a dark and nameless dread.

The <img> tag, though... that's another story. Free the <img> tag!
posted by killdevil at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2008


Who knew that the Treaty of Westphalia was such a bad dancer?
posted by taliaferro at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2008


I was making a larger point that you interpreted narrowly.

Whatever. I interpreted it in the context of this conversation. Feel free to delete my comments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2008


Metafilter: Feel free to delete my comments
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:47 AM on January 4, 2008


Oh, come on. Do you honestly believe that adding a threading feature (enabled on a per-user basis) would turn this site into Slashdot, or in general that adding a feature xyz automatically makes a site abc into def? It's not like adding those B-I-link buttons below the comment field turned Metafilter into Wikipedia.

Citation needed.
posted by djgh at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


You are right about that. Smartphone users would be up a creek. I don't agree that it's impossible, just very odd.

And yes, it is 'tuchus' .
posted by studentbaker at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2008


What does watercarrier say about this?
posted by Mister_A at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2008


I think adding sub-threads would let people post without reading the whole thread, so I would vote for keeping things the way they are. But, since MetaFilter is a harsh and cruel dictatorship rather than a democracy, voting doesn't really help much.

I propose instead that all of the pro-sub-thread people split off and create their own ThreadaFilter website. I further propose that the two sites engage in an intractable flamewar that ends with the destruction of both sites. After that I propose that everyone meet for cookies and a game of no-holds-barred kickball. Also juice.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:58 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]




"Proposing that a per-user preference be available is not the same as proposing that one site become like another, that's all."

How would that even work? That there's, by default, no threading would mean that some sort of parser would be necessary to create threads on top of the conversation, which (given that comments often reference both main topics and derails, sometimes several) seems fairly impossible to do automatically. Would you hire new editors to decide what went in which thread?

It's trivial to go the other way, flattening threads by timestamp, but nigh impossible to create coherent threads on top of an unstructured discussion.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now, realizing that I won't have this pony (there will be others.. [hearing violins now, and hooves clopping].. sniffle... other ponies that will come along...), I did want to respond.

"Metafilter is about the links. You want it to be about the comments. That is not what metafilter is for."

For me, it is about both--and, yes, I can choose to modify my perception of what MeFi is/does for me. The quality of the FPPs, discussing them, and getting to know the intelligent (with little exception, I've found) people here in this way--"I liked x but noy y"--"Oh, then you definitely shouldn't look at z"--that's why I like love this community. If it were just about the links, well, I can use Google on my own and then congratulate myself on how much I liked the links and how I never learned anything I didn't want to or know or was looking for. (Or memepool.. do they still exist?)

"No, it is about the comments, which is precisely why threaded comments would be such a nightmare. Even if a discussion goes in lots of different directions, it should still be fundamentally one discussion. Otherwise, Metafilter would turn into a bunch of little cliques just having the same conversation over and over."

I thought it already did, given the right FPP. Oh.. wait, I see that someone asked if that was sarcasm... I'd have liked to see those two comments more close together.

"Oh, the horror! However will we manage! It will drive us INSANE!!"
"This thread seems to have veered into a discussion on the nature of hapiness, which has caused my head to explode. Is there any way to add sub-threads to this thread to prevent further cranial detonations?"


It's because of comments like this, that--just for this comment, and out of spite--I'm suspending my usually rigorous policy of at least annotating a reply-comment with the original timestamp-link-thingie. Uhh, yeah, just because I can't think as quick and as organized as you, MARCIA... MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA!! If I may speak plainly, it's smug, snobby comments like these that make MeFi ... [no, wait, if I speak plainly, I'll get another smug comment that "you sure do speak plainly."] So: You scroll up and see if you remember what username said what. I bet you can do it perfectly, MARCIA! (snif.. my pony...) Believe me, if I weren't so ADD and disorganized, I'd be able to recall these things as well as you... uhh.. whatever your name was... ah.. languagehat!? You? What's WITH you lately, man!? [I kid. I think you're spot-on a lot of the time. Peace, bruthah.] ...pant pant pant

Thank you to those who posted actual useful comments and suggestions on how to self-regulate via browser-bots, changes I should make in philosophical life-outlook ... and for the funny pony pictures. Speaking plainly, it's people like you that keep me here. I don't see threading as potentially turning MeFi into something else (I don't know many other online communities such as SlashDot well because they all seemed to SUCK), but now I do see the logic that it can creates schisms, creates an unmanageable amount of sub threads that amount to little of worth, allows one very easily to avoid looking down the dirty alleyways, etc.. And it's those douchebag comments (like MARCIA's) that make me laugh hardest sometimes.

So, thank you all. Now can we kill the "douchebag" meme? That'd be a pretty pony... sigh....

I'll name my pony, "Calamity."

posted by not_on_display at 10:09 AM on January 4, 2008


One day the threading actually broke on Slashdot. The site had a completely different, more Metafilter-like feel to it. It was an improvement.
posted by zsazsa at 10:11 AM on January 4, 2008


It's trivial to go the other way, flattening threads by timestamp, but nigh impossible to create coherent threads on top of an unstructured discussion.

One possible arrangement:

People who have threading turned off (the default view) see a flat display of comments, like we have now.

People who have threading turned on see the same threaded discussion, no editorial intervention necessary (see just about any forum site for an example).

Any closed/archived posts pre-threading would remain permanently flat.

Do you mean that each user would see his or her own personal, threaded hierarchical view ("user-level" threading), so that he or she can have private discussions? I agree that would be difficult, probably very expensive for the site's database, and perhaps not as sensible for the purpose of having "group-level" threaded discussions. Metafilter's mail feature could be used for private discussions.

Regarding scalability, I don't run the site, so I couldn't possibly say. And since the site owner has more or less decided the matter, this conversation is just whistling in the dark — fair enough. Nonetheless, the default preference is for flat threads, so it would seem to be as scalable as users decide to customize for threading.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on January 4, 2008


"People who have threading turned on see the same threaded discussion, no editorial intervention necessary (see just about any forum site for an example)."

But that would still mean a fundamental redesign of the site's architecture, in that the database default would have to be threaded, instead of the flat as it exists now. It's trivial for a NEW site setup, but it would mean overhauling a lot of stuff here that already (generally) works.

Ain't broke; don't fix.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2008


Ain't broke; don't fix.

I don't think the issue is one of what's "broken", so much as whether to add functionality for people who like that feature. That's why this post was filed by the OP under "feature request" and not "bugs".

I doubt I would use threading here, being used to "how things are". I don't even use it on the rare occasions that I browse (gasp, ohnoes!) Slashdot, for the same reason. But I'm generally a proponent of choice where it is useful and reasonably possible, because "how things are" is not always the "best way" for "everyone".

Decide against something because it doesn't make sense, not because of some knee-jerk rationalization, like some other website somewhere that you don't personally like just happens to offer a feature to its users.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2008


"This thread seems to have veered into a discussion on the nature of hapiness, which has caused my head to explode. Is there any way to add sub-threads to this thread to prevent further cranial detonations?"

...If I may speak plainly, it's smug, snobby comments like these...


For the record, I was going for goofy and ironic rather than smug and snobby. All of my MetaTalk comments should be interpreted as funny/unfunny jokes rather than elitist snobbery. I'm also well aware that my gloating/judging may result in some kind of spiritual comeuppance.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the threaded discussions I've seen elsewhere I've drawn the conclusion that threading solves pretty much none of the problems people think it does.
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


3. it's good news that this place is not like Slashdot.

Mod parent up!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2008


Seconding that threaded discussions are terrible, terrible, terrible in practice.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2008


Has anyone mentioned Plastic?
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on January 4, 2008


flat posts means that a new poster has to post on the last comment, and only on the last comment to keep from derailing, or trying to deal with the confusion of 2 + conversations at the same time.

There have been a couple of snarky replies to this, but I want to reiterate the general sentiment: this has not been a problem. For eight years now, people have managed to carry on multiple threads of conversation on metafilter without issue. It really does work.

And compared with explicit threading, this sub-conversations-in-flat-layout has the advantage of allowing readers to more easily discover and jump into any given sub-conversation at any point in its progress -- with strict threading, the fork point of a new thread becomes a sort of entrance, and if that's not compelling, whatever is within may well get passed up as well.

I could write up a big list of things that I think suck about threading in the context of metafilter—I'm not against threading in general, it's a perfectly useful model—but I don't really want to go there right now.

I don't think the issue is one of what's "broken", so much as whether to add functionality for people who like that feature.

Granted, but what I think klang and a couple other people are trying to convey is that this is not really an "added feature" sort of proposal as much as it is a major architectural change.

Threading or no-threading are two clear architectural choices. We've been doing the latter for a long time, and people are comfortable with it; I think it's safe to say we're not switching over to a threaded model.

So the third choice, the compromise you've been talking about: optional threading, with both a threaded and flat view available, depending on user preference, right?

I'd want to be really compellingly convinced that we wouldn't see any sort of friction or disconnect or degradation of the signal come from the conflicts in the view of a thread between folks using threading and folks using flat. And that seems like a hell of a trick: we're bifurcating the view of the thread in a material way. It's the same issue I have with killfiles, which we also don't support despite their opt-in nature: the thread should be the thread, and there shouldn't be multiple versions of it running around clashing with each other.

That's the general territory of my complaint, on that front. That's aside from the implementation questions and the basic "is this worth the upset" questions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2008


it's smug, snobby comments like these

I wasn't being smug and snobby. I was making fun of the idea that it's impossible to follow two conversations at the same time. That's basic human functionality. And if you don't want to bother, then just scroll down and read the comments that are on the topic you want to follow and ignore the ones that aren't. Problem solved!
posted by languagehat at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2008


Also, you might want to practice writing more coherently. You took seven paragraphs to say "Can we have threaded comments?" That's a waste of everyone's time and mental energy. Again, I'm not being snobby, just pointing out something you should consider next time you feel like making a MeTa post. It might cut down on the snarky responses.
posted by languagehat at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


A plastic pony... what are you, nuts? I gave up dolls last year, pal.
posted by not_on_display at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2008


I hate to go against the flow, but I actually like the idea of sub comments. Nuclear sub comments, specifically. Hidden comments running silent and deep that suddenly emerge from the inky depths and torpedo other people's stupid comments. I would love that shit. Threading, not so much.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Has anyone mentioned Plastic?"

Not in years.
posted by klangklangston at 11:39 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wolfgan Peterson's Das Flag.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2008


Users who view a particular thread with threading are not allowed to comment in that thread.

Snaps! Though if you reflect on this for a second, you'll realize that that this exact functionality already exists! Just click the "sign out" link!
posted by cotterpin at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2008


> Often, by the time I get to reading an FPP, it's reached its peak freshness, and accumulated its critical mass of comments. Where the posts have spawned lively conversations, it gets difficult for a slow reader like me to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Since threading has officially been nixed, this thread may contain a different solution to the initial problem you describe.
posted by WCityMike at 11:44 AM on January 4, 2008


I don't like threading, but if it were ever to be implemented I'd like to see it handled like favorites, with a line after the 'n users marked this as a favorite' saying 'm threadings' clicking which would take you to a page with the option to click on the user name of one of m members in order to view a threading they had produced, together with a one-line statement of the theme of their threading, and the time stamp when they produced it. The one-line statement of the theme of the threading would also appear on the page listing the user names of the producers.

To produce a threading, you would have to click on a box saying [thread this] right after the [add this to favorites] box, which would take you to a page with the appropriate tools to thread the flat view and then submit it, perhaps with a 'refresh' option for the producer to continue to thread as the flat view goes along. Moderators would of course delete the threadings at will.
posted by jamjam at 11:46 AM on January 4, 2008


languagehat: I am quite capable of writing coherently. I actually might want to practice writing without such haste, or to write more coherently while being hasty. When I write quickly, it's very disorganized, but I'm afraid if I don't belt something out quick on MeFi, I'll come back into the room and find the lights are out, and the trashcan's full of empties. Balancing speed and precision, that's why I'm not in the majors.

And apologies for the rant, to both of you. Often, I'm just as guilty of some degree of snobbery, and just as guilty in being offended when I should have seen the obvious light-heartedness of a verbal jab.

Friends? Pals? Buddies? I'll make a donation to the site! A mea culpa? Meee-ah so cullll-pah! Seven paragraphs is a bit too much, true dat.
posted by not_on_display at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd want to be really compellingly convinced that we wouldn't see any sort of friction or disconnect or degradation of the signal come from the conflicts in the view of a thread between folks using threading and folks using flat.

A common problem results from citing the wrong person, which has happened a number of times in contentious threads. However, that stems from the flat view we have now, not the threaded one. At least with a threaded model, it's clear (or at least clearer) who the respondent is citing in his or her response.

What other disconnects are there, or what friction would you anticipate (beyond grumbling)? I'm honestly curious here. What are concrete negatives that Slashdot and other forum sites have experienced as a result of maintaining hybrid views?

If a subthread turns into a flamefest — that makes your cleanup job that much easier.

And that seems like a hell of a trick: we're bifurcating the view of the thread in a material way.

People will take you apart regardless of the view, I think, because the focus has always been on the content. If the respondent chooses to remain with the flat model and screw up the response — well, that's the respondent's fault, but it's always been that way here, no?

That's the general territory of my complaint, on that front. That's aside from the implementation questions and the basic "is this worth the upset" questions.

Implementation is a significant and perfectly reasonable counter-argument. Certainly retrofitting this design would not be trivial for those who run the site, solving interface, schema and performance issues.

"Is this worth the upset"? Assuming you mean end user response, if you remain with a flat view and it affects neither the content nor view of what you are used to seeing, why should you possibly have reason to be upset?

In my mind, it would be like asking if it is worth getting upset about the formatting buttons below the comment field not showing up in every browser out there. That reaction just seems... well, bizarre, at least to my mind (if not insular).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2008


People complain about snobbery, but I never understand their complain. After all, it's our snobbery that separates us from the riff-raff.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Complaint, rather. Whoo. One two many Galliano Kirs!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2008


Wolfgan Peterson's Das Flag.

ping
ping
ping
ping
pong
whoosh
BLAM!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2008


Flo there isn't nearly enough sweaty homosexual tension in that precis.
posted by OmieWise at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still want one of the optional-threading advocates to explain how the heck such a system would work. How would the server know where to put comments left by non-thread users?

It seems to be implied that we'd have to start clicking some sort of cute little "reply" link every time we make a comment. Which basically means that you want us to adopt a threaded philosophy, regardless of what we see on our monitors.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wasn't being sarcastic, by the way, but I was secretly hoping to get made into a "Metafilter:"
posted by roll truck roll at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2008


If I had a nickel for every time someone complained there wasn't enough sweaty homosexual tension in my precis...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


What are concrete negatives that Slashdot and other forum sites have experienced as a result of maintaining hybrid views?

But that's the thing; Slashdot absolutely does not maintain a hybrid system. They provide multiple ways to view what is unquestionably a nested-thread discussion model; culturally, there's no question of which system is actually being used.

At least with a threaded model, it's clear (or at least clearer) who the respondent is citing in his or her response.

I understand that as a benefit, but a limited one; you're citing cases where someone responds to the incorrect author/comment, but as long as a flat view remains the standard view, threading won't significantly help that unless there's some reason to believe that users who make this sort of mistake and users who will want to use the threaded view will somehow self-select towards something approaching unity.

There's also the question of how this would support multiple responses in a single comment; threaded systems generally rely on a strict parent-child relationship -- your comment is either a head of a new subthread, or a reply to a specific other comment -- but folks frequently respond to more than one person or comment on metafilter. We'd have to find some way to logically and easily support the display of thread merges if this was going to be a transparent addition to the site; or failing that expect that people would have to change their commenting style (more independent comments spreading out replies to individual units), which is something that I really don't like the sound of.

"Is this worth the upset"? Assuming you mean end user response, if you remain with a flat view and it affects neither the content nor view of what you are used to seeing, why should you possibly have reason to be upset?

Two points:

1. I'm not convinced that users of the default view would be in a situation where the content would not change, because the alternate threaded view could potentially very much affect how folks using it structure and organize their own comments, and the degree to which those threaded users actually pay attention to the thread as a whole.

2. Injecting this into the UI, even as an opt-in feature, would be really disruptive. Even if it came out okay, even if it worked super-dandy, it is (observably, I think, from past UI changes that have been less signficant) true that there'd be a lot of reaction to this. Call it selfish practicality, but if something's going to be a pain in the ass for us like that we're probably going to want to be more convinced that it is, in fact, worth it. Time spent trying to deal with people reacting to the change is time not spent promptly nixing noise in AskMe or cleaning up threads elsewhere, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


UNTIL THE NAME "MAUDLING" IS ALMOST TOTALLY OBSCURED
posted by Mister_A at 12:46 PM on January 4, 2008


MetaTalk: A waste of everyone's time and mental energy.
posted by klue at 12:53 PM on January 4, 2008


But that's the thing; Slashdot absolutely does not maintain a hybrid system. They provide multiple ways to view what is unquestionably a nested-thread discussion model; culturally, there's no question of which system is actually being used.

If having multiple views was a problem, there would be calls for a default of one sort or another over there, right? The absence of complaints (about that) seem to give evidence for there not being a problem at all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 PM on January 4, 2008


The problem with threading is then I would have to decide who my screwball non-sequiter comment is a response to.

I can't handle that sort of responsibility.
posted by aubilenon at 1:21 PM on January 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If having multiple views was a problem, there would be calls for a default of one sort or another over there, right? The absence of complaints (about that) seem to give evidence for there not being a problem at all.

I've read a lot of complaints by slashdotters (and ex-slashdotters) about the threading system, about different aspects of it and the various incarnations over the years. The thing is that it has been in practice a threaded system for as long as I can remember -- that's the way comments have pretty much always gone over there, and it has a specific fractured feel to it. Independent of whether I like that feel or not, it's marked and different from the feel of flat threads on mefi and elsewhere.

I've never gotten the impression from any sizeable slashdot thread (from, really, any slashdot thread at all) that people were engaging the thread as a single community event so much as a place to try and stake out their own little sub-conversation. Which seems kind of reductive and inclusive by definition in a way that clashes with the flat-thread, We're All In One Room feeling that has pretty much defined metafilter for me.

But slashdot is a gigantic, disjoint community aside from that, and Taco has, as far as I can tell, pretty much done whatever the hell he liked with the UI besides. I'm not sure how much that translates as a useful example for what would work over here, not because Slashdot is inherently bad but because in terms of culture and scope it's so wildly different from mefi.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Easy solution: put a button at the top of every thread that says "switch to threaded view" but really redirects the user to either Slashdot or Digg at random. And closes their account here so they can't come back and complain.
posted by nowonmai at 1:29 PM on January 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


Warren Ellis's comics forum The Engine had hybrid of the two. The display was essentially flat, but the first bit of text noted if you were replying to specific comment.

So this:

:::::
Nope, you got pwned like noob, Cortex!
:::::

might look like this:

::::::::
YYYYY YYYYYYResponding to XXX XXX's comment:

Nope, you got pwned like noob, Cortex!
::::::::
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2008


I like things the way they are. Whenever I accidentally visit some other site (I know! The first time I found one, I was all whaaaa???) and it has nested comments or threaded comments or whatever they're called, I leave immediately, lest mine eyes, they bleed! they bleed! The way things are now, here, are much the better for grokking a complicated thread as a whole.
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why has no one suggested that those who desire threading "get their own blog"? Has this meme faded too?
posted by Cranberry at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2008


Surely anywhere you actually can't run firefox, they'd want to restrict browsing altogether?

I don't even have a computer at work, I have a terminal connecting me to a server somewhere. I have no control over my user account at all. Very limited programmes, can save a small selected number of media file types (word documents, xls files, etc). I can't download anything besides an image file, I can't access a USB drive, I can't email a zip or exe file, or anything above a very small file size. I can't install or run anything new. However, I can, on occasion, fire up IE and take a look at metafilter (as long as I stay within the limits of acceptable personal internet usage). So yeah, it is totally possible to be stuck on IE yet still be able to play here or elsewhere at least a little.

None of this bothers me btw, I'm a student planted in an external host organisation and they're awesome about giving me the resources I actually need. I just don't need firefox.

I hate threads too but since that one seems sorted already I figured I don't need to go into it too much.
posted by shelleycat at 2:00 PM on January 4, 2008


Hey, everybody.

rushes to click Remove From Activity
posted by shmegegge at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2008


because the alternate threaded view could potentially very much affect how folks using it structure and organize their own comments

Yes. For instance, I copied out part of your comment here, so you would know I was responding to you. If I was reading this in a threaded view, I wouldn't have, because from my viewpoint, it would have been clear who I was responding to. But if someone else was using the default flat view, they would have lost that context and it wouldn't be clear who I was responding to.

So, in summary, optional views are bad, even if optional.
posted by smackfu at 2:17 PM on January 4, 2008


Why has no one suggested that those who desire threading "get their own blog"? Has this meme faded too?

Sorry, Cranberry, but this discussion is already taking place in the Pony. If no pony, then sub-threads./Wintergreen or Wint o' green?/Please flameout/Left Arm or Right Arm?/What does the "." mean?/free quonsar/What's a quonsar?/20 lox, same as in town/GYOBFW sub-thread. Can the mods please delete this derail? KTHXBYE
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:20 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now that that's settled, can we get on to the beer and pancakes?
posted by languagehat at 2:23 PM on January 4, 2008


^ Now that's a pony that I can ride all night. I'll buy the six if you drive us to the IHOP.
posted by not_on_display at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2008


Metafilter: secretly hoping to get made into a "Metafilter:"
posted by jacalata at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


God, pancakes sound good.
posted by everichon at 2:46 PM on January 4, 2008


God pancakes are quite an improvement over the ordinary atheist variety. For one thing, they can absorb a crushing quantity of syrup.
posted by cgc373 at 3:09 PM on January 4, 2008


What roll truck roll said. How would a hybrid/alternate option system even work without forcing nonthread people to pick a subthread/thing-to-reply-to?
posted by juv3nal at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2008


The God Pan's cakes are indeed delicious, but may lead to an irrational love of Zamfir.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:17 PM on January 4, 2008


Please, juv3nal—we're trying to have a conversation about pancakes here.
posted by languagehat at 3:32 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it leads to Zamfir, IRFH, but sometimes, when we are blessed, when our luck holds, it leads to Geddy Lee & Co.
posted by cgc373 at 3:59 PM on January 4, 2008


Blueberry multigrain pancakes are good. Then again, so are those whipped-cream-chocolate-chip obscenities on offer at IHOP.
posted by everichon at 4:26 PM on January 4, 2008


I had pancakes earlier this week. Fresh blackberry pancakes with maple syrup and a side serving of fresh raspberries. It was good.
posted by shelleycat at 4:36 PM on January 4, 2008


Please, juv3nal—we're trying to have a conversation about pancakes here.

Get your pancake heathenry out of my sub-topic, dammit.

And for the record it's all about gingerbread pancakes with cinnamon-cardamom-apple sauce. Okay. I made up the bit about cardamom, I've never had that, but it would be good.
posted by juv3nal at 4:37 PM on January 4, 2008


Google: Results 1 - 10 of about 618 from metatalk.metafilter.com for pancakes.

/me plots his next ignorance-driven MetaTalk post: did quonsar like pancakes?
posted by not_on_display at 4:45 PM on January 4, 2008


quonsar is not dead, not_on_display. quonsar, not unlike Chuck Norris's factual persona, waits.
posted by cgc373 at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2008


Hi. This is flapjax at midnite. Oh, but not that other flapjax at midnite that you see posting from time to time here at MetaFilter. I just joined, you see, and isn't it interesting and funny we have the same username? Hah ha! Well, anyway, I noticed you folks have been discussing pancakes, and I just thought I'd let you know about FlapjaxFinder, a pancake-aggregator/evaluator organization that will help you find the best flapjacks available. They can help you (for a reasonable fee) find the pancakes you need. I have no affiliation with them of course, but I do know for sure that they beat all the competition (for example, FlapjaxNavigator) hands down.

And there's nothing syruptitious, by the way, about this post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:03 PM on January 4, 2008


Hey -- I think this flapjax guy (and FlapjaxFinder) is prolly Holden K.

Couldn't make it in hedge funds, screwed-up in non-profits, now trying to put out a (shit-on-a) shingle in the culinary world. Ha! Don't listen to him!
posted by ericb at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2008


I just read your post and every comment in this thread. I also read the thread you linked to and every comment in it, as well as all of the links. You're whining about "80+" comments? Have you even seen what's going on in the GiveWell thread?
No you cannot have a pony.
Does anyone listen to me down here?
posted by Demogorgon at 5:49 PM on January 4, 2008


I'd like auto quoting, but only if it enforces top-posting.
Give me super-speed-reading abilities, or give me death. No--wait! I mean, give me sub-comments. Not death.
posted by Pinback at 6:01 PM on January 4, 2008


I'd Why like auto top-post quoting, when but you only if can it enforces intra-post? top-posting.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


A very large part of what makes Metafilter a successful community is that it is not a threaded forum. We have conversations on Metafilter. Threaded forums are not conversational.

Changing MeFi to a threaded format might not destroy MetaFilter. It would, however, destroy the community.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 PM on January 4, 2008


I just read your post and every comment in this thread. I also read the thread you linked to and every comment in it, as well as all of the links. You're whining about "80+" comments? Have you even seen what's going on in the GiveWell thread?
No you cannot have a pony.
Does anyone listen to me down here?


First of all, I want to say: Here at GiveWell, we're all about listening to our clients. Actually, I gleaned what was going on in the GiveWell thread by all of the GiveWell references that suddenly sprouted up in the rest of the comments (including a dumb one I hucked on the wall of an otherwise GiveWell-free FPP somewhere. Here, too! Twice!), and by doing CTRL-F on "posted by holde". (Thanks, whoever suggested that...)

If you're I'm going to take the idea of "we're all in the same room" to a silly extreme, I'm one of those people who has trouble focusing on conversations in crowded rooms. And geez, doesn't anyone wipe their feet? Don't touch the drapes, for fuck's sake, my mom's gonna KILL me.

But aside from all that, I'm totally over ponies. I've got to consult my advisor at FlapjaxFinder (the cool users there calle it "FlapFin"), as I'm trying to balance whether I should go to the IHOP in Allston, or look for a smaller diner that's open late.

But first, I have the feeling I'm going to be distracted by a fourth Friday-Flash post. Seriously, it's awesome.
posted by not_on_display at 8:57 PM on January 4, 2008


All I know is, if this K fellow is holding, he ought to share.
posted by ook at 9:28 PM on January 4, 2008


whether I should go to the IHOP in Allston, or look for a smaller diner that's open late.

Staying out of Allston is generally a good idea.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:44 PM on January 4, 2008


Threading bad:

The flat commenting style is definitely a constraint, but I think a very productive on here on Mefi.

1. I wanted to post why threading was bad in response to some of the early comments on this thread, but I knew that it was likely my points were already covered. So I had to read the damn thread before posting to make sure I didn't sound like an idjit (not a guarantee).

2. As smackfu wrote, threading on/off don't work. If I respond directly to your post with a "that's what she said" it'll make sense when threaded, but won't when flat.

3. The flat commenting forces you to cmd+C cmd+V* quotes. A threaded discussion makes quoting less necessary, which I think is a bad thing. By actually having to pull out the words someone else wrote, read 'em again, and put your words up against theirs you're made to confront your own idiocy (what you choose to do with that is on you, of course). I've definitely resisted commenting after seeing how pathetic my once-witty retort appeared in context.

There's more, too. The lack of threaded comments makes the successful snap retort/reply (when the reply comes right after the original comment) much more hilare/powerful; it makes the whinging and the insane (and the passionate) easier to spot, as they often post multiple times in a row to respond to multiple people; and other things that are good!

Ultimately, there's so much awesome stuff that comes out of multiple conversations happening at once that I'd hate to lose.

*[PCIST]
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:57 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm skipping most of this, because you guys are irritating as hell to have to listen to, but I will just point out that there are plenty of websites - like, for example, shacknews.com, that pretty transparently support both a threaded and a flat comment model - you can basically just pick what you want to use.
posted by kbanas at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2008


May I please burn this thread and concept to elemental ash?

Thanks.
posted by loquacious at 6:50 AM on January 5, 2008


I honestly haven't seen any site that combines both threading and flat that is successful -- to me, anyway. Either way it becomes harder and more annoying to read. I am eternally mystified that some people find threaded forums more readable, but I guess we can't all be the same.
posted by litlnemo at 7:12 AM on January 5, 2008


[hands loq a can of BBQ lighter and a match...]
posted by five fresh fish at 8:37 AM on January 5, 2008


If there were enough interest, another option might be to demo threaded comments for a month on one of the three subsites to determine whether or not the sky falls.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 9:34 AM on January 5, 2008


No--wait! I mean, give me sub-comments. Not death.

Sub-commenter Marcos will give you both!
posted by breezeway at 9:34 AM on January 5, 2008


Although I'm as ADD and easily distracted as the next MeFite, and although I worshipped at the altar of trn for years, the mere thought of threaded comments here makes me go all twitchy.

*holds out chilly hands, waits for the first licks of flame*
posted by maudlin at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2008


Oh you know, maybe this all has to do with usenet preferences...

nn represent!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on January 5, 2008


I think threaded comments are a wonderful idea,
>  Oh yeah? Well who asked you anyway, asshole?
>  Hey don't call me an asshole, you fucking
  >>  Look at you two swearing
    >>>  Get over it, prude.
    >>>  Yeah, go stick your head in a blender.
  >>  again. Typical!
>  putz.
  >>  "Putz" - ? Wow, way to insult someone! Oooh, lookit me, I'm a putz!
and if only the site administrators would conceed the same, MeFi
>  Its "concede" you moron.
>  It was a fucking TYPO asshole, like you never made a mistake in your life. Where's
  >>  Really, cuss words are just indicative of a lack of imagination.
  >>  Hello? Will you just fuck off already?
    >>>  Hey don't tell my wife to fuck off, you bastard.
    >>>  Oh you wanna make something of it? Is that
      >>>>  Yeah maybe I DO want to make something of it.
    >>>  what you want?
>  your apostrophe in "its", shithead?
would be a better place for it.
>  What a crock.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Threaded comments are the "No Child Left Behind" of teh internets. All surface and no substance. Even when people derail there are still ways they can incorporate something creatively that they've gleaned from the general discussion. Ghetto-tizing (threaded comments) is a gift to trolls. I don't think I'd still be reading this site after all this time, if there. Also anything that truly needs to be sub threaded / caucused over flows into this space nicely...
posted by Skygazer at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I posted this in the givewell thread, but probably better here: I would very much like to see long-but-interesting threads get automatically broken up into multiple pages of, say, 250 or 500 comments served at a time. The sub-pages could be linked at the top, and we could keep the benefits of the flat thread, but avoid some of the server load and browser stalls. How hard would this be?

I am completely against threaded comments, FWIW, for many of the reasons posted above.
posted by Rumple at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2008


I would like an AI thread-summarizer that will also automatically draw Trajan's-column-type cartoons to accompany the thread.
posted by XMLicious at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2008


One key with multi-page threads is to not put post/reply boxes on any page but the first. Otherwise you get people not noticing there are multiple pages, and responding to the final posts on the first page... that show up on the fourth, completely out-of-context.
posted by smackfu at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2008


Bottom line for me: I should have searched MeTa before I asked this question. Mea so, so culpa. Here's the lighter, loquacious. I taste last night's pancakes. Thanks, FlapFi.
Still, I dig a pony.
> take pony

There is no pony here.
> leave room

You are now staring at a blue screen, filled with fancy words and links.
>
posted by not_on_display at 3:29 PM on January 5, 2008


I have Mondo Meta installed and set so that any comment that gets any favorites is highlighted with a soft yellow. It is similar to the way best answers are highlighted, though a lot softer (I use the plain text version of the site). It really helps with large threads, I suppose I could further filter it so that no highlighting occurs on the shorter threads, but I don't care that much:

Highlight text: (\d) favorite
Located in: Footer
Area highlighted: Entire Post
Foreground color: unchanged
Background color: #FFFFCC
Regular expression is checked.

I can't get the dialog box to go away, even though I set dropdownPeekABoo = true; ... but it isn't that big of a deal I guess. I also have installed MeFi navigator that puts an image next to moderator and original poster names. It helps in Metatalk threads when I want to see The Official Answer and can quickly scan the page instead of wading through a bunch of stupid jokes or having to CTRL+F. I realize there are a lot of good comments that don't get favorited at all, as well as a bunch of nerdy jokes that get a lot of favorites. Not that big of a deal.

I do wish there was a way to go through the site without the one-liners. Metafilter does a really, really good job at filtering out stupid, offensive comments. I wish stupid nerd jokes would go too.
posted by geoff. at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2008


In Russia Metafilter, stupid nerd jokes wish you would go too!
posted by jacalata at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2008


I am amused that manypeople seem to think that if there were nested/ threaded comments, cortex and jessymyn would stop moderating, and DU would suddenly start derailing more.
posted by garlic at 10:25 PM on January 5, 2008


We get it, you like threaded comments.
posted by smackfu at 10:28 PM on January 5, 2008


smackfu, that's any page but the last, right? So confused.
posted by Phire at 12:39 AM on January 6, 2008


And most of the rest of mefi doesn't. Yes, we went over that in what, the first 2 comments. The rest of this is just a circle jerk, right?
posted by garlic at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2008


Phire, I did that just to confuse you.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 AM on January 6, 2008


'Course you did. My bad =D
posted by Phire at 1:31 PM on January 6, 2008


I understand the threading/no-threading issue, but I wonder if there's some sort of middle ground. I think what people want is a way of finding parent/child comments. While threading is one way of accomplishing that, it seems like you could also do it with "smart quoting" of some sort.

E.g., have a button that, when clicked, quotes the post, but also inserts some sort of invisible tag to the original; maybe just an anchor-link (like many people and some Greasemonkey scripts do anyway), or perhaps an XML-ish element. Then you could, if you wanted to, follow parent/child chains through the thread, while keeping it flat overall.

There are lots of flat forums that have quote buttons simply for handiness and, aside from the occasional overzealous use (which is more of a "that's obnoxious, don't do it" user-training issue) don't seem to be negatively affected by it.

I can see the reasons for avoiding Slashdot-style threading; for one, it seems to lead to out-of-control derails/sub-conversations. However, I'm not sure that a 'show parent' or 'show responses' button would necessarily lead to that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:38 PM on January 6, 2008


I can't get the dialog box to go away, even though I set dropdownPeekABoo = true

Weird, I just now checked this on my two available machines and it works ok. You're using the script version of MM, typing about:config in the location bar, searching on 'PeekABoo' or 'dropdown' or somesuch unique identifier, double-clicking on the preference setting, and typing in "true" without the quotes, correct? Then hit refresh and the box should vanish from the land. Or from the display anyway.

(Congratulations on using regex, btw. Few seem to, and most perhaps do not understand the massive increase in filtering power it permits.)

P.S. I wouldn't have noticed this thead comment if a semi-random check of my web log hadn't shown an unexpected page pulse from the mention here. It's actually ok to send me support e-mails or messages for script issues, or perhaps even better, through the new-fangled MetaFilter mail dingus. Other MetaFilterians have successfully navigated those waters and survived with a minimum of scarring.
posted by mdevore at 10:33 PM on January 6, 2008


nn represent!

Ha, yes, I am in fact an nn user from back in the day. And a Citadel BBS user, which also had flat MeFi like discussion "rooms".

Back in the BBS days, there were threaded BBSes and there were Citadels, and from the beginning I hated the threads and gravitated to Cits -- because they seemed far better for conversations, and that was why I was calling BBSes. And why I still run one. (Obvious self-link, sorry.)

Responding to Kadin2048's post -- it is too bad that Ravelry isn't open-access yet, because the message boards there are really wonderfully designed. They are flat like MeFi, but each post shows which one it is a reply to, and you can click to see the replied-to post, and then click again to see what that one replied to... but if you don't want to see them, they aren't there. Also, there are no 1000 comment pages, which is nice. If MetaFilter incorporated some of those features I wouldn't have a problem with that at all. But threaded Slashdot-style would be awful.
posted by litlnemo at 11:32 PM on January 6, 2008


Kadin2048, I believe that there are greasemonkey scripts that will do the quoting that you're looking for. Either that, or you could do it manually. Not everyone will, of course, but it's a start?
posted by Phire at 9:20 AM on January 7, 2008


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