A better option for tracking post activity? October 2, 2008 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Bookmarks, placeholders, whatever you want to call them...is there a possibility for a better way, built into the site, super please?

Let's say I want to catch up on recent comments in a thread. Currently, I have two options:

1. I can favorite the thread and then wade through my favorites using the "My favorites" under the "Recent Activity" heading. This comes with a few drawbacks: including not being able to collapse any thread, necessitating lots of scrolling, as ALL comments from ALL favorited threads are shown; not being able to 'jump in' where you want; multiple steps (clicks) getting to the activity you want to catch up on, etc.

2. Leaving a comment in the thread. This is great when you have something to contribute; noise when you don't.

I personally don't mind the blatant "placeholder" or "bookmark" comment, and I am not here to complain about that at all. It's that the frequency of placeholder comments (including ones I've made myself), especially as posts are getting longer, suggests that maybe a greasemonkey script or an activity-tracking solution could be really helpful for MeFites. Any ideas?
posted by iamkimiam to Feature Requests at 7:20 AM (66 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Is MetaFilter Scroll Tag not acceptable for some reason?
posted by Plutor at 7:25 AM on October 2, 2008


Try an RSS reader and just subscribe to the threads you want?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:25 AM on October 2, 2008


Boy, word to this. But actually, I only want to follow certain threads of the discussion. Which requires threading. Which is objected to for some reason, even though threads really do exist conceptually, they are just crippled by a lack of tools to handle them.
posted by DU at 7:45 AM on October 2, 2008


Plutor, that script is perfect! I was looking for a solution that didn't necessitate me leaving the site or doing a bunch of thread maintenance (subscribing, tagging, unsubscribing, etc.)
posted by iamkimiam at 7:46 AM on October 2, 2008


Also, browser bookmarks might work fine. Click on the time stamp and then make a bookmark. Or, at least in Firefox 3, right click on the time stamp and select "Bookmark This Link". And then you have a bookmark to the comment in the thread you want. Browser bookmarks seem to respect anchors. But, this may not do exactly what you want.
posted by skynxnex at 7:51 AM on October 2, 2008


fuck threading.
posted by bonaldi at 7:52 AM on October 2, 2008 [7 favorites]


A good threading UI (and its attendant but utterly sucky *software process patent*) is a $100,000,000 idea. It's like 1-click ordering. But a lot harder.
posted by zpousman at 7:55 AM on October 2, 2008


thread fucking!
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:57 AM on October 2, 2008


fuck threading.

What he said.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2008


What he said.

That's what she said.
posted by dawson at 8:02 AM on October 2, 2008


That's what she said.

But she was talking about what he was talking about, which was actually about sewing.
posted by ORthey at 8:08 AM on October 2, 2008


I'd love to see Matt's suggestion integrated into the site. The Recent Activity view would work way better if it was more like an RSS reader - ie a list of subscribed threads (ie. commented or favorited) and the number of unread comments since you last clicked them. Doing it in an external reader is too much work.
posted by cillit bang at 8:10 AM on October 2, 2008


Why not just use recent comments? Is there something I'm missing?
posted by yhbc at 8:17 AM on October 2, 2008


Why not just use recent comments? Is there something I'm missing?

The problem is getting back to the proper place within the big-ass threads we've been having lately. The ability to bookmark within a thread is what is being requested.
posted by cimbrog at 8:28 AM on October 2, 2008


Is MetaFilter Scroll Tag not acceptable for some reason?

I had no idea this existed! I just installed it, and it is awesome. Thank you, Plutor.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:34 AM on October 2, 2008


I just want it to say how many people have favorited each front page post on the front page itself.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2008


I like things just the way they are, now remove yourselves from my lawn at once, you darn meddling kids!

/Scooby Doo villain & Grumpy Old Guy mashup
posted by Mister_A at 9:31 AM on October 2, 2008


Which is objected to for some reason, even though threads really do exist conceptually, they are just crippled by a lack of tools to handle them.

The natural threading of conversation is a much more elegant thing than any extant forum-threading model can account for; it is largely effortless and liquid, leveraged as it is not on software but on the cognitive powers of the reader. Conversation can bifurcate and meld via quotations and references in a way that makes Mefi at it's best a joy to read.

To complain that the conversation is crippled by a lack of a formal threading mechanism is to complain that the art of fencing is crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing machines.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2008 [15 favorites]


To complain that the conversation is crippled by a lack of a formal threading mechanism is to complain that the art of fencing is crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing machines.


To say that mechanical stabbing machines would make fencing less of an art is to say that the Lord God created pizza to be flat and cumbersome, and that pizza should never be on a bagel, for then man might have pizza any time.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2008


Must. Fuck. Threads. At. All. Costs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2008


Metafilter: crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing machines.
posted by waraw at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mechanical stabbing machine.
posted by yhbc at 10:01 AM on October 2, 2008


Heh. Da Shiv's brother was just talking about working in this factory in Taiwan where they have these robots that use prongs to lift glass sheets, and about how sometimes they get disoriented and turn outward, with the prongs still thrusting again and again—essentially stabbing robots.

It was kind of perversely hilarious how frere Shiv seemed totally blasé about folks being stabbed, or falling into pits to their deaths ("It was the contractor's responsibility to place warnings around the pit. Our factory was not liable.") or any other number of industrial manglings.

So we've been joking about stabbing robots all week.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2008


The entire Internet is crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing machines.
posted by Godbert at 10:03 AM on October 2, 2008


The entire Internet is crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing dickpunching machines.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


DU: Boy, word to this. But actually, I only want to follow certain threads of the discussion. Which requires threading. Which is objected to for some reason, even though threads really do exist conceptually, they are just crippled by a lack of tools to handle them.

Threads are already provided on the only level that makes sense.

Anybody who loves the old BBSes (yeah, I've been there) is going to work great with threading. Any other normal, sane, rational human being will find threading to be ridiculous and counter-intuitive, at least in the form in which it existed then and exists to this day. A ridiculous tree with little pointless branches all over it pointing out in all directions, none of which have anything to do with each other, almost always results.

Do you have any idea what it would be like to read such a stupid slop of crap? Never mind that. Do you have any idea what it would be like to try to moderate that shit? It wouldn't make sense. It's already apparently too much, we've seen recently, to expect people to have read the question in an AskMe thread or to have read the post itself, much less the comments that came before in a simple top-to-bottom page. How in the hell are you going to induce people to click through all kinds of silly threads? How are you going to convince people they need to read the thread about y when they're only interested in the thread about z, even if the thread about y mentions and maybe even discusses at length z?

I don't understand why anybody thinks threading would be a good idea. I'd like to see an example of even one conversational web site where threading works well and intuitively functional for a large user base like we have here. Just one. I've never seen one.
posted by koeselitz at 10:24 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see an example of even one conversational web site where threading works well and intuitively functional for a large user base like we have here. Just one. I've never seen one
Nor me.

I go further: if it's not plain text, all in one big-ass page (optional: will also accept just "last 50 posts" if you can view the whole thread with a click), I'm not using it.

I've never stayed more than a day on any of those "page 1 of 17" forums. See also: signatures, avatars.
posted by bonaldi at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2008


Whatever generates the main page knows how many comments are in a given thread, right? And it also knows how many new comments have been posted to that thread since the last time I visited, right? So, in addition to the globally unique anchor tag surrounding each comment's timestamp, why can't we also have an anchor tag for each comment on a per-thread basis, numbered #comment1, #comment2, etc.? If we did, there could be a link for every FPP saying "click here to go to the newest comment" or something, where the "newest comment" is found by just subtracting the number of new comments from the number of total comments.

It solves the recent-activity problem without requiring any additional steps on the user's part. I know installing a Greasemonkey script isn't exactly challenging, but the UX/UI developer in me cringes at any solution that doesn't pass the Grandma test.

Also, while we're at it, I'd like to request a new link at the bottom of every comment that would allow me to sic a mechanical stabbing machine on whoever posted it.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, while we're at it, I'd like to request a new link at the bottom of every comment that would allow me to sic a mechanical stabbing machine on whoever posted it.

There's something behind which we all can get!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:39 AM on October 2, 2008


And it also knows how many new comments have been posted to that thread since the last time I visited, right?

That's the problematic axiom. The site doesn't make any such effort to know exactly when every user last visited the site period, let alone each specific thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:42 AM on October 2, 2008


Sooo, do we get our mechanical stabbing machine?
posted by Mister_A at 10:46 AM on October 2, 2008


Must. Make. Senseless. Analogy. Then. Argue. From. Incredulity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


> The site doesn't make any such effort to know exactly when every user last visited the site period, let alone each specific thread.

ohh, ok... so then when I look at the mainpage and see something like:

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:43 AM - 49 comments (36 new) +

underneath a FPP, where do the 49 and the 36 come from?
posted by xbonesgt at 10:55 AM on October 2, 2008


Anybody who loves the old BBSes (yeah, I've been there) is going to work great with threading.

I don't know what kind of godless mutant BBSes you dialed into, but none of the BBSes (or related pre-consumer-internet fora) that I used ever displayed such a obvious mockery of clean mental hygiene and proper thinking.

Like gopher infestations nested threads are an abomination and a communicable social disease which is best addressed through the copious application of fire. From geniune flame throwers.
posted by loquacious at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


underneath a FPP, where do the 49 and the 36 come from?
from the assumption that nobody would visit more often than every 20 minutes. Oh gods, how I wish that were true of me.
posted by bonaldi at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2008


underneath a FPP, where do the 49 and the 36 come from?

From a less-than-exact activity-tracking cookie; see a whole bunch of previous metatalk threads about how inexact the (x new) counts are because of the fuzzy lack of granularity of that system. It works well for coming back to the site after being away for a while, but it's far from exact.

And again, even at that you have no recourse for thread-specific tracking; if someone comes to the site and wants to catch up where they left off in more than one thread based on their previous-visit cookie, they'll need to open all those threads simulatenously, since further activity (i.e. reading and commenting in threads) will reset the "when were you last here" marker.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 AM on October 2, 2008


I know installing a Greasemonkey script isn't exactly challenging, but the UX/UI developer in me cringes at any solution that doesn't pass the Grandma test.

Your Grandma doesn't read Metafilter, even if she does, then she's only a casual reader of the site and doesn't really have a need for obsessively tracking comment updates the way you and I do, and if she did, then she'd almost certainly have heard of Greasemonkey and would probably be reading this thread right now.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:19 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someday the entire internet will be replaced by a small shell greasemonkey script. And that will be one greasy monkey!

Also, all this talk about electro-threading-conversation machines is moot. Any site that accepts me as a member is not a site that deserves enhanced conversationability.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2008


So, migrate to phpBB then?
posted by stet at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2008


> from the assumption that nobody would visit more often than every 20 minutes. Oh gods, how I wish that were true of me.

> From a less-than-exact activity-tracking cookie; see a whole bunch of previous metatalk threads about how inexact the (x new) counts are because of the fuzzy lack of granularity of that system.

Got it. Thanks.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2008


This has been a super week, what with super deletions and super pleases. It's just been fucking super. You're all fucking super.
posted by Elmore at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The site doesn't make any such effort to know exactly when every user last visited the site period, let alone each specific thread.

Well that's the problem isn't? It's self absorbed and doesn't care about us, not really.

even though it said "I love you"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:00 PM on October 2, 2008


The entire Internet is crippled by a lack of mechanical stabbing machines.

Not for my lack of trying.

fuck threading.

Agreed. I like the way a single comment can collapse several different "threads" in a post by connecting distantly related points. Actual threading would make this difficult and ruin the conversation.
posted by quin at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2008


I'm sure there's some very good reason why, if a thread were to get above (let's say) 500 responses, we couldn't fix it so that an easily-loadable second page of comments (beginning with response #501) would appear, but I don't know what it is.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:00 PM on October 2, 2008


Because we really, really don't want to. Giant threads are the freaks (if an unusually populous gang of freaks in the third act of this insane election) and not what the site is intended to encourage let alone cater to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:05 PM on October 2, 2008


Aren't sewing machines mechanical stabbing machines? And don't they provide threading?
posted by potch at 2:27 PM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


What cortex said: I generally find that much of what I care to read happens in the first hundred comments or so, its rare that I want to soak and get all wrinkly and pruney in a thread much past that point.
posted by pjern at 2:34 PM on October 2, 2008


1) That greasemonkey script is perfect perfect awesome awesome perfect. Thanks, Plutor.

2) Can we please learn more about stabrobots and deathpits please, klangklangston.
posted by barnacles at 2:34 PM on October 2, 2008


Regarding those insanely long threads, I kind of like it that continued pursuit of whatever discussions/conflicts/mud-slingings are going down grows gradually slower, clunkier, more frustrating. "Time to move a long, folks," whispers the ghost in the machine, "There's a whole world wide web out there."
posted by philip-random at 2:37 PM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Plutor, your script is really cool. Thanks.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2008


I haven't read this whole thread, but I'd like to suggest putting the "456 comments (261 new)" next to the link in the favorites. That way y'all don't have to code anything new.
posted by sciurus at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2008


Metafilter: All in one big-ass page
posted by lukemeister at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2008


Maybe there should be a mechanism to make posting progressively more difficult as the thread length grows past a certain point.
posted by pjern at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2008


I can favorite the thread and then wade through my favorites using the "My favorites"

I thought you favorited my stuff because you liked me. You're just using me as a bookmark! I feel so dirty....

*weeps*
posted by jonmc at 4:42 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe there should be a mechanism to make posting progressively more difficult as the thread length grows past a certain point.

Great idea! Something like a mini-quiz about the previous 600 comments, to make sure you've read the damn thing before running your mouth. That way, people would be all "I've totally got an opinion, but, man, I can't even be bothered."
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Looks like it's time to convert Metafilter to one big wiki.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2008


Looks like it's time to convert Metafilter to one big wiki.

We did that for April Fools once.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 PM on October 2, 2008


Maybe there should be a mechanism to make posting progressively more difficult as the thread length grows past a certain point.

Obviously, you did not closely follow or attempt to comment in the original Palin thread once it reached critical mass. The browser limitations alone took care of that one, my friend.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:55 PM on October 2, 2008


Your Grandma doesn't read Metafilter

Ohhhh!

You know how in "urban" culture, where someone "disses" someone else and bystanders go "Ohhhh!" and cover their mouths with one hand while raising the other and shaking it as though they literally felt the "burn"? That's what I was trying to convey.

But since I don't know if that posture/reaction has some any sort of formal name (A "diss-take" would be my guess), the above photo was the best I and GIS could come up with.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:45 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


no threading and no pagination because the people in charge want to discourage comments. Not all comments exactly, but they don't want everyone who's on the site now to have their say in any particular thread. They don't want it to be easy for you to comment on the Palin thread, and they don't want you to be able to go into your own nested thread corner to discuss one aspect of the link while some other corner's discussing some other aspect. They really don't want 2 different corners talking about the same thing.
posted by garlic at 6:57 AM on October 3, 2008


yeah the Man wants to KEEP US DOWN amirite?

GOOGLE RON PAUL
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on October 3, 2008


SILENCED ALL YOUR LIFE
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:06 AM on October 3, 2008


but the UX/UI developer in me cringes at any solution that doesn't pass the Grandma test.

I'm not trying to pick a fight here,and I think your overall point is valid. However...

When I worked as a UI/UX designer, the "Grandma test" was a good way to get soundly mocked and have all of your ideas ignored. Grandma's aren't dumb. Know why your grandma can't program the clock on her vcr? Because vcr's didn't need clocks. If there was a "make bundt cake" feature on the vcr, your grandma would have figured it out, no matter how complicated.

Then again, I showed a less than tech-savvy friend of mine the other day how I could use my iphone to "scan" money and pay bills. It took him about 5 seconds to run it through his head and call bullshit....but for those 5 seconds while I was rubbing the 20 dollar bill on the phone and it was making beepy noises, he was with me 100%

So maybe the stabbing machines are a good idea.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2008


Just use Plutor's script (which is awesome, by the way) or bookmark it. Once the Palin megathreads dip off the front page, I bookmark the last comment read and check it every day or so, updating the bokmark.

Cumbersome, maybe, but it works better than a "NOTE TO SELF READ HERE" comment, which is just noise.
posted by graventy at 11:10 AM on October 3, 2008


If anyone cares for collapsing threads in recent activity on Opera via user javascript ( and doesn't mind a half-arsed implementation by an idiot ), give me a MeMail.

Yes, I'm spending Saturday night at home - why do you ask?
posted by ghost of a past number at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2008


HEY PLUTOR!!: you rock!
posted by popechunk at 7:09 PM on October 4, 2008


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