Is post order determined by when the post was started, or when it was submitted? December 5, 2008 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Question about the order of AskMe questions, or possibly a browser cache issue.

When I load AskMe and read the full page I'll remember which question was on the top.

Later, I'll reload the page and scroll down until I see that question and continue reading new questions above it. A few times, though, I've noticed that there are new questions below where I stopped last time, in between questions I've already read.

Is this a result of the system ordering questions based on the timestamp that the person started the question, rather than the time it was submitted?

Less likely, maybe it's a browser or proxy caching issue?

If the former, would it make more sense to order by submitted-time since several minutes could elapse between start-question and submit-question?

Alternatively, I black out randomly during the day and don't remember reading these particular questions.
posted by odinsdream to Bugs at 1:25 PM (32 comments total)

Is this a result of the system ordering questions based on the timestamp that the person started the question, rather than the time it was submitted?

Questions are ordered by the time they were submitted. Anonymous questions are posted with the time they were approved rather than submitted, but that's the only exception. And your style of reading will work for the site. I can't think of a situation where a question would appear in the past in the timeline, even with some sort of caching issue.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:32 PM on December 5, 2008

You might try taking periodic screenshots of the front page, note the time of the screenshot, and then note the appearance of new questions. That might give us some more information to go on.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2008

Yeah, I'm inclined toward the blacking-out theory here. There's not really a mechanic for re-ordering questions on the mefi side, other than the not-so-applicable-here case of something disappearing on account of a deletion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:35 PM on December 5, 2008

I'd vote blackout because this should never happen.

That said, I've seen what you describe though but it's definitely skimming over stuff and only catching it later.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2008

Maybe once a year we'll remove a question for some reason and the OP emails us and we'll go back and forth with them about whatever was deleteable about their question and then we'll undelete it once it's been fixed. But I haven't done that in forever so that's unlikely to explain this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2008

You should print this thread out and show it to your neurologist, as you seem to have some sort of blackout disorder. You got a beatdown from the rarely seen Quad Mod Squad, son!
posted by Rock Steady at 2:48 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Speaking of neurological problems, I sometimes get someone else's theme at work (or even show up logged in as someone else). This has been explained as me and these other guys "behind the same proxy", but now I see that's just the mods lying to me so I don't discover I have multiple personality disorder.
posted by qvantamon at 3:37 PM on December 5, 2008

Thanks everyone. I'll consider medication.
posted by odinsdream at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2008

I regularly experience the same phenomenon. Sometimes it really seems like a new question pops up between two questions I've already seen--the illusion (or at least I assume it's an illusion) is particularly strong when the question is something I have a strong interest in. I often just can't figure out how I missed it, when I know I read the one above and below.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:13 PM on December 5, 2008

You are not alone. I have noticed this as well. I have never thought to see if the posts that sneak in are from anonymous.
posted by chillmost at 5:27 PM on December 5, 2008

Metafilter: Speaking of neurological problems...
posted by blue_beetle at 5:50 PM on December 5, 2008

This has happened to me multiple times in the last year.

I had reluctantly concluded there were just holes in my attention, but now I'm not so sure.
posted by jamjam at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2008

No, this has definitely happened. Multiple times. I wish I had screenshots, but there is no doubt in my mind I have seen this occur. Just like the poster above, I'll see a question I recognize, then below it there will be another question, of much interest to me, that was not there before. No way I just didn't see it.
posted by lohmannn at 8:35 PM on December 5, 2008

Are you maybe flipping between regular AskMe and the My AskMe tab? What you describe has happened to me with the RSS feeds, but later I realized the problem was that I confused the two feeds. I'd see questions in My AskMe, and then later in regular AskMe, and wonder how all those extra questions snuck in.

It makes one seem a bit addled, but that's a little better than blackouts, yes?
posted by donnagirl at 9:01 PM on December 5, 2008

Do you have Greasemonkey running? If so, does disabling it change the situation?

I ask out of habit, & because the Deleted Threads script might possibly fill in anonymous threads in the way described. Or older versions of the script, anyway, because I think it takes anonymous questions into account now.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:19 PM on December 5, 2008

Anyone else notice this happening every once in a while in threads? A reply appearing later on between two replies that you had previously read? I noticed this on the ├╝berlong givewell/boingboing/palin threads, which could mean that it is just related to missing something while reading a lot of text (or is something which actually happens when the system is really being pushed).

It made a very distinct impression on me that I had read two replies previously but they had not had an equally interesting third post in between them on the first reading. I kind of thought it was a quirk of the system that everyone was aware of and cool with, but now reading the quad-mod "we're not aware of that" response, I figured it was worth mentioning (at the risk of muddying the waters further).
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:31 AM on December 6, 2008

I've seen this happen, where a post I would be really interested in "suddenly appears" below posts already noticed or read or ignored. I have always attributed this to being busy doing several things while glancing/scrolling too fast over the main page of the site.

In short, I'm not perfect and sometimes miss things. My wife vigorously agrees.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:47 AM on December 6, 2008

Yeah, not to call into question the collective papal infallibility of y'all vis-a-vis memorizing the content of the page from visit to visit, but, well: pix or it didn't happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:56 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I guess the question is, have you had analogous experiences other places where you deal with a lot of text and potential items of interest while multitasking? The reason it stands out to me is that Metafilter is the only thing I have ever read with flat conversations that are frequently updated where my response every once in a great while is "I'm not sure that was there before" rather than "I didn't see that last time". I can easily believe is due to an incorrect memory which seems very accurate, but I wouldn't rule it out as a technical phenomenon.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2008

well: pix or it didn't happen.

well: I've seen much sillier-sounding bugs turn out to exist, and I regretted being the person who said "pfft!". Obviously it can't be proven via screenshot without going to unreasonable lengths, so if it's a real phenomenon, that requirement is a way to prevent finding out. But, even if it is a real bug, it isn't an important one, so it's fair enough to not be interested in it.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2008

This happens to me everywhere I go, yeah. It's less of a problem in environments where I have to actually plow through things literally one at a time navigationally—so a non-issue when, say, plowing through the archives of a webcomic, next >>, next >>, next >> or such.

But when I've got an index? Heck yeah. I scan it reasonably well but get tripped up by something shiny and a couple of posts get missed and when I come back the next time I'm like, "oh, really? A question about foo? A post about bar?" This happens to me at least once a week with the front page of the blue, and I work here and have no diagnosed attention or attenuation disorders. It's really not that unlikely or I think uncommon of a phenomenon.

That said, I'm not absolutely 100% ruling out a technical phenomenon, because there might be some crazy cryptic hiccup out there that no one has ever been able to document previously. I'm putting myself at like 99.8% and demanding pix, is all, because when there's no obvious reason why this would be happening and no actual evidence about where to look and when, trying to find the probably-doesn't-exist issue with the code would be a snipe hunt.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on December 6, 2008

I usually think of an improbable and hard-to-replicate bug report as nothing more than a request to think for a few minutes about whether I can imagine what the reason for it occurring might be and/or if it correlates to something else which has been reported and is still open, not an invitation for a snipe hunt (which would be, in any case, my job as the programmer to choose not to get swept into). If there's no "aha!" then I leave it alone.

I'm also free of diagnoses of attention deficit or the major effects of such a disorder, have no illusions of perfection, understand how weird memory is, and I've read other similarly-active message boards and I haven't had that perception, so I mentioned it.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:00 AM on December 6, 2008

MetaTalk: no diagnosed attention or attenuation disorders
posted by netbros at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that all sounds grumpier than I feel about it. If I got that bug report, I would also react with "oh hell no", but experience has taught that it's worth a brief think, that's all.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, no, I totally get you so no sweat. I think where we are is that we've all given it a brief think and come up with no "aha!" already, so we're in leaving-it-alone territory until something meatier comes along.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2008

If we define the phenomenon as a new question appearing between two you've already read, it seems to me to have much probability of being a technical glitch only if all three questions in question have identical or near-identical timestamps.

That's what I'll be looking for next time it happens to me, anyway.
posted by jamjam at 10:31 AM on December 6, 2008

posted by pb at 9:34 PM on December 5 [+] [!]

posted by cortex at 9:35 PM on December 5 [+] [!]

posted by mathowie at 9:39 PM on December 5 [+] [!]

posted by jessamyn at 9:39 PM on December 5 [+] [!]

Damn, just need vacapinta for a full set...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:03 AM on December 6, 2008

I do have greasemonkey installed, as well as a few other extensions like stylish and adblock.

However, the most recent occurrence was while using the text-only browser Lynx. I had loaded AskMe, read through it as described above, then scrolled down and noticed new questions shuffled in with other ones I'd already read.

I'm still not ruling out blackouts.
posted by odinsdream at 3:17 PM on December 6, 2008

However, the most recent occurrence was while using the text-only browser Lynx.

Ah, I see the problem! You are obviously reading MetaFilter in 1995, so there are clearly some pretty unstable vortexes, wormholes or eddies where/when you are. If you have the appropriate clearances, you may want to ask The Cabal to dispatch a Time Lord to your present location in the space-time continuum.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:30 AM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with Rock Steady. You should really be using Links instead. It has tabs!
posted by Pronoiac at 3:23 PM on December 7, 2008

posted by cortex (staff) at 3:49 PM on December 7, 2008

posted by Rock Steady at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2008

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