I need [more inside] and less outside. March 22, 2010 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Can limit the main text area so that people are encouraged to put [more inside] rather than so much outside?

I've been noticing an increasing number of posts ([1],[2], [3], and others which have been admin'ed), which put huge multi-paragraph lengths of text in the description field and nothing in [more inside]. It really disrupts the flow of the page, IMHO - is it just me? Would it be crazy to set a character limit on the Description field to prevent this from happening?
posted by tmcw to Feature Requests at 8:16 AM (67 comments total)

It's just you.

This has come up before.

It will come up again.

I think basically the thinking was there's no good way to limit characters, since some URLs can be cumbersome and exceptionally long, and some people pack a slew into a handful of words (sometimes a link a letter [I hate that!]).

And it doesn't happen that often. And when it does it gets fixed.

Or whatever else other people say.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:22 AM on March 22, 2010


"Can we limit", sorry for the confusion there people.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:23 AM on March 22, 2010


I'd only be in favor of this if we were also allowing bit.ly or tinyurl links in posts. Character count doesn't distinguish between html code and plain text.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on March 22, 2010


They get flagged really quickly on the rare occasions when they do happen and get edited quickly as a result.

One problem with a character-length-restricted field is that long urls can eat up a lot of space in an otherwise reasonable-looking graf. I'm not sure it's worth it for us to implement a parsing checker just to try and avoid this specific, uncommon, short-lived problem, as much as I can see the merit in the suggestion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:25 AM on March 22, 2010


I think it seems more common on askme, where urls are less common - would it be possible to implement just for the green?
posted by handee at 8:27 AM on March 22, 2010


And for concrete examples: I already edited your [1] which was, indeed, a too-long disaster; your [2] and [3] are both on about the outside of what I consider okay without editing for sheer size, and have not been edited.

It'd be great if people were better stylists, but it's a hard thing to achieve, and with the vast majority of folks doing well at basic concision I think it's a situation where, again, there's really not a compelling mandate to try and build out the toolset to enforce the outliers automatically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:28 AM on March 22, 2010


Meatbomb: “‘Can we limit’, sorry for the confusion there people.”

Hmm. Why are you sorry?
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


For example:

This is my most recent post. It has 26 words and 162 characters, with spaces. (Not including the title.) But if you look at the html source code, it has 43 words, and 692 characters, with spaces. So where would we draw the line?

I suppose a word count limit could somehow count URL's as one word, but I'd still not be thrilled having to work around character or word limit restrictions.
posted by zarq at 8:35 AM on March 22, 2010


Because meatbomb is the astral mod, koeselitz. He obviously wasn't inside of tmcw's head when he was scheduled to be.
posted by slogger at 8:50 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have the opposite complaint. I'm tired of posts that consist of "Computer problem" or "Relationship question" or some other completely generic non-descriptive blurb that's not even a complete sentence on the front page. I maintain that there does not exist a valid AskMe that cannot be succinctly summed up in one to three complete sentences without having to resort to this bullshit of, "oh, it's way too complex to try to describe so I'll just say 'browser problem' and leave it at that."
posted by Rhomboid at 8:54 AM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay, I understand the points about how this would be a new system to deal with a very small minority of cases.
It's just you.
This has come up before.
It will come up again.
It's just me and it's come up before? Hmm.

The technical problem isn't much; it's easy to get a link/url-stripped word or character count even in pure Javascript. But I understand the practical viewpoint and won't argue it further.
posted by tmcw at 8:54 AM on March 22, 2010


The technical problem isn't much; it's easy to get a link/url-stripped word or character count even in pure Javascript

I didn't know that. Cool. :)
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2010


I'd rather see a word count minimum than a maximum. Mystery FPPs are annoying as hell.
posted by rocket88 at 9:01 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's just me and it's come up before? Hmm.

Yes. You would think you would remember these sort of things!

I do feel your pain though.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:07 AM on March 22, 2010


This seems like a good time to mention that I miss hama7's weird-ass three word context free posts, and recommend his archive.
posted by Kwine at 9:08 AM on March 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can limit the main text area so that people are encouraged to put [more inside] rather than so much outside?

I'm of all these people who want government to fix their problems!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2010


tmcw: Can limit the main text area so that people are encouraged to put [more inside] rather than so much outside?

Please no. I hate mystery-meat posts where I have to click through to find out what they're even about.

zarq: I'd only be in favor of this if we were also allowing bit.ly or tinyurl links in posts. Character count doesn't distinguish between html code and plain text.

Please no. I hate mystery-meat links where I have to click through to the thread or the link itself just to find out what the link actually is.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, I was only really referring to Ask Metafilter, which is really the main place I lurk. Sorry about missing-word flub.
posted by tmcw at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2010


I also quite quite hate the every letter a link thing. I find the posts I read the most are ones that are one or two lines that give a clear idea of what its about or are just vague and intrigiung enough to pique my curiosity, with a more detailed "more inside" afterwards. I read on a comp, but I can imagine the hassle folks who log in via a phone must have with such issues.
posted by timsteil at 9:20 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It'd be great if people were better stylists, but it's a hard thing to achieve, and with the vast majority of folks doing well at basic concision I think it's a situation where, again, there's really not a compelling mandate to try and build out the toolset to enforce the outliers automatically.

That's a lot of clauses.
posted by rokusan at 9:21 AM on March 22, 2010


They call me Santa.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on March 22, 2010


Santa Clauses, he's so independent.
posted by pwally at 9:31 AM on March 22, 2010


paisley henosis: “Please no. I hate mystery-meat posts where I have to click through to find out what they're even about... Please no. I hate mystery-meat links where I have to click through to the thread or the link itself just to find out what the link actually is.”

The internet is for clicking. If you don't like clicking, why use the internet?
posted by koeselitz at 9:33 AM on March 22, 2010


I read on a comp, but I can imagine the hassle folks who log in via a phone must have with such issues.

I ignore them. My blackberry can't play every media format. Those posts wait until I'm on a computer. Assuming I even remember 'em later.
posted by zarq at 9:38 AM on March 22, 2010


I love clicking. I also love knowing what I'm clicking.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:41 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you already know exactly what you're clicking, why click it?
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on March 22, 2010


It's just you.

No it's not. I've considered posting a MeTa saying the same thing.

I don't see what's wrong with a character limit, at least on AskMe.

Some posts to AskMe are just too long above the fold. Some people don't realize that posting an unbroken stream-of-consciousness paragraph to the front page doesn't work well.

For the one-in-a-million AskMe question that requires lots of super-long URLs, those can be put in the "more inside."
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:47 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm of all these people who want government to fix their problems!!

I'm TIRED of...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:50 AM on March 22, 2010


Some people don't realize that posting an unbroken stream-of-consciousness paragraph to the front page doesn't work well.

Posting a huge paragraph with no line breaks doesn't work well no matter where it is. People tend to read only the first and last sentence. But short of human-editing every single post, it's kind of up to the poster to format it in a readable way.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:54 AM on March 22, 2010


I'd like to go on record as well as saying it's not just the original poster that thinks this can be an annoying situation. It is of course not the end of the world, but it does mess with page flow, and it would be nice if it were discouraged.

However, I don't think you necessarily need a hard character limit. I think that you could partially address the underlying issue (too much above-the-fold text) with the simple change of displaying a warning on preview for text that is longer than some reasonable suggested maximum. This of course falls down in the case of people who aren't really previewing or paying attention, but it would at least help in some cases.

As a bonus, the warning message could easily be tailored to indicate that long links may be the culprit, thus removing the need for a parser to count characters while ignoring links.
posted by tocts at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


But short of human-editing every single post, it's kind of up to the poster to format it in a readable way.

That does describe the status quo, but a character limit could prevent the massive paragraphs from showing up on the AskMe front page, which would be an improvement. This wouldn't involve "human-editing" anything. Obviously no one is suggesting that posts should be individually edited for overall concision or paragraph length.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2010


I understand the points about how this would be a new system to deal with a very small minority of cases.

And I totally get you, it's annoying as hell to me too. That said, the edge-case-iness of this makes it something we're less likely to implement. And, nothing personal, but if we fixed everything that irritable internet people were irritated by [and I count myself among this number] we'd never do anything else. So the question we often ask is "does this solve a problem for the site?" and I think it doesn't.

We prefer as few system-enforced limits as possible. You can flag these as HTML error or whatever and we'll get to them pretty quickly. I think if we implemented this, we'd be likely to get an equal number of GRAR responses from people who were hindered by the limit for whatever reason.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


the edge-case-iness of this makes it something we're less likely to implement.

Well, you could pretty easily do a character count of what the edge case would be (as cortex said, roughly the first paragraph of the OP's "2" or "3" links). That count could be approximately the character limit. Would anyone really object to needing to put the rest of their question after the fold, considering that there's no character limit for the whole question?
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:03 AM on March 22, 2010


Again, it doesn't represent a significant problem as is—it happens rarely and is fixed quickly when it does happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:08 AM on March 22, 2010


ok
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:09 AM on March 22, 2010


Would anyone really object to needing to put the rest of their question after the fold

Yes. They really really would.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2010


oh
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:18 AM on March 22, 2010


Would anyone really object to needing to put the rest of their question after the fold

Yes. They really really would.
posted by timsteil at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Character count doesn't distinguish between html code and plain text.

Presumably if things ever got this far, the characters in the text used to populate the preview box could be counted instead of the raw HTML.
posted by niles at 10:43 AM on March 22, 2010


Part of the difficulty is setting a somewhat arbitrary limit of N characters such that posts up to length N are totally OK and posts N+1 or longer are totally not OK.

I propose therefore that the background colour for the comment box should gradually change to match the text colour once you exceed N characters. You can keep going, but it gets harder and harder to see what you're writing.
posted by FishBike at 10:47 AM on March 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


You have given me an idea for April 1....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:55 AM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This link looks like this in source. (see below)


This <a href="http://www.hugeurl.com/?
Y2UwMTQ2NGJlZDYwMTQ4MzRkMTk5ODRkMmRmYWE5MTUmMTUmVm0wd2QyUXlVWGxWV0d
4V1YwZDRWMVl3WkRSWFJteFZVMjA1VjAxV2JETlhhMk0xVmpGYWMySkVUbGhoTWsweF
dWZDRTMk14WkhGUmJGWlhZa2hDVVZacVFtRlpWMDE1VTJ0V1ZXSkhhRzlVVmxaM1ZsW
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WkZkMVl4V21GWGJWWkhWRzVLV0dKRk5WaFZiRnBXVGxFOVBRPT0=">link</> looks like this in source
posted by blue_beetle at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2010


You have given me an idea for April 1....

140 character limit for posts?
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2010


Couldn't we limit AskMe's by lines? Anything longer than four lines gets truncated inside?

It's been a while since I posted a question, but AskMe's are forced-preview, right? Couldn't we have the preview check the length, and say something like

"Hey, it looks like your question is long and complicated. You might attract more answers by posting a simple small summary paragraph, and moving the main details of the question to the [more inside]."
posted by graventy at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2010


I think we should just get rid of this "AskMe" you speak of. It seems to be nothing but a bearer of GRAR.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on March 22, 2010


This has come up before.

It will come up again.


cjorgensen speaks from his nutrient-fluid-filled tank:

The website of MeFi are buring.

The questions of AskMe are burning.

The erratic posts of Jobs aren't burning because there's aren't enough of them.

The crank complaints of MetaTalk are still cranky and starting to smolder slightly.

The Colonies of Man lie trampled at our feet.
posted by GuyZero at 11:58 AM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jump!

to more inside.
posted by Babblesort at 12:06 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been wanting to do this for so long.

Your post advocates a:
[ ] community moderated
[x] technical
[x] social
[ ] legislative
[ ] economic
[ ] authoritarian
solution to crappy MetaFilter posts.

I'm afraid it won't work due to:
[ ] the King of the Shitpile problem
[ ] Matt doesn't have time
[ ] the code doesn't work that way
[x] technology doesn't work that way
[ ] wishing doesn't make things better
[ ] scoreboards don't fix anything
[ ] it doesn't prevent shitty posts from appearing
[ ] nobody ever agrees what a shitty post is
[x] requiring cooperation from asshats

In summary:
[x] Yours isn't the worst idea I've ever heard, but it's not good.
[ ] That's a pretty dumb thing to do.
[ ] Do you even understand the words you're using?
[ ] Die.


(majick, are you still here? The "slightly improved version for future use" has gone missing.)
posted by gleuschk at 12:06 PM on March 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Part of the difficulty is setting a somewhat arbitrary limit of N characters such that posts up to length N are totally OK and posts N+1 or longer are totally not OK. I propose therefore that the background colour for the comment box should gradually change to match the text colour once you exceed N characters.

Confirmation dialog:

"It's like, how much more not-OK could this post be? And the answer is none. None more not-OK. "
posted by rokusan at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The internet is for clicking

and all this time I thought it was for documenting misdirected anger.
posted by archivist at 12:28 PM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, it is – through clicking. Heck, the only reason we have words on the internet at all is that sometimes, in their pure, unfocused rage, people accidentally miss the mouse button and end up wildly pounding the keys on their keyboards by mistake.
posted by koeselitz at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


slogger: "9He obviously wasn't inside of tmcw's head when he was scheduled to be"

Oh. I get it. Timeshare!

Back to the problem...
You could make the form change colors... getting lighter and lighter as the poster types in the edit box... by the time they are blinded, they have to stop.

Uh, mebbie not.
posted by Drasher at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2010


That form is missing the box for "This is a bad idea and you're a bad person for suggesting it"
posted by qvantamon at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2010


"9"?
Did I do that?
posted by Drasher at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2010


Drasher, do you have the comment numbering greasemonkey script thing on? When you copied the comment, it's number came along with it.
posted by juliplease at 1:56 PM on March 22, 2010


cortex : They call me Santa.

Yeah. You keep saying that. But, here's the thing; there is no way I'm sitting on your lap, I don't care how good the present is.
posted by quin at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I vote for requiring all posts to formatted as fully formed, rhyming sonnets except on fridays, when we switch to limericks.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:50 PM on March 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


There once was a post to the gray
Where tmcw did say:
"these posts are too long,
you're all doin' it wrong!"
But in fact everything was OK
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:33 PM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


sorry, doctor_negative, I know it's not a Friday, but the sonnet, I dunno... just wasn't coming.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2010


rocket88: "13I'd rather see a word count minimum than a maximum. Mystery FPPs are annoying as hell"

Oh I have long been harboring a burning hate for mystery meat posts. My time is limited, my broadband connection is crap, and I hate to have a tab wasted on some schutooopid link about something crappy. However I am not a fascist dictator and if you want to be coy in your description-- go ahead! I'll just snarl and curse you and roll my eyes. Big deal. I have no actual power to harm you. Not yet.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:08 PM on March 22, 2010


I have no actual power to harm you. Not yet.

The SMITE! button will be installed on Tuesday.
posted by zarq at 5:18 PM on March 22, 2010


The problem with a sonnet form is that
when someone breaks a rule, the ones that pay
are only those whose formal minds combat
that recognizable rule's slight decay.

To me, a break in emphasis is sore;
to you, perhaps, good meter's but a whim.
So I am punished by each slight of yours,
while my hard effort's wasted on your dim.

The bright shall flee, and seek a brighter home,
while dim shall stay and fuck up all the while;
in truth, too, I am tired of the roam
online to seek an ever-smarter style.

I welcome any of your lads' response—
but please, spare me a poor form's nonchalance.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:47 PM on March 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm new. And I'm probably a little late to the conversation. And I've only asked a couple questions on AskMe. All that being said, I have found the text around the fields that I need to fill out when asking a question a little confusing. It was only with experimentation that I realized my Headline / Title seems to only show up on the question's page, not on the front page.

The text "This will show up on the front page, so try to ask your entire question while keeping it to a paragraph (if you must go on longer, use the optional extended area)" made me feel a little worried -- should I try to crunch my question into a paragraph? It does say "if you must go on longer..." and I thought perhaps I should try to make my question as short as possible. I worried about whether it was two short paragraphs.... should it all go in the first box then?

I kept looking at other questions for samples, because, well, maybe I take stuff a bit too seriously, but I did want to fit in with the community, and follow both spoken and unspoken mores.

And I am uncomfortable pointing out my discomfort with that text, because I don't really have any helpful suggestions for improving it. I'm sure it has been discussed before and there are probably good reasons for the wording.... but it could be I'm not the only one who wasn't sure if she was even supposed to use the more inside section.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:29 PM on March 22, 2010


When in disgrace with fortune and mod's eyes,
I sit alone, friendless, with out a date
And post to metatalk my useless cries
Too long, too dull, mispelled and oft' too late,
Wishing me like one more rich in favorites,
Side-barred like him, like him with spouses possesed,
Desiring this man's art and and that man's wit,
With what I post the most contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising
I think of a new pony and then my state
(Like Cortex at the break of day consuming
a huge donut) perks up -- for it is great,
and your sweet post remembered such flags brings
I'd scorn to change my place for Jessamyn's.
posted by tallus at 7:01 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


if we fixed everything that irritable internet people were irritated by [and I count myself among this number] we'd never do anything else

Yeah, true, but think of how awesome the world would become.

You should start with timecube guy. He needs some serious shit fixed.
posted by pompomtom at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it has been discussed before and there are probably good reasons for the wording....

Actually, the wording hasn't changed much since we launched AskMe maybe five years ago and it could use a refresher of some kind. There are a few things people don't know

1. that the title won't appear on the main page
2. exactly when and how to use more inside [this option was not available when AskMe first launched]
3. some people put titles in the tag box for reasons I don't quite understand.

So yeah I don't think we'll add a character limit but we could stand to make the page a little more easy to use and a lot less wordy. AskMe does have a small set of rules so we wanrt to make sure that new users have access to those, but the web has gotten a bunch more friendly since that page launched and it's remained mostly the same.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on March 23, 2010


If you do rework that page, please include a note that it is not necessary to duplicate the front-page part into the more-inside part. I guess some people think that one box is what will be seen on the front page and one box is what will be seen in the thread, so they start their more-inside part with a copy of their front-page part and then expand on it. Worse, sometimes they're too lazy to think of a title so they'll just copy and paste that as well, which results in a thread that starts off with THREE copies of their main question text.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2010


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