Comments that have the recipient in the detail April 3, 2010 11:20 AM   Subscribe

The Business Week forums have an interesting feature to their non-threaded discussions that I think would make an excellent feature here given the growing size of the user base, and many threads with dozens of comments. They allow a comment to be posted in response to someone else, or to the thread at large. In the heading of the comment, they post the "recipient's" name, which makes following a long discussion easier.

In addition, if, where the "recipient" was listed, we could add a link to that specific comment, conversation would flow, without losing the non-threaded nature of the site.

So, where it says:

posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:20 PM on April 3 [+] [!]


We could add something like this:

posted by SeizeTheDay to "mathowie" at 2:20 PM on April 3 [+] [!]

and just create a link on "mathowie" to the specific comment.
posted by SeizeTheDay to Feature Requests at 11:20 AM (67 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

They put the 'to:' at the end, with the signature? what
posted by carsonb at 11:24 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


People who want to do this can do it already, as mattdidthat has demonstrated.
posted by knapah at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2010


Can they do it without a plugin, knapah? If so, how?
posted by dobbs at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2010


I'm having a really hard time envisioning how this works. It seems like it would add another optional [?] field by the comment box when you post a comment, and then alter the "posted by" line? I think we'll run into a few problems with this, most notably that people won't understand what's going on, they'd have to enter a full comment URL [not just the poster's name] and since we don't have threaded comments in any real sense, I'm not seeing how it makes reading a flat file any easier.

You see a variant of this on other sites where they'll reply to "@mathowie at 12:11" or they'll number comments and show "@mathowie 211" or something. I don't think adding an indicator, even a linked indicator, solves a real problem more than it creates one, though I'm open to having my mind changed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:37 AM on April 3, 2010


To Dobbs

You just need to link using the timestamp url....

Just takes a second..
posted by HuronBob at 11:39 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who want to do this can do it already

I think you're missing the point. It's not that I want to be one of a handful of people who do this. This isn't a GreaseMonkey thing. That's not particularly useful to the larger community; it's only good for the select few who happened to use Firefox and go out of their way to install the app.

This is a "casual user" thing. If most people addressed their comments at others (because it was built-in and easy to use), everyone could enjoy connected conversations without losing the non-threaded nature of the site, and the feature becomes infinitely more useful.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


and since we don't have threaded comments in any real sense, I'm not seeing how it makes reading a flat file any easier.

This feature makes a lot more sense when you have 50-70+ comments in a thread, and you join in late (or are trying to catch up). For instance, let's say someone is comment 65 in an 80 comment thread, and this person is responding to comment 6. It's very difficult to figure out that comment 65 is referencing comment 6 unless the poster explicitly links to comment 6.

This feature would make it very convenient to type in the commenter name, or URL, in a field prior to posting. Then, as you scroll through the growing thread, you can click the URL (if it exists), or search for that poster's name.

I don't think adding an indicator, even a linked indicator, solves a real problem more than it creates one

What do you think are the problems it creates?

Anyone who uses the site can do this.

Again, I get that. But it's not convenient, and therefore the casual user doesn't do it. Creating that convenience would generate widespread adoption - and the feature's usefulness would grow as adoption increases.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:49 AM on April 3, 2010


MetaFilter's messaging system supports a naturally-meandering, face-to-face style of conversation. This is a key feature and is one of the reasons MeFi is very different from the rest of the net.

I think it's a mistake to fuck with that feature without really giving it a hard think over.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2010 [17 favorites]


I thought we already hashed out that the preferred method of discussion here on MeFi was to respond to people's points and words, rather than to the person. And to use quotes of the responded-to words (in the style of the poster's choosing) to indicate the words and ideas being responded to. And that responses to entire long comments can be linked to using the link button. And that anyone requiring more information to the context of the quoted line can use the search feature in their browser (a built-in function) to find the original comment.

Didn't we just do this, like, a month ago here in MeTa?
posted by hippybear at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


What do you think are the problems it creates?

Teaching 40000-ish people how to use a new feature, mostly. Explaining why we implemented a new feature for something about the site that arguably wasn't broken.

I'm not trying to needle you here, but a change to the UI and especially something as sacrosanct as the posting box really needs to be something that's being clamored for [edit window, to name one feature] and not something that might be neat. I get how it would make your personal browsing easier, but I'm not getting how reading pullquotes and using ctrl-f to find the source of the quote is actually more difficult than this, especially since certainly not everyone will use it and then you're sort of back where you started.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Any sort of comment threading builds hierarchy within the timeline of comments. MetaFilter has had a flat system for 10+ years. Currently, by default, all comments have equal visual weight (aside from their length and position with respect to the constant (time)), and are 'available' for anyone to respond to (not separated, indented, or demarcated in any way). I personally like that it's up to the individual user to make that distinction, rather than having a feature built into the site that does it for me. When it's in the site, it's endorsed from the top-down and the level-building becomes part of the 'norm'. I'd like to preserve my comment autonomy and equality. I don't see a compelling reason to change things. It may seem small, but the individual's perception (and ultimately the net effect on the community) of subtle shifts like this are huge, and not always immediately visible.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:04 PM on April 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


"It's very difficult to figure out that comment 65 is referencing comment 6 unless the poster explicitly links to comment 6. "

Or quotes comment 6.
posted by klangklangston at 12:07 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought we already hashed out that the preferred method of discussion here on MeFi was to respond to people's points and words, rather than to the person. And to use quotes of the responded-to words (in the style of the poster's choosing) to indicate the words and ideas being responded to.

Yes, yes, yes. Seize the Day, what's unclear about the manner in which you yourself are responding to comments in this thread?
posted by Bookhouse at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2010


DON'T YOU DARE FUCK WITH METAFILTER
posted by disclaimer at 12:40 PM on April 3, 2010


This is a "casual user" thing.

"Casual users" can just keep on using their @'s, can't they? It's a lot less confusing than this feature would be.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2010


Seizetheday, just linking to the timestamp is so much easier and elegant. I don't think MetaFilter is really a place for "casual users". The community effort to observe often unspoken guidelines and etiquette are what make MetaFilter what it is.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there a significant number of 'casual users' who are not willing to link to and/or quote the text of a comment, but who would be willing to fill in an optional field in the posting box?
posted by box at 1:19 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


heh heh heh heh
posted by orthogonality at 1:21 PM on April 3, 2010


casual users

What are the categories of users?
posted by found missing at 1:33 PM on April 3, 2010


What are the categories of users?

Casual, Steady, Fiancé, Spouse, and Hookup.
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is a terrible idea and you should stripped of your favorites and flogged with taters*.

There's already a method to respond to particular comment or point, so nothing is solved and it just makes it easier for people to be lazier.

* or poptarts
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2010


kewl, bc I'm a technical virgin here
posted by found missing at 1:39 PM on April 3, 2010


I'm gonna stake the fish-whore category.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:47 PM on April 3, 2010


What I would be on board with is support for simple text markup. I should be able to *italicize* **bold** and ""quote"" and _make a link_http://domenow.com_.

That covers 90% of what everyone needs all the time. It doesn't interrupt the typing like fiddling with those silly JS buttons below and to the right. And it doesn't interrupt the typing anywhere near as offensively as writing an a href around a pull-quote.

Could code for other shortcuts, but they're really not necessary. Bold, italics, and proper quoting (could code that if _make a link_ "significant" text, it is blockquoted instead of italicized) are really the core of what we do around here, and the fewer distractions from reading and writing words, the better.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:58 PM on April 3, 2010


I have seen this elsewhere. It usual ends in everyone taking everything really, really personally and probably should not be copied here.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2010


Oops. That's be the ""quote"" convention, although I can see how it could also make sense for the _make a link_ convention, too.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2010


Casual, Steady, Fiancé, Spouse, and Hookup.

I always do this in the wrong order....
posted by The Whelk at 2:02 PM on April 3, 2010


What gets like that, ArtW? The *emphasis* convention, the fish-whoring, or the original idea of doing threading?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:02 PM on April 3, 2010


Fuck, Spouse, Killfile?
posted by iamkimiam at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


FFF - the Reply To: convention. It was used in, IIRC, the old Delphi forums such as WEF, and resulted in some aggOmerome conversations that make our recent fighty threads look tame.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2010


This will be overused and abused so we end up with people cluttering up their comments with pointless linking back to stuff like here, when what's being replied to is right there, five millimetres up the screen. And will end up with threads where every comment becomes a direct reply to someone (with the resulting lists of replies to different people) rather than encouraging users to engage in the thread as a whole with well thought out comments about the entire situation. Some direct replying is fine, I do it myself, but it doesn't need to be the driver of everything.

It's not like typing two em tags is difficult and we should all know how to copy and paste. Making it so you have to type a few extra characters to make the quote yourself is a good filter, it only happens when someone can be bothered, putting it in the posting box will make people think they're supposed to use it every time. So it will be used the vast majority of the time.

This will change the nature of conversations here. They don't need to be changed.
posted by shelleycat at 2:42 PM on April 3, 2010


I don't think this is a terrible idea, but honestly, I prefer that people just quote what they're responding to, that way I don't have to click or scroll back to figure it out.
posted by empath at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Threaded discussions (which is what you're essentially asking for) make it much easier for tangents and derails to develop in threads and to make it harder to follow a conversation as a whole. I see a MeFi thread as (aimed at) constituting a single conversation on the topic of the FPP amongst us, with derails and side issues being more difficult to sustain than on a threaded discussion engine like, say, Slashdot. I regard this as a feature rather than a bug, and is one of the reasons I like MeFi.
posted by Electric Dragon at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2010


What I would be on board with is support for simple text markup. I should be able to *italicize* **bold** and ""quote"" and _make a link_http://domenow.com_.

It'd be useful on the iPhone (and iPad?) where the selection function doesn't seem to work with the markup buttons. But then I'm so used to setext markup not being parsed that I'm surprised when it does; I just use it for style.

Also, it'd mess up the *ducks* and *looks innocent* usage.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2010


jessamyn writes "I'm not trying to needle you here, but a change to the UI and especially something as sacrosanct as the posting box really needs to be something that's being clamored for [edit window, to name one feature] and not something that might be neat."

See the complete spaz out over the mere change in the byline for the name of favourites.

five fresh fish writes "What I would be on board with is support for simple text markup. I should be able to *italicize* **bold** and ''quote'' and _make a link_http://domenow.com_."

Are you not aware you can just type <B> for bold, <i> for italic and the href stuff for links? There are already buttons to do this for you if you can't even be bothered to type that. I can't see anything developed in house possibly being simpler once you count the cost of training 30K users and the down side of it clashing with times a users wants to type *BOLD* without it auto find and replacing to mark up.
posted by Mitheral at 5:16 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are unicode characters for that, CHT.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:19 PM on April 3, 2010


i'll match what electric dragon said, and raise it.

how about a category called 'huggers' as well?
posted by infini at 5:23 PM on April 3, 2010


There are unicode characters for that, CHT.

You mean keeping the splats after setext parsing? Not on the iPhone, which is where I thought that *might* be useful.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:33 PM on April 3, 2010


No, I was joking. There is no unicode character for "looks innocent" — although I suspect there is in fact a "duck" in there.

Don't be absurd, Mitheral. If you've paid any attention at all this past decade, you know full well I'm well-versed in the HTML.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2010


No duck, but there is a ⻦ bird, a ̼ seagull, an 𐑐 SHA-encoded avian, 𐇮 eagle...¹

¹ not guaranteed to work with your character set.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:40 PM on April 3, 2010


I would just like to say that in my five years on MeFi I have never noticed the buttons on the posting box until this day. I was just about to post "WHAT javascript buttons?" and then I finally saw them.

I do wish there was an easier way of referencing a post than linking to the timestamp, which is full of klunk to me.
posted by unSane at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2010


No, I was joking. There is no unicode character for "looks innocent"

Well, there is a "look of disapproval" (albeit more than one character) so there could very well be.

No, I thought you meant that there was a higher level asterix-look/work-alike.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2010


I'm having a really hard time envisioning how this works. It seems like it would add another optional [?] field by the comment box when you post a comment, and then alter the "posted by" line? I think we'll run into a few problems with this, most notably that people won't understand what's going on, they'd have to enter a full comment URL [not just the poster's name] and since we don't have threaded comments in any real sense, I'm not seeing how it makes reading a flat file any easier.

An easier-to-use implementation might be to have something like a 'reply' link at the bottom of each comment, which fills in the right information on the comment form to make the comment into a reply. Much like what Mefiquote does, actually.

I'm not really a fan of the idea though. I like the whole "respond to the idea, not the person" concept that's encouraged by quoting the text you're responding to. And I find the MetaFilter style of discussion threads particularly easy to read because of the absence of visual clutter from excessive quoting and excessive information surrounding quoted text. I like that it takes additional effort to add these things on the occasions when they're needed, since it discourages people from doing it out of habit.
posted by FishBike at 7:08 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are the categories of users?

Casual, Sports, Cocktail, Formal. I'd say roughly 79% of users are Cocktail.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:27 AM on April 4, 2010


Yeah, I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm never interested in other peoples' petty little back-and-forths.

FTFY. Just sayin'. NOT USIANIST.
posted by unSane at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2010


Remember PreacherTom
posted by BeerFilter at 7:25 AM on April 4, 2010


I do agree with Seize the Day in that a lot of the derails in contentious blue and gray threads seem to be the result of miscommunication: Where posters respond to someone and A. misquote them B. misattribute the quote or C. interpret the quote dead dead wrong. I'm not sure about C. but A and B problems would be aided by an auto-quote or auto-reply option wherein the respondent has no chance to forget what who said when.

If this is the price to be paid for less formalized convos and stuff then I guess I agree with unSane: "Only a dirty foreigner would want to change the comment-tech to fuel the bowdlerization of our precious English language." Semper fi, friend.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on April 4, 2010


There is no unicode character for "looks innocent"

˚ U+02DA RING ABOVE
posted by ryanrs at 4:31 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fuck, Spouse, Killfile?

subtitled: A Metafilter Novel, In Three Words.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I'd forgotten that whole PreacherTom thing. Timewarp.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:53 PM on April 4, 2010


Fuck, Spouse, Killfile?

subtitled: A Metafilter Novel, In Three Words.


I was gonna go with Rom-Com, but if Novel works, I say write that bugger.
posted by Sparx at 6:36 PM on April 4, 2010


No, the categories of users are (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

(SeizeTheDay, I can see the appeal of your suggestion, but even though I used to read Usenet via trn, I just can't handle anything like threaded commentary on a web site. A few quotes and links here and there are fine, but the prospect of a page full of links back (that could take the place of judicious quoting or paraphrasing) makes me all ADDy and headachey. The few times where I need to link and/or quote someone, a little HTML works just fine. MetaFilter seems to have a lot of poor folks like me, and unless there's a lot of demand for that type of linked reply, I don't think we're going to see that feature implemented.)
posted by maudlin at 8:20 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do wish there was an easier way of referencing a post than linking to the timestamp, which is full of klunk to me.

Seconding hippybear's comment, that in discussions we "respond to people's points and words, rather than to the person."

By making it a person-to-person discussion, it becomes something of a closed conversation, while the site has been running as an open discussion site for 10+ years. Copying the timestamp isn't that hard on a normal computer, and serves to tie thoughts together if people don't understand your reference. Plus, it allows for personalized writing styles, which I like. Read enough comments, and you'll notice personal preferences, which is keen.

Copying the timestamp on a smart phone or other mobile computing thingy is a pain, but so is writing a lengthy post (though the latter more-so than the former). Referring to their comment by summarizing the gist of it works when writing on a mobile device, and if you're really worried about one person getting your message across the din of the thread, you might be better off MeMailing them.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2010


What I would be on board with is support for simple text markup. I should be able to *italicize* **bold** and "quote" and make a link.

Okay. Next?
posted by reductiondesign at 4:26 PM on April 5, 2010


3 out of 4 are already there and the 4th is a special case or combination of the other three.
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 PM on April 5, 2010


None of them are there, because the entire point is that we don't have simple text markup.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:06 PM on April 5, 2010


I don't care about simple text markup because I only ever use a computer (no mobile devices) and I prefer HTML anyway (rather than learning something new). Having it as something you can turn on or off in your preferences would probably solve any issues with it though, then I don't end up with weird formatting I didn't expect while someone who needs it can use it. I don't know if it should be on or off by default and don't really care, which I guess means having it on by default would be fine.
posted by shelleycat at 7:38 PM on April 5, 2010


Is the HTML markup even that hard on a phone? I can do <i> on my phone's keyboard pretty easy, no worse than a regular keyboard. Suppose this varies by phone (in this case, Droid). I've always just used the HTML markup, never the buttons.
posted by wildcrdj at 8:02 PM on April 5, 2010


Is the HTML markup even that hard on a phone?

No, it's really not. I do it all the time. It'd be *slightly* easier with setext markup, but some of those characters, like the asterixes, are several buttons away. Which defeates the whole point.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:43 PM on April 5, 2010


And the characters like < > are twice as many buttons away. And three times as many characters. Seriously, can you come up with a lamer argument against setext?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:40 AM on April 6, 2010


The * and _ are just as far as the <> on the iphone's keboard. You are correct in that setext uses fewer characters, which is why I said it'd be *slightly* easier.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010


Seriously, can you come up with a lamer argument against setext?

It sounds like sexting and the prudish American mod team is against it!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding hippybear's comment, that in discussions we "respond to people's points and words, rather than to the person."

It's not either/or. The plague of MeFi and even more so MeTa is selective and unattributed quotation. What happens it that someone posts, then a sentence is excerpted and responded to, often unfairly. Then someone else comes in to defend the original poster and is accused of sympathizing with the unfair quotation.

I am not saying that conversations should be threaded but I personally would appreciate an easier way of checking that someone is actually being quoted fairly.

I've been a member here five years and I see the inability to do this as a bug, not a feature.
posted by unSane at 2:07 PM on April 6, 2010


Seriously, can you come up with a lamer argument against setext?

It doesn't appear in any of the Scrabble tournament word lists.
posted by box at 3:14 PM on April 6, 2010


That's more like it!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:08 PM on April 6, 2010


Also it's a potential trigger for muddled Sneakers references.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:11 PM on April 6, 2010


It's not a palindrome, either.
posted by box at 6:54 PM on April 6, 2010


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