Recent Activity is your friend. April 9, 2010 12:16 PM   Subscribe

How can the existence of Recent Activity be made more obvious to people?

Occasionally someone will post to a thread a few days after it started and say something like "not that anyone's still reading this..." Of course, lots of people are still reading the thread through Recent Activity, but it's obvious that many people don't know of its existence. I think this is the single most useful page of MetaFilter and I would like to spread the word. What's the best way to do this?
posted by grouse to Feature Requests at 12:16 PM (72 comments total)

It took me literally years to notice it, probably because I assumed it was recent activity on the site as opposed to recent activity pertaining to my interests.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Might be a good idea to add it to the little message that we send people when they successfully make a post. "You can keep up with your post via recent activity [link]" In the past if you didn't comment in your own thread, it didn't turn up in RA, but that's since changed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't recall ever not knowing about it, TBH.
posted by Artw at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2010


What about people who don't make posts?
posted by grouse at 12:19 PM on April 9, 2010


Flashing, sparkly text.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2010


You know what would be great (let me know if this functionality exists). A way to add something to Recent Activity without having to comment on it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2010 [32 favorites]


Not that anyone's still reading this... but I'll be starting each of my comments with that phrase from now on.
posted by carsonb at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't use it regularly until I started surfing the site through my phone. Never participated enough to have the need. Now it's often impossible to keep up with.


Ugh. I ALSO need a reminder to check my memail. I never remember it's there. :( Can we set it up so I can have a nice "You've got Mail" audio file, when I open Mefi? :D
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2010


Blink Tag?
posted by Mister_A at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2010


I've always thought that people who say "not that anyone's still reading this" are simply recognizing that most readers have likely become exhausted by a lengthy conversation - not that they didn't know people could follow it. I assume everyone is pretty aware of "Recent Activity," but are also pretty aware that after a while has passed, even (most) die-hards just plain lose interest and move on.

When I become exhausted by a conversation, I also just pop it out of Recent Activity so it won't distract me any more. It's not that I don't know about Recent Activity, I'm...just done reading that particular thread.
posted by Miko at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2010


You know what would be great (let me know if this functionality exists). A way to add something to Recent Activity without having to comment on it.

I'd love this, too. Right now I'm favoriting posts to remind myself to go back to them and comment later.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The entire front page of MetaTalk is from today and not one post is contentious. What the fuck people?
posted by gman at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


iPad thread is distracting people.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2010


I heard that gman likes to declaw cats. But only their right paws. Thus making them sinister declawed cats. WTF gman? What is wrong with you?
posted by Babblesort at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


iPad thread is distracting people.

'cause it's so friggin' awesome and is changing reality as we know it!!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2010


The entire front page of MetaTalk is from today and not one post is contentious. What the fuck people?

On the contrary, I think jonathanstrange should stay the fuck out of London, Norwegian curling pants are for lameos, and that Skygazer should have sold his Ted Leo ticket on Craigslist.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


i just learned about recent activity in the last couple of months. i love it. i want to have its babies. i also wish i could add things to recent activity and not post in them. i try to keep from making comments like "yay!" just so the threads will show up.
posted by nadawi at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2010


The entire front page of MetaTalk is from today and not one post is contentious. What the fuck people?

Dude, just fucking take it to MeTa already.

Oh... wait....
posted by zarq at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2010


iPad thread is distracting people.

Which one?
posted by octothorpe at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love using the Recent Activity feature to keep up with threads, but I've often thought it would be more noticeable and/or obvious as a user-specific feature if it were called My Recent Activity (you see the word "my" once you actually get to the page, but it's not obvious before clicking).
posted by amyms at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps offering people a way to manually add threads to their recent activity page is a good way to make more people aware of it? Imagine there was a button at the top of every thread that said "add this thread to my recent activity page", and "recent activity" was a link to the RA page.

People might see that, think to themselves "add it to my what? ::click:: ooooh!"
posted by FishBike at 12:47 PM on April 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


It'd be neat to find some sort of way to help people know about RA, yeah. I've lived out of it for years now, and have a few times had the pleasure of introducing someone to it to their immediate delight. Not sure how we would do it in a non-invasive, mefi-normal sort of way, though.

Maybe we could write up a newbie-friendly "mefi tips and survival guide" document that would point a few of these handy-but-not-necessarily-obvious features out or something.

You know what would be great (let me know if this functionality exists). A way to add something to Recent Activity without having to comment on it.

Favorite that post, and then check in on the My Favorites tab on the Recent Activity page occasionally. Blammo.

I'm personally a fan of the idea of having that "add a thread" functionality be part of the main Recent Activity view, but in discussing it in the pass we hadn't come up with an implementation for it that the whole mod team was happy with. Might be something we revisit at some point, but it's not high on the list.

I've always thought that people who say "not that anyone's still reading this" are simply recognizing that most readers have likely become exhausted by a lengthy conversation - not that they didn't know people could follow it.

I tend more toward grouse's reading as stated in the main post here, though I imagine in practice there's a mix of motivations. When something happens on mefi that I find behaviorally confusing, I try and look at it from a greater-internet perspective to figure out if it's a convention external to mefi that makes sense if you're not a regular here.

See also newer folks sometimes referring to their decision to make two separate comments in a row in the same thread as "double posting".
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps offering people a way to manually add threads to their recent activity page is a good way to make more people aware of it? Imagine there was a button at the top of every thread that said "add this thread to my recent activity page", and "recent activity" was a link to the RA page.

Interesting idea. It certainly would stand a chance of being an effective breadcrumb trail.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2010


Well, I know about it NOW since you linked to it- thanks!
posted by questionsandanchors at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2010


Wow, I like that view, because it makes it looks like ALL my answers are marked as best in ask!
posted by Grither at 1:05 PM on April 9, 2010


I like to add posts to my 'Recent Activity' page by commenting.

Blammo!
posted by box at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2010


On the unintended-consequences side of the fence, of course, the RA script is kind of a heavy hitter resource-wise. Significantly increasing the use it gets might be a bit of a load-management nightmare.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2010


Pondering this further... maybe a little "M" icon followed by "add to recent activity" right up there with the RSS "subscribe" icon? And when you click it you get taken to the RA page, where the thing you just added shows up as the top thing1?

1: I'm assuming that to implement something like this, you'd have to add another table in the database for "stuff manually added to RA" with a timestamp for each record, so the thing you just manually added would show up as the most recent thing as a natural consequence of this implementation. Although I guess it wouldn't necessarily have to work that way, it would just be weird for the most recently added thing not to be at the top.
posted by FishBike at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2010


Not sure how we would do it in a non-invasive, mefi-normal sort of way, though.

"Recent Activity" ---> "My Recent Activity" ?
posted by mudpuppie at 1:20 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what would be great (let me know if this functionality exists). A way to add something to Recent Activity without having to comment on it.

That's why I post "bump" in every thread that I want to follow.

Bump.
posted by Mid at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2010


I've been here for years and have never noticed Recent Activity. In fact, I'm probably not even going to look at it now!
posted by slogger at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2010


There's stuff I want to follow that I don't necessarily want to favorite. I know that's nit-picky and that that solution was more of a here's how to deal with this now type thing. But yeah a separate I would like to lurk this thread button would be great.
posted by edbles at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your mother is pretty fat. We could write it on her backside.

ZING!
posted by Eideteker at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2010


The whole top of the page of all of the sites has needed looking at for a long time, imo. Recent activity being hidden is only a symptom of that.

1) The sub-sites bar aligned top right
2) Under the logo, on the left: Home|FAQ|about|archives|Tags|Popular|Search|Random
3) Under #2, but this time bolded and a point size larger: New Post|My Profile|Preferences|Recent Activity|Favorites
4) Smaller again, but thism time in tabs and aligned right: Recent Posts|My Favorites|Popular Favorites|My Comments|Recent Comments

Many of these have been added as a result of pony requests over the years, including recent activity, and now there's a whole herd of them running around at the top of each page and many look pretty similar. There are 26 links on those four lines. Too complicated.

If you want to direct more people to recent comments, great. It's a feature I sure use a lot. But also maybe it's time to think about making things simpler rather than simply adding another item that's almost the same but not quite in yet another stylistically inconsistent way. That's my pony.
posted by bonehead at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny you mention that. I'm just organizing a Recent Activity Awareness Walk for this weekend.
posted by qvantamon at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


BLAMMO!

ZING!


This thread reads like a silver age Batman comic.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2010


I've always thought that people who say "not that anyone's still reading this" are simply recognizing that most readers have likely become exhausted by a lengthy conversation

When I see this I usually say something in the thread or over MeMail, and my feeling is that usually it is because they are not aware of Recent Activity or the multitudes who follow threads with it.
posted by grouse at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2010


*gets beer, puts elbow on bar, leans over to nearest oldster*

so, how's the week been going, bud?
posted by infini at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2010


My pony is named snowflake.
posted by Sailormom at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2010


First post!
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2010


Not to be a dick, but fuck you!
posted by Mister_A at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2010


"Recent Activity" ---> "My Recent Activity"

Not that this is a bad idea, but...

The various "My [x]" links bother me a tiny tiny bit because of the "welcome back [username]" message in the top right of the page. Which POV is the page meant to be read from, mine, or Metafilter's? Pick a POV, page!
posted by yarrow at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thanks for clarifying - seems there are more ways than mine of viewing the quietude that descends on old threads. It's good to know that not everyone has been using this feature and maybe are just finding it hard to follow a conversation once a thread falls off the front page. "My Recent Activity" seems like the simplest solution.
posted by Miko at 2:53 PM on April 9, 2010


Is there any way to track Recent Activity usage in the first place?
posted by restless_nomad at 2:55 PM on April 9, 2010


"welcome back [username]"

I keep waiting for someone to register "your dreams were your ticket out" just for the screenshot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, but I see someone does have "kotter."
posted by yarrow at 3:57 PM on April 9, 2010


You can sign out, but you can never leave.
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


people sign out?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:00 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blammo!
posted by homunculus at 4:03 PM on April 9, 2010


At the top of the page. And logout at the bottom (something done all to easily by accident on the iPhone)
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on April 9, 2010


You know what would be great (let me know if this functionality exists). A way to add something to Recent Activity without having to comment on it.

There's already a feed of the threads you've favorited. Isn't that pretty much the same thing?

Ugh. I ALSO need a reminder to check my memail. I never remember it's there.

You can have it sent to your email.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:10 PM on April 9, 2010


On the unintended-consequences side of the fence, of course, the RA script is kind of a heavy hitter resource-wise. Significantly increasing the use it gets might be a bit of a load-management nightmare.

I apologize if this has been suggested before; also, I'm not a technical person so I don't know if this would take up even more resources. But I just looked at my Recent Activity page, and, in the thread at the bottom of that page, the last activity was 8 days ago.

When I go to the RA page I'm mainly interested in threads that have been active within a day or two. I'm not going to be looking at a thread that's been dead a while.

So maybe if page 1 of Recent Activity were limited to the past 48 hours, or, if the user doesn't have any threads active within that time period, maybe the last 3 threads? And the rest could start on page 2.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:11 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe we could write up a newbie-friendly "mefi tips and survival guide" document that would point a few of these handy-but-not-necessarily-obvious features out or something.

Every week, Klang visits another MeFite and teaches them about important features like Recent Activity and Popular Favorites. Then he drinks their beer, smokes their weed and passes out on their couch.
posted by klangklangston at 6:18 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "sign out" thing is right overneath the MetaTalk link, which I'm pretty sure ain't an accident.
posted by Mister_A at 6:30 PM on April 9, 2010


There's already a feed of the threads you've favorited. Isn't that pretty much the same thing?

Not quite. That doesn't provide a way for me to anonymously follow my anonymous AskMe. And you know THEY're watching who favorites anonymous AskMes.
posted by qvantamon at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2010


No matter what you do, UI elements on a site that people visit many many times as a matter of routine become invisible to them unless they use them. It's just the way our brains work.

Unless you want to change the color of an element on a regular basis, or something equally suboptimal, it doesn't really matter what you do. It will become something they quickly stop noticing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:43 PM on April 9, 2010


people sign out?

Horrible, really. I prefer to think people who do that are guests of the POTUS, Warren Buffett or the spirit of Frank Zappa and steal a moment while their host is bringing them drinks to log in and deliver a bon mot that will win them the internets. Then they sign out so that Barack/Warren/Frank can't use their account. If B/W/F really want so much to comment they can pay $5 like the rest of us.
posted by ersatz at 5:24 AM on April 10, 2010


I support more use of "My" as it's already used elsewhere on this site and others.

I also move that this section of the site be renamed to MetalTalk as it's grey and I like to talk about metal.
posted by vanar sena at 5:28 AM on April 10, 2010


pj, vanar sena, pj
posted by infini at 5:58 AM on April 10, 2010


I've caught myself reading it as "MetalTalk" more than once.

ok dammit you're right i fail it
posted by vanar sena at 6:06 AM on April 10, 2010


people sign out?

I always thought a really good April Fool would be to have the signout link slowly fade away. Very few people would notice, and those that did would be ignored.
posted by djgh at 6:14 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute... you mean you all don't get personal telephone calls from cortex alerting you to activity on your threads? Gosh, I guess I really am special!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 AM on April 10, 2010


and... you have your own bus, ja? ;p
posted by infini at 7:55 AM on April 10, 2010


How about displaying:
“your comment has been posted, and the thread added to your recent activity
in a notice immediately after posting a comment? Something that looks a bit like the profile edit notices?
posted by Tobu at 8:08 AM on April 10, 2010


That seems like a lot of overhead on a per comment basis, but finding a way to make it clear that RA is really THE way that a lot of people interact with the site is something we'd like to do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on April 10, 2010


My favorite thing about Recent Activity is Removing things from recent activity. It's as close to deleting one's own comments as one can get on this site.
posted by water bear at 11:43 AM on April 10, 2010


iPad thread is distracting people.

Which one?


Can I just say real quick that in the past week or so there have only been three iPad threads, one of which was mostly about car modding. There is more than enough information coming out since what I would accept as the main iPad thread, so a new thread was useful. I wouldn't have been too suprised if a mod decided to delete it, tech threads go baddlyyy sometimes, but they didn't.

I understand that in some situations it can feel like a subject is taking over the front page, but this is definitely not one of those times.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 1:29 PM on April 10, 2010


So maybe if page 1 of Recent Activity were limited to the past 48 hours, or, if the user doesn't have any threads active within that time period, maybe the last 3 threads? And the rest could start on page 2.

This would break functionality for people who either don't sign in every day or don't visit recent activity all that often. If you're reading recent activity all the time, that stuff is redundant. But if you're just popping in to see how things are going, that's potentially a lot of stuff you haven't seen already.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2010


So maybe if page 1 of Recent Activity were limited to the past 48 hours, or, if the user doesn't have any threads active within that time period, maybe the last 3 threads? And the rest could start on page 2.

This would break functionality for people who either don't sign in every day or don't visit recent activity all that often. If you're reading recent activity all the time, that stuff is redundant. But if you're just popping in to see how things are going, that's potentially a lot of stuff you haven't seen already.


Well, if you got to the bottom of page one and everything was still new for you, you could go to page 2 to see the rest of it.

If that second click were too annoying, another possibility is - could there be an option in Recent Activity to display X threads per page, or an option to display threads active in the last X time on the first page? The default could be as it is now, and the frequent readers, who are probably doing most of the resource using anyway, could adjust it to their taste.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:12 PM on April 10, 2010


Although I already knew about Recent Activity, this was really useful because I had no idea that the "My Favorites" tab within Recent Activity functioned the same way as "following" your favorites. Actually, I hadn't realized that the tabs were nested within Recent Activity at all and had just assumed that My Favorites showed you the same view as clicking on Favorites. So thanks, grouse and cortex.
posted by clerestory at 5:51 PM on April 11, 2010


Holy pile of poo. I've been reading this site for nearly a decade and I completely missed that functionality. Nice!!
posted by Kimberly at 8:13 AM on April 12, 2010


I always thought it was our Edit Button, and it was named Repent Activity.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:27 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


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