Improved Display of Comments in Threads August 19, 2010 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Can we have alternate cell background colours for discussion threads?

The recent "Busted being unwittingly pervy at work" thread on AskMe is, in my opinion, a classic example of a thread that would benefit from a tidier interface on the thread comments. Just as forum software like vBulletin uses alternating background colours to ease delineating posts, I feel MeFi could also benefit, and doing so would require minimal effort through CSS.

To explain what I mean, see this cheap and nasty mockup.
posted by Biru to Feature Requests at 5:51 AM (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

But we already do that to mark best answers.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:05 AM on August 19, 2010


Probably not, as highlighting is already used for best answers and other things. Pretty sure you could write/find a greasemonkey script or Stylish extension for this if you were that bothered.

Or read a bit slower and look for 'Posted by'.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:05 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, good point on the best answer. Guess I had forgotten that. Seems a shame though, as in the busier threads, and especially if the answers are short, it can be quite a counterintuitive interface. There's no real natural delineation of the different posts.
posted by Biru at 6:08 AM on August 19, 2010


I really don't see how having best answers highlighted and having a green/different green background behind answers are mutually exclusive.
posted by theichibun at 6:11 AM on August 19, 2010


I know this sounds like a copout, but you do get used to it.

Also, you might want to use the Mefi Navigator and Mefi Scroll Tag scripts. The first adds all sorts of useful info (like highlighting OP posts and admins) and the latter remembers the last comment you read and puts a floating arrow on the page that'll take you to it with a click, which is insanely useful on longer, more complex threads and allows you to navigate around and not lose your place.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:12 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


there's another greasemonkey script out there (maybe called 'comment delianation' or aomething to that effect) that makes the background of each 'posted by' line darker. took a bit of tweaking before I was happy with the result, but it was awesome after haahing that out.
posted by carsonb at 6:21 AM on August 19, 2010


This smacks of threads and is therefore EVIIIILLLL (which is to say "too usable to ever be implemented").
posted by DU at 6:21 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could the powers that be perhaps even just add a single (br) tag after each posted by? Just to make it a little clearer. That's a compromise which wouldn't affect the current "best answer" on AskMe.
posted by Biru at 6:28 AM on August 19, 2010


Use the J/K key sets to move up and down one comment at a time.
posted by deezil at 6:35 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


Holy Hack and Kludge! How long has the J/K thing been in place? Why didn't I know about it?
posted by Biru at 6:40 AM on August 19, 2010


Hah, I've seen it in several MetaTalk threads before. It's kind of an urban legend.
posted by deezil at 6:43 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah this is a situation where it's something that some users want but most users don't want, so it's a better case for something like Greasemonkey/Stylish/Userscripts, though possibly you could campaign for alternating cells as a possible alternative stylesheet, but I feel that it's an idea that has come up before and not gotten a lot of traction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:50 AM on August 19, 2010


Use the J/K key sets to move up and down one comment at a time.

:O
posted by milarepa at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The j/k thing is going to revolutionize my life. In 6 months, I'll likely ask for a feature to somehow skip larger number of comments at a time and 300 people will ask what's wrong with my mouse and I'll facepalm.
posted by DU at 7:15 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hi, I'd like a feature that makes Metafilter more readable."

"Yeah, right, like that's gonna happen. LOL J/K."

[cue the Hallelujah chorus]
posted by phunniemee at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm no readability expert, so I'll frame this as preference: I do not think that, for me personally, alternating background colors make things easier to read.
posted by box at 7:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's because of my custom font size/type face settings in preferences, or because I've been using the site for a long time, but I have absolutely zero problem delineating comments when scrolling. Alternating backgrounds or anything else forum-y would anger me quite considerably because one of the things this site has going for it is the distinct lack of 'flair' as found on most other discussion forums.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


(and by that I mean: setting a larger font size amplifies the separation between comments because line height is set to 130% of font size, and setting links to underlined makes them stand out more.)
posted by Rhomboid at 7:59 AM on August 19, 2010


J/K works on a lot of other sites/apps, like The Big Picture and Tweetdeck.
posted by desjardins at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2010


Could there be a user preference for changing J/K to something else? I know, I know. But ex. A/Z would be much nicer because while reading MeFi generally my left hand stays on the keyboard whilst my right hangs out at the mouse. Also, alternate keyboard layouts. Domo.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:38 AM on August 19, 2010


It's easier to seperate comments when using the professional white background.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could there be a user preference for changing J/K to something else?

User prefs require loads of backend work because they necessitate adding things mumble mumble to database tables. I know because something I emailed PB about last week was a user pref. So, probably not.

/technical handwave.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:53 AM on August 19, 2010


For several months after someone first told me about the j/k navigation, for some reason I misremembered and thought that the spacebar was the thing to press, and thought, "Well, that doesn't work very well." A few days ago I realized my mistake.

Sometimes, I'm not sure why they still let me on this ride.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2010


I find the threads with best answers marked significantly less legible than the normal backgrounds. So I think it is tough to find two colors that both work well and don't clash.
posted by smackfu at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2010


It doesn't solve seanmpuckett's problem, but ./, works the same as j/k.
posted by enn at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, enn, it does!
Dvorak layout here.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2010


User prefs require loads of backend work because they necessitate adding things mumble mumble to database tables. I know because something I emailed PB about last week was a user pref. So, probably not.
Thanks for the look up Metafilter's skirt.
posted by planet at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2010


The professional white background makes it awesome because the only hint of color is on the links, so you get a 'line' between the posts. A line of links.
posted by deezil at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2010


I'm a big fan of Stylish for things like this. I'm not sure how to do alternating colors offhand (that might require Greasemonkey) but you can tweak the layout quite a bit. For example, if you want more space between posts, add this to stylish:

.comments {margin-bottom:30px;}

And change the value 30px to whatever you'd like. If I wanted the byline to be bigger so it's easier to see where a post ends, I might do something like this:

.comments .smallcopy {font-size:20px!important;line-height:150%;}

You could even add a horizontal line like so:

.comments {padding-bottom:5px;border-bottom:solid black 1px;}

And again, you can change the values here to whatever you'd like. I use the Stylish plugin with both Firefox and Chrome. I don't know if there's an option for IE.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2010


By the way, you can use the period and comma to navigate in addition to J/K if you need an alternative.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2010


By the way, you can use the period and comma to navigate in addition to J/K if you need an alternative.

This is the best way to navigate obit posts.
posted by Elmore at 11:52 AM on August 19, 2010


Here you go.

This should work with Chrome and Firefox, with the Stylish extension installed.

Personally, I'm not sure I love it. Suggestions welcome (especially for a new shade of green on AskMe).
posted by schmod at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2010


I find it difficult to read text right next to the browser bar. I'd love it if the direct comment links and J/K went instead to the beginning of the blank space above comments.
posted by parudox at 12:16 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the look up Metafilter's skirt.

We have this joke, in the backroom at MeFi central. There is a company that handles the payroll and stuff that we use. And it was funny, when we started using them because we all had to sign something about how we were "committed to maintaining a work environment free of unwarranted harassment and discrimination." And even though everyone who works here is completely and totally awesome and would never harass anyone else, this was still part of the new deal we agreed to. And the name of the lady who is in charge of all of this has a sort of funny "i dotted with a heart name" like Mindi. She's nice.

And of course occasionally one of us will have to look at something via a link or a FPP that is really totally terrifically awful either in a hypersexualized way or in a gross way or in a rapey way or in some other terrible way and it's a joke now, on the mailing list, that we tell mathowie that we're going to report him to Mindi in HR and he's going to be in terrible trouble because of all the eye bleach we have to buy and etc. And I am thankful pretty much every day that I work someplace where something like this can be 100% joke and 0% nervous laughter with a sideways glance at the unfireable office creep [of whatever gender] and I never have to worry if I'm wearing something that is going to have people talking shit about me and this is such a non-problem.

Most people aren't that lucky. That's what you find up MetaFilter's skirt.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:25 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


carsonb: there's another greasemonkey script out there (maybe called 'comment delianation' or aomething to that effect) that makes the background of each 'posted by' line darker. took a bit of tweaking before I was happy with the result, but it was awesome after haahing that out.

That's a userscript called Metafilter Comment Dividers, which really started with me hacking Gina Trapani's "Lifehacker Blackener" script, and grew to what it is now by Mefites carsonb and VoidContext offering further revisions.
posted by WCityMike at 5:04 PM on August 19, 2010


schmod: Personally, I'm not sure I love it. Suggestions welcome (especially for a new shade of green on AskMe).

I'd suggest #213423.
posted by WCityMike at 6:14 PM on August 19, 2010


I find it difficult to read text right next to the browser bar. I'd love it if the direct comment links and J/K went instead to the beginning of the blank space above comments.

I know I sound like a broken record, but if you can use Stylish this line will put some space above the comments for you as you key between them:

.comments {padding-top:15px;}
posted by pb (staff) at 6:36 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alternating colors:
a[name] + div.comments:nth-of-type(even) { background-color: #777; }
a[name] + div.comments:nth-of-type(odd) { background-color: #555; }


Other subsites will need other color values, of course. You might also want to add some padding to the divs.


Comment separator:
a[name] + div.comments { border-top: dotted 1px white; padding-top: 5px; }
posted by ryanrs at 8:28 PM on August 19, 2010


I'd suggest #213423.

Too dark...
posted by schmod at 9:19 PM on August 19, 2010


Oh. Duh. #335036. Much better! I've updated the stylish style on userstyles...
posted by schmod at 9:21 PM on August 19, 2010


Also, OP, it might help to increase your font size in your preferences.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:29 AM on August 20, 2010


>Most people aren't that lucky. That's what you find up MetaFilter's skirt.

I am so turned on right now.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:41 AM on August 20, 2010


One of my previous employers, a content delivery network with a substantial adult client base, made us all sign notes from HR saying basically the opposite: we knew there could be porn at work and were OK with it.

I'm not sure that excused the daily 'content freshness report' the DBAs put out with links to new images from those clients...
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:17 AM on August 20, 2010


"That's what you find up MetaFilter's skirt."

I KEEP TELLING YOU ITS NOT A SKIRT ITS A UTILIKILT!
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy crap Prokudin-Gorskii photos just got the Big Picture treatment.

Or Big Picture got the Prokudin-Gorskii treatment.

Go look.
posted by Anything at 1:19 PM on August 20, 2010


I am Joe in Australia and I endorse this deletion.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2010


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