Reply from mobile Recent Activity March 15, 2011 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Mobile Pony: Reply from within Recent Activity

In the interests of letting people update threads they're participating in from the mobile site, would it be helpful to add a reply box at the bottom of each thread's section on mobile Recent Activity (probably hidden behind some javascript antics to prevent a page with 20 textfields)?

I realise (and agree with) the position against adding features that encourage lengthy threads, but wonder if mobile is a bit different. Even in the early days the Japan threads were hard to load over GPRS, now they're slow *and* browser-killing.

(Alternative idea with similar result: only displaying a thread from the last post you made when clicked through from mobile Recent Activity)
posted by bonaldi to Feature Requests at 2:27 PM (24 comments total)

We spend a ton of work on keeping Recent Activity alive and it's a huge resource hog and has thousands of lines of code in it. I can't see adding this for the sheer pain of having to add comment forms optionally to any thread, and also for the feature creep that already makes us treat Recent Activity as it's own separate application apart from MetaFilter.

Additionally, this sounds like you want it as a temporary solution for the rare super long threads we have. A better approach might be for us to try and keep those rare threads from growing beyond 1,500 comments or so somehow (maybe not deleting followups for major story twists, etc).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

My feeling is that a little bit of friction in commenting is okay, and being on a mobile phone doesn't make that go away.

The cases where someone actually really, really needs to comment on an extraordinarily long mefi thread from their phone seem like rare beyond rare; if it's an emergency there are better channels, and if not it can wait until you get to a real computer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2011

Ah, didn't realise Recent Activity was such a beast! Pony stabled, then.

Cortex: Yeah, agreed about the friction. It's just that some of these threads are way beyond friction and into effectively-broken territory on mobiles. Some days my mobile pretty much *is* my only real computer, which makes that a pain. I don't think that, eg, loading a thread that only displayed from your last post would be over-smooth, in those terms.
posted by bonaldi at 3:24 PM on March 15, 2011

It's just that some of these threads are way beyond friction and into effectively-broken territory on mobiles.

I hear you, and I'm not discounting the frustration there. (Believe me. I just spent five days trying to load those threads not only on an iphone but in bandwidth-fucked downtown Austin. It can suck.) But I feel like there's a couple of temporal issues here that make moving to implement a serious change in how the commenting functionality of the site works maybe not a great idea:

1. Long-ass threads are not the norm. I know they're not impossibly rare, and certainly a 1000+ comment thread is easier to come across today than it was in 2006, but they're still very much not the normal sort of thread around here. So making changes to how the more essential parts of the site work to accommodate those situations is something we need to be cautious about, at least.

2. We're in this weird period where mobile browsing is sort of stumbling toward being Real Browsing in fits and starts, and the good news is that we're a lot closer than shit was ten or even five years ago but the bad news is that as the gap has closed from being a kind of sad joke on a tiny screen to being pretty doable for basic tasks on a hi-res display, there's this tendency to unreasonably expect that something that's really not quite there yet for some traditional tasks will work anyway.

The reality is that phones don't have enough memory or cpu or data service throughput or so on to really crank through some tasks as they stand. Thankfully the number of tasks that includes on mefi is relatively small at this point, but great big goddam threads is one of 'em. The good news is that we're probably a couple phone generations from even that being more manageable, and I kind of feel like this is a problem that solves itself external to mefi and that's maybe a better approach than going in an unorthodox direction with how our site works in deference to phones just not currently being 100% yet on the whole Real Browsing thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:01 PM on March 15, 2011

Is it a serious change? I don't mean technically -- hadn't realised what a heartache RA was in that sense, and that does make me think it shouldn't be done -- but the way commenting has always worked is a box at the end of the thread. RA shows you the thread as it was from your last post(ish), so a hidden comment box there seemed a natural fit, to me.

(I say ish because it's just the last 10, and I was/am a bit wary that it might encourage people not to read the thread before posting, but I guess there's nothing to prevent that now anyway.)

You're right the phone browsers are getting better, but some of these big threads can bog down laptops on broadband, so I think we might be five years away from acceptable pocket performance, at least.
posted by bonaldi at 4:35 PM on March 15, 2011

No. Man, shit no, man.

You go to the thread page and you read the thread to comment.

If the size of the page is a concern, then perhaps some kind of pagination of large comment threads (like 500 comments to a page, so the larger tenor of a thread stays in view, not just the latest snippy drive-by coments) is in order on the mobile site.
posted by Eideteker at 7:52 AM on March 16, 2011

Well great, how am I supposed to get the last word with minimal effort?
posted by electroboy at 9:40 AM on March 16, 2011

Yeah, how's he supposed to get the last word?
posted by inigo2 at 10:11 AM on March 16, 2011

In before Meatbomb.
posted by Eideteker at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2011

Yeah! How?
posted by electroboy at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2011

Closing this up now...
posted by Mister_A at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2011

...won pu siht gnisolC
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2011

Because you make me feel (mobile pony)
So good (mobile pony)
So good (mobile pony)
So right (mobile pony)
posted by dirtdirt at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2011

There is nothing sadder than an immobile pony.
posted by Mister_A at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2011

Goodnight unwanted mobile pony.
Goodnight Mefi.
Goodnight Jessamyn in her stocking cap.
Goodnight Cortex and his discerning eye.
Goodnight Matt Haughey.
Goodnight big blue website.
posted by Night_owl at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it a serious change? I don't mean technically

Yes, I think it is, and not in the technical sense.

I mean, I hear you: commenting is commenting, right? I don't think the suggestion is coming from a crazy place or anything.

But I'm a pretty strong believer in keeping commenting tied very strongly to the context of the thread. And I think it's deceptively easy to sort of erode that by making changes like this. It's the degree to which commenting is the engine on which this community runs that makes what might seem like a small change actually really significant.

And while I know long-time users would try to deal with such a change responsibly, newer users won't have a prior context for it and so won't necessarily have that same responsibility. All else being equal, people tend to follow the path of least resistance, and for someone who hasn't pretty seriously internalized the "read the damn thread" sensibility before getting access to a tool that encourages them to comment even if they haven't been reading thoroughly, that means probably doing a poorer job of reading the thread than they otherwise might.

If I were to really get my curmudgeon on I'd push back on even having a comment box available on the mobile stylesheet. The limitations of mobile platforms create so much pressure to take shortcuts that I feel like the average comment submitted from a phone is already starting out at a significant handicap to one knocked out from an actual keyboard, and while mefites seem generally to show pretty good judgement about whether to take the painful time to do it right or just hold off until later, we do definitely see a certain amount of what seems like half-baked "typed this on my phone, can't make real link here is bare url"-flavored comments of the kind that we wouldn't have a few years ago. And that curmudgeon in me thinks that actually really sucks, because the high signal to noise ratio and the relative care that mefites take with their comments is part of what makes this place what it is.

I try to keep that curmudgeon in check because he's a grumpy son of a bitch who dislikes a lot of things that may be pretty good additions on the whole. Commenting from mobile phones is not largely a problem and it'd be borderline crazy to actually actively prohibit them here when for the most part we have social expectations and cultural pressure that does a good job of keeping things in good shape. But that sort of thing is very much something I think the whole team thinks about and worries about, and its from that perspective that I see the idea here, while a totally reasonable suggestion, as something that'd represent a significant and undesirable change to how this place works.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not to mention the rise in Autocorrect typos, and the follow-up "With my last breath I curse Autocorrect!!!!" comments thereafter. I know these can and often are be edited/edited out after the fact, but they still lower the SvN ratio while present.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2011

Not to mention the rise in Autocorrect typos,

Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts!
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I try to keep that curmudgeon in cheque because he's a grumpy son of a bitch ...
Maybe if you made the cheques bigger, he wouldn't be so grumpy?
posted by dg at 4:04 PM on March 16, 2011

Oh, man, I hope you're using that greasemonkey script that localizes "favo[u]rites" and various other words, and forgot you were using it, and saw me write "cheque" even though I actually wrote check, and decided to rib me about a presumed homonym error. Because otherwise I don't get it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:36 PM on March 16, 2011

Heh, I am indeed. I didn't so much forget as not didn't realise that it changes 'check' to 'cheque' as well. Which is kind of dysfunctional, because either word is correct in 'proper' English, depending on context. On viewing the script, I note that it also changes 'jessamyn' to 'mom' which, assuming this is a valid change, should replace 'jessamyn' with 'mum' to be geographically correct (for me). I'll edit the local copy of the script to avoid inappropriate ribbing in future.
posted by dg at 6:10 PM on March 16, 2011

Which, of course, had led to me seeing things like:

'This post was deleted for the following reason: posted previously -- jessamyn's mum'

Small things etc
posted by dg at 6:38 PM on March 16, 2011

Does it change truck to lorry? Does it change Catherine Keener to Helena Bonham Carter?
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2011

You can very easily (meaning that an idiot like me can do it) edit the script to change any text to any other text you want. In protest against the miss-spelling of 'mum', I changed the script to change 'jessamyn' to jessamyn's mum' (by default it changes 'jessamyn' to 'mom'), which results in the above (unintended) 'jessamyn's mum's mum'. Which only I can see, of course. I'm already thinking that it's a bad idea ;-)
posted by dg at 3:30 PM on March 17, 2011

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