!click and reload ... March 17, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

About the (fabulous) 'X new comments, show' function: I can't say enough good things about this, as it makes following long threads so easy compared to the old system of having to reload. But why not take it just a small step further - instead of making us click to load them, why not just have the script go ahead and load the new comments when they are detected? (Maybe a user preference?)
posted by woodblock100 to Feature Requests at 8:37 AM (42 comments total)

Personally, I'm disoriented by Web pages that load more content on their own, without my say-so, since they interfere with my use of the scrollbar as a marker of where I am in the conversation.
posted by killdevil at 8:40 AM on March 17, 2011 [25 favorites]


We played with that possibility early on, but it's really annoying (especially in fast moving threads) to have a page jump around and pop in content.

It also leads to users thinking it's a real time chat application instead of a website discussion (the UI is the same when everything is instant) and it could have larger (negative) effects on the site than you'd think initially.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:41 AM on March 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I think it would be more distracting. Especially if I was composing a comment. It already does kind of break the flow of thought (albeit very limited in my case) when it pops up when I'm writing something as it is now. I think any of these kinds of measures should be aiming at encouraging more relaxed participation rather than instant updates.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is exactly how Skynet started. Be careful what you wish for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is exactly how Skynet started. Be careful what you wish for.

I'm sure mathowie can pull the plug anytime he wa-
This connection has been terminated. 

[EOF]
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Facebook already sucks for loading new stuff on the news feed as I'm scrolling down to read things. I totally lose where I am and have to Ctrl-F to find it. That's just not cool.

If it happens it needs to be a user choice that they opt in for. But I don't think it will happen.
posted by theichibun at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2011


Facebook auto-loads more stuff at the bottom of the page when you scroll down, and if you are scrolling down by dragging the scrollbar it is FUCKING ANNOYING because it makes the page jump around all over the place.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:29 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I prefer to be able to press the button so I can keep my place in the thread and read all the new comments when I'm ready.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


It also leads to users thinking it's a real time chat application instead of a website discussion (the UI is the same when everything is instant) and it could have larger (negative) effects on the site than you'd think initially.

I think this already may be happening to some smallish extent. I said this already about the Fukushima thread specifically, and I don't really mean to be too handwringing about it, but it seems to me like maybe there's been a slight uptick in "chat"-style commenting — quickly dashed-off micro-comments, often just registering a yes/no personal opinion or replying to a single person and sub-issue exclusively rather than contributing something new to a broader thread-wide discussion — since the addition of the inline refreshing. If I'm right about this (which I'm not entirely sure but it seems worth discussing) then it seems like this style of dashed-off me-too/nuh-uh replying might eventually become a problem; in general it might be nice to push back a little toward considered, full-paragraph commenting (not to say that that's the only acceptable way to comment, of course). Or even just to re-inject a trifle more of the "think before you post" attitude, which real-time-squib conversations can kind of unwittingly push us away from.

It might be worth thinking about whether there's some UI tweak that would help to get people to reflect a bit more on whether each new insta-posting "good point"/"lol"/"no way" is a good idea. Maybe a little bit more friction in the new-comments UI isn't necessarily a bad thing.
posted by RogerB at 9:42 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've noticed that for me, at least, loading new comments breaks the back button. Rather than returning to the previous page when you click, it stays in the thread, I think as many times as you've loaded new comments.

Maybe using a different element than anchor tags for the loading link would fix this?
posted by tjenks at 9:43 AM on March 17, 2011


tjenks, we do that so the feature doesn't break the back button after you leave the page. If you click a link to leave the thread and then click the back button, MetaFilter needs to know where you left off loading new comments so it can load to that point. Otherwise you'd click the back button and end up with the thread as you originally loaded it before clicking any 'show new comments'.

The one exception we make is if you've entered the thread to view a specific comment. So if the anchor tag is already set to a comment ID, we skip all inline anchor points. If you'd like the back button to work in the other direction, you could simply click a timestamp when you get to the thread. That will keep the site from entering a new point in your history when you click 'show'. Just be aware that the back button will break in the other direction.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2011


I am absolutely against auto-load for all users. It would make the site less useful and more confusing for me on the Facebook "scroll forever" model. I'm not a FB hater, but let's not import their crappy UI ideas.
posted by immlass at 9:50 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer to be able to press the button so I can keep my place in the thread and read all the new comments when I'm read

Yeah, and there's that little extra thrill of seeing the comment window appear at the bottom of the frame, clicking "X new comments, show" and seeing another few inches of conversation instantly appear on the scroll bar. The knowing that I can stay involved in the dialog for just a bit longer really makes me happy.

Or maybe it's just me.
posted by quin at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2011


woodblock100: "why not just have the script go ahead and load the new comments when they are detected? "

Oh, please no. Twitter and Facebook already do this and it's a nightmare. The page jumps around and the scroll bars don't act the way they're supposed to. Complete pain in the ass.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on March 17, 2011


"It already does kind of break the flow of thought when it pops up when I'm writing something as it is now."

Yes. I find this new feature extremely distracting and not at all shiny. Or perhaps too shiny. It already messes up the name in the title bar/tab (What the hell is "(23) fu..." anyway? Oh, there 23 new comments on the Fujishika Nuclear Reactor thread. I wish I didn't have to click to know what that was). Then, you're reading, and it's constantly prompting you with added comments. "Read faster, dummy!" or "Skip to the bottom to see the new stuff" or just "Reload, reload!" It breaks my enjoyment of the thread. Then, you finally make it to the bottom to comment (after loading and reading all the new comments, and then loading and reading the new comments made while reading those, etc.). You're typing your well-thought-out reply when it prompts you to show new comments. Do you load, and keep up with the conversation while breaking your train of thought, or do you continue typing your comment, knowing that someone may have just posted everything you're about to say and that you're probably wasting your time when the conversation has moved on?

I know I'm in the minority here, but honestly I'm exaggerating very little here. This new feature detracts from the reading experience for me here at MetaFilter (to the point where I now tend to only read/comment in threads that are fairly static, but maybe that's a feature for the rest of you). It's a constant annoyance to either have to acknowledge the new comments or force myself to ignore them (currently 6 new comments since I started typing this). It adds a level of second-guessing that I guess is trivial to most users but really obnoxious to me. It's like having someone who reads faster than you do reading the newspaper over your shoulder, constantly bugging you to turn the page, or read faster or something. I'll probably have to install the script that disables it (there is one of those, right?), but I figure I should give my minority feedback in good faith before seceding from another* of the site's well-loved features.

* I've noticed lately that people are more often including the number of favorites when copy/pasting to quote a comment, which is jarring to me, as I have the favorites display turned off. It's an unpleasant reminder, particularly when a comment and its reply are pasted, and the favorite count seems as it's being used as a counter or scorekeeper to show that the quoter's chosen position is "more right." I'll try and point it out explicitly next time I see it.
posted by Eideteker at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2011


I'll probably have to install the script that disables it (there is one of those, right?)

You can disable it in your site preferences. Uncheck the box next to "Inline comment updates?", save, and repeat for each browser you use.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:09 AM on March 17, 2011


I think this already may be happening to some smallish extent. I said this already about the Fukushima thread specifically, and I don't really mean to be too handwringing about it, but it seems to me like maybe there's been a slight uptick in "chat"-style commenting

My sense of this is that this is the nature of real-time, newsy threads like the earthquake thread, the Fukushima thread, Balloon Boy, etc. I think it has less to do with inline comments, and more to do with the nature of what's being discussed.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:14 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a constant annoyance to either have to acknowledge the new comments or force myself to ignore them (currently 6 new comments since I started typing this).

Yes, it's like being in a crowded room and trying to speak, and having to constantly stop and acknowledge other conversations, even in a single thread. In fast moving threads, it's someone discouraging to see the comment tally flip into double digits, sort of like being left behind.

You can disable it in your site preferences. Uncheck the box next to "Inline comment updates?", save, and repeat for each browser you use.

This is probably too much to ask for, but would it be possible to be able to do this on a per thread basis? That way a user could control the process based on the speed and movement in a thread as opposed to all or nothing.

Whoops, new comment just showed up, have to click and see if mentions anything I've said and then adjust my comment. Hi ocherdraco!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on March 17, 2011



It also leads to users thinking it's a real time chat application instead of a website discussion


urqt. a/s/l?
posted by special-k at 10:22 AM on March 17, 2011


Thanks, pb. I don't think it was there the last time I checked. And anyway, I wanted to try it out for a bit, but I really don't think it's for me.
posted by Eideteker at 10:27 AM on March 17, 2011


This is probably too much to ask for, but would it be possible to be able to do this on a per thread basis?

Nah, that sounds nightmareishly fiddly. Probably a great candidate for a third-party script.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:44 AM on March 17, 2011


... would it be possible to be able to do this on a per thread basis?

Yeah, my initial feeling is that this is an edge case. If inline updates are bothering you, they're likely to bother you across the board. If they only bother you in certain circumstances, those circumstances aren't likely to occur enough to make the extra work required for users worth the hassle. That extra work is adding another toggle somewhere on the page that exists for everyone who uses the feature. That toggle is something everyone who uses the feature would have to look (or learn to filter out) permanently.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:46 AM on March 17, 2011


I don't use that thing you young uns call Facebook, but I can see how this would not be conducive to a satisfying user experience.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:49 AM on March 17, 2011


nightmareishly fiddly

A new band name!

No problem, figured it probably wasn't doable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on March 17, 2011


It would be great if the comments we have already read go to a collapsed layer like a drop down list so really long threads only show the new comments instead of bouncing eight miles down to the bottom of the comment screen.
posted by effluvia at 11:04 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


this is the nature of real-time, newsy threads

There are at least arguably examples of the same dynamic in other recent threads. This morning's thread about the NYT paywall contains at least a half-dozen miscommunications and misreadings and people talking past each other and taking offense in rapid succession, and I think at least some of them might certainly be argued to have escalated more quickly, and/or involved more iterations of back-and-forth replying, than they would've without inline refreshing. It might be that discussions accelerate from zero to "fuck you" faster when we are prompted to read each new reply as soon as it's posted — "you have (5) new insults: do you want to respond?" seems like one way that it can work in certain scenarios. Or even more mildly: I've felt like more people in more threads recently have needed to be reminded to re-read what they're responding to more carefully, rather than going with the knee-jerk misreadings they formed during their first skim of a new incoming comment (myself included, though I've caught myself before clicking "post").
posted by RogerB at 11:15 AM on March 17, 2011


<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="60">

You know it's the only way.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:25 AM on March 17, 2011


Facebook auto-loads more stuff at the bottom of the page when you scroll down, and if you are scrolling down by dragging the scrollbar it is FUCKING ANNOYING because it makes the page jump around all over the place.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 17:29 on March 17


Totally agree. It becomes even more annoying if the reason that you are scrolling down is in order to click one of the links at the bottom of the page (e.g. 'Developers'). As soon as you get there the links jump out of your reach creating a sort of facebook escalator which you are walking up in the wrong direction.
posted by jonnyploy at 11:36 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the click-to-see-the latest button. I don't like the idea of continuous updates. It's hard enough to keep up as it is; seeing a thread fill faster than I read it would be too distracting.

What I really want is a "Go to bottom of page" link for the iPad. When loading one of the megathreads (because I commented, the tab refreshed, or I'm viewing it for the first time), the only way I can reach the bottom of the page is by rapidly flicking my finger up the screen nonstop for about fifteen seconds. If, while doing that, I accidentally touch the top of the screen, the window auto-scrolls back to the top (which is a Mobile Safari thing, not a Mefi thing). The iPhone UI already has something like that in place, and keyboard-based computers don't generally need it; for now it's really just tablet users who are stuck in scrolling hell.
posted by ardgedee at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I brought it up in thread, but would it be possible to break the pages into manageable sizes in these mega threads? Or kill a thread at 1000 comments and start a new one? Re-post the newly continued thread on the front page? Start a new thread each day? Dunno.

With iPads and iPhones, when you navigate away from a thread (to check reuters or kyodo or ustream) it automatically refreshes the page when you go back. I'd be able to post more links to breaking news if it wasn't so time consuming to come back. The thread seems to go stale and devolve into side debates, and the breaking news aspect falls by the wayside.
posted by karst at 12:45 PM on March 17, 2011

What I really want is a "Go to bottom of page" link for the iPad. When loading one of the megathreads (because I commented, the tab refreshed, or I'm viewing it for the first time), the only way I can reach the bottom of the page is by rapidly flicking my finger up the screen nonstop for about fifteen seconds. If, while doing that, I accidentally touch the top of the screen, the window auto-scrolls back to the top (which is a Mobile Safari thing, not a Mefi thing).
I only have an iPhone, so I could be wrong about the interface on the iPad, but sometimes I touch the top of the screen to auto-scroll to the top and then, because I am using the mobile stylesheet, I have the [skip to menu] link to take me to the bottom of the page.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2011


What I really want is a "Go to bottom of page" link for the iPad.

Does the iPad not have the three-finger-jump-to-end thingie?
posted by zennie at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2011


I just download the End of Page app for the iPhone that will work on any site, not just here. You download the free app, set up a bookmarklet, and load the bookmarklet while viewing any site.

It's a little clumsy, but it does work across the board. And as Karmakaze said, Skip to menu brings you to the bottom of any MeFi page anyway.
posted by maudlin at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2011


About breaking up mega-threads into pages: I think in many cases where there has been a mega-thread, it's a good feature that the friction to continue the thread increases as it ages. (Ie. if a thread is fighty, the barrier to continue the fighting increases)

It only very occasional that we get the kind of threads we've seen this year - eg the Egypt threads, the Japan threads, where there is a major news event unfolding over a period of a week - that it makes sense to decrease friction for mega-thread continuity.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2011


We just added a new skip ↓ link for the iPad. It's right next to the MetaFilter logo on every page. Over here.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:33 PM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I dislike the idea of auto-insertion of new comments to the same extent that I love the notification that new comments are available, which is quite a lot. The notification gives the user the choice to continue (OCD tendencies aside) composing a reply or to view the new comments in case they change what you want to write.

In fast moving threads, it's someone discouraging to see the comment tally flip into double digits, sort of like being left behind.
This is no different to the situation that exists without the new comment tally, except that you now know that there are new comments. It puts the choice in the hands of the user as to whether they continue without viewing the new comments or not. I can see it being annoying for threads where there are several comments a minute, but it is more annoying (to me) to hit 'post comment' and then see that you have repeated what someone else just said. YMMV.

It's probably too much of a hit on the server, but what I would love to see is the new comment notification included on the Recent Activity Page. To me, that would make the function complete.
posted by dg at 3:47 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


karst: I brought it up in thread, but would it be possible to break the pages into manageable sizes in these mega threads? Or kill a thread at 1000 comments and start a new one? Re-post the newly continued thread on the front page? Start a new thread each day? Dunno.

I would prefer to keep everything on one page to make searching a discussion easier. However I would appreciate a "collapse above" widget, particularly if it used some fancy ajax stuff to reduce the amount of the DOM loaded into the browser's memory, and if it provided a "collapsed" URL you could link to. I'll go looking for a good implementation of something like this.

effluvia: It would be great if the comments we have already read go to a collapsed layer like a drop down list so really long threads only show the new comments instead of bouncing eight miles down to the bottom of the comment screen.

+1
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2011


Thanks, pb!
posted by ardgedee at 6:13 PM on March 17, 2011


karst writes "I brought it up in thread, but would it be possible to break the pages into manageable sizes in these mega threads? Or kill a thread at 1000 comments and start a new one? Re-post the newly continued thread on the front page? Start a new thread each day? Dunno. "

I'd prefer we not make a significant change to how the site works (especially for edge cases of threads over a 1000 comments) to accommodate the current limitations of a crappy browser/hardware combination.
posted by Mitheral at 6:22 PM on March 17, 2011


I LIK BUTTUNS
posted by The Devil Tesla at 9:28 AM on March 18, 2011


I have an iPod Touch, but not an iPhone (I am far too cheap to pay for data usage). For long threads (case in point, earthquake in Japan), I sometimes like to load the page before leaving the house in the morning and read comments while on the bus. Automatically refreshing websites tend to break in this situation - either a box pops up to inform you repeatedly that you are not on the internet, or if you've forgotten to turn airplane mode on, sometimes you pick up a web sign in page that autoloads and you lose your (OK, I lose my) lovely MeFi page.

Meanwhile, I disagree that the update count is changing the nature of threads - I think, if anything, it's like forcing people to preview. As dg noted, these aren't comments that weren't there before, you're just aware before previewing now. Getting halfway through a long comment and discovering someone else had already made that point? That's something that *should* be an issue and wouldn't you rather know before you've written all that?
posted by maryr at 11:51 AM on March 18, 2011


Re iPad refresh lag: has using Web Storage been considered? It's supported on the newer iOS versions, I think, and it would also improve refresh times for everyone with a compatible browser.
posted by topynate at 6:50 PM on March 19, 2011


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