A tiny, corralled pony April 6, 2011 11:58 PM   Subscribe

Can we mobile users have more HTML composition buttons?

I would love to have buttons that let me more easily use additional HTML tags, especially small and blockquote. Even with Swype I find entering tags on my phone to be kind of a pain ; this would make it easier to keep my mobile posts looking as meadow-fresh as the ones composed on a computer and further enable my abuse of the small tag.
posted by jtron to Feature Requests at 11:58 PM (88 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

+1
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 AM on April 7, 2011


I like the first answer from the other meta pony thread open right now.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:22 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't asking to duplicate full-site functionality, though.
posted by jtron at 1:49 AM on April 7, 2011


Ok...I guess my last comment didn't work. How about rather than referencing the other answer, I just copy and paste it down here:

"I think the idea is that the mobile version is supposed to be bare bones for browsing and occasional commenting; to interact fully with the site you should use the full site."
posted by hal_c_on at 2:34 AM on April 7, 2011


I would like a button that flicks boogers at hal_c_on.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:28 AM on April 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


A simple scroll bar in the comment text input area would make it possible to write more than snarky quips from the phone.
posted by spitbull at 4:20 AM on April 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because really, "interact fully" my ass. Why is there a comment input area at all on mobile?

Mobile is now the way many people do most of their non-work web browsing. Seems like the attitude in Hal_c_on's comment is a bit old school. When I am on my laptop, I generally have work to do.
posted by spitbull at 4:25 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can we mobile users have more HTML composition buttons?

Have you eaten your vegetables? Cleaned your room?

Me, I'd just the ability to remove a thread from recent activity on the mobile version.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:39 AM on April 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hate this idea because I am opposed to people getting what they want. Ever.
posted by fleacircus at 4:48 AM on April 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the idea of adding a blockquote button, but I'm not sure why you just want to add it to the mobile version of the site. I do not like the idea of doing anything that encourages people to use the small tag.
posted by nangar at 5:26 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with the small tag?
posted by MrFTBN at 5:35 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to say no, only because a "tiny, corralled pony" sounds kind of cruel. At least that little giraffe on the DirecTV commercials has freedom to run on the treadmill or just lay there and get petted.
posted by cashman at 6:01 AM on April 7, 2011


A simple scroll bar in the comment text input area would make it possible to write more than snarky quips from the phone.

On the iPhone, you can scroll within the box by using two fingers.
posted by milestogo at 6:16 AM on April 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Seriously, it would be nice to have this pony NOW NOW NOW, but I suspect it'll happen eventually.

In the meantime, have I told you, pb, how utterly awesome you are?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on April 7, 2011


milestogo, a thousand blessings be upon you for that tip. I've been growling at my phone for far longer than I'm willing to admit for the lack of that exact feature.
posted by nevercalm at 7:13 AM on April 7, 2011


spitbull writes "Mobile is now the way many people do most of their non-work web browsing."

I'm amazed that this is true considering what a horrible experience that seems to be.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 AM on April 7, 2011


What's wrong with the small tag?

Nesting.
posted by solotoro at 7:19 AM on April 7, 2011


Seems like the attitude in Hal_c_on's comment is a bit old school.

The general thing that we've said here a lot is that the actual site works fine in a mobile browser so we've made the stripped down mobile version more just for reading and writing small comments. It's really not for composing posts in or that sort of thing. That said, the HTML options are really limiting and it's probably time we do something about that. We're talking a bit about what that would look like.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:33 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, the HTML options are really limiting and it's probably time we do something about that. We're talking a bit about what that would look like.

I've mentioned this before, but I'd like to see a range of HTML buttons offered that users could customize in their profile. Certainly, usage the blink and strikeout tags shouldn't really be encouraged. But blockquote, super and subscript, underline, mouseover text, and small buttons, among others, could help people make better looking posts and comments.

Granted, it's not so hard to do these things manually, but it would be neat to have a customizable set of buttons.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:59 AM on April 7, 2011


I'm really appreciative of how much time and attention goes into usability and functionality here. I like this pony, because via phone is the only way for me to access the site during the day. Mostly it works ok, but there are issues, too.
posted by Forktine at 8:05 AM on April 7, 2011


But blockquote, super and subscript, underline, mouseover text, and small buttons, among others, could help people make better looking posts and comments.

I doubt it. Those who want to do those things find out how to do it. Adding a button so anyway could do it on a whim probably wouldn't approve quality. I'd be very happy to be wrong about this though/
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 AM on April 7, 2011


Adding a button so anyway could do it on a whim probably wouldn't approve quality.

Ah, but could, not would. And enabling the buttons should be optional. (And you so typed that on a mobile device!)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 AM on April 7, 2011


But anyway, mobile devices seem here to stay, and usage is only increasing. I agree that things making actual posts using smartphones should be discouraged, but since more and more people are using them to comment it might make sense to do what can be done to facilitate better formed comments.

Hell, how about a mandatory preview on the mobile site?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:18 AM on April 7, 2011


Hell, how about a mandatory preview on the mobile site?

We had that for a while when we initially added the Mobile View. It didn't go over well.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:22 AM on April 7, 2011


On the iPhone, you can scroll within the box by using two fingers.

Bless you! I know that I managed to scroll within the box at some point, but it was accidental and I couldn't figure out how I'd done it. I have no idea why the two-finger thing didn't occur to me. The more you know!
posted by rtha at 8:26 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't that the usual pinchy/spready zoom feature? You can turn the phone sideways and max the box size, but you don't get true vertical scrolling within a box that stays the same size.

For short comments, pinchy/spready works just fine. I compose my epics on my computer.
posted by maudlin at 8:38 AM on April 7, 2011


I'm amazed that this is true considering what a horrible experience that seems to be.

Typing tags sucks if you don't have something like TextExpander, and a whole lot of sites do not yet grok that mobile stylesheets are a must now, but on the whole it's not bad. I actually prefer surfing on my iPad (not the same as a phone, I know) even at home. And at work, mobile is the only way I can check in with my feeds during downtime or access my Dropbox if I need to look up a reference document.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2011


One of the things that makes Stack Overflow so great is that questions and answers can look not only pretty, but readable. If the Metafilter brand wants to stay with 1995-era HTML, that's one thing, but there are certainly modern alternatives that are friendly to how people compute in 2011, and it seems like it should be reasonable to discuss those here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:59 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stack Overflow doesn't provide any formatting buttons in the mobile version of their site. They do support Markdown in addition to HTML. Is that what you mean as a modern alternative?
posted by pb (staff) at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2011


Personally, I'd like to see an API, so people can create Metafilter Applications. That's the best way to create an awesome mobile experience.
posted by seanyboy at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2011


If you're interested spelunking go make a post about it, I'm trying to get my mobile Mefi on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:57 AM on April 7, 2011


Mobile is now the way many people do most of their non-work web browsing.

Really? Almost everyone I know (mostly 20-something tech oriented urbanites) does most of their browsing on their laptops. Mobile is for fact checking, maps, and killing time in lines.
posted by maryr at 11:01 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there was an API I'd be tempted to hack out a MeFi Chumby app. Don't ask me why I have a Chumby. It was late, and it was on sale at woot.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:03 AM on April 7, 2011


I sometimes have difficulty scrolling in the tiny box using my droid. If anything were to change, I would just want a bigger, maybe longer comment box.

Comments made on my mobile have far more typos largely because it takes more energy to find the typos. I don't have a big problem with tags specifically though... preview button takes care of that.
posted by zennie at 11:38 AM on April 7, 2011


> would just want a bigger, maybe longer comment box.

For whatever reason the Android Firefox has a much bigger comment box. No Flash, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:45 AM on April 7, 2011


HTML buttons? You mean like <button>Click me!</button>? Why would you want to type that out every time?
posted by Eideteker at 12:46 PM on April 7, 2011


The regular site works just fine on the iPad (which I find I'm using more than my laptop for regular browsing outside of work, but that might be because my laptop is old and clunky and my iPad is new and shiny...). But extra HTML-ish shortcuts would be awesome, because typing still kinda sucks on the iPad, and I can never remember what the tags are for anything other than small...
posted by cgg at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2011


Biggest problem I have with the buttons is that they require you to move the cursor back into the middle of the brackets, which is trivial on a computer but exacting on a touch screen. I think a "click button to open tag" and "click same button to close tag" method works a lot better.
posted by smackfu at 2:01 PM on April 7, 2011


smackfu, you can highlight words in the textarea, click the button, and the tags are surrounding that selected text. No moving the cursor.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:19 PM on April 7, 2011


Burhanistan writes "I've mentioned this before, but I'd like to see a range of HTML buttons offered that users could customize in their profile. Certainly, usage the blink and strikeout tags shouldn't really be encouraged."

I understand blink but why should strikeout be discouraged?
posted by Mitheral at 3:28 PM on April 7, 2011


Strikeout is useful in theory but in practice on MetaFilter seem to nearly always be used for FTFY sorts of things which are usually snarky and annoying. Not sure if this is what Burhan was thinking of, but it's the first thing I thought of.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:29 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Strikeout is useful in theory but in practice on MetaFilter seem to nearly always be used for FTFY sorts of things which are usually snarky and annoying fun and get lots of favorites.

I am so sorry.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doubt that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm still sad we don't have the button and marquee tags anymore. Those were awesome.
posted by aubilenon at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'd like to see an API, so people can create Metafilter Applications.

Unfortunately, I bet that this would be about as awesome as it would be difficult to implement.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2011


Yeah, strikeout might be beyond redemption here.

[TOTALLY FTFY-IST]
posted by Burhanistan at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2011


I am so sorry hungering to be an alien love slave to the coming Martian Overlords.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'd like to see an API, so people can create Metafilter Applications.

Tilde and I were working on a MeFi iOS app a while ago. I proposed a few changes to the profile page, to be able to pull social and other data into the app. It would be interesting to see tiny bits of the site here and there be made accessible via web services — it would make it a lot easier to put together those sorts of mobile applications. Just blue-sky thinking, but put my vote down for an API, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:14 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tilde and I were working on a MeFi iOS app a while ago.

Go on...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2011


I would like a button that flicks boogers at hal_c_on.

You were one gross little kid, weren't you?
posted by hal_c_on at 4:22 PM on April 7, 2011


Oh my goodness I love that Valid HTML thread. It makes me wish I'd paid my $5 five years earlier.

I'd love having those buttons in the mobile version, mostly because I always manage to make an HTML error after commenting in a MetaTalk thread about HTML use in mobile comments.
posted by SMPA at 4:35 PM on April 7, 2011


Mobile is now the way many people do most of their non-work web browsing. Seems like the attitude in Hal_c_on's comment is a bit old school. When I am on my laptop, I generally have work to do.

That first statement, can't be true...can it? Serious question.

And oh yeah, I'm old school. I think metafilter is work.

Metafilter not being work
Is ludicrous
Whoever said it
Must be new to this
When you read me
You'll compare me
To a prophet for profit
Not merely
Putting words together for
Recreation
Each rhyme's a dissertation
You wanna know my occupation
I get paid to rock the nation
I go to work

posted by hal_c_on at 4:40 PM on April 7, 2011


jessamyn writes "Strikeout is useful in theory but in practice on MetaFilter seem to nearly always be used for FTFY sorts of things which are usually snarky and annoying."

Ah. Well I use it quite a bit but I don't think I've ever used it as a FTFY. I'd ask cortex for a quick check of a confirmation bias of the preponderance of FTFY strikeout vs. other uses but I can't think of how to determine usage automatically.
posted by Mitheral at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2011


I can use italics and linking fine on the mobile.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:43 PM on April 7, 2011


Ah. Well I use it quite a bit but I don't think I've ever used it as a FTFY. I'd ask cortex for a quick long, labour-intensive check of a confirmation bias of the preponderance of FTFY strikeout vs. other uses but I can't think of how to determine usage automatically.

FTFY.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2011


Grab the subset of comments that have <s> tags, then see what proportion also have the substring FTFY.
posted by kmz at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2011


smackfu, you can highlight words in the textarea, click the button, and the tags are surrounding that selected text. No moving the cursor.

Ah yes, that works ok, although still a bit painful since you need to keep the text selected on the iPhone while you press the little I button. The way things are sized, that button is halfway off the screen so you need to scroll to it. Maybe adjust the size a little?
posted by smackfu at 8:45 PM on April 7, 2011


You could also try just clicking the button to insert the HTML tags, then paste or type your text between the tags.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 PM on April 7, 2011


I actually kind of like mobile twitter, facebook, and even mefi on my laptop, with the browser window tall and skinny. (I don't need more features for it, though.) (At this time.)
posted by ctmf at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2011


I read metafilter a lot (although I don't comment much). These days, almost all of my interaction is on my phone, with a bit more on my iPad. When I read on my laptop...it feels weird. I much prefer the mobile site.

(and I am so glad to know about the two-finger scroll to navigate in the comment box!)
posted by leahwrenn at 10:18 PM on April 7, 2011


I have grown to love typing, on a touch screen, the maximally efficient sequence to create italicized text.

First, switch to the alternate character keyboard and get the angle-brackets out of the way:
<><>
Then, back up one and insert the backslash
<></>
then to the alpha keyboard to enter the i
<></i>
then back up to insert the other i
<i></i>
finally, enter or paste the text to be italicized.

(a similar pattern works for hrefs)
posted by zippy at 3:57 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, that works ok, although still a bit painful since you need to keep the text selected on the iPhone while you press the little I button. The way things are sized, that button is halfway off the screen so you need to scroll to it. Maybe adjust the size a little?

Yes! Once I get the text highlighted properly (I don't know how you people without a mouse-arrow-thing on your phone do that) I hold my breath and hope I hit the correct one of the tiny format buttons. I suppose I could just type out the tags... and sometimes I do... but having wider-set buttons could also help. Since they're already there and all.

I just noticed that the buttons switch from bottom right to bottom left in preview.
posted by zennie at 6:19 AM on April 8, 2011


zippy: "First, switch to the alternate character keyboard and get the angle-brackets out of the way:
<><>
Then, back up one and insert the backslash
<>
then to the alpha keyboard to enter the i
<>

then back up to insert the other i

finally, enter or paste the text to be italicized.

(a similar pattern works for hrefs)"

I have a pattern I've established on my Blackberry keyboard:

alt-w, i, alt-s
gives me <i>

alt-w, alt-g, i, alt-s
gives me </i>

It probably takes about a second to do both brackets. It doesn't have any of the usual browser bells and whistles, but I can type html code very quickly.
posted by zarq at 6:24 AM on April 8, 2011


Of course, that doesn't mean I can manage tags correctly on a desktop computer. ;)
posted by zarq at 6:25 AM on April 8, 2011


Ah. Well I use it quite a bit but I don't think I've ever used it as a FTFY. I'd ask cortex for a quick check of a confirmation bias of the preponderance of FTFY strikeout vs. other uses but I can't think of how to determine usage automatically.

I might take a look, because I'm curious too but from the other side of the gut feeling: I'd expect to find it used overwhelmingly for "corrections", but I'd be curious if I'm just not noticing a lot of uses for other purposes.

I'll say here that I think it's "FTFY" behavior even if it doesn't have the strings "FTFY" or "Fixed That For You" in the actual comment text; the semantic implication of a strikethrough and replacement is the key feature of that particular class of behavior, not the tagline.

And that sort of usage in general is not of the class of things that we want to make it easier for people to do. If you're dedicated to using your <strike> tag, that's your aesthetic/rhetorical call to make, but if being on your phone makes that something that takes a little bit longer to do, I don't really have a problem with that at all. We're not hurting for strikethrough humor/commentary/snark, it's not one of those core features of the metafilter experience that we're worried shifting mobile habits will harm.

Moderative editoril comment aside, I agree with your sense that it may not be easy to automatically determine what the intent of a strike tag is, at least not without spending more time on the problem than I'm interested in at the moment—so sussing it out would just have to be a visual survey of the target comments. Something done with sampling would make it possible to at least get a general idea of the proportion of usage in different ways, though.

As a very simple DIY approach to that, though, anyone could do a site search on the word "strike", page through the results clicking through to only those comments where instead of a highlighted keyword the cite has (keyword in HTML) at the end (and so the search hit is very likely triggered by a strike tag), and make up a quick tally of how it's being used in each case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on April 8, 2011


We just added some new buttons to the mobile version of the site so you can add HTML angle brackets and a closing slash quickly. Here's what they look like on an iPhone.

The buttons are a little bigger too, so hopefully that will help in the smaller space. Please post here if you spot bugs.
posted by pb (staff) at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for doong this. The <, /, and > buttons do not work for me (iOS 4.3.1).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:21 PM on April 8, 2011


s/doong/doing/
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:22 PM on April 8, 2011


Thanks BP, reload and give it another shot.
posted by pb (staff) at 5:23 PM on April 8, 2011


Looking good! Thanks!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:27 PM on April 8, 2011


Thanks!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:04 PM on April 8, 2011


New buttons seem better than composing in Nebulous Notes then pasting here. Markdown support would be awesome, though.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:18 PM on April 8, 2011


Thank you :)
posted by jtron at 9:23 PM on April 8, 2011


Markdown support would be awesome, though.

This is one of those "over my dead body" things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:02 PM on April 8, 2011


pb: "We just added some new buttons to the mobile version of the site so you can add HTML angle brackets and a closing slash quickly. Here's what they look like on an iPhone."

Could you make this kick in when browsing from an iPad, or include it as a profile option? The screen space is bigger on a tablet, so the regular site is better to use there than the mobile version, but the process for adding angle brackets and such is just as convoluted.

/firstworldproblems
posted by Rhaomi at 11:43 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of those "over my dead body" things.

I didn't realize it was such a controversial issue. The new buttons do a lot of what I'd use Markdown for anyhow.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:39 AM on April 9, 2011


I didn't realize it was such a controversial issue.

It's not controversial it's just solidly in the "asked and answered" category [see aso: threaded discussion] and we just feel it's important to be clear on that. Really most of what comes up in MeTa is stuff that merits discussion even if the discussion is "we're not likely to do that" but there are a few things where it's worth us saying "That would fundamenally change how the site operates and barring some sort of site evolution it will not be happening"

I get that people are just sort of tossing out their wishlists and we're receptive to hearing about things that people would like, but it's non-trivial to do something like add Markdown support both from a UI perspective and from an admin perspective so we figure it's best to be upfront with a no here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:43 AM on April 9, 2011


Hooray, this is nice! Thank you!
posted by mimi at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2011


It's not controversial it's just solidly in the "asked and answered" category...

Ya, that's fair enough - I check out AskMeta regularly, but don't really spend as much time in MeTa (or the other areas of the site) as I ought to, so I've missed all the markdown discussion, I guess.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2011


I didn't realize it was such a controversial issue.

Heh, it's not necessarily so controversial in general. I was trying to be silly there but picked an opaque way to do that; jessamyn covers the situation well. There's nothing inherently wrong with Markdown, and for the situations where it's the solution to markup it works fine and more power to it.

"Use html" has been the running standard on mefi its whole life, and we're sticking with that for a variety of reasons, but if anybody really wanted to use markdown on the input side I imagine it'd be possible to find or put together a third-party conversion script that'd convert your input from markdown to HTML on the way in. Of course, that doesn't help on a phone, but that falls into the "well, yes, phones aren't really fully-fledged modern browsing platforms yet" territory and we come full circle.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2011


Rhaomi, yeah I'll add that to the to do list.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:17 AM on April 9, 2011

But blockquote, super and subscript, underline, mouseover text, and small buttons, among others, could help people make better looking posts and comments.

I doubt it. Those who want to do those things find out how to do it. Adding a button so anyway could do it on a whim probably wouldn't approve quality. I'd be very happy to be wrong about this though.
The reason I'd want a blockquote button is that's the one bit of html I constantly misstype. I am constantly using the "blockqoute" tag or something along those lines. "b" "em" "tt" and "a href" don't give me nearly the same trouble.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:23 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should be seeing the new buttons on the iPad now.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:20 AM on April 11, 2011


Thanks, pb -- it works great!
posted by Rhaomi at 12:25 PM on April 11, 2011


The buttons are a little bigger too, so hopefully that will help in the smaller space.

Very cool. Works great on the Droid.
posted by zennie at 7:38 AM on April 12, 2011


I just noticed that the snazzy new buttons don't show up when you preview (I know!), and if this hasn't been mention and nixed, could they show up in preview as well?
posted by rtha at 6:24 PM on April 12, 2011


Yep, should be set in preview now.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2011


There they are! Thanks, pb - you're the raddest!
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2011


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