less is more, more or less May 4, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Optionally retrieve older comments as well as newer comments to save bandwidth?

Hello MeFi geniuses. I love the AJAX method of getting more. Could we also get less? Maybe a preference to grab the last 100 comments by default with a clickable override that I could put on my mobile devices/computers and save you wonderful people some coin to boot?
posted by notion to Feature Requests at 10:50 AM (89 comments total)

Do you mean less like unix-y less where you'd just get the last comments form a thread and not read, say, the 2000 other ones you've already read? I could see thatbeing useful but I'm not sure if there's a way to implement it so that it makes sense. Thoughts? I know we could use something like this for trying to moderate really long threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2011


Yeah, something like:

( get prevous comments )
USA foreign policy is bad!
posted by notion

No it isn't!
posted by Ironmouth

Yes huh!
posted by notion
( get more comments )

And if the prefs would be different for different devices, even more amazing, but that's some big pie in the sky right there.
posted by notion at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that's basically paging for comments. You wouldn't need to be fancy with inline loading ajax. You could just split the thread into pages based on the number of comments. We'd default to the first page and then offer a list of pages at the bottom: 1 2 3 4 5 etc. That way you could navigate around fairly quickly.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2011


If Ironmouth isn't a sockpuppet of yours, then it's kind of uncool that you used a real MeFite's handle for your example. Feels backhanded fighty.
posted by hippybear at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2011


Feels backhanded fighty.
posted by hippybear

I see your point, but I doubt that notion meant it that way.
posted by box

Yeah, I guess you're right. Here, I made you this sandwich.
posted by hippybear

posted by box at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


I thought it was a pretty tame joke about me. No offense intended... One Love, my friends.
posted by notion at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Waitwaitwait - paging for comments? Is this Bizarro MetaTalk?
posted by m@f at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2011


I'd prefer not to.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pagination (or pseudo-pagination through loading older comments) seems a bit peculiar for MetaFilter, IMHO. I feel like sites that paginate their comments tend to end up having people not follow the full thread because it's inconvenient, meaning lots of people state their opinions into the ether, not caring if anyone's said it before. See news sites that get thousands of comments on every semi-major story and break them up into hundreds of pages nobody wants to read through. You can resolve that a bit with something like votes or favorites to bring the top comments to the first-displayed page, but that'd just turn the site into a poor imitation of Reddit.

Part of what makes MetaFilter great for comments is that we have conversations with each other instead of just repeating the talking points that fit with our opinions best, ignorant of how many people repeated them before us on the same post. Having to sift through and load multiple pages seems awkward. Most threads often get their major discussions started in the first handful of comments.

I will be the first to admit the rare megathread does tend to mess up browsers, though. Chrome copes with it fairly well if you don't have many other tabs open. But since megathreads are usually about developing topics, I think the approach of making new posts about the discussion-worthy derails and developments are a good approach, too, like what we did with the Fukishima crisis thread.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would support pagination if the pagination started at comment #1000. Or thereabouts.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


If this happens, please, PLEASE give us an opt-out button?
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems like this would save a pretty negligible amount of bandwidth. Text is small and it looks like MeFi is already serving gzip'd html anyway, which makes text even cheaper. Any savings would have to be offset by the extra JS to control the loading of comments plus the extra http requests for each fetch of additional comments. It might be worth doing on the mobile site just to speed the initial load on really big threads, but until you get up to 300+ comments, threads just aren't that big.

The longest thread ever (per the wiki) clocks in at 4.75MB for me (excluding external scripts and stylesheets and other resources, which get cached). That's a massive outlier though, as even a 747 comment AskMe is 516KB. Threads that long are pretty rare, yet 500KB isn't exactly very large.

And do we really need to encourage more people to comment without being aware of what has already been discussed? We talk with each other here instead of blasting comments off like letters to the editor. That's a feature not a bug.
posted by zachlipton at 12:01 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


no pagination, dammit!
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2011


Feels backhanded fighty.

we use funny words here.
posted by Avenger50 at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2011


Besides, if we want to reduce bandwidth use, we really should be using a professional white background. #069 is lot of characters you know.
posted by zachlipton at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2011


IF WE GET PAGINATION BECAUSE OF THIS THREAD I WILL RIP YOUR IPHONE FROM YOUR NECKBEARDED HANDS
posted by desjardins at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


In other words, I too have an opinion about this matter.
posted by desjardins at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2011


Yeah it might feel like we're just reading every result from a google search.
posted by pwally at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2011


des... Toally not cool. Neckbeards are out in favor of dumb mustaches. But I agree, totally opt in, and should kick in in the hundreds of comments, and be editable per user.
posted by notion at 12:20 PM on May 4, 2011


I feel like sites that paginate their comments tend to end up having people not follow the full thread because it's inconvenient, meaning lots of people state their opinions into the ether, not caring if anyone's said it before.

I totally agree with you, and think that pagination would exacerbate this, but it's not as if this isn't already a problem here. I appreciate it when people are at least up-front about it, (WELL I ONLY READ LIKE HALF OF THIS THREAD SO HERE'S WHAT I THINK) but it's relative appreciation. Kind of like when there's a good scraping stick around after I step in dog shit.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:26 PM on May 4, 2011


IF WE GET PAGINATION BECAUSE OF THIS THREAD I WILL RIP YOUR IPHONE FROM YOUR NECKBEARDED HANDS

You troll!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2011


zarq: If this happens, please, PLEASE give us an opt-out button?

<ribbing style="gentle"> I thought we already had an opt out button? Down at the bottom of your Preferences page? </ribbing>
posted by carsonb at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2011


we use funny words here.

Scaramouche Scaramouche will you do the hoppitamoppita?
posted by quin at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's only trolling if you're not sincere.
posted by desjardins at 12:39 PM on May 4, 2011


Well, I think that if you are keeping the last few hundred comments, it's nothing like pagination. You're just skipping the comments that are days older that you have already read, with the option to view the whole thread if you need some really old comment.
posted by notion at 12:42 PM on May 4, 2011


Please do not mistake pb's explanation of how pagination if it were implemented would be most practically implemented as an endorsement of the idea of actually implementing pagination. There would have to be multiple knife fights before that would happen, assuming that I survived the first knife fight.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


There would have to be multiple knife fights before that would happen, assuming that I survived the first knife fight.

Will there be refreshments? Intermission?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will there be refreshments? Intermission?

I call dibs on the snack bar concession.
posted by zachlipton at 12:52 PM on May 4, 2011


Definitely some punch. Maybe pie?
posted by carsonb at 12:53 PM on May 4, 2011


Nope. It's beans for the lot of you!
posted by zachlipton at 12:54 PM on May 4, 2011


If something like this were implemented, maybe the (x new) links could only load comments after that point, if that's possible. That would seem to reduce the chance of people skipping the whole thread.

It seems like this would only help once or twice, and then only on very large threads though.
posted by lucidium at 12:58 PM on May 4, 2011


assuming that I survived the first knife fight.

My legions of trained lobsters would protect you and make absolutely certain that you would survive the first knife fight.

The subsequently bloody crustacean attack, when we realized that you can't actually train a lobster, might kill us both however.
posted by quin at 1:00 PM on May 4, 2011


I think somebody needs to buy desjardins an anatomy textbook or something.
posted by Zozo at 1:04 PM on May 4, 2011


Perhaps he is referring to hairy palms...
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2011


Er, she.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:09 PM on May 4, 2011


I like the idea too, but I can't see a clever way to implement it that doesn't suck horribly
posted by Blasdelb at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2011


I'm completely against this idea. What MeFi needs is less functionality, not more.
posted by mkultra at 1:17 PM on May 4, 2011


Well, I think that if you are keeping the last few hundred comments, it's nothing like pagination.

So the default view of the thread would be the last few hundred comments, with an option to "show all"? Yeah, that's not exactly like paging, but it's also not as predictable or useful in my view. People are very familiar with paging—not as familiar with hidden content that you need to click to view. If a thread has 2,000 comments, it feels more useful to break that up into chunks so you know where to go to get back to a certain comment. So instead of two groups—last 200, everything else—you'd have more consistant groups by number. If a comment is on page 3 when it's posted, it'd still be on page 3 from that point on. You never know when a comment is going to slip from last 200 to 'everything else'.

I think we're trying to solve a rare problem, though. MetaFilter has 94,828 posts, and of those posts 1,168 have over 200 hundred comments. Only 33 posts have over 1,000 comments. The frequency of megathreads might be increasing so it's worth thinking about, but it's not the norm yet.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2011


This also gets complicated when you realize that people link to specific comments. You'd have to make the system smart enough to figure out to load the correct "page" of comments containing the linked one.
posted by zachlipton at 1:26 PM on May 4, 2011


<ribbing style="gentle"> ... </ribbing>

Get a room, you two.
posted by vidur at 1:26 PM on May 4, 2011


cortex writes "Please do not mistake pb's explanation of how pagination if it were implemented would be most practically implemented as an endorsement of the idea of actually implementing pagination. There would have to be multiple knife fights before that would happen, assuming that I survived the first knife fight."

Whew! It sure sounded like we were going to have YAPBM show up in the next couple hours.
posted by Mitheral at 1:35 PM on May 4, 2011


I think that this change would mean that I would have to read lame jokes like "long form death certificate" even more often in a single thread. It's hard enough for people to read a long thread. Making it even harder, even by just one click, does not seem advantageous to the community.
posted by Quonab at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vaguely relevant question - is there a keyboard shortcut to invoke the 'more' link to show more comments at the end of a page?
posted by yarrow at 2:16 PM on May 4, 2011


Let's not paginate and say we didn't. (And if it happens, let it be opt IN, not opt OUT.)
posted by immlass at 2:16 PM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


No yarrow, no keyboard shortcut yet. We can add one, though. What key do you think it should be? Maybe m for more and its proximity to j and k?
posted by pb (staff) at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I support this or something like this, only for the occasional epically long threads. Being able to read the bin Laden thread without crashing my browser for 10 minutes? That would be a good thing.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:40 PM on May 4, 2011


M makes sense to me... I guess there isn't really an analogous action in Google Reader, which is the other place use the j/k thing.
posted by yarrow at 2:44 PM on May 4, 2011


Twitter uses a period to load new tweets, but we already have it mapped as an alternate "down" for people who can't use j for whatever reason.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:46 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And do we really need to encourage more people to comment without being aware of what has already been discussed? We talk with each other here instead of blasting comments off like letters to the editor. That's a feature not a bug.
For the above reason, I think this is a bad idea for MetaFilter. While people do sometimes (who knows, maybe often?) comment without reading the whole conversation, encouraging them by making it easier for them to do so is not a good thing. In my opinion.

*Stands on cortex's side of the room, takes out knife*
posted by dg at 3:00 PM on May 4, 2011


I haven't read the whole thread, but has anybody mentioned the long-form death certificate?
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2011


ok, m should show new comments now. If that doesn't work for some reason we can always switch it to a different key.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:21 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There would have to be multiple knife fights before that would happen, assuming that I survived the first knife fight.

It depends on how many five years olds your opponents bring to the yard.
posted by amyms at 3:22 PM on May 4, 2011


My milkshake brings all the opponents five year olds to the yard. I think. I'm not really sure what I'm going for here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:25 PM on May 4, 2011


ok, m should show new comments now. If that doesn't work for some reason we can always switch it to a different key.

!!! My pony finally arrived! Yay!

M makes sense to me... I guess there isn't really an analogous action in Google Reader, which is the other place use the j/k thing.

Refresh in Google Reader is "r", which feels like the same thing to me. But I don't really care, I'm just happy it got implemented at all.
posted by kmz at 3:34 PM on May 4, 2011


Refresh in Google Reader is "r"...

If we're going to hop over to that side of the keyboard I think s for show makes sense. But I was thinking it'd be nice to have only one hand on the keyboard to navigate a thread. If you know what I mean.

Maybe s could just do the same thing.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Feels backhanded fighty.

we use funny words here.


By some happy trick of prosody, hippybear's comment gave me a flashback to the excellent Born Sandy Devotional which I'd not thought on for years, so erm, thanks.
posted by Abiezer at 3:48 PM on May 4, 2011


Only 33 posts have over 1,000 comments.

So, uh, to derail; is there a way to see a list of those (via infodumpery of some sort)? Just curious if any of them aren't newsfilter stuff but are instead actual 'lookit this best of the web i found' that generated that kind of commenting
posted by churl at 4:51 PM on May 4, 2011


There would have to be multiple knife fights before that would happen, assuming that I survived the first knife fight.

It depends on how many five years olds your opponents bring to the yard.


Or six-year-olds with sticks.
posted by misha at 4:53 PM on May 4, 2011


churl, I posted a Top 10 in January. The list probably hasn't changed. But the Bin Laden thread will be in the Top 10 once it's finished.
posted by pb (staff) at 5:01 PM on May 4, 2011


I would support pagination if the pagination started at comment #1000. Or thereabouts.

I would also support this.

Pages 4+ should allow <IMG>.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:01 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


To the Infodumpster!

- Mefi
- Metatalk
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:03 PM on May 4, 2011


Uh-oh.

I posted a Top 10 in January. The list probably hasn't changed.

PB WAS WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING
posted by Sys Rq at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2011


ok, m should show new comments now. If that doesn't work for some reason we can always switch it to a different key.

Awesome!! Is there a list somewhere of MeFi keyboard shortcuts?

*shuffles off to check da wiki*
posted by zarq at 5:31 PM on May 4, 2011


sluggerotoole does something a little like this. Once there are over 50 comments, clicking a post to read it shows you the most recent comments in that 50 comment block. So in this thread, where there are currently 52 comments, your first view shows 2 comments and requires you to click 'Older comments' at the bottom to see the first 50.

It drives me insane.

Please don't do anything remotely similar here.
posted by knapah at 5:54 PM on May 4, 2011


I said 'probably'.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:14 PM on May 4, 2011


To the Infodumpster!

Interesting. Are the numbers from the infodumpster slightly high on some threads because they count deleted comments or because the automatic in-thread comment count is off somehow (viz. Palin thread's 5604 v. 5555)?
posted by dersins at 6:29 PM on May 4, 2011


It's because it includes deleted comments, yeah. I don't recall if this is a configurational thing on the dumpster's end or a data thing on my end of just not having flipped that switch in the queries that generate the data.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:38 PM on May 4, 2011


yarrow: "Vaguely relevant question - is there a keyboard shortcut to invoke the 'more' link to show more comments at the end of a page?"

If you were Peter Yarrow I think I'd die of happiness.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:05 PM on May 4, 2011


<ribbing style="gentle"> I thought we already had an opt out button? Down at the bottom of your Preferences page? </ribbing>

opting out - now ribbed for your pleasure?
posted by russm at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2011



yarrow: "Vaguely relevant question - is there a keyboard shortcut to invoke the 'more' link to show more comments at the end of a page?"

If you were Peter Yarrow I think I'd die of happiness.


How many keys must a man press down
Before you can call him a MeFite?
Yes, how many keys can some users hold
Before they're allowed to read more?
Yes and, how many threads will it take till he knows
That there's too many comments to read?
The pony my friend is comin' from pb
The pony is comin' from pb.

With apologies to Dylan, who actually wrote the song and not Yarrow, but I just wasn't feeling Puff the Magic Pony and Yarrow didn't actually write the lyrics to Puff either, so meh.
posted by zachlipton at 10:13 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


By some happy trick of prosody

I love metafilter because I still learn new words here.
posted by cj_ at 11:43 PM on May 4, 2011


prosody is actually illegal in several states. also, you scaramouchebags are completely ignorant of proper lobster training methods.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 3:50 AM on May 5, 2011


While we're riding ponies what about getting the moar link to additionally update favourite counts for already loaded comments?
posted by nfg at 4:38 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My hands have a light dusting of hair between the knuckles. No way you could call that a knucklebeard.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:53 AM on May 5, 2011


I would only find pagination helpful when reading ~800+ comment threads on my smartphone, because those threads tend to crash the little browser. I don't think that's a good reason to change the site, especially as smartphones become more sophisticated and more people buy web/reader thingies.
posted by zennie at 5:54 AM on May 5, 2011


While we're riding ponies what about getting the moar link to additionally update favourite counts for already loaded comments?

Nah, that somewhat defeats the purpose of the feature's lightweight impact; at that point we're actually having to poll every comment in the thread anyway every time we check for new comments, so you may as well just reload the damn thing at that point.

If you need to update the canonical state of the thread for some reason, you'll have to just take the hit and hit refresh proper.

Funny thing, really, with the big Osama thread kicking off on Sunday night: while the "load new comments" function has undoubtedly been super helpful and probably effective in managing our load related to that thread over the last couple days, it may well have exacerbated the heavy load situation on the site for the first 12-24 hours—anybody trying to read mefi Sunday night and Monday morning/afternoon would have noticed that the site was super duper sluggish.

And that may well be in part because aside from the sheer load of people going to the thread and posting comments and so on as normal, we also had a corresponding ton of extra polling from the load comment code across all those open browser windows. And because the thread was moving so fast, those tabs weren't timing out the way they would on most other threads, because every thirty seconds there WAS at least one new comment, and so they were all polling at the maximum rate.

pb tweaked some things so that hopefully that'll be less of an issue next time regardless—this was probably the first serious outlier test of the code, and probably something we won't have to deal with more than a couple times a year, but trying to find a balance where we get the benefit from that function without too much of an associated new cost will probably be an ongoing thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:11 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, pb! Enjoying the m key.

IndigoRain, sorry to let you down, but I'm a terrible singer.
posted by yarrow at 9:00 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "75My hands have a light dusting of hair between the knuckles. No way you could call that a knucklebeard."

"Knuckstache"
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on May 5, 2011


Yes, down with pagination.

Agree with the sentiment of the OP, though. I think a good third way would be a link to the thread (probably from Recent Activity) that showed the thread with only the comments posted after yours. That way you don't need to load the whole giant thread.

ILXor solves a similar problem with bookmarks. You click "bookmark" against a post in one of their giant threads, and when there are new posts you get a link that shows you the thread from that point on. Means their threads can be enormous, but you only see them in manageable chunks. (Suspect it wouldn't work here, because they have threads that run for forever and this encourages that, but would perhaps be handy for a mod-only view to solve Jessamyn's problem.)
posted by bonaldi at 9:57 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I kind of like bonaldi's idea... that way you can either choose to click on the link to view comments after yours, or ignore that the link is there at all.
posted by notion at 11:40 AM on May 5, 2011


That's an interesting approach, but tying the feature to comments would lead to extra noise comments along the lines of, "Placeholder to break up text!" This path would require a "break here" option where we'd record the spot where someone wants the thread to break and that seems awfully fiddly for something that's still fairly rare.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2011


Aye, agreed. Though, I guess if it's a rare need there hopefully wouldn't be that many noise comments -- and if there were, it'd probably justify a [B] link beside the [+].

TBH, I'm not sure how much I'd use it myself, except on mobile. Recent Activity does the job for me, but I'm not a lurker.
posted by bonaldi at 12:12 PM on May 5, 2011


Would it be possible to base the break point on the "6 comments (3 New)" links that threads have on the main page?
posted by lucidium at 1:35 PM on May 5, 2011


Those new comment counts are notoriously flaky. They're not solid enough to build anything on top of them. They're more of an approximation than a solid breaking point.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:27 PM on May 5, 2011


Is there somewhere that summarises all the keyboard shortcuts? I can't see it in the FAQ!
posted by hardcode at 7:32 AM on May 6, 2011


We should put it in the FAQ, let me put a list together.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 AM on May 6, 2011


Thanks jessamyn!
posted by hardcode at 7:54 AM on May 6, 2011


All set. It is a short list.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on May 6, 2011


Thank you, Jessamyn.
posted by zarq at 8:17 AM on May 6, 2011


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