Like high school but more prolix. September 13, 2011 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Is the Popular Favorites stuff determined on the fly, or do the posts and comments get an invisible tag stating that they've made it to the page?

Basically, I just want to see if there's a way to crunch the data to see how many of someone's posts/comments made have made it to the popular section.
posted by griphus to MetaFilter-Related at 7:40 AM (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It's determined on the fly at the time the page is requested. So yeah, there's no record of what has made it to the popular favorites page. If you subscribe to one of the Popular feeds, your feed reader might have a record of every post or comment that has appeared since you subscribed. Beyond that I'm not sure how you'd recreate them for a point in time.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:44 AM on September 13, 2011

It might work to study those pages for a while and come up with a general rule. Something like: posts that appear here tend to have x favorites within x amount of time. Then look for a few outlier rules like posts that tend to stay popular for long periods of time and their characteristics. Apply the rules you come up with and you can probably get a good sense of it.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2011

Also given that there's a date-stamped history of posts, comments, and favorites available in the form of the Infodump, an ambitious person could use that data to run a sort of "MeFi popular favorites simulation" and re-create the history of what has appeared on these lists and when.

A more ambitions person than me, that is. "Has appeared on the popular favorites page" seems like an odd criteria to use when mining the Infodump for good stuff, compared to, say, something more specific like "# of favorites exceeds N", or top-N of the month/year, or Nth percentile, etc.
posted by FishBike at 9:56 AM on September 13, 2011

It might work to study those pages for a while and come up with a general rule. Something like: posts that appear here tend to have x favorites within x amount of time.

I was wondering about this a few days ago. What actually is the algorithm? It can't be a pure rate-based ranking, but it also can't just be a total-number-of-favourites ranking. The closest I could get is that you take a sliding window of the last x days and display the posts that have had the most favourites added to them within that time period.

The inverse of that might be interesting, actually: look for posts (more likely, comments) that have had lots of favourites removed in a burst. Whether that's lots of bookmarkers removing an interesting post from their list after reading it on the weekend, or lots of debaters suddenly withdrawing their support for a commenter or position, it could make an interesting read.
posted by metaBugs at 10:34 AM on September 13, 2011

What actually is the algorithm?

The number of favorites within the timespan, ranked by number. That's all there is to it.

The inverse of that might be interesting, actually...

Could be. We don't track when favorites are removed. At one time we tracked threads removed from Recent Activity on an admin page, but it mirrored popularity fairly closely. Popular threads were also the most frequently removed from RA. I think you'd see something similar with favorites if we had a way of doing it.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011

Invisible tag not it!
posted by Sailormom at 11:45 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

So they're officially no longer bookmarks then?

I'd never clicked on "popular" before and I'd just assumed it was a link to recent posts with lots of comments. What a totally odious thing to do with "favourites".
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:51 PM on September 13, 2011

I've never seen an open Meta thread with so few comments.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:56 PM on September 13, 2011

That's because we're waiting for pb to implement the time slip and then we can post our beautifully composed snark yesterday.
posted by arcticseal at 11:26 PM on September 13, 2011

We're plying invisible tag.
posted by Sailormom at 11:27 PM on September 13, 2011

So they're officially no longer bookmarks then?

They're still officially neither solely not-bookmarks nor solely bookmarks, really.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:19 AM on September 14, 2011

I over-reacted a bit there. I thought there was an unofficial policy that favourites wouldn't be used for that kind of site functionality. Obviously people can write Greasemonkey scripts that use them however they like, but the way "popular" works seems to be a tacit endorsement of favourites as "up-votes" or whatever. That changes the site and not in a good way.

On the other hand, if this post hadn't led me to check it out, I would have missed jeb's fantastic comment.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:02 PM on September 14, 2011

The "popular" functionality has been around for a long while now largely because it's one of the better examples of leveraging aggregate favoriting behavior in a way that mostly produces good results. Stuff that an exceptionally large number of people find interesting or neat or notable tends to be worth taking a look at, is the thinking.

That's not a guarantee that everything that shows up there will be awesome in every respect; sometimes drama ends up making an appearance, and that's a less good outcome, but fortunately it happens rarely on the balance which makes us feel okay about the feature.

The basic disclaimers still apply: being on Popular Favorites doesn't make something by definition the best thing on the site, and the fact that lots of favorites often correlates to something being interesting does not mean that the most favorited thing is the best thing or that only things with favorites are good. It's a useful sieve for getting at some cool stuff quickly is all, a sort of automatically generated analogue of the sidebar (which also features cool stuff and which also does not claim to feature only the best or more interesting stuff on the site).

There's a reason that the only part of the site where favorite count affects what gets displayed is a page apart from the front page or threads; we don't rank, re-order or change the visibility of posts or comments based on favorites. A post is a post and a thread is a thread in the main interactional parts of the site, very intentionally. The existence of an ancillary page that sorts probably-neat stuff for quick browsing doesn't negate that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:16 PM on September 14, 2011

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