Popular Favorites Usability October 14, 2011 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I love the Popular Favorites page but maybe it could use a little work? It seems like it would be easier for people to follow if the trucated comments had a [Read More] link. Also, the titles of the posts on the left don't look like links, they are the same color as the text, maybe a [Read] link or color change or something there too?

I just asked 2 people here if they could figure out how to read the comments or posts and they couldn't do it without really trying.
posted by Blake to Feature Requests at 4:59 AM (24 comments total)

I think harmonizing the [more inside] is a good idea. I take it that you are aware that if you hover the mouse over the titles, it shows up as a link?
posted by arcticseal at 5:25 AM on October 14, 2011

Yeah, I agree on both counts. This is one of those things where longtime members might overlook that in order to see a comment you have to click a tiny timestamp and we're used to that after years of conditioning but it's not intuitive to first-timers.

Adding a [more...] link on the comments is a no-brainer and we should do that. On the posts side, making the titles look more like links is probably the way to go. We could either simply make them yellow like links and/or do a underline on hover, so they look like links when you mouse over them to make that a bit more obvious in the UI without cluttering things up.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:28 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yup, that's it exactly. After reading Metafilter for 10+ years I'm far into the "overlooking things" mode, but that's one page I still need to think about sometimes. That's a great page for new or first-time users to find the best current stuff on Metafilter so the easier to use the better.
posted by Blake at 5:35 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! While I'm at it, I also love the "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 years ago." pages, but those pages only show the page from exactly 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 years ago, maybe a link on the bottom of those pages to go [one day forward] and [one day backward] or something like that? So that in addtion to looking back 3 years, we can then see what happened around that time easily.
posted by Blake at 5:40 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

What has always bothered me a little about the Popular Favorites page is the stripping of markup.

So if joesmith1234 says "Bacon sucks amirite?" and seanjones5678 quotes this in italics and adds the reply "You are wrong.", and the latter comment makes the Popular page, it is rendered as "Bacon sucks amirite? You are wrong.".

And when I scan the page I end up thinking seanjones5678 is a bacon-hating blowhard, which may only be half right.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:42 AM on October 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Along these lines, I do wish the Popular Favorites tab has pagination, because reaching the end and not seeing more goodies is quite disappointing.
posted by smackfu at 6:27 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Actually, it's really not that long, maybe 20 posts? So maybe just bump it up to 50?)
posted by smackfu at 6:28 AM on October 14, 2011

What has always bothered me a little about the Popular Favorites page is the stripping of markup.

The problem there is what if the comment is long enough that the italics start but don't end? It's a solvable problem (e.g., Django's truncatewords_html), but one that requires a time investment that might not be worth it for pages like this (and Recent Activity).
posted by yerfatma at 7:46 AM on October 14, 2011

Piggybacking with another small confusing thing: if you click "view all activity" on a profile, it has a header "activity from (member's name)" with three tabs: "posts", "comments", and "favorited". The first tab links to the posts that member has made; the second tab links to the comments they've made; but the third tab links to their posts/comments that other people have favorited ("favorited by others") rather than their own favorites. Given that it's marked as "activity from X" and links to posts and comments X has made, why wouldn't that third tab link to favorites X has marked?
posted by flex at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2011

Another edge case is when the truncate point falls within the open tag, in which case you need to move the truncation back to before the tag.
posted by smackfu at 8:07 AM on October 14, 2011

Hmm ... what if you truncated the text but leave in the tags themselves? Like suppose we're truncating the following after 11 non-tag characters:

[i]Bacon sucks amirite?[/i] You are [b]wrong[/b].

You end up with:

[i]Bacon sucks[/i][b][/b] ...

Which displays fine. This has no weird edge cases if the truncation falls within a tag, because it will be preserved anyway. And you could use a whitelist for the tags that are kept, so any tags that are problematic even without text, like [p] or [blockquote], would be stripped.

I think that could all be done with a clever regex or two.

(Frankly I'm fine with just stripping the tags and making people guess, but I was entertained by the keep-everything algorithm and wanted to share. On topic, I wholeheartedly support a usability pass for the Popular page.)
posted by Honorable John at 8:57 AM on October 14, 2011

Keeping the tag state during parsing is really, really trivial. (You just reach the truncation point and walk backwards through your state list, closing all open tags, then make your truncation mark.) I don't think, from a straight programming standpoint, it'd be a bother. Now, there might be other reasons not to do it, such as the parsing engine in use here, etc., but that's a question for the gold boxes.
posted by introp at 9:52 AM on October 14, 2011

I could be wrong but I believe something like that is already done with really long comments in Recent Activity.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2011

ok, made a few changes to the page. We made post titles look more like links, improved excerpts a bit, included a [more] or [view] link after comments, and we're now preserving <em> and <i> tags so quoting is more apparent.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

I was entertained by the keep-everything algorithm and wanted to share

Keeping the tag state during parsing is really, really trivial

I dunno about "really, really trivial", because that sounds pretty trivial, but Django does it in about 65 lines of code, starting around line 140 here if someone wants to rip it off.
posted by yerfatma at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2011

The changes will make my pre-coffee self infinitely less confused.
posted by Zophi at 11:21 AM on October 14, 2011

This is awesome. how am I going to be able to get back to work now? (also: My turkeys, my aerodynamic turkeys. Could read that one all day)
posted by Namlit at 12:35 PM on October 14, 2011

While we're looking at these things, is <strikethrough> supposed to be broken on the Recent Favorites page?
posted by zamboni at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2011

Yep, we strip out all HTML there except for <em> and <i> to distinguish quoting.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:36 PM on October 14, 2011

Yay! I am unbothered!

Thanks pb.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:27 PM on October 14, 2011

Not preserving the italic HTML tags on the popular page always bothered me. It often made the user sound like they were taking the exact opposite side in a discussion and also that the opposite side had been heavily favorited by the community. So glad to see that this is now fixed. Great job pb and matt. Thanks !!!!
posted by marsha56 at 2:40 PM on October 15, 2011

Why are the posts and comments in two separate columns? Why not just join them together into one feed? If anyone wants to see just one or just the other, maybe they can use RSS?
posted by Nameless at 7:37 PM on October 15, 2011

Posts and comments are different enough that it makes sense to list them separately where we can. Instead of using tabs to separate them like we usually do in other areas of the site, we have columns on this page so you can see them both at once.

The number-of-favorites threshold is different for both, so sorting a single column would be a problem. Items on that page are sorted by the number of favorites so I'm not sure it'd be fair for posts to be pushed to the bottom of the page in favor of comments. Telling which is a post and which is a comment would be more difficult in a single wall of text. I think you could find a way to do it, maybe style them both differently or label them.

What's the problem with having two columns?
posted by pb (staff) at 8:35 PM on October 15, 2011

I've wanted to see italics on that page for years!!! Woohoo!1
posted by speicus at 12:24 AM on October 17, 2011

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