mobile me, mobile you May 15, 2012 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I love reading MetaFilter on my phone! I have a couple discussion prompts/pony requests about it.

1) Is there a way to see tags on a post (on any sub site) through the current mobile site? If not, could there be? MetaFilter is one of the few sites I go to where the tagging system is actually helpful for finding related content and I use it all the time—so far I've been going to the regular site to look at/click through tags and then switching back to the mobile site, not perfect.

2) Ditto the sidebar. Hmm, or maybe I should just go to BestOf instead?

3) It would be awesome if there was some system in place for indicating if a Blue post is particularly mobile-friendly or not, and then a place to go on the mobile menu or a filter to see just those posts. I'm thinking this would be user-driven—maybe it's a tag or a flag category, so commenters/readers can indicate "I looked at these links on a mobile device, and they looked/loaded/worked great!"

Most links in posts are readable one way or another on a phone, of course, but some are better than others, and it would be cool to know ahead of time. Thoughts?
posted by peachfuzz to Feature Requests at 10:39 AM (28 comments total)

No, we don't show tags anywhere in the mobile view. It's a trade off we need to make on the mobile site—we can't have everything in the desktop view in the mobile view. And what is essential for some people will not be essential for everyone. So there will always be a tension between what is available and what isn't. Tags haven't made the cut, but the full view is always available (and it doesn't look too shabby on phones) if they are critical for you.

You can bookmark the sideblog, it's here. And yeah, Best Of will have everything the sideblog has and more! There's a link to Best Of in the mobile menu.

Your third request is sort of a community request and it's something that could gain traction. But MetaFilter isn't primarily a mobile site, so I'm not sure people are even thinking about the mobile experience when they post something. That's just my take.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2012

Any chance of getting Recent Comments added to the mobile site? I like the mobile site on my phone but I use Recent Comments so much I had to switch back to desktop.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2012

I would love some sort of mobile-friendly tag on posts! Please do this!
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:35 AM on May 15, 2012

You can bookmark Recent Comments on your phone.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:40 AM on May 15, 2012

I find the menu too long and laborious as it is; I'd prefer some sort of cookie so that we can hide items we don't use. Maybe a profile preference that says "Lite menu or full menu?" (I mean, does anyone look at Jobs on their phone? Does anyone look at Jobs at all?)
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2012

Having an additional flag only for mobile browsers that says "mobile friendly" (or perhaps "mobile unfriendly" would be a better approach for obvious reasons) is certainly a potentially-useful thing, but that does require clear identification of mobile devices, and use of a bit of mobile real estate to enable the flag (unless you put it amongst the normal flags, which is unlikely to be noticed readily.) Useful or not, it is certainly an intriguing mental exercise for an IA.
posted by davejay at 11:46 AM on May 15, 2012

Yep, people do look at Jobs on their phone.

I hear you on the menu, I think it's pushing its usefulness too. That's why we'd rather not keep adding things there. We might be headed to a point where customization is the way to go, but that requires maintenance and user education. There are tradeoffs with every addition.

I think bookmarks are a serious alternative to menu problems. They're easy to set up and customize. You can use folders to organize multiple sets of bookmarks. They're only a click away from every page you're viewing.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:54 AM on May 15, 2012

Woah I didn't even know that recent comments was a thing!
posted by Kimberly at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2012

You might have thought Metafilter was a time sink before; it's about to get much worse.
posted by Mitheral at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2012

Yep, people do look at Jobs on their phone.

Damn you, limeonaire. *shakes fist*
posted by desjardins at 1:01 PM on May 15, 2012

Woah I didn't even know that recent comments was a thing!

You Are In For A Treat! Maybe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:39 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think it's interesting how mobile browsing is still seen as a secondary (if not tertiary) way of accessing the site. I probably spend the same number of minutes hours reading the site on my phone, but I comment far less that way, because of the crappy interface (not MeFi's fault) and the oddities of the interaction (maybe kind of MeFi's fault, though how easy can it be to design for a dozen or so mobile interfaces?).

In other words, if I'm at all typical, I might show up as less mobile-centric in the stats, but with a better interface and a smother set of site tools, I might have much richer and more useful interactions via mobile, and the stats would presumably reflect that.
posted by Forktine at 9:27 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why do you think we feel it's a secondary or tertiary way to access the site, Forktine? Are there serious problems with the mobile site we're not addressing?
posted by pb (staff) at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2012

I don't want to go digging into recent MeTa threads to dredge up links (I am about to go to bed, honestly), but the mobile access gets described as a secondary (but growing fast) means of access fairly routinely here. My point is not so much that that is wrong (I am sure that it is far less common than regular computer access), but that the difficulties of fully interacting via mobile are a barrier to do more than read and maybe make short comments. It's not a criticism, though I suspect that as the numbers continue to creep towards mobile access changes will need to be made (hopefully also on the mobile browser designer end as well).

A lot of what makes this site so pleasurable to read on my computer doesn't work as well on my phone, and commenting works much, much less well. Again, a lot of that is because of the limitations of the mobile interfaces, and you guys are figuring out the mobile interface, I think. Swiping for favorites is a good example, but (to pick one example) while I'm willing to go along with the reliance here on html markup for text formatting here on my computer, it is straight-up painful on my phone. If mobile access becomes a major path for site interaction, that is the kind of interface issue that will have to be thought through.

(And to reemphasize, this isn't meant as some criticism; it's not like I know how to do any of this, and am only a probably atypical end-user.)
posted by Forktine at 10:10 PM on May 15, 2012

The limitations of mobile devices are a source of frustration on this end too. I think some of the problem is expectations. Apple brought mobile browsing so close to the desktop experience that people kind of expect it to be there already. It's like the uncanny valley. Once you get close enough to your goal you can't help but notice all of the differences where you fall short. People expect the same experience on their phone that they get with a desktop computer and it's not there yet.

We are doing what we can within those limitations. I hear you that smoother tools would be nice, but what are they? If there's a site out there where the primary activity is writing text and they have a fantastic mobile process and toolset, we'd like to take a look. Maybe we haven't seen the great example, or had the right insight on this yet. But I feel like we're talking about device limitations.

You could be right on the HTML front. MetaFilter is rooted in web culture from the late 90s when the site began. We haven't been willing to change that culture to accommodate the mobile experience, and I'm not sure we will. So maybe it is fair to say mobile will be a secondary experience if that means we're not willing to change fundamental pieces like this. However, we want people to have as good an experience as possible on their phones. It is something we think about and work on, and it doesn't feel like it's something we don't care about.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:26 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd like a Metafilter iPhone app. I hate using browsers on my phone, but accessing things like the Guardian through their custom app is great.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:30 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

wud b kool if we kud jus send a txt msg to th # of th thread and have ur comment appear that way
posted by Edogy at 7:44 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why do you think we feel it's a secondary or tertiary way to access the site, Forktine?

I think that may have been because

But MetaFilter isn't primarily a mobile site,
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 9:19 AM on May 16, 2012

heh, true Jpfed. I was responding to the implication that we're not taking the mobile site seriously or providing good tools there. If there's something obvious we should be doing, we should talk about that. A general, "you need a better interface and tools" isn't as helpful.

I'm now convinced that the best way to improve writing comments on the mobile site is to issue full size bluetooth keyboards to all mobile users.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd like a Metafilter iPhone app.

The thought isn't bad -- with an iPhone app, you can use all the tricks that iOS has without having to break other mobile users. But that means someone needs to write the app, and someone needs to maintain it.

However, really, what that means is that the site would probably need an API to present the data, which is not going to be a trivial amount of work to code, and of course, there's the worst thing about APIs, which is if you do something wrong, it becomes very hard to fix them without breaking the apps that are already talking to it.

However, it would make it easy for people to develop iOS/Android/Metro/Whatever'sNextOS apps without then needing pb to try to maintain who knows how many apps, as well as the main sites.

Still, it's a lot of work.

I'm now convinced that the best way to improve writing comments on the mobile site is to issue full size bluetooth keyboards to all mobile users.

Sometimes, throwing hardware at the problem is the write answer.

What I wouldn't mind seeing is a space between the tags when you hit the B/I/link button, to make easier to get the cursor into. It's easy with a mouse/keyboard, it's a pain on iOS.

But then we're right back to "don't break the site in general to make a specific case better" -- a policy I completely agree with.
posted by eriko at 1:02 PM on May 16, 2012

Specific suggestion: in the mobile Recent Activity, since we can't have the ability to remove threads, have a "skip to next" link. Some people are very long winded and it takes a lot of scrolling to get to the next thread.
posted by desjardins at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2012

The problem is that any controls we put on Recent Activity need to be the same size as the body text at least or it won't be clickable. Adding a large "skip to next" link after every thread title would make reading more tedious.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:17 PM on May 16, 2012

That problem might be solved by having a list of titles on the page. When you click the title, you see the comments. When you click the title again the comments collapse (or you go back to the first page with titles only). All of that clicking adds some tedium to the process, but I think it'd be better than adding control text everywhere.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:19 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another option would be to use shorter excerpts in the mobile version of Recent Activity. That way you'd only see the first 150 characters or so of each comment instead of the first 4000. There'd be less scrolling that way.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:31 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Weird, I can swipe to favorite anyone's comments in this thread except pb's.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2012

Never mind. Fat fingers.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2012

We discussed some ways to make Recent Activity more compact on the mobile side and our general feeling was that either proposed change would require too much additional work. Using shorter comment excerpts would require more work because you'd need to go into threads (where even more scrolling is required) more frequently.

One workaround (for www at least) might be bookmarking the My Comments tab on the home page. That page gives you a quick overview of threads you have commented in, and lists them in order of threads with recent comments. So that would give you a quick way to scroll through threads with recent activity without seeing the recent comments.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:23 PM on May 17, 2012

I would pay another $5 for an app. Mobile Metafilter is like heroin. Except I've never tried heroin, but I have watched a lot of TV and movies.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:28 AM on May 18, 2012

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