How to save the last space I've read to in a long thread? July 16, 2015 8:57 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to save the place one has read to in a long thread?

In lengthy, fast-moving threads each separate visit to MetaFilter can take quite a few minutes to: guess approximately where I left off reading a few days ago, then re-read and jump around to pick up where I left off. When there are a few within a month it can take twenty or more minutes, all told, to just find my re-starting places.


Plausible solutions that have not worked for me:

-- 254 comments (17 new) - rarely functions the way I would expect. I feel like this is where the solution lies, but it often lags in resetting the 'new' number/only resets itself every couple of visits. Also, if during a session in MetaFilter I visit other threads, and not the ones in question, it resets 'new,' thereby being useless to the threads in question. Also also, the (new #) only shows up if you click through multiple Prev front pages to get to the original post, because if you Search for Keyword, on the search page there is no (new #) and you always start at the top.

-- Recent Activity tab - in some threads I don't have anything to add to the discussion so commenting is of no value.

-- Favoriting last comment - That would muddle my use of favorites and would also be hard to guess which favorites are place-holders and which are favorite comments.

--------

So what is the solution here?

Am I missing some 'Save how far you have read in a thread' button?
Does anyone have a simple way to do this that I am overlooking?
Is there some solution using My MeFi, which I have not tried out yet?
Do I need to cobble together my own way, with browser-bookmarked comments that I save over every time I leave a thread?
Is it possible to tune-up the (new #), and individualize it for every thread?
Am I requesting a 'Save Place' feature that would be useful to implement?
posted by zyxwvut to Feature Requests at 8:57 AM (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, the "new comment" count on the page is pretty rough -- there's an explanation of how it works here.

A few things you can do within the site, right now:

1) Add to Activity
Just mentioning this because it was only introduced earlier this year -- you can now click on "Add to Activity" below the byline of a post and that post will be added to your Recent Activity without you needing to comment. So when you view Recent Activity, you'll get the last ten comments from that thread. It doesn't keep track of your place in the thread, though.

2) The timestamp of the last comment you read
Comment timestamps give you an link directly to that comment in the thread, so clicking on the timestamp of a comment is a way to bookmark where you are.

3) Favoriting the last comment you read
Same thing, it's a way to manually bookmark your place in the thread. (As you note.)

None of those is exactly what you want, though. There's also the greasemonkey script, MeFi Scroll Tag. It shows where you were locally within the browser. You can get it here.

As I understand it, the reason we haven't implemented this ability within the site is that it would be too resource intensive (i.e. would make the page load slower etc) to do it for everybody on every page. We can talk about that tradeoff, though - it's possible some of the numbers in that calculation have changed since the last time we talked about this.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:57 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


My solution to this problem, when I know I want to come back to a thread where I left off, is to click the permalink on the last comment I read, and then email it to myself. Then, I have a link waiting in my inbox that takes me directly to the comment where I left off.
posted by andoatnp at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


3) Favoriting the last comment you read
Same thing, it's a way to manually bookmark your place in the thread. (As you note.)


There's just one thing this needs to work perfectly - a good way to skip to the last favorite in a thread. Maybe a browser extension can already do it, but I think this would be a good candidate for baking into the site.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:16 AM on July 16, 2015


Im not at my laptop now but I install Greasemonkey as an add on in Firefox and use a script on there which puts a marker on the last read comment.

When you return to the thread it appears at the top and you just click it to get to the last read comment.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2015


Bookmark the last comment you read in the thread (by using the URL on the timestamp as mentioned above). You can use your browser bookmarks or some cloud solution like pinboard.in. Play around with how the solution handles URLs with different address but the same name.
posted by soelo at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shit. I think I'm using the one lobsermitten linked to.

It is good.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2015


Comment timestamps give you an link directly to that comment in the thread, so clicking on the timestamp of a comment is a way to bookmark where you are

That's the way I do it, and it's also handy for keeping your place in a long thread if you're clicking on a link in someone's comment (and, like me, never think to open it in a new tab). Clicking the timestamp first means you go straight back to that comment.
posted by billiebee at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good ideas so far. I will be trying them on. Thank you.

To address your last point, LobsterMitten,

As I understand it, the reason we haven't implemented this ability within the site is that it would be too resource intensive (i.e. would make the page load slower etc) to do it for everybody on every page. We can talk about that tradeoff, though - it's possible some of the numbers in that calculation have changed since the last time we talked about this.

Maybe everyone could have a 'Track 3' inside Recent Activity. Those could be manually changed by the user. And to keep it slim, it could auto-close that tracking when a thread closed to comments.

(Also, its good to mention the permalink on a comment's timestamp for others, but I am aware of that. I just addressed it poorly as "browser-based bookmark comments.")
posted by zyxwvut at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2015


Yep, the Greasmonkey script. It's so seamless I'd forgotten that it was a script I'd installed and not part of the site, so I was reading this question thinking: "What, the little pointer thing's not good enough?" until I read the answers.
posted by penguin pie at 9:57 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just a friendly PSA: old versions of MetaFilter Scroll Tag can end up causing errors on the site. If you haven't updated that script in a while you might make sure you have the latest version. We still get questions about these errors via the Contact Form.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for introducing me to Greasemonkey. That script is exactly what I was asking for.
posted by zyxwvut at 10:15 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


andoatnp: My solution to this problem, when I know I want to come back to a thread where I left off, is to click the permalink on the last comment I read, and then email it to myself. Then, I have a link waiting in my inbox that takes me directly to the comment where I left off.

Alternatively, if you have Evernote or some similar synced note-keeping system, you can make a note with the permalink URL, so you can open it up anywhere you have access to that software.

Or you can use a URL shortening service and make a short URL you can write down and type in elsewhere.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2015


I leave fast-moving threads open in the their own tab for the few days that they're moving fast. That works only if you're always using the same computer.
posted by jaguar at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


One approach I haven't seen mentioned yet: Subscribe to the RSS feed for a post's comments. For example, here're the comments for the most recent FPP as I write this.

(I haven't really used the comment feeds this way much, but I think I'll give it a try.)
posted by brennen at 11:37 AM on July 16, 2015


-- 254 comments (17 new) - rarely functions the way I would expect.

Seconded, and I never complained before because, as mods have stated above, I figured 'it's complicated' was about the best reason as to why that was the case. But.. yea it's pretty much one of those things that if I can't trust it 100%, and I can't, then I can't really make much use of it at all, if that makes any sense.

I also don't like the idea of using favorites to solve this sort of thing. Sure favorites can stand for alot of things but this seems like an edge case, at least to me. I never even considered it. I honestly tend to just try to leave tabs open and then do a hard-refresh at the bottom, or use the "more comments" button if I'm far enough behind, which leaves me where I left off with all the new comments down-screen. But if my tab closes, the browser crashes, or the hardware reboots I'm left with manually trying to find my place.

Is there any chance of considering an altogether new button-thingy that isn't favorite and could only be used once per thread that would serve as a user-specific bookmark? It seems like that might solve some of the issues regarding speed but, as with all new features, is perhaps undesirable or just plain too much trouble in other ways.

Again, not complaining about any of this, but as long as we're spitballing....
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:59 PM on July 16, 2015


Regarding some of the other possible solutions folks have mentioned, notably the GreaseMonkey script, RSS, and/or the bookmarking/emailing/evernote-ing of last-comment-link-read, I have to say that I can't see using those either. I'm not going to begin using GreaseMonkey and have another extension (plus specific script) to worry about keeping up to date, working, and not consuming resources nor am I going to clutter up bookmarks / my inbox with links that are for fast moving threads and I haven't used RSS since my last install of Thunderbird which was years ago.

Again, I fully realize these are very much my-own-first-world-metafilter-problems and I'm not saying that I expect anyone on the mod team to solve this issue for me because I'm not willing to make reasonable accommodations myself.

But I'm also perhaps not as alone as I thought with respect to this topic from reading some of the comments above.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:13 PM on July 16, 2015


If you use Safari for your browser, you can click on the time stamp/permalink to the last comment, and then you can add that page to your safari reading list (as opposed to bookmarking it), which is a pretty handy way to do it. The shortcut for this is command shift D. The shortcut to view your reading list is command shift L. (Or at least it is on my macbook pro).

This won't work for everyone, but it's a pretty handy way to keep track of your place in threads without having to use favorites, and it also means you don't have to use your bookmarks on your browser, which I like because I prefer to only use bookmarks for more permanent sites rather than with something like this where I only care about it while the thread is ongoing.

But to be honest, I'm usually on the same computer, so the vast majority of the time I just keep the tab open.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:23 PM on July 16, 2015


I hate using my phone to read metafilter because it doesn't have the scroll tag script.

On my computer, I have five greasemonkey scripts that I use for metafilter: Mefiquote, Mefi Navigator, Metafilter Scroll Tag, Howls of Outrage (uses AJAX to show who favorited a comment on hover) and MeFi comment numbering.

Unfortunately, some of these are broken either because of the site redesign or they're just old. So I had to edit them (with some help from users mdevore and savetheclocktower) to make them work. Since not everyone is a programmer, I'm going to describe how to fix them in this comment. It would be much better to move fixed versions of the broken ones to greasyfork, but I'm not comfortable unilaterally moving another developer's code without their permission. I'm also not a Javascript developer, so I couldn't provide support.

Greasemonkey scripts can be edited on your computer. I'll let you do the Google search for how to edit them in your browser since they are all different. (Don't be scared. You can do it. If you get things really messed up, just uninstall the script and reinstall it using the handy links below.)

I used diff -uw <original-file> <my-file> to show what needs to be changed in each one. Just add the lines starting with + (without the +) and delete the lines that start with -. (Ignore the ones that start with +++ and ---.)The numbers between the @@ symbols show where in the file (line numbers) the change should take place.

Mefiquote
$ diff -uw 810.user.js foo.js
--- 810.user.js 2015-07-16 16:26:30.000000000 -0400
+++ foo.js 2015-07-16 16:27:31.000000000 -0400
@@ -4,6 +4,8 @@
// @description Adds "quote" links to Metafilter comments.
// @include http://metafilter.com/*
// @include http://*.metafilter.com/*
+// @include https://*.metafilter.com/*
+// @include https://metafilter.com/*
// ==/UserScript==

//
@@ -286,7 +288,8 @@
mq_init_newcomments();

// Attach a listener to clicks -- just once
- $("#page").on("click", "a.quotebutton", mq_quotethis)
+ $(".content").on("click", "a.quotebutton", mq_quotethis);


Metafilter Scroll Tag: works as-is

Howls of Outrage: works as-is

Mefi Navigator (partial fix):

$ diff -uw 3330.user.js foo.js
--- 3330.user.js 2014-06-06 20:15:52.000000000 -0400
+++ foo.js 2015-07-16 16:52:45.000000000 -0400
@@ -56,7 +56,7 @@
}
}
function mfn_main() {
- var elements = document.evaluate('//div[@class="comments" or @class="copy" or @class="comments bestleft"]/span[@class="smallcopy"]',document.body,null,XPathResult.ORDERED_NODE_SNAPSHOT_TYPE,null);
+ var elements = document.evaluate('//div[@class="comments" or @class="copy" or @class="comments bestleft"]/span[@class="smallcopy" or @class="smallcopy postbyline"]',document.body,null,XPathResult.ORDERED_NODE_SNAPSHOT_TYPE,null);


Mefi Comment Numbering (you only need this edit for the modern theme. It moves the numbers so they don't interfere with the comment text. It doesn't count the first comment in either theme.)

$ diff -uw bar.js foo.js
--- bar.js 2015-07-16 16:57:06.000000000 -0400
+++ foo.js 2015-07-16 16:57:30.000000000 -0400
@@ -1,15 +1,17 @@
// ==UserScript==
// @name MeFi comment numbering
// @namespace http://www.metafilter.com/
// @description Numbers comments - handy in longboat threads.
// @include http://*.metafilter.com/*
// @include http://metafilter.com/*
+// @include https://*.metafilter.com/*
+// @include https://metafilter.com/*
// ==/UserScript==
if (/.*metafilter\.com\/(\d{1,7}\/|mefi\/|comments\.mefi).*/.test(window.location)) {
var elements = document.evaluate('//div/span[@class="smallcopy"]/parent::node()',document,null,XPathResult.ORDERED_NODE_SNAPSHOT_TYPE,null);
for (var i=1,element;element = elements.snapshotItem(i);i++) {
var count = document.createElement("span");
- count.setAttribute("style","font-size:10px;position:absolute;left:15px;");
+ count.setAttribute("style","font-size:12px;position:absolute;left:-50px;");

posted by double block and bleed at 2:43 PM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Did anyone mention the hedgehog pointer? No?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:17 PM on July 16, 2015


Nthing to bookmark/email the link to the last comment you read. It works great for me.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:54 PM on July 16, 2015


nor am I going to clutter up bookmarks / my inbox with links that are for fast moving threads

Before quitting Firefox, I will often right-click one of the tabs and choose Bookmark All Tabs. By default this wants to make a folder called [Folder Name] inside my Bookmarks menu but it takes very few extra clicks to get rid of the name entirely and put the new folder on the bookmarks toolbar instead.

One little nameless folder icon on a bookmarks toolbar does not amount to "clutter" in my world.
posted by flabdablet at 1:36 AM on July 17, 2015


I miss my hedgehog since I moved to Chrome. Has anybody ported any of these scripts to Tampermonkey?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:24 AM on July 17, 2015


I usually just memorize one or two unique-ish words from the last comment in the thread and then when I return I'll do a cmd-f "find in page" and search for it. So if I was going to come back to this thread later I would search "ported" or "Tampermonkey" since those are both words that only appear in the last comment before this one. Even if the word does show up a few times in the thread you can jump between the comments pretty quickly and find your place again. It's not very technical, and it only works if you can successfully remember your keyword so it becomes less useful over time but it doesn't require any browser extensions and can work even if you aren't logged in.
posted by metaphorever at 10:59 AM on July 17, 2015


It would be awesome if there were an "add to activity" clicky at the comment level, which would add the thread to the recent activity just like if you'd made a comment (that is, in the recent activity thread it would say "xx comments since you added to activity, last 10 below" or something, which would then jump you back to where you added in the thread!

And it would mean you didn't have to find the top of the thread to add it to activity.

Of course, it would add more junk to the bottom of each comment, which would be less than ideal.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:25 PM on July 17, 2015


I'm surprised no one's mentioned iCloud Safari tab syncing yet. If it's the end of the day at work and I want to keep reading a thread on my phone on the train home, I just click the timestamp of the most recent comment. Then when I get out my phone, I click the 'pages' button, scroll down to Space Coyote's Work iMac Tabs and it's right there. Opening the tab takes me to the comment I clicked on. Best part is I don't have to manually delete any bookmarks or RSS feeds when I'm done, either. Once I close the tab in all open browsers, it just goes away.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2015


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