Draft Mode Request September 15, 2015 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I know this has been brought up many times in the past, but I would like to again request a draft mode for new posts.

Numerous attempts have been made to encourage people to post more or for the first time, but I find that posting is still an intimidating experience on metafilter. Having to to sit down and get everything perfectly in one shot just adds to the stress. There is always that chance of hitting the wrong button and losing the post. Or simply not wanting to post because I don't have time to write the whole thing and revise it at the moment.

I appreciate the recent work into updating the site, but this still feels like one of the areas where it is "behind the times". Every other site that I use that requires posts of some length has some type of draft mode, or at least an autosave (e.g. email, craigslist, ebay, etc.) This at least allows you to write something up and then revise and finish it later.

Of course, the usual answer to this is that users should use an external text editor to draft our posts in and finish them before posting. But this feels like an unrealistic expectation and poor user experience design. Further, with more people using metafilter from mobile devices, cutting and pasting from an external document is another painful hurdle. There are sometimes issues with exporting from another format (even for mathowie). Just reading this post illustrates the unnecessary layer of complexity of relying on another program or website just to do one of the most basic functions on this site.

Some may also argue that not having a draft mode is a feature and not a bug, in order to cause people to take more time to carefully write their posts. But wouldn't a draft mode encourage people to do the same - take more time to think over and work on your posts before hitting "post" right away?

At the same time I don't have any idea how hard this is to implement on a technical level, so it may not be worth it. But I think it could a be small improvement that could make posting a better experience and maybe encourage more quality posts in the long run.
posted by roaring beast to Feature Requests at 2:45 PM (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I would find this very useful.
posted by smoke at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2015


Thanks for the request—we'll give this some more thought.

We've stayed away from drafts in the past to keep things extremely simple. We don't require folks to use an external editor, but some people find it helpful because those tools have already solved a lot of writing problems. Writing text in a browser is still kind of a pain, so using an external editor can help with some of that. I don't think adding drafts will mean that those people who like them could then stop using external editors. We're still going to have basic web forms here even with a draft feature.

That said, I don't think we're morally opposed to saving drafts. We just need to think about how it might change posting culture at the subsites.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2015


One reason I use an external editor is that for some reason the new post form doesn't handle re-posted data well. Like, a few times I would be writing a post and accidentally close the tab or hit "back" or something and even though the POST data was (or should have been?) cached with the request state in the browser, the MeFi new post page threw an error and forced me to rewrite the post from the beginning.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:12 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I'm making a big post, I tend to use an external editor for the reasons tonycpsu discusses; it's a horror to lose a bunch of links and work because of a browser problem or some other error.
posted by nubs at 3:23 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a pony I've been dreaming of for a long time now. I don't want to jinx it by voicing my support yet again so I will do THE OPPOSITE, like George:

I do not want to see this happen at MetaFilter. Ever.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:54 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like this idea. Where I see it being handy (aside from keeping me from accidentally blowing away something I've crafted by accident) is jumping between devices.

I might start nibbling at a post on desktop, and then might have a free moment on the subway or bus, and it would be nice to call up a draft to keep pecking away at.

I already do that using a notepad .txt file or in the notes app on my phone. In both places I've stored href and ital tags etc., but this would make things easier because it would put the tagging functionality right there and mean I could jump between devices without having to forward or transfer stuff to myself.

My two cents, FWIW.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


(aside from keeping me from accidentally blowing away something I've crafted by accident) is jumping between devices.

Erm, my FPPs are usually intentional...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:22 PM on September 15, 2015


I like using Evernote for stuff like this (everything from blog posts to MeFi comments). A draft mode in MeFi would be cool but I think I'd still use Evernote for drafting instead.

FWIW, for the MeFi post form to be truly awesome (for me), it'd have to support Markdown. A girl can dream, right?
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 4:37 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd also love a draft option, especially as I'm the kind of person who posts FPPs with thirty thousand links in them.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:44 PM on September 15, 2015


Just to play devil's advocate here I think you'd have a hard time doing a draft mode that did everything people wanted and didn't require its own additional support.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I was being pretty simple with where I was going with it, i.e., somehow being able to save an FPP in its preview state, as it currently exists now, to my profile.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:09 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to be opposed to this in practice, but now that I use this stupid iPad so often I'm switching to a yes. Hitting Post now before this stupid iPad refreshes.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:11 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tell it, Sister! I am so fucking tired of the iPad throwing stuff away. I would ride this pony, feed and water it, brush it and talk to it soothingly as I led it to the stable.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:24 PM on September 15, 2015


Does this even look like something as simple (on the UI end, I mean - dunno how easy/hard on the back end it would be) as "save as draft" appearing as an option when you press "preview?" Or if, in addition to "preview" there was also a "save as draft" option in new post?

Just thinking out loud.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:32 PM on September 15, 2015


How about "save to your own blog?"
posted by Wolfdog at 5:34 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


And maybe a hard limit on drafts per user (like one or two)? That would get around the danger of someone queuing up an FPP, Ask, MeTa, Fanfare, Music, projects all in one go or something stupid like that.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree with mandolin conspiracy. Maybe even one draft, period.

Is there an easy, technical way to store drafts for a limited amount of time? I do think the bulk of writing an FPP should be done in a separate app, the frustrating part for me is moving it to the post form and losing it when I'm making final tweaks or editing/fixing links, especially if I'm on a small device.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:57 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please revisit this, pb. Losing a post because of a device or browser glitch sucks.

jessamyn: Just to play devil's advocate here I think you'd have a hard time doing a draft mode that did everything people wanted and didn't require its own additional support.

True. But the beauty of this is, it doesn't have to do everything everyone asks for. It doesn't have to become a huge, bells-and-whistles-filled feature. But even a bare-bones save-to-draft option would sure make posting a nicer experience.
posted by zarq at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Draft mode, smaft mode, use some Big Data Bayesian simulator code to construct the posts automatically and cut out the middle man.
posted by sammyo at 7:49 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


So really, not a "mode," just a save option.

No new features or anything, just save a draft, and you can save one draft at a time, period, and maybe it expires after a few weeks if it isn't edited/saved again.

Does that narrow down the requirements for it?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:18 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please revisit this, pb. Losing a post because of a device or browser glitch sucks.

I hear you. There are a lot of moving parts and browsers, servers, client computers, and networks all glitch from time to time. Like I mentioned, we're going to give this some more thought.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:27 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I forgot to add that it really helps to hear what folks are thinking on this. Thanks for the thoughts/feedback so far.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:36 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


We just need to think about how it might change posting culture at the subsites.

It seems like maybe this is the more serious roadblock so I wonder if you could say more about what you mean? Posting behavior changing?
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not a solution, but I use notepad++ on PCs and textedit on the Mac for making larger posts. Both are free.

Saving a draft on Mefi would be nice, but please make it simple so that one doesn't lose a draft. That would not be good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 PM on September 15, 2015


+1 to Save Draft button right next to the Preview button. Hell, it could even be unified with the Preview button, by making Preview just save every time.
posted by Jpfed at 9:27 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd enjoy this feature. I've envisioned it possibly looking like memail does, but for the purpose of composing posts. The list of drafts in the "inbox" (the first landing screen) would have no "from" field, it would still have a field that indicates "post subject," and "date" would be "last modified date." It would also have a "compose new draft" button which would add to the list (up to a certain allowed number). You click on the post subject, it would go to the currently saved draft for that post. The draft editing screen would look like the memail "compose" screen, but it would have a "save" button and a "publish" button. When published, it would be removed from the list of drafts. The draft editing screen would also include html helps and a live preview.

Perhaps it could have a limit, say five or ten drafts. What would be nice is that you could save html formatting as you go along, rather than importing the plain text into metafilter and apply the formatting then, including hyerplinks and such. Or finding third party software to do all that. This would (perhaps) be user friendly for new members, and may go a long way towards relieving some of the concerns inherent in first-post jitters.

Just ongoing thoughts about this I've had. I can live without it, but I've always thought it would be pretty cool, and I would use it religiously.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:38 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


...I wonder if you could say more about what you mean? Posting behavior changing?

Yes, I think posting behavior could change because any substantial change to the posting process will change how people post. Maybe being able to start a post on your phone and jump to your desktop to finish will have a positive impact. My first thought is that it would be positive. Maybe being able to start a post and leave it unfinished means more unfinished posts. I think there could be unintended consequences to drafts (or any change to the process). We need time to discuss it and think through the possibilities.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:55 PM on September 15, 2015


I often post from my iPad and Safari annoyingly likes to reload pages when you switch between tabs which is a pain when copying from an article.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:28 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we could post links in MeMail then it could be used as a sort of scratchpad: you'd just write a MeMail to yourself with the links, and then cut&paste.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:01 AM on September 16, 2015


If we can't have full "Save as draft" - then maybe a lighter option: "Marinate" - publishes the post after 1 hour unless you come back and make changes. That's normally the option I find I wish I had had, at any rate.
posted by rongorongo at 2:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I support this, and would be satisfied with one draft space available (although I'd angle toward five). this has put me off posting before, but I'd also like to avoid a situation where people are psuedo-queuing questions.
posted by solarion at 3:16 AM on September 16, 2015


Joe in Australia: I think we can already post links in MeMail, or am I missing something? They don't automatically turn into clickable links unless you put them on their own lines, but you wouldn't necessarily want that for a scratchpad anyway, I think.
posted by daisyk at 3:21 AM on September 16, 2015


I'd be worried about anything that encourages people to sketch out random ideas and pile links into them for months and months until they get around to posting. I'd rather see fewer link dumps and more concise posts with the few links that provide the best insight into a subject.
posted by ardgedee at 3:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel just the opposite. I love interesting megaposts like JHarris's magnum opus. I love the idea of someone lovingly gathering links about an arcane subject over the course of months.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:16 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The biggest likely change I personally can see, posting-culture-wise, is that draft mode would probably lead to more large posts. It would make long, complicated, link-heavy posts less unwieldy to craft and so I imagine more people would make them. It would have a smaller effect on short and medium-length posts.

Also I imagine it would lead to more posts overall, since having a draft or save mode would make posting a bit less intimidating in general.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:21 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of being able to bounce among devices and separate times. (I typically read on a mobile device but would never attempt an FPP from one.) I don't think it needs additional capabilities beyond what currently exists. And I would allow only a small number of drafts at once - no more than three, possibly only one.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:18 AM on September 16, 2015


I think there is a risk of people treating a 'create draft' function as an 'add to my posting queue' function or 'schedule post' function, which could have more cultural impact. I agree with the suggestion that it only be usable for one post at a time. (i.e. a one-post draft queue).

As long as it was created with the purpose of being able to create peace-of-mind about losing posts as well as being able to pick up a post from a different logged-in device from the one that initiated it, I say yes please.
posted by softlord at 6:09 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Something Awful has a decent basic implementation of drafts:

* It is auto-saved locally using some Javascript local storage stuff, when you pause typing.
* When you go back to the posting page, it says there is a draft available if there is, and has a "Replace" button to use the draft.

It doesn't help the "moving between devices" issue but might help the "it glitched and lost my work" part.
posted by smackfu at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not that I think this would happen here, but: almost a decade ago there was a local political web site that started up, running on an installation of Wordpress. At one point I discovered that, buried in the control panel interface, you could see the drafts saved by all other users - and the regular posters included several party officials and media personalities. This provided a bunch of juicy leads for a reporter friend, all collected together in one convenient place.

Unsurprisingly, the site did not last very long, despite apparently having some post-Citizens-United funding behind it.
posted by XMLicious at 7:50 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has someone set up a page where I can view abandoned draft posts a la deleted posts?

Seriously, I think this is another issue that is solved off site and not by a feature of the site. That said, I realise part of the reason MetaFilter went with new themes, etc is that more and more people are using their smartphones, tablets etc to interact with the site — and the web in general. I still would rather there be an iPad solution from Apple or a third party app (Notes, etc) than one built into MetaFilter.
posted by terrapin at 7:58 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Autosave? Hell yes, to fix those crazy issues where you're composing a comment or a post and your browser does some weird thing. If you just stored a single active comment in everybody's autosave, and reloaded it if it's there, that would be beautiful. But I'm not sure an intentional Draft mode is really that necessary when you can just stick stuff in a Notepad file or Google Keep or... name any tool that you can type in.
posted by odinsdream at 9:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


We had a chance to discuss this a bit this morning and we like the idea of an auto-save feature better than storing multiple drafts of posts. Having an iPad or phone lose your state is a huge hassle, and it'd be good to have a safety net if you can't finish a post for some reason.

We're not as excited by a multiple-draft setup that people could use as a post queue. Our feeling is that if you're juggling multiple post ideas it's probably better to use offsite tools to manage that like you would now.

Limiting things to one auto-save draft would keep the system fairly simple with a little added complexity up-front. You'd have the option to continue a draft if you have one in the system, otherwise the posting process stays exactly the same. A draft would be saved whenever you click Preview. That means if there's a sudden browser crash in the middle of editing you could at least get back to your last Preview point.

We talked a bit about scope. It seems like every subsite could get this feature but we'd probably not add it to the anonymous form at Ask. Having a draft of an anonymous post tied to an existing account seems like it could lead to privacy issues. We don't tie anonymous posts to specific accounts now and we're hesitant to start doing that even though it could be helpful if there's a glitch during posting.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:38 AM on September 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I would appreciate a Draft feature. That would centralize all aspects of writing a post, so I could start one on my tablet, save it for later, and be reminded on my laptop that I have a draft waiting. Only allowing one draft at a time is fine, but I would like it to be stored server-side, since not all programs even support localStorage.
posted by Rangi at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2015


First a professional white background and now the ability to save work in progress. Truly this has been a year of wonders. /notentirelyjoking
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:11 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah we're thinking this would all be server-side, Rangi.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2015


Sweet, sounds like this'll all work out great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on September 16, 2015


I think it's WELL NUMBER to have a daft feature! Choppy honks to the MeFi zot-lords for even coddling this up. MeFi is a BANG-WELLINGTON multilateral talk nexus that disrupts the future-now and you Scribble-Casters are the central aura of that cyclone. Get daft and GIVE IT ZANZIBAR!!! That's all I wanna broadcast - keep it dafty! SLOPPY BYE!!!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think y'all tripped quidnunc's breaker.

Vote #A
posted by disclaimer at 11:26 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


quidnunc is apparently feeling some pressure to stand out against the rest of the Republican field this year.
posted by nubs at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Limiting things to one auto-save draft would keep the system fairly simple with a little added complexity up-front. You'd have the option to continue a draft if you have one in the system, otherwise the posting process stays exactly the same. A draft would be saved whenever you click Preview. That means if there's a sudden browser crash in the middle of editing you could at least get back to your last Preview point.

I'm really excited about this possibility and think it would be a worthy addition to the site.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2015


quidnunc is apparently feeling some pressure to stand out against the rest of the Republican field this year

Yeah, for the last few years I've been all, "Hey America, vote for an unqualified tedious lunatic, ha ha ha!" ... and now look at us.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


You've been many things, quidnunc kid, but never tedious.
posted by nubs at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Draft mode is what gmail or a text file in Dropbox is for.
posted by scruss at 2:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


pb, I think the single-draft-via-preview is the perfect solution.
posted by zyxwvut at 7:31 PM on September 16, 2015


As I read this top-down I was thinking "hmm, I bet a simple auto-save is what we need, I hope they just do that" and then pb was like ... and I was like :)
posted by aydeejones at 8:11 PM on September 16, 2015


For what it's worth, I'm not sure I agree with having drafts save only on Preview, if that's what is currently on the table. I think it would be better to have a periodic autosave that happens every two minutes (or whatever) automatically. This is how most applications seem to implement autosave (Word, Gmail, etc.) and it's how I at least would expect an autosave feature to behave.

Having posts (and comments?) save on Preview in addition to saving automatically would be a great and natural extension of the basic feature, but I think it would be clunky and unintuitive if this were the only way to save a post. If an autosave feature gets implemented, I really think it should happen automatically in the background at some shortish interval.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:14 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


A single draft auto-save would be a super-amazing pony and I would like to pet it and feed it carrots.
posted by Stacey at 5:28 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


150+ FPPs in but, as from day one, I would {blink} LOVE {/blink} a draft-save option-feature. I've lost several posts under construction over the last few years for various reasons; some have reconstructed (but always felt worse than the original), some I didn't come back to. A draft-save option would have prevented this.

Just a simple save; no bells or whistles or feature creep.
posted by Wordshore at 3:58 AM on September 18, 2015


Having posts (and comments?) save on Preview in addition to saving automatically would be a great and natural extension of the basic feature...

Those are good points. I'll look into background auto-save. I think it'd be a good iteration of this feature. As a start we need this to work across many different types of browsers. We don't have the development resources of Google or Microsoft so it might not be everyone's ideal feature on the first day. Right now we're looking at adding this for posts—no plans for comments yet.

I agree that having as close to zero data loss as you can get is a good goal but I don't want to set unrealistic expectations. Writing in a browser is a more brittle process than writing in a desktop application. I think we can help with that but I'm not sure we'll be able to completely solve it.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:04 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are textarea autosave plugins for most browsers. Lazarus used to be one for Chrome and Firefox, but it's no longer maintained.
posted by scruss at 9:36 AM on September 18, 2015


Oh god yes please please save a single draft. I fumblefinger things so much on my phone, and mobile Safari insists on reloading pages if you go to another app and then come back, and you have to start all over and graaar.
posted by culfinglin at 7:06 PM on September 23, 2015


Adding my vote for draft mode for posts. I have a Fanfare post planned for December 8 that I'd like to make somewhat special ... draft mode will help immensely with that.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:02 AM on September 24, 2015


We're trying this out.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:12 PM on September 25, 2015


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