'export my comments' feature, please April 2, 2003 1:29 AM   Subscribe

An 'export my comments' feature. [more inside]
posted by rory to Feature Requests at 1:29 AM (22 comments total)

I'm probably not the only one who has developed the habit of saving copies of threads for fear of MeFi disappearing into the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky and taking a bunch of my personal thoughts with it. Happily, that threat has receded lately, but I'm still a fan of the personal back-up. But depending how frequently you comment, it can be a pretty tedious chore going through your User Comments page link by link to pick out the ones worth saving.

How about a feature to export all of your own comments, akin to Movable Type's 'export blog' feature? Something that's accessible only from your 'Customize' page, perhaps, which would prevent people using it as some kind of RSS feed and hammering the server (for the same reason, provided as a plain text file with only a few fields - time/date, permalink, entry - rather than some kind of XML). Perhaps with a check-box to choose (a) MeFi or (b) MeTa comments, and the ability to set a particular date or thread number as the starting point, so that you're not always exporting from day one.

This might sound like more load on the server, but it could instead save on server-load, as those who don't care about archiving wouldn't use it (and if it sits on the Customize page it would be out of sight, out of mind for most), while those who do want to archive would no longer be pulling up dozens of full pages to do it.

I'm not suggesting some sort of universal tool that would let you export comments by other users (as that could conceivably be used for Evil, yes, eeevil); just your own.
posted by rory at 1:29 AM on April 2, 2003

[this is good]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:48 AM on April 2, 2003

Oh gawd. I don't know if I would wanna keep em.
posted by dogmatic at 2:03 AM on April 2, 2003

Are all comments worth archiving if they are no longer in the context of the thread? If you meant saving each thread where you've commented, then I see the point, otherwise I don't quite see the point in saving every single comment made by a member.
posted by riffola at 2:17 AM on April 2, 2003

Saving all threads would make the export unnecessarily large (especially if you've commented a lot, or in a cult thread). If each comment had its permalink attached, you could go back and look at the original context if you wanted to.

Clearly, those who don't see the point in keeping 'em wouldn't want to use the tool. This is just a minor pony request for us obsessives. Besides, it might be salutary for some to see just how ephemeral most of their comments are.
posted by rory at 2:28 AM on April 2, 2003

Is there a format for site owners moving between forum software? (presumably a huge xml dump) I've seen scripts to translate database structure, but that seems kinda messy, and then there are other forums that use flat files.


Oh I don't know riffola, my comments just seem to bare little relation to the thread they're in. They stand alone.
posted by holloway at 4:44 AM on April 2, 2003

Get Offline Explorer, or something like it, and download all pages from your User Comments page.
posted by signal at 5:40 AM on April 2, 2003

Which hammers the server, and doesn't pull out your individual comments in a nice clean and minimal format.
posted by rory at 5:47 AM on April 2, 2003

Actually, with Offline Exploere at least, you set bandwidth usage, so you only hammer the server if you want to.
posted by signal at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2003

I want an island in the Pacific...
posted by i_cola at 6:56 AM on April 2, 2003

It would be fairly easy to build an off-site tool that would suck this stuff in and then export it as an Excel file. If you stored it in a database you could avoid the "hammer the server" problem. It would only grab the comments it didn't already have.

Is this worth building though? Does anyone besides rory think they'd actually use this? I can't imagine I would.

I'm building another thing that is similar and should be done today. I made it for keeping a "bookmark" list of MetaFilter threads which could be sorted by poster, date, or category. It was going to have a big comment field where you could conceivably paste in posts you wanted to keep and then export that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:57 AM on April 2, 2003

y6 - that sounds fantastic, I would definitely be interested in that. Web based front end, or something you would need to run locally on your box?
posted by jonson at 7:20 AM on April 2, 2003

" Web based front end, or....."

Web. I was going to make it one of the value adds over at MF Distilled. I have several things in the works over there. Including a kill file filter.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:22 AM on April 2, 2003

Rory, if you gave me a generic xml format you'd want me to follow, I'd be happy to do a one-off thing for you, but I don't know if it's something I'd make available to anyone from their user page, due to the tax on the server to produce it.

Aside from Movable Type, where else in blogland or community site land can you export anything? Is there a standard format for it?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:35 AM on April 2, 2003

I've wanted something like this for a long time, but I'm not sure how to do it programatically and the thought of doing it manually is daunting.

Would there be some way to set this up with trackback, i.e. every time you posted it would ping an URL that you set up in customization? That would only work going forward of course.
posted by timeistight at 9:27 AM on April 2, 2003

What, am I the only one who composes his posts in Notepad and saves each and every one of them, and then prints out a hard copy to file away in a safety-deposit box at a local bank?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2003

How about a "I'm applying for Supreme Court Nomination, please delete all my comments" button?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:31 AM on April 2, 2003

I have several things in the works over there. Including a kill file filter.

Ah, but if I had a kill file filter, I wouldn't need MF Distilled! Catch 22.
posted by jonson at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2003

Thanks Matt, you're a champ, but no need to go to any trouble just on my account; I thought there might be a few more people interested, but it seems there aren't enough to make it worthwhile.

I don't know if there's a standard format. I've just done something of the kind when exporting from some old Blogger blogs into MT's import format, using this template:

AUTHOR: <$BlogItemAuthor$>
STATUS: Publish
DATE: <$BlogItemDateTime$>

...which exports the full entries and also stores their original permalink value in the 'excerpt' field for re-use elsewhere. A slight modification of that could hold MeFi posts and comments, and then be readily importable into MT. But whether that's useful for people using Radio, Greymatter etc., I don't know.
posted by rory at 2:51 PM on April 2, 2003

"but if I had a kill file filter, I wouldn't need MF Distilled!"

Bull. I've used the kill file thingie quite a bit and find it of little value. But it's cool, and people keep blathering about it, so I might as well open it up.

The problem with the kill file is that you can nicely filter out the people you'd rather ignore, but invariably those users get replied to (because they are so outrageous) and I always found myself wondering what every one was going on about.

Even worse, the people I really want to filter out often end up derailing the thread and taking it a different direction. After you spent some time feeling like you're missing out on a big part of the discussion it gets to be no fun.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2003

Hmmmm. To avoid the server load problem, could you specify that people are only allowed to do this once a month?

Also, if you've got the wget utility on your machine (available on many unix distros, downloadable for Mac OS X, maybe even for windows), you could quickly do a poor man's backup:

wget --recursive --level=2 http://www.metafilter.com/search_comments.cfm?user_ID=<your user id here>
That should suck down your comments index and every page referenced off of it.
posted by namespan at 6:23 PM on April 2, 2003

(Oh... that command should be all on one line)
posted by namespan at 6:25 PM on April 2, 2003

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