A bug and a comment

The bug (or what I consider a bug): It's possible to quote comments to blog posts and story chapters. It's not possible to quote forum posts. This sucks, especially in view of the following:

The comment: Activity here has grown a lot. As *some* people have demonstrated, the tree-based layout can get stressed to the limits in some of the busier threads. }:) Also, the tree-based layout makes it hard to find the new posts in a long thread (these days, I almost always have a search window open in the browser with a case sensitive search for "New", or I'd never finish hunting down the new contributions in some of the bigger threads).

I tried switching to the flat layout, since that would eliminate both problems (no squishing to the right margin, all new posts at the end), but as I half expected, that doesn't work, either. When everyone else is on the tree-based layout, no-one bothers with quoting the stuff they are replying to, because it is obvious what they are replying to just from the layout. Which means that when you switch to the flat layout, you get a wall of text with no context, which is no good whatsoever.

I'm not sure what, if anything to do about that (forcing everyone to the flat layout - yeah, that's gonna be popular - or making new posts stand out more would be two possibilities), but I'd like to throw this out for deliberation and discussion(or is that for cogitation and conversation, to ponder and parley?).

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

I just Ctrl-F for "New" Match case. Combining that with the "recent posts" link on the right--it's inefficient, but it's the short-term solution.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

Ctrl-F plus the tracker kinda, sorta works for now. But as you say, it's clumsy and inefficient, and it'll only get worse as the readership and activity around here grows. Hence this topic.

Katie's picture

Embodiment

is I'm on fairly often and if I get TOO far behind in a topic, I'm likely to skip it until I have time to read it all.
Not much of a solution, eh.
Mei...can you make the 'New' tag bright red? I've seen various bright and rather annoying 'new' tags on other drupal forums.

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

Looks like new comments have a red border - Thanks Mei!

magalicious's picture

Postulant

At first, I was like, what *is* this? And than I was like, omg, I can scroll down and not miss a new post! Awesomesauce!

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

A lot. Thank you, MeiLin.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Gudy wrote:
The bug (or what I consider a bug): It's possible to quote comments to blog posts and story chapters. It's not possible to quote forum posts.

...since the "quote" option is right below the forum post, and I've picked out the "new" posts with a border. And for those of you who haven't noticed, there is a comments-display control right above the comments themselves.

ETA: That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. I just need a better idea of what improvement entails.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... why he is not terribly thrilled with the forum format.

1. Threads with more than around 50 replies start slowing down my browser (SeaMonkey, which is more or less the same as Firefox, rendering-wise, and I seem to remember that others have had that problem, too), especially when you open or close a browser tab containing such a thread. When you get to 100+ replies, those slowdowns can render the browser inoperable for several seconds. I suspect a Javascript bug, but I'm not enough of a web developer to even attempt to identify, let alone fix, the problem.

2. The tree-based layout is nice for shorter threads. You know what happens in a long chain of replies - stuff gets squished together and wanders off the page on the right. In longer, branching discussions, identifying the post that spawned the reply that you are currently reading, when it is several pages up from where you are and indented one step less, sucks ass.

MeiLin wrote:
You do know there is more than one way to look at the forum, yes? What's the issue?

To quote from the OP in this thread:

Gudy wrote:
I tried switching to the flat layout [...], but as I half expected, that doesn't work, either. When everyone else is on the tree-based layout, no-one bothers with quoting the stuff they are replying to, because it is obvious what they are replying to just from the layout. Which means that when you switch to the flat layout, you get a wall of text with no context, which is no good whatsoever.

To sum it up, the tree-based layout sucks for threads that have more than, say, a couple dozen replies, and switching to the flat layout, which combined with fixing the performance bug would fix most of the issues I have with the technical side of MLM, doesn't help unless everyone does it.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Gudy wrote:
1. Threads with more than around 50 replies start slowing down my browser (SeaMonkey, which is more or less the same as Firefox, rendering-wise, and I seem to remember that others have had that problem, too), especially when you open or close a browser tab containing such a thread. When you get to 100+ replies, those slowdowns can render the browser inoperable for several seconds. I suspect a Javascript bug, but I'm not enough of a web developer to even attempt to identify, let alone fix, the problem.

I once again point you to the comments display options. You can limit display to 50 comments and see the rest in paginated layout.

Gudy wrote:
To sum it up, the tree-based layout sucks for threads that have more than, say, a couple dozen replies, and switching to the flat layout, which combined with fixing the performance bug would fix most of the issues I have with the technical side of MLM, doesn't help unless everyone does it.

I won't make flat layout the norm because I hate it. Love you, hate it. If enough people tell me that they vastly prefer flat, I'd consider it and just change my own preferences, but otherwise...

As for the performance bug, that has more to do with the sheer number of comments and having the default set to display 300 per page. Again, if it's a performance hit, limit your display to 50 per page. If you're worried about missing a new comment, you can set your comment display to newest-first rather than oldest-first.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

I miss a few posts, but it doesn't bother me that much.

Something that may help for people who would rather use flat is maybe to do something like what Amazon does? If a comment is made in reply to another comment, a link appears in the upper right hand corner of the comment box that goes to the post it refers to. I don't know if that would be difficult to implement or not, but it would make it easier for people to navigate through posts in a flat layout if that's what they choose to use.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

alternatively, some places (LJ, f'rinstance) have a function to pull out the thread of conversation.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

LJ uses a tree layout by default, not a flat one. Unless you're referring to something other than the "thread" link next to "expand"...

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

if we had a similar tool, it would help to ease confusion in bigger conversations when replies get further separated from their relevant preceding text.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Try it. It's in the comment display tool.

V's picture

Embodiment

I find it doesn't bother me very much right now, but there was a strong initial dislike and a learning curve. I was used to the actual *forum* style aka phpBB with its different subforums and linear threads.

Also--as it stands, you might as well remove the option for the flat layout. As pointed out earlier--since most people use the default, tree, flat is useless. Separate but equal yadda yadda Smile

If you could make it so that logins worked for either, one solution might be to have chapter comments in the existing format but provide a phpBB forum for other discussions. That would probably be a lot more extra work for more confusion and little gain, tho.

Given my druthers I'd take a flat layout with numbered comments. Failing that I'd take a tree with the option to collapse threads and subthreads with some sort of "click the +, click the -" system. Failing that--well, obviously the layout hasn't managed to drive me away yet. You aren't trying hard enough Wink

Clare-Dragonfly's picture

Supplicant

V wrote:
Given my druthers I'd take a flat layout with numbered comments.

I agree with this--Ravelry's forums are the best ever, and that's how they work!

Though I don't actually expect that to happen. It must be hard to do what Ravelry does since that's the only site I've ever seen that works that way.

V's picture

Embodiment

I was actually thinking of AE's comment system of several generations ago. Even with 100-200 comments/chapter people could pretty easily reference "#23, blah blah" and since the style was sparse without icons and badges and signatures, it was a simple thing to scroll back and forth on a long list.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

with the fact that the structure is tree, not flat. Why would you need to cite the comment number if your reply appears right below it? Gudy's argument, that the whole forum would need to be switched to flat, still applies to numbering the posts. That would only work if everyone did it.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... all about providing the right kind and amount of context. In Flat, that context is usually provided by numbered replies and especially by quoting the stuff you're replying to. In Tree, the context is provided by the layout.

V wrote:
Also--as it stands, you might as well remove the option for the flat layout. As pointed out earlier--since most people use the default, tree, flat is useless.

Yup. Flat, as it is right now, doesn't work at all in any of its permutations because there is no context whatsoever. At the very least, you'd need a link somewhere in the header of each post that refers to the post to which this one is a reply. Having numbered posts would help as well.

Raigne wrote:
Gudy's argument, that the whole forum would need to be switched to flat, still applies to numbering the posts. That would only work if everyone did it.

Which is why you let the forum software do it for you. Each reply in a thread gets a number, starting with 0 at the OP. At the head of each reply there is a link referring to the post to which this one is a reply to, citing both the subject and the number of that reply.

Incidentally, I think this is also part of the reason why paginated Tree doesn't work for me (and in fact makes my brain melt) - the context, which as I said above is provided through the layout, is all wrong and broken up over multiple pages. (Collapsed Anything doesn't work because I'm too lazy - You mean I have to click on each post I want to read, wait for the page to load, then have to click again to go back/close the tab? Too. Much. Work.)

V wrote:
Given my druthers I'd take a flat layout with numbered comments. Failing that I'd take a tree with the option to collapse threads and subthreads with some sort of "click the +, click the -" system. Failing that--well, obviously the layout hasn't managed to drive me away yet. You aren't trying hard enough ;)

Yes, to all of that. Dynamically and individually collapseable subthreads would work well, I think. Ideally, I'd like all replies to be initially collapsed, except for the new ones and, for context, the ones those are an immediate reply to. What can I say, I'm lazy and a guy can dream, can't he? Smile

But please, Mei, don't sweat this. It works, though not as well as it could for me personally. I have no idea of the effect of the layout on the general readership, and increasing reader retention would be the only way I could justify the amount of work implementing this stuff would take. I'd much rather have you spend time writing, or even caring for the fambly, than tinkering with the site.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

That the reason numbered posts work is that the next person prefers to the post they are replying to by number. Just like quoting the text. Which again you wouldn't do in a tree layout. And thus the same objection applies.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... the way out of this problem is to take this out of the hand of the users as much as possible and to make it so that when people hit the Reply link underneath a post - which they would need to do, and indeed do, in in a tree layout as well as, or even more so than, in a flat layout - the system inserts that reference into the header of the new post automatically. Where it can then be read or clicked on regardless of what layout you happen to use at the time.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

what I suggested in my first reply to this topic. That is how Amazon's forums work.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... right. I kinda conflated your post and V's there, it seems.

V's picture

Embodiment

I don't know much about Amazon's comments but you never mentioned comment numbers, just the link. Like Gudy, I imagined automatic numbering that also referenced the replied-to post without user intervention. If you were thinking the same thing, I can't see how you'd imagine my post would NOT imply that.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

Other forums I've seen with numbered posts don't bother to show who replied to what. You reply using the number to tell people which post you're replying to. I think Amazon does number their posts but if not, they still tell you which comment is being replied to with a link to that comment. If that's how you're doing it, I could see both together being useful. V never specified that this referencing happens automatically.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

...but I'll say it anyway: I can fiddle with the forum, or I can write. Smile

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... myself, then:

Gudy wrote:
But please, Mei, don't sweat this. It works, though not as well as it could for me personally. [...] I'd much rather have you spend time writing, or even caring for the fambly, than tinkering with the site.
Marri's picture

Supplicant

I could write the Javascript for you and show you where to put it? Clearly marked, so you can take it write back out if I break things? Biggrin

Having my roommate back makes my life SO much more relaxed. I actually have free time now! So if you wish to take advantage of my "bored witless web developer"-ness, please feel free Smile

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