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CmdrTaco's Journal: Flat Mode Discussions 13

Journal by CmdrTaco
So as we've been migrating the system from the tired old D1 to the exciting and awesome new D2 a number of complaints have come up. I'm going to talk about a couple of them here because I'm really looking for feedback on THESE issues. Please only talk about these points or I will mod you offtopic or troll or something.

The issue is about the use of Flat/Threaded/Nested modes. D2 cleanly replaces both threaded and nested modes- you effectively get nested mode by bringing the 2 sliders together. And threaded mode is vastly more flexible because you can choose the level at which comments are abbreviated or displayed in full text. So users of those modes should be set (obviously there are other reasons not to use D2, I'm just talking about the layouts here tho)

What's left is flat mode, which has a number of sort options. Now flat mode is used by roughly 4% of our active population. When i think about flat mode, I think about 2 reasons you would have to use it:

  1. I hate indenting and whitespace. I want a big vertical column now this isn't my bag, but I can understand it and even consider supporting it in D2. I think you sacrifice legibility, but this is a personal preference. It also would be easy to support in D2. Hell, you could probably do it in a greasemonkey script no problem.
  2. It's easier to remember your place in flat mode This to me is the only reason to use flat mode- you can reload your page an hour later, find the last comment you read, and pick up where you left off.

Now I Would think that the only reason to use flat mode is #2... except that only a couple hundred Slashdot readers have the 'ignore threads' sort order enabled. So either they don't understand what they are doing, or #1 above is the real reason that they use flat mode.

So in a nutshell, the question I am asking in this journal is 'Why do you use flatmode?' Is it cosmetic? To more easily keep your place in a discussion? Something I'm just missing? We have plans to implement a read/unread state retention for discussions, so maybe would you migrate to a threaded view if that function exists? Or is it purely aesthetic... an irrational hatred of scrollbars and whitespace? :)

The reason this matters is that simply formatting the page flatly is easy. Probably a simple greasemonkey hack or maybe a few lines of CSS. But re-implementing the alternate sort is gonna take some work. And I'm ok with that... except that the logs say that nobody actually USES that sort... they ONLY are using flat mode for the cosmetic reasons.

Speak out! Stay on-topic or you WILL be moderated down.

This discussion was created by CmdrTaco (1) for logged-in users only, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Flat Mode Discussions

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  • For reasons #1, and #2, as you stated.

    It's easier to follow chronologically. If I can click something right at that moment that would flip the sort order (newest-> oldest, or the reverse) that'd be even better. I tend to - if I don't have a lot of time, I'll read new->old. If I have time, and/or maybe mod points, then I'll read old->new and keep the mod points in mind and try to read all of them.

    A flat list, with the ability to abbreviate some of the lower-modded w/ the slide bar that exists alread
    • by CmdrTaco (1) * Works for Slashdot
      I find forums with that sort of layout pretty frusterating. The old stuff at the top is usually so stale that it's not worth it to me. By default, D2 retrieves highest rated comments first, so that first screen would generally contain score:5 and score:4 comments which improves my ability to 'get into' the discussion quickly.

      It would be cool if the toggle could happen without a reload but I suspect that the # of readers who would actively change from a flat to a threaded view dynamically from one discus

  • I use flat mode when I plan on commenting on a story, to sort through and see if my points were brought up before, and if so, I can easily choose whether to drop to the oldest comment with my points, or the one best-articulated, and talk to those, rather than starting a new thread. Not a hardcore user (been lurking for 6 or 7 years, just registered recently), but the chronology is sometimes more important than threads/nests.
    • by CmdrTaco (1) * Works for Slashdot
      So you use flat mode primarily as a way to make sure that you've read every comment in the system to insure that your reply is to the most appropriate comment, and original?

      What that says to me is that if we indicated which comments you have already read, your needs would be met, because your needs are mostly about making sure that your comment is the best it can be, which requires all the context you can get. You don't care about reading comments sequentially in any particular order, you just want to ma

      • Well, I also care if I'm replying to a comment, that if there are two that carry the same context, that I reply to the one that was made first, which, thanks to the current threaded/nested view most people use, can still sometimes come up as "redundant" where a comment made later can come up as "informative" only because it was made in reply to an earlier thread instead of being its own comment/thread. Kind of hard to explain when there's so many variables. Is this making any sense to you?
      • by tf23 (27474) *
        One thing you could consider, especially with the "live" preview method now. After a person has clicked reply/post and after they've typed in a subject and moused-out of it, you could unhide a div that would list existing comment-subject (with count) that are similar.

        Similar to when you submit a bug to some project trackers, when you preview it'll give suggestions to any existing that might be a dupe.

        Or, you could even have a search button in the More | Prefs { Reply that would put a popup box for subject/m
        • by CmdrTaco (1) * Works for Slashdot
          A very simple suggestion that would probably require a lot of work. Our experience with finding related content has been largely pretty unsuccessful. Our search system is pretty weak to begin with. I'd certainly consider patches if we could do it computationally inexpensively, but doing any fulltext searching on our comment database starts getting to be a performance hit very quickly.
        • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot

          Hi tf23, good to see you around :)

          Matching similar posts turns out to be a really hard problem. Not the searching, but the deciding on search terms. What qualifies as an unusual word or phrase in what you're typing that would make a good search term?

          The "similar stories" hack I threw together years ago does this for stories, basically starting with a huge stoplist and then identifying "unusual but not unique" words from a large corpus. It works amazingly well, which is to say, it sucks big time. It comes

          • by tf23 (27474) *
            Hey Jamie, ya this Win32 C# stuff's a real brain drain. Dropping out of one 'world' and diving into another's not been such a fun experience so far and I'm only at the beginning.

            I understand what you are saying wrt searching the comments. However, what about matching what's in the new-comment subject towards other comments subjects && body?

            Yes, it relies upon people choosing appropriate comment subjects. But if one were to do a match against it, mysql already filters out common words. If nothing mat
            • by CmdrTaco (1) * Works for Slashdot
              Well for starters, people don't use good subjects. Look at us- this thread is about context matching for related stories, but all of us have the title 'Re: Flat Mode'. We've learned the hard way that you can't change human nature. You can nudge it a little bit... but people want to do what they want to do. And writing good, clear, insightful subjects is rarely part of that procedure. Hell, I can't tell you how many story submissions I have rejected over the years with titles like "You wont believe this
  • I can understand you guys wanting to smooth the input stream, but more user feedback for this little thing has been long overdue.
    When posting a series of one-liners, the former round trip "slow down, partner" (or whatever that was) was 87 kinds of tedious.
    Thank you.
  • First, whenever I move the threshold slider, it remembers what I set it to when I don't want it to. ie, if I want to read comments in a journal, where there is little to no moderation, I have to set the slider all the way to the right to get comments, then when I go back to reading main stories, I tend to open everything up in tabs before I start reading them, and then I have to change the slider back to what it was initially on every tab.

    Second, occasionally I've noticed that not all comments of a certain
    • by CmdrTaco (1) * Works for Slashdot
      i tried to make design decisions based on what i thought most people would prefer- we got into a UI mess with the old system- we had 30-40 options that 1% of our readers used creating countless confusing situations for readers. What you want (a toggle to choose to remember state from one discussion to the next) landed squarly on the cutting room floor. The reason is that I figure MOST users would prefer the threshold to stay where the left it from one discussion to the next. I also think that, because it

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