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User Journal

Journal: Updates to Journal System 13

Journal by CmdrTaco

We've made some significant updates to the submission/journal system. Visiting Submissions and Journals yields a new form that allows stuff like tags to the data types. There are a number of annoying bugs, but for the most part the dust is starting to settle. More notes will be coming, but this journal entry is really just me putting the final test on the new Journal form.

User Journal

Journal: Minor and Major updates 8

Journal by CmdrTaco
Pudge made a cool change in discussions- if you link to a comment deep inside a thread and click 'More' the sytem is much more intelligent about crawling down and retrieving children, and then parents and grandparents and so forth up the ancestry. So odds are you'll get more related comments sooner.

We now abbreviate journals in the firehose... so they are more like slashdot stories with a Read More link to the full text.

The big user facing change this week was structural: historically we had 2 different "skeletons" on Slashdot, but with this refresh we unified to a single one. This change simplifies maintenance for us quite a bit (maintaining the idle section and the firehose views of the same data was a royal pain).

You also will see some changes to the firehose.pl layout. We're playing with the tab layout a bit, moving some menus around and better integrating the core functions into the site chrome. It's a bit buggy atm, so feel free to email me if you see something wonky. We're extinguishing a few minor brush fires but there's no forest fires that we're aware of.

User Journal

Journal: The Wind

Journal by CmdrTaco
Zach knows the wind now. I saw him look at the window and see the leaves rustle. He then started making blowing noises. We blow the mobile over his crib whenever we change his diaper, so he knows the blowing noises move objects. But he's translated that to leaves hundreds of feet away through a window. Now I'm not saying he's a genius, but he's pretty awesome.
User Journal

Journal: Beta Metamod Updates 28

Journal by CmdrTaco
This won't significantly affect most of you, but we have been working on some meta mod changes. The most user visible change is that the UI we used to use was thrown out, and instead we are using one based on the firehose. Subscribers will see it when they go to the old metamod link although users can see it by going to this version of those hose

The first real change is that we've changed the meanings of the UI around. The old system is 'Fair' and 'Unfair' and the new system is '+' and '-'. The meanings are subtly different. You are no longer rating individual 'Insightful' or 'Troll' or whatever... you are now stating basically "Is this comment good or bad for you". Personally, since I find very few Score:5 funny comments to be actually really funny (and not just cliche memes) I '-' most of them. You are encouraged to be harsh if you don't actually think something is insightful or funny, call it such. The system encourages more of what you + and less of what you -.

You are also welcome now to do more than 10 m2 per day... however we internally have diminishing returns after 10, so you can do more, but they start to matter less and less.

There will undoubtedly be bugs so feel free to email me or vroom at slashdot if you find them. Probably next week or so we'll move this out to everyone, so your assistance is appreciated.

The Internet

Journal: D2 Remembers What You've Read 5

Journal by CmdrTaco
Well, for subscribers only this week at least. We have a half dozen minor bugs left in the TODO list, but if you are a paying subscriber you can test it out. It works best if you are using the keybindings to navigate. Pressing 'f' takes you to the next unread comment respecting thread order... so you can press that over and over again.

We also added a thing to 'collapse comments after reading' which I think I might turn of as a default setting soon. This is only usable for subscribers atm as well. But basically, as you navigate through a discussion, it collapses the comments you've read after you move on. This makes it really easy to navigate large discussions without having to scroll over 150 comments you've already read.

we're aware of a number of annoying bugs, but hopefully most of them will be squashed by Pudge for this weeks code refresh. If things are stable, we hope to roll this out for everyone rsn.

also my baby cut his first tooth yesterday. My furniture will never be ungnawed upon again.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

Journal: D2 Updates 70

Journal by CmdrTaco
In-Place Posting is now live for all logged in users. Hopefully there are no surprises. We've found a number of very tiny bugs, but nothing show stopping. We'll leave the link up to the 'classic' reply form for a few weeks. Next week anonymous coward will get the new posting form... hopefully there are no surprises with that.

A few new keybindings aren't documented yet... v (end) t (top) [] change upper threshold and ,. change bottom threshold. Also 'r' opens the new reply box, m opens the mod total thingee.

The only major complaint so far is that the design changes consume a lot more whitespace. I have mixed feelings on the subject, but am aiming to strike a balance. We noticed 2 very clear places where the whitespace is excessive and hopefully that will be fixed RSN. But on the other hand, making deep threads visually clear, and drawing some attention to the 'reply' buttons is beneficial to everyone, so bare with us as we work to strike some sort of balance.

User Journal

Journal: Discussion2 In-Place Posting Testing 16

Journal by CmdrTaco
Discussion2 rolls on... the most recent addition to the system is in-place comment posting. Essentially, little dynamic ajaxy slideout boxes to post directly within the thread, without going to a stand-alone page. This is great because you don't have to lose your place within the thread to post.

this functionality is currently only available to paid subscribers, and several hundred of them have tested it out already. We still need to make it look pretty and add a few minor things (like the CAPTCHA for anonymous posting) but it's almost done.

Also worth noting is that logged in users can click on the 'Score' field of comments to view the moderation information on the comment. This information was previously not visible within D2, unless you navigated outside the d2 system (opening a comment in a new window did it). I doubt most people really care about this info, but it's available.

We also have one (perhaps minor) thing to get in... right now if you visit a comment directly via a CID link you can navigate within that thread, but navigating 'up' the comment hierarchy results in a new page, and a new discussion... this makes context a pain to maintain. So pudge is going to change that page to display the parent posts in an abbreviated format. This will mean that you can climb back up the thread easily, even if you entered the forum via a link deep into a thread.

A few minor items left on the todo list (keybindings for threshold changes... maybe press 'r' to open the reply slideout from the current comment, and a bunch of small design issues to make the threads a little more visually clear and easily navigatable) and we're ready to call D2 finished.

We have no plans to remove D1, so those of you who hate D2 are welcome to stay on the old system, but obviously new moderation tools and whatever else we think of will be attached to D2, not D1, so you've been warned ;)

Software

Journal: Discussion2 Notes 18

Journal by CmdrTaco
In the last few weeks, we've switched most users over to the new 'D2' discussion system- a fully ajaxified discussion system. There are a number of minor bugs, but I figured I'd toss up a few quick notes to address the biggest user complaints.
  1. you can turn it off if you log in. Some people get stuck in there ways, and no matter what we build it will never make you happy. So you can have the old lame system and we'll all enjoy the new cool system without you.
  2. you can get 'nested' mode back by dragging the 2 thresholds together in the floating slider. they connect and become a single thing. it's quite nifty, and if you are logged in the setting is remembered so you don't have to click to navigate deep threads.
  3. you can get more comments at once from the 'prefs' link. the default is currently 50, but choosing 'many' changes that (currently) to 250, which means you will get roughly the average number of comments in a typical slashdot story. Yes you will need to click 'more' on a huge discussion, but at that point we're talking about very large pages and slower computers like to choke on huge pages anyway so we have to balance size and performance.

there are 2 huge wins here for everyone... the first is retention of context. You can wade into a thread, retrieve more comments, change your threshold, all without losing your place like you did in the old system. And using the WASD keys to navigate makes it very easy to peruse discussions in a number of interesting ways. mouseover the help text in the floater for more information about how they work. We're open to suggestions on how this should work- i'm not totally happy with it yet... but it *is* possible to mash a single key and go from start to end of a discussion, which pleases me.

the second is that the default users see the highest score comments first. You can change this by logging in and toggling the retrievable order to oldest first, but for most people this means that the first comments they see will be the best. There are so many great comments on Slashdot, but most users don't see them because they are buried within the discussion. I think this goes a long ways towards helping.

A final word about the ads in there- unfortunately there are ads in the new system. Changing from a static page-page-page system to a dynamic ajax system with a single 'page load' causes us to serve hundreds of thousands of fewer ads. We worked out roughly how long people read discussions and are trying to strike a balance so that you see roughly the same number of ads under this system as you would have under the old one. We'll tweak it of course, but we gotta pay the bills here people!

And obviously all of this is a work in progress. Pudge is leading development work on this. The next project is to make it possible to post without losing your place in the discussion, and then to refine navigation keybindings and thread expansion/contraction controls to make the whole UI clean. We appreciate constructive criticisim. There are bugs (especially in IE, but almost no slashdot user runs IE) but we're mashing them out- thanks for your feedback on them. As we sand off the rough edges I think you'll all find the new system a vast improvement if you just play with it for a bit and give it a fair chance. Not all change is bad ;)

User Journal

Journal: Keybindings in Discussion2 21

Journal by CmdrTaco
Since this is not yet documented, I figured I would mention this here now... we are experimenting with some very rudimentary keystroke navigation in the discussion2 system. We support both FPS style WASD keybindings, as well as the standard vi layout of HJKL. Down/Up will cycle you through next/previous comment chronologically... left/right will cycle you through next/previous in thread order. Holding SHIFT down while you press the navigation key will collapse the previous comment. And when you get to the end, pressing down or right will attempt to retrieve more comments if you want them.

What this means is that you can now use D2 to simulate most of the most popular viewing modes of the original discussion system. By dragging both the abbreviate & display sliders right next to each other you effectively remove abbreviated comments which simulates nested mode. By toggling comment retrieval order to 'Oldest First' and using up down, you can effectivel read the discussion from oldest to newest. And of course the default settings gives you the best comments first, providing a nice default view of discussions for most anonymous users (who rarely participate and we want to really show only the best comments).

You can also disable D2 in the comment prefs (the word 'prefs' in the floating dialog box) if you are logged in. Right now we're testing D2 for a large percentage of anonymous readers. As soon as we finish IE7 support we'll roll out D2 for the rest of the ACs.

User Journal

Journal: A2 Party, T-Shirts, California 4

Journal by CmdrTaco

The Ann Arbor party seemed to go great- lots of people packed Leopold Bros place, doing battle with barflies and football fans. It was somewhat bizarre watching obvious normal bar people try to figure out what this large crowd of 'different' people were all about. We handed out a ton of t-shirts, drank much alcohol, ate nachos etc. Our party had a great number of Slashdot and SourceForge staffers... all folks who have been with Slashdot for so many years it's hard to remember Slashdot without them. I'm not exactly sure how many people eventually showed up... a lot of our RSVPs didn't show, and a lot more didn't bother sign up at all, so I think the two balanced out.

For me personally these sorts of things are always difficult. I'm not very good at crowds. I can smile for a picture, but I'm perpetually nervous when surrounded by strangers who have certain expectations of me. There's a reason I live life behind a keyboard!

Further compounding matters lately is baby induced chronic sleep deprivation. Me want REM cycles. It's always nice to get out and have a beer. Kathleen & I get only so many hours "out" together now, gotta make each one count. The party attendees were all cool... and understanding that I was pretty tired.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who showed up... I've still got the california party later this week. Hopefully my throat heals up by then. The only real problem with this location was the acoustics... I had to shout to be heard, and stick my ear in front of people to hear them (baby crying has done some amount of hopefully temporary ear damage). My throat is raaaaw from yelling. Sucking on cough drops helps.

As for other parties, boxes have been shipped. Hopefully they have arrived to most places on time, although I think they were shipped on a slowish shipping option so I'm not sure. I know some folks got shirts on friday, but I'm sure the others will arrive monday or so. Also, keep in mind that we only had 700 shirts and 2300 attendees from 136 parties with more than 5 attendees. So obviously not every party is getting a box... when we sent out the bulk mail, we had over 100 replies, and I'm sure there was nowhere near enough to fill even that.

But shirts or not, I hope your parties go well. Remember to submit videos or pictures or whatever to anniversary at slashdot dot org for your chance at the $1k ThinkGeek gift certificate grand prize.

User Journal

Journal: Parties 10

Journal by CmdrTaco
So if you only count anniversary parties with 5 or more attendees, we have 128 venues with a grand total of 2366 attendees. The largest parties include Pudge's in seattle with 129, mine in Ann Arbor with 194 and Hemos's in CA with 197.

I'm sure that there will be many RSVPs that no show, but still, that's still an awful lot of interest. We'll be shipping shirts to a good number of those parties, but we have triple the attendees to shirts available, so we'll see just how far we're able to spread the love. Emails will be going out to party planners in the next couple days to get postal addresses.

User Journal

Journal: A2 Party Venue Change

Journal by CmdrTaco
As we're nearing 100 signed up people for the A2 Slashdot anniversary party, we've changed the venue to Leopold Bros... it's just a block south from the other place and they can handle us. I've also got word that we'll be printing a few hundred extra shirts since there was already like 50 parties with 5+ people in attendance. We certainly won't have enough for everyone, but we'll make a good dent in it.

I will of course put this information into a story next reasonable chance I get for a story, but I figured at least I could get the word out there. The anniversary party entry on the official page has been updated with the new location & address.

User Journal

Journal: Anniversary Parties, Important Notes 6

Journal by CmdrTaco
The A2 party already has like 70 signed up. We're going to have to rethink venue or time I think if we really have that many people. Wait a few more days and see what we can work out. Keep reading in the party forum for info. We have 500 shirts to print and hand out... it'll be fun to see where they go.

more info as I get it. There will be notes on future stories as days get closer.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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