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User Journal

Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

Journal by CleverNickName

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal: Comments & Moderation Improvements Under Way 21

Journal by vroom
While reading through your responses to the reader survey from a couple months ago a couple things were clear. You both love & hate comments. You love the insightfulness of our readers, you hate trolls, and there are a number of things currently getting in the way from you being able to navigate through discussions as easily as you might like to.

Load All Comments

The number one thing that kept coming up in comments was an annoyance at not being able to see all the comments right away when you loaded a page. We'd previously made a design decision to show 50 comments to make for a fast page load, while allowing you the user to load more comments. (It should be noted if you login you can change your default view to 250 comments). The major nuissance many of you noted was that if you wanted to load all comments before reading a discussion you'd have to scroll down to the bottom of the discussion & mash on the button multiple times to load the entire conversation & then scroll up to the top to begin reading the discussion. One change we added a week ago or so was a 'Load All Comments' button at the top of the discussion to get around this annoyance.

Number of Initial Comments Shown

Another thing many of you noted was not liking only seeing 50 comments for your initial view. We bumped that number to 80 for an incremental change, and could be further increasing it as we monitor changes to page speed, and other comment dynamics.

Fix for Mod Point Allocation

About a week ago we corrected a bug with mod point allocation which brought a lot of new people into the moderation pool. The number of people moderating, and number of moderations done has gone up significantly as a result of this.

Comment Preview Speed

As part of our comment posting (and submission) processes we have some security checks that take a lot of time. Unfortunately for users many of you spent more time than you needed to waiting for the comment preview to come back while this check was occurring. We recently made a change to do this processing in the background when you trigger a reply form, as a result you should spend less time waiting to preview or submit a comment. Instead of making you wait to preview a comment we're doing processing in the background while you're typing up your comment. We made similar changes to the submit process. There may be further speed improvements later but this is a start, and should be fairly noticeable to frequent commenters.

Comment Threshold Inconsistencies

Another problem that was fixed recently was that comments above your threshold, that were children of lower rated comments didn't always appear. As a result the numbers on the slider for 'Full', 'Abbreviated', and 'Hidden' didn't necessarily reflect what was in the discussion. As of today that should be corrected, surfacing all the comments that should be surfaced by your selected threshold.

More to Come

We're by no means done with improvements to the comment system. Comments are in many ways one of the things that sets Slashdot apart so we want to continue working to make discussions easier to navigate, make interesting comments easier to find, and surfacing the insights within our community that set our community apart from many other places on the web.

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: a return which is long overdue (plus achievements!) 17

Journal by CleverNickName

I've lurked at /. without posting for ages, mostly because I just don't have the time to interact like I used to.

But I've been clicking through the old RSS feed more and more lately, and when I saw the PAX Plague thread today, I came over to comment, since I'm kind of affected by the whole damn thing. I thought I'd take a look around since I haven't been here in awhile, and I saw that there are freaking ACHIEVEMENTS associated with our accounts. It's silly, and I'm sure it's been here forever, but I thought it was awesome and I was delighted when I read it.

I didn't realize how much I missed Slashdot until I spent some time here today, and I bet that anyone who joined in the last 2 years doesn't even give a shit about my stupid comments or anything, but it felt good to come back here, and feel safely among my people again.

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.

The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form. -- Stanley J. Randall

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