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Journal CmdrTaco's Journal: Discussion2 Notes 18

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 ;)

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Discussion2 Notes

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  • On another note, how goes the development for hand held platforms? You mentioned working on this a while ago.

    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      The firehose (/ should work nicely on the iphone. There are 2 sorta problems left with it but we got sidetracked on a few other projects before we finixhed everything.

      the ultimate plan is that the firehose can 'generate' an index that looks almost exactly like the old index... but with a few nice extra features (like iPhone support for example). As the dust settles, the 2 code bases merge, and while the end user may not notice (except for a few minor feature additions) it'll just sorta trans

  • When I have moderator points I sort (using the old system) as "0, Flat, Newest First (ignore threads)" to pick up on new comments that add to the discussion, rather than just moderating up a "4, Insightful" comment. I generally do this after reading the comments on my default settings ("2, Nested, Highest Score First") so I have some idea of the conversations that are going on.

    This week I have made the move over to D2, but I think when I have moderator points I will have to switch back over.

    I feel like ther
    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      Yeah certain things are different for moderators. We haven't addressed this issue yet, but we need to. The way you use Slashdot should be different if you are moderating because you are actively trying to judge people instead of trying to glean information. Someday...
  • if it is a stupid question I'm sorry, but, will this be in the slashcode tarball any time soon?
  • I dunno. I'm going to stick to the old system for now. Being able to view additional responses without reloading the whole page is good, but I don't like the look of things or how it seems to be selecting which comments to display. I hate the "floaty" toolbars at the top. I always read comments in "Flat" mode and there doesn't seem to be a way to replicate this in D2. Also, I know this can be turned off, but I hate the idea of higher rated comments getting pushed to the top, which makes the whole flow
    • by crow ( 16139 )
      I agree--drop the floating toolbar, or at least make an option to do so. That's really annoying.
    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      The floater can be toggled between 'stuck' left and top. So no fair complaining. Its the little icon in the corner.

      'Flat' mode could probably be replicated in CSS somehow. It's not really in the TODO list since the plan is to use keybindings for alternate sort orders of comments. That might change, but we want to get things 100% done before we start monkeying things up again.

  • I don't seem to be able to get D2 to sort in the same order as D1 did. With D1, I have a threaded display with threads sorted by the highest-ranking parent comment. I haven't found a way to do that with D2.
    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      We decided that the various sort orders were very confusing and I'm trying to strip things down and see if we can get away without it... the mode you describe should be accomplished by setting the top bar sorta high (score:3-4) and the bottom bar sorta low (score:1-2). That way you can scroll through a discussion and choose to dive in deeper...

      play with the thresholds. You probably can't exactly mimic the precise functionality of what you're looking for, but you should be able to get close.

      The upside

  • you can turn it off if you log in.

    That, I do like. I had occasion to browse /. AC recently, and boy, was it annoying. Anything that makes people log in and man up is fine by me.

    all without losing your place like you did in the old system.

    Maybe it's because I'm finally old-school, but I surf better than I do most things in life these days, and, contrary to public belief, Slashdot, is not the most difficult website to have to navigate around out there.

    Also, my thresholds are pretty low and my
    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      The basic plan with the old system is that it won't get many updates, but we'll leave it until it causes us trouble to keep it. If we come to a point where maintaining the old system would take a hundred hours of work, then I would look at what % of users are using it, and make a decision. If there are 100 users on D1, then I wouldn't be able to fairly spend 100 hours maintaining it. But as long as there are thousands of users and it requires no work to keep going, I'm fine with that. But any new functi
      • but we'll leave it until it causes us trouble to keep it

        Fair enough.

        overrated/underrated for example

        Glad to hear it. Just got hit with it yesterday...

        tagging system

        Yeah, I was just messing around with it this week, and it's definitely a different way of finding articles.

        Thanks for the answers.
  • Could there be more feedback on time limits between postings?
    Not arguing the requirement to space things out, but I've made several quick replies and had some fail, without me being conscious as I tab around and do stuff.
    • Bigger, bolder font for wave-offs
    • Ajaxy timer, showing time-in-holding-pattern
    • Some sort of comment queue system, where I can buffer several responses to send when appropriate. Offline client?

    Slashdot remains fun, and I thank you.

    • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) * Works for Slashdot
      The font could be changed, but hte other stuff would largely defeat the purpose, which is to discourage robots and assholes from pissing in our pool :)
  • Is it possible to decouple from There are times when they are slow to respond to the script tags pointing at them, and the consequence is that my entire browser is hung until their server starts responding, both the Slashdot tabs, and the non-Slashdot tabs.

    I have seen it take upwards of 2 minutes plus. Or maybe just reduce the total number of script blocks. A typical comment thread has around 9.

    Of these, it looks like only one is dynamic, can you just set up a cron job to ret

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller