I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry.
So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.
I don't actually have anything to say. Kathleen is due any day, and I'm looking forward to a few weeks of staying home, getting poor sleep, and changing diapers.
But mostly I'm testing to see if journal saving works properly.
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.
I've lurked at
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
A few new keybindings aren't documented yet... v (end) t (top)  change upper threshold and
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.
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
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
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.
I'd completely forgotten I wrote this three years ago:
Joshua Kinsberg has been released. But his bike and invention are impounded, at least until his court date on Friday (after the RNC is over).
NYC's anti-graffiti law is very strict:
"No person shall write, paint or draw any inscription, figure or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a public benefit corporation, the city of New York or any agency or instrumentality thereof or by any person, firm, or corporation, or any personal property maintained on a city street or other city-owned property pursuant to a franchise, concession or revocable consent granted by the city, unless the express permission of the owner or operator of the property has been obtained."
I wonder if the framers of that law realized they were banning kids from chalking hopscotch onto their schools' playground or onto the sidewalks in front of their houses. I wonder how many children have been arrested for chalking up a 4-square game.
One important point: the police did not see the chalk-spraying invention being _used_. So the inventor probably could not have been charged with the above law. But the only other anti-graffiti laws describe "aerosol spray paint cans," and the video of the arrest clearly shows the inventor explaining to the police that it uses chalk, not paint. Predictably, the New York Post gets that wrong, describing the invention as "a convoluted spray-paint mechanism": http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/29532.htm
Earlier this month, a family was threatened with a $300 fine for their 6-year-old girl's drawing with sidewalk chalk.
On her own front step.
It's legal of course. The police screwed up. Notice the final clause from the law as of 2004 ("unless... permission of the owner... has been obtained") and the similar clause from the 2005 law Natalie Shea was threatened with (only if "not consented to by the owner").
But a street artist was later arrested for drawing on the sidewalk with chalk (while being filmed by PBS about his artwork!). And I won't be surprised if sooner or later some kid literally chalking hopscotch onto the sidewalk or a school playground gets arrested.
That's the law, after all. We had to make sure nobody chalked anti-Bush slogans while the RNC was in town. And the law's the law.
Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine