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Slashdot Discussion System Updates 345

This week we have a few new functions for you comment readers guaranteed to amaze and enchant. Or at least to make your day a little more efficient. The biggest update is that the system should remember what comments you've already read (for a few weeks anyway) but there's some other less interesting stuff as well. Hit the link below to read more.

So D2 now remembers what you have read. This will mostly be useful to readers who use the key bindings to navigate -- we didn't really want to guess if you've read something, but if you use the WASD keys to navigate, moving on from a comment flags it as read. Read comments are slightly faded, and if you re-enter a discussion a few hours later, it should remember what you've read.

We've simplified comment retrieval as well. If you get to the 'End' of a discussion and try to get more comments (either by clicking one of the various 'More' links, or by pressing a keybinding like S or D that tells us to move on to the next comment) a dialog box will show up asking you if you would like to lower your threshold. So if you normally read at Score:4, and read to the end of the Score:4 comments, it will offer to lower your threshold to Score:3 either for all time, or just for this page. This means you don't need to constantly raise and lower your threshold to handle discussions of different sizes. This works really nicely.

Lastly is a user preference in the pref pane labeled 'Collapse Comments After Reading.' I'm actually considering making this one on by default but I'm open to feedback. It does what it says -- after you've navigated off a comment (using the keybindings again), it collapses the comment you just left. This makes it very easy to keep your place in a discussion as it grows. This is especially useful in discussions where you want to leave a tab open for several hours, or else come back later and figure out what's new.

There are undoubtedly bugs: feel free to email me or post them to the bug tracker. Thanks to pudge for hacking all this stuff too. Especially the bugs -- he wrote those first.

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Slashdot Discussion System Updates

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  • Display bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnipschnap ( 739127 ) * on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:26PM (#24198053)

    Hmm, I think it's also about time to fix some display bugs. The most important one would be that replies to a given comment visually look like they're replies to the parent. And the lines that should tell you what nesting level you're at seem to disappear sometimes, especially when you collapse something. And collapsing a grand-grand-grand-parent, for example, also hides all children, but it triggers that triggers another kind of display bug: the boxes and hooks don't disappear.
    I usually use Opera, but I was able to see that Firefox doesn't do away with those problems either.

    • That visual bug only happens when the parent is modded down below your threshold. Lowering your threshold, brings it backup.

      the rest of the bugs I have seen and haven't been able to sort out as easily.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by juuri ( 7678 )

      Not going to happen.

      Slashdot refuses to fix the non-sexy things, in the true spirit of open source. Quite obvious that most of the development work done on ./ is done by people who have never had to actually deliver a product on any sort of timeframe. Yeah, yeah, don't like it, don't read here. Unfortunately the mindshare of both good and terrible bad (ie hilarious) posters is still here with no other tech based discussion forums able to wrest it away, even after all these years.

      Hell I'd even consider subsc

      • Re:Display bugs (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:38PM (#24200535) Journal

        Hell I'd even consider subscribing if the editors could keep their "witty" comments to themselves or give us an option for viewing submissions without editor comments

        I've had half a dozen submissions posted (one last night, it was the first one this year) and sometimes submissions are straight from the submitter without even typos corrected, and sometimes they completely rewrite the submitter's summary (like the one I submitted yesterday afternoon so don't blame ME).

        Contrary to popular opinion, slashdot editors do edit. They may of may not be good at editing, but they do edit. Or not, as they see fit, I've found.

      • Re:Display bugs (Score:4, Insightful)

        by k-zed ( 92087 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:50PM (#24200777) Homepage Journal

        Refuses to fix the non-sexy things?

        I would *love* to have the minimal interface to finally lose the curvy button edges and other useless and slow crap; seeing as how the full comment interface is unusably slow and unresponsive even on multi-core powerhouse modern computers with hyper-super advanced browsers, I'm forced to use the minimal interface. And even that has a few shovels of glitz on top.

        What if we could have a discussion instead of having to wait for the hundreds of kilobytes of AJAX, Javascript and CSS train wreck to load?

    • Re:Display bugs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vagabond_gr ( 762469 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:14PM (#24198987)

      I couldn't agree more. In general the nesting is not visually clear at all, which is weird because slashdot's comment system is all about nested comments. For example if you collapse a parent with a child open, it's not clear at all that the child belongs to the parent.

      In general, I would love to have a continuous tree line where all posts, collapsed or not, are attached to the line. Like a classical tree widget [].

    • Re:Display bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:18PM (#24199073)

      Yes, agreed! Nested mode is so much worse than it used to be, because of these bugs.

      In addition, how about removing the longstanding restriction of only showing up to 100 nested comments per page? If you try to set your prefs above that, it just resets it to 100. Let me just load all 1000+ comments of a large story into one page and I won't hit the slashdot servers for another hour as I read through.

      And I'm pretty sure there's a longstanding bug there where if a long comment thread pushes the page well beyond 100 comments, the next page may completely skip some comments/threads. Besides, it's freaking annoying when you get one of those 400-comment threads on the page, and then the next 3 pages are exactly the same because they still start within that massive thread. Stupid.

    • Re:Display bugs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:30PM (#24199265) Homepage Journal

      The most important one would be that replies to a given comment visually look like they're replies to the parent

      Sing it. I'm using lite mode and the Slashdotter extension pretty much because of bulloxed nesting. I mean, even MySpace blogs get this right. *shudder* Slashcode remains a fantastic engine for what it does, but the display could stand a bit of usability testing.

    • When I view moderation details by clicking the "Score:N" link next to the comment's Subject, the page of moderation types and totals is often blocked by a banner ad at the top. The banner blocks the "close X" at the top right of the details, so clicking there is clicking on the banner's link, not the "X" that closes the details and returns to the basic view of the comment.

      Instead I have to go back a page, and then forward a page to return to the basic view of the comment. It's a pain in the ass, especially

    • Re:Display bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:36PM (#24200473)

      Or why the heck is the 'Reply to This' button so fricking huge? Seriously think about shrinking it.

  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:26PM (#24198061)

    Hmm...guess not.

  • by pk2000 ( 792069 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:28PM (#24198087) Homepage
    What?! You mean we have to RTFA?
  • how about not forcing us to preview a few lines of bloody text? I've generally got better things to do with my time than clicking preview, waiting, blah, etc. Hell I don't even remember now, been so long since I bothered. Understand that there is a troll problem (see above comments), but those set of changes weren't the way to fix it - they were really just the way to make non-trolls not want to bother as much anymore.

  • AWSD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KevMar ( 471257 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:30PM (#24198135) Homepage Journal

    what does awsd do?

  • I'm not sure what was changed, but D2 doesn't work with the version of IE 6 we use at my office anymore. Granted, we have some restrictions on what scripts run, but now I cannot reply, expand or display hidden comments using D2.
  • æ--¥æoeèzï¼Y (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jaguth ( 1067484 )
    Maybe add support for unicode?
  • no h-j-k-l? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doug ( 926 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:40PM (#24198343)

    w-a-s-d might be fine for some, but for us old school vi types, h-j-k-l is hardwired into our brains. Could that be added along-side the w-a-s-d stuff?

  • Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:40PM (#24198349)

    I've never consistently gotten the correct threads when I have more than one page and say show me the next page. I see a certain thread in the first 50, then hit page down and there it is again. The only way I've been able to compensate is filter to a high enough level that all threads fit on one page and then drill down.

    And the biggest problem I have is lack of editing.

    Just 15 minutes-- or better yet- hold all versions so people can see what you posted first so you can't lie but CAN fix stupid errors.

    Also, there is no way to see level 0 posts only. That's very helpful when you want to up-mod folks who were silenced by a bad mod.

  • by apathy maybe ( 922212 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:41PM (#24198385) Homepage Journal

    Logging in without having to navigate away from the page when replying would be nice.

    So, in the old system, you hit reply, realise you aren't logged in, type in user name and password (or have FireFox auto complete), type your comment and post.

    The new system, realise you aren't logged in, hit the login link, get taken to a different page, login, navigate back to the old page, have to find where you wanted to reply, and notice that in the three minutes you spent logging in (some people are on dial up, some people do other things while waiting for pages to load, some people do both), you notice someone else has made the comment you were going to make!

    So, how hard can it be to just include a username and password box when you hit reply and aren't logged in?

    • I vote for this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:50PM (#24199667) Journal

      This has been driving me nuts ever since the new comment system was introduced. Overall, I mostly like D2, but since the old system has allowed me to login while posting for *years*, and now suddenly I can't, it feels like a step *backwards*. I especially I hate when I've typed 2 paragraphs of text, then suddenly realize I'm not logged in. Yeah, copy-and-paste are you friend in that situation, but it's still a pain. As the parent pointed out, after logging in, you have to find the main article, then find whichever discussion thread you wanted to reply to, which can be a major waste of time.

      Please, why in the world can't I login right in the comment box? I know you guys want to ajax-ify everything, but really, just having the username/password fields as part of the form with the comment summary and body was so simple and elegant, how could you possibly improve it? Since the code on the backend is already there to handle it, since the old system is still there, I can't imagine it would be terribly difficult to add this back into the new system?

    • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @02:04PM (#24199895)

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. This is less useful than it was before, and would be a great improvement.

      However, as a better workaround, note that the following works:
      1. Hit reply, realize you aren't logged on.
      2. Open the "log in now" link in a new tab. Switch to that tab and log in on that tab.
      3. Return to the original tab, type out your reply.
      4. When you hit the preview button, it updates you as logged in.

      This way you don't have to navigate back and find the post to reply to. As you said, it would be much easier if the log in boxes were right here on the same page.

  • If you're typing a reply and then expand A GP post, it erases the reply you were writing. Kinda frustrating when you need to recheck what someone said.

    Also, even when I"m logged in (with good karma), I don't have the option to submit directly, and the preview button often hangs.

  • by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <> on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:48PM (#24198503)

    Soon you'll have recreated the functionality of a late 80's usenet client.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by roystgnr ( 4015 )

      Soon you'll have recreated the functionality of a late 80's usenet client.

      Sadly this will still put them years ahead of most web discussion boards, whose hack designers have yet to figure out "threading".

  • Moderator Points? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:52PM (#24198585)
    When did you up the number of moderator points given out at one time? Used to be that you got 5. But today I find I have 15.

    Posted AC just in case its a bug even though I rarely use up all 5.
  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:54PM (#24198609) Homepage Journal
    Before all these changes this site was much easier to scan. Now it bunches comments up on the right side if they are nested to deep, the lines while clever are not ready for production and I just liked it better before all these CSS changes. If you guys need something to do, start reading more science and engineering sites and less game and sysadmin sites. I mean if you are having a slow newsday you aren't looking hard enough [].
  • And yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:00PM (#24198723)
    We still can't mod the editors.
  • Thats nice that the discussion system has been updated, but it would be even better if the moderation was improved. We have too many hacks running around with mod points that are ripping down comments that they disagree with, regardless of their relevance (look at the gun [] control [] threads [] to see good examples of irrational moderation.

    We need moderation methods that actually reflect the scoring more intelligently, or a scoring that more intelligently reflects the value of the comment. The "overrated" and "underrated" moderations are garbage. Hacks use it to promote their friends and demote their foes. Why should a comment that started at +2 ever be marked "overrated"?
    • my own follow-up (Score:4, Interesting)

      by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:02PM (#24198767) Homepage Journal
      Can we at least make the meta-moderation system useful? I haven't seen any indication that meta-moderation feedback goes anywhere, or has any impact on the moderations themselves (or those who gave them). As best I can tell meta-moderation is just a way to get moderation points sooner.
      • Re:my own follow-up (Score:5, Informative)

        by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:11PM (#24198941) Homepage

        I'm pretty sure that quite a while back one of my moderations was meta-modded as stupid (or whatever, I can't be bothered with meta anymore) and I got an email for it and the user in question lost (or regained) the point. I don't think that Slashdot really needs to hand out gold stars for doing a decent job of moderating.

        • I have done a fair amount of moderation and I have yet to see any meta-mod feedback.

          I don't think that Slashdot really needs to hand out gold stars for doing a decent job of moderating.

          I don't see it as a way of rewarding good moderators as much as a way of watching out for incredibly bad moderators. I guess I expected that the meta-mod system would perhaps have some influence on who would receive moderation points at what frequencies, based on how often they moderate carelessly.

          However I see no evidence to support that.

    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:36PM (#24199387) Homepage Journal

      There was a big change in the moderator system some years ago. I think it was motivated by exactly the kind of abuse [] you're talking about. As I understand it, Rob decided to limit mod points to people in the middle of the range of posting rates. People who post a lot never get mod points, neither do people who post very little.

      IMHO, this change actually made things worse, because they excluded the regular participants who were most committed to making the community work. People who post haphazardly are exactly the people who should not be moderating; they're the snipers and "oh yeah" types who like to tell others they're FoS, but don't have the attention span to have a serious conversation.

      Rob and his editors obviously don't agree. My guess is they've had less occasion to "correct" moderations they consider unfair (because there are much fewer mods to correct) and they see that as evidence that the new system is working.

      As for "overrated" and "underrated": these are not supposed to reflect the quality of the comment, they're supposed to be a way of correcting scores that have gotten multiple mod points when only 1 was deserved because two moderators flagged it at the same time. Personally, I don't think this happens often enough to justify two mods with so much potential for abuse. But if we must have it, you should be allowed to apply "overrated" to a post with less than 2 upmods or "underrated" to a post with less than 2 downmods. Ideally, those two mods should come within a few minutes of each other, but I suppose that would be hard to detect.

      And whatever the quality of the moderator pool, it would make a lot of difference if people actually understood what the moderations are supposed to mean. The definitions are hard to find and hard to understand. What's the difference between "troll" and "flamebait"? "Interesting" and "insightful"?

      (Hey guys, I explain stuff for a living. Give me a call.)

      At this point, it would be helpful if one or more of the editors (Rob especially) butted into the conversation, defending their policies and correcting any facts I've gotten wrong. Never seems to happen. I guess they find the resulting flame wars taxing. Understandable, but frustrating.

    • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:37PM (#24199423) Homepage Journal

      Underrated and overrated should be meta-moddable, at least; perhaps the metamod system could show comments modded thus with their moderation and points before the over/under was applied.

      I too have been a victim (FSVO) of mods who mark me "overrated" when I haven't received any other moderation.

  • by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:03PM (#24198787) Homepage

    What I'd like to see is the option to gray-out / collapse any comments older than a certain timestamp. Then have that timestamp automatically set to the last time a particular discussion was brought up (allowing the user to adjust it if needed, i.e., if you didn't finish reading the whole page the last time it was brought up). That way, new comments would stand out.

  • scripts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:08PM (#24198879) Homepage Journal
    I'm fed up with waiting for buggy scripts to finish.
    It happens on virtually every page I visit on /.
    The fun thing is, that whether I choose to wait, or terminate the script immediately, it makes no difference to the page.
    This is in Firefox 2 on linux BTW. I posted this via ie on WM5, and no issues.
  • Fix the delay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:27PM (#24199217) Homepage Journal

    So you've made it more convenient to read Slashdot. Sincerely, thanks! I was skeptical at first but I've come to appreciate D2 - with one exception. You've made reading Slashdot more efficient, so it's easier to read multiple stories at once, so there are more things I want to comment on. Too bad! I'm still subject to the same broken comment delay that ranges from two-minutes-too-long to we'll-get-back-to-you at random.

    Want to make karma actually mean something? Drop the delay from users with an arbitrarily good karma so that they can actually contribute to the site without wanting to choke the programmers.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:34PM (#24199361) Homepage Journal

    The biggest problem with Slashdot is that anonymous downmodding is used to suppress comments instead of posting something disagreeing with them.

    If someone modding down a comment was required to post their reason, exactly like a reply comment, that could be viewed by both regular readers and metamoderators alike (and made hideable by default in preferences), that would probably cut back a lot of the frivolous downmods, and convert them to explicit disagreements instead. Since that feature is so similar to the regular comment system, it should be quick to develop, debug and deliver.

    • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @03:08PM (#24201149)
      While we're on the topic of mods, I think some work needs to be done on the Funny mod. Say some one is modded funny four times and troll once, that person loses karma. I'm fine with funny mods not giving karma, but I think they should at least act as buffers from losing it. For example, a score of two funny mods and three troll mods would be the same as one troll mod. I know it isn't that important or anything, it just irks me when a funny person loses karma because some people have no sense of humor.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 )

      That's what metamoderation [] is for.

  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:46PM (#24199577) Journal

    I've seen a few sigs that echo this sentiment humorously; "Slow down cowboy, it's been 11 minutes since you last made a comment. Chances are, you type faster the 11 words per minute".

    I understand the reasoning for the "slow down, cowboy", and mostly approve, but there are a few times when the slowdown seems inappropriate.

    One is in one's own journal. I don't see any reason at all to have a "slow down cowboy" in your own journal.

    The second is responding to a response to your comment, especially when you are getting to the comment through the "slashdot message system". How can it truly be a discussion when you can't reply to a response?

    The third would be on stories older than 24 hours old. By then pretty much everyone has had a chance to comment.

    I almost never comment anonymously, so I was surprised the other day when I tried to. A user posted an anonymous comment with the statement "sorry for the AC posting but I just moderated in this thread." I was going to point out that what he was doing was a bit unethical; the system is set up so you can't comment in topics you're modding for a reason. I was also going to say "there are legitimate reasons for posting AC" and wanted to illustrate this by posting AC. An hour later I still couldn't submit the comment, so I gave up. I was logged in; I checked the "no karma bonus" and "post anonymously" for the offtopic comment. If I had been posting anonymously all day I would understand this, but it was my first anonymous comment in months. I don't understand why it was so much longer than my usual four minutes.

    I was surprised to find that you can metamoderate a comment that is in response to your own comment. I wouldn't have thought the system would have been set up like that, but I've seen it twice now.

    Another suggestion would be on a user's "journal" link. Often I'll see a funny or interesting comment and want to see a user's journal, click the link and find that he's only made two journals and the latest is from some time in 2003. Rather than the link saying simply "journal, I'd like to see "latest journal entry [&date]".

    And now for something completely different, I'd like to see TWO BRICKS BEING SMASHED TOGETHER</Python>

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"