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Achievements and Optimizations 294

This week's code refresh has added a number of really irritating story display bugs that we're working on. But, it also added a number of cool optimizations that should improve performance for a lot of readers. Tap that link below to read a brief description of them, and also a few serious notes about the achievement system we launched last Wednesday.

Ok, Optimizations. These really only affect the Index2 beta users and Firefox users. You should really be in one of these 2 groups.

  • CSS Sprites: Vlad combined a number of our chrome images. Vroom used the same technique to combine our top 25 topic icons into a single image. The top 25 icons appear on 60% of our stories, and the chrome images appear on every page load. These 2 changes dropped perhaps 20 requests from a typical fresh page load. That should be a measurable performance increase for a lot of people.
  • Library Purge: Scott removed the last remnants of the YUI library. This was THE library to use for AJAX a few years ago, but as of now, we have totally ported to jQuery. The last 2 bits that used YUI were some animation bits, and the discussion2 threshold changing floating widget thing. Porting those 2 things to jQuery let us pull several hundred k of JS from our includes. This let us trim another 85k from our compressed JS transfers. We've cut the JS included on Slashdot in half in the last month.
  • Varnish: Jamie installed varnish as a reverse proxy behind the F5 but before our apache. Really this won't be a significant performance improvement for now. We use a complex system of static pages to cache the most read content on the site, but varnish will at last let us deprecate that ancient system for something much simpler. We'll be experimenting with this more over the week, but the only real change for most cases is that most of our static content can be served w/o the latency of NFS. Not a big deal really, but it's something. But when we purge out the old caching system, a lot of things will be a lot easier to maintain and debug.
  • CDN: We're probably going to test a CDN this week. The performance gains will be minor, but it will let us move 50 megabits of traffic off our main router and distribute that globally. It sure won't hurt.

A note on Achievements. We launched this as an april fools day joke. We're glad many of you got it. We had great fun with it. But achievements are actually a real, working system. And they serve a purpose. Most of the major bits of functionality on Slashdot have a corresponding achievement. Posting a Journal? Getting a Story Accepted? Being Moderated Up? Using all of your Mod Points up? While many achievements are silly jokes: getting the first block of achievements is essentially a tutorial. And getting some of the more complicated achievements would be a useful indicator for a quality contributor to the site. The heavy lifting on this was done by Chris Brown.

We're also experimenting with a thing we call 'Auto-More'. When you get to the end of the page, a second block of articles will be added to your index. The cool thing is that this means we can serve a smaller selection of stories on the main page request. Since 2/3rds of you never read past story #6, that means that you will get your page a little faster. But 10% or so of you get to the bottom of the page. And you will transparently be given more content. We're doing a bunch of logs to see if this works out. It's just an experiment tho, we may kill it if there is a problem. I think it will eventually be connected to the pause/play function available to logged in Index2 users.

This week we intend to start rolling out the Index2 beta to a very small number of firefox users. A good number of you won't notice. Some of you will tho. You won't hurt our feelings by disabling the thing immediately but I hope you give it a shot. It's great on Firefox. It has a few bugs on Safari. It will work on Chrome as soon as Google gets a Mac port out (Hint hint!). As for IE... well, you'll keep the old system for a few more weeks, but you're only like 14% of our users, and you keep shrinking.

Ok, back to work. You too.

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Achievements and Optimizations

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:48AM (#27476825)

    How about employing someone to proof-read your posts and check the links?

  • Hope (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:49AM (#27476841) Homepage Journal

    Let's just hope these new optimizations don't href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/technologynews/5105

  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <brian0918@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:50AM (#27476857)
    I've got a buttload of achievements listed, but not all are described in the help. What do they all mean?
  • Now if only Facebook (and other big sites, I guess - I don't visit many of them) would do things like decreasing bloat while adding functionality, the web would be a much nicer place to be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:50AM (#27476863)

    The heavy lifting on this was done by Chris Brown.

    I don't care if he can code, any man that would hit a woman is no man at all. You don't deserve Rihanna, you piece of shit, and if I ever catch you out on the street without your bodyguards - your ass is grass my friend.

  • Sleeker is better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:52AM (#27476887)
    Achievements strike me as yet another penis-measuring tool, rather than as something that brings more value to the site. If people never read past story #6 is it because they check the site often enough to not need to go that far back, or is it because they only care about breaking headlines (or perhaps we all just have ADH- ooh, shiny!)

    I think we would all benefit much more from a streamlined site, rather than the feature creep we're seeing at the moment. Slashdot isn't much broken, so don't much fix it.

    • by Sj0 ( 472011 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:59AM (#27477005) Journal

      I'd argue it is broken, but because they're changing things.

      I don't know about you, but I get really high CPU utilization with the fancy new system. By contrast, the old system's only real flaw was that the page system was broken (you'd have to click on page 5 to get page 2), but straight HTML spit out by a server-side CGI script was about the fastest way you could possibly display the insane amount of information on a slashdot comments page quickly.

      • Re:Sleeker is better (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:09PM (#27477147) Homepage Journal

        Absolutely. The cute bells and whistles are sometimes fun, and occasionally useful, but they are NOT why I come here. I come here for the news and the conversation. It's rather like a coffeehouse or neighbourhood bar -- you go there to relax. You don't want to be forced to dress up in a power suit just to have a beer with your friends.

        My internet machine is a P3 (albeit with gobs of RAM). It struggles with the full display, even in "low bandwidth" mode (on broadband). It takes 20-30 seconds for any page (even "small" ones) to download and render in Mozilla.

        Aside from the fact that the whole bloody look is hard on my aging eyes (with no way to get it to be "restfully readable"), this is one reason I still use antique Netscape 3 here -- it doesn't do CSS or JS, so all I see is plain text, rendered almost instantly.

        If the site's "improvements" ever get to where I can't use NS3 to read and post, I'll have to give up Slashdot -- it simply won't be worth the time or the eyestrain if I have to read it in "normal" mode.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Using elinks is definitely the way to go when reading slashdot. Even on my screamin' new intel Mac, slashdot takes forever to load in any graphical browser.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

            Elinks? Another descendant of Lynx? this one? http://elinks.or.cz/ [elinks.or.cz] Thanks, I'll have to try it, next time I have a non-Windows system up (I don't see a build for Windows, and I gather it's not available as a binary??) The screenshots remind me of some of the old DOS-based graphical browsers, which were a good start but never really got to where they were useful to me. This looks more mature.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by garcia ( 6573 )

          Add a mobile page which autodetects. I don't want to have to set something in my settings to get it to come up like that when I only read from my mobile page once or twice a day. It's a real fucking pain in the ass to wait 45 to 60 seconds for the page to come up because there is so much shit being loaded.

          Tons of other sites have auto-mobile support. Why not a tech site like Slashdot?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 0xABADC0DA ( 867955 )

          this is one reason I still use antique Netscape 3 here -- it doesn't do CSS or JS, so all I see is plain text, rendered almost instantly.

          In firefox:
          View -> Page Style -> No Style

          Probably you can do this automatically with greasemonkey or something. Noscript will disable all javascript, or only js you want.

          My internet machine is a P3 (albeit with gobs of RAM) ... If the site's "improvements" ever get to where I can't use NS3 to read and post, I'll have to give up Slashdot -- it simply won't be worth the time or the eyestrain

          'Here's a nickel kid. Get yourself a better computer.' Also, nobody else can read Idle stories either...

    • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:01PM (#27477039) Homepage
      I happen to like the achievements.

      After all:

      In my country, they speak of a man so virile, so potent, that to spend a night with such a man is to enter a world of sensual delights most women dare not dream of. This man is known as "the comedian."
    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:21PM (#27477303) Homepage Journal

      Achievements strike me as yet another penis-measuring tool, rather than as something that brings more value to the site.

      Well, at bare minimum they should thus bring penis to the site. Er, wait, slashdot is quite the sausage party already. Actually, I have a theory that there are actually quite a few females lurking, but they don't talk because they know we wouldn't appreciate it anyway. There are of course a few regular female contributors, but if I were them I wouldn't bother - you could be deluged with sexist bullshit anywhere. The difference is that most people are even dumber than the average slashdotter and have less excuse for thinking that crap is funny.

      Achievements are harmless. They don't even do anything! As long as there are no achievements based on things like first posts or negative moderation, the achievement system is unlikely to actually harm anyone. It's only when it rewards bad behavior (e.g. by allowing a negative score - thus users could compete for maximum absolute value) that it becomes dangerous.

  • I forget, (Score:5, Funny)

    by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:53AM (#27476899)
    how many achievements do I need to unlock the ACOG scope?
  • Test CDN? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:53AM (#27476901) Homepage Journal
    At least for some site optimization schools (from the point of view of visitors, at the very least) using a CDN is almost a must.
  • Achievements (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:54AM (#27476915) Homepage

    Is there a list of who has the most achievements? Maybe Slashdot should award titles depending upon how many achievements you have.

  • IPv6? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c_g_hills ( 110430 ) <chaz@chaz 6 . com> on Monday April 06, 2009 @11:57AM (#27476967) Homepage Journal
    Still no support for IPv6 it seems. Has it even been given consideration?
  • Erm...excuse me! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smivs ( 1197859 ) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:02PM (#27477051) Homepage Journal

    It's great on Firefox. It has a few bugs on Safari. It will work on Chrome as soon as Google gets a Mac port out (Hint hint!). As for IE... well, you'll keep the old system for a few more weeks, but you're only like 14% of our users, and you keep shrinking.

    Er...havn't you forgotten something. A lot of us are Sooo nerdy we use Opera [opera.com]

    • by its_schwim ( 1247278 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:10PM (#27477157) Homepage
      Nobody's forgotten. /. knows that Opera readers will simply build an inline proxy that pre-reads the page, corrects any errors, add missing alignment attributes and then optimize the resulting code before passing it on to the user. For this reason, web development no longer has to take the browser into account.
      • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:40PM (#27477573) Homepage

        Opera readers will simply build an inline proxy that pre-reads the page, corrects any errors, add missing alignment attributes and then optimize the resulting code before passing it on to the user.

        ... which will be available as a Firefox Add-on eight months later and built into the monolith that will be known as IE 10. Firefox users (myself included) will believe and argue that FF invented this feature.

  • IE at 14%? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theCoder ( 23772 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:04PM (#27477087) Homepage Journal

    IE usage down to 14% seems like a major story, even for a tech heavy site like Slashdot. It would be interesting to see trends of browsers on /. over time. And maybe even OS stats?

    btw, Taco, I use noscript to turn off the Javascript on /., mostly because Firefox 2 on my Solaris machine is just too slow (and there's really no hope of getting Firefox 3 working -- I'd have to compile half of Gnome in library upgrades). I can accept some of the UI weirdness (like the gray triangle on top of every story on the main page), but I hope you don't make Javascript a requirement for viewing /. That would be painful!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coryking ( 104614 ) *

      It is only down to 14% on this website because this website doesn't function on any version of IE. If you try to do anything using IE, you'll quickly realize they don't test using it and you have to switch browsers. In otherwords, no it is not a major story beyond "Slashdot is a Firefox-only website"

      Funny that. They should put an animated "Best viewed with Netscape" at the bottom of the page. I thought that attitude went out with Firefox.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cube Steak ( 1520237 )

        And yet despite your claim of it not working at all in any version of IE, I was able to post this comment in IE6. Strange, eh?

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:05PM (#27477107)

    The new user page is ugly and less useful than the old one. It takes information that used to be on the main user page and makes me click on a second link in order to see it.

    I respect that website maintainers like to add new shiny things to the website every once in a while, but for God's sake, don't take away functionality in the process.

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:18PM (#27477261) Journal
      just bookmark www.slashdot.org/users.pl
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eln ( 21727 )

        I suppose, until they decide to retire that page. Also, I would like to get a useful page when I click on my name at the top of the page rather than having to type in the address bar or navigate my bookmarks. Also, I prefer the role of the grumpy curmudgeon, and using an alternative user page rather than bitching about the current one is not in keeping with that role.

    • Actually, we IE users are spoofing our user agent to make it seem like we're Firefox whenever we visit Slashdot.

      I've got a reputation as a nerd to uphold, after all.
  • by MagicM ( 85041 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:07PM (#27477131)

    As for IE... well, you'll keep the old system for a few more weeks, but you're only like 14% of our users, and you keep shrinking.

    Ah, yes. The old "if it hurts, then just stop doing it" treatment. Of course the number of IE users keeps shrinking, as they find that this site doesn't work with their browser of choice!

    As an Opera user I'm still using the old-school no-beta, no-beta2 version of Slashdot, and I sincerely hope the day will never come that I have to choose between Opera and Slashdot.

  • Had to read the last line of the article to get that tidbit. :-)

    So if IE is such a small fraction, why not post browser statistics?

  • Comment Page (Score:5, Informative)

    by sashapup ( 1025115 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:21PM (#27477309) Homepage
    Just annecdotal, since I don't have numbers to back it up, but comment pages seem a LOT faster with the cut over from YUI. The lil floating comment bar used to be PAINFULLY slow in letting me scroll through.
  • I just hope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reapman ( 740286 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:30PM (#27477445)

    You guys don't break IE functionality before my work upgrades from IE6... I absolutely despise IE (and IE6 most of all) but can't break free of it yet :(

  • by Briareos ( 21163 ) * on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:34PM (#27477481)

    I know posts get marked as read when using keyboard navigation, but since I don't want to do that could hitting the "Get More Comments" button at the bottom of the page and/or the "More" link in the slider thingy please mark as read and/or collapse all already shown posts?

    That would really make finding the newly added posts a lot easier...

    np: Gui Boratto - Mr. Decay (Chromophobia)

  • I really like the new system(s), especially the async page loading and 'fetch on demand' aspects of comments. But...

    Please oh please, add a "submit" button next to the moderation dropdown? It should do the same asynchronous post that selection change of that dropdown does today. It's very easy (especially using a sensitive touchpad) to mis-click on a moderation option - which you can then only undo by replying in the conversation, and losing any point(s) awarded.*

    A submit button would remove the accidental moderation issue, and still allow the all the ajaxified web2.0 paradigms to remain intact ;)

    * then - to add insult to injury - usually get that corrective post modded down as offtopic because of some moderator a power trip

  • Suggestion. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:40PM (#27477561) Homepage Journal

    How about having the username field get focus when you log in.
    It would save a little time when logging in.

  • Classical Style (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dysfunct ( 940221 ) * on Monday April 06, 2009 @12:59PM (#27477849)
    I congratulate the /. team for applying so many changes that would make the site more interesting and increase usability for a number of users. Also, I know that playing with all the new-fangled AJAX stuff is pretty and can be fun to develop.

    On the other hand: Please don't ignore us users who still use the good old classic style. I simply like my /. without fancy effects and strange navigation bars. Threshold of 3, nested, oldest comments first, re-parenting comments and a link i can open in a new tab to read the stuff below my threshold is all I want and need.

    Long story short: While developing all the exciting new stuff, please don't completely ignore or remove (*shock* *horror*) ye goode olde Slashdot layout. It works currently, has served many people well for quite a while now and hopefully doesn't cause too much work for you guys. Just please fix it every now and then in case you break it.

  • Moderation Bug? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ardle ( 523599 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @01:19PM (#27478127)
    Of course, I've just lost moderator status so can't verify but - some time in the last week - I noticed that moderation controls were missing for the last post in a "thread", i.e. the last of this post's children (I can't say if I saw it for "threads" of size 1, like this one currently is).
    Can anyone verify?
    Of course, I discovered the issue when I wanted to moderate a post but couldn't because the select was missing; however the select was present for all of the post's siblings.
  • But... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:09PM (#27478839)
    why are there no trolling achievements?
  • Tags (Score:3, Interesting)

    by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @02:20PM (#27478995)
    I still don't understand how the hell the tags work. I brief help page write-up would satiate my curiosity - I'd be willing to bet I'm not the only one.

    * Exactly how heavy of a beta are tags still under? You're aware that not every tag works (when you click the triangle sometimes you end up on your user page, or elsewhere)
    * How does the algorithm work (and how the hell do some of the crazy one of a kind tags get chosen)?
    * How much /. human intervention is involved (i.e. Do you guys just sometimes say "screw it, this tag is stupid, so I'll remove it")?
    * Any plans for future development (suggestion: if you are using an algorithm, show the tags about to be promoted in a different color, so users can input those if they agree).

    A fully automated tag system is not an easy thing to do (I would think), so I'm not griping. I'm just genuinely curious (but admittedly still too lazy to look the code up).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Alsee ( 515537 )

      I still don't understand how the hell the tags work.

      That's ok. The Slashdot developers have no clue what they do or what they should do, either.

      It's like when you're hanging out with your stoner friends and you get seriously toasted and someone's looking at the pot-bag and says "We should make some system for putting different tags on the different bags of pot" and you say "Yeah!! That would rock! That's a genius idea!", and you go rummage around the house and find clothes pins and you attach plastic tag-th

  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @03:00PM (#27479577) Journal

    firstpost - posted first

    troll - moderation ended with a max troll mod

    flamebait - moderation ended with a max flamebait mod

    goatse - posted a goatse link

    blind - followed a goatse link

    gone1week - survived 1 week w/o slashdot

    gone1month - survived 1 month w/o slashdot

    gone1year - survived 1 year w/o slashdot

    storypassion - posted the most comments in a story

    netcraft - explained why BSD is dying

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @03:14PM (#27479771) Journal

    How about fixing the code so that the {FOO}.slashdot.org servers honor my login and selection of "classic" mode, so I can read and comment on stories that are hosted on the subsidiary servers?

    I have a number of machines from which I read and post. Unfortunately, some of them (unavoidably) have ancient browsers that are REALLY unhappy with the new features.

    While I may chose to play with or switch to the new functionality on machines where it works, I don't appreciate being cut off from participation in slashdot when the only machines I can use are those where it's broken.

  • Confused... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Monday April 06, 2009 @04:35PM (#27480781)

    I'm a firefox user AND I've been using index2 for a while (Don't know how it got activated, just showed up one day). Should I assume the behaviours is about the same as now, but faster? If so, good job!

    It takes some time to get used to the new timer thing, but one used to it everything is all good. The only recommendation I could makes is that when you pop-up the resume due to inactivity dialogue, that the resume is an image, larger, centre justified, and maybe a brief description of why you're 'pausing the web page'

    PS: I'm so NOT used to the whole streaming of new data thing that I still refresh excessively.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.