37 votes

Adjustments to the experimental single-reply-flattening & user-page sorting is now available

Tags: changelog

We've had an experimental method of avoiding deeply nested comment threads in effect for a little over a week now, and while I think it's useful in some ways, it's definitely also pretty confusing in some cases (as multiple people have pointed out to me).

I've made two changes to it now that should help quite a bit:

  1. The flattening will now only happen when there won't be any "sibling" comments after the flattened thread.

    This is to avoid what seemed to be the most confusing case (it's a bit difficult to explain, but I'll try): Previously, you could have a thread where a comment has a few replies ("A", "B", "C"), and the first one has a string of single replies ("A2", "A3", "A4"). If the flattening applied, you would have all 6 comments displayed on the same level, in the order of A, A2, A3, A4, B, C. It was very difficult to tell where the "A subtree" ended and it went back to siblings of A—you had to look for where comments stopped having the "(Reply to above comment)" note on them.

    Some people suggested that we use a more obvious indicator of the flattened threads (which might still be a good idea), but this case should now be avoided entirely, which should reduce a lot of the potential confusion when threads are flattened. This also means that the flattening will apply in fewer cases overall, but it should still work for the most common and impactful case of a long string of single replies going back and forth.

  2. As mentioned in the original announcement, one of the nice parts of managing to do the flattening entirely in CSS means that it could easily start at higher thresholds on larger screens, so that threads aren't flattened as early on desktop/laptop-size screens as they are on mobile. I've applied this now, and it should now be very rare to see a flattened thread if you're using the site on a PC.

    If you want to see this in action, you can go to a thread where flattening would apply (the ~tildes.official thread about "source info" is still a good one), and try resizing your browser window to see how the flattening kicks in and adjusts at different sizes. If you're using Firefox, an easy way to try this out is to press Ctrl-Shift-M to go into responsive design mode, and you can easily resize the viewport or set it to specific sizes.

Other than these changes to the flattening behavior, I've also merged in another open-source contribution that adds alternate sorting methods on the user page. These only appear when you're on the Topics or Comments listings (not the default "mixed" page), and allow you to sort by the other methods available, such as "most votes". Note that since those Topics/Comments pages are only available to logged-in users, viewers without a Tildes account won't be able to use these alternate sortings. Thanks for the work on this, JediBurrell (whose Tildes username I don't know either)!

Let me know what you think of these changes and if you notice any issues with either of them.

23 comments

  1. [17]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I've been tinkering with this for the last few minutes on the example thread in the previous topic, by sliding my browser window back and forth in width. :P Very nice. Yeah I still think that's a...

    As mentioned in the original announcement, one of the nice parts of managing to do the flattening entirely in CSS means that it could easily start at higher thresholds on larger screens, so that threads aren't flattened as early on desktop/laptop-size screens as they are on mobile. I've applied this now, and it should now be very rare to see a flattened thread if you're using the site on a PC.

    I've been tinkering with this for the last few minutes on the example thread in the previous topic, by sliding my browser window back and forth in width. :P Very nice.

    Some people suggested that we use a more obvious indicator of the flattened threads (which might still be a good idea)

    Yeah I still think that's a good idea too, and I quite liked @mb3077's mock-up idea, since it provides a very clear visual indication of which comment replies to which when they are flattened, and could even help in those cases you have now removed (A, A2, A3, A4, B, C) since the B and C wouldn't have those same arrows on them.

    And thanks for your profile page sorting contribution JediBurrell (don't know your Tildes username either, sorry)!

    p.s. I already made a gitlab suggestion for adding "sorted by: exemplary" to the comment sort as well.

    5 votes
    1. [16]
      frickindeal
      Link Parent
      I've been wondering what exactly Reply to above comment was meant to indicate since it started appearing, so I can say it's not going to be intuitively clear to every reader. I like it too. It...

      I've been wondering what exactly Reply to above comment was meant to indicate since it started appearing, so I can say it's not going to be intuitively clear to every reader.

      Yeah I still think that's a good idea too, and I quite liked @mb3077's mock-up idea, since it provides a very clear visual indication of which comment replies to which when they are flattened

      I like it too. It seems less of a 'kludge', to be frank.

      3 votes
      1. [15]
        Deimos
        Link Parent
        What makes the weird arrow seem more intuitive than text that means exactly what it says?

        What makes the weird arrow seem more intuitive than text that means exactly what it says?

        2 votes
        1. [9]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Can't speak for frickindeal, but for me they are more "intuitive" because arrows are pretty universal and stand out a great deal visually, but the "Reply to above comment" text blends in with the...

          Can't speak for frickindeal, but for me they are more "intuitive" because arrows are pretty universal and stand out a great deal visually, but the "Reply to above comment" text blends in with the actual comment way too much, especially at a glance. Which is why in the previous topic I suggested moving "Reply to above comment"above the text box so it doesn't blend in so much. Or perhaps it could be styled in some more obvious way e.g. colouring the text uniquely... I will play with it and see what I can come up with.

          3 votes
          1. [8]
            Deimos
            Link Parent
            Having it blend in was somewhat deliberate—if you're reading those comments, you'll see it since it's right before their text, but if you're not reading those comments... you probably don't care...

            Having it blend in was somewhat deliberate—if you're reading those comments, you'll see it since it's right before their text, but if you're not reading those comments... you probably don't care much about their structure anyway.

            I'm open to other possibilities if you come up with anything, but it's not necessarily a good thing to have it be especially eye-catching.

            5 votes
            1. [7]
              cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              IMO it's far more problematic blending in than being eye-catching, because the user's expectation is that a comment flat nested is one that replied to the indented parent, not the comment in the...

              IMO it's far more problematic blending in than being eye-catching, because the user's expectation is that a comment flat nested is one that replied to the indented parent, not the comment in the same indentation space directly above it. You're breaking from the expectation and that causes people to get confused even if they do eventually clue in when noticing the "Reply to above comment" text. And that blending in is also the very reason (A, A2, A3, A4, B, C) was so dang confusing.

              p.s. Element blindness is probably a factor in the confusion here as well, especially when quickly scanning down comment threads.

              Not only that but what is the downside of it standing out a bit? Truth be told, I don't understand why "Reply to above comment" is even being deemphasized at all. What's the benefit in doing so?

              4 votes
              1. [2]
                frickindeal
                Link Parent
                What if the username/time/link/parent-bar changed color gradually from left to right as comments indent? Like a volume bar. Visually noticeable, yet it would blend into natural reading as you...

                What if the username/time/link/parent-bar changed color gradually from left to right as comments indent? Like a volume bar. Visually noticeable, yet it would blend into natural reading as you read, and take up zero space. If you get all the way to the right, a new color replaces the previous.

                I just don't know if it would be intuitive without trying it. I think scrolling through a few comment threads might make it easy to learn, though.

                1 vote
                1. cfabbro
                  Link Parent
                  Hmmm... I honestly don't know. I will play around with that idea tomorrow too and report the results back.

                  Hmmm... I honestly don't know. I will play around with that idea tomorrow too and report the results back.

                  2 votes
              2. [4]
                Deimos
                Link Parent
                Like I said, I just don't think it's very important unless you're actively reading the thread anyway. If I'm just skimming through a big comment thread, some kind of gaudy indicator (brightly...

                Like I said, I just don't think it's very important unless you're actively reading the thread anyway. If I'm just skimming through a big comment thread, some kind of gaudy indicator (brightly colored arrows or something) that's trying to draw my attention to the structure of a thread I wasn't reading anyway is more distracting than useful.

                1. [2]
                  cfabbro
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  I often very quickly read through comment threads, not reading them super thoroughly but still getting the gist of them. And I have been caught a number of times over the last week having to do a...

                  I just don't think it's very important unless you're actively reading the thread anyway.

                  I often very quickly read through comment threads, not reading them super thoroughly but still getting the gist of them. And I have been caught a number of times over the last week having to do a complete double take because I completely lost track of which comment was replying to which due to my expectations being broken rather unpredictably. It's remarkably annoying, far more than some more emphasis on flattened threads would be, and IMO it's an easy fix to prevent that... just make the "Reply to above comment" more prominent by changing its positioning or colour... or adding even more emphasis with something like arrows.

                  3 votes
                  1. frickindeal
                    Link Parent
                    That was my exact problem. We're very used to that indent indicating a reply to that comment, and where a reply to OP lies in that indentation system. It's not easy to overcome. Reply to above...

                    That was my exact problem. We're very used to that indent indicating a reply to that comment, and where a reply to OP lies in that indentation system. It's not easy to overcome. Reply to above comment becomes invisible as you read.

                    4 votes
                2. ThatFanficGuy
                  Link Parent
                  Why do you assume it need be gaudy? That sounds like a way to make it stand out yet not be a nuisance.

                  Why do you assume it need be gaudy? That sounds like a way to make it stand out yet not be a nuisance.

                  2 votes
        2. [5]
          frickindeal
          Link Parent
          Pretty much what @cfabbro said. I was honestly very confused by the Reply to above comment thing—it's not something I've ever seen on any other site that I can think of, so I almost created a...

          Pretty much what @cfabbro said. I was honestly very confused by the Reply to above comment thing—it's not something I've ever seen on any other site that I can think of, so I almost created a topic in ~tildes to ask what it means, as in "reply to which above comment? The comment directly above (which is common), or the comment "up above" that originated the sub-comments?" It's not entirely clear to someone who's been on the internet since the late '90s, so it's really (to me) not that intuitive which comment it refers to.

          I get that "above" seems pretty clear when you know what it means, but I was casually confused. Maybe add directly above to clarify if you prefer words to symbols.

          I've also seen a symbol used that looks like an enter key arrow turned clockwise 90 degrees, sort of like:

          /|\
           |_
          

          (sorry for my crude ascii drawing skills)

          3 votes
          1. [4]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            🡑 (Reply to above comment) or ⬑ Either could work there... and it's even what I suggested the minimize icon (top left of comment) be changed to in flat nested, "reply to above" comments, E.g. From...

            I've also seen a symbol used that looks like an enter key arrow turned clockwise 90 degrees

            🡑 (Reply to above comment)
            or

            Either could work there... and it's even what I suggested the minimize icon (top left of comment) be changed to in flat nested, "reply to above" comments, E.g. From [-] to [🡑]

            1. [3]
              frickindeal
              Link Parent
              Yes. I think there's also a right-angle character that's tall, like my crude attempt from a phone.

              Yes. I think there's also a right-angle character that's tall, like my crude attempt from a phone.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                cfabbro
                Link Parent
                Ah, right... I missed U+2BA4 (⮤).

                Ah, right... I missed U+2BA4 ().

                1 vote
                1. frickindeal
                  Link Parent
                  Thanks, man. It can be tough to do these things on mobile. /noise

                  Thanks, man. It can be tough to do these things on mobile. /noise

                  1 vote
  2. tiz
    (edited )
    Link
    On flat boards. Normally they have a number indicator on the info bar of the post saying what number post that is in the current thread. You wouldn't necessarily need to have the numbers on the...

    On flat boards. Normally they have a number indicator on the info bar of the post saying what number post that is in the current thread. You wouldn't necessarily need to have the numbers on the info bar, you can even put them where the (reply to above comment) is now.

    Perhaps something like that could work here, turning a larger reply tree, into a flat board view.

    So, it might be something like so:

    tiz 5 mins ago Link Parent #1 start of reply chain(or whatever wording you want to use)

    Deimos 1 mins ago Link Parent #2

    tiz 5 secs ago Link Parent #3

    Or

    tiz 5 mins ago Link Parent
    #1 start of reply chain(or whatever wording you want to use)
    Comment words here

    Deimos 1 mins ago Link Parent
    #2
    Comment t reply here

    tiz 5 secs ago Link Parent
    #3
    More reply of words

    Etc

    I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel here but take parts of what makes a flat board work and try to implement it in a way to make it make sense.

    4 votes
  3. Wes
    Link
    That's a good change. This was the primary cause of my confusion, even having gotten used to the behaviour. It should be much to understand at a glance now.

    The flattening will now only happen when there won't be any "sibling" comments after the flattened thread.

    That's a good change. This was the primary cause of my confusion, even having gotten used to the behaviour. It should be much to understand at a glance now.

    2 votes
  4. nic
    Link
    Nice!

    Nice!