I'm planning to enable the "mark new comments" feature for everyone - any major concerns?
Something that's come up in discussions a few times recently is how important it is to have good default settings. Even users who are quite technical and involved don't always explore which settings are available, and that's totally fine—they shouldn't need to. The default setup should be as good as possible, with changing settings mostly for specialized cases.
One particular place on Tildes where this isn't currently being done well is for the "mark new comments" feature, which has always been disabled by default. I think it's one of the best features on the site and makes it much easier to follow ongoing discussions here than on other sites with similar comment systems, but overall, not many users have enabled it.
For example, Tildes got some attention on Hacker News again yesterday, and about 80 new users have registered so far from that. Only 9 of them enabled "mark new comments", even though the welcome message strongly encourages it. Looking at longer periods of time, this seems typical: only about 10% of users ever enable it.
As it says on the settings page for the feature, my reason for disabling it by default was out of privacy concerns. However, I've been doing some review of the data that Tildes stores lately and realized that this was kind of misleading and inaccurate. Because I have HTTP request server logs and some other related data (which is all only kept for 30 days), I effectively have topic visit records from the last 30 days for all users anyway, whether they have the feature enabled or not. The data is more convenient to access for users with the feature enabled, but it's available either way.
Because of that, and because the data will be very useful to combine with some of the upcoming changes I mentioned in the last ~tildes.official post, I'm planning to enable this feature for everyone. Here are the general plans:
- Data about which topics' comments pages a user visits will be stored (for 30 days), along with when and how many comments were there at the time. This enables displaying which topics have new comments since your last visit, and marking those new comments.
- There will no longer be a setting to disable this, but you can still choose whether previously-seen comments are collapsed when you return - the same as the existing checkbox on that page for "Collapse old comments when I return to a topic".
- I will probably implement some sort of "stop informing me of new comments in this topic" feature (separate from the new Ignore one) to stop having the info about new comments in a topic showing up for you.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts or concerns about this. If nothing major comes up, I intend to make this change later this week.
I really like the idea of this feature, I have entered many threads looking for the new post, which took a long time to find sometimes.
I also didn’t know this feature existed before
Another minor feature you may not have noticed that helps with that is that on every comments page, there's a link in the sidebar below "Last comment posted" that you can click to jump straight to the newest comment.
@Bauke's Tildes ReExtended (Firefox addon link) also has a "Jump to New Comment" button which will take you one by one through all the new comments in a topic, which is super handy.
You made me double check whether I had it on or not, I honestly couldn't remember a time it wasn't on. I'm in agreement that it should be turned on for all and to instead become an 'opt-out' option.
I understand the reason why it wasn't on my default, but I've always felt this was letting absolute ideology get in the way of pragmatism. The privacy risk is quite small, but the utility is large. The site is just way better with it enabled.
So yes, I'd definitely support this change. Being able to simplify the rather information-dense page explaining it all would also be an improvement.
I've had it turned on since forever, and would find the site much less usable with it turned off. One of the many things I like about Tildes is that Reddit has the same feature but it's only available if you pay for Reddit Gold (or whatever they renamed it to).
I think the usefulness of having it on by default outweighs the privacy concerns (and as you say, you could already get the same information from server access logs, if you really wanted to).
On the other hand, in some threads I really would like to sort by new. A perfect example is the "What are you playing/reading/watching" threads. Not that much discussion happens there, but I would like knowing when new stuff is posted because each of the comments is kind off like a mini-review on some bit of popular media from a poster. It tends to get drowned out if it always ends up at the bottom of a ton of old posts.
As one of those new users from HN, I figured I'd give my 2 cents.
I signed up, experienced the site for a bit, and closed the tab to get back to work. I only just today went into my settings to look at the options because it was mentioned here however I normally give the site a week or two before I start poking around in the settings and customising my experience. This is how I handle most new sites or software just because I try to learn the default experience first and see what works or doesn't for me. I figure I can't be the only person who is like this which might explain the low use numbers of a non-default setting for us new members.
That being said. I like the setting and think it should be a default but I disagree with removing the ability to turn it off. More features is rarely ever a bad thing, especially ones that may be relevant from a privacy standpoint (potential for tracking or fingerprinting).
Another point I should bring up is that the settings page could benefit from being redesigned a bit. At first glance I thought that the link to enable marking new comments was just description text for the Site behaviour settings section. After looking at the page for a bit it made sense but I can see it being more confusing for people who are less technically savvy. I think putting links to new sections like this at the very bottom of each section would help distinguish this.
TL;DR Set mark new comments as the default, don't remove the ability to disable the feature, and possibly rework the settings page to make links to settings sections more apparent.
Never knew it was a thing. Either I didn't notice or simply ignored the welcome message. Enabling it now because I don't care that much about my privacy on a site I already post personal opinions on and because it sounds really useful.
Just as a offhand thing, It would be nice if we had a quick button on the front page that would "mark all comments as read" to scratch my inbox zero itch if we're making "mark unread comments" as a default option.
Similarly, a "Mark as unread" would be nice to remove the record entirely. Sometimes I click into an active thread and the "X new comments" keeps grabbing my attention, so I feel the need to return. Occasionally it would be nice to just opt out of those threads, without hiding them completely.
Maybe good candidates for the new Actions dropdown.
Necroposting here to provide some feedback on the change. So after not realizing this feature existed to having it turned on, I just want to say I really like it. I find myself much more engaged in following discussions and threads that I wasn't directly involved in.
Was not aware that was a thing. I just turned mine on because it sounds super handy!
You could make it be tracked on the client side, so there's no actual tracking.
The downside is that that doesn't work across devices--or, even, across browsers on the same device. Perhaps have that as an alternative option?
Is there any place where we can get data about the speed of growth of Tildes? I'm really curious about how many users register, how many come back, how many active posters we have, etc.
Not currently - adding a statistics page of some sort is planned: https://gitlab.com/tildes/tildes/issues/229
In general, the site's usually had about 1100 active logged-in users for the last few months, with about 500 different users posting.
Your reasoning makes complete sense to me.
The ability to comment on very old threads, and the new comments feature are significant differentiators for this site.
I am curious why you want to purge all records of articles I have seen after 30 days.
If I could opt-out of this behavior, I would, in order to see only new comments on very old threads.
That's mostly just a general approach to data retention for Tildes. As much as possible, I'm trying to only keep "incidental" data for 30 days, and only keep data permanently when it's something the user does more consciously and deliberately. For example, if you use the Bookmark function on a topic or comment, that's kept forever.
As I mentioned in another comment, it's planned for you to be able to specify a time frame for marking/collapsing comments in a particular thread, so that should cover the cases where an old visit has been deleted but you still want similar behavior.
That makes sense, anyways that data is collected as part of logs so might as well use it in some useful way.
I think there should be an option to disable this & also it's fine as default but it should be done for new registrations only & not previously registered users.
So any new user will have that turned on by default but existing users will have their preferences as is. Maybe you could add a notice with a link to that preference for sometime but changing existing user's config feels wrong.
I understand why it'd be useful for most people but it isn't for me. It stresses me and psychologically affects me. It causes me anxiety and keeps me coming back to the same threads (which I don't want to do). That's the reason I keep it disabled. But if it's more work to keep the option than it is to replace it with a default "all enabled" just go for the default, I'll find a way (probably write a script or some CSS) to undo the changes.
It should be very simple to hide it with CSS:
I'm fairly sure that's all it takes to get rid of all indicators of new comments.
You should probably also liberally make use of the ignore function so you can stop seeing topics you don't want to go back to.
Thanks for the code (I'm going to start using it, I will convert it to a uBlock filter). I'm probably not going to use the ignore function, I actually want to go back to old topics but at my own pace instead of letting that be dictated by a number on the screen.
Edit: uBlock Origin filters for anyone who wants them.
So does this mean after 30 days, all comments uncollapse since the data on visit times is gone?
Also, is the "new comment" marker based on initial post time or last edited time?
Yes, that's how it works right now. If you don't visit a topic for 30 days, there's no longer any record of when you visited, so it will be treated the same as a first visit. It's based on the visit time though, not the age of the post, so it's only when you haven't gone back to the topic for at least 30 days.
There's a feature in progress that will allow you to change the highlighting threshold to whatever you want while you're viewing the page, so you can just choose something like "mark comments newer than 3 days" without needing to have visited at that time.
And yes, it's based on the time the comments are posted, not edited.
This will fix a little niggle I have with the current UI. If I click on the expand all button, there is no way to go expand only the new comments. Currently I avoid the expand all button like the plague.
Heey, you might like the Collapse Read feature I contributed. It adds a button that does exactly that.
It was tweaked a little upon merging so it only appears if the setting "Collapse old comments when I return to a topic" is disabled. Unfortunately you'll have to choose between having new comments expand by default, or expand when you click the button.
That's exactly what I was looking for, except I wanted it with "Collapse old comments when I return to a topic" enabled. Oh well.
Well it doesn't hurt to ask.
@Deimos, would you consider enabling the button regardless of the "Collapse old comments..." setting? My use-case echoes envy's. I find it useful to toggle between all and new comments, but would still prefer that new comments are shown by default.
I have to say, it works really well.
User Story: I want to initially see only new comments, then quickly refer back to an old comment before replying to a new comment.
There is a new feature comes which allows you to see new comments within x time period, so I know we should wait to see how this works, but my thinking is that this puts the burden on the user to decide what time window they want, and the time window you actually want will depend on the activity in the thread.
That was a tough call because the meaning will differ depending on the user's "Expand old comments..." setting. For some, the comments will already be fully expanded so "Expand new" can be a little unclear.
The language was changed as a result of feedback during the merge request, but I can see it argued either way. Maybe it'll be more consistent with the upcoming changes to this feature.
I'm not able to think of a better way to do it, but if there's a heuristical approach that can choose something logical by default, you should suggest it!
I find the UI reddit uses pretty unfriendly as well, and a big dropdown with timestamps isn't great. Maybe instead of tying it to the user's visits, logical increments could be chosen by default. eg. Last minute, last five minutes, last half hour. And a special default setting for "since last visit".
Sorry, I meant to reply to this and then forgot to actually do it. But yes, once the feature's enabled by default, let's definitely figure out a better way to integrate that feature you added. I think it'll work great once people can change the highlighting.
Given you already have that data, I'd say it's fair, even without the option to opt-out. Does this fact by extension apply to the 'live user count' request from not too long ago? If so then that can be added too.
I haven't decided about that idea still, but I think I'm unlikely to add it. I'm generally trying to stay away from features that make people feel like they need to check in constantly because of time pressure, and I think an active user count goes in the opposite direction.
Yes, I want to make that change soon. My plan is to get rid of the subscriber count (I think it's almost meaningless) and replace it with counts for how many topics and comments are generally posted in that group per day.
I'll probably do this by averaging out the previous week, instead of just the last 24 hours. That will probably be a better representation and won't fluctuate as much because of things like the slower activity over weekends.
Do we even need this? I've rewritten this a dozen times -- let me know if you need/want/care for any clarification.
My thinking is that some users wouldn't bother posting in a subgroup that was less active, even if it is the best fit, but instead opt for a lesser fit in a more active subgroup.
It'd be best for people to join groups based on the subject alone and not have that desire interrupted or influenced by
3 posts, 2 comments-- same with
1200 posts, 2900 comments.
It's not needed, but I think it's nice to have some kind of information about how active groups are, and this isn't a secret. You can just go into the group and take a quick glance to have a pretty good idea of how many topics/comments are being posted. If people post in the wrong groups their post can be moved, which already happens occasionally now.
I'm interested to see what the comment to post ratios work out to for the different groups.
Averaging out over the course of a week might lead to some weird crests and troughs based on when people check. Things like holidays, the school year, whether an Apple event just happened (for tech pages), whether it's near E3 (for gaming pages), etc. would all dramatically affect levels of activity.
I suppose as Tildes gets older you'll have more years of data to draw on to normalize around those sorts of things.