1. What is this topic about A little over two weeks ago I posted a comment answering a question that Deimos asked me in the penultimate ~tildes.official topic "Experimenting with some changes to...
1. What is this topic about
A little over two weeks ago I posted a comment answering a question that Deimos asked me in the penultimate ~tildes.official topic "Experimenting with some changes to information that's displayed on topics, and some other tweaks" and in that comment I mentioned that I would give additional feedback later on, once I had time to live with the changes mentioned in that topic.
For those wondering, the change in question was the removal of displaying usernames for link topics on the listing page, and the movement of the domain that a topic links, to the spot where the username previously inhabited.
On listing pages, the domain for link topics is now shown in the "footer", to the right of the number of comments (replacing the submitter's username), instead of in parentheses after the title. This makes it so that the information about the source of the post is always in a consistent position.
If you want a little more context as to why this change was implemented in the first place, this topic contains a lot of discussion:
"What if we eliminated "ownership" of link topics?"
With all of that out of the way, this topic is my follow up feedback to these changes. I was originally just going to post this as another reply to Deimos, but I figured that I might as well just make it a new topic of its own, potentially generating more discussion this way than it would as a comment in an old thread. This is of course, at the risk of garnering more dissenting opinions to my feedback and suggestions than a comment would have likely received, but oh well, this feels more appropriate.
2. What were my thoughts on the change
My original opinion on the decision to remove usernames from link topics was negative. I mentioned this in my reply to Deimos, but I am the kind of person who likes informative clutter on their screen. I like to be able to see all the details at once and not have to go fishing for them, so it was natural that I would have a negative reaction in the immediacy of this change, as it removed information that I considered (and still do) vital to the way that I browse content on Tildes.
Further thoughts I had on the change generally reflected those of other users, that this change could potentially harm more groups than it helps, especially "taste-based groups." It's arguable that most groups on Tildes are "taste-based groups" so depending on your opinions and how you browse the site, this change could be very detrimental to your experience here.
In the immediate aftermath of this change, I was very much against it, but as mentioned in the last paragraph of the topic announcing this change, I was going to wait for some time before providing my feedback.
Well, that was a mistake, because now I've written this stupidly long topic.
3. What are my thoughts on the change
I think this change was a good move, but it still really messes with how I browse the site, and I think it messes with some other users too.
But, how do I browse Tildes? Well, you can read my reply to Deimos that I linked at the top of this topic for a little more context, but the gist of it is that, using Tildes Extended, I've tagged several users on the site that I think commonly post enjoyable content, that I know have the same interests as me, or dozens of other reasons. When I get on the site for the first time in a given day, I'll skim over all the topics that have been posted since I last visited (since Tildes is still small enough for this to be possible) and typically bookmark any topics that I think I'm going to want to read later on. Topics posted by a user that I've tagged with a certain tag get bookmarked regardless of what the content is, because I've already tagged that user as someone whose content I want to pay attention to, and any other topics posted by users that haven't been tagged are typically bookmarked if I think I'll find them interesting.
I want to stress the meaning behind that last sentence. I'll bookmark a topic posted by a user I haven't tagged if I think the topic will be interesting, but I'll bookmark anything posted by users I have tagged a certain way.
Browsing the site this way moves my interest away from looking for topics with certain tags, and towards diversifying my reading based on the activity of other users. It helps me find new interests, while topic tags help me find established ones.
So, if I tagged a user because they are always posting interesting articles to ~tech, but one day they post an article to ~enviro, I'm probably going to check it out, even if it doesn't stand out to me as something I'd normally be interested in.
After I skim over the dozen or so topics posted since the last time I visited the site, I'll usually start reading them throughout the rest of my day, starting around noon when I am having lunch and later in the evening, once I get home.
By the way, for the unaware, Tildes Extended is a browser extension that allows you to tag users with a message and optionally choose to highlight that message with a color. So when I notice a user has similar interests to me, or if there's a user who is the author of a piece of software, or whatever the case may be, I can tag the user in question to help me remember some detail about them. If you've ever utilized the tagging feature of the Reddit Enhancement Suite extension, you know how tagging works and understand what I am talking about. If you've never used RES and are clueless as to what I mean by "tagging users" then don't worry, there will be pictures later on.
I have to admit, with Tildes currently being small enough that you could probably read every topic posted in a given day, browsing the site like this doesn't matter that much since how you sort content becomes meaningless when you can easily digest it all regardless, but as the user base grows and more content is posted to the website, this approach will grow more important to me, and I suspect others as well.
When this recent change was made and usernames were removed from link topics on the listing page, it removed most of the benefits gained from tagging users, since I now have to check the comment page of each link topic to see who posted it. I understand the benefit of removing usernames from link topics on the listing page, but I think there's a middle ground between this change and tagging users that will deliver to us benefits from both systems while eliminating some complaints others and myself have had about the change.
Okay, I've outlined my concerns, but what should change?
First of all, I think certain groups should get their usernames back on the listing page, for reasons largely explained by @cfabbro in these comments:
on ~music the user who submitted something is also usually a good indication of whether or not I will enjoy it.
E.g. certain users have submitted multiple things to ~music I have greatly enjoyed in the past and so I am more likely to give their next submission a listen immediately too.
in taste-based communities like ~music and ~creative, removing ownership over topics is an absolutely terrible idea IMO since it makes the community feel cold/impersonal and makes cognitive filtering based on shared preferences that much harder.
E.g. User ownership of a topic in ~music is generally a good thing because it lets people get to know one another through their musical preferences
The general idea I extracted from those comments is that there are certain groups on Tildes where being able to see, from the listing page, who posts a link topic, is important for multiple reasons. Perhaps the most prominent being that you can recognize users who share similar tastes to your own (even without tagging them through a browser extension), and know that when the user in question posts a link topic in a specific group, you should probably check it out.
Of course, the inverse of this is also true. Instead of wanting to seek content out based on who posted it, you might actually want to avoid that content because, just as you know that you agree with the tastes of one user, you might find yourself constantly upset by another user's comments and topics.
@cfabbro (sorry for picking on you so much today) discusses this in this comment:
I also think that who submitted a topic is an incredibly valuable piece of information to know at a glance. E.g. There are a number of users I actively avoid reading anything they submit because I know it will just make me angry
So, if there is a user on the site who, while still acting within the rules established for the site, manages to consistently upset you with their content or the content they link, it's going to become very difficult to automatically avoid their topics if you cannot immediately see their username from the listing page.
Before this change, the username of a submitter of a comment or topic was readily visible and you could use the Tildes Extended extension to apply a message and a color to their username, making them immediately identifiable.
With the removal of usernames from link topics on the listing page, it is no longer possible to determine whether the submitter of a link topic is someone you have tagged or not. This discrepancy is the main point I want to address by writing this topic, and hopefully convince some of you along the way that a natively implemented tagging and highlighting tool for users would be an excellent addition to the features available to this community.
To summarize my thoughts on this change so far, I'll say that I think removing usernames from the listing page for some groups is a good idea, while for other groups it could be a negative change. I think the best way to remedy this in the immediate future would be to decide, on a group-by-group basis, whether usernames should be visible from the listing page.
The downside of doing this in a group specific way is that, even in groups where usernames are visible, there will still be some link topics where a submitter's username should be hidden from the listing page, such as to discourage the idea of "ownership" over that topic. However, until this becomes enough of an issue to warrant further implementations, I think deciding the display of usernames from the listing page for each specific group is the way to go.
If we ever do get to the point where we have to prune specific topics in specific groups for the ability to display the submitter's username, we can just leave that choice up to the user by allowing them to include a special tag, select a check box when submitting, or one of a hundred other possible ways. If the feature is abused by a user, we can just take it away from them.
3a. Should we remove usernames from link topics entirely
I want to address the idea that we should remove usernames from link topics entirely. As it is right now, the username of a submitter of a link topic can only be discovered, intuitively, one way, and that is to navigate to the comment section for a link topic, from which you can find the submitter's username beneath the title of the topic. (There are some other places where it's recorded in the HTML, but that's not important.)
If the username for the submitter were to be removed from the comments page of a link topic, there would be no way to easily check who submitted a link topic. I feel this is important to bring up due to @cfabbro's comments about avoiding content posted by certain users.
So, the question we have to answer about this theoretical change is, should we retain a user's right to avoid content based on who posts it, or should we encourage a user agnostic approach that focuses on the content alone, at risk of making the experience worse for some users?
Note that this question only applies if we remove the username of a submitter from link topics entirely and not just from the listing page. I don't think there are immediate plans to go ahead with anything like this, but I wanted to include my thoughts on this idea for the sake of completeness.
4. Let's implement a user tagging system
To remedy a lot of the challenges that this change has created for other users and myself, I feel like a tool built natively into the website that allows us to tag and highlight users is a great idea.
For the record, when I say "tag" a user, I mean that, when you are logged in, there will be a little message displayed next to a user's username. By "highlight" a user, I mean that the message will be surrounded by a shape of a certain color, selected by the user. If a highlight/color is chosen for a user but they are not tagged with a tag/message, then just a simple, colored shape, such as a circle or a square, could display next to the user's username.
This is how Tildes Extended handles user tagging:
Keep in mind that the tags applied to users don't have to exist beside that user's username. If a user you have tagged is the submitter of a topic and you navigate to that topic's comment page, the tag you have created for that user could exist in the sidebar where the normal topic tags go. On the listing page, topics that show the submitter's username could similarly have that user's tag sit next to the topic tags, underneath the title.
I will say that, for username @mentions, it's probably going to be necessary to just include the tag right beside the mentioned username (which Tildes Extended does not do).
For comments, again, the tag for a user doesn't have to go beside their username. It could be displayed below the username, similarly to how the
Exemplary... label is displayed now.
I also want to just mention real quick, in order to make sure we are all on the same page still, that the tags you give other users when you are logged in to your account will only be visible to you. Other people won't be able to see them.
Now, I'm partial to just putting a user's tag right beside their username, but I haven't taken the time to see if this would work on the mobile layout or smaller resolutions, and I probably like that solution more just because it's the most common, familiar place to put a user tag, but I'd be interested to hear opinions on where else user tags can go.
The length allowed for user tags is also something else to consider. Eighty characters is probably a safe limit for most user tags, but how will longer tags display in the mobile layout? Should they just be truncated after a certain length, or have a hard limit? What colors should be available to highlight users with? Should we have a set list, a color picker built in somewhere? Well, that really depends on how user tagging is implemented, which I'll get to later on.
At this point, since I didn't explicitly mention it, you might be wondering how this ties in to usernames no longer displaying for link topics. Well, first of all, how would we display a user tag for a link topic that a tagged user is the OP of if we can't see their username? Well, we could just stick that user's tag in with the topic's tags like was mentioned earlier, or we could add a secondary bar to the right side of the topic that's the color of the user's highlight, similar to how our own topics get a purple bar on the left side, there would be a mirrored bar on the right side of a topic, again, colored to whatever color was selected for the tagged user.
If we wanted to be very imaginative, we could just do both.
Doing this keeps the usernames hidden on link topics in the listing page, but does give us some indication that the user who posted that topic has been tagged, perhaps categorically depending on what scheme you used to tag users, and that allows us to retain browsing habits based off of user tags like I wrote about earlier.
Some people might point out that displaying the tag of a tagged user on a link topic, even if their username is hidden from the listing page, kind of defeats the purpose, since the message of that tag could just be the username of the user, thus their username is not really hidden any longer.
Personally, I don't see a problem with this, because I doubt anyone is going to tag all the users on the site, but similarly to how I mentioned adding an additional bar in the color of the user's highlight, we could not include a user's tag in the topic's tags on the listing page and just add some other, non-identifiable indicator that the submitter of the topic in question is a tagged user.
So yeah, there are a lot of ways to go about this, but how should we actually enable users to tag others? Should we use a traditional user interface, similar to what Tildes Extended or Reddit Enhancement Suite does? I think this would be the best approach to adding tags to users for most people on the site, as it's quick, easy, intuitive, and doesn't require navigation to a separate page, but programming a feature like this can be difficult.
Another approach would be to make the tagging and highlighting of users (and even certain topic tags) a text-based process.
Before I continue on, I'm going to assume that everyone reading after this point is familiar with the topic tag filtering page. Adding tags into this input field will hide any topic containing one or more of those tags.
How does this relate to user tagging? Well, we can do the exact same thing here, just with a slightly more complicated syntax.
Let's say I want to tag @cfabbro with the message "cool person" and a red color. A way to do this could be to navigate to a page for adding user tags and input the following syntax into an input field:
cfabbro : cool person: #ef1515
If I wanted to remove the tag, I could type:
If I wanted to edit the tag:
The input field would then populate with the tag for @cfabbro if it existed, and return a message if it didn't, and I could edit and submit it as if I were just adding a new tag.
You don't even need to call the tag down with the
edit keyword if you don't want to. It should probably just be possible to edit existing user tags by submitting them as if you were adding them for the first time.
Enter key or clicking a button can then submit the tag to Tildes where it'll obviously be tied to my account and displayed anywhere that I log in.
It doesn't really need to be anymore complicated than that, and we can probably even simplify it more if we wanted to.
Unlike the input field for topic tag filters, the user tags inputted into this field will disappear after being submitted, because that input field would become very cluttered if we just left them there.
If a user wanted to edit their entire list of tagged users, we could have a separate text box below the input field where they can call the entire list of tagged users to and edit it programmatically.
Both this text-based approach and a conventional user interface like what Tildes Extended uses are good solutions and if user tagging does get implemented natively, I'd recommend we eventually add both methods, as the user interface is very convenient and easy, but the text-based method is also incredibly powerful.
With the current size of Tildes still allowing users to digest its daily posted content, these features and suggestions are not that important, but with time and an increasingly large user base their importance and relevance to others and myself will grow.
Thanks for reading.
EDIT: So, in order to get a tag to display next to a @mention of a username, you have to tag the username when it is @mentioned. If you want a tag to display for a username when that username is the author of a topic or comment, you have to tag it there all well.
So yeah, you have to tag @mentions and submitter usernames separately to get them both to show up. Weird.