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January 21, 2004

Housekeeping notes from all over. We’ve made a bunch of small changes to the Nielsen Hayden weblogs over the last few days, some of which are prompted by comment spam and some of which are meant to enhance Your User Experience. Message: we care. Among them:
  • Each comment now has its own permalink, riding on its timestamp; you can use this to, for instance, put a link to someone else’s comment inside your own.
  • All comments now display the author’s name at their beginning, rather than at their end.
  • You must preview your comment before posting it.
  • Older comment threads have been closed; folks wishing to comment on old threads are encouraged to do so in the most recent “open thread.” If people seem interested in continuing or reviving an older thread, we’ll be happy to reopen it.
  • If you attach a URL to your comment header, Movable Type now renders it as a nielsenhayden.com URL with a redirect to your site. This makes it harder for comment spammers to get Googlejuice out of writing their URLs to our comment threads.
  • Commenting is now throttled—you can’t post comments less than twenty seconds apart.
  • Javascripted “popup” windows have been eliminated. Everything now displays in a regular browser page.
If any of this causes plagues of locusts, rains of frogs, or comment threads turning Chinese, please don’t hesitate to let us know. However, the scary error message currently showing up at the bottom of the “preview” page is a known glitch of MT 2.661 which will presumably be shortly hunted down and destroyed from the giant steel-glass-and-chromium headquarters of Six Apart. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything. [11:26 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Housekeeping notes from all over.:

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:34 AM:

If you put a URL into a comment, Movable Type now renders it as a nielsenhayden.com URL with a redirect to your site. This means comment spammers get no Googlejuice out of writing their URLs to our comment threads.

"Your site"? My web page? Err, okay.

Hmm. And if we want to put in links, does this mean we just put them as plain text, not links?

Testing:

Google's URL is http://www.google.com/

link to google

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:37 AM:

Okay, I think I understand--the redirect is for "Web page, if you've got one", not for URLs in the text of comments. That's not what I'd thought from reading the notes.

Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:44 AM:

What do you mean by "Remember you, or forget our brief encounter?" An answer of "yes" would seem to cover all bases. (Given my memory, it would seem most appropriate, but I know you're working from your computer's memory rather than your own.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:33 PM:

Um, good points. Post and label slightly revised.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:00 PM:

Remember info, with its spiffy new name, is not working here or on ML. Other than that I like the changes a LOT.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:04 PM:

As far as I can tell, "remember info" has never worked terribly well, with this label or with the previous one. In fact, I suggested to Teresa that we change the label to read "Would you like to pretend that 'Remember Info' actually works?"

Inspired, of course, by the sign in the Chinese restaurant reading WE WILL BE HAPPY TO TELL YOU THAT WE USE NO MSG.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:17 PM:

I was just saying that I like the new label, but the feature doesn't work. It worked for me before. Just information; do with it what you will. I didn't mean to sound snotty or critical; sorry if I did.

Having Previewed the above, it occurs to me that there's no checkbox for that on the Preview page, and that the two facts may be related. Perhaps, to make it work before, you had to Post without Previewing? You'd only have to do it once, and you might not notice having done so, just that the feature suddenly worked for some unknown reason...and now you can't do that.

Well, that's not even information, just idle speculation.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:22 PM:

Chris, you didn't sound snotty.

Interesting thought about the interaction of "remember me" and forced preview. I'll get into it this evening, when I'm done with work.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:41 PM:

Should my idle speculation prove true, a suggestion: move the remember box to the Preview page. That way you don't have to preserve its value through the Preview change.

I don't know if this will help/make things easier or not. Just an idea.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:58 PM:

I agree with Xopher: the checkbox used to work for me, and now it doesn't. I believe it's still setting a cookie, I'll check in a minute (* turns on cookie warnings *).

Hmm, I just noticed in "View Source" that if the "bakecookie" checkbox is checked, it calls a function named rememberMe, but I can't find the definition of that function anywhere on the page. My Javascript is pretty rusty, so maybe I overlooked something.

Double hmm, when I clicked "preview", I didn't get any cookie warnings.

Also, I noticed have two copies of the 3 cookies (mtcmtauth, mtcmtmail, mtcmthome) for the nielsenhayden.com domain, one for the path /makinglight/archives/ and one for /electrolight/archives/, but not for /mt/, which it seems should be the path of the comment page.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:06 PM:

No, it wouldn't be in the "mt/" directory. But I think I know what's going on, and I'll tinker with it when I get home.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 06:38 PM:

I'm just doing this to see if it will remember me (and also to see the scary thing on the preview page).

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 06:39 PM:

Well, it still didn't remember me. *sigh*

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 07:45 PM:

Please let me know if the "remember me" thing is still broken.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:48 PM:

Not broken from here. I'm using my home computer now, and I guess it's now successfully reading my tea leaves--I mean cookies.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:49 AM:

Tea leaves and cookies. Why do all threads eventually turn to food?

Seriously, I like the new changes (as per recent post on Making Light), especially the no popups!

Liz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 04:48 PM:

Now that you have permalinks on the comments, it would be lovely if the recent comments listing in the sidebar linked directly to the comment itself; that way those of us who come back and want to see the recent comments on a long thread could jump right to that spot. (If you'd like the template codes for doing that, I'd be happy to provide it.)

Liz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 04:51 PM:

As to the "remember me" stuff not working, here's a link to a possible fix:

Adam Kalsey's "Remember Me, Movable Type"

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 07:20 PM:

"It would be lovely if the recent comments listing in the sidebar linked directly to the comment itself; that way those of us who come back and want to see the recent comments on a long thread could jump right to that spot."

Thanks to Liz, I have enabled this. When Teresa wakes up from her current nap, I'll ask her if she wants this change made to Making Light as well.

-P "On the Job for Your User Experience" NH

Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 11:03 PM:

I was just noticing this. It's a lovely convenience! No more scrolling!

Thank you so much in general for the work you've put into the blog format. All that spam was/is a terrible inconvenience, and those of us who can't get by without our dose of Electrolite/Making Light are grateful that you chose to retool and keep going instead of taking the easier route of cutting off comments or just stopping. Thanks.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 05:36 AM:

Just a quick note (I think this is the right thread for it) to say that at the moment, in a couple of common browsers I use in different places, apostrophes are coming out as little "92"s (e.g. Teresa92s)
and something else (? nonbreaking space, dash, doublespace ?) is showing up as "aa". Usually near numbered/lettered points or at start of sentences.

Taking a deep (warm & sticky*) breath, I'm taking off the address & URL falsifiers I've had so far, since you've worked at avoiding their misuse.

[* Sydney seems to have gone back to its usual subtropical summer. Am hiding in the eggnishning at work currently, but will shortly walk out into air like a hot wet wool blanket. Bleah (tho' I do appreciate that, unlike some in US, I'm unlikely to freeze to death whatever the season here).]

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 08:07 AM:

Epacris, is this happening in new posts & comments, or only in stuff from before January 17? The conversion to the SQL database certainly dinged some of our special characters, but as far as I know everything newly posted is OK. If you can show otherwise, that's a problem and a puzzle.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 08:54 AM:

If my recall is working, it was affecting old things too. But am involved in several medical things for next coupla days; now dead-tired & about to fall into far-overdue bed.
Will try out my 3 browsers on a selection of old & new material on (E/M)L to check for pattern and/or instances.
Oddly, it's not happening right now, here. Mebbe summat y'ern twiddled recently also changed that. Or the wind changed direction. Or it's the satrt of the magnetic pole switchover causing strange fluxes in electric fields. Or ...
Bed. Now.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:30 PM:

Now that it's come up, I'm finding a peculiar buglet when I try to quote comments into a reply.

If I cut text from a previous comment, and then paste it into a new comment, any em-dashes, apostrophes and quote-marks in the old comment will be rendered as a question-mark in the new. I have to go in and manually change them in order to get them rendered correctly - and sometimes I forget. I'll see if I can find a recent example or two in recent comment threads.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:40 PM:

I was able to find two examples in a quick scan of the threads. This one is from one of my posts, and this posted by Debra Doyle.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:56 PM:

We have John Gruber's MT plugin SmartyPants installed, which automatically converts everybody's input into typographically correct "pointed quotes," proper em-dashes, etc.

Says Gruber, on the question of why one might or might not wish to use SmartyPants:

WHY?
Because proper typographic punctuation looks sharp.
WHY NOT?
For one thing, you might not care.
Most normal, mentally stable individuals do not take notice of proper typographic punctuation. Many design and typography nerds, however, break out in a nasty rash when they encounter, say, a restaurant sign that uses a straight apostrophe to spell "Joe's".
If you're the sort of person who just doesn't care, you might well want to continue not caring. Using straight quotes--and sticking to the 7-bit ASCII character set in general--is certainly a simpler way to live.
Even if you do care about accurate typography, you still might want to think twice before educating the quote characters in your weblog. One side effect of publishing curly quote HTML entities is that it makes your weblog a bit harder for others to quote from using copy-and-paste. What happens is that when they copy text from your blog, they copy the 8-bit curly quote characters (as well as the 8-bit characters for em-dashes and ellipses, if you use these options). These characters are not standard across different text encoding methods, which is why they need to be encoded as HTML entities.
People copying text from your weblog, however, may not notice that you're using curly quotes, and they'll go ahead and paste the unencoded 8-bit characters copied from their browser into an email message or their own weblog. When pasted as raw "smart quotes", these characters are likely to get mangled beyond recognition.
That said, my own opinion is that any decent text editor or email client should be able to stupefy smart quote characters into their 7-bit equivalents, and I don't consider it my problem if you're using an indecent text editor or email client.
(Emphasis added.)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 02:21 PM:

This is one of those things that makes me wish for a time machine. I could go back a few decades and force everyone to adopt the same 8-bit ASCII standard, and if they gave me any lip, Id smack em in the puss with a Unicode manual.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:09 PM:

Isn't "ASCII standard" just a tad redundant or perhaps self referent? Hardly mangled beyond recognition, just have to learn them for at least cultural literacy.

Remember when Sidekick's table was a useful tool for those of us who had never learned to read properly? - just have to know the various character sets of high ASCII (IBM and Hewlett Packard were all I ever learned) and make the mental adjustment between screen display and printer characters. Everybody knows what 30 means, just have to adjust to seeing 20 as well.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 03:18 PM:

Actually, the solution is simple: I've disabled SmartyPants on the body text of the comments, while leaving it in place everywhere else. In just a minute I'll go do the same thing to Making Light as well. This is in keeping with the nielsenhayden.com philosophy (endorsed by Nielsen Haydens worldwide) of trying to present as few obstancles to commenting as possible.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 01:00 AM:

Thanks, Patrick!

I can certainly see the temptation of using a plug-in called "SmartyPants."

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 02:01 AM:

"It would be lovely if the recent comments listing in the sidebar linked directly to the comment itself; that way those of us who come back and want to see the recent comments on a long thread could jump right to that spot."

Thanks to Liz, I have enabled this. When Teresa wakes up from her current nap, I'll ask her if she wants this change made to Making Light as well.

This makes it noticeably easier to follow the conversation on long comment threads. Thanks!

Jeremy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 02:37 AM:

You can still create links within the comments that read just as links. To change those links to redirects you can do what I did.

Julia Jones finds spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2004, 02:37 AM:

Here we go again with the spam...