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January 21, 2004

Housekeeping notes from all over
Posted by Patrick at 11:24 AM *

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.
Comments on Housekeeping notes from all over:
#1 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:32 AM:

Thanks and good work! What motivated you to abandon the pop-up windows -- is that a security hole or did people just not like them? I am considering writing a comment engine sometime and this would be useful information to have.

#2 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:42 AM:

One more comment:

Because Making Light doesn't give each comment its own box, the change from "names on the bottom" to "names on top" is a little less clear. I'm not sure that the ":" is sufficient visual clue to show which way the attribution is going--it's pretty small, after all.

I did "From [name] at [timestamp]:" (my comments have a horizontal rule between, though); another might be "[name] wrote: " with the timestamp on a line below. Maybe a dash?

#3 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:46 AM:

I too am curious as to why pop-up comments were removed. I prefer the threaded with message view myself, but I didn't know that pop-up comments were a Bad Thing.

Also, I like the changes--especially the names above the comment, and also the wording changes.

Also, is the code to all the crafty bits, like adding the comment hyperlinks, somewhere that it could be viewed and reappropriated by others? Or do you prefer not to share?

One last comment, would you consider moving the "Preview" and "Post" buttons on the preview page, up the page to directly beneath the comments that are being previewed? Not imperative, but it serves as a reminder that we now have to subit it for real, if you know what I mean.

#4 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:48 AM:

(sigh)
subit it for real

Should be:
submit it a second time to make it real

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:27 PM:

"would you consider moving the 'Preview' and 'Post' buttons on the preview page, up the page to directly beneath the comments that are being previewed? Not imperative, but it serves as a reminder that we now have to submit it for real, if you know what I mean."

I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. The buttons look like they're right underneath the comment being previewed, as far as I can tell.

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

As for the popup windows, I personally hate them. I hate the way that, for instance, if I happen to have multiple MT weblogs open, and I have a half-drafted comment in a comment pop-up window, and I happen to click on the comment pop-up from another MT site, I don't get a second pop-up window; I get the second site's pop-up taking over the window with my half-drafted post in it. Which I can recover if I remember that particular browser's keyboard command for "go back," but it's an invitation for really annoying accidents and lost text.

That's just an example. As a user of multiple platforms and multiple browsers, I've come to find Javascript features on web pages to be a constant source of annoyance. Having everything appear in a standard browser page, with standard browser controls attached, is hugely preferable. I understand it, and I feel confident I can maintain it.

#7 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Just two things I don't like: having to skip past the whole original item again before getting to the Comments, and not being able to expand the Comments to fill the whole page as before. It makes for much less convenient reading. I suppose your new system demands it, but it's a drag.

#8 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:43 PM:

I like all the changes, especially the labeling on the comment fields. Being able to link to someone else's comment is Way Cool. And I think the attributions are clear now that you've put space between comments; it's bigger than the space between the attrib and the comment, which associates the latter two very neatly IMO.

Even making rather inconvenient changes in the fight against spam is no vice. Most of these changes are active improvements, and the rest are very minor, get-used-to-it stuff.

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:47 PM:

But it doesn't appear to be remembering my information... OK, it let me Preview without typing it in. This is a test. I am Xopher, but I'm going to try posting this without putting in any of the information.

Nope, it made me put in the name and email. So the remember checkbox, with its spiffy new name, isn't working at the moment.

#10 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:08 PM:

Just two things I don't like: having to skip past the whole original item again before getting to the Comments

If the link to "comments" and for the permalink were separate, then there could be an "a name="comments" anchor that the "comments" link would go to, and skip past the post. I don't think that separating the links would make much sense here, though--maybe at the top of each entry's archive page, a little "skip to the end"--err, "skip to comments" link?

(And yeah, "remember personal info" isn't working for me either, Opera 6/WinNT, and it had before.)

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:19 PM:

As I said in the parallel Electrolite thread:

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.

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:20 PM:

Good idea regarding a direct-to-the-comment-thread link. I'll add something like that when I have a moment, assuming Teresa wants it.

#13 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:27 PM:

I actually rarely (as in, it forgot once but other than that no) have had problems with the remember-info button, but let's see how it works now that the changes have gone in place.

And I'm grateful for the lack of popup window, for reasons Patrick mentioned as well as one other: I have an old box, an older browser version (though not too old), and resulting problems with popup windows and javascript. It sometimes just outright stops working until a reboot. This is one less place to deal with it now.

#14 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:27 PM:

Nope, remembering information isn't.

Darn, and I'd gotten used to not having to type it in....

#15 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:49 PM:

It seems like you could split [11:24 AM n comments] into [11:24 AM] [n comments], with the timestamp linked as it is now and comments linked to an anchor like http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004561.html#comments.

#16 ::: Kate Nepveru ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:57 PM:

Steve: It seems like you could split [11:24 AM n comments] into [11:24 AM] [n comments]

My thought about that is user expectations--I think most people would expect "n comments" to lead to a pop-up window, not the same page as the timestamp but further down. Thinking about it some more, though, I don't see that it would hurt anything.

#17 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Three cheers for eliminating the popups. People who want a link to open in a new window still can, and people who don't (or who prefer tabbed browsing) aren't forced to browse The Wrong Way.

On that note, someone finally found two high-ranked comments on my blog and spammed them by hand. Being stupid enough to post the exact same text twice, with a name that screamed German Credit 'Repair' Company, made them easy to spot.

I'll probably update my little link-breaker to include comment aging and finally turn it on.

#18 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:04 PM:

Astonishingly, whatever you've done has also made it work normally in Netscape 4 without needing to come in through LJ.

Thank you!

#19 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:07 PM:

"would you consider moving the 'Preview' and 'Post' buttons on the preview page, up the page to directly beneath the comments that are being previewed? Not imperative, but it serves as a reminder that we now have to submit it for real, if you know what I mean."

I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. The buttons look like they're right underneath the comment being previewed, as far as I can tell.

I was afraid I wasn't clear. Sorry.

Right now, after you hit preview, you see:
Your comment preview
Your personal information
The box with your comments where editing can occur
Post and Preview Buttons

What I was suggesting was simply:
Your comment preview
Post and Preview Buttons
Your personal information
The box with your comments where editing can occur

Like I said, it's not a big deal, just a small reminder for the forgetful that we have to click "Post" to submit our comment.

#20 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 04:58 PM:

Death to popups, thanks. I agree the author/message connection could be clearer. Can you get your software to put an <hrule> between comments to keep them apart?

And even if not, there's a bit of a problem after the last comment, which transitions into "Note: I hate closing old comment threads..." as if it were part of the comment. I was wondering why the last person on every thread always complained about closing comment threads.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:06 PM:

On my browser (IE 5.5) the Note is on a gray background instead of the white that the comments are on.

#22 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 07:43 PM:

Okay, could someone for whom "remember me" has been failing tell me if it seems to work now?

#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 08:20 PM:

I'm assuming that 'remember me' and 'don't make me type all this stuff again' are the same thing?

#24 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 08:20 PM:

'Cause if so, it works fine for me.

#25 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 09:57 PM:

But... Wasn't it already an option to read the comments in a regular browser page, just like it is now, by clicking on the post's timestamp instead of the comments link?

So by removing the popup comments, the diversity of the comment ecosystem is decreased, which is to say that I'm not terribly much for it. Like Faren Miller says, I like having the ability to make the lines of the comments break whereever I choose by resizing the comments box, up to full-page wall-to-wall commenting.

Perhaps if you went back to the old method and labelled the timestamp more obviously, like "11:24 AM : read comments" and then a separate link for "pop-up comments, 17"?

And while it is good to have it obvious what bit of text belongs to what commenter, to my taste there's too much space between each at present... I feel like I'm reading my way down the belly scales of an enormous grey and white snake. Which is actually kinda cool, but I think I'd prefer just a simple HR and no color breaks between comments... I'm still on a 15" screen, alas, and space is precious.

#26 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Ixnay onay uhthay omputercay argonjay.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:32 PM:

Madeleine, my site manager vastly prefers to not have pop-ups, especially when he's having to do maintenance on four weblogs at once.

As for the boxes, I'd have much preferred a simple line-of-division myself, but so far we haven't figured out how to do that, and I was getting feedback about there being too little visual separation between comments. I don't think the boxes are ideal. In general, I prefer having as much text on the screen at once. That way I can read long chewy comments for what they are, and follow multiple short fast exchanges as a flow rather than a slideshow.

As usual in this partnership, Patrick's in favor of bigger type, wider margins, and larger headings. You'd think he had it in for six-on-eight gray-on-gray text.

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:40 PM:

Not only does remember work, but it remembered my information from before...i.e. I'm seeing it now even though I haven't tried the remember info thang since you fixed it.

I thought the spacing before was plenty of visual sep, but I don't mind either way.

#29 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:33 PM:

my site manager vastly prefers to not have pop-ups

Ah, now that's a compelling reason, and I bow before it. :) Lest I be misunderstood, I think you've done a grand job adapting to spammers while retaining your style.

#30 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:37 AM:

Quick, slightly tangential query. When I fill in my address & URL, I make a slight alteration to each - easily seen & understood if you are looking at it.
This is to try & stop any automatic 'harvesting' by naughty (in the old sense) webpersons.
Would it be causing any difficulties for your system or those of your readers? (hi out there!)

#31 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 02:37 AM:

Quick, slightly tangential query. When I fill in my address & URL, I make a slight alteration to each - easily seen & understood if you are looking at it.
This is to try & stop any automatic 'harvesting' by naughty (in the old sense) webpersons.
Would it be causing any difficulties for your system or those of your readers? (hi out there!)

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

I like the new look. I like not having to scroll all the way down to the bottom of a comment to see who wrote it. (Well, sometimes I have to scroll back up.)
I like the "No, really, ..." button's wording -- but so far "Don't make me type all this stuff again" seems to work as advertised.

And the new feature I like especially is: no popups!

#33 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 04:13 AM:

Like the changes.

I noticed that Electrolite has the brief guide on how to insert bold or emphasized text, or a link, at the bottom of its comment section, but not here on Making Light.

Could you add it in here, too, please, for those of us whose brains have apparently ben ScotchGuarded against learning or remembering such stuff?

#34 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:24 AM:

Doubtless a dumb question, but what were those popups? Nothing ever popped up on my (antiquated system) screen while I was reading the Comments in your previous version.

I still don't like having to scroll through the original story to get to the Comments, but at least you have made them more readable now, so thanks for that!

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:37 AM:

Regarding "spamproofing" your email adddress. Movable Type already encodes your address in a harvesting-resistant form, so that it's not actually out there in plain text. The method they use isn't unbeatable, but then neither are any of the methods most people use on the fly, like "myname AT foo dot com" or "joeDIESPAMDIE at bar-c0m".

However, all we want is to be able to reach you if necessary, so as long as your real email address is decipherable to us it's not really a problem.

#36 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 09:51 AM:

In response to Patrick I'll say that MT's method isn't unbeatable, and the creative ways people find to munge their addresses aren't unbeatable either, but they all help make the harvesting process more difficult and uncertain.

It's like crime in New York. It's difficult to defend yourself against the real professionals, but what you have to remember is that most of the would-be malfeasants out there are amateurs.

#37 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 10:51 AM:

PNH: yes, like Xopher it's remembered me from last time.

TNH: As for the boxes, I’d have much preferred a simple line-of-division myself, but so far we haven't figured out how to do that

Good luck on figuring it out. I don't find the boxes very obtrusive, but a horizontal rule would work fine too.

#38 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 11:43 AM:

How about changing the comments-border class to use border-top instead of border? Actually, it looks like you could add it to comments-body and just remove the comments-border div.

-j

#39 ::: trinker ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Oooh. Like the new look!

#40 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 01:31 PM:

Me: ...after the last comment, which transitions into “Note: I hate closing old comment threads…” as if it were part of the comment.

Xopher: On my browser (IE 5.5) the Note is on a gray background instead of the white that the comments are on.

Oops... I had style sheets turned off. That usually gives me a little better chance at decoding some of the really bad formats out there, but I can't complain if it drops your useful visual cues. In fact, I really like the look with your style sheet, so I'll probably keep it turned on, at least until I visit the next toxic waste site.

#41 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 04:59 PM:

my site manager vastly prefers to not have pop-ups

I got rid of the last of the pop-ups last week and was enormously gratified with the results. Today realized that as the pop-ups were gone, I might as well go ahead and widen the comment input fields. On name|email|url, I added "size=50" and for the text field, changed rows to 80.

Your new look here is quite handsome.

#42 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Regarding “spamproofing” your email adddress. Movable Type already encodes your address in a harvesting-resistant form, so that it’s not actually out there in plain text...

I don't know what you mean by harvesting-resistant--they look pretty plain to me. If you mean the hexadecimal escapes in "mailto&#58;name&#64;isp&#46;com", I'd be surprised if that stops anyone. Perhaps there's a countermeasure I'm not noticing. Or perhaps I'm overestimating the state of the harvesters' er, "art".

#43 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 08:57 PM:

Oh, don't get all huffy with me, for crying out loud. We're non-technical people who're doing our best.

Yes, of course Movable Type's rendition of email addresses is only a step away from plaintext. So is putting DONOTSPAM in the middle of your email address. That was my point.

#44 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2004, 11:29 PM:

Patrick: Oh, don’t get all huffy with me, for crying out loud. We’re non-technical people who’re doing our best. Yes, of course Movable Type’s rendition of email addresses is only a step away from plaintext. So is putting DONOTSPAM in the middle of your email address. That was my point.

I apologize for any huffiness. Please forgive a technical person who has usually seen the &#NN; escapes as a way of making it easier for robots to parse URLs. On further consideration, I'm willing to believe it may help slow down the bad guys.

Let me state unequivocally that I appreciate your doing your best. I'm here because the substantive stuff is so damned good. Not that I can criticize the technical stuff, either. Good look.

#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 12:01 AM:

Oh, okay, Probably I was experiencing a moment of Temporary Defensive Asshole. (As recorded in 1967 by the Fugs.)

#46 ::: TalkLeft ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 02:40 AM:

Teresa, can you close a bunch of comment threads at one time? Or do you have to do individually? I'd love to close comments on my first 3,000 threads but to do that individually would take forever. Let me know if you've found a way.

My comment spammers are back--I had 276 this morning and deleted every one and then rebuilt those posts. What a chore!

thanks.

Jeralyn

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2004, 08:37 AM:

I answered TalkLeft in detail in email, but the short and generalized answer is that Movable Type's web interface does not offer a way to close comments on multiple threads with a single command, but if your Movable Type data is in an SQL database rather than the old Movable Type default of Berkeley DB, it's pretty simple to do this in a variety of ways, depending on the SQL version, the presence or absence of a web-based SQL interface called PHPMyAdmin, etc. This is exactly why we went to so much trouble several days ago to convert all the nielsenhayden.com blogs to MySQL (with the utterly crucial help of Steve Cook, without whom we'd still be staring helplessly at slightly-too-difficult documentation).

As it happens, TalkLeft is using essentially the same hosting facility that we are, so we have access to the same versions of MySQL, PHPMyAdmin, and so forth; thus, more specific detail in my email.

Meanwhile, TalkLeft's other problem is the tiresome task of having to use the existing MT interface to slowly root out and delete a "wave" of comment spam. Whatever your feelings about the "blacklist" approach to fighting comment spam, Jay Allen's MT-Blacklist plugin for Movable Type offers multiple conveniences, superior to the default Movable Type interface, in regard to deleting-and-rebuilding. The release version (here) makes it much easier to delete individual offending posts as soon as they arrive, while simultaneously performing the necessary Movable Type "rebuild." And the latest beta version (here) offers a nifty new feature whereby you can generate a list of the previous N comments to all threads on your site, which you can visually scan while checking those you want to delete; you then delete all of those at once, and rebuild all their threads, in a single command.

#48 ::: Bill Blum finds comment spammers ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2004, 09:15 PM:

Remember, comment spammers don't go unnoticed for long when the blog readership keeps reloading like maniacs, wondering if there will be a post-worldcon post after the hostess recovers.

#49 ::: Comment spam still here ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Still here, for reference.

#50 ::: Andy Perrin shoots loan stranger ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2004, 12:34 AM:

Time to put the 'mort' in mortgages.

#51 ::: fidelio finds spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 10:00 AM:

I do not want teen sex from spam,
I do not want it, Sam I am.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.