Aug 10 2012

Hey Look, Comment Threads

I’m a little late to the party in setting the comments section to allow for nested comment threads, which helps follow who is responding to whom. But all the cool bloggers are doing it, so I’ve finally gotten around to changing the settings to allow it.


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  1. 1
    Spanish Inquisitor


  2. 2
    Spanish Inquisitor

    Real Nice!

  3. 3
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)


  4. 4
    Tim Brooks

    nice, but now I couldnt read the comments unless I was logged in…

  5. 5

    @2 double dammit

  6. 6
    Ed Brayton

    It’s the nicest thing ever.

  7. 7

    I will never ever add a comment to the comment of someone else

  8. 8

    Oh! Dammit!!

  9. 9
    'Tis Himself

    Sorry that you’ve gone to nested threads, Ed. Maybe I’ll drop in when you have an interesting headline. Maybe I’ll even make a comment. But you’re gone from my bookmarks. If you go back to unnested threads, then I’ll reconsider my decision to drop you.

  10. 10
    Area Man

    Testes, testes, one two three.

  11. 11
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Noooo! Why have you given in to the dark side?

  12. 12
    Ed Brayton

    Um. Okay. Why would anyone be opposed to nested comment threads? It makes it much easier to follow conversations when there are a large number of comments.

  13. 13

    When I started reading/watching Cristina Rad (who does the same thing), it was a real annoyance to have to scan through screenlenghts of personal bullshit tit-for-tats to get to another worthwhile comment, so I stopped reading her comments. I liked how you did it and regularly spend way too much time in my day on these comments…hmm maybe this is a good thing after all.

    Just my two cents.

  14. 14

    I’m not sure. I find them easier to read and easier to skip if I’m not interested in where one particular nest is going, I can just move on to the next comment. The only annoying thing I have found with them is if I check the notify me box I get the most recent comments without any context, it can be from a nest or just a random comment, and that can be confusing.

  15. 15

    I wish there was a way to minimize the replies to any one particular comment, a la slashdot. If you’re going to have nested comments, that’s almost a requirement, but without it, I’d just as soon have un-nested. It’s your blog, and unlike some others, I don’t think it’s worth unsubscribing over, but it’s a minor inconvenience that most FTBers are using anyway.

  16. 16
    Dennis N

    Let’s see how deep this goes

  17. 17
    aleph squared

    When nesting goes beyond the first level in actually makes it MUCH harder to follow long threads.

    I can’t always keep track of which subthread I may have responded to, it is almost impossible to find new comments, and also people rely on the reply button instead of @syntax and so when they do screw up HUGE CONFUSION occurs.

    Participating in subthreaded discussions is an enormous headache.

  18. 18
    Dennis N

    1) I like the idea that we are all engaged in one large conversation per post.

    2) I can find timing confusing when a nested comment is above of an unnested comment but came after it. I prefer to travel forward in time in a straight line.

    3) Things can get squished.

    That said, I’m not jumping ship or anything, I just have a little sad.

  19. 19
    Dennis N

    oh and as aleph squared said at, um, comment 6-2 4) Finding new comments is difficult

  20. 20
    Emu Sam

    Is there any way to put it in the hands of the readers which way they want comments displayed? The time stamp is available still, so it’s theoretically possible to sort by time. And let us sort by commenter! And let us sort reverse alphabetically by penultimate sentence! And let us block annoyingly greedy run-on commenters who don’t know when a joke has gone stale! And . . .

  21. 21

    To me it seems to work well when you have a smaller number of people or replies. The more comments and particularly the more replies and nesting the bigger a mess it becomes and it ends up hard to read.

  22. 22
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Basically what Aleph and Dennis said.

    Nested comments get REALLY confusing when you have a long comment thread.
    You have to keep looking to see “did someone respond to my post.”
    It’s very difficult to keep track of comments (is my comment 6-6? What happens when someone responds to me – 6-6-1?)
    People don’t always respond in line so you have those comments taken up by “OOPS, meant to respond to John at comment 18-3-5-1.”

    It’s your preference though.

  23. 23

    The problem with nested comments is that when you refresh or revisit a thread, you have to scroll through the whole damn thing and try to remember which comments you’ve read before and which are new.

    In small threads, that’s not a big deal, but if a discussion of any length gets going, it makes for a lot of wasted effort I find. I end up either giving up on the thread entirely, or just reading the comments at the bottom and presumably missing some of the “active” subthreads.

  24. 24

    Like a few of the above I really hate nested comment threads (lots of people agree, just look at the reaction at PZs place whenever this suggestion comes up). I find them extremely hard to follow as there is no simple way to find out whether new posts have been added to whatever thread you are looking at. I am often following 3-4 or more threads of discussion and scrolling around to find each one, and to see if they are updated is frustrating especially as the number of comments grow. I also find it fragments conversations, there is no longer crosstalk between different discussions.

  25. 25
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Some people don’t like them. But as far as following a conversation, nested is equally hard to follow, in different respects, as non-nested.

    Also, having a strong opinion one way or the other makes for more hilarious religious wars.

  26. 26
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    There certainly is, but I don’t know if the WP platform (or add-on code) specifically allows for this.

  27. 27


  28. 28

    I’ve been looking for a blog to do this for a while.


    And let us sort reverse alphabetically by penultimate sentence!

    Actually, 3-4 deep (depending on how you count) can be hard to follow. I do like 1-2 deep though, it suggests to folks to reply and then stop.

  29. 29
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    That too. If you’re reading a non-nested thread and have to go to work or eat dinner or something of that sort, then you can just say “okay, I’ll stop at post number 150 and pick up from there later.”

    In the case of nested threads – you can do similar, but if there are some 150 comments, you’ll have to go back and see “did someone respond to that one? nope. That one? nope. That one? nope. That one? Yep.”

  30. 30
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Um. Okay. Why would anyone be opposed to nested comment threads? It makes it much easier to follow conversations when there are a large number of comments.

    Because in a large conversation (>30 comments or so) you have to scroll through pages of comments you’ve already read, scanning for new entries, to see if there is any new comments. It’s painfully time consuming.

    It makes it difficult to mention someone else’s comment in your own that you’re not directly responding to, if someone else has made an excellent point. Before you would say ‘Bob @ 45 made a good point, blah blah’ and you could just Control-F ’45.’ and you’d go right to it – with nesting, its more like ‘Bob @4.7.3 made a good point, blah blah’ and if you’re currently in a nested thread replying to, say, 4.1.9, you have to scroll up and down looking for it – you can’t even Control-F to find it because this software doesn’t give individual numbers to nested replies.

    It renders the email updates useless, since they arrive chonologically and nobody quotes anything anymore so the email updates are contextless.

    It only improves things for people who don’t like to take the time to indicate who they are replying to.

    It changes the dynamic of the conversation from a large group all talking to each other, to a bunch of very private conversation where two or three people reply to each other and nobody else even really reads what they are saying. I don’t like it very much.

  31. 31
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Two reasons:

    First: new replies are not necessarily at the bottom, and the entire thread needs to be reparsed to find out if anyone’s posted anything new or interesting or, especially, in response to something you said.
    Second, unique to FTB: the box to enter a reply is still at the bottom of the page, so unless you copy the entire comment you’re replying to, it’s a REAL pain in the ass to go back and forth to blockquote only the parts you want to respond to, or to double-check what was written, or….

    If you could make the reply box open directly under the comment you’re replying to, like Disqus enabled blogs often do, it would be at least 50% more tolerable.

  32. 32
    Leo Buzalsky

    @Dennis N

    It looks like you hit the deep end! :)

  33. 33

    Problem with comment threads:
    I read your article, and the 50 comments below it.
    I come back to your article 1 hour later. Now there are 75 comments.
    How can I quickly identify/peruse the 25 comments that I have not yet read?

    Frankly, if I were to devise the best-of-all-worlds commenting format, it would be a sequential display of all comments, but each comment would have an expandable box above it. If you expand the box, you immediately see the parent, grand-parent, etc. all the way to the Original post.

    So, if 5 nested comments (numbered in order of contribution) were:

    1) hi, I'm Jake
    ---2) hi jake
    ---5) h'lo jack
    ------6) it's Jake, not jack
    3) I'm Bonnie
    ---4) Hi Bonnie!

    It would appear like this (obviously the ASCII rendition takes some wind out of the sails)

    1) hi, I’m Jake

    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    2) hi jake

    3) I’m Bonnie
    —– * view preceding remarks *—-

    4) Hi Bonnie!

    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    5) h’lo jack

    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    6) it’s Jake, not jack

    Where each
    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    would be a very small/visually neglible line that could be clicked upon to instantly expand into a read-only box showing the thread of comments leading up to that remark. So if I clicked on the line above # 6 above, I’d get:

    1) hi, I’m Jake

    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    2) hi jake

    3) I’m Bonnie
    —– * view preceding remarks *—-

    4) Hi Bonnie!

    —– * view preceding remarks *—-
    5) h’lo jack

    | 1) I’m Jake
    | 5) H’lo jack

    6) it’s Jake, not jack

  34. 34

    Because in a large conversation (>30 comments or so) you have to scroll through pages of comments you’ve already read, scanning for new entries, to see if there is any new comments. It’s painfully time consuming.

    This thread has just crossed the 30 comments mark and I find I am already doing this. There are a number of comment threads going on, I keep refreshing and looking at each of the threads trying to see if a comment has been added at any level in the hierarchy.

    There are also problems like this one. Sometimes people reply outside the thread that a comment was made, so it is not associated with that thread and either gets ignored, or spawns a second thread that deals with the same topic.

  35. 35
    Leo Buzalsky

    I think Dan over at Camels with Hammers limits his nested comments to two levels of depth (the base level plus one level of nested comments). Perhaps that could be a good way to get the best of both worlds?

  36. 36
    Jasper of Maine

    It is difficult to find the new posts on longer threads – but if it’s important enough to me to do that, I typically subscribe to the thread, and the new posts are just emailed to me.

    That’s been my new thing lately.

  37. 37
    Nick Gotts

    When you said “much easier”, I’m sure you meant “much harder”.

  38. 38

    And it often means that conversations get fragmented. Your post is a good example: it’s really a response to (and quotes) Ed’s post @6, but you didn’t nest it, so now the same issues are getting aired out in the #6 subthread and in this one.

    Now, maybe this particular example is your “fault” for not posting it as a reply, but that’s going to happen. And sometimes there really isn’t much choice: for example, Ed’s #6 is itself apparently in response to a string of anti-nesting comments in 2-5, and it’s not like it would have been better for Ed to post the same question four times.

    Anyway, it’s not a huge tragedy for me or anything, but it does dull my interest in following comments.

  39. 39

    I’m personally not fond of nesting. The main reason I dislike it is because I think it encourages commenters to lose track of the the original topic and either indulge in internecine squabbles or just lose track of where they’re going (“Look! Squirrel!”) If comments nest past the secondary level, they’re likely off topic, and past the tertiary level there’s likely a reading comprehension problem. If commenters realize that someone’s going to have to scroll up and find the original, they’re much more likely to think twice about the relevance of what they’re about to type.

  40. 40
    Ed Brayton

    Hmmm. I’d never considered that. Maybe I should put it to a vote of my readers to see which they prefer. I’ll do that.

  41. 41
    Ace of Sevens

    Same complaint. You can’t follow which comment are new except by e-mail subscription and there you get them without context and have to click through constantly.

  42. 42

    Definitely prefer the nested threads.

  43. 43
    One Thousand Needles, lumper-splitter

    Maybe in the FTB website redesign (if such a thing is pending) you could add javascript functionality for closing nested groups of comments?

    Or let me at that code and i’ll do it! :D

  44. 44
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Well, I certainly see what happens when you remove nesting from a nested thread.

  45. 45

    O.K., but I still do not like it.

  46. 46
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Same complaint. You can’t follow which comment are new except by e-mail subscription and there you get them without context and have to click through constantly.

    To say nothing of people like me practically being machine-gunned with emails ALREADY…

  47. 47
    John Hinkle

    I don’t see any nestification here. Did I miss something?

    Hello? Anyone out there?

    Dammit, late to the party again!

  48. 48
    Michael Heath

    John Hinkle writes:

    I don’t see any nestification here. Did I miss something?

    Yes you did. For some amount of time yesterday afternoon, correlating with the two relevant blog posts Ed posted yesterday, you could hit a hot Reply button at the bottom of a particular comment post and nest a comment post of your own below the post to which you replied.

    That was true for all the blog post threads I had open yesterday, that day’s and a few previous posts still getting comments, so I assume it was true of all blog posts Ed’s published here.

    There are some other FTB bloggers who’ve been doing nested threads and continue to do so now, so you can visit their blogs and see what it’s like.

  49. 49

    Nesting is for birds.

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