It’s too early in the morning for the drugs »« Skepticon wants more money

Those dang comments

Scalzi is discussing comment management. There are…ideas…floating around there; some suck, some are interesting. Here are My Opinions™ on comments.

  • Comments are absolutely essential and are not going away. What do you think I read the site for? Besides, we’ve long had an interesting community here.

  • I’m not going to require real names. Consistent pseudonyms are good enough. I really, really hate sockpuppets; they undermine the credibility of all pseudonyms. I will burn all puppets to the ground on discovery.

  • My smartest recent move was appointing monitors who write in to report troublemakers. I don’t have to read everything constantly to track comments, which relieves a lot of strain.

  • The banhammer: too much or too little? I’ve been a little bit more heavy-handed lately, because of all the sexist jerkwads who’ve been popping in. I’m leaning in favor of more.

  • With the loss of the dungeon, I’ve thrown away most of my tracking of bannings, which doesn’t bother me much…but one thing I’ve long been missing is some way to achieve redemption. Once you’re banned, you’re dropped into a bottomless pit of blackness, never to be seen again, and there isn’t any way to gain forgiveness. How could we arrange to have a ban removed?

  • One capability I wish WordPress had was a way to require a certain minimum of words in a comment. I’d rather see fewer one-liners and more thoughtful discussion.

  • Should I implement a comment limit? I don’t think it’s currently a problem, except for that one guy who would dump German opera librettos or whatever into comments.

  • I do have keyword filtering, and I use it to block a lot of the language misogynists use, which is remarkably effective (there sure is a lot of rapey hatey talk stuck in the spam filter now). Other suggestions for words that magically disappear the bad guys would be useful. Also maybe words that block some of the knee-jerk responses from the good guys. What words/phrases do you hate to see popping up?

  • Never gonna implement comment threading or comment rating, so don’t mention ‘em.

  • Scalzi shuts off some comments while he’s sleeping. I’m not going to do that: it discriminates against Australians and Europeans, and we have too many of that furrin ilk here.

  • Any wordpress experts know of any useful plugins for comments? I can pass suggestions along to the tech guy…who’s supposed to fix the main page first, of course.

  • I know the crappy preview function is a sore point for lots of you. Anything else that bugs you?

  • Styles. While we’re wating for the tech guy to get everything else done, one thing I can do all by myself is tweak the stylesheet. Any comment layout stuff you desperately want?

Comments

  1. yazikus says

    Hi PZ,
    I for one am consistently amazed at how long it takes some folks to be banned- so I don’t think you are over-banning or banning too quickly. Yours is a fair and just banhammer.

    Never gonna implement comment threading or comment rating, so don’t mention ‘em.

    Yay! My faith in humanity is restored! I cannot describe my intense loathing of nested and rated comments.

    I really, really enjoy the commentariat here. Just saying- they are kind of the best.

    Anyhoo- that is my .02

  2. PatrickG says

    My minor suggestion, which is probably more oriented towards the tech guy, would be for a Reply button that would do no more than preface your comment with something like:

    yazikus @ #1:

    A lot of people do a great job of “threading” responses like this… others, not so much. Sometimes necessitates a bunch of scrolling to figure out who exactly is being responded to.

  3. says

    How could we arrange to have a ban removed?

    I’m particularly interested in this question. During the grenade thread, b0nezbrigade was banned, and I do think they deserve another chance. Overall, they were a good, long time commenter, and they showed up at my blog to apologize, which was very nice. I know they sent you an email about the banning, PZ, however, I don’t know if you saw it. More recently, Ace of Sevens was banned, and many people feel that deserves undoing also.

  4. says

    Patrick:

    My minor suggestion, which is probably more oriented towards the tech guy, would be for a Reply button that would do no more than preface your comment with something like:

    yazikus @ #1:

    Yeah, that would be good. Too many people don’t bother to use a nym, so you can’t even do a convenient ctrl + f to find something.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    *relocating shoulder which was dislocated from self-backpatting*
    in no order
    -reinstatement could only be done if the former miscreant contacted you directly (how much time do you have?)
    -one-liners are my forté, please don’t make me type lots
    -I’d like to be able to do some colour and size formatting

  6. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    I am fine with most of your list. The comment limit though, I do not like. Some commenters (Cerberus comes to mind) post some amazing thoughts that, while longer than most, are still insightful. In the Lounge, I have shared stories of my interactions with cab drivers, or discussions of social justice issues with coworkers. At times (heck, most of the time) my comment is long. I would hate to be concerned about an 1800 word limit (for instance).
    Granted, there have been long winded posts in rape related threads from some scummy people, but that is going to be a side effect of having no limit on comment length.
    ___
    As for the banhammer, I do not think you use it that much.
    ___
    I think if people really want to comment here after they have been banned, they should demonstrate to you that they have learned their lesson. How that demonstration should take place, I dunno. I am inclined to say email, but you probably get enough of that already.

  7. says

    I don’t want miscreants contacting me. I already get lots of that: Kwok has sent me a couple of emails, for example. Not interested. One thing that might work is if they convinced a couple of the monitors, and they contacted me.

    Giving you guys more formatting control is tricky. Apparently as the blog owner, I get to use the style parameter in span tags, but you don’t (this also makes it harder for me to test). Do you get to use class parameters? I could set up some preformatted classes for commenter use, if so.

    The “reply” button would be nice. It would require code, though, which I can’t do, so it would have to wait for Mr Tech to have free time. Anyone know of a wordpress plugin that would do it?

  8. PatrickG says

    @ Tony/Caine: Actually unsure, but there are multiple levels of banning, right? I was under the impression that it took a lot to get banned from the ThunderDome as opposed to from regular threads or the Lounge.

    Might be a place for razor-edged repentance? :)

  9. Vicki says

    I’m guessing “comment limit” means “no more than x comments per hour/day” (either overall or per thread) rather than a limit on length. If so, that seems potentially useful in making it harder for someone to derail a thread to be All About Him.

  10. says

    PZ:

    One thing that might work is if they convinced a couple of the monitors, and they contacted me.

    Okay, I’d be willing to do that. What would we do on the subject line? Still ‘Alert’, or something else?

  11. chigau (違う) says

    and if you could change the text of the “Skip to comment form” button to something like “Read all the comments first, dumbass” that would save us a few one-liners.

  12. says

    Patrick:

    Actually unsure, but there are multiple levels of banning, right?

    Well, no. Banned is banned. The only case I can think of where there would be no appeal is someone who has sockpuppeted. Personally, I don’t think anyone who has indulged in socks should be offered a second chance.

  13. PatrickG says

    @ Caine:

    Hrmm, thanks for the correction. I thought I recalled people being specifically banned from a particular thread only, but guess I was wrong. And now I realize I’m commenting too much without saying anything, so off to something productive before I’m forced to plead for mercy!

  14. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    I’d love to see the ability to edit comments added so people whoare lousy typists like me can correct typos.

    I think that sometimes long comments are good and sometimes one liners can sum things up really well and get laugh so I’m not fussed over comment length.

    Personally I think the Bad Astronomy blog has or had its policies right especially back in the Discover magazine hosted days.

    I miss the dungeon – it was a good way of showing what is and isn’t acceptable and explaining why the banned trolls were banned so I’d love to get that back here.

    You realise I’m sure that allowing swearing and allowing so much personal abuse by some commenters against those they disagree with affects many net filters and makes it less likely to be read by kids and Not Safe For Work plus creates a certain reputation for nastiness thus limiting your audience and equally pretty sure you don’t care. (Shrug.)

    Oh well, a different approach and venue and that’s fair enough. Your blog, your rules, fine by me.

  15. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    Patrick:
    PZ has quarantined people to the Dome, perhaps you are thinking of that.
    Oh, and when Chris was blogging here, I believe he sometimes banned people from HIS threads.

  16. says

    Chigau:

    and if you could change the text of the “Skip to comment form” button to something like “Read all the comments first, dumbass” that would save us a few one-liners.

    Now that’s a lovely idea!

    Patrick:

    I thought I recalled people being specifically banned from a particular thread only, but guess I was wrong.

    Some people are told to leave a specific thread, under threat of banning if they don’t. Some people, PZ quarantines to Tdome, but neither of those things constitutes a ban.

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @9. Vicki :

    I’m guessing “comment limit” means “no more than x comments per hour/day” (either overall or per thread) rather than a limit on length. If so, that seems potentially useful in making it harder for someone to derail a thread to be All About Him.

    Sometimes after a long period away from a blog or thread due to work, study, sleep etc .. there’s alot to catch upon and reply to so I’m not in favour of such limits. Especially when the lack of editing capability means extra posts to fix or clarify previous ones.

    It also hurts those posting at different hours due to different time zones when there’s less traffic and thus you’re likely to get more comments in a row.

  18. chigau (違う) says

    With a few exceptions (eg. Meyers) no one really cares about typos.
    Where would we be without ‘sniny’?

  19. chigau (違う) says

    Owlmirror
    Quite right!
    I’d like to be able to Mr. Gumby some of the things I quote.

  20. Rob says

    PZ,
    Generally I think your ban hammer seems well calibrated. For people who have made an honest mistake in the heat of commenting having a way back may be useful.

    Some of the funniest, and often most too the point, comments I have seen here have been very very short indeed. I’d hate to see that limited. Really long comments don’t bother me. If they are worth reading it’s good to be able to follow a persons thoughts in detail. If they are not worth reading my scroll wheel works fine.

    I think the monitors work fine, although I only know of some of them and only know how to contact one (I better not annoy Caine).

    The reply function would be great, especially if you could select the relevant quote text, hit reply and get that copied into the comment form at the point of focus.

    I would suggest keeping the style set reasonably limited with an emphasis on maintaining readability. To much variation in colour/size/typeface can make reading long or dense threads very tiring.

    Scalzi shuts off some comments while he’s sleeping. I’m not going to do that: it discriminates against Australians and Europeans, and we have too many of that furrin ilk here.

    You also have quite a few furrin ilk-hoard from New Zealand and we don’t appreciate being lumped in with Australians! In much the same way Canadians sigh when lumped in with Americans, or Minnisotans enjoy being told that they are just like people from Texas. Much as I love my Aussie family and friends… Make that mistake again and if we ever meet I’ll make you drink Ardbeg until you are very very sorry.

    Cheers

  21. sqlrob says

    A couple of requests, if possible

    – Some sort of “already read” marker (e.g. like the red line on fark, or shading that I’ve seen on other sites). This needs some sort of code change, which you imply might not happen for a while, so no biggie.

    – When killing comments, don’t reuse the number. It makes things a bit harder to follow when someone uses the number in a reply. Possibly a moot point if a reply function comes in.

    – Every once in a while, main page seems to go to some sort of mobile form instead of the usual, haven’t figured out of that’s caused at your side or mine.

  22. keane says

    Fairly certain that WordPress has the ability to respond directly to other comments. I always like that feature.

  23. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @8.PatrickG :

    @ Tony/Caine: Actually unsure, but there are multiple levels of banning, right? I was under the impression that it took a lot to get banned from the ThunderDome as opposed to from regular threads or the Lounge. Might be a place for razor-edged repentance? :)

    When the Dungeon was used, there were three levels if I recall right :

    1) Quarantine to thunderdome – by PZ’s order and they’d be banned if the person didn’t follow that.

    2)Auto-moderation – a second level where PZ wouldn’t allow their comments through until he’d moderated them which was only tried a couple of times I think

    &

    3) Banning.

    Now I think there’s only restricting to Thunderdome and outright banning.

  24. Owlmirror says

    Preview isn’t easy with that tiny little sanserif font.

    I’ve seen and used an “edit your comment within 5 minutes (or whatever)” plugin/feature, at Cosmic Variances old Discover blog. It seemed pretty nifty. In some ways, it was like an extended Preview (and as I recall, there was no Preview, just that edit feature).

    I may be recalling incorrectly, but the comment didn’t show up for anyone else (tested using another machine) during the 5 minute edit window. That would prevent the presumed bad result of a troll showing up, saying something slymey, and then erasing the nasty parts, for the gaslighting effect. (“What slur would that have been then, Mr. Myers?”)

  25. says

    Would a reply button also include the ability to be emailed when someone replies? Because that’s what I’d consider useful.
    And can I ask why there’s two checkboxes for “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”?

  26. says

    Rob:

    I think the monitors work fine, although I only know of some of them and only know how to contact one (I better not annoy Caine).

    Pffft, you can get in touch with me anytime. My e-address is available at my zenfolio.

  27. yazikus says

    Patrick G @ #2:
    I wouldn’t be opposed to that sort of option. I may have spoken too hastily, thinking of my distaste for Disqus style commenting (*cough*rawstory*cough*). I often close a tab noting the comment number I read last and come back later. That makes it super difficult to follow nested-style threads, as you have to reread every one to find the new comments.

  28. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    One capability I wish WordPress had was a way to require a certain minimum of words in a comment. I’d rather see fewer one-liners and more thoughtful discussion.

    I think this would be more trouble than it’s worth in most threads, and outright injurious in the lounge. :/

  29. physicsphdstu says

    For the tech guy

    Can we have ‘back to prev post’ and ‘forward to next post’ buttons at the end of post or end of comments

  30. says

    Sometimes a one-line post says everything, and more would weaken it.

    (There’s my one-line opinion; now I’m just using up space on the comment form. See?)

  31. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh. Well I said this over on Avicenna’s thread, but:

    The recent posts on FtB function? If you want to get us reading more of other authors, limit each blogger to only one appearance in the recent FtB posts.

    And then, for bonus functions, don’t just take the 6 posts that are the most recent posts of the 6 most recent bloggers. Take the most recent post of each blogger, place it in a hopper, and randomly choose 6 for the list – changed whenever the page is refreshed – so we get exposed to not just a blog name, but the actual post titles which give us an idea of the substance of bloggers writing.

    This would definitely get me reading more authors.

  32. screechymonkey says

    My suggestion on removing bans: require a banned commenter to wait some “cooling-off period” — I’d say at least a week — before making a request. It makes it more likely that you’re dealing with someone who has put some thought in and is ready to mend his/her ways. Plus, reinstating a banned commenter right away is likely to lead to bad results — the “parolee” is going to be tempted to jump back in to the same discussion that led to the ban, and the rest of us will likely still be irritated at him/her, demand that he or she defend or retract the offending comments.

  33. Owlmirror says

    When killing comments, don’t reuse the number. It makes things a bit harder to follow when someone uses the number in a reply.

    I don’t think that’s something he has control over. The numbering comes from the lower levels of the blog engine.

    I don’t know how much control the blog owner has over the comment metadata, but it occurred to me that he could create a pseudo account (called “blank” or “banned” or whatever, with a pseudo e-mail address), and replace the banned/killed comment user with that, while nulling out the text of the comment.

    However, even if that would work, it would probably be more effort than he’s willing to put in, especially with some of the more hyperactive trolls running around out there.

  34. doublereed says

    With the loss of the dungeon, I’ve thrown away most of my tracking of bannings, which doesn’t bother me much…but one thing I’ve long been missing is some way to achieve redemption. Once you’re banned, you’re dropped into a bottomless pit of blackness, never to be seen again, and there isn’t any way to gain forgiveness. How could we arrange to have a ban removed?

    Isn’t there a “Ban for X Days” function? So you can be all like “Come back when you can behave!”

  35. chigau (違う) says

    I agree with sqlrob.
    If you could replace deleted comments with a boilerplate “comment deleted”* it would make the rest of us not seem to be responding to an invisible entity.
    *I don’t ask for bunny videos.

  36. says

    Gumby fonting please please please.

    Could bans expire after a fixed time, perhaps? For example, a week or a month timeout for people like Ace of Sevens who are basically OK; 6 months for J Random Derailing Troll; longer for persistent pitstains? That might be automatable.

  37. yazikus says

    sqlrob,

    Every once in a while, main page seems to go to some sort of mobile form instead of the usual, haven’t figured out of that’s caused at your side or mine.

    It isn’t just you, I get it as well and it shows only the recent postings, and so I have to come straight here, and then access the sidebar list for the other blogs. No rhyme or reason that I can tell.

  38. Pteryxx says

    One thought I’ve been mulling is that the troll spam might get cut down if new commenters, specifically, were limited to say three posts (or five, or ten…) in X amount of time. When a thread really heats up, the vast majority of supportive and positive de-lurkers post only one comment and then re-lurk. New names posting in bad faith however go on and on and ON and on without ever stopping their arguing long enough to read links. Now sometimes I like a good rolling smackdown as much as the next Hordeling, but I gather there’s less reason and more silencing from the harassment/racism/rape apologist crowd than this place was designed for. Maybe that could be an option when Poopyhead’s busy or sleeping, or when we’re on the tenth page of such BS in a week?

  39. says

    Thank you for not jettisoning self-hosted comments in favor of a Disqus or Facebook service…and by extension, thank you for not entrusting content to third-party businesses, slowing down pages with multiple litters of unnecessary scripts, and making the comment forms utterly inaccessible on one of the two computers I own.

    I don’t know if it’s the latest mindless trend or what, but Patheos and several other sites I follow have jumped ship en masse to that technology and I rarely comment on them any more.

  40. Owlmirror says

    With the loss of the dungeon, I’ve thrown away most of my tracking of bannings, which doesn’t bother me much…but one thing I’ve long been missing is some way to achieve redemption. Once you’re banned, you’re dropped into a bottomless pit of blackness, never to be seen again, and there isn’t any way to gain forgiveness. How could we arrange to have a ban removed?

    What happened to your former policy of adding some people to be automatically moderated rather than outright banned? Moderation could presumably be reversed if said individual seemed to be posting reasonably for a while.

    Another notion I had was an “amnesty thread”, held once a quarter (or whenever), which would solicit requests for reinstatement. Those who wished to could create a new account with their former nym concatenated with a number (eg, b0nezbrigade0; aceofsevens7; believerskeptic2), and post their petition for reinstatement there.

  41. Scr... Archivist says

    Would the comment limit be for length or for the number of comments? I would not support the latter, and the most immediate reason for this opinion is the grenade thread. Without the constant responses by several commenters, Caine in particular, that thread would have been overrun.

    I would, however, be willing to consider a limit on the length of comments. That might even force me to be more concise.

    Regarding the keyword filter, I cannot comment without knowing what the keywords are. Have they been listed somewhere else before?

    And preview already works fine for me, if I remember to use it.

  42. Lofty says

    Replace the “submit comment” button with an “Are you really truly sure you want to submit this comment for the whole world to see? yes/no” buttons.

  43. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    If I have a nightmare tonight where I log on to Pharyngula only to discover nested comments with a 140-character limit, the blame shall be PZs (cuz just talking about not wanting either will send my brain into wacky, irrational territory).

  44. Pete Newell says

    Pteryxx@43
    A newbie limit like that would’ve sucked for me, but then I spent myself on the one set of threads and haven’t been out much since.

    And if it prevented some of what pissed me off so much in the first place, that would’ve been better for everybody including me. I could have voiced my support and then shut the hell up. Which is never a bad thing.

    So. This is me agreeing by sounding like I’m arguing. Go me.

    As for re-ups. The cooling off period seems like a plan, but the monitors are still opening themselves up to a lot of abusive dogpiling at their personal contacts, given what appears to pass for tactics with some ofd the MREs and assorted jerkwads that come around here. I wouldn’t even want that on my dump email address.

    I’d agree with Owlmirror’s amnesty thread idea. Could be monitor reviewed, even, to preserve the benefits of “convince them first and I’ll consider it” without opening anyone up to abuse creep.

    As distinct from abusive creeps, who are everywhere, always, Amen.

  45. says

    Scr…Archivist:

    I would, however, be willing to consider a limit on the length of comments. That might even force me to be more concise.

    I’m not in favour of a length limit, at all. Some of the Horde write tour de forces, every single word being necessary and important. Some of the Horde can do a master stroke with one line. I understand the impulse, in the end, I think it’s too limiting all the way around, and it would be our loss. Also, I have enough of a difficult time figuring out what I want to say, without having to do a bloody word count as well.

    Regarding the keyword filter, I cannot comment without knowing what the keywords are. Have they been listed somewhere else before?

    Er, publishing the list would rather defeat the point of having it in the first place. Think of certain words that doucheweasels love to use.

  46. Randomfactor says

    Not something you can control, but when you get the Tech Guy’s attention can you please make mandatory for ALL FTB bloggers the little link whereby you sign in and ARE RETURNED IMMEDIATELY TO THE COMMENT THREAD?

    When I’m trying to comment on others’ blogs I invariably skip to either PZ’s or Ed’s blog to do the sign in, so I’m not dumped by WordPress into the Dashboard of Purgatory? If that were standardized for all I’d by such the contented bivouacker.

  47. says

    Pete:

    A newbie limit like that would’ve sucked for me,

    That would have sucked for everyone, because you are a valuable commenter. Also, a limit on newbies also limits people who are delurking, often in difficult threads, and decide to speak up more in the confines of that specific thread, so such a limit can harm as well as help.

  48. Pete Newell says

    Thanks, Caine. Glad it worked out that way.

    Haven’t the energy and attention span for full participation, but you know. Still reading.

    *Drama* And if ever I am truly needed again… */Drama*

  49. Pete Newell says

    If they’re going to keep squirting their ilk all over the damned place, what other choice is there?

  50. Pteryxx says

    Pete Newell:

    So. This is me agreeing by sounding like I’m arguing. Go me.

    …You’ll fit right in here. ;>

  51. says

    The recent posts on FtB function? If you want to get us reading more of other authors, limit each blogger to only one appearance in the recent FtB posts.

    Please don’t do this. With the front page being virtually useless, Recent Posts is the only way I get to see, well, what the actual recent posts are. Sometimes a blogger will go on a posting spree and I’ll be intrigued enough to go and check out what the flurry of activity is all about.

  52. says

    (How would you verify that someone is using their real name, anyway?)

    I like the ban warnings and the public ban announcements. I’m pretty sure some other sites I visit have significantly more “heavy handed” moderation policies, but I can’t be sure because they quietly disappear people. It’s a little creepy.

    Thanks so much for not using Disqus or Facebook for comments. Between the CSS that ignores my magnification plugin and the threading, it’s quite difficult to read a discussion with more than 20 or so comments.

    @ Caine:

    No. Learn to use preview

    Preview? Bah! I never mess up.

  53. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @54. Leo Buzalsky :

    Seems we’re getting all ancient Mongol empire here –

    So if Pharyngula = the (Golden) Horde* and Greta and Jen are co-rulers of the Ilk(hanate)** then who here represents the Yuan dynasty of Kubilai Khan?

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Horde

    ** See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilkhanate

    @20. Caine, Fleur du mal : I do try doing that too and putting /writing in word doc first but still stuff up, you’re right I guess.

  54. says

    I’m wondering if it’s possible for the dashboard to show a list of our previous comments. Sometimes I’ll post a comment and forget which blog I was commenting on, or I’ll want to look up a great response I gave on the last round of, say, abortion rights threads, and it would be great to have a searchable history.

    As to the banhammer, I think it ought to be used a bit more. I think that in those massive threads people come in and repeat arguments that have been already dealt with, they ought to be directed to read the thread(s). If they keep posting without doing so (it’s usually pretty clear when they’re oblivious to previously mentioned material/arguments/resources), they should be given a warning and then turfed. At best, what tends to happen now is a band of intrepid warriors posting the same responses to the same inane and ignorant bullshit over and over until the threads are hundreds of posts long. At worst, threads get horribly derailed. We might be able to move beyond 101 replies to Rape Apology for Douchewads (for example) if the douchewads were forced to do their homework.

    Also, I’m on board with the idea of some kind of appeals process/reinstatement/probation for some commenters.

  55. says

    One capability I wish WordPress had was a way to require a certain minimum of words in a comment. I’d rather see fewer one-liners and more thoughtful discussion

    I tried that once in an old forum. Didn’t work. aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaa a

  56. cicely says

    I would hate to see one-line comments forbidden. Sometimes, catching up in the [Lounge], I might not have anything to say about the recipes or boozes under discussion, but might want to welcome in a newcomer, or *pouncehug* a regular. Social amenities, iow.
     
    Or, as Azkyroth put it, “[…] more trouble than it’s worth in most threads, and outright injurious in the lounge.”
     
    An upper words limit, on the other hand, could be a problem when Marjanovićing.

    I also miss Comic Sans; and the easy-to-use sub- and super-scripting that we used to enjoy. At least, I enjoyed it.
    -

  57. NightShadeQueen says

    StevoR

    @20. Caine, Fleur du mal : I do try doing that too and putting /writing in word doc first but still stuff up, you’re right I guess.

    I compose in vim, which will point out most HTML errors to me.

  58. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Randomfactor #51 – Yeah, I’ve found that weird from Day One, including the fact that logging in shows me logged in at Pharyngula, not FTB, gives me an obviously non-usable link to the Phayngula Dashboard, and My Sites shows only Pharyngula.

    Now, it may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I quickly took to logging in every time by having a bookmark
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/wp-login.php?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Ffreethoughtblogs.com

    which also tends to relieve the problem sqlrob #26 notes with regards to the mobile site format, which I recently found I could not get away from no matter how many times I clicked on “Show full site” or the other similarly worded link.

    Fixing the backend would probably be the better thing to do, but that is how I fixed it for myself.

  59. microraptor says

    As far as banning goes, what if there were different levels of offenses? Like some that are minor and only give a week or two, others that boot you for a month, and some that are insta-permabannings?

    Of course, this would probably also require that PZ keep a list and if someone racks up too many minor offenses they get a longer ban, which I don’t know how interested he is in doing that.

  60. Ingdigo Jump says

    I’d love to see the ability to edit comments added so people whoare lousy typists like me can correct typos.

    Yeah right, StevoR. No I don’t think we should make the memory hole easier for fucks like you

  61. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Oh and the minimum comment rule is asking for garbage spamming as illustrated by vexorian.

  62. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    I’m very much against a ban on one-liners. Partly from personal preference, but mostly from the sheer beauty of “Uncle Fred?”.

    I haven’t been so active in the comment field lately, and haven’t kept in toutch with current events. Some bannings mentioned here surprise me, even though I have no doubt they were earned. A ban redemption system might be in order, but I don’t think it should be formalised and publicised. We don’t really want the monitors to be pestered by every drive-by misogynist troll (and if there’s an invitation to do that I’ve no doubt they will). Banning is by poopyhead fiat anyway, so unbanning should be too. Leaning on community members to achieve redemption is pretty traditional. If there’s some vague hints of the possibility of redemption floating in the community (and no-one never mention them in the most-trolled threads), I’m pretty sure things will work out ok.

    A techincal thing that needs to be fixed (if it isn’t) is auto-embedding of video links. Urrk!

  63. says

    I have to agree with those who desire that comment entries not disappear (and subsequently mess up the numbering) even if the content is removed/replaced. I have a bit of fondness for Scalzi’s “kittening”:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/01/21/the-kitten-setting/

    though, of course, locally I’m sure it would be need a bit of tweaking, “Cephalopod”ing, perhaps. Even when Scalzi wields the standard mallet I think it is only the comment content that is removed, with sometimes the user name also … tweaked. That’s really my biggest gripe about comments … the randomization of references to numbers — a bit amusing when the final result in one comment refers to a number 10-15 beyond it’s own number.

  64. thephilosophicalprimate says

    A note on the stylesheet: I’d like freethoughtblogs to be more friendly to the vision-impaired. Because the character width of the central column is set, I am pretty limited as to how much I can increase the text size before I would have to scroll left-right to read, which is functionally worthless.

  65. moelarryandjesus says

    I’m not going to require real names. Consistent pseudonyms are good enough. I really, really hate sockpuppets; they undermine the credibility of all pseudonyms. I will burn all puppets to the ground on discovery.

    Thanks for this. I’ve been using this name for 10 years or so. It would feel like an amputation to part with it. That’s apart from the strong conclusion I have come to that requiring real names would ruin the internet.

  66. Usernames are smart says


    My minor suggestion, which is probably more oriented towards the tech guy, would be for a Reply button that would do no more than preface your comment with something like:

    yazikus @ #1:
    — PatrickG #2

    That functionality is easily added with a plugin.

    Isn’t there a “Ban for X Days” function? So you can be all like “Come back when you can behave!”
    doublereed #39

    That is a cool idea and again, easily added with a plugin.


    No. Learn to use preview and spellcheck, FFS.
    — Caine, Fleur du mal #20

    Another cool idea: force preview before submit. Plugin.

    Looks like there’s a fairly easy implementation via the template.php file. — PatrickG #11

    Aack! If one’s template adds/modifies WordPress’s functionality, then it is a CRAP template; get a real template immediately. Templates are for presentation only, not functionality. The latter is what plugins are for; mixing up the two makes it very hard to modify the look and feel / site functionality down the road…and then you have to hire an outrageously expensive person to defuck your site.

  67. says

    Usernames are smart:

    Another cool idea: force preview before submit. Plugin.

    Works for me, especially as it seems putting the preview button first isn’t gonna happen.

  68. Malachite says

    Count me as another in favor of not re-using numbers for deleted comments. How else can we see what someone is referring to? If there was a reply button which automatically blockquoted then we’d just get horrendously long comments, which would be a nightmare to follow, given the vigor of the hoarde.

  69. A. R says

    I could see the comment length standard being a problem. Someone who wanted to write a one-liner could use random text as filler, or simply copy and paste their one-liner several times.

  70. Silentbob says

    @ 42 yazikus

    sqlrob,

    Every once in a while, main page seems to go to some sort of mobile form instead of the usual, haven’t figured out of that’s caused at your side or mine.

    It isn’t just you, I get it as well and it shows only the recent postings, and so I have to come straight here, and then access the sidebar list for the other blogs. No rhyme or reason that I can tell.

    I think I’ve discovered a workaround for this. Try adding the “www” subdomain (that is, go to http://www.freethoughtblogs.com rather than freethoughtblogs.com). I don’t know if that always works, but several times when I’ve got the frustrating “mobile” front page, adding the subdomain gets me to the “proper” front page. Give it a try.

  71. cyberax says

    Comments without threading on a high-traffic site are a dung heap and are interesting only to teenagers/college students who have no better way to lose their time than trying to dig in a dungheap.

    There, you have it.

  72. Stella says

    I’m sure it would be fun for commenters to be able to use styles in comments. It will be less fun for visually impaired readers.

    Many text colors will be unreadable. Many fonts will be unreadable. Some text sizes will be unreadable. Pictures are rarely described. I have to jump through so many hoops to read here at all, please don’t make it harder.

    I’d hate to see the impact of the Gumby/Comic Sans be diluted by overuse.

    Stella

  73. Stella says

    Usernames are smart,

    Are their any plug-ins or add-ons specific to Word Press that I can use to override obstacles like overlapping text, narrow columns, fonts that are hard to read, colors that make text invisible?

    Unfortunately, the problems vary by individual blogs.

    Stella

  74. scimaths says

    I’m wondering if it’s possible for the dashboard to show a list of our previous comments. Sometimes I’ll post a comment and forget which blog I was commenting on, or I’ll want to look up a great response I gave on the last round of, say, abortion rights threads, and it would be great to have a searchable history.

    This would be very useful.

  75. says

    It would help if the text below the comment box included the blockquote tag, ideally in first place prefaced by “Quote like this:” with an example. Also an example for how videos are linked, not embedded.

    More FTB recent would be nice – ideally it would be a box with a scrollable list.

    And of course there’s the old sidebar-on-the-right thing.

  76. says

    Seconded @51, drives me nuts having to login here to comment at Zvan’s, say, or anywhere else on FtB, surely there’s an easy fix for that.

    I’m getting the distinct feeling from the last 2 years that maybe it is quicker for PZ to install a couple plugins as suggested above, for example for preview and reply to specific comment, rather than to wait for the mythical Tech Guy’s second coming. I am reminded of Sciblogs here.

    I have no issues with one-line comments, except maybe the dumb “First!”. And as someone who has formed part of the night shift here for over 5 years, may I say thank you for not disabling comments over night, what would I ever do? Sleep or read a book or be otherwise productive? That’s just scary.

  77. Orange Utan says

    @Silentbob

    I think I’ve discovered a workaround for this. Try adding the “www” subdomain (that is, go to http://www.freethoughtblogs.com rather than freethoughtblogs.com). I don’t know if that always works, but several times when I’ve got the frustrating “mobile” front page, adding the subdomain gets me to the “proper” front page. Give it a try.

    I wonder then if the issue is cookie related. New domain, new cookie.

  78. Thumper; immorally inferior Atheist mate says

    Seconding Crip Dyke @#36 and also Chigau @#40.

    I am also stating my opposition to comment limits, either minimum or maximum, for reasons already pretty well covered.

    I also really like the idea of a “Reply” button which simply jumps you to the comment form and automatically emplaces the name of the commenter and the comment number to which you are replying. That would save a lot of time, and would maybe get some of the more stupid trolls to actually make clear who the fuck they are responding to. The one downside, of course, is that you can’t respond to more than one comment at a time… or rather, you can, you’d just have to type the name and number manually as we currently do, but trolls won’t.

    I’m against giving us too much control over formatting. The ability to do bits in Comic Sans could be useful for comedic purposes when quoting something egregiously stupid, but I wouldn’t give people control over font size or colour, for example. The thread would just be confusing if everyone was writing in a variety of colours and sizes.

    Is it possible to make it impossible for commenters to use caps lock? Nothing is more irritating than some pratt who thinks their comment is somehow more erudite if it’s typed in capitals.

  79. Thumper; immorally inferior Atheist mate says

    Oh! And the bit below the comment box, where it lists the html tags: could it be made clearer? For example:

    Blockquote: [blockquote] quoted text [/blockquote]

    (except with the actual symbols).

    So actually explain what each tag does, and then give an example to show how it’s used. Then we can just point people to that and say “Look at Blockquote”.

  80. Stella says

    I changed my link, adding the www. and got dumped on an ugly page the second time I clicked it. It looked like the “Recent Posts” page, but there were no links to posts.

    Of, course, the “View Full Site” link just dumped me into an endless loop of that page.

    Stella

  81. Thumper; immorally inferior Atheist mate says

    Mini-bans seems a good idea. You could ban someone for a number of days, then if they fuck up again for a week, then permanently. Three strikes and you’re out kind of thing.

    Also, bring back the dungeon! Or something similar. Mostly for transparancys sake, also for educational purposes (“Someone has been banned for what you’re doing. Go and read the dungeon”). It also occurrs to me that if you start using a three strike policy as above, then you would need to keep a list to remind yourself why someone was banned and which strike they are on. The list may as well be public, for the above stated reasons.

  82. Nick Gotts says

    How would you verify that someone is using their real name, anyway? – Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Well, it’s obvious you’re using your real name, Naked! After all, who would call themselves Naked Bunny with a Whip if it wasn’t the moniker their parents saddled them with?

  83. NightShadeQueen says

    Stella

    I use the Firefox plugin NoSquint to reformat sites so I can process them.

    [Meta: Took me *ages* to figure out why I just couldn’t stand some FTBlogs. Turns out it was because their background images were too chaotic. I use NoSquint to disable the backgrounds]

  84. Hatchetfish says

    I’ll put one more name down for hating the fixed center column width, and the layout that goes with it. Utterly maddening on either a tablet* or more often, a half-screenwidth window. Worse, and it’s seemingly a trend for most web pages with written content (so, all the useful or interesting ones), is the tendency to reserve a column (or two) for linky spammy ad-y horseshit, and reserve it for the full height of the page, even though the horseshit extends maybe three screens down. After that it’s just blank wasted space that throws off the page alignment. I’m typing this in a five inch wide box, inset in a six inch wide column, next to four fucking inches of dead wasted space on the left. If I shrink the window, guess what gets priority to stay visible? Content? Fuck no. Have to make sure we can see that dead space. Thank FSM for multitouch horizontal scrolling. Gods help the poor bastards out there still using 1 dimensional scroll wheels.

    In short, I hate columns and I like content. I wouldn’t mind much at all if all that non-content crap took up half the screen, say, above or below the post, but it really shouldn’t have its own sacrosanct blank column burning screen real estate all the way to the bottom of the page.

    * I hate mobile stylesheets. Said tablet has a 1280×800 7″ screen, same pixel count as the Mac I’m typing on now, and just like the Mac, it can handle the grownup web, it doesn’t need the broken two button Playskool version.

  85. Bicarbonate (formerly Elizabeth Hamilton) says

    As a new person around here I’d like to say it would be nice to open the “introductions” section again and maybe put people in alphabetical order by nym. Also, I don’t understand any of what is written below beginning “You may use these HTML tags…”. People had to explain to me in the Lounge how to do blockquotes. So, if you want people to make sense out of that “You may use…” it needs more explaining. I am in general for keeping all formatting options and functionalities as simple and sober as possible and remembering the visually impaired. The Preview button doesn’t work for me (nothing happens when I click on it) and for some reason preview buttons rarely work for me. I think they are a great way of losing, misplacing comments and also interrupting comment flow when they delay posting.

    Otherwise, I vote for all of the following:

    Duth Olec #30

    Would a reply button also include the ability to be emailed when someone replies? Because that’s what I’d consider useful.
    And can I ask why there’s two checkboxes for “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”?

    Crip dyke #36

    The recent posts on FtB function? If you want to get us reading more of other authors, limit each blogger to only one appearance in the recent FtB posts.

    And then, for bonus functions, don’t just take the 6 posts that are the most recent posts of the 6 most recent bloggers. Take the most recent post of each blogger, place it in a hopper, and randomly choose 6 for the list – changed whenever the page is refreshed – so we get exposed to not just a blog name, but the actual post titles which give us an idea of the substance of bloggers writing.

    This would definitely get me reading more authors.

    Pteryxx #43

    One thought I’ve been mulling is that the troll spam might get cut down if new commenters, specifically, were limited to say three posts (or five, or ten…) in X amount of time. When a thread really heats up, the vast majority of supportive and positive de-lurkers post only one comment and then re-lurk. New names posting in bad faith however go on and on and ON and on without ever stopping their arguing long enough to read links. Now sometimes I like a good rolling smackdown as much as the next Hordeling, but I gather there’s less reason and more silencing from the harassment/racism/rape apologist crowd than this place was designed for. Maybe that could be an option when Poopyhead’s busy or sleeping, or when we’re on the tenth page of such BS in a week?

    Caine #53

    Also, probably for tech guy? Why are non-hyperlinked nyms showing as linked, and it’s a link to the freaking thread they are in? That’s stupid and annoying.

    Don’t Panic #73

    I have to agree with those who desire that comment entries not disappear (and subsequently mess up the numbering) even if the content is removed/replaced.

    Delft #88

    It would help if the text below the comment box included the blockquote tag, ideally in first place prefaced by “Quote like this:” with an example. Also an example for how videos are linked, not embedded.

  86. Stella says

    NightShadeQueen,

    Thank you for mentioning NoSquint. I used it for years when I used Firefox.

    I dumped Firefox early in July, because it was causing several problems on my system (Mac OS 10.8.4). It started crashing frequently and took forever to load even simple pages.

    I’m doing okay with Safari now, but I miss NoSquint’s ability to darken all that nasty, grey text so many people are so fond of.

    I may have to give Firefox another shot. Each browser has its own set of deficits.

    Stella

  87. sonofrojblake says

    Observations re: banhammer.

    I *think* I’ve read threads where someone’s been banned and all their comments vanished, because there remained some cryptic references to them in the comments from those who responded when they were still visible. When a regular makes a typical comment like “@somebloke, post 25, just fuck off and die you worthless piece of scum”, and you scroll up to post 25 and it’s by someone else and it seems entirely inoffensive, it gets confusing. Is there some way to leave the ‘nym in its original position and have the comment just say “BANNED”, or similar? Assuming you want threads to make some kind of sense for people trying to catch up.

    The dungeon is no great loss. Lack of redemption is no great loss. Unless you’re applying some reasonably clever tracking technology, circumventing a ban is trivially simple. Anyone motivated enough to care can redeem themselves if they really want to, by just getting another account and not doing something ban-worthy. Right?

  88. petemoulton says

    Your blog, your rules, so whatever you decide is OK with me, PZ.

    I would like to echo Owlmirror’s request at #21 for Comic Sans, if you can somehow make that happen.

  89. carlie says

    I’m wondering if it’s possible for the dashboard to show a list of our previous comments.

    I have wanted that SO MANY TIMES. What good is an account with a dashboard if it doesn’t tell you your own activity? One other thing that I’d like is a way to see commenters’ profiles with their last few comments, so I can remind myself of who people are and what they’ve said (especially during arguments).

    I support the idea of petitioning back from a ban, but there’s no way in hell that should fall all on PZ’s shoulders as a constant burden. I liked the idea of amnesty threads where people could petition there for return – is there any way to open one single thread for people who are otherwise banned? That way it’s time-limited (maybe once a quarter a thread gets opened for 3 days or something), anyone who really wants to comes and makes their case, and everyone gets to comment so the group opinion becomes known as well as any specific reasons someone else has for wanting a banned person back or to stay banned.

    I used to really like the Dungeon, because of its transparency, but then certain groups of people started seeing it as a badge of honor to try to get on the wall, so I think it isn’t useful any more, sadly.

    please no colors please no colors please no colors please

  90. scimaths says

    Formatting comments: what is the point of the cite and qsite options ? This is the result of using them

    test q cite

    test cite

    I don’t think anyone ever uses them ?

    If you got rid of those and renamed “blockquote cite” to just “quote”, it might make it easier for people when formatting replies.

    Also fonts and colours ? No. For those of use who overload visually, the plainer and less fancy the better.

  91. NightShadeQueen says

    scimaths

    If you got rid of those and renamed “blockquote cite” to just “quote”, it might make it easier for people when formatting replies.

    Disagree: blockquote is standard HTML.

  92. NightShadeQueen says

    How about this proposal:

    Remove q, cite, abbr, acronym from nothelpful text. Those aren’t standard HTML, aren’t used often. Yeah, they might be occasionally useful, but telling someone that the abbr tag is a thing isn’t all that helpful if they don’t know what it does.

    Have a full list of HTML tags and a better description of what they do in the Dashboard somewhere.

    Have a small blockquote how-to after the post, and mention that b, i, and a are things.

    [The hyperlinks are auto nofollow, right?]

  93. NightShadeQueen says

    scimaths

    Those are useful for hovertext

    <abbr title=”hello world”>YOUR TEXT HERE</abbr>

    YOUR TEXT HERE

  94. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Those are useful for hovertext

    Humm, wasn’t aware that was working here. Interesting.

  95. says

    Have a small blockquote how-to after the post, and mention that b, i, and a are things.

    As far as I’m aware, <b> and <i> are style-tags which are ignored by screen-readers for the visually impaired. When indicating emphasis, not just prettifying the text, we should use <em> and <strong>. (That’s what I’ve always been told at least. Confirmation by someone using an up-to-date screen reader would be useful.)

    A reference post (on the wiki, maybe?) on how to use HTML in comments, especially blockquotes, would be nice.

    Other than that, I second the idea of deletion/replacement of comments but leaving the number in place. As well as “proving” that replies to it aren’t addressing thin air, it would also stop that annoying effect of references to comments made after them being suddenly aimed at the wrong comment-number.

  96. ledasmom says

    Thank you for not having nested comments. One of my favorite (in the sense of having interesting and informative comment discussions, not in the sense of necessarily hitting home runs in the actual posts) blogs recently went to nested comments, which means that essentially I read the comments once. Too much wasted time paging up and down after stray new comments.
    Font and color options make it difficult for me to read the comments quickly – consistent text without visual surprises allows me to take in the meaning without pausing to consider the appearance.

  97. NightShadeQueen says

    As far as I’m aware, <b> and <i> are style-tags which are ignored by screen-readers for the visually impaired. When indicating emphasis, not just prettifying the text, we should use <em> and <strong>.

    Ah, noted. Thanks!

  98. tfkreference says

    creationists tag doesn’t work in Preview

    And please fix the mobile display, unless I’m the only one for whom it doesn’t work on an iPhone.

  99. Thumper; immorally inferior Atheist mate says

    @Nightshadequeen

    It’s not; or at least, it’s not for me.

  100. NightShadeQueen says

    InspectElement doesn’t show span tags at all; I think they get stripped when we try to use them.

  101. Jacob Schmidt says

    Some sites have a page with examples of the tags in use, as well as how to format them. That might be easier. I never learned how to use html until I took a class in LaTeX and made the connection.

    I’ll second (or tenth or twentieth by this point) the use of a reply button that auto formats something like this: John/Jane Doe, @67

    Some forums will also have the reply button automatically quote the whole text. Maybe you want that, maybe you don’t. I find it helpful; saves me some scrolling.

    Temporary banning is also a good idea.

  102. says

    And then, for bonus functions, don’t just take the 6 posts that are the most recent posts of the 6 most recent bloggers. Take the most recent post of each blogger, place it in a hopper, and randomly choose 6 for the list – changed whenever the page is refreshed – so we get exposed to not just a blog name, but the actual post titles which give us an idea of the substance of bloggers writing.

    This would be fantastic.

  103. says

    How about these?

    <blockquote class=”creationist”>

    All these should be in comic sans

    </blockquote>

    <em class=”creationist”>All these should be in comic sans</em>

    I’m trying to figure out the boundaries of what you can do vs. what I can do — it’s not obvious. Also, WordPress offers no easy way to change the allowed tags — I’d have to go into the php code to fix that, and I’m not allowed.

  104. DLC says

    I don’t mind more font control, so long as it’s not all those ridiculous color fonts or blinking letters crap.
    That stuff was annoying back in the 90s and it has remained so. Besides, if you really want blinking text you can always find Time Cube.
    As for one-liners: sometimes, by the time I’ve gotten to the end of a comments section, all I feel like saying is a brief one-liner in which I agree or disagree with the OP or with certain comments. Sometimes I’m just too tired to comment at all, in which case you don’t hear from me for days.
    Regarding banning: Although it seems a rare thing to me, there are sometimes commenters who I think may deserve another chance. As such, perhaps there should be a committee of some sort, composed of at least three people whose opinion PZ trusts, who could review requests to be un-banned. But it shouldn’t be too easy to make such a request, and it should be a majority decision to recommend un-banning.
    Say, 2 of 3 or 3 of 4 of the committee. The downside to that is, it’s more work for people, and it could cause feelings of ill will between members of the committee.
    Oh, and I do agree wholly with not ever implementing comment threading. Just reading nested blockquotes can be too much sometimes.

  105. Great American Satan says

    Pteryxx @43 had a good suggestion. Hope that’s possible and considered.

    Caine’s answer @52, I say Pteryxx’s suggestion seemed to cover that well. Thinking back to the grenade thread, their observations of delurking behavior vs. trollin’ seemed to be mostly true.

    I am a creationist, dog! Or am I? Nope. I am not.

    As for short posts, I don’t know why they’re so offensive. They help the horde shout fools down by not forcing them to construct a thesis in response to the crapola every time. Someone will usually pen an epic in response to troll spoor, but I think that’s helped by rapid responding mini-arguments. It reduces the time people have to spend looking at some hideous garbage being the last word in the thread.

  106. NightShadeQueen says

    And then, for bonus functions, don’t just take the 6 posts that are the most recent posts of the 6 most recent bloggers. Take the most recent post of each blogger, place it in a hopper, and randomly choose 6 for the list – changed whenever the page is refreshed – so we get exposed to not just a blog name, but the actual post titles which give us an idea of the substance of bloggers writing.

    exclude articles over a month old?

    [I’d appreciate it if the randomization was done client-side, so I could, you know, greasemonkey it so all recent articles are shown. :D]

    All these should be in comic sans

    All these should be in comic sans

  107. pensnest says

    I agree that it would be preferable not to ‘disappear’ obnoxious comments, but it isn’t a particularly fabulous idea to let them stand, either.

    On some of the sites I read, bad comments are replaced by statements indicating why the comment has been deleted. Replacing deleted comments with a random choice from a set of stock statements (presented in Comic Sans, natch) would keep the numbering in place, make it clear *who* was misbehaving in comments, and provide a modicum of entertainment for all.

    Say,

    Deleted for being a doucheweasel
    or
    Oh, dear, I didn’t do the reading
    and so on.

    I have no idea whether it might be possible to automate this.

  108. says

    Re Comic Sans, would it not be possible for PZ to define a font-family for the <q> tag, in the CSS? We could then:

    <blockquote><q>Quoted text</q></blockquote>

  109. Randomfactor says

    How about an autocorrect function which replaces “it’s” with “it is”? Not naming any names, but…

  110. theprospectofbees says

    No one seems to have brought up disemvoweling as practiced on the Making Light site. Rather than an offending comment being deleted, all its vowels are stripped. It thus still occupies the numerical slot, is still readable by anyone who cares to try, but not so easily readable as to distract and offend. There is a plugin for this.

  111. says

    As a new person around here I’d like to say it would be nice to open the “introductions” section again and maybe put people in alphabetical order by nym.

    How about a directory page on the wiki, with a little profile of commenters as well as a list of their former nyms? I for one get very confused by nym changes when someone’s been known as Whatever forever, then shows up as Whomever. I’m thinking Whatever doesn’t comment very much or at all anymore and Whomever is new but is acting like they’ve been here forever. It takes me a while to sort it out and then I’m not even sure if I’m right. I’m pretty sure that sometimes I think that Whomever *is* an entirely new person and I never twig to the fact that they are someone I’ve known as Whatever for a couple of years.

  112. carlie says

    No one seems to have brought up disemvoweling as practiced on the Making Light site.

    PZ used to make extensive use of disemvoweling. I forget why it fell to the wayside, but I think because it was mainly used as a first shot warning before banning, and that’s easily done the way he does now with a huge-font red-letter STOP IT comment.

  113. Jacob Schmidt says

    How about an autocorrect function which replaces “it’s” with “it is”?

    How would you denote possession?

    Yes, I do this a lot. Mostly because I don’t care.

  114. pHred says

    Nth support for adding some kind of reply capability that include the name and comment number automatically. I love that idea. I also would really appreciate the banhammered comment numbers staying in place. It makes the conversation very weird when the comment you were responding to disappears and the thread gets very meta when large chunks of text disappear into the ether.

    I like the idea of maintaining the recent posting listing as is – it makes navigation on tablets much easier – and adding a potpourri list that shows a random assortment of relatively recent posts from people other than PZ and Ed. I think that would be a neat addition.

    Does the text on the Preview button look gray to everyone else too? My brain interprets that as a nonfunctional – which might be why so many people don’t use it. It looks like it won’t work. At least to me it does.

    I never knew about this one !

  115. says

    I’d also love the ability to go back to my previous comments. There have been a couple times when I’ve wanted to say to someone ‘didn’t you read my last comment’, only to realize my previous comment was on the same topic on a different blog.

  116. says

    And speaking of needing an edit function – I mean in the dashboard have a list of all my previous comments so I can find them/search them again as needed.

  117. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Things I’d like to see (many of these are echoes of what others have said):
    (1) Comic Sans.
    (2) A functional “reply” button.
    (3) Automatic preview.
    (4) A searchable listing of my comments on the dashboard.
    (5) An end to the “fiddle with my nym, it changes all editions of my nym, backdated” crap.
    (6) When someone is banned and there’s a comment cleanup, the offending comments being replaced with a placeholder, so that the numbering (that people refer to) stays consistent.

  118. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Hmm.

    I don’t like the idea of a word limit, but sometimes when someone produces three pagedowns of text, it can get tedious. What of the idea of after n words, the comment automatically collapses and if you want to read more, you have to click something? And then you can re-collapse the comment?

  119. sonofrojblake says

    Seconding “a functional reply button”, ideally one that automatically begins one’s comment with “@/username/, post /postnumber/:”

  120. says

    @Hatchetfish (#99)

    Why u no like mobile stylesheets? The whole idea of a good mobile layout is to emphasize content and minimize real-estate wastage. In WordPress’ new default theme, the main content area is resizable and the sidebars automatically move to the bottom when the browser width goes below a certain point.

    That’s the number one thing I’d like to see at FTB — a really nice, uncluttered mobile layout. As a stopgap, it would help tablet/phone users to move the sidebar to the right side.

    As for comments…

    1. I’d like to see comments by banned users remain after banning. If you come late to a heated discussion, you often see a large percentage of the comments directed at a seemingly imaginary person. Some type of indicator (text-mangling, font, color) could be used to indicate the ban.

    2. It’d be nice to have a quick quoting or reply function.

    3. Also nice – a “more…” function for long comments.

    4. Given the sometimes triggering nature of some discussions, it would be useful to have a tag for hiding text in a comment, requiring a click to show the hidden text (like the “spoilers” on various entertainment blogs).

  121. cicely says

    All attempts at achieving Comic Sans were Fail.

    (5) An end to the “fiddle with my nym, it changes all editions of my nym, backdated” crap.

    So much This.
    -

  122. Pteryxx says

    re disemvowelling, [comment deleted], or any such replacement… I don’t like those ideas, in this space, because generally PZ only disappears a string of comments when someone’s been a really hateful troll (i.e. trying to trigger survivors) or they’ve been sockpuppeting. In those cases all their comments SHOULD vanish utterly so the jackass doesn’t have any trophies to wank over. Most of the time, when someone’s merely being relentlessly bigoted and crosses the line to a banning, all their comments stay intact and readable anyway.

    While it would be nice to have the vanished comments still take up a number, so all the surrounding comment numbers don’t change, having the comment numbers change doesn’t seem to be a big issue. I haven’t seen any discussions where someone honestly can’t find a given comment or figure out what happened due to a string of hateful trash being removed. Any time I’ve seen that complaint, it’s been from other socks trying to bring attention to the “censoring”. What happens instead is regular commenters apologizing or clarifying that their own comments refer to vanished comments or numbers. I just think everyone reading in good faith seems to be able to figure out what happened without needing a fix.

    I agree that a “replying to: [name] [number]” quote function would really help though, as an option. I don’t always want to look like I’m calling out a specific person per quote, nor repeat some troll’s handle over and over and over. When a troll uses that button, it might help point up when they’re replying only to the meanest/male-est voices and ignoring the reasonable and/or female-appearing ones.

  123. PatrickG says

    @ Usernames are smart:

    Whoa yeah, I said that really badly. Instead of implying that one would modify the template file, I meant to say that one could easily include the relevant function from a template file, i.e.:

    Source File

    comment_reply_link() is located in wp-includes/comment-template.php.

    Sorry for the ambiguous wording.

  124. John Horstman says

    @PZ:

    One capability I wish WordPress had was a way to require a certain minimum of words in a comment. I’d rather see fewer one-liners and more thoughtful discussion.

    That’s a simple validation script that could be added to the comment handler (which already has validation and parsing, allowing it to strip disallowed HTML or scripting), but it’s a practice that creates perverse incentives (see #64), and I’d advise against it.

    Also, WordPress offers no easy way to change the allowed tags — I’d have to go into the php code to fix that, and I’m not allowed.

    WordPress does have a easy way to change allowed tags, and you stated it. Don’t blame the platform for the way it’s been configured on this particular site. :-)

    Also, allowing extensive markup in comments adds very little and creates a bunch of visual noise I tend to find extremely distracting (personal mileage will obviously vary). Alternate fonts aren’t too bad, as most of them are at least intended to be reasonably legible, but colors are just awful. There are any number of ways to add emphasis or differentiation already (standard English punctuation, non-standard punctuation, blockquotes, em/i and strong/b tags, emoticons, etc.). The idea of a Creationist class earns a :-P from me, but anything beyond one or two predefined classes is going to seriously impact legibility. Especially given how excited some of the commenters seem about the possibility.

  125. left0ver1under says

    As with any issue of privacy and anonymity, many of those who use it the most are those who abuse it the most. And that means when some actually need and deserve privacy, they often can’t get it.

    It’s almost as if the scumbags want that to happen, though I doubt any of them are smart enough to think of it.

  126. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Left0ver1under @155:

    As with any issue of privacy and anonymity, many of those who use it the most are those who abuse it the most. And that means when some actually need and deserve privacy, they often can’t get it.

    Which is why the use of consistent pseudonyms is an excellent compromise.

  127. A. R says

    Okay, I suspect I should make known the fact that I’m a lurking monitor. I can be reached at adotrtzt at gmail.com.

  128. says

    Ugh.. I hate comment limits myself. There is some place that had like, a dynamic limit which I thought was sort of interesting, which meant the longer you where a valid poster, the more you could post, but it still doesn’t help if you need, say 600 words, and they limit you to 500, or worse, in the case of that site, like 200. And, sometimes, to point out a flaw in an article, or post something detailed, where you don’t have some convenient link to the contents of a book, or a nice, online, non-paywall, article to link to, you need even more, to describe wtf you are even talking about. Its invariably one of those sorts of articles I reply to, where I find an artificial limit, which requires deleting whole paragraphs *and* rewording the rest six ways to sunday, just to get rid of 1-2 words I still end up going over the limit on. :p

  129. Sybil Kabibble says

    For years, my internet hobby (which I innocently thought of as harmless)
    has been to make up a new nym & then think up a smart-ass remark under
    which to post it. Either this was always a violation of internet ettiquette
    or attitudes have shifted because of the rise of those gangs of hostile trolls.
    In any case, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone
    for everything.

  130. says

    When I was a child, I had a strong fear of stairs that didn’t have the piece in the back (risers?). I was always afraid that I would fall through. I had a recurrent nightmare that I had to climb a long set of stairs in a big stairwell at school. The stairs got shorter and shorter, and further and further apart, so that I had to cling and crawl along an ever-shrinking piece of masonry.
    .
    That’s what nested comments feel like to me – the damn thing gets littler and littler, and narrower and narrower, and it’s just damned annoying. (Fortunately, there’s no triggering of the bad dream … in fact, I only just now thought of it for the first time in quite a while.)
    .
    I generally don’t read sites with nested comments, and I would most sincerely regret if they were introduced here.
    .
    I like the mostly-clean spare look of the comment section, and I would regret if commenters were given free use of colors, fonts, etc. It could get ugly fast.
    .
    Many of the short one-line comments are the best. (e.g., Anthony K, who I still think of as Brownian, and sorry I never had the chance to get in line)
    .
    Many of the longer comments are the best – oh, so many of you.!
    .
    Retain space holders for deleted comments, just to preserve the comment numbers.
    .

  131. unnullifier says

    Having a reply button as suggested by many above that not only adds the “@[number] [name]” to a comment but also makes the “@[number] [name]” into a hyperlink to the permalink for the comment you’re replying to would probably side-step the issue of numbers shuffling when a comment is deleted for moderation purposes.

    * I click “reply” to Pteryxx’s comment numbered 152 above.
    * The following is added to the top of the comment textbox: <a href=”http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/28/those-dang-comments/comment-page-1/#comment-679824″>@152. Pteryxx</a>.
    * This is added as text to the comment box, so the commenter can change/remove it if they want.
    * If a comment is deleted and comment 152 becomes 151, the permalink still goes to the correct comment, so you can still see who is replying to who, and even jump directly to their comment.

    Here’s what it would look like:
    @152. Pteryxx: [reply comment goes here]

  132. rrhain says

    A couple things I have liked on other boards:

    1) As others have mentioned, a “Reply” button. To this end, you might consider telling the folks to think of a way to have an option for threading or linear flow. Those who like to see threaded comments can have the comments load that way. Those that want chronological listings should be able to get it both forward (oldest first) and reverse (newest first). That does, however, require storing what message is connected to what so that may be a down-the-road option.

    1b) If the ability to thread/chronological sort the list isn’t available, then a Reply would include in it a link back to the post that it’s a reply to. Yes, users can type that in manually, but it’d be nice to have it be automatic.

    2) One BBS I know has the ability to ban words for specific users. It doesn’t kill the post, but it does censor it, putting in asterisks for the word. This allows certain people to use sensitive terms because you can trust them to engage in the topic with some sense of decorum and responsibility while preventing others from (directly) showing they aren’t up to it. This, however, would require an admin who has the time to monitor the comments and maintain the list and you’re busy in general. It might, however, help with the question of using the ban-hammer too much. You can start restricting their ability to talk until you realize that they really don’t have anything useful to say.

  133. NightShadeQueen says

    Put me in as someone who doesn’t want to deal with threaded comments, especially as someone who often will respond to more than one comment in a comment.

  134. says

    As far as redemption from banning, I’m banned at Coyne’s blog. I’m not particularly upset about it, and why would I /want/ to be re-integrated? I could always email him to work it out I suppose, and someone banned has lots of avenues to get back in communication with you, so I wouldn’t really worry about it.
    Comments are great, their management is tricky, because what you have is a blog with posts that people respond to. Detailed commenting is more like something for a discussion board, which this isn’t.

  135. says

    Robertschenck:

    As far as redemption from banning, I’m banned at Coyne’s blog.

    Which has zero relevance here.

    someone banned has lots of avenues to get back in communication with you, so I wouldn’t really worry about it.

    Oh, you’re someone who can’t manage to read. First, it’s not your fucking problem, is it, so no, not your worry. Second, PZ stated, supra:

    I don’t want miscreants contacting me. I already get lots of that: Kwok has sent me a couple of emails, for example. Not interested. One thing that might work is if they convinced a couple of the monitors, and they contacted me.

    Comments are great, their management is tricky, because what you have is a blog with posts that people respond to. Detailed commenting is more like something for a discussion board, which this isn’t.

    Now you’ve upgraded from ‘git who can’t manage to read’ to ‘bit of an idiot’. Again, PZ states, in the OP, no less:

    Comments are absolutely essential and are not going away. What do you think I read the site for? Besides, we’ve long had an interesting community here.

  136. anchor says

    As noted by many, a reply button could be convenient. Agree also with no nested replies in the threading.

    I tend to think of the liberty to post quotes with comic sans as belonging exclusively to PZ. It might present too much of a temptation for commenters to overdo it and that could conceivably lead to threads that would be even harder on the eyes to read through than the longer ones already are .

    We don’t need that extra gimmick. Its [not it’s] fine the way it is, and its [not it’s] use restricted to PZ’s discretion would preserve its [not it’s] impact. Besides – imagine the chaos that could ensue if such a weapon was made freely available to trolls.

  137. Nightjar says

    anchor, we had Comic Sans available to us for a long time, it was never problematic. I personally think it’s great to denote sarcasm in your own speech, not just for quotes. I’d like to have it back too, if possible.

    Also:

    sub- and super-scripting

    This!

  138. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    Esteleth @147:
    That is a good compromise for longer comments.
    __
    I am onboard with the REPLY button as well as a placeholder to banhammered comments.

  139. NightShadeQueen says

    ….It feels to me that a Reply button could be greasemonkey’ed in if Server Person is busy.

  140. anchor says

    Nightjar – Ah yes, you’re right, I do remember that. I also recall it never seemed to get out of hand, so perhaps my concerns overreach a bit. I don’t know; maybe its just over-sensitization to the ‘higher temperatures’ that seem to spike up now than the environment did back then. Its true that any tool or option may be abused, but just because some may do so may not be sufficient reason to deny everyone of its proper use. My worries may not be justified. I defer to experimental trial: my remarks were posed for consideration, not as a stance I need or care to defend.

  141. consciousness razor says

    Tony, say you wanted to write the mathematical expression for “x squared” without having to fiddle around with LaTeX or some shit like that. I can do that with an html symbol in that specific case and a few others (like so: y = x²), but you could write whole words or sentences above or below the normal line where the rest of the characters sit.

  142. says

    I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned it (haven’t had a chance to catch up with latter comments here), but one thing I find slightly annoying is finding myself back in moderation as though I’m a first time commenter on some blogs when I’ve changed my visible nickname, not my login. For example, I commented on Dana’s blog a few days ago, not realizing that the last time I’d commented there (I’m assuming) my tag was “denizen of a spiteful ghetto” rather than “Let’s burn some bridges”. My comments were held in moderation which was especially annoying because I wanted to crosspost my comment on the thread of the same topic here, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t view it or copy it.

  143. Seize says

    I’d actually argue against the institution of any type of “time out” ban, even if the count stood at six months.

    In later days I’ve most often seen the banhammer hefted to block not annoying wittering or ranting or godbotting, but hate speech. To me, the act of banning a common tater adequately reflects the kind of impact that allowing even a short instance of this kind of speech has on minority members of a community.

    I still believe in providing a pathway to salvation – but I trust it to the same comment-watchers who are expected to tip PZ off about commenters who are out of control. Ideally, the same individuals who report an individual should back their pardon.

    Instead of allowing those who sink to anonymity during a designated period to creep back into our ranks, this system will favor those known persons who make a sane, concerted attempt to communicate through appropriate channels that they have substantially addressed the issue which led to their banning.

  144. says

    I’m not sure what it is with editing comments that people hate so much, but this is one of the things that I have a serious problem with.

    Going back and finding typos in posts of mine has given me nightmares.

    I’m not exaggerating.

    I have quite literally woken up in a cold sweat because of posts I have made only to find a typo and discover I can’t fix it. Sometimes I think it’s a phobia; potentially worse then my arachnophobia.

    Again… I’m not joking.

    To this day I will go back to comments I made one, even two years ago, find typos, see that I can’t edit them, and this will affect me for fucking days. I am a shit editor of my own comments and I always miss stuff in drafts. Do you want to know why I never get 100s on my school essays? Because FIVE REVISIONS LATER I think I have a final draft, only to get the graded paper back with numerous missed typos.

    The ability to edit my posts would be a serious lifesaver.

    But I guess I’m the only one because everyone else in the world doesn’t seem to care…

  145. says

    I’m sorry.

    I do get it. I get that there are people who abuse the function, who try to use it to make themselves look better while simultaneously making others look bad.

    So I get that.

    I just cannot handle finding a typo in my comments. I have never been able to and it has distracted me in so many ways. I know it’s petty and ridiculous and extremely pathetic, but it’s an issue that has plagued me for years. I get really pissed off at myself when I make a typo and it becomes a serious problem if I can’t go back and fix it.

  146. chigau (違う) says

    NateHevens
    If you can edit typos, you can edit content.
    No one wants the trolls to have that ability.

  147. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    Nate:
    To an extent, I know what you mean.
    Typos can interfere with effectively communicating your ideas. I have learned that the hard way since I use my phone for net access (I type much better and faster on a keyboard and I think I am prone to fewer errors) and almost everything I type has errors. In short comments, it is easy to correct with preview, but longer ones are difficult. There are times I wished I could edit a comment, but I have to be satisfied with assuming people can understand what I am saying.

  148. Pteryxx says

    how about an edit function just for NateHevens? ;> *patpats*

    Some of this stuff could be tiered, if there were a need or reason.

  149. Usernames are smart says

    Are their any plug-ins or add-ons specific to Word Press that I can use to override obstacles like overlapping text, narrow columns, fonts that are hard to read, colors that make text invisible? — Stella #86

    Not for WordPress per se; what you are looking for is an add-on or bookmarklet for your browser to clean up all the garbage.

    You might check out readability’s “read now” bookmarklet. Go to the blog entry and click the bookmarklet and the page will be very readable.

    Also, WordPress offers no easy way to change the allowed tags — I’d have to go into the php code to fix that, and I’m not allowed. — PZ Myers #125

    Seriously, purge the thought of editing WordPress code out of your head. You will fuck your site and then make updating the core code (new versions come out all the time) extremely hard/error prone/labor intensive. If your tech person considers it/suggests it/allows it, give him his (or her) walking papers immediately and find someone with more experience. I’ll say it again: never, ever, ever edit WordPress core code. Use a plugin; that’s what the API is there for.

  150. says

    ibis3 @175

    especially annoying because I wanted to crosspost my comment on the thread of the same topic here, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t view it or copy it.

    This doesn’t answer all your concerns, but if you’re using Firefox this addon remembers stuff for you that you’ve typed in comment-boxes (and only comment-boxes, which is neat).

  151. robertschenck says

    Caine, Fleur du mal:

    I brought up being banned at Coyne’s blog because there was a discussion about banning and bans being overturned, it seems fairly relevant. Myers /asked/ how people can have a ban removed, most of the time that’s going to involve them contacting him, either through email, his twitter account, etc. I also didn’t say that comments should be removed when talking about aspects of a discussion board.

  152. badgersdaughter says

    Just testing because suddenly all my comments seem to be held up in moderation and I don’t know why. Thanks.

  153. says

    How about allowing a limited percentage of change when editing, and within a limited time as well? That should be enough for fixing typos, while not giving assholes much room for polishing their turds. Also, a line “edited by x%” could be included, perhaps even with a user supplied reason.

  154. carlie says

    The auto logout makes me want to scream at its randomness. I can understand auto logout after a certain period of inactivity, but it seems to not do that at all. I can be commenting and commenting, and all of a sudden BOOM, I’m logged out. It’s so frustrating.

  155. David Marjanović says

    Subscript, superscript, Comic Sans.

    Long ago, PZ, you did use the <q> tag for Comic Sans; I have no idea why that stopped working – probably it happened at one of the FtB-wide layout changes.

    As far as I’m aware, <b> and <i> are style-tags which are ignored by screen-readers for the visually impaired. When indicating emphasis, not just prettifying the text, we should use <em> and <strong>.

    That’s… bad. Some things, names like Homo sapiens in particular, need to be in italics; it’s not emphasis, it’s General Recommendation 6 (and I’m too lazy to look up the botanical and microbiological equivalents). I do not want people’s browser settings to control the appearance of that.

    Italics being taken, I use almost only <b> for emphasis.

    When a troll uses that button, it might help point up when they’re replying only to the meanest/male-est voices and ignoring the reasonable and/or female-appearing ones.

    That’s a good point I overlooked. I was going to argue against the need for a reply button – I just cite what I comment on; if people want more context, they can paste the quote into Ctrl+F, as I sometimes do.

    The ability to edit my posts would be a serious lifesaver.

    But I guess I’m the only one because everyone else in the world doesn’t seem to care…

    …Uh, yes, you’re the only one who find it that bad. I sincerely hope you can afford treatment – this is not sarcasm. :-(

    How about allowing a limited percentage of change when editing, and within a limited time as well? That should be enough for fixing typos, while not giving assholes much room for polishing their turds. Also, a line “edited by x%” could be included, perhaps even with a user supplied reason.

    This sounds great, if it’s easy enough to implement – I have no idea.

    I can be commenting and commenting, and all of a sudden BOOM, I’m logged out.

    I think it does that after a set time; on my laptop it also usually does it when I’ve traveled, so maybe it’s the IP address?

    I agree it’s frustrating and illogical to have it that way instead of after some period of inactivity.

  156. Rick Pikul says

    Late, but I would like to add something to the reply button idea:

    Good is having a reply button that inserts the “@Whoever #Whichever”.
    Better is having that be a link to the comment.
    Even better is what FiMFiction does.: That link reacts to a mousehover by causing the cited comment to popup, (it also tracks who has replied to a comment, and adds links to the original comment).