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Automatic thread collapsing

You may have noticed some new behavior on the site, here's the lowdown:

-Upon returning to a previously viewed topic with new posts, the older posts have been collapsed and grayed out, making it very obvious which posts are new to you.

-If you're not logged in, viewing a topic you haven't read before, or where you've already read everything, nothing will happen.

-Clicking on John in "Steve replied to John" will highlight and open John's post if it is collasped.

Play around with it and let us know what you think, we hope that this will address a lot of issues 'hounds were having with the site.

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  1. Wow, this could be a kind of historic breakthrough. A moment of silence, please..... Good, now yaaaaaaay!

    1. I was confused for a moment...then I saw the light! This is a great update - thank you!

      1. [Applause]

        Okay, I take back my cynical remarks about Chowhound Engineering not being genuinely interested in our "problems."

        1. Impressive!

          It would be nice if the opening post would also collapse, especially when its a screen or three long.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Actually, since there are so many topics with similar headers, I like being able to refresh my memory with a quick glance at the initial message.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I agree with Ruth about the initial message. And with everybody else about loving the new feature. With this, I won't be bothering with "Who's Talking."

          2. hey, don't want to sound like too much of a cheerleader, but I really wanted to say it is pretty cool that feedback is taken seriously and actually put into practice. The new changes - being able to see the last person who posted from the main board, and the collapsing of old posts is great. Very, very cool.

            thanks folks!

            1. I agree! This is just brilliant...the best improvement yet. Thank you!

              1 Reply
              1. re: LindaWhit

                Perfectly stated. Best improvement yet. Just great.

              2. Working very well. Took about two minutes to get used to.

                I think it would be more efficient in long topics if the collapsed-post headers were double- or single-spaced instead of triple-spaced.

                  1. In topics with a lot of complicated nesting it can be hard to figure out which of many collapsed posts is the parent (one being replied to), especially if it's far enough up that it's not on the same screen.

                    A graphical tree and/or a link that would take you to the post that's being replied to would be helpful in that situation.

                    Again, kudos for such fast turnaround on this.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I agree with Robert on the addition of a graphical tree somewhere in the mix. This would really help.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        "In topics with a lot of complicated nesting it can be hard to figure out which of many collapsed posts is the parent (one being replied to), especially if it's far enough up that it's not on the same screen."

                        I find it easy to just click on the "replied to" name and the pertinent post immediately displays. That works for me.

                      2. Ingenious!

                        It's not just about the Chowhound site anymore...
                        you have really made our lives better!!! Thanks!

                        1. I'm feeling very, very affectionate. This is what I've been lobbying for since the beta. But I have to say in some ways this is even better than what I've agitated for, since it allows expansion/collapsing of single posts as well as the whole thread. I thought I was fantasizing when I came upon my first post today; the interface is totally intuitive and easy to use.

                          Seriously, for me this is by far the most important improvement in functionality in the new software, as this has several advantages over the old Hot Posts. I'm happy with the way the index for each board has been reconfigured and the way the threads themselves are arranged now. You've also just rewarded hardcore Chowhounds, as now it's even more important to log in.

                          A sincere thank you!

                          1. Great work, team! The collapsing feature only works on about half of the threads that I view, though I imagine that you're aware of this.

                            I would like to see some additions to the "Who's Talking" feature - a great concept that could use some tweaking. It would be nice to see a "New" emblem next to the name of posters who have recently posted something new. It would also be nice if there was a link next to the posters name that would take you directly to that poster's most recent post in the thread.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              I always see the collapsing feature when there are new posts. It disappears when I've read all or none.

                            2. Thanks very much! This makes for more efficient reading of posts.

                              1. This is really terrific, a great solution!! Congratulations and thank you!

                                1. Wunderbar, wunderbar - thanks so much!

                                  1. This is really great! Good job!

                                    1. I LIKE IT!! Way to go Chowhound Team!

                                      1. LOVE it, Engineers!

                                        It feels like this improves the speed of page loads on really long threads like this one:

                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                        1. Hello Chowhound Engineering,

                                          First, thanks for all the hard work on our behalf. And thanks for including us in the process. We are some lucky 'hounds, indeed!

                                          All right, I like the automatic thread collapsing. And I can see it being a useful tool under certain circumstances. However, consider the case (especially with a very long thread) where a person clicks on a topic and opens that thread. And then, due to any variety of factors, they are unable to finish reading all of the posts in that thread before logging off. Now, when they return later, all of the posts will appear collapsed.

                                          Now I know that all they must do to view the collapsed threads is to simply click on "Expand All" to do so, but that does not deal with their situation adequately. All they wanted to do was to continue where they left off, but they are now prevented from doing so.

                                          Please consider this case as you continue to refine this feature.

                                          And thanks again!

                                          David

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: David Ford

                                            That's a tough one -- how would the computer know what one has read, given that the entire thread is loaded? There is no way to track what one's field of view has landed; if there are 5 posts on the screen, how does the computer know that I read 1-3 and haven't read 4 and 5?

                                            In the old board that was possible because each post was loaded and accessed individually, but I definitely do not want to manually click on each and every post manually and have them on separate pages -- it's very time consuming and very hard to see a post within the context of the conversation. Neither do I want to have to mark each and every post manually within a thread as being read, that's too laborious.

                                            The only stopgap I can think of is to have an additional option of collapsing posts older than a certain amount of time as specified by the user (e.g. collapse all posts older than 1 hr, 2 hrs, 1 day etc...). But that would be rather cumbersome and far from perfect in this situation -- it's conceivable that one could have stopped reading a thread between two posts that were posted a few seconds or a few minutes apart.

                                            1. re: limster

                                              Yeah, the computer only knows which posts have been displayed in the browser.

                                              The only way of knowing which posts have not been read is to make the user click to read each individual post, which as you note was one of the worst things about the old site.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Actually, there is at least one way I know of to tell what a visitor has "seen", and it would probably be pretty awful in this context: Flash. Flash movies can detect whether they're visble or not. By embedding a one-pixel Flash object at intervals down a page, each one can report back to the server when the user scrolled to that point on the page. To mitigate the ick factor, it could be multiple copies of the same tiny Flash object, each with a thread-position identifier passed as a parameter.

                                                I didn't say it was a pretty or especially sensible thing to do. It would probably slow down page scrolling significantly on some of these 100-reply threads we're seeing on the general boards. But it can be done.

                                                Ick.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  The only way of knowing which posts have not been read is to make the user click to read each individual post, which was one of the worst things about the old site.

                                                  Here's a workaround

                                                  Click on the icon in the upper left corner of the last reply read

                                                  Use your computers browser to add it to your favorites list

                                                  When ready to continue reading, select from favorite list

                                                  Click the Expand All link

                                                  Continue reading

                                                  This isn't perfect, but it is much better than having no starting point.

                                            2. Now that's a cool feature! Thanks CE.

                                              1. I had been having trouble with my computer at other sites tonight. Came to Chowhound and thought crap, what is going on now, but it took one post to say wow!

                                                Like it.

                                                  1. I'll add one more thank you to the mix. Well done.

                                                    1. Excellent work...thank you very much for your hard work!

                                                        1. As per my favorite cartoon...Suuuper Genius!

                                                          1. A few different things:

                                                            -- First, thanks for listening ot feedback -- both in creating new features and evolving them as people use them.

                                                            -- Second, not to be to contrarian, but I saw a half-dozen threads with these collapsed posts and just figured something was broken. I didn't see that "expand all" link or whatever it reads. I bet I'm not the only one either.

                                                            Maybe some better visual indiciation as to how to expand? Or that something is collapsed?

                                                            -- Third, seeing these new posts with everything above them or around them collapsed leaves a lot to be desired in terms of context. Should possible the post directly above the new post be shown as well? At leats when the new post is a nested one that is likely a direct response a question or statement made directly above?

                                                            -- I find it annoying that I have ot expand each thread individually -- that it doesn't remember how I like it from thread to thread. Can we eventually have a global setting that controls a default view of things?

                                                            Again, thanks for listening to feedback -- a rare thing in the online world.

                                                            Peter

                                                            1. A few more thoughts after getting used to this:

                                                              - It's often impossible to understand a new post when the one it's replying to is hidden, and as I noted above it can be very hard to figure out where the "parent" post is. It would be nice if the parent posts could also be displayed by default, perhaps differentiated from new posts by color-coding.

                                                              - There's lots of white space in the collapsed posts. How about displaying the first few words of the post to the right of the date and userid?

                                                              - It would be nice if the "Collapse All" button appeared in topics with no new posts.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                In long threads though, that would mean a lot of randomly expanded parent posts that you wouldn't necessarily want to see. Each post (except those that are replies to the original post) contains a 'replied to username' in italics. Click on that username and it'll immediately open the post it was a reply to and jump to it, if you need the context.

                                                                1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                  Thanks for the tip--that change was *NOT* obvious, since those links used to go to the person's My Chow.

                                                                  That might be clearer if the link text was "replied to."

                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  I have similar thoughts. This is a great improvement, but I do find myself more often than not expanding each post just above each new one so I can understand the new reply. I would certainly find it easier to use the site if by default one reply above each new post was expanded.

                                                                  -Nick

                                                                  1. re: nja

                                                                    Yes that would be an intelligent addition.....

                                                                    1. re: nja

                                                                      Having to click on something to see the prior post is no different from the way the site was prior to the change in software. My own opinion is that automatically showing the post to which the new post is replying would be messier and more confusing.

                                                                      1. re: nja

                                                                        I think that would just confuse me -- did I read that post or not? And it sort of defeats the purpose of decluttering the screen and making it less to scroll through.

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          I agree, Ruth. I have had no difficulty thus far determining context for any message. And if I did, a click or two would clear it up. I much prefer the simplicity of expanded = not yet read.

                                                                    2. I love it! That is all I have to say...

                                                                      1. I hate it. The color coding was more than sufficient to denote the posts that had't been read. Although the majority of posts on this site are replies to the first post in a thread, a substantial number of posts are replies to replies. Without seeing the previous post, the replies are out of context. I applaud being able to see the last user posting to a thread on the main page, but this is huge hassle- having to expand the threads all the time.

                                                                        It would be one thing if you could set this kind of preference somewhere, but you can't. Isn't one of the perks of corporate sponsorship a large enough budget to allow for features like user preferences, HTML and BBcode?

                                                                        Sure, Chowhound has come a long way from what it was, but compared to other food related discussion forums, this is like using an abacus.

                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                        1. re: scott123

                                                                          Almost everything is built with Jim's vision of Chowhound in mind and as such we've chosen to intentionally leave out features like HTML and BBcode. It has nothing to do with budget, neither of those are particularly difficult to add.

                                                                          1. re: Engineering

                                                                            I suggested leaving out HTML for security reasons and because a simple, clean interface seemed the best match with what we do...as opposed to all those message boards with postings rife with garish colors, wild font size changes and blinking stuff.

                                                                            This community has always been a refuge for no-nonsense data-hungry types - people more interested in steak than sizzle. The design ought to reflect that, IMO. I suppose that's the "vision" the engineers are refering to.

                                                                            1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                              How about the ability to bold or italicize words. When you are making references to foreign words, it's sort of hard to make it readable without italics...

                                                                              1. re: butterfly

                                                                                Do like always...just all-cap it so people REALLY know you're emphasizing (the clumsy phrasing was just an excuse to allow me to sneak in the example!).

                                                                                That has the added benefit that if you cut/paste a thread into email, you'll be 100% sure the emphasis is maintained.

                                                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                  Hmm... All caps doesn't really work for what I'm talking about. I live in a foreign country and do a lot of bilingual sort of posting. For the sake of clarity, it would be nice to put the non-English words in italics--as I would when writing in any other setting. All caps for bold does make sense...

                                                                                  1. re: butterfly

                                                                                    Oh, ok, gotcha. how about in quotes? or separated by em dashes?

                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                      Yeah, I guess that or the asterisks could work--maybe my multilingual lifestyle has made me too dependent on italics... And if it meant opening the gates (of hell) to emoticons and hokey avatars, then I would gladly give up the oblique.

                                                                                      1. re: butterfly

                                                                                        As an editor, I too have difficulty functioning in a world without italics. I've spent forty years of my life making sure book titles, movies, plays, poems, words as words were all in italic type. Lucky for me, most of those don't come up too often here. But every time I have to type a cookbook title and can't italicize it (which DOES come up fairly often, for me), I go into a mild OCD twitch. I've lived with it all these years and will continue to do so without complaint (well, mostly), but arrrrrrgh!

                                                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                                                          Ha--I feel exactly the same way. It's amazing how a little slanting can create order out of chaos...

                                                                                    2. re: butterfly

                                                                                      What about using asterisks around the intended bolded or italicized word? That way it stands out like *this* so people know you mean to emphasis it.

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          That's what I do when I *need* to make a point.

                                                                                  2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                    Is "data-hungry" synonomous with anti-graphics? Are topic-related uncopyrighted images "nonsensical?" I consider myself to be intensely data-hungry, I just happen to prefer my data in the concisest form possible. In some instances, an image conveys information in a far clearer/conciser manner than text. Is there not a strong visual aspect to food? No HTML/bbcode equals no images. No images translates into impaired sharing of knowledge/learning, imo.

                                                                                    Without HTML/BBcode, URLs have to appear in their entirety, rather than single word/phrase underlined links. This method of posting links, is, imo, a much cleaner, much more legible way of sharing information.

                                                                                    Definitely, banish all forms of blinking stuff and multicolored/multi-sized fonts, but what about ways that convey information in a cleaner simpler manner?

                                                                                    Would allowing BBcode [img] tags and [url=] tags involve that much of a security risk?

                                                                                    1. re: scott123

                                                                                      "No HTML/bbcode equals no images"

                                                                                      Not true.

                                                                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                        Ummmm... did I miss something? Is there currently a way to post images?

                                                                                2. re: scott123

                                                                                  But one click gets you to the post that is replied to. Expanding all the other posts would slow you down. Not important, perhaps, if you come to Chowhound infrequently, but crucial to those of us who visit often.

                                                                                  1. re: scott123

                                                                                    The color code somehow never worked for me. I'd have things that said new in yellow but I had read it already. Not sure what was up. I think the collapsing is great, just have to remember to log in.

                                                                                    Now if we could get it that when you search a topic, it goes from most recent to oldest. It's scattered all over the place whenever I search, with mostly 3 year old posts coming up first.

                                                                                    1. re: Joanie

                                                                                      If you aren't always logged in while you were reading the site, that's why colour coding and new tagging isn't working. The site can only keep track of what you're reading while you're logged in.

                                                                                      For searching, it's putting threads that most match your terms first by default. But there's a 'date' link on the page that allows you to change that to most recent first.

                                                                                  2. We're astounded at all of the feedback that we've received on this new feature. Thank you! It's clear that it does need some more polishing, but we're listening don't worry.

                                                                                    One thing I'd like to point out that I tried to make clear in my first post is that if you need the context of what the new poster is responding to, the scott123 in "CH Engineering replied to scott123" is not a link to his profile. When clicked, it will highlight and open that post. We're going to make that a lot more obvious, hang tight.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Engineering

                                                                                      I love the way you guys can change the tires without having to stop the car.

                                                                                      1. re: Engineering

                                                                                        Clear enough -- now that it's been explained to the lucky few who've read this thread. But if it needs to be explained then it's not very to use, is it?

                                                                                        Remember, for every person who reads this conversation, there are 100 or 1,000 who will miss it and just stumble around wondering what's going on. :-/

                                                                                        Peter

                                                                                        1. re: Peter

                                                                                          They said, "We're going to make that a lot more obvious, hang tight."

                                                                                      2. I was wondering if anyone has feelings on this either way:

                                                                                        Currently, search only finds threads containing a given text string (e.g. "lasagna"), not individual postings. So after clicking on a search result, the thing to do is do a browser "find" down the page for the string. But if threads are collapsed, the string isn't found!

                                                                                        I guess the workaround would be 1. automatically expand all threads clicked on from search results, or (hipper) 2. when clicked on from search results, expand only the postings containing the string.

                                                                                        Any input on this?

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                          I've thought a bit about this, too.

                                                                                          Perhaps each reply should be marked in the HTML source. Then, instead of linking to the full post, a search could link the the specific reply...

                                                                                          Oh, I just looked at the source code, and it looks like every reply already has an ID attribute specified in the <ol> tag. Wow, you guys are good. Nice HTML.

                                                                                          So, maybe the search could link to that ID tag.

                                                                                          You might even have the option of jumping straight to the newest post when you click on a thread you have already read, or jumping to a specific author's reply when you click on a topic in the lists of posts under their user profile.

                                                                                          Honestly, I do just fine with the current system, but it might be a classy touch.

                                                                                          I love the new collapsed threads.

                                                                                          Joseph

                                                                                          1. re: Joseph

                                                                                            There's already a URL format for linking to specific posts. That's what the little belt-buckle icons at the top-left corner of each post use.

                                                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                          2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                            My first instinct was to go with #2, because it of course seems quicker, whether you're scrolling the thread or using the find function, to skip posts that don't contain the text string you searched for, but then I reconsidered.

                                                                                            I realized that you'd see posts in the thread that mention lasagna (to use your example), but you might end up missing great posts that just don't happen to include the text string. If we had your #2 option and my search input was 'lasagna,' I might miss something like "I had an incredible one a Joe Bob's Roadhouse, with the deepest ragu you could imagine..." because that post was collapsed. I'd also miss posts where people spelled it lasagne. This seems especially relevent given that people so often don't reply to specific posts with the new software, but to the original post, even when it is/was not a subthread limit issue. So in this case, I think I'd sacrifice the efficiency of #2 for the comprehensiveness of #1.

                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                              I think Caitlin has it right. As the searched-for word(s) are marked with the yellowest of yellow backgrounds, I don't think there is any trouble finding all "lasagna" references quickly, even in a long thread.

                                                                                            2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                              Where's the tech team's imagination? With some clever formatting and a bit of Javascript, there could be, for instance, a vertical bar along the side of the window representing the entire thread, with the relative locations of search matches or unread posts or whatever marked with little blocks. Clicking on one of the boxes would scroll the page to the appropriate message and expand it. Sort of like how some development tools like the Eclipse IDE display diffs.

                                                                                            3. Just got on the board for the first time in a couple days and I LOVE (if I could, I'd put it in italics, but I do think all caps accomplishes the same thing) the changes.

                                                                                              Good work!

                                                                                              1. Nice work (and a creative solution to one of the issues raised). Compliments to the Chowhound team!

                                                                                                1. Neat-o! This should speed up reviewing new posts in the big threads. Thank you!

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                  1. I love it. I can actually just see the unread responses to a topic I've been following. Then I can expand all the responses if I need to rehash the discussion because I'm completely obsessed.... Great enhancement!

                                                                                                    1. My first reaction: Hate it, hate it, hate it. But after surfing a few hours, I hate it a tiny bit less. I could see how some people might like it, especially those who check lots of threads frequently.

                                                                                                      Me, I prefer seeing the context, especially with nested posts. And I don't usually remember what was said before.

                                                                                                      But the real problem is that it doesn't seem to work consistently. Sometimes the Expand All options goes away (after expanding a single item, it seems). Sometimes it's simply not there (seems to depend on context and what you've done before). And it's really slow to load - seems to really drag the whole page load down.

                                                                                                      If this feature stays, it needs to work in a consistent manner. Also, could the view default to "expanded"? Or, better yet, could it remember our preference/last setting and apply it to all threads we view?

                                                                                                      Thanks,
                                                                                                      Anne

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                                                                        You brought up a good point -- I'm going to start a new thread about "settings."

                                                                                                      2. Regarding today's "Expand All" enhancement:

                                                                                                        The instructions say: "Clicking limster in the text "about 4 hours ago Robert Lauriston replied to limster" will highlight and open limster's post if it's collasped. If it isn't collapsed, it'll still highlight it for you."

                                                                                                        That's not what happens for me. If I click a username in the collapsed thread, the link takes me to that person's MyChow page.

                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Professor Salt

                                                                                                          That's the wrong link.

                                                                                                          In a *new* post, clicking "replied to *whoever*" will take you to and expand the replied-to post. E.g., in this post, the italicized Professor Salt.

                                                                                                          1. re: Professor Salt

                                                                                                            > "Clicking limster in the text "about 4 hours ago Robert
                                                                                                            > Lauriston replied to limster" will highlight and open
                                                                                                            > limster's post if it's collasped.

                                                                                                            This part works fine for me.

                                                                                                            > If it isn't collapsed, it'll still highlight it for you."

                                                                                                            This part doesn't work. When I click on the "replied to Professor Salt" link, while the "professor salt" post is open, it kicks me all the way back up to the top of the page.

                                                                                                            1. re: butterfly

                                                                                                              That's a bug. I've seen that intermittently too.

                                                                                                            2. I am new to CH and have no engineering knowledege but I did notice the format change and finally figured it out :)

                                                                                                              To navigate, I begin at My CHOW to continue reading/replying threads. If My CHOW also had collapse features I'd have a personal thread history that would help me keep track of/find posts specific posts.

                                                                                                              Do you plan to add a collapse feature to My CHOW?

                                                                                                              1. This is certainly an improvement.

                                                                                                                HOWEVER.... this would make it even better.

                                                                                                                What if you were to COLOR CODE the backgrounds of previously read posts? (e.g. slightly darker than the new threads.)

                                                                                                                This way we have an instant visual recognition of previously reviewed replies... can scan for info to refresh our memories and then instantly move on.

                                                                                                                Should be easy enough to implement, no?

                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                                1. saves a ton of time on finding new responses, love it!

                                                                                                                  one mod i hope you can consider. When someone responds to a posting it would be nice if there was a button to open the thread between the post and the post being responded to.

                                                                                                                  example

                                                                                                                  post 1 grayed
                                                                                                                  post 2 responding to post 1 grayed
                                                                                                                  post 3 responding to post 1 grayed
                                                                                                                  post 4 responding to post 3 grayed
                                                                                                                  post 5 repsonding to post 1 new and open

                                                                                                                  could you think of a way to open from post 5 back to post 1 so you can see and feel the reparte.

                                                                                                                  thx