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Keeping up with active threads is extremely difficult

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I think that the forums interface has some core flaws when it comes to big/active threads.

A couple of common headaches:

A) There is no way to quickly scroll to the newest messages. If I am reading a thread that has hundreds of messages, I have to scroll up and down to find the new message(s). This could be handled much more nicely by putting in a button on the sidebar that automatically scrolls to next/previous new message.

B) If I open a busy thread and start reading, it might take me 10 or 15 minutes to finish up. And maybe during that time I'll feel like posting a reply or two. Now when I go back to my profile I see that I'm the last poster, but I've missed any messages posted while I was reading the thread. And if I go back in to look for interim posts, ALL of the messages open up, making it impossible for me to track activity.

This second one is not a difficult problem to solve -- change the internal timestamp you keep from the time the user posted to the last time the user accessed the thread. That should fix the problem, at the expense of showing the user his or her own messages as "new." If you want to fix that, some additional logic could be put in place where the timestamp would be updated to the posting time only if no new posts from other users were done in the meantime. Again, not at all difficult, assuming that you have a reasonable data model backing this thing.

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  1. I like the idea of the button to go to the next new post on each thread. And while I'm not tech-savvy enough to know how #2 suggestion would work, I like it anyway. :-)

    1. YES!

      I don't mind Scenario A that much but Scenario B is a constant PITA. Engineering, PLEASE could you do something about it?

      1. +1

        1. time? what time zone? the server's or the user's? latest is one thing, time is another.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hill food

            Shouldn't matter, I think? The admins can choose one - say, the server's internal time clock - and use that.

            1. re: hill food

              What huiray said. By "timestamp" I meant whatever internal mechanism they're using to track the last time you hit a thread. Maybe it's a time, maybe it's a last-read message identifier (that's what I'd personally use), maybe something else. That's already happening, but currently it updates when you post a message. It's the update part I want changed; I don't care what the actual "timestamp" is.

            2. Bumping this. I've recently been involved in a thread with over 400 replies and have had the same problems yet again.

              Perhaps someone from Chow can comment?

              6 Replies
              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                Yes, it really would be great if Engineering could do something about this.

                It continues to be an issue, **even on shorter threads**, and I have missed posts on numerous threads where I started a reply, went to another window to do a bit of research before finishing off the reply, and missed both responses to the post I was responding to as well as other posts elsewhere in the thread - even posts responding to an earlier post of mine!

                Sometimes I have resorted to deleting (actually, copying) what I had started and aborting my response, rechecking whether a new post had been added to the thread, recomposing my reply in Microsoft Word (for example) and then waiting a bit before copying-and-pasting my separately composed response back into a new "reply to" window on CH.

                ALSO: I'm not completely sure about this, but it seems that sometimes when I post something - as a reply to another post, one that took a few minutes to compose, say, then post it - my response shows up in the thread...but if someone else had also posted at around the same time or *just* before I did in reply to the same post I *dont* see that other post (neither "collapsed" nor "open") after the webpage shows my own new post. If I refresh the page, *then* that other post shows up - and inspection of the time stamps of that "hidden" other post and mine indicate that other post was made just before mine.

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Hi davis_sq_pro, huiray and others: We understand what you are saying here, so thanks for posting about this problem. There are other things we are working on that may eventually alleviate this, but it is not something we are going to be working on immediately. We will keep track of this for future consideration though, so thanks again for pointing this out.

                  Dave MP

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    the solution is simple. engineering should just limit posts to a small window of each day. would be as good as unplugging the clocks and phone - works like a dream. trust me.

                    1. re: hill food

                      Nice idea, if it were 1896 and we didn't have these newfangled computer things :-)

                      The timestamp solution I've proposed should be as easy as changing a line or two of code, assuming that the code is reasonably well written/encapsulated.

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        There may be an easy change we can do to fix issue B, so we'll be looking into it. Will be keeping you posted, and thanks again.

                        Dave MP

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          You can improve issue one by simply changing the background color of that highlight box that goes around open posts. That grey to slightly darker grey contrast is difficult to pick up, but if you used more contrast or maybe even a different color, it would be easier for people to pick up the new posts visually.

                2. A partial solution to scrolling to the first 'new' post - do a page search (ctrl F) for a word like 'permalink' or 'report', i.e. the footer of a full post. Though this isn't much faster than grabbing the scroll bar, and pulling down till a post catches my eye.

                  Finding the latest posts on when whole thing is expanded is tougher. A page search from the current date is probably the best option.

                  Composing a long post off line is a good idea. But who starts a reply with the intention of writing an essay. These replies just grow and grow.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: paulj

                    Searching for "permalink" is a very nice workaround, for that issue--thanks!

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      What I've done is to return to the thread and do a search for "minute" and then "hour". :-) That picks up responses/posts made within a recent time frame that is tagged with "x minutes ago" or "x hours ago". Which I DISLIKE, by the way. I prefer the old way of simply tagging posts with the date it was made.

                  2. I'm happy to announce that a fix for Problem B is now up and running. Let us know if you see any oddities with the NEW flag as a result.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Engineering

                      This seems to be working - yay! I posted in a thread, and when I went back to the board index, thread showed both a NEW flag and my name as author of the last post. I opened the thread again and saw another post, expanded, that went up at the same time as mine (which was collapsed).

                      Thanks so much for working this out; it will be especially useful on those long, involved threads with lots of back-and-forth.

                      1. re: Engineering

                        In the last hour or so, threads with many posts with the new marker are opening up fully expanded for me, when they should be mostly collapsed (since I've read them before) and only the new posts showing. Wonder if this related?

                        1. re: Engineering

                          Just had my first interaction with the new feature -- it worked great. Thanks!

                          1. re: Engineering

                            Just "actively" experienced the new fix. Returning to my "profile" page showed that "New" posts had been added to the thread I was responding to.

                            Thanks.

                          2. I would like to join the bandwagon and be the umpteenth person who is frustrated with this forum's platform. Nicely put, it's a joke compared to other, more robust, more successful forums. This forum has basically offers the user two functions: post and search (well, sort of).

                            Here's a list of things it lacks:

                            - No reply notification

                            - No post count

                            - No join date

                            - No reputation/ability to "thank" other posters

                            - No private messages

                            - No ability to actually quote a person in an easy-to-read-and-understand manner

                            - Too much editing and mothering by the moderators

                            - An itty bitty box to type in (Yeah, I can expand it, but why should I have to each and every time I want to post something?)

                            - Sloooooow load times, relatively speaking

                            - And the most ridiculous and frustrating format to a thread I've ever seen on any website on the entire internet.

                            All of these things act as a detractor to the end user. All of these things act as a drag on your post count and, therefore, overall activity.

                            This site has so much potential and I'd love to see it offer a much better experience. I've got to believe that there are plenty of other users and would-be users that feel the same way.

                            One of the most important things my business mentors ever taught me was only take advice from someone who was where I wanted to be in that particular area.

                            With that said, you may want to take a cue from the much larger and more successful forums (one of the best: http://slickdeals.net/forums/). Learn from them. Simply copy them and see what happens. You might be happy with the results!

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: 1POINT21GW

                              This entire post made me laugh. No reputation? Chowhound's got a better reputation than most food boards out there.

                              The moderation allows for just reviews from people who are more trustworthy than those on Yelp. No shilling.

                              Reply notification? Just go to your Profile and look at which posts have a "New" flag. Voila. You have reply notification.

                              Post count? What do you mean - how many posts each poster has on the forum? Who cares? It's not a popularity contest forum. It's about the food.

                              Slickdeals.com sticks all posts on ONE thread. Meaning you have everything from 2004 to 2012. Restaurants and the food they serve are fluid. Allowing for new threads on restaurants, their chefs, etc. allows for current information without wading through 101 pages of stuff that is no longer relevant.

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I'm sorry, I think the way I worded some things was confusing.

                                Concerning reputation, I meant the ability to "thank" a particular poster. For some, it helps lend more credence to what they say. It's also a simple gesture to let someone know you appreciate their time and effort.

                                Concerning post count, again, I think it helps some sort out the hit and run posters versus the seasoned posters who can be taken more seriously. I think it also helps readers sort out the more reputable information and guidance versus the less reputable.

                                Concerning Slickdeals, they're not a food forum, it's a deal site with a phenomenal forum. I think you might be mistaking them for a different website as they do not "stick all posts on ONE thread". I would have quoted your post with an embedded quote but, alas, I can't do that here either.

                                Thank you for reading my post. If you have any other thoughts about any of the other things I posted I'd like to hear them.

                                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                  Are you talking about "liking" a particular post as a way to "thank" the poster? That doesn't make sense on a site like Chowhound. You want readers to read everything and take away what *they* want - not be swayed by the number of "likes" for one poster or another. Again - the "Likes" would be more like a popularity contest.

                                  Regarding post count, if readers read first, they'll figure out the hit-and-run vs. seasoned posters. And anyone can click on someone's name and see how many threads they've posted on. I've got 123 pages of threads going back to June of 2006 (on this version of Chowhound). You've got 3 going back to threads started in mid-April 2012.

                                  Re: Slickdeals - I clicked on one forum thread, and the thread (Coupons) started in 2004. To get to the most recent post, you had to click the Last link. ::::Shrug:::: Not the most efficient way to deal with a thread, IMO. Especially when anything other than the last few pages are going to be expired coupons.

                                  Chowhound's been around for a long time in several iterations. It's managed to do pretty well. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be changed to a format like Slickdeals.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    First, none of this is a knock on you or directed specifically towards you LindaWhit. This is all directed at Chowhound the website and, more specifically, the forum. I am merely discussing this with you with the hopes that someone at Chowhound who cares will take any of it into consideration.

                                    I understand you're not interested in post count, "reputation", join date, more efficient notification, etc. and that is perfectly OK. In fact, it's great. Everyone's different. Some people like some things and other people like different things. But, it doesn't mean that a website has to exclude them from the features they offer. Why not offer that as a feature that can be turned on or off? Clearly you thought that someone out there would genuinely want to know enough about you to post what your real name is, what your location is, what your blog is, what the best meal you ever ate was, as well as what your current drink of choice is, as well as what your favorite comfort is, as well as what your top five favorite restaurants are, as well as what your most tattered cookbooks are. I didn't post those things because I'm different, but I'm not bothered by you taking advantage of those features. Again, why not give the individual member the option?

                                    I'm glad you brought up how Slickdeals organizes a few of its threads - namely the coupon threads. A small number of threads (about 0.004% to be closer to exact) are organized into one master thread to make it super easier for the reader. They do that so that you don't have to read through thousands of threads on Staples coupons to find the ones that are still valid. Instead, you simply click on the Stapes coupon thread and right at the very beginning of the thread is the Wiki post that shows you all the valid coupons and any other pertinent information regarding those coupons. No need to look through endless search results and no need to look through endless posts. It's all right there at the very beginning. I can understand, however, how easy features such as this might not be readily apparent to a Chowhound member used to this antiquated forum platform. (Again, not a knock on you, but, rather, this paleolithic forum.)

                                    However, the other 99.996% of the threads on Slickdeals are easy-to-find and easy-to-read individual threads. The moderators do a very good job of focusing on what is best for the members.

                                    A few other things they do that make things easier and better for their readers/members are they put a poster's thread count and join date right there in every single post of theirs - no need for an additional click or two. They also have real-time, current-page notifications; meaning I am notified immediately when someone quotes me or sends me a private message (this feature, of course, can be turned on and off at will) whenever I go to any page on the site (not just my special profile page) or reload the page I'm on. Why should I have to always go back to a super special page to see what threads have new posts or who's replied to one of my posts/quoted me? Why not put the "New" icon right there by each applicable thread in each sub-forum? Why not have embedded, real-time, current-page notifications on whatever page I'm currently on? Why make the members have to go back to this one single page that is practically useless for anything other that for this?

                                    And, Chowhound, please amp up your servers. Your forum, sub-forums, threads, posts, and every feature surrounding the forum load sloooooooow.

                                    Another thing, take a look at my post. It's a foot long - literally. It's crammed up in this little tiny space that takes up about 1/3 of the available screen space. Why? See all that wasted space to the left and right of my post and, well, heck, every single post on this website? Does this make sense to anybody? Why not stretch the format wider so that each thread doesn't end up 10 yards long? Doesn't it only make sense to match the format to how practically every single computer screen in the entire world is made nowadays?

                                    All of these suggestions add up to a much faster, much more efficient experience which, in turn, means a better overall experience with the site which, in turn, leads to a happier user which, in turn, leads to them telling other people about the website which, in turn, leads to more members which, in turn, leads to more money. So, it is clear that focusing on the members' experience and serving the members leads to a more successful website. My wish is that Chowhound embraces this member-focused, continual improvement mentality rather than holding on to the past while justifying what they're holding onto is good enough.

                                    If it were 2003, this website's forum would be awesome . . . in 2012, well, not so much.

                                    * Please consider the words "best for the members" (the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th words in the second sentence in the third paragraph) as well as "faster" (the 10th word in the first sentence in the second paragraph) and "efficient" (the 13th word in the first sentence in the second paragraph) as well as "members' experience", and "serving the members" (the 8th and 9th as well as 11th, 12th, and 13th word in the second sentence in the fourth paragraph) italicized. I would have done it myself, but, I cannot. Instead, I simply wrote 81 additional words to communicate this in order to enhance the thought I was trying to convey.

                                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                      Most forums use system that they have bought from someone else. For example as couple of auto related forums that I've used in the past used vBulletin. It's that 3rd party that provides all the enhancements. Chowhound was, as best I can tell, developed in house, with its own engineering team. It may not have all the bells and whistles that these others boards provide, but it is far from being clunky. You should have been around in the early days. :)

                                      My guess is that adding all the things you want either requires a fair amount of additional code, or buying one these other systems and changing whole look and feel. It is much easier to track subthreads on chow. On Chow a whole tread appears on a screen On vBulletin the same material would appear expended on half a dozen pages, complete with each poster's animated avitar and sig.

                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                  Manually checking your profile isn't a notification. Receiving an e-mail -- that's a notification. Most forums have that feature. Chow doesn't.

                                  Post count, join date, and "reputation" all help to establish that someone can be trusted. It's not about popularity. It works that way on many, many forums. (Such as every forum out there running phpBB -- probably thousands of sites. It does work.)

                                  Agreed also that moderation on this site is often overdone. Case in point: The moderators deleted another thread I started in the Site Talk forum about how I thought moderation was too heavy handed. Hmm...

                                  As someone who used to spend an inordinate amount of time on various Usenet groups, moderation of any kind is not a welcome thing. Mature forums can and will self-moderate. (Perhaps with a little tiny bit of cleanup when there is obvious SPAM, shilling, etc -- but deleting so-called "off-topic" subthreads is a terrible idea that destroys the sense of community that this kind of site can foster. IMHO, at least!)

                                  Agreed also that the way threads are managed here leaves a lot to be desired once the thread gets nested beyond four levels. A quoting feature would fix that problem handily.

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                    I personally wouldn't WANT an Email every time someone posted on a thread I had posted on. I'd rather go look at a thread and read the new posts at my own leisure, as I do now.

                                    As for post count, etc., hopefully people will read a bit before jumping into the fray. It's pretty easy to see whose posts are similar to your own thinking. I don't need to be told that XYZ joined in May of 2002, and has posted 3,578 times. That tells me *nothing* about whether those 3,578 posts are valid to me. Reading those posts would tell me.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      Sometimes I go to the poster's profile page. I can see at a glance that you have 123 pages of posts, and with another click, that you have been posting since 2006 (was that the start of this system?) davis_sq_pro has been around nearly as long, though hasn't posted as heavily. 1POINT21GW is a relative newcomer with 3 pages, and only a month of posting.

                                      The profile page also gives me a quick idea of the posters interests, and location (from the regional boards that they post on). Other forums have profile pages, but I think Chow's is one of the most useful.

                                    2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                      "Receiving an e-mail -- that's a notification. Most forums have that feature. Chow doesn't."

                                      Go to your Profile. Click on Settings. Click on Notifications. Enable Chowhound notification to receive emails.

                                      While I don't use the feature myself, it's there.

                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                        I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly davis_sq_pro (I have to put that in there because I can't quote you using a simple-to-read embedded quote).

                                        However, concerning Chowhound does offer a notification system (the word "does" should be italicized - I would have done that too, but I can't). It's easy. Once you activate this feature as described in the previous post above mine (sorry, can't quote that one either), all you have to do every time you want to see if you have any new notifications is:

                                        1. Open a new tab.

                                        2. Go to your email log in page.

                                        3. Log in.

                                        4. Click to read your mail.

                                        5. Sort through your emails and find all the new emails from Chowhound.

                                        6. Open an email.

                                        7. Click on the link in the email, which will open the thread in yet another, new tab.

                                        8. Click on that new tab and read that post.

                                        9. Click back on your email tab.

                                        10. Delete that email you just clicked through and go back to your new messages.

                                        11. Open the next email from Chowhound.

                                        12. Repeat steps 7 - 10 until you've gone through all your new emails from Chowhound.

                                        It's that easy.

                                        Keep in mind you could have dozens and dozens of these to sort through so don't feel overwhelmed when you open your email.

                                        1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                          Not the same as "reply notification." I would like to see a system where I'd be notified only of replies specifically to my post (for example, if I had asked another poster for details of a recipe), not of all new posts on the thread. I tried the existing system when I first joined, and very quickly got tired of deleting Chow emails.

                                          1. re: almond tree

                                            Agreed.

                                            On occasions when I *did* use the 'email notification' feature (as Melanie described) it was utterly overwhelming on very active threads - there was times when I would be getting SEVERAL HUNDRED emails after a couple of days if I did not check my email (at least the email address I use for these notifications). I might have been on the thread itself in the meanwhile, but the notifications can pile up very fast. OTOH, they were sometimes useful for getting an idea of what had transpired on some threads where heated exchanges were being traded at a furious pace and the mods were frantically deleting posts en masse. :-)

                                            1. re: almond tree

                                              Exactly.

                                              My post was referring to a post above mine where someone said that the email system here on Chowhound was a notification system.

                                              There is no meaningful, useful notification system here on Chowhound.

                                      2. re: 1POINT21GW

                                        Amen!