Comments Thread Replying Tip

By Kieron Gillen on December 11th, 2009 at 11:10 am.

The “Reply” is twitchy. Or, at least, it’s easy to mess up. When replying, always put the name of the person you’re responding to. I’ll show an example of what I mean in the comments thread. Because reply strings are dozens long anyway, it helps the debate even if the reply option works. Also, it makes the forum much more readable, as right now it’s often just a random bunch of comments with no idea of who’s responding to who.

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155 Comments »

  1. Dan Milburn says:

    What I don’t understand is, the forums on kenickie.com 10 years ago (which I’ve just realised is still there!) had a better comment threading system than WordPress seems to be able to manage now. Why is it so difficult to do?

    • Tei says:

      WordPress is a blog program. It don’t need a good forum the way a tank don’t need to fly like a copter, but the way a copter don’t need to shot or drive intact trough a bus.

    • Ian says:

      @ Tei: Admit it though, a tank like that would rule.

      KG

    • Dan Milburn says:

      Tei: I think blogging software, indeed any site at all which allows comments, should do it properly. Livejournal and Slashdot, for example, manage this more or less.

      A comment system with no threading at all is a pain. A comment system which only allows one level of nesting and has such a horrible interface that you can’t tell whether your comment is going to end up in the right place and ends up with the person who runs the site having to make a post asking people to mark who they’re replying to manually as a workaround, is worse. If RPS can’t fix this they should probably just remove the reply-to-other-comment button altogether.

    • Tei says:

      “properly” is a moving target. change from person to person, and on the same persona, by this person needs.

      for a blog, you just need a way to post something, see that in a cronical view (Older Last, Newer First) with a paging mechanism, and a way to comment these post’s probably as laisez free has possible, but withouth images support.

      on a blog you want to anonymous people to post, on a forum you want everyone to register. A blog and a forum are two different things, like a copter and a tank. Of course, you can always have a hybrid, but then, you have to choose on some tradeoffs. People hate tradeoffs, but some are unavoidable.

    • Dan Milburn says:

      Tei:

      RPS does of course have both a blog and a forum, which are integrated to some extent. So if they have different needs (and I don’t agree that they do because the commenting features I would like to see would be a benefit in both contexts) then ideally they should have a solution which meets both those needs.

      Comment systems should have threading. Why? Because you can still provide a flat view if you want to. You can’t do it the other way round. I really don’t see trade-offs here: there’s a way that’s good, that allows branching conversations that are possible to follow, that allows you to get a threaded view or a flat chronologically ordered view depending on taste, that allows you to have a helicopter and a tank in one, and there’s a way that doesn’t. Now if someone really doesn’t want branching conversations happening in comments on their blog, then well, that’s up to them I guess, but RPS obviously do or they wouldn’t have added the comment threading features in the first place.

      But hey, this is only one of a whole host of useability issues with the site and it’s still my favourite place on the internet so they must be doing something right.. :)

  2. Neut says:

    Dagda: I think I got it!

    KG

  3. P7uen says:

    Me too.

  4. P7uen says:

    Neut: Argh that was meant to be a reply to Neut.

    Wakakakakaka

    KG

  5. Mac says:

    I agree

    KG

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Today will be a day for punching.

    KG

  7. Andrew says:

    Check Check.

  8. pimorte says:

    I don’t think the reply system is really working out.
    It was easier to follow *before* replies were instituted. I liked it when all posts were in chronological order.

    • fearian says:

      What if I click reply, then forget who I was replying to! my comment could end up anywhere! especially as it doesn’t tell me!

      KG

    • Jad says:

      @fearian

      I do wish the reply system would repeat the post you’re replying to in a box right above the “Wot you want to say:” box, so I don’t need to scroll up (as I did just now) to see exactly what you said so I can reference it.

      KG

    • TeeJay says:

      @jad

      I do wish the reply system would repeat the post you’re replying to in a box right above the “Wot you want to say:” box, so I don’t need to scroll up (as I did just now) to see exactly what you said so I can reference it.

      …just cut&paste the text into your own post, then get rid of it after you have written your bit.

      (m’kay gee)

  9. robrob says:

    did i do it rite kg

  10. Kamos says:

    Embrace chaos.

    KG

  11. sebmojo says:

    Also, don’t be a fucking ["Coat" - Ed]. It regularly gobsmacks me how pissy and vile (some of) the community here are, when the RPSers are so sweet.

  12. Lambchops says:

    @ Pimorte

    I concur, I think the whole @ or IRT and the name worked grand – particularly in the forum section.

  13. tigershuffle says:

    Are all ‘other’ contributors with initials KG to be hunted down and shipped to a gulag for re-education and a fresh moniker?

    KG

    *returns to RPS FAQ* ;)

  14. bill says:

    do we know WHEN it’s glitchy? I never pay attention to it until AFTER it goes wrong.

    Is it that it doesn’t register the “reply” and doesn’t put the “click here to cancel reply”. Or is it that it registers the “click here to cancel the reply” but then doesn’t actually make a reply?

    A quick fix might be to make the “click here to cancel reply” more visible: BIG BOLD TEXT or something. Or even make the comment box change color when it’s a reply?

    • bill says:

      myself:

      I seem to have days when it works every time, and days when it never works.

      KG

    • skalpadda says:

      One thing I noticed when it didn’t work was that the URL indicated that it was a reply, but the red “Click here to cancel reply.” text was missing. Dunno if that’s in any way relevant though.

      KG

    • terry says:

      I am replying to Bill.

      If you are not bill, please ignore this message.

      KG

    • Jad says:

      I find it works if I do nothing funny when replying. Click “reply”, click “Opinion Away”. If I click on a link, or go to another page and come back, or if I cancel a reply and then try to reply again, or if my internet connection goes funny, then it doesn’t work.

  15. Eidolon says:

    Is this how it works, Kieron?

    KG

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    (I have to admit, it’s never not worked for me.)

    KG

  17. BAReFOOt says:

    The commenting system here is a total joke. For the one that gets closest to not being a joke, look at the Slashdot one. It still fails in the core, but at least it halfway works.

    • James G says:

      @Barefoot

      Ugh, I can’t stand the slashdot system. Half the comments seem to be invisible at any one time, and its too easy to become burried in a comment branch.

      Must admit, I don’t think I’ve had the comments system fail for me, or if I have, its only the once.

  18. Eidolon says:

    As a subscriber, I demand that you charge us more and hire someone to set up a proper Vbulletin board for the forums and to redesign the comments system!

  19. Lilliput King says:

    I have to sign in for replies it to work.

    TAKE HEED

    • Lilliput King says:

      LK: It also works after I do a first post in a thread. I can reply with every subsequent post without logging in, but the first can’t be a reply.

      KG

  20. pimorte says:

    Removing replies also has the benefit of forcing the forum threads to make sense.

  21. Jarts says:

    Heliocentric (not necessarily just to you, but pointing out ‘I understand’): I think he meant that even when a reply does work, putting the name of the person who you are replying to helps others know who you are really responding to. This is especially true when there are a large number of replies to a comment, then there can be multiple reply-points/conversations going on at once. Did I get it right?

  22. Tei says:

    @KG: Ok, I have forget to mark my message as a reply on this thread, but I will try to remenber it on the future. :-)

  23. jarvoll says:

    WHO IS REPLYING TO WHOM. AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! I find the writing of the Hivemind and all its appendages very entertaining and informative, so please know this is very loving and friendly criticism: seriously! Whom! It’s not hard. I’d go as far as suggesting that not using it is like gaming on a console. There, I said it.

  24. deanimate says:

    I don’t understand what’s going on.
    At all.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    I understand. It’s people who are happy to make themselves targets for extermination on the holy day of revolution.

    KG

  26. c-Row says:

    I have yet to come across one thread that isn’t completely messed up half way into the comment section…

  27. Wulf says:

    Oh you cads, the lot of you with KG in your names up there, leave poor Kieron alone. :p Especially since — and this is a rather important factor which everyone should take into consideration and have a little think about — he’s right.

    There’s nothing more irritating than people who improperly use the forums system, where a reply to you is on another page, and marked with Anonymous Coward, almost as if the person posting it is the coward and they’re doing all they can to hide their reply to you from you, the naughty little buggers.

    It’s quite simple really, you have an entry box at the bottom of the page, you use that to post a reply to the news article or some thought you’ve had which is related to that article. You stuff in your thoughts like an eager young parent filling their Christmas stocking for the happy little children who’ll be perplexed by your offerings, and then you jab the “Opinion, Away!” button.

    Conversely, if you wish to make a comment on a reply to the article that someone else has made, you cannot simply hop, skip, and jump to the bottom of the page, jab the aforementioned “Opinion, Away!” button, and expect the board software to super-calla-magically-figure-out-whom-you’re-replying-to! And if you try using WordPress trickery, the best you’ll get is a detached comment where it’s not supposed to be, and youre quote marked up with ‘Anonymous Coward’ as the poor sod you’re replying to. While that might be entertaining, it is not ultimately all that helpful. To do things the right and proper way, you will need to seek out the ever loyal little Reply button at the bottom of that reply. If you are having trouble with this process then you may wish to see if you have Javascript disabled globally or for this domain.

    If however, you see a comment to a reply someone has made, and you want to offer your thoughts on that, you have to repeat the process I spoke of in the last paragraph, but helpfully add @Name so we’ll all know who you’re jolly well talking to! It would be so helpful.

    One would imagine that a successful comments thread would look a little something like this:

    |- Person 1: I’m saying something!
    |—- Person 2: I’m replying to Person 1.
    |—- Person 3: I also have things to say to Person 1.
    |—- Person 4: @Person 2 – I’m replying to your reply to Person 1.
    |- Person 5: I’m writing something which isn’t related enough to wot Person 1 said enough to be a reply.
    |- Person 6: Yeah, I have unique things to say too!
    |—- Person 7: No, you don’t, you’re that idiot who always yells 1st!

    I believe this is the approach the good Mr. Gillen is after, so let’s make a concerted effort, eh? Good!

    I’ll also attempt to not use [forum markup tags] in future as opposed to HTML markup tags (though how successful I’ll be with resisting their siren’s call is unknown).

    • Ian says:

      @ Wulf: Yes, sir?

    • Wulf says:

      @Ian

      Good man, though mostly I too am rather fed up with the disjointed ‘Anonymous Coward’ posts, I have to go running about the entire thread like a fool, trying to figure out whom that particular fool had foolishly replied to without hitting the Reply button.

      …it’s got me so worked up that I’m sounding like Franziska from Phoenix Wright.

    • James G says:

      @Wulf

      I believe the ‘Anonymous Coward’ bits are a result of someone replying through the forums, rather than the WordPress comments system. If the original poster posts through the blog when not logged in, then any subsequent replies on the forums will list them and anonymous coward.

    • disperse says:

      @deanimate …understand?

  28. DMJ says:

    @KG: I lament the lack of an illustrative screenshot for this whole blog post.

    • Wulf says:

      @DMJ

      Though I suppose it doesn’t hurt to always put the name in as a countermeasure, assuming the reply button is prone to failure (though it hasn’t failed for me, yet).

  29. Ian says:

    I tend to avoid reading front page articles in the forum for this very reason and the reason I was a bit dubious about the way that worked in the first place. I’m sure it’s a common way of doing it, but there aren’t many sites where I used the front page AND the message boards so it was a new one to a hermit like me.

  30. Derf says:

    Blaming people for the inadequacies of a system.

    Fix it or edit the posts.

    KG

    • Wulf says:

      @Derf

      But it’s not the inadequacies of a system, it’s not at all. The only error I’ve ever made is using forum tags when the board expects HTML tags, and that’s been my fault for simply operating on habit instead of stopping to think about what I’m doing, and I’ve kicked myself for it.

      We can’t always blame technology for PEBCAK.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Wulf: Derf’s not wrong. The system is totally inadequate. It’s just that we can’t do anything about it, so I’m trying to make what we’ve got more useable. I’m not blaming people. I’m just saying how we can make it work a bit better.

      KG

    • Wulf says:

      @KG

      Fair enough, but what I mean is that the Reply button has never failed for me and I feel that the posts replying to Anonymous Coward are born of PEBCAK and nothing more.

      But still, I will admit that it is a little unintuitive, but we could all still do a better job of making replies than what we’re doing now. This is the RPS community and I’ve come to have high expectations of this lot. It’s their own fault for usually being competent and intelligent. Were it a more everyday forum, I wouldn’t have cited PEBCAK.

      So, in an odd sort of way, it’s a compliment. I just know they can all be very competent.

  31. shiggz says:

    @D

    Of course you would agree with this post because you are Hitler! Also your thinly veiled racism is obvious for everyone. Why dont you leave us alone and go back to beating up orphans and clubbing baby seals.

  32. Wulf says:

    So let’s see, is it safe to assume that KG is after this kind of end result?

    |- Person 1: I’m not replying to anyone because this is a first tier comment, I’m just offering my thoughts in relation to the article.
    |- Person 2: I too have thoughts in relation to the article, which are very similar to yours.
    |—- Person 3: @Person 2 – Whose? You didn’t hit the reply button, did you?
    |—- Person 2: No, I did not.
    |—- Person 3: @Person 2 – No no no, you’re supposed to include the name you’re replying to.
    |—- Person 2: @Person 3 – Like this?
    |—- Person 3: @Person 2 – Yes!
    |—- Person 4: @Person 2 – And all was well with the World.

    It does have a sort of visual harmony to it.

  33. pkt-zer0 says:

    …And so, a new and horrifying meme was born.

    KG

  34. deanimate says:

    @Meredith
    Yes, I will buy some chips today thanks.

  35. disperse says:

    We use the Intense Debate wordpress plugin: http://intensedebate.com/

    Seems O.K.

  36. Jacques says:

    I think half the problem stems from people trying to view articles on the forum when actually they should be trying to read the proper page for it. That way all the posts are in the right place. That’s if the reply system works, it seems to be a bit dodgy sometimes for some people.

  37. Daedren says:

    Testing comment functionality!

  38. Gpig says:

    Daedren: responding to him, because it never works for me. ever.

    KG

  39. P7uen says:

    I utterly love each and every one of you and this entry and its responses are typical of the reason why.

    KG

  40. Quercus says:

    Kieran Gillan:

    is @ Kieran Gillan or “To Kieran Gillan” okay as a reply format?
    (Just in case I forget).

    KG

  41. Daedren says:

    @KG: In regards to your “Derf’s not wrong. The system is totally inadequate. It’s just that we can’t do anything about it, so I’m trying to make what we’ve got more useable. I’m not blaming people. I’m just saying how we can make it work a bit better.”

    That’s not entirely true. You can do some things about it. I’m not sure who your WordPress guy is, but you should point him to a few plugins.

    I would recommend:

    First and foremost! http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/edit-comments/ — Edit Comments! Not that hard to implement, works on the WP sites I’ve done. (AJAX one available also http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-ajax-edit-comments/)

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/intensedebate/ — Use this if you want to have ranking up/down, twitter shit, bells and whistles.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tinymcecomments/ — Ahah! A WYSIWYG Thingy for Comments. Now user comments can be formatted, spaced correctly and can even have colors and stuff! It’s like Christmas 2 weeks early!

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/top-commentators-widget/ — Top Commentators, if you wanted to know and show who loves RPS the most.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/comment-sorter/ — Great plugin to sort comments. Can do by date, author, whatever.

    http://disqus.com/ – Haven’t tried this out, but I’ve heard good things. It completely replaces your comment system. Supports Facebook Connect (can make comments from FB account), RSS, Ranking Up/Down, can even look at other users comments on other sites. Worth looking into.

    http://alexking.org/projects/wordpress — Use this if you want people to see what’s new since they last visited. I use this for Comments, as it allows visitors to follow the topics that have been discussed since they were last on site.

    http://www.sociable.es/facebook-connect — A standalone Facebook Connect plugin, if you dont want all the shit from Disqus.

    AJAX – You could AJAXafy the comment system here. It’s a bit more complicated, and people either love it or hate it. Something like AJAX WP http://www.giannim.com/blog/index.php?page_id=13 would be good.

    I guess while we’re on the topic, some more stuff you might be interested in:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-to-twitter/ — Automagically makes a ‘Tweet’ about any new article you publish. I hate Twitter, but use it if you like it.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/ – I’d recommend this if you don’t have it, makes the site IPhone / Mobile friendly. Very nice.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-security-scan/ – I’d use this so people like me don’t haxxor into your WP.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/events-calendar/ – In case you want to ever Webafy the TF2 / RPS Steam Group Events. (Replacement for the WP Calendar)

    Anyway, mix and match what you need, but don’t say you can’t do anything about it. You can!

    Give me a shout if you need any help.

    – Daedren

    (WTF!)

  42. Daedren says:

    @KG: In regards to your “Derf’s not wrong. The system is totally inadequate. It’s just that we can’t do anything about it, so I’m trying to make what we’ve got more useable. I’m not blaming people. I’m just saying how we can make it work a bit better.”

    That’s not entirely true. You can do some things about it. I’m not sure who your WordPress guy is, but you should point him to a few plugins.

    NOTE: I’m splitting these comments up because it gets marked as SPAM. YAY.

  43. Daedren says:

    I would recommend:

    First and foremost! http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/edit-comments/ — Edit Comments! Not that hard to implement, works on the WP sites I’ve done. (AJAX one available also http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-ajax-edit-comments/)

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/intensedebate/ — Use this if you want to have ranking up/down, twitter shit, bells and whistles.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tinymcecomments/ — Ahah! A WYSIWYG Thingy for Comments. Now user comments can be formatted, spaced correctly and can even have colors and stuff! It’s like Christmas 2 weeks early!

  44. Daedren says:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/top-commentators-widget/ — Top Commentators, if you wanted to know and show who loves RPS the most.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/comment-sorter/ — Great plugin to sort comments. Can do by date, author, whatever.

    http://disqus.com/ – Haven’t tried this out, but I’ve heard good things. It completely replaces your comment system. Supports Facebook Connect (can make comments from FB account), RSS, Ranking Up/Down, can even look at other users comments on other sites. Worth looking into.

  45. Daedren says:

    http://alexking.org/projects/wordpress — Use this if you want people to see what’s new since they last visited. I use this for Comments, as it allows visitors to follow the topics that have been discussed since they were last on site.

    http://www.sociable.es/facebook-connect — A standalone Facebook Connect plugin, if you dont want all the shit from Disqus.

    AJAX – You could AJAXafy the comment system here. It’s a bit more complicated, and people either love it or hate it. Something like AJAX WP http://www.giannim.com/blog/index.php?page_id=13 would be good.

  46. Daedren says:

    I guess while we’re on the topic, some more stuff you might be interested in:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-to-twitter/ — Automagically makes a ‘Tweet’ about any new article you publish. I hate Twitter, but use it if you like it.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/ – I’d recommend this if you don’t have it, makes the site IPhone / Mobile friendly. Very nice.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-security-scan/ – I’d use this so people like me don’t haxxor into your WP.

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/events-calendar/ – In case you want to ever Webafy the TF2 / RPS Steam Group Events. (Replacement for the WP Calendar)

    Anyway, mix and match what you need, but don’t say you can’t do anything about it. You can!

    Give me a shout if you need any help.

    – Daedren

    (WTF!)

  47. Calabi says:

    Whats it matter anyway. Its, like the majority of the internets, worthless information. People just make inane comments then they forget about them. Everything has to have them, you read through a ton of them and then realise what the hell have a been doing for the last half hour(the sensible people dont bother reading them).

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Calabi

      “worthless information”

      Plenty of people give useful information about bugs, tweaks, patches, similar games, links to sites – loads of stuff. User contributions may be worthless for you but many people find them useful, interesting and enjoyable.

  48. jsutcliffe says:

    Is there not just some simple way to make comment replies not be nested under their parent, i.e. showing all comments in chronological order? That would eliminate this entire issue.

  49. Jimmy says:

    i like turtles

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