Technical note on Comments and Time Out

August 31, 2004 | 20 comments
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We get a lot of remarks about our wimpy little comment engine. It times out a lot. Sometimes people don’t realize this, and they double post (or triple, or quadruple, etc) a comment. I don’t know a way around this. I had previously thought that it was a result of the site being run by a bunch of lawyers in their spare time, with no real knowledge of programming or coding. However, I now think that it may just be a deeper MT problem.

Over at Three Years of Hell, Anthony Rickey explains why MT sometimes tends to go out to lunch when posting a comment. Using the hypothetical of comments at Will Baude’s blog Crescat Sententia (a popular legal-oriented blog), he notes:

Now imagine what happens if Mr. Baude writes a post to this category that attracts a lot of comments. Every time one of his readers adds their little bit of opinion, not only is 150K+ of homepage rebuilt, but nearly a megabyte of category will end up rebuilt, all in order to increment the number of comments entry by one. Ditto for the weekly archives.

Ouch. I’m pretty sure the same applies here, which probably (along with Kaimi’s creaky coding) accounts for the time lag when making comments.

20 Responses to Technical note on Comments and Time Out

  1. Jim Richins on August 31, 2004 at 9:55 am

    Some of us may have the skills to be able to improve the system. The explanation provided above about having to rebuild megabytes worth of data for each new comment – to a programmer like me – sounds REALLY, REALLY inefficient (and stupid).

    Perhaps there are some new ideas I can offer?

  2. danithew on August 31, 2004 at 10:31 am

    When I installed “threaded comments” on Wump Blog, one of the first reactions I got was that “Times and Seasons” ought to have something similar. Due to the large amount of comments you have, it could be an interesting feature to have.

    If “threaded comments” doesn’t sound familiar, it’s a feature where a person can reply to a specific comment (wherever it appears) and the reply will appear directly under the comment that is being addressed.

  3. danithew on August 31, 2004 at 11:06 am

    Here’s a completely random (cough cough)) post where you can see how threaded comments work:

    http://dinki.mine.nu/weblog/index.php?p=470

  4. Bryce I on August 31, 2004 at 11:15 am

    While you’re at it, you may want to make your main header graphic link to the home page. I don’t know how many times I’ve clicked on that thing.

  5. Kristine on August 31, 2004 at 11:28 am

    Alternatively, just be patient! Here is a partial list of things that the pause for comments to post is just long enough to do:
    -referee a minor sibling squabble
    -sort two children’s laundry into lights & darks
    -put on a pot of water for macaroni and cheese
    -arrange a playdate
    -pay three bills
    -memorize one verse of a hymn
    -figure out what in the world that wacky clef is for viola music
    -clean the sink
    -make a really cool paper airplane

    Don’t change anything, Kaimi!

    :)

  6. Carl Youngblood on August 31, 2004 at 11:33 am

    Scrap MT and go to WordPress. It is a much better system that doesn’t have the licensing problems that MT does. Moreover, it was written by programmers and not graphic designers. And don’t worry, there are plenty of nice-looking themes for it.

  7. danithew on August 31, 2004 at 11:47 am

    If you would like to see a bunch of WordPress styles that are available, go to Alex King’s website at http://www.alexking.org … click on the “software” option and then the “WordPress Styles” option.

    In addition to these there is a very nice two-column layout option called Gemini and a three-column option referred to as Trident.

    All of these styles are completely adaptable and changeable in every way.

    I have been amazed sometimes at just how helpful WordPress Support people and the community can be. They share just about every insight or piece of code they create. And some of their people will spend hours with you to solve a particular unique problem or help you to achieve some change you’d like to do with your blog.

    The real danger with WordPress is that you can become addicted to tweaking the code and appearance of your site. It’s a lot of fun and anyone can do it. I didn’t know ANYTHING about css or php when I started and I’ve learned a lot since.

    If you’re daunted about switching over from MT to WordPress, I suggest going over to http://www.wordpress.org/support and leaving a question about how hard it would be to make the switch. Just say you’re thinking about it and see how they respond to you.

  8. programmer John on August 31, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    I’ve got to agree with my former companion Carl (Hi Carl!) and danithew here. The WumpBlog is much more functional than T&S. No offense danithew, but T&S does look better than the Wump default. I sure that a similar look could be accomplished with WordPress.

    Of course I think that a /. or Kuro5hin style system is superior to WordPress as well. You could have nested comments, an ability to see a list of replies to your posts, moderation, story categories, journals, etc.

  9. William Morris on August 31, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    I’m not a fan of threaded comments — esp. for a site like Times & Seasons that generates a lot of comments.

    And: I agree with Bryce. Navigation back to the T&S home page is severely lacking. In addition to making the header a link back, there should be some sort of link at the bottom of the page — perhaps next to the visitors counter.

  10. danithew on August 31, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    Programmer John …

    No offense is taken. :) I’m still learning how to improve my blog and make it look better. I’m a little confused about the mix of praise and criticism — WumpBlog functions better but “the Wump default” doesn’t look as good as Times and Seasons. I’m not sure what you mean by “the Wump default” but I’m assuming you just mean how my site looks.

  11. Michael Sadler on August 31, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    I have to throw in my two cents when it comes to “blogging” software. I would HIGHLY recommend Slashcode that such sites as Slashdot and MacSlash use.

    The software is very good at threading a blog, and also has a moderation system that allows members to participate.

    That plus the software is licensed under the GPL (hopefully Darl McBride doesn’t post at T&S ;-) ) which doesn’t automatically make it Free as in “gratis” but this particular project is Free as in “gratis”.

  12. D. Fletcher on August 31, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t think anything needs to be changed. The site works fine for me. It looks nicer and seems more together than either BCC or Wump (sorry, don’t mean to dump on these other blogs which are fine too).

    This thread may serve as a reminder that people need to be patient, when pressing “post.”

    P.S. I host a board, with threads about music, movies, and musicals. I myself like the “board” kind of setup a little better, but admittedly, the posts are normally shorter. They’re not… essays.

  13. Bryce I on August 31, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I was as confused as Jim Richins about the “rebuilding the page” idea. Turns out, as far as I can tell, that MT builds static pages. What a strange way to do things.

    However, it looks like the next release of MT (version 3.1) will have support for dynamic PHP publishing.

    I imagine the default behavior will continue to be static pages, with the option to use PHP-generated pages. By contrast, it seems like most of the other popular blogging software packages default to dynamic pages, with the option to publish statically (in case you get slashdotted, for instance).

    At any rate, unless you’ve paid for the license for version 3.0, you’re not going to get dynamic pages out of MT anyway.

    As for threaded comments, I’d strongly look into it. You’ll definitely lose readers/posters over the long run, myself included. I’ve left boards that I liked for using bad (hard-to-navigate) software, and come back to them when they’ve upgraded. Some of us don’t have the time or inclination to read through all 150 posts of a hot topic to try to follow the conversation.

  14. programmer John on August 31, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    danithew,

    I remember at one point Wump had several styles available, which is what I meant. I can’t find them anymore.

    William Morris,

    A site that gets lots of posts needs nested posting much more than one that gets few posts. If they switched to Slashcode you could view the posts in any way that you want though, nested or in chronological order. The fact that it can tell you when people respond to you means you don’t have to search through things to carry on a conversation.

  15. Clark Goble on August 31, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    Static pages definitely are faster for loading. I do that on my blog – although admittedly I don’t get the comments they get here. Arguing that static comments slow things down too much seems silly. At worse you could thread the response and the code to rebuild the page. That’s what I’d do on my site were I to miraculously have hundreds of people interested in technical philosophy and theology and all posting daily.

  16. William Morris on August 31, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    programmer John:

    And that’s exactly why I don’t like nested comments. They encourage to many side conversations and one liners and back and forths. IMO, Slashdot is virtually unreadable — of course, that’s largely a function of it’s size, but even if there were less posts, I’d still find it annoying. And I understand that you’d still be able to view the posts in chronological order.

    But there’s something to be said on the current T&S format where side conversations are limited and often get reintegrated into the main thread of conversation. I think that posts stay on topic more and are more substantial because posters know they are not only responding to a previous poster but also forwarding the direction of the thread.

  17. programmer John on August 31, 2004 at 10:13 pm

    William Morris,

    Oddly, I find T&S to be almost unreadable and think that /. is a superior solution. To each their own I suppose. btw, I did read /. when there were fewer posts and I (and everyone else I suppose) will admit that it was better then and more technical.

    If a story on T&S has 10 posts then the current format is fine. It is a serious restriction though when the number approaches 50 or 100. How do you respond effectively to a point that was made 20 posts ago? You have to address your post to someone, just as we have done here, and then hope they notice it. That is a hack.

  18. Clark Goble on September 1, 2004 at 5:05 am

    If you read Slashdot with only the comments scored 3 and above it is actually not bad. When in a rush read only those scored 5.

  19. Michael Sadler on September 1, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Which is why I really like slashcode and the moderation system that it enables. Instead of having a dedicated group of moderators, everyone who has been “good” (IE with Slashdot, and Slashcode has good “Karma”) gets to moderate, and this helps keep the trash down to a minimum.

    What it doesn’t protect agienst is discrimination of minority opinions. There are many times that if one posts something on /. that is not with in the relam of the current geek group think, it is moderated down, and the subsqent person loses “Karma” for merely expressing their opinion, making it harder to be heard in the future.

    All in all, IMO the positives of Slashcode out way the negative.

  20. Michael Sadler on September 1, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    Which is why I really like slashcode and the moderation system that it enables. Instead of having a dedicated group of moderators, everyone who has been “good” (IE with Slashdot, and Slashcode has good “Karma”) gets to moderate, and this helps keep the trash down to a minimum.

    What it doesn’t protect agienst is discrimination of minority opinions. There are many times that if one posts something on /. that is not with in the relam of the current geek group think, it is moderated down, and the subsqent person loses “Karma” for merely expressing their opinion, making it harder to be heard in the future.

    All in all, IMO the positives of Slashcode out way the negative.