Idea for comment pages: Where did I leave off? Ryan 02 Dec 2005

29 comments Latest by John Roberts

Here’s an idea to improve the experience of reading comments.

First the problem. Comments usually trickle in one-by-one. To read the latest, you jump to the bottom. For hot topics, it’s different. Every time you come back, there may be another five or ten comments, and finding where you left off requires careful scanning and scrolling. I often think to myself “Just show me where I left off!”.

Here’s a solution. When someone revisits the comment stream, display a clear separator that says “The comments below this line are new to you.” You could do this by setting a cookie when someone visits the permalink page with the ID of the last comment. On subsequent visits, compare the cookie with the current number of comments, and insert the separator accordingly. Throw in an anchor on top (“Take me to where I left off”) and you’re done. I imagine this wouldn’t be so hard now that Javascript is less painful.

Let us know if you give it a try!

29 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Dan Boland 02 Dec 05

So does that mean this blog will be employing this method? I think it’s a good idea.

I find it interesting to see how different blogs handle comments, because the variety of methods is just as wide as handling blog entries themselves.

One thing I’ve seen that I think this blog could benefit from is a differentiating style between posts from the 37s versus everyone else.

richard 02 Dec 05

Sounds like a great idea, and one that I’d love to give a shot… only one problem for me right now.. A good number of people read my site, (according to the stats, anyway) but not many comment, so it’s a moot point. I’ll probably try to write some code to do that in the near future (just in case the level of commenting on FA skyrockets overnight :)), and let you guys know.

Michael 02 Dec 05

Really good idea, I can’t wait to see it implemented.

RS 02 Dec 05

So does that mean this blog will be employing this method?

I wish we had the time. If someone does a good job with it and posts their method, we may implement it.

Joshua 02 Dec 05 (running on a Scoop mod) does something along these lines. When you return to a thread, new comments are marked with a “[new]” tag in bold red. Since Scoop allows nested comments, this works better than an old/new divider. And yes, it helps a lot. Really good idea.

Matthias Winkelmann 02 Dec 05

Been there, done that. Our community software has a horizontal line and an anchor at the place where new comments start. If you click on the “new” icon that’s displayed in front of the thread, it takes you right to the new stuff.

Marc Hedlund 02 Dec 05

Metafilter does just that for members. It does work well.

What I want is a service that makes a single RSS feed out of all the comment threads in which I’ve commented. Flickr has this for photos I’ve commented on; I want that, for the whole web.

Sam Newman 02 Dec 05

You could also have a seperate RSS feed for each post, which includes comments. I do this for my site - not only does this mean people will only get the new comments (assuming they have a half-way decent RSS reader and you use the correct ID’s for items) it also means they can keep track of changes to the original post.

Meri 02 Dec 05

Erm, didn’t forums solve this years ago, not just for those commenting but also those just reading? There are a number of techniques used in forums that could easily be reapplied in blog comment streams..

Anton Borzov 02 Dec 05

This is already implemented on for a couple of years

But registration is invitation-based only.

Kenzie 02 Dec 05

Agree with Anton; this is a basic feature of Google Groups, and most bulletin boards/forums.

Jamis 02 Dec 05

For you Firefox/greasemonkey users, here’s a little something that adds this feature to SvN, at least:

It remembers the last comment for each post you visit, and when you visit next time, the first new post will be highlighted in green.

Jamie Tibbetts 02 Dec 05

All you have to do is store the ID of the last post in a cookie. Then when the user comes back to the page, just spit out some sort of “all posts below this are new” indicator when you get to the post with that ID.

Paul Watson 02 Dec 05

The number of terrifying features that have begun with “All you have to do is…” :)

Peter Vasilyev 02 Dec 05

This scheme is good for a list structured comments, but it won’t work for comments formed in a tree (as it’s done at livejournal, for example).
What might be a solution for such a structures?

  1. Marking comments as read/unread? It’s good, but it’s not enough, as I think. User won’t be able to quickly navigate through new threads and comments.
  2. Show user a list of links on threads with new comments and new threads with number of new comments (limited by 5 or 6 threads at first, I think will be quite adequate)?

Something else?
What other solutions are possible? Are these ones enough for a tree, not a list of comments?

Jay 02 Dec 05

Having the comments numbered would be a big help.

David 02 Dec 05

We’ve beeen dicussing doing just this at work, hopefully with a “jump to new comments” bit. Makes so much sense.

Mihira 02 Dec 05

Giving comments their own RSS feeds is smart (for me it’s preferable to visiting the same web page repeatedly), but I wouldn’t have the energy to subscribe to all those additional feeds.

Perhaps if a feed format supported comment feeds as children of individual posts within the main posting feed, and readers were built to process the comment feeds properly…

Jamie Thingbox 02 Dec 05

We let people ‘track topics’ on thingbox. Tracking a topic stores the id of the last message read on the server side. The cached topic (ie, thread of messages) is served to the user, with a small bit of dynamically generated javascript at the top of that the sticks the last read id in a javascript variable. New messages are then highlighted by the client side.


RS 02 Dec 05

This might work for SVN, but sites with multiple blogs (including large services like Blogspot) would have problems.

As always, one size does not fit all.

I propose a new holiday just for programmers: “One Thing Cannot Do Everything Day”. It will be in March, and the main event will be a steak dinner eaten with sporks.

Andrew 02 Dec 05

This assumes that *all* of the comments are being read each and every time a page loads.

Will 02 Dec 05

Andrew raises a good point.

“The comments below this line are new to you.” or something of that nature makes a fairly large assumption that because you visited a page you also read the entire page.

Brett 02 Dec 05

I’d much rather have RSS feeds for a conversation I’m interested in monitoring. Remembering where you were in a conversation sucks, but so does remembering the conversation itself.

blarg 04 Dec 05

didn’t slashdot solve this problem with karma?

Varun 04 Dec 05

This is a nice idea and some CMSes such Drupal implement it out of the box for registered users.

An obvious limitation of this technique is that you can never know how many of the comments the reader has actually read. For e.g. if a post has 20 comments and the reader reads only 10 and then comes back later (meanwhile 5 more comments have been posted) it is not all that helpful since the reader has to scan the comments and see where he left off.

But nice idea nevertheless. I will try to implement this for my blog even for unregistered users.

John Roberts 21 May 06

Really good idea, I can�t wait to see it implemented.