Posted by aogTuesday, 28 August 2007 at 13:18 TrackBack Ping URL

Time to experiment on you all. I have installed a very alpha version of the plugin for Movable Type I have been working on for fourteen months (that’s what copious spare time does for you). I have the framework half way built, enough to put in a few of the features I want. What the plugin does is provide access to recent commments in various useful ways. I am using it on the right sidebar to display recent comments on this weblog grouped by entry. The old style just listed the comments in chronological order, so it was more difficult to see if a post you were interested in had new comments. Now you can tell at a glance if that’s so. Currently it lists all comments for the last two weeks.

I plan on using it for a comment feed in the future, but it needs just a few more features. Yes, definitely, it needs them. They’re not just gratuitous. Not at all. And they’ll be done Real Soon Now™.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
The Other Brother Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 14:05


I like it…I wonder if maybe the comments should be listed chronologically to match the order on the actual page?


David Cohen Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 14:10

Very nice, but you need a switch so that the reader can flip from sorting by post to sorting by commenter, or by time.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 15:00


I considered that (and it’s trivial to do with the plugin — any ordering can be done in reverse) but I think that having recent stuff as easily accessible as possible is better.

Mr. Cohen;

I thought about that also. It would require some Javascripting but would be quite doable. The plugin is designed to support an arbitrary number of sorting axes. It would be straight forward to add a commentor axis. I will take that under consideration.


Unfortunately, Mr. Burnet has already found a bug (that’s what I get for live testing). I will definitely look in to that.

Bret Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 15:17

How come the most recent posts don’t appear over on the sidebar?

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 15:21

That’s the bug Mr. Burnet found. It should be fixed now. A slight miscalculation in the database search arguments.

It wasn’t just the most recent, large chunks of time were missing. Once I fixed it, I scaled back the time span to just one week, as two weeks was a lot of comments.

erp Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 16:03


Bret Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 16:16

I preferred the “by time” sort. But this is prettier.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 18:40

I will put the time option back in, but frankly I hate it. Let me ask, though — should it have separators for posts, or be just a pure list of commentors and times? The separators wouldn’t have to be the post names — it could just be a line with hover text on each link with the post title (which I think is what I would dislike least). I need to tweak the code a bit to implement the “by commentor” option. And TOB wants to be able to flip the axes. Sigh.

The Other Brother Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 18:56

AOG: Not sure I actually want to flip the sort order, perhaps. I thought it would be more consistent with the order that comments are listed in each entry (chronologically, rather than reverse). I don’t like the straight time option, because it’s hard to tell which post is being commented on. I like the idea you have; do you think it would scale to a site like OJs?

Bret Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 19:30


Either way works for me.

What I do is up to a few times per day a hit the refresh button on your home page and note if any of the last comments are new. It’s harder for me to tell that when I have to think about each post seperately.

Thanks for your efforts.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 19:41

That’s flipping the sort order :-). Each axis is independently reversible, so the ordering of the entries is independent to that of the comments. E.g., you can have the entries in newest to oldest order with the comments oldest to newest order. You can change the axes around, to sort on time first and entry second. You can have any number of sorting axes. And you can do all that from the attributes of the tag in the template. Further, the plugin is implemented in a way that makes adding other metrics easy, so that I can do DC’s sort by commentor with a bit of add on code without having to modify existing code. My current goal is to tweak it to where it can provide unified feed of new entries and comments.

It should scale easily, the cost is the number of comments processed. Brothers Judd may not be able to handle a week’s worth of comments because that’s a lot more than a week here. However, you can set it to do the last 100 or 200 or whatever.

I’ll let you know when it’s robust enough to be used elsewhere. It hasn’t even been deployed here for 12 hours yet and I’m already fixing bugs. I need to add some additional metrics for the axes and a few other things that I realized I wanted when I put it here.

P.S. I did the original design of this plugin in order to get better access to the comments there, I just haven’t had the free time to work on it as much as I wanted.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 19:51

I’m working on a feed! Honest! But I am psychologically compelled to over-engineer. It is what I do.

Michael Herdegen Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 00:43

Your “recent comments” function is insanely good. I look forward to when you’ve actually finished it - that’ll be the Rolls-Royce of “recent comment” columns.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 07:12

Thanks. But sadly, most of the fun stuff is already in place. The work left is covering the corners and robustifying. Plus I thought of another little feature I want while I was working getting the new layout operational. In the immediate future, I am going to work on a comment feed. I won’t be the one I want, but it will be good enough to be useful.

P.S. I realized that this actually illustrates the original post, because I have spent more time thinking about the user interface for the plugin than the implementation. It’s one thing to code up that kind of power and flexibility, and another to make it comprehensible enough to use. I especially wanted to have a “pay as you need” interface, where users with simple needs wouldn’t have to learn the esoterica that more complex use requires.

Bret Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 11:34

I’ll 2nd the “insanely good” description. Wow!

pj Friday, 31 August 2007 at 13:00

Awesome, AOG. Does the plugin work on MT 4?

And MT supports emailing comments - I haven’t checked this, but couldn’t you add Bret and others to the email list as a klugy “feed”?

Bret Friday, 31 August 2007 at 14:07

That’d work for me.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 31 August 2007 at 14:26

It was easier to just do a cheap-o comment only feed to satisfy the bread and circuses crowd, despite my dislike of the result. Check out the bottom of the right sidebar, or click here. It’s a tawdry use of my excellent technology, but what can I do?

I don’t know if it works on MT4. I suspect it would, it doesn’t get very deep in to the murky guts of MT. I do plan to port it to MT4 after I have it working on MT3. I haven’t decided, though, if I want to put it in to general release or hand it out just to friends. After all, its fundamental purpose was to achieve a specific implementation vision for my weblog and Brothers Judd. Past that I am not sure I want to spend time supporting it.

Right now I am, in my copious spare time, rewriting the documentation. The original version doesn’t correspond so well to the actual implementation at this point. It was very valuable, though, to keep what I was trying to do straight in my own head. The final set of features I want to add are esoteric even for me (but necessary to achieve my vision), so I think it will be even more important to document what I want the code to do first, and then make it so. There are a heck of a lot of massive interface design mistakes that are made that wouldn’t be if the developers had to write up the documentation first.

Bret Friday, 31 August 2007 at 16:09

Thanks for the comment feed!

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 02 September 2007 at 15:28

First release of the documentation is ready.

erp Monday, 03 September 2007 at 07:58

Sorting comments by date! The bulb just lit — sorry it’s taking longer and longer for those neurons to fire up. Simply brilliant (pun intended). Thanks.

Post a comment