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Meta-Update: Blogfather Reports Back After Meeting With Voxians

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Jim Palmer and wife Susan and geneaology
“Wait, his Aunt Bertha said what???”
Photo by Andrew Innerarity for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Last week I wrote to ask for community feedback around a future platform move from Chorus to Coral that is being piloted on the NFL sites. My goal here, in summarizing the meeting I had on Tuesday with some of the world’s finest Voxians, is to be as transparent, and honest, as possible.

The short version is that overall I was left very optimistic that the features most essential to AN can and will in fact be preserved, but let me dive into as many specific as possible and let you draw your own conclusions.

Is A Switch From Chorus To Coral Inevitable?

Quite possibly, but not anytime soon as it’s being rolled out on the NFL sites to solicit feedback that will then send the techies to work on improvements and refinements, and no rollout is anticipated until it’s good. So remember...

What You See Isn’t What You Get

If you’ve been to one of the NFL sites and not liked what you’ve seen, don’t panic because “what you see isn’t what you get”. The Coral platform was rolled out to the NFL sites precisely so the community, and community leaders, could squawk on behalf of us all and make sure Vox’s techies knew what features needed to be included, added, changed, etc. before any new platform was rolled out. I was asked to weigh in for the same purpose, and I’m sure others are being tagged as well as ambassadors for communities across SB Nation.

Some Key Issues I Raised

On behalf of AN’s community, I picked out the following features to focus on as being most essential, approximately in this order:

  • new/unread comments have to show up differently from read comments (such as the yellow vs. white in the current platform)
  • threads need to show all the comments and not collapse sub-threads in ways that obscure those comments
  • readers highly value the “Z” function to navigate through comments
  • new comments should appear without having to refresh the page.

You will be pleased to know that as I brought up these points, I was met with the response that these exact concerns are being raised often across the NFL sites — in other words, Vox knows how important these issues are to readers and is already incorporating this feedback into any plans to switch over to Coral.

The issue of collapsing comments in longer sub-threads is an interesting one. The effect is problematic — if sub-threads of, say, more than 4 comments get collapsed until you click to expand, how do you even know if there’s a reply to your comment? — but the goal is noble: to speed up load time, especially on phones.

My suggestion to Vox was that ideally, each user could have, in their settings, the option of collapsing longer sub-threads if they were interested in faster load times, or the option of not collapsing them if they were interested in easily seeing every comment.

If that weren’t to be possible, my “plan B” suggestion was to allow each site to set itself either way, in which case a site like AN could at least choose the setting that pleased the majority of its readers. (Presumably that would be the status quo, and if we’re concerned about load times we can always just open new threads after fewer comments.)

The bottom line? Vox knows that the issues I’ve mentioned above are not only “deal breaker level” essential for much of AN, but also are for communities where they are piloting Coral precisely to get this kind of input. So while I can’t promise what will or won’t be in place if and when there’s a platform shift, I feel like those issues are going to get the attention they need and deserve. And I have to say I felt very much that my input was being solicited in order to inform future actions and not just to give me/AN a place to pretend to be heard.

Some Other Issues

I was asked how important I thought it was to the community if something like avatars, or sig lines, had to disappear in a platform change. I replied that honestly, I felt that if the key issues I brought up were successfully addressed I thought the community could live happily without an avatar or without a sig line — not that they don’t matter, but more that they aren’t the hills to die on. Give me yellow “new” comments, a “Z” function, and game threads I can participate in like I do now, and you can have my avatar if you need it.

I was also asked about the font for Coral, and while I acknowledged that the community feedback included some “I hate that font!” comments, when I went and looked at it I was surprised to find that I didn’t mind it at all. It’s something I’m pretty sure that after a month or so I’d be used to, and while it’s not the same as our current font I can’t say that I personally mind it in any way. But I did acknowledge that not everyone seemed to share that opinion.

Why Not Just Do All These Things?

Apparently one of the biggest limitations of Coral is that it “doesn’t know what you’re reading” at any given moment, and therein lies the complexity of seemingly simple tasks such as “unmark the yellow in a comment when it’s read”. As I understand it, that doesn’t mean a solution can’t be found, just that it requires a certain amount of “workaround” work not yet done.

That is, I think, a summary of what I learned, what I was asked, and what I offered. I hope that’s helpful!