Metapost: Site-Wide Comments with Google Friend Connect

So you want to ask if anyone has seen a specific commentor lately. Or you want to point out that the site layout is an abomination before god and that all right-thinking people hate it. Or you just want to leave your comment before you dash off to a celebrity yachting event, but Disqus is acting flakey and you can't.

Never fear! A new sidebar has been added to the right of the blog that contains comments that can be seen across the site. This has the advantage of letting you post a comment that you want everyone to see, regardless of blog topic (like, "Hey, has anyone seen Ana lately? She needs to get off her cushion and post something useful."), and should additionally work when Disqus is down. Unless Disqus and Google go down at the same time, in which case you should probably assume that the Zombie Apocalypse has begun and start hoarding water in your bathtub.

We'll see how this goes and if it gets any use at all -- if everyone utterly despises it as a site-wide conversation engine, then we'll get rid of it and try something else. Let it not be said that I'm resistant to change. I'm especially fond of dimes.


chris the cynic said...

I was actually meaning to ask about that, having somehow failed to notice that you'd already explained what it was about. Now that I see you have explained, all I have left to say is the following:

Did you know that translating, "This is a test comment. Test. Test! TEST!!," into Afrikans results in, "Dit is 'n toets kommentaar. Toets. Test! Toets!!"?

Why, do you think, does test translate when followed by a period or two exclamation points, but not when followed by one exclamation point?

For Bulgarian it is the test with a period that doesn't translate. I'm going to waste so much time seeing what things look like in languages I don't understand.

Will Wildman said...

At last, a practical opportunity to improve my Japanese reading speed.

Intriguing gadget, Ana. Could be very useful, and whatever happens with it, the pro-community efforts will always be appreciated.

(Is it totally inappropriate to treat a Metapost as and open thread? Let's find out!)

On the subject of the author interviews you do, I've been wondering about stuff commentwise. It's very cool that you have the author interview template for helping new authors promote themselves, and they (I think?) are designed to accentuate the positive rather than review/comment on the book or the author's thoughts. I'm curious if you have preferences on the types of comments people do post, perhaps in vague senses like 'would rather people not get torn apart for submitting an author interview', or its polar opposite, 'let authors know your thoughts with brutal honesty so they can adapt/respond if and as they see fit'? If more negative comments are acceptable, should they be focused on the writing, or are the author's interview statements fair game as well?

That was a longer paragraph than I expected it to be, probably because I kept sort-of-trying to be roundabout. Rudeness can be a tricky subject for me.

Ana Mardoll said...

How fascinating. I can't even imagine why google translate would translate some but not all the iterations of a word. Does it think it's a name or similar not-to-be-translated proper noun? I can't even imagine!

Don't feel bad about missing the post initially -- it's going to be an odd day, because instead of my usual 1 post, you've got three this morning already: 2 metaposts and a random deconstruction about a disturbing fanfic I like.

Ana Mardoll said...

(Is it totally inappropriate to treat a Metapost as and open thread? Let's find out!)

Oh, please do! I love open threads but regularly forget to post them.

On the subject of the author interviews you do, I've been wondering about stuff commentwise.

Good question. In my experience, there are 2 types of indie authors: Precious Snowflakes who are going to start a flamewar if anyone dares to suggest their book is anything less than the pinnacle of human achievement, and Regular Folks trying to hone their craft and doing it in an environment (indie publishing) that traditionally has a low amount of feedback.

I wrote a review this year for an indie author that was... well, it was a 3-star review, but it could have been a lot kinder. The author actually responded INCREDIBLY encouragingly and pointed out that getting people to read her manuscript and point out its flaws is hard work. I mean, there's only so many times you can make your spouse and family read your revisions and they're probably predisposed to be nice to you anyway.

So, I would say as a general rule of thumb that open honesty and constructive criticism should be encouraged in the interview threads, and if the spirit moves the commenters to be a little brutal with their honesty, well, better here than on the Amazon review page, no? I would suspect that authors that care about the comments will read them and appreciate them; authors who don't will probably not even be watching the thread after the initial "it's up!" check.

Incidentally, as a hopefully-soon-to-be-indie-author myself, I will be polling for beta readers before the end of the year, I hope. I hope to make it very clear that I encourage any beta readers who step up to the plate to be as brutally honest as possible because I'd rather find and fix stuff NOW rather than LATER. I'm wondering if I need to set up an anonymous system so that people can feel comfortable telling me outright what sucks.......

Will Wildman said...

I'm totally comfortable telling people what outright sucks! My more frequent problem has been: "I think this sentence could be reworded to flow more smoothly." "OH GOD IT'S ALL AWFUL, ISN'T IT" "No, some of this characterisation is really interesting, you've just got multiple confusing actions coming together here. Maybe a semicolon could help." "IT'S AN ATROCITY PLEASE STOP READING NOW"

By which I mean I would definitely volunteer to beta read. Also, you've reminded me NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I need to make up my mind about which idea to pursue. Maybe I'll throw some options on my blog and prod people for opinions.

Back to my first topic, though, there have been various moments in reading author interviews when I felt like they were maybe displaying aspects of their personality that they would do better not to parade, and I don't know - on the one hand, maybe it's relevant, but unlike interviewing a politician, an author's personal views are less germane than the works they produce, so... I'm not sure if that can be construed as constructive criticism, is my issue?

chris the cynic said...

On the subject of the site itself, would it be possible to make it so there was something like the "Current Comments" thing that only listed the most recent comment in each thread?

Say someone goes and posts in Older Thread at the same time activity heats up in Newer Thread. For a moment the comment in Older Thread will be listed in Current Comments and anyone looking at Current Comments in that moment will know, "Hey, something's going on over there," and possibly take a look. But when the moment is over Current Comments will be filled with comments from Newer Thread. No one will know there was new activity in Older Thread unless they manually check, which they are unlikely to do because it is Older.

As an example, at some point the site is going to notice that there are five comments in this thread, and if no one makes any comments in other threads between now and when I post this, that will fill up the current comments leaving no indication which other threads have had recent activity at all. If one of the recent comments were in a two week old thread* what are the odds someone would notice once it fell off the recent comment list?

It seems to me that it would be useful, if it is possible, to have something that shows you what the most recent threads to have comments in them are. So like the Current Comments but only one comment from each thread.

And, of course, if it would be possible (my original question) would you do it?


*None are right now, but we have had new comments in threads more than two weeks old.

Ana Mardoll said...


You're not the only one. *grins* I misheard Husband last night and thought he was talking about MY book when he was actually talking about a library book he didn't care for. Much hilarity ensued.

Marketing yourself is a big part of marketing your book. If an author is saying that, I don't know, they're the best writer since sliced bread or that nothing good has been written since L. Ron Hubbard, that's going to affect whether or not people pick up their book. So, yes, I would think that commenting on their words and apparent attitude is very germane.


That makes perfect sense to me. What we have over there right now is a Disqus widget, so I'll see if I can't find something that will work the way you suggest. So I guess the answer is I don't know if it's possible (SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!) but I'm certainly happy to implement it if I can find a way. :D

Will Wildman said...

Is there maybe a gadget that lists most recently active threads, not specific comments? So if New Post gets twenty comments it will just hold one top position, but Old Post getting a new comment will at least bump it up to second?

I'm new to the whole blog structure thing myself. So finicky, yet so simple on my end (where I can just drag/drop stuff around). Yog only knows how complicated the actual coding of these things gets.

Will Wildman said...

So... yeah, basically exactly that thing that you put in while I was typing.

Brin Bellway said...

I'm in the Top 5 most prolific commenters! Cool!

...hey, where'd it go?

chris the cynic said...

You also appear to be in the top five most liked.

chris the cynic said...

My sister pointed me to this. Which allows me to make a graph of the usage of words over time. You can show multiple words or just one. It's just the sort of thing you might want when trying to figure out whether a vampire from the past few centuries (I think info goes back to 1500) would use a given word.

Also, the tribulation used to be much more popular than the Tribulation. Between 1980 and 1985 capital Tribulation was in the lead, but it lost that ground until, all of a sudden, in 1995, the Tribulation shot straight up. It looks like Left Behind changed the case of the tribulation/Tribulation.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, that is so many layers of awesome that I fear it will take over my life with curiosity. o.O

graylor said...

Ooh, a new shiny to play with. I like the new button up-top, too--no more secret codes! Um, yeah, I was the kid with the Captain Crunch decoder ring.

Anyway, if this is an open post, Sarah Brennan (YA author, traditionally published) has an interesting post up about gay characters in YA books and the issues of publishing those books. There are also links in her post because links make the world go round. Apparently less than one percent of YA novels have LGBT characters for various reasons: I'd like to think indie publishing might help fill that gap a little.

Ana Mardoll said...

Of course the astute observer will point out that Phil is a nickname. It is indeed. Philip gives off less vampire vibes. In present times Philip falls between Edward and Jacob, it looks like it spiked around 1780, overtaking even Edward.

Interesting. Phil can be a nickname for a lot of things, but it's surprising to me that it was used in short phil form in writing so long ago. Philip is, of course, a Bible name ( and there's even a Gnostic gospel attributed to him. (Jacob, too, is Biblical, and it's why I expect Phil and Jacob are older and more popular than, say, Esme.)

I love the idea of a vampire named Phil. It's such a modern-sounding name, yet very old without you realizing it. I do not love the idea of a werewolf named Jacob, though. :(

Ana Mardoll said...

I, too, was surprised to see how popular "Isabella" was and how that popularity predated Twilight. But here's the thing: names aren't equally common across all ethic groups. I would guess -- and would be prepared to be wrong -- that "Isabella" is more common in families with, say, Italian and Spanish roots.

Now, we don't know Bella's genealogy. "Charlie" suggests English roots and "Renee" suggests French roots, but obviously anybody can name their kid anything, so we can't draw from that. Similarly, Bella remarks on her excessive transparent paleness, but again, this doesn't mark genealogy or race particularly much.

However, I can imagine that in her racial and class peer group Isabella might be a very unusual name indeed.

The "names grandparents have" irked me anyway. "Alice" is NOT an old, unused name, or at least it wasn't in my neighborhood. You want "grandparent-y" name, you should have Mildred or Ethel or Iris or Gertrude. Imagine if "Rosalie" was really "Ethel"? THAT would be delightful.

Then, too, if Bella DOES live in a reality where those names are old-fashioned, the Cullens should *change* them. It's kind of necessary if you're living incognito. *eyeroll*

Brin Bellway said...

Every name in the quoted passage is more common than her own.

Even Emmett? Maybe it's that group variation thing Ana mentioned, because I don't think I've ever heard of anyone named Emmett before or since. Edward, Alice, those are common enough. Jasper...not common, but not totally unheard of. Rosalie doesn't sound familiar, but it's similar enough to more common names that I wouldn't think it too odd.

chris the cynic said...

Even Emmett?

Well, this gets a little tricky because I don't have raw data, just the top 1000 of each gender. Bella was born in 1987 so most of the people she meets should be from around then. So figure the second half of the 1980s would be where the names she recognizes come from. Throughout the entire 1980s her name never even scratched the list. Emmett has never been off the list unlike Isabella and Bella it never fell so far into disuse as to fall off the list.

But maybe if names weren't separated by gender it would turn out that that Bella or Isabella was somehow more popular. I sort of doubt it though. Emmett outpaces Kris with a K in the year Bella was born and those aren't that hard to find.

Maybe the reason Emmett isn't that popular is that it seems to be tragic. The first search results on Google are an Emmett who died young and an Emmett who died very young.

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone named Emmett before or since

I recommend Silverado. The movie, not the vehicle.

Or Back to the Future I suppose. (It's the first fictional Emmett Wikipedia mentions.)

Neither of those will convince you that Emmett is a name for teenagers in 2005, but there's clearly a lack of Emmetts in your life and it could help with that.

Brin Bellway said...

Or Back to the Future I suppose. (It's the first fictional Emmett Wikipedia mentions.)

Back to the Future is one of those (well, three of those) movies I keep meaning to sit down and watch all the way through but never actually see more than bits and pieces of. I probably should have taken the opportunity when Space ran a few (spread out for maximum timezone/sleep schedule coverage) marathons of them a couple weeks ago.
*looks at Wikipedia* Doc's name is Emmett? Must have been in one of those bits and pieces I missed. That makes two then, which I guess would make it as good as Jasper.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I know two Emmetts. But I'm Irish, so that's no surprise.


Post a Comment