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12 August 2014

Bunny pony request Am I the only bunny who keeps losing my MeCha connection when I click on a link? If I do that at MetaFilter or most sites, a new tab opens in my browser. If I do it on MetaChat, the link opens in MeCha's stead.

Merely a website consumer, not a computer science type here, but I wondered if maybe opening links in a new tab could be a special pony request?
MeCha runs on wishes and fairy dust, and kind of is what it is. My understanding has always been that the backend is very 2004 and not easy to adapt to later generations of web experience standards.

Still, our tech admin may have a response for you and I am not speaking for them, just from my brief time at the modly helm.

Myself, with my particular setup, I'm a big fan of right-click, "Open in new tab."
posted by Miko 12 August | 21:08
I use middle click to open in a new tab because I never trust websites to open links in a new window for me.
posted by apoch 12 August | 21:15
bearwife, do you have a mouse with a scroll wheel? I usually click on links with the scroll wheel. Not sure how it works with Macs but I assume there's an analogous technique
posted by Firas 12 August | 23:12
As people are pointing out, this is up to the user. Some people may not appreciate new windows or tabs automatically opening with every link.

Look at the top of your screen. You should be able to go into the Preferences of your browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE, etc.) if you click on the name, opening the "menu." Since you always want links to open in a new tab, you can set it that way, but mostly people can do this with a mouse click. I will just go Back half the time, which you can also do with a mouse click, buttons on the top of your browser, or different keyboard combinations which are shown and can be clicked in the menu of one of the options at the top of your screen.

I know this could come of as condescending but that's up to the reader, as I am thinking this is a good opportunity to click around your browser options and find out other stuff you can set how you want. Colors? Font size? Do things show up on the bottom edge of your browser window when you mouse over a link? Do you want them to? Is there bottom edge?

Maybe you've been settling for a gray box when you wanted an electric blue sports car with huge type this whole time and it was right there.

This is not computer science, this is playing with your toy. Push all the buttons. Click everything. You can undo nearly everything. If it explodes it probably has nothing to do with clicking on something.
posted by ethylene 13 August | 02:49
Ya know, when I discovered I could change the icons on my desktop, I felt like a mad god for close to an hour, and never did I love a background like the free ones I found smoothly tiled together in my customization/accumulation frenzy.

Ah, to be na´ve, just for that moment of discovery.

Speaking of: this thing we use held together with so much snot and hope seems to be breaking down bit by bit every time I'm on it. We may have to get to getting Bessie a new leg afor she keels over.
posted by ethylene 13 August | 03:18
This is a problem on all my machines (Windows based, Mac, Ipad, Iphone) and all my browsers, including IE, Chrome and Firefox. Other websites do open links in a new window, just not MeCha.

I know this is me, folks, in that I always forget my MeCha links don't do this as other tabbed sites' links do, and that MeCha is made of stardust and wire, I just thought I'd ask. No worries if it isn't feasible. My back button still works fine.
posted by bearwife 13 August | 15:15
It's true you can change it in your browser settings. And I know it's actually a profile setting in MeFi.

Just tried out Reddit - it opens links on the same tab for me in my Chrome. I really think it's something the user usually has to configure.
posted by Miko 13 August | 20:18
bearwife, the reason I asked is that if you click a link with the scroll wheel (in between the left and right buttons) it will open in a new tab. So instead of left clicking you middle click to ensure it opens in a new tab.
posted by Firas 13 August | 23:12
Also on the iphone what I tend to do is hold the link for a second, it then pops up the option of opening in a new tab...

You are right though the general interaction design approach here has changed... the rule used to be "don't force a new window" but the way facebook, twitter etc. work, people expect links to open in a new tab these days. Also the fact that all browsers have tabs now makes this less of an issue than back in the day when a "new window" would literally mean a whole new browser window would pop open.
posted by Firas 13 August | 23:15
This is definitely something the user should control. Right now, you have the ability (as others have helpfully illustrated) to open in a new tab on a variety of devices. But once you force a site to open all links in a new tab, then there's no way (short of a plug-in/greasemonkey script) for users to just open the link in the *same* tab. So it's actually a loss of functionality.
posted by Eideteker 14 August | 06:56
We might be able to do this as a personal preference that you can turn on, but I probably won't make it the default, for the reasons others have said.
posted by chrismear 14 August | 07:05
It would be a fine pony for me as a personal preference option.
posted by bearwife 14 August | 11:38
If we're going to bother to monkey around with things, I think perhaps fixing things that stopped working recently or long ago should be higher up on the list than tacking on some new thing when it seems to be getting kind of wobbly around here.
I've just updated a few things, but last I commented, my text disappeared between preview and post and I've not gotten response emails since it went down. Certain users regularly have comment repeat issues (I don't know if it's on their end), the mechs user/mefi post feed has been down years now, etc.

I don't know what we're built on, but I'm guessing it was not the sturdiest and things have been tacked on since? Are we eventually going to have to get a new boat? Questions...
posted by ethylene 14 August | 22:01
I have a constant comment repeat issue, seems like just about every time, and I've looked around for anything on my end that would be causing and can't identify anything. Also, as admin, most of what we have deleted are double comments. It's even become kind of a mod joke - how many different ways are there to answer "Deletion reason?" without saying "double?" We've had "doppio," "2x," "2wice," "Dub," "repeat," etc.

It happens to so many people I doubt it's user-end, but I have no idea why it happens, really.
posted by Miko 14 August | 22:14
ethylene, I can't see any trace of a deprecated or deleted post so it's not clear why your stuff didn't show up. Maybe a browser or router hiccup, in that case.
posted by Miko 14 August | 22:15
You're the only one I regularly have seen forever. If it happens to other people as regularly, i don't see it except that one thread I was hoping was a joke around the break down.

As it happened after preview I just copied my text back into the box. I just updated Safari (which I never used until I started having Netflix problems last year) and I'm not seeing it now. But it never happened before so I made a note when it did, with the "Speaking of."
posted by ethylene 14 August | 22:44
It's not just me but it's me a lot.
posted by Miko 14 August | 22:53
Yes. Yes, it is. That would be what I said. Yet again. Repetition may be a theme.
posted by ethylene 14 August | 23:14
I don't mean to be repeating you needlessly. You said I was the "only one," and I'm just noting, from looking at the backend, that a lot of other duplicates from posts by others are deleted too, whether or not you are seeing the doubles.

I think we're kind of lucky (?) this site is still here at all. Every time I think it's breathed its last, a little post or two shows up.
posted by Miko 14 August | 23:45
You're the only one I regularly have seen forever. If it happens to other people as regularly, i don't see it
posted by ethylene 15 August | 01:02
The only explanation I can offer you is that you don't see a lot of them because they're rapidly deleted. The record doesn't go back that far but I can see recently deleted doubles from buzzman, brujita, and bearwife (and none from me). Dunno, maybe I stand out to you for some reason, but it seems to happen to almost all users at some time or another.
posted by Miko 15 August | 01:06
The double comments are pretty common and, while Miko seems to be a favourite, it's definitely not only her that it happens to. They are almost always deleted very quickly - I've gone to delete one several times and found someone else has beaten me to it. Sometimes, it's three or more repeats of the same comment.

Given the low traffic and participation here, there's hardly justification for re-engineering something that 99% works. A one-off loss of comment between preview and post is likely either because you hit that specific time in the (I think) early am UK time when the site goes offline briefly for its tea break or a momentary loss of connection somewhere. One lost comment is not a sign that the sky is falling.
posted by dg 15 August | 02:16
Really? Is it so very difficult to parse that I said something other that "Miko is the only one who double posts"? Is it such a mystery that I see hers more often because we use it at similar times?

That this is and has been a long term issue is an issue. I just mentioned the commenting issue because it just happened right then and was new, not because it in itself is the problem, but yet another new glitch with new glitches being the problem while we apparently have old glitches as recurrent problems.

The idea that it doesn't work that well but who cares will be a problem when it breaks, making it harder to fix, but it sounds like any spike in use and/or traffic would be a problem.

If a boat has a hole, you can keep bailing it out but fixing the hole isn't the craziest idea in the world. If it's not a fixable hole, planning to get a new boat isn't unthinkable either, unless everyone else is just waiting until it sinks.
posted by ethylene 15 August | 17:57
No, I think we got what you said. No one is criticizing you. Just making sure it is clear that, from what we can see on the backend, the doubles are definitely not a user-specific problem.

I think what it is, though, is that if MetaChat is a boat then it's a rusty old one with fewer cylinders than people consider standard these days. So if we wanted lots of ponies, or even fixes for oddball errors like doubles that might be caused by things like the way up-to-date browsers interact with the old site platform, then we'd probably need to be talking about migrating the whole site to an entirely new platform. Which is do-able, but would cost somebody some time and some money.

Site traffic isn't super high. So I'm not sure that effort would be a successful project. As I said, I think it's awesome that it's still hanging around and chrismear is still keeping an eye on the blinking lights and hosting and stuff. For anything more ambitious, seems like we'd need a fundraising campaign. If anyone were willing to run one, then off we go - but my guess is that this site just won't ever return to 2004-2008 levels of activity and new user signup. So I would not be super optimistic about such a campaign.

What I think I hear chrismear saying is that, given the platform we have, tweaking where the links open may turn out to be an easy thing, just flipping a setting here or there. But fixing the other holes in the boat are not easy things - they just require a new boat.

Like I said, every day I am kind of surprised it's still here at all. I am a little philosophical about these things. All communities, online and IRL, have life cycles. I don't like to force things. I would say that a long-term game plan for MeCha does not exist. It has never been discussed, at least in any forum I was privy to; the last substantial conversations we had about site direction where at the time of taz' retirement some years ago now. The proliferation of additional channels in the last 5 years has given lots of people new ways to connect and new communities to follow. Most people who are still here are here because of the ties they formed much earlier. I don't have a strong sense of new user signups, or whether signups are followed by continuing activity, or are just people looking around and then bowing out.

Now is as good a time as any: do you think there's sufficient interest in getting a new boat? Sufficient interest to do the cheerleading, fundraising, and organizing required? What aspect of that might you be willing to take on?
posted by Miko 15 August | 20:43
For no reason at all, other than it always looks so anemic when we've only had 3-6 posts in the last 3 days, I just changed the setting to show posts for 7 days.

That's the level of stuff we can do here. Nothing fancy, nothing big, nothing that makes this suddenly a state-of-the-art thing that interacts smartly with contemporary browsers and acts like other sites.
posted by Miko 15 August | 20:47
My view is pretty much in accord with yours, Miko. Personally, I don't see a long-term future for MeCha unless something drastic changes. Facebook has pretty much wiped out the usefulness of a place like this in most people's eyes. Which is a shame, because Facebook has never been and never will be a 'community' like MeCha is. There's too much going on and you don't really interact with the same group of people consistently (or have much control over who you interact with, really). Plus, you know, evil corporation etc.

The flow of new users has certainly dried up almost completely and, even when new users register, I don't seem to see much, if any, activity from them. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little spike in signups every time MeCha gets mentioned on MeFi but the level of activity is so low and there are so many other shiny things that there's really nothing to keep new people coming back. I'll try and do my part to post more stuff here and see if that increases activity. I know I don't visit anywhere near as often as I used to, because there just isn't the content to justify it.
posted by dg 16 August | 04:10
I've been wondering about metachat; that it seems below an inverse tipping point. A dipping point if you will. Where the level of activity is so low as not to be sustainable.
That saddens me; I like having an online place to go to and share interesting/fun stuff. Unfortunately for me I found mefi too ideological/argumentative in the long run.

So; what would be an alternative?
Are you guys/gals all on each others Facebook? Do you 'meet' new people through that?
posted by jouke 16 August | 04:53
God, the last thing I want to do is meet new people ;-)

I'm Facebook friends with a few people from here/MeFi, but not a lot.
posted by dg 16 August | 05:48
I'm like dg: Facebook friends with a few people, but not most. The good thing about MeCha is that you can interact here at relative distance from your IRL identity. I mean lots of us are known to each other, but real life identities are not highly visible here. So it allows a measure of freedom from your other communities. On Facebook, people must all be necessarily linked in multiple ways, and to your real identity. So it just doesn't make sense in all cases. I'm always jarred when I'm having a Facebook discussion with someone from one part of my life, and someone from an entirely other part weighs in. I mean it's OK, but it's strange. I've unfortanately had a couple of incidents of boundary crossing with that that I didn't like. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and have cut my friend list in Draconian ways, just to try to keep it at a number I can actually think about and interact with meaningfully.

A dipping point if you will. Where the level of activity is so low as not to be sustainable.

It might be sustainable if only because it doesn't need to be active just to sit here. I was just telling my SO about a community blog some friends and I had from 2000-2006 or so. It was a blast, but it wound down. However, I went to see if it was still there a couple nights ago to show him, and it was, with all its content. Every year or so somebody makes a post, which is sort of a fun easter egg to find. However, that's on a free platform that hasn't been bought and usurped by another free platform yet.

So I think the only thing that would force the discussion of letting the site expire would be the need for hosting money. I'm not sure what that runs these days.
posted by Miko 16 August | 09:01
There used to be a MetaChatters Facebook group, IIRC. I think I left it because of the identity issue. Maybe it's now a hidden group? Can't find it in any case.

Anyway I don't think it's that MetaChatters interact with each other more on FB. It's just that now we have so many more options for various communities to interact with. I do a lot on Twitter and LinkedIn group discussions these days. On a break from MeFi to engage more in these professional things at this point in my life.
posted by Miko 16 August | 09:04
So the main reason things have been extra wonky since the big downtime is that the software that's used to run MetaChat (b2evo) was written years ago for a version of PHP that no longer gets security updates. I had to update the server software (including PHP) to a modern-enough set of versions to make sure we weren't leaving the site open to gaping security holes due to being unable to update... but the result is that I also had to monkey-patch our b2evo installation just to get it up and running on the more recent version of PHP, etc., which means that some features and functionality are still incompatible and not working properly...

The next thing for us to look into is upgrading our installation of b2evolution, but thats still a biggish job since we're not running a 'stock' version of the software on this site. Our installation has, over the years, been amended and tweaked with custom code here and there and so we'd need to keep all of that in mind while we try and engineer a big upgrade. It's not impossible, but it's also not a quick task.

I'll see if we can't investigate this upgrade path and figure out exactly how much of a job it would be. Getting us back onto a recent and less messed-around-with version of b2evo would make maintenance and fixing things a lot more pleasant to do.
posted by chrismear 16 August | 17:51
Thanks for the deets, chrismear. Let us know what you find out. If it were something we could job out at a not-too-exorbitant cost, we could try a cash drive. If it made it easier for you to look after it might be worth it.
posted by Miko 16 August | 18:07
I have tried to make my Facebook feed as palatable as possible to me (hiding Ticker, non-friends hidden from my feed, etc.), but the flip side is that I forget that it's up to each user to tailor their own feeds, and that Facebook pushes my comments, etc. to my friends' feeds even if theirs isn't the post I've commented on. It's pretty jarring to post something that I think is only visible to a certain group of people, only to find that someone else, whose page I wouldn't have posted the comment to, has seen it (and PMed me, or commented or liked it if it was a public post, etc.).

MeCha is a place where, even though I don't really post anything that provocative, I can relax and not worry about my IRL name being attached to it. I value that a lot.
posted by initapplette 19 August | 14:55
I agree, that is such a weird aspect of FB.
posted by Miko 19 August | 22:50
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