Author Topic: How to better keep track of threads here ?  (Read 2815 times)

Offline DBMandrake

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How to better keep track of threads here ?
« on: 01/12/2021 10:41 am »
Hi All,

Not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I couldn't find somewhere better and maybe it will help others...(moderators please move this post if it should be somewhere else)

I use many different forums using various different forum software on a daily basis but I find it particularly difficult to keep track of threads on this forum / forum software, so much so that I'm writing this post.

I mainly hang out in the Starship related threads and because they're so active and there are so many of them I don't particularly want to use email notifications, so for a long time I wasn't.

With most forums I prefer to periodically go to the forum when I have time to read and see what threads I'm interested in (and subscribed to) have new posts, and click a link to be taken to the most recent post in that particular thread which I haven't seen before. Easy.

However unlike virtual every other forum software I've used, the options here seem really limited, especially for such a busy site. There doesn't seem to be a way to subscribe to threads without also receiving email notifications. (The "notify" option, which is not the same as subscriptions on other forums)

So if I don't subscribe for email alerts using notify I can't keep track of which threads have new posts without manually checking them all. It gets worse though - again, unlike every other forum I use, it seems that the forum itself doesn't keep track of my last read post in a thread - it seems to be tracked browser side.

So if I read the forum on my phone, then on a PC at home, then on a PC at work none of these browsers are aware of what the last post in a thread I've truly read on another device actually is. So I end up starting to read "new" posts in a thread only to think "hang on a minute this seems familiar" before I realise that the forum has picked me up at the posts I was last reading two days ago on this particular browser.

Then I have to manually trawl my way through the rest of the thread trying to find the point where there are genuinely new messages to continue at. Sometimes it just seems to completely loose track of where I am in a thread and I have to find it again manually.

I enabled Notify on a couple of the threads I follow so I do at least get an email alert when there are some new posts, however the link in the post does not actually contain a reference to the new post but rather uses a #new tag, for example
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=52701.new;topicseen#new


And depending on which device I click that link on I end up at a different post - for example if I click the link on a PC that hasn't most recently read that thread then I will end up on a very old post that is well before where I'm really up to on a different PC. So the link takes me to a different post depending on what browser I use and sometimes just takes me right to the end even though I know I haven't read everything.

So keeping track of the threads I'm interested in across multiple browsers is a bit of a nightmare to be honest, and far more difficult than any other forum software. In my opinion this forum software seems to lack:

1) Proper thread subscription and non-email notification of new posts visible in the main web UI
2) Tracking of last read posts for each thread per user account rather than per browser session.

Quite frustrating because there's so much good stuff to read on here but it's a lot of work trying to keep track of whether there are new posts in threads of interest (partially solved by Notify but not very well) and keep track of where I'm up to in a 60+ page thread when the forum loses track of my true last read post. (Which happens frequently since it seems to be stored client side and I read this site from more than one device - I usually end up having to manually scan the thread to figure out where I was up to)

Is there anything I can do or is this just a limitation of this forum software?  :)
« Last Edit: 01/12/2021 10:59 am by DBMandrake »

Offline Crispy

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #1 on: 01/12/2021 11:08 am »
I agree, "My subscribed threads" is the bookmark for all the forums I use except this one, where it does not exist :(

SMF is not great forum software unfortunately. There are free and paid-for alternatives with better features, but it would be a hell of a job making the switch, given the size of the forums and all the content stored in L2.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2021 11:09 am by Crispy »

Online ehb

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #2 on: 01/12/2021 12:29 pm »
Not perfect, but I find this entry to the forum useful: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=activetopics
If signed in, it does seem to keep track of "New" when connecting from different devices.

Offline scdavis

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #3 on: 01/12/2021 01:53 pm »
As long as I'm signed in, the forum does seem to keep track across different browsers and PCs of my latest read. I haven't seen that problem except where I wasn't signed in.

But I agree heartily about wanting to have the ability to "subscribe" to threads I want to view. I want a view like "Unread Topics" but filtered just to the ones I've subscribed to. This is honestly why I find that Tapatalk is the only way to make my workflow clean. It provides exactly this ability. People here seem to dislike Tapatalk and even talk negatively about those who use it -- but I haven't found a way to use the site itself (mobile or otherwise) to do the equivalent.

Could a long time heavy-user of the forum pipe in with your workflow? How do you get around this limitation where there is no web view to see new activity on the threads I'm actually interested to watch daily?

Offline gongora

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #4 on: 01/12/2021 02:36 pm »
The server does keep track of your last read posts, but that can get messed up when moderation actions are done on the thread, such as deleting discussion from the Starship update threads, which happens a lot.

Offline xor

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #5 on: 01/13/2021 10:31 am »
There doesn't seem to be a way to subscribe to threads without also receiving email notifications.

There actually is a way to do what you mention-

I use Notify, but uncheck all the options and make sure to change this setting:

For topics and boards I've requested notification on, notify me of: Nothing at all

Use the Profile - Notifications page as a landing page. Page or scroll down until you get to the last New thread, then read threads upwards until you get to the newest (I like to read in order).

Then I check the Recent Unread Topics when I'm done to see if there's anything new worth diving into or adding to the notification list.

Multiple browsers seem to work as long as I'm logged in. At least for me, just refresh and it's synced.

I want a view like "Unread Topics" but filtered just to the ones I've subscribed to.

Yep, the above basically turns the Profile - Notifications page into exactly that because it's sorted by recency.

I used to only lurk without an account for a long time, but I couldn't keep track of threads in any reasonable manner.

The above is the only way I've found I can possibly drink from the firehose that is NSF, HTH.

Offline DBMandrake

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #6 on: 01/13/2021 11:38 am »
The server does keep track of your last read posts, but that can get messed up when moderation actions are done on the thread, such as deleting discussion from the Starship update threads, which happens a lot.
Tracking doesn't work even remotely reliably for me I'm afraid.

I just clicked on a notification email on my phone for a post made today and the link just took me to the first page of a thread with over 40 pages which I was up to date on a few days ago, so it probably should have taken me to post somewhere around page 38.

An email for another thread did take me to a specific post in the thread but it was a post I had already read days ago.

Likewise I logged into the forum from my laptop this morning, clicked the "new" tag in the Texas Prototype thread hoping to see new posts but was taken to a post that was made over a week ago, when I was last reading this thread yesterday on another device and was up to date at that point. Most likely the post it took me to was the last post I read in that thread from this laptop.

Last read post tracking simply doesn't work properly on this forum. Occasionally it works, usually if I stick to the same browser and don't close it however the vast majority of time it doesn't work especially if I am jumping between different devices. I just have to constantly try to find my place again and it's like juggling five 1000 page novels simultaneously where the bookmarks keeps randomly falling out or teleporting to a different section.  :(
« Last Edit: 01/13/2021 11:42 am by DBMandrake »

Offline DBMandrake

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #7 on: 01/13/2021 11:40 am »
As long as I'm signed in, the forum does seem to keep track across different browsers and PCs of my latest read. I haven't seen that problem except where I wasn't signed in.
I'm permanently signed in on all the browsers/devices I read the forum from. That isn't it. I still constantly end up with the forum randomly losing my last read post status for threads, usually when I'm jumping between devices.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2021 11:43 am by DBMandrake »

Offline DBMandrake

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #8 on: 01/13/2021 11:53 am »
There doesn't seem to be a way to subscribe to threads without also receiving email notifications.

There actually is a way to do what you mention-

I use Notify, but uncheck all the options and make sure to change this setting:

For topics and boards I've requested notification on, notify me of: Nothing at all

Use the Profile - Notifications page as a landing page. Page or scroll down until you get to the last New thread, then read threads upwards until you get to the newest (I like to read in order).

Then I check the Recent Unread Topics when I'm done to see if there's anything new worth diving into or adding to the notification list.

Multiple browsers seem to work as long as I'm logged in. At least for me, just refresh and it's synced.
Thanks - I'll give that a try. That solves the constant email notifications (I get far too many email alerts from other sites already) and yet gives a page I can look at to see a summary of threads I have set to notify. A poor mans subscription page and better than nothing I guess.

However even when I have used the "NEW" links next to threads in the normal thread index my last message read status still seems to get lost, either reverting to the start of the thread or jumping back to some point in the past, so I'll see if that still happens.

Quote
I want a view like "Unread Topics" but filtered just to the ones I've subscribed to.

Yep, the above basically turns the Profile - Notifications page into exactly that because it's sorted by recency.

I used to only lurk without an account for a long time, but I couldn't keep track of threads in any reasonable manner.

The above is the only way I've found I can possibly drink from the firehose that is NSF, HTH.
Yes, there is just so much going on here that without proper subscription tools, last post tracking and notifications it's so hard to keep track. After losing my place for the umpteenth time in a long busy thread I give up in disgust for a while and then come back a few days later for another attempt, which is a shame.

Offline DBMandrake

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #9 on: 01/13/2021 12:16 pm »
Can anyone comment on the "MARK UNREAD" button at the bottom of pages and what it does? Does anyone use it?


It seems like an unusual feature to mark a thread as unread and I notice in the URL there is the string "?action=markasread". Obviously Mark Unread and Mark as Read are two different things!


This brings up an interesting point - if I am reading part way down page 35 of 40 and then close my browser, is the forum software considering the last post on page 35 my last read post to continue from next time?

Offline freda

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #10 on: 01/13/2021 12:19 pm »
Not perfect, but I find this entry to the forum useful: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=activetopics
If signed in, it does seem to keep track of "New" when connecting from different devices.
Yes.  Rather than having to squeeze through the narrow "5-topic window into Forums" that is presented on the NSF home page, a commonly-provided view such as this would greatly help promote the valuable asset which is the NSF-forum.

Offline scdavis

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #11 on: 01/13/2021 06:16 pm »
There actually is a way to do what you mention-

I use Notify, but uncheck all the options and make sure to change this setting:

For topics and boards I've requested notification on, notify me of: Nothing at all

Use the Profile - Notifications page as a landing page. Page or scroll down until you get to the last New thread, then read threads upwards until you get to the newest (I like to read in order).
...

That works great! Thanks xor! I've been on here lurking for a long time, eventually started posting some... but I never figured this out. Now I can see updates on the threads I'm interested in, and threads with new posts have the New icon that goes right to unread posts. Sweet.

I feel like this could be mentioned somewhere for newbies, definitely helpful.

Offline xor

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Re: How to better keep track of threads here ?
« Reply #12 on: 01/13/2021 11:03 pm »
This brings up an interesting point - if I am reading part way down page 35 of 40 and then close my browser, is the forum software considering the last post on page 35 my last read post to continue from next time?

It appears to mark up to the latest post shown at the time the page load as read, so if there are multiple new pages but you haven't reached later pages, it will still show as new and the New link will take you to the next page.

I tested this to be sure:

+ Go to an index page and find a popular/old link that has likely multiple new pages (in my case, Profile - Notifications).
+ Open from the "New" link in a separate tab.
+ Reload the index page, verify the "New" link still exists, but you can mouse over to see it has been updated.
+ Open from the "New" link in a separate tab again
+ Verify you see the next thread page

The forum appears to use persisted server-side  timestamps per-user per-thread, with the messages that the "New" links point to generated at index page load and translated into fixed message targets.

The index page needs to be reloaded/regenerated for the "New" tags to update to point at newer messages. If I had a suggestion, it is to reload the index page often. I tend to do it after I've read every four threads or so, even have it bound to a special hotkey (Ctrl+/) so I don't have to reach across the keyboard.  :P

One interesting behavior is when a existing post is changed, that also shows up as "New" and it will throw you backwards in the thread for some deja-vu (I glance at the last modified date at the bottom of the post when this happens). These look a little strange in the index page (such as Profile - Notifications) because it shows the time of the last post, not the last update, so the New tags show up in the list among older threads. Perfectionists tend to stand out, you know who you are  ;D (*cough* we).

Can anyone comment on the "MARK UNREAD" button at the bottom of pages and what it does? Does anyone use it?

You can also play around and verify this in longer threads if you "Mark Unread" on it, which appears to set that thread timestamp to its starting point no matter what thread page you're on.

I occasionally see those "New" links take me places I don't expect, but most of the time it's a modified post. Other people have complained and theorized that there may be some leakage from the link following it, but I've never been able to verify that. I'm not sure if/how that could be the case, but I may be less affected since I read the "New" backwards from oldest to newest (total guess).

Also, re: sync I tend to switch between two desktop browsers. It works with mobile too, but I haven't used that anywhere near as much.

That works great! Thanks xor! I've been on here lurking for a long time, eventually started posting some... but I never figured this out. Now I can see updates on the threads I'm interested in, and threads with new posts have the New icon that goes right to unread posts. Sweet.

I feel like this could be mentioned somewhere for newbies, definitely helpful.

My pleasure! Pass it on, it doesn't appear this forum software will get a facelift any time soon.

I'm not too proud to admit that I had so many NSF tabs open it would eventually crash my Chrome browser with gigs of memory usage and various reload schemes.  :o

This was before I signed up for an account and let the forum do the work. Now I'm down to two pages (Profile - Notifications and Recent Unread Tops) and it's a much much faster scan.

I eschew most social media, but a message to anonymous lurkers--it's worth signing up! Who knows, you might even post one day?! Judging by the guests->users ratio on the bottom of the main page, there are a lot of people doing it the hard way (missing out?) like I was.

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