We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

An experiment with Samizdata comments

I have enabled ‘nested’ comments for a while as an experiment, thus you will see a ‘reply’ option on each comments that may be used if you seek to reply to that remark specifically, rather than to the article in general. This may or may not become a permanent feature.

68 comments to An experiment with Samizdata comments

  • Alan H.

    Dear God, what new horror has science wrought?

  • Erik

    What’s the nesting depth available? And how concerned should we be with cross-thread conversations? Might it be possible to “fold up” a particular nested tree by its root comment?

  • Alisa

    Great, now I can just talk to myself.

  • What’s the nesting depth available?

    It is currently set to five

    Might it be possible to “fold up” a particular nested tree by its root comment?

    I will look into that. If you or anyone else knows a WordPress plugin that does that, let me know.

  • Cal Ford

    I’ve somehow wandered into your brain, Alisa.

  • Alisa

    I feel your pain 🙁

  • Alisa

    Just checking something…

  • staghounds

    You must be the only woman in the West who has never heard of Mike Rowe! I suggest you start on the Youtube and watch his TED talk-


    Then the talk ABOUT the TED talk-


    And then just watch Dirty Jobs. We should have run him for President.

  • One of the things I have always liked about Samizdata is the lack of comment threads. There are, of course, many more things to like. :))

    This is because such lack discourages trite comment – and especially sequences of trite comments.

    The current unthreaded approach, particularly anchored using “blockquote” tags, seems to me to work very well. The historically supported single main and only comment thread (or perhaps it’s the brains of the Commentariat) looks to cope easily with up to 3 or 4 intertwined discussions within the general theme of the original post. Is it common that more has been required? So giving advantage to balance the obvious risk of twitter-twatter? I have not picked up that there is this need.

    Best regards

  • Bod

    Unthreaded certainly seems to encourage staying on topic and avoiding discussion forking, although I think that staying ‘on thread’ is as much a matter of personal (and moderator) discipline.

    If you take a look at a typical thread over at Reason’s Hit’n’Run, the whole thing turns into a shitshow within minutes, but then again the volume of comments, the caliber of some of the responses and the lack of moderation are clearly contributing factors to the problem.

  • John B

    There are enough cuckoos in blog comments without giving them nests to fly over.

  • I was curious to see if nesting actually make it easier to to stay on topic, because the inevitable digressive comments would tend to branch off in their own direction. I will see how it works out in practice as I can always turn the damn off again 😉

  • Alisa

    Well, that is probably due to the fact that I tend to stay away from the various National Geographic channels, as well as from CNN. Or from cable TV in general, for the past several years. And last but not least, from TED.

    And speaking of threads: wrong one? 🙂

  • Stephen Houghton

    So how about some hippo blogging? 😛

  • Juliet46

    When I look at comments on zerohedge, the nesting just confuses me…
    I’m interested to see how it goes here, and, as you say, you can easily go back to the old style if you wish.

  • Bod

    Collapsing DIVs is a pretty standard jQuery feature, so I suspect your biggest issue is to decide *which* WP addon to use.

    In a previous incarnation, I remember using Collapse-O-Matic

  • llamas

    I have awesome hippo blogging to share. How do I embed an image?



  • Alisa

    Zerohedge is nothing to go by, as it is a very poorly designed website in general.

  • Laird

    FWIW, I prefer un-nested discussion threads. It’s not difficult to keep a couple of topics going, if appropriate, but it helps prevent too much “branching”. (But I do like the edit feature!)

  • Laird

    Gaaah, this comment nesting is ghastly! I have to scroll back up to the top to check to see if I’ve missed some recent addition, instead of simply looking near the bottom for the last one I read. Turn it off!

  • llamas

    Unbranched threads, please.

    Edit feature awesome, keep.



  • NickM

    I dunno… The key to Samizdata is not how it is organized as much as the quality of the posts. From my experience SD doesn’t get into the interminable “comment wars” much. So… maybe it’s a good idea and maybe not but “comment wars” are not so much an issue here. But in principle anything that makes this blog easier to use gets my green arrow. Having said that I’m just not sure how needed it is.

  • Ferox

    Why not have both? How about a checkbox and corresponding querystring parameter that allows threads to either be nested, or to simply be listed in chronological (or reverse chronological) order? That way nest-fans can have their cake, and unnested purists can eat it too.

    The feature I would really like is comments search by user.

  • Cristina

    Agree with Laird and llamas (4:51 pm)

  • Mr Ed

    Stay on topic? Where’s the fun in that? What will the Sage of Kettering do if we stay on topic? (other than illustrate the interconnectedness of all things?).

  • Gene

    Much as I hate to call attention to a Vox site, the SB Nation family of sites has managed to combine nesting with some other features that make it pretty easy to navigate.

    First, if you’re logged in you can hit the “z” key and you’ll be taken to the next comment that you haven’t already read. This helps on a long thread with a lot of nested discussions. Instead of having to scroll back up and search out new comments in the nests it just shoots you there. Then you hit z again and it takes you to the next new one.

    Of course this requires [free] registration and I’m guessing Samizdata readers might not be enthusiastic about it.

    Second, you can collapse any thread down to its top-level comment, essentially putting uninteresting threads out of sight and mind. Might collapsibility be an option for this site?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I can live with it either way, although I like nested comments.

    By the way, avatars seem to be printing as blanks on my system (Mint 18 + Pale Moon)

  • Juliet46

    Yes – agree your point about zerohedge.
    However, still dubious about nesting.

  • llamas

    How do I embed an image? I have found the super-secret Samizdata headquarters in the USA and can’t wait to share, WikiLeaks style.



  • bobby b

    If you’re getting too many comments, nesting is an effective way to decrease them.

  • Stephen Houghton

    I haven’t figured that out yet.

    .-””-. _
    (‘ ‘ ‘0)-/)
    ‘..____..: \._
    \u u ( ‘-..——._
    | / : ‘. ‘–.
    .nn_nn/ ( : ‘ ‘\
    ( ” ” / ; . \
    ”—-‘ “\ : : ‘.
    .’/ ‘.
    / / ‘.
    /_| ) .\|
    | /\ . ‘
    ‘–.__| ‘–._ , /
    /’-, .’
    / | _.’
    snd (____\ /
    \ \

  • And the code by which this handsome fellow appeared is…

    <img src=”http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/wwfeatures/wm/live/624_351/images/live/p0/3d/tm/p03dtmds.jpg”/>

  • And the code by which these fine fellows appeared is…

    <img src=”http://dailypicksandflicks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/EXCUSE-ME-SIR-Do-you-have-a-moment-to-talk-about-jesus-christ-hippo.jpg”/>

  • Alisa

    Wow, this one really does look evil 👿

  • I sneeze in threes

    It will be fun watching Paul Marks reply to himself multiple times.

    I agree with Laird, when I come back to a comment thread I know I can just scroll down to the bottom to catch up on what is new, nesting is not good for that. Also lengthy comments may be awkward to read on a small phone screen when nested.

  • llamas

    You just don’t want me to reveal the secret, do you?

    Not an image form the web and I’m not going to put it on the web. A png which I have stashed away on my PC. Must be possible.



  • It has to be hosted somewhere, so if you e-mail it to be, I will send you the code once it is on the samizdata server.

  • Alisa

    I agree with Laird, when I come back to a comment thread I know I can just scroll down to the bottom to catch up on what is new, nesting is not good for that.

    If you follow the thread through RSS or subscribe to it by email, you get a link that puts you right there.

    Also lengthy comments may be awkward to read on a small phone screen when nested.

    That is very true.

  • RRS

    It has been a long time since Stockholm!

  • Sonny Wayze


    Unnested with the relevant quote keeps the comment and reply ‘linked’. Nested means backing up in the thread to refer to the original comment. See Reason, M. McArdle etc for good examples of a bad idea.

  • That has previously always been my view too, but I will give it few days before deciding either way. This is just an experiment :mrgreen:

  • Sonny Wayze

    Of course, I meant with the relevant quote *embedded* in the reply.

    But you knew that.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    How about that!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Shoot, I thought we’d shot “threading” or “nesting” down what, 3 years ago? when the last major change to Samizdata was made (and a great job it was too, Alec & other elves, except that the WordPress search function got broke and has never recovered — for which I am inclined to blame WP, and none of the worthies running Samizdata).

    The champagne corks were popping, the celebrants were happily celebrating indeed, and as various comments above indicate, a reason to repeat the celebration rather than one to try the hemlock-tea option would be most welcome.

    Please, PLEASE skip the threading, Perry. If the comments above aren’t enough to dissuade you, go back and re-read the ones discussing the possibility of nesting, and the ones after the changeover — in which the nesting idea was abandoned.

    . . .

    As for the hippi above, PdeH may (or may not) indeed be an evil one, but if so he is OUR Evil Hippo, and surely that counts for something.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And as for the joys of RSS, not everyone uses this function (like guess whom). One reason is the very problematicallity* of the “threaded”/”nesting” system.

    *Look, Ma! A new word?

  • Julie near Chicago

    For instance, as I was composing my contributions to this here discussion, the Sanity Inspector left a comment.

    After I finished with “Post Comment” clicked upon, I saw on the right that the S.I. had left a comment just before mine, that I hadn’t seen.

    Could I simply scroll down almost to the end and quickly and easily find the new addition? Of course not. I could either re-read the entire comment stream, or lick on S.I.’s link. It turned out that the comment’s in the middle of chit-chat, and meaning no disrespect, is not particularly consequential.

    But it IS disorienting. You have either to remember, or to read or re-read, that whole thread in order to see if anything worthwhile is in it. Because maybe the questioned comment really is important, given the full context of the particular thread. And you don’t even know where the thread is in the comment stream: that is, from what, if any, prior comments it flows.

    Because comments are not always replies to a single well-defined comment. Often a comment addresses various prior comments that have differing points of view or are on differing subtopics … which is a point at least one other person made above.

  • Laird

    Julie, I’ve meaning to note your return to these environs and to welcome you back. I was beginning to get worried about you.

    Oh, and I’m sure that “problematicality” is spelled with only one “L” at the end!

  • Jan Hards

    I use BazQux RSS Reader for viewing Samizdata, including its comments. The main attraction being that the BazQux RSS Reader not only displays each new posting but also each new comment per posting. It can be set to show only “unread” postings or comments. So, for example, you can see from time-to-time only those unread comments on each posting ‘thread’ and not have to see or scroll through the comments you have previously read. If you follow multiple blogs which have multiple comments per posting, then these too are all displayed as each comment appears, all in one place – but appropriately threaded per blog posting. It is the closest thing I have found to an “inbox” for blog postings and related comments.

    I have no financial interest in BazQux and only mention it in the hope others might suggest similar or even superior products or more efficient ways to view multiple blog postings and comment threads without the need to remember what you read on your visit. (Yes, I note Samizdata’s RSS comments feature but that requires (unless I am missing something) a new manual subscription to each new thread – and is no help for other blogs and their comments.)

    And to get on topic, if the powers that be in these parts do decide to stick with nested comments, Bazqux, which does not support that feature, will allow you to pretend that such a feature does not exist.

  • Jan Hards

    if the powers that be in these parts do decide to stick with nested comments, Bazqux, which does not support that feature, will allow you to pretend that such a feature does not exist.

    Well maybe not. Reading a nested comments thread through a reader that does not show the nesting may be worse than actually seeing the nesting and so understanding the context of successive comments. BazQux would probably not be a good option if nested comments remain.

  • Shlomo Maistre


  • This is exactly why I don’t like nested comments.

  • Alisa

    Looks like I’m the odd one here in that I actually like nested comments: they make the overall conversation more diverse and lively, while allowing for minimal disruption to the main serious discussion on the actual topic. That said, I don’t mind the current system, mainly because I’m so used to it by now.

  • djc

    Turned nesting off.

    Ah, that explains why I hav skimmed down all this way wondering why there are 58 comments on something for which there is no evidence!

  • Watchman


    I sort of guessed how the story ended early on the thread to be honest. It’s got some very well written chapter, but the twist at the end was given away by the structure adopted (and this analogy makes you the afterword and me either the index or the advert for a totally unconnected book you don’t want to read…).

  • Sonny Wayze

    “Could I simply scroll down almost to the end and quickly and easily find the new addition? Of course not. I could either re-read the entire comment stream, or lick on S.I.’s link.”

    I think I know what you meant to say, but the typo was just to good to ignore. Or is that what the kids are calling it these days? 😆

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sonny: Oooops!!! (He shoots, he scores big! 😥 )

    . . .

    Laird, :>)))) Thank you.

    I had several falls in September, where for “no reason” my knees or ankles would simply collapse under me. Fortunately, I always fell on carpet, so never busted nothing nor even banged my head hard. However, my daughter got tired of picking me up, and after she had performed this service twice in the space of ~ 2 minutes, she said “Enough of this nonsense!” and called the ambulance. Four days in the hospital were followed by two months in a nursing home, where I underwent physical therapy. I seem to be back to normal now (if you can believe I’ve ever been “normal” in any way, shape, or form, heh-heh-heh).

    So, end of story. Thanks again. 😉

  • Julie near Chicago

    And, Laird, you may cavil at the alleged superfluity of “L”s (and how DO you indicate the plural of a quoted word, anyway? I mean, the quote isn’t of “Ls,” it’s of “L,” one and alone.

    As I say. Cavil if you will, but can you spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”? Hah!


    By the way, a Search shows a difference of opinion as to the number of Ls in “-cali-” or “-calli-.” The Great Foot says just one, derived from the Latin “cali-,” “beauty.” And tells us of a rather nifty play on this:

    A well known pun plays on the word, by affirming that Mahatma Gandhi was a “super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis”.[7]

  • bobby b

    “I had several falls in September, where for “no reason” my knees or ankles would simply collapse under me.”

    This used to happen to me a lot during my college days, but for “a very good reason.” 😳

    (Thank your daughter for us, please.)

  • Alisa

    Great to have you back, Julie…

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby b, for some reason your autobiographical note suggests to me the occurrence of a condition which I cannot imagine* your ever having experienced, given the high level of so-called “common sense” and intelligence that you have a habit of exhibiting in these parts.

    *(Well, perhaps that might be a bit of a fib….) 😉


    And thanks, bobby and Alisa. :>)))

  • Julie near Chicago

    Dear Hippo: I am not entirely convinced about the “Evil” part. I think you is a just & righteous gent who has the sense and naked courage (I don’t know the common shorter expression, of course) to abandon “nested” “threading.”

    Thanks. :>)))

  • Julie near Chicago

    Although, I see that now a Samizdata page never quits loading. Waiting for all kinds of junk, such as, currently, “Waiting for t.sharethis.com…”. I have to kill the thing in the address bar (or override it by putting in a new URL). ???