metaphile

So: Should I write up a list of all the bugs that have gone unfixed, even those that do not require any coding whatsoever? Because that would be most of them.

Drinking game: Count the personal insults the so-called moderators of Typophile permit in this thread. There hasn’t been a limit in other threads.

  • Main CSS has two validation errors.
  • I think the off-grey text colour (#333) is too light, especially on the grey background. I would just make the text flat black in that case.

I’ve been working on the MetaPhile concept off and on since November. It does not represent any sudden rush of work. In fact, I’ve mostly been putting it off, but over a great deal of time I assembled several index cards’ worth of ideas into 19 (now 20) distinct bug reports.

As ever in bug reporting, we file one bug per report to avoid mixing apples and oranges. Check any bug-tracking system.

I indeed did not embark on a parallel project of listing everything salutary about Typophile. This is a bug-reporting project. I’m not here to reinforce your own impressions of how fabulous Typophile is. I repeat: If you never even noticed these problems, you won’t notice when they fix them, either.

Breaking long threads into multiple pages is a bad idea for several reasons:

  • We associate pagination of this sort with the most vulgar commercial sites, which use pagination to artificially inflate pageviews, thereby raising advertising rates. The only other thing pagination does is infuriate readers who are just trying to get through the damned text.
  • Nobody using Typophile has so primitive or fragile a browser/computer setup that a long thread (of mostly text) stands any chance of crashing a browser.
  • Links on discussion homepages to so-called most-recent comments never take you there; you are taken to the first page of comments.

Pagination needs to be eliminated.

Message threading is a necessity for any properly-functioning Web forum. It’s something neither Typophile nor MetaFilter has, so we could innovate here.

It is difficult to set up properly, not least of all from a coding perspective, since it involves confusingly nested unordered lists. But for long threads, it makes the difference between “comprehensible” and “chatter.”

Time and time again, the use of any character in a post subject line or heading beyond the US-ASCII repertoire causes such characters to be incorrectly escaped. The entire site has to be UTF-8-compliant.

Typophile should not be hosting blogs. It’s a discussion forum, not a hosting service.

If I want to read all the posts and/or comments by user X, I can’t. Nor can I favourite or block a user.

Every comment needs a permalink. A fragment identifier (starting with a letter, followed by letters, numbers, dashes, or periods) is sufficient if such is exposed to us without having to view source. (It doesn’t have to be like Twitter, where every Twit gets its own Web page.)

This bug is well known. We need BLOCKQUOTE, actual heading elements (perhaps just H2 through H6), possibly a few more.

However, enabling the IMG element is dangerous, as MetaFilter has learned the hard way. One can encode JavaScript exploits in URLs or the src of an image. Limiting images to attachments (kind of odd for a Web site, less so for a discussion forum) is a reasonable compromise.

It should not be possible to register a new account and immediately post to Typophile. That’s how spammers (and students who want us to do their homework for them) get in.

Take a page from MetaFilter yet again:

  • You have to pay a lifetime fee of $5 when you register. There are no other fees and the fee cannot be refunded.
  • You have to wait a week after registration is complete (i.e., after Typophile receives your $5) to post a new topic.
  • You may, however, post a comment in a forum (e.g., an answer to a question) immediately after registration is complete.

For reasons I don’t understand and that the “moderators” probably could not defend, typefoundries and others are allocated space to publish press releases. Seriously: Don’t they have their own Web sites?

There is an argument – marginal at best – that Typophile is the place to go to find typographic news, so such news should be published here. Let’s imagine that argument held water. What’s the argument against opening up those press releases to comments? Why are comments disabled on such posts?

Also, the so-called “moderators” of this site must go out of their way to publish, in a prominent and stable location, the exact criteria that are used to accept or reject a press release or similar pure-marketing postings.

I don’t want Mormons or Islamic fundamentalists or born-again Christians running Typophile. I also don’t want squeamish, schoolmarmy atheists running it. As it stands now I can’t tell which of those groups is in charge, because the result is the same: You can’t really swear on this site.

In particular, not only can you not write the word “fuck” or any derivative, you can’t even post a link that includes those four characters in its URL (even if you’re using an actual A element rather than being dumb as a mule and pasting in an URL like it was plain text). You have to obfuscate the link.

Nearly every week, students show up to ask questions based on their coursework. Some of these questions are plainly an appeal for us to do their work for them and should be deleted. Others show that the student has done some work and just needs a nudge or a pointer, and those are fine.

But the fact remains that these student discussions are a species unto themselves. They need their own space. They certainly are not “general” discussions.

If a post or something else gets deleted, the page you see should state the content was deleted. (As done on MetaFilter. In fact, there’s a blog of nothing but deleted MetaFilter [blue] threads.) If necessary, a customized 404 page could be displayed, but that wouldn’t tell enough of the story.

Presently, a deleted page leads you to some other page, usually a calendar of events. In essence, the site lies to you: You wanted one page, but we deleted that one without telling you and have decided to show you something you didn’t want instead. It’s misleading and anti-Web.

Some posts and comments violate guidelines, are personal attacks, or otherwise harm the site. There is no way to flag posts or comments. Since site admins are functionally invisible, unnamed, and essentially impossible to contact, there is no practical method to submit any such complaint.

There is no way to flag a double post or double comment, either.

I offer this challenge one more time: Strictly from memory, list the real name or usernames of three of this site’s admins.

Now write a couple of sentences documenting the personal background or merely the administrative approach of one admin. Do you know anything about them?

Next, explain exactly how one would contact any admin or a specific admin. I mean exactly.

Admins need to be listed by full name and username, with a way to contact them. When one merely wishes to contact any admin, that has to be possible too.

Jared Benson is, apparently, a Typophile administrator. He also sits on the review board (FontBoard) at FontShop, a major supplier and occasional advertiser. As such he has a conflict of interest.

Small print tells us, in smarmy marketer’s vernacular, “Typophile is a Punchcut gig.” (You can just feel the backwards baseball cap and last year’s sneakers.)

Who or what is a Punchcut? Why should we care who or what Punchcut is, or what its “gigs” are? Here is what we should care about:

  1. Who are the real owners of Typophile?
  2. What are their names?
  3. How do we contact them?

Why are these facts not listed?

The administrators of this site are just that – administrators or admins. They are not “moderators.” A moderator prescreens content. Content is notoriously not prescreened on Typophile, resulting in spam post after spam post.

The choice of terminology is important. (Times “New Roman” is not a “sansserif.”) “Moderator” connotes a degree of prior restraint that doesn’t exist. It also insinuates that immoderate comments will be censored. Whereas an admin merely administers a site and keeps it running.

“Moderators” need to stop using that malapropism to refer to themselves. They’re admins, not moderators.

A functioning online community needs a separate place to discuss that community. Specific topic discussions should not be polluted by metadiscussions about how the site works.

Typophile needs to clone what MetaFilter does and start a separate forum called MetaPhile. It is there that site policy and the specifics of individual posts can be discussed. If you have a concern about a post in one of the other forums, start a new post in MetaPhile to talk about it.

In particular, posts about new site features should not be buried in somebody’s “blog,” a feature this site never needed.

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