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Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion

by dws (Chancellor)
on Feb 27, 2002 at 23:55 UTC ( #148090=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


For quite some time now there's been a unofficial convention, used by a few senior monks, of using one's name in a reply, to allow a subthread to be tracked in Newest Nodes. It's quite common to see

(tye)Re: Sending strings to win32:process-GetOwner() object
On occassion, the subthread titles get a bit out of control, resulting in
(Ovid) Re(3 or 4): Script (ovid's) explanation
or worse.

Lately, though, we've seen an outbreak of typographic dingbats in titles. First (I think) from merlyn, who seems to be using it as a shortcut for identifying his posts and their responses, and lately one or more Anonymous posters.

What do you think about this? Is this a good thing to allow and encourage, or not?

I think not, on two grounds: First, it's an eyesore -- a garrish technique to draw attention to a post by slapping a funky sticker on it, rather than by building up a name and reputation. (On this count, merlyn hardly needs a special adornment. His name is enough to draw people to his posts).

The second ground is technical: HTML entities are limited, and, beyond a relatively small base set, aren't consistent across browsers and browser versions. What looks O.K. in IE5 might render as crap on someone's Netscape 4.6.

I would just as soon see the practice stopped, by restricting HTML entities in Node replies to a small subset (such as <, >, and &).

That's my opinion. What's yours?

Edited 2-27-2002 by japhy -- removed an unbalanced BLOCKQUOTE tag

  • Comment on Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion

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Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by vroom (Pope) on Feb 28, 2002 at 02:26 UTC
    I don't like them. I find them distracting especially when there's more than one in a title. The more obscure the symbol the less likely it is that they will convey any kind of meaning to someone who is new to the site or an occasional user.
      I do agree wholeheartly with vroom here. Don't like them, don't really need them and disturbing for most users.
Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by blakem (Monsignor) on Feb 28, 2002 at 04:13 UTC
    Personally, I find them rather distracting, but also agree with Chmrr above. We should discuss why one would want to decorate their posts, then address those wants in a manner that doesn't pollute everyone elses view of the site.

    Since I use my own interface to Newest Nodes, I was able to easilly remove the "title droppings" from my view. Quick and kludgy to be sure, but this seemed to work:

    # attempt to remove annoying title droppings $title =~ s/[^ -~]+//g; # unprintable ascii $title =~ s/&#?\w{1,8};//g; # html entities
    That said, if people want to track their posts I'd recommend tweaking one of the alternate interfaces, or just grab the XML feeds and build your own. Better yet, dig into the Everything engine and patch it so everyone sees their own posts and followups highlighted.

    I've never like the proliferation of:

    (myname) Re: (hername) Re: (hisname) Re: whatever" by myname
    And the new droppings make it even worse. I would, however, be willing to help code a better solution.


Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by zengargoyle (Deacon) on Feb 28, 2002 at 00:22 UTC

    Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Perl. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When anyone asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy would raise his finger.

    Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. He seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and ran away. Gutei called and stopped him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.

    When Gutei was about to pass from this world he gathered his monks around him. `I attained my finger-Perl,' he said, `from my teacher Tenryu, and in my whole life I could not exhaust it.' Then he passed away.

    Mumon's comment: Enlightenment, which Gutei and the boy attained, has nothing to do with a finger. If anyone clings to a finger, Tenyru will be so disappointed that he will annihilate Gutei, the boy and the clinger all together. source

    zengargoyle's comment: initiate's have the ability to be /msg'd when their post has been commented on without flashing their finger. The saint's have their reasons.

      I'm afraid I'm not zennish enough to discern the meaning of your story. Could you explain it to the unenlightened? Perhaps the ambiguous "raised up his own finger" is throwing me...

      Jeff[japhy]Pinyan: Perl, regex, and perl hacker, who'd like a (from-home) job
      s++=END;++y(;-P)}y js++=;shajsj<++y(p-q)}?print:??;

        The master raises his finger for a purpose, it's a tool he has to accomplish something. I'm assuming those who put tags in their titles have a purpose for doing so. Maybe Super Search doesn't fulfil their needs. I'm not privy to their reasons.

        The boy raised his finger in mere immitation, without purpose. So... the master chops it off. The boy goes "What the ****! Why'd you chop off my finger?" The master raises his own finger just like he always does and the boy is enlightened, that's the purpose of the master's finger, enlightenment.

        Does putting your name/tag/whatever in the Title serve a purpose? If it does I'm fine with it, if it doesn't it gets on my nerves. Especially funky dingbats. I would dislike going to Newest Nodes and seeing some funky high-bit/unicode trash in every title. Like when boy raised his finger.

{J} Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by japhy (Canon) on Feb 28, 2002 at 00:35 UTC
    Would you mind if I used {J} instead? Or if Randal used (R) instead? Or, perhaps more entitularly, ®?

    Is your discontent rooted in the actual character being used? Because in my opinion, the use of the bullet is to convey the exact same information as "(merlyn)" would, in far less space, and in a far more identifiable way. I was considering some similarly approach, so that I could detect any node that descended from a node of mine.

    There is no need for Anonymous Monk to use such things, I feel. Get a username and then use something, but don't do it anonymously.

    I'd actually like to start using an easily identifiable character in my replies.

    Jeff[japhy]Pinyan: Perl, regex, and perl hacker, who'd like a (from-home) job
    s++=END;++y(;-P)}y js++=;shajsj<++y(p-q)}?print:??;

      Is your discontent rooted in the actual character being used? Because in my opinion, the use of the bullet is to convey the exact same information as "(merlyn)" would, in far less space, and in a far more identifiable way.

      Aside from the issue of HTML entity (non) portability, there are a limited number of HTML entities (or single letters) to go around. When those are gone, people would have to start using combinations. Ugh! Plus people then have to remember that • means merlyn, or {J} means "japhy". Better in this case to use a name.

      I prefer to save space by using neither scheme, but I have no objection (other than space) to people using their login names. I used the name scheme in the past, and found that it didn't fit for me.

        Don't forget unicode characters.
        ()-()                                                      ()-()
         \"/    DON'T   BLAME   ME,   I  VOTED   FOR    PACO!       \"/
          `                                                          ` 
Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by Chmrr (Vicar) on Feb 28, 2002 at 03:19 UTC

    I don't have a huge preference either way; my inclination is that it would be nice if we could avoid them, though. Perhaps we need to address the lower problem, and not they symptom, though. What drives people to add dingbats or prepend their names? Having read kudra's suggestion for post-naming convention, it seems that it could be avoided by adding the author to the newest nodes / search / super search pages.

    But is that the sole reason to add dingbats? Thoughts?

    perl -pe '"I lo*`+$^X$\"$]!$/"=~m%(.*)%s;$_=$1;y^`+*^e v^#$&V"+@( NO CARRIER'

      The Newest Nodes page already displays the name of the poster, so there's no point there. In super search you can search for a node by author, so there's no point there either. That only leaves the standard search, so maybe the results of a search should display the name alongside the node.

      I must profess to being slightly annoyed by any form of dingbat or nick-in-parentheses in node titles. If you want to keep track of your own nodes there are less invasive techniques for doing so. That people who've been here since 1999 or 2000 do it when the monastery tools were more primitive, doesn't bother me as much, but it does bother me that new members pick up the meme, because there really isn't much point any more. It's the notion of inflation that worries me.

      Elsewhere in this thread, japhy says

      Is your discontent rooted in the actual character being used? Because in my opinion, the use of the bullet is to convey the exact same information as "(merlyn)" would, in far less space, and in a far more identifiable way. I was considering some similarly approach, so that I could detect any node that descended from a node of mine.

      The point is, when I'm reading the node, I know who wrote it, because it says "by japhy", what a giveaway! As to whether you can detect a node descending from a node of yours, that is easily defeated by stripping the dingbat out of the title. Or less maliciously, people introduce topic drift by completely rewriting the title. It doesn't work. Find another system.

      print@_{sort keys %_},$/if%_=split//,'= & *a?b:e\f/h^h!j+n,o@o;r$s-t%t#u'

      I don't like decorating node titles with funky characters. But I certainly don't plan on spending any of my time trying to remove such characters. I also don't plan on encouraging other editors to spend time removing them. Not because I think they should be allowed, but because I think removing them would be a really inefficient way to deal with them.

      I'd rather deal with them like obnoxious fonts and colors: Complain to the people who use them. Ask them to remove them and stop adding them. Help them do so on nodes that they can't edit themselves if they want me to. Note that nodes that use them are likely to get voted down (based on current trends).

      I've also been hoping to tighten up the site's handling of unusual characters. For example, I don't like seeing titles like "Bsystem/B fails" or "using codetr/code" showing up because people tried "<B>system</B> fails" or "using <code>tr</code>". Part of that fix-up might result in a title that is entered as "I &hearts; Perl" being displayed as "I &hearts; Perl" rather than the current "I ♥ Perl" (note, those two might look the same, depending on your choice of browsers -- for some browsers the latter actually shows a heart-shaped character). But maybe not. Feel free to weigh in on that trade-off. It will certainly be the case that less-than and greater-than will be properly encoded rather than being stripped.

      As for "(tye)"...

      I use "(tye)" because it is the least intrusive string that I feel confident that noone else will use to "decorate" their titles. The point is to have the title be unique (that is, have no duplicates, not "be distinctive").

      Which points out the problems with using some funky character. It isn't "the least intrusive" according to many responses seen. You don't have any good reason to claim that someone else won't use it so you can end up with duplicate titles unless everyone who uses the same character cooperates to keep the resulting titles unique. It actually makes linking to nodes via the title harder (while other methods of making titles unique make this easier).

      There are many places where duplicate titles are at least a minor problem. Even in the list of my nodes, I am glad that I've altered titles so that they are unique ("(tye)Re:" vs. "(tye)Re3:"). There is also the minor benefit that I can see who authored many nodes when finding nodes via a method that doesn't report the author. Sure, enhance these so that the author is reported -- but that isn't the only or even the primary reason that I choose to make my titles unique.

      I need to edit the title anyway because I hate titles of "Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Subject". I drop any previous "decorations" and am happy when people drop my decoration when they reply to one of my replies (though I certainly don't mind when people choose not to go to the effort of altering the title of their replies [and I really don't like seeing "(joe)Re: (bob)Re: (joe)Re: (bob)Re: Title" but I don't intend to advocate that anything be done to prevent that other than telling the author and hoping they agree]).

      One of the first things you should do when dealing with Nodes to consider is make the titles unique (by having the author or one of the editors modify it).

      Sometimes it is nice to link by title. Compare the results of clicking Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion vs. (tye)Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion. The point isn't that I wrote that node. The point (for me) is that I can link to nodes by title when they have unique titles.

      Updating the search results to list author would not cause me to alter my titling scheme. That is only a side benefit to me. What would cause me to alter my scheme would be altering the default subject of replies to build a tree:

      • Main subject
        • Re.1: Main subject
          • Re.1.1: Main subject
            • Re.1.1.1: Main subject
          • Re.1.2: Main subject
        • Re.2: Main subject
          • Re.2.1: Main subject
      but I don't foresee getting majority support behind any single such scheme so I'm not pushing for such a change.

      I don't like to and I am not good at memorizing node ID numbers. So when I want to determine if two similar nodes reported in different places are the same, I really appreciate if the titles are different.

      I just don't much care for duplicate node titles. I have listed some of the concrete reasons that I can recall. I'm pretty sure there are other concrete reasons that I've run into but don't recall now. It has also now become a personal preference of mine to avoid duplicate titles.

              - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by talexb (Canon) on Feb 28, 2002 at 15:46 UTC
    Long answer: If we consider merlyn's motivation, it seems that he wanted to identify his own posts, I suppose in order to be able to skip them. Since Newest Nodes lists the name of the poster, I'm not sure why he needs to do this. I kinda wish merlyn had commented on this -- but I understand his schedule may not permit visiting PM as often as some.

    Perhaps the solution would be to add (authour) to the end of a title found by Super Search, as Newest Nodes does. Dingbats would then be unnecessary.

    Short answer: I prefer not to see them; reply titles are complicated enough already.

    --t. alex

    "There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!" --Marvin the Martian

      My brief comment (because I'm on my way out the door, as usual {grin}):

      I dislike the tagging of (Tye) and (Ovid). I think "Suggestion for post-naming convention" is now a bad idea, especially since I can link to a specific article with the later-added [id://21814].

      I'll admit, part of my motivation for adding • to my posts was to bring this to a head. I want all tagging stopped. I also want the re-stacking stopped. If there's some value to know that I contributed up-thread to a posting, then let's get the interface to do it, instead of having to do it by mangling a subject.

      My $0.02.

      -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by ignatz (Vicar) on Feb 28, 2002 at 00:22 UTC
    I for one enjoy them. It's time people got off of their fat ASCII butts and added some spice to things. On any other site I would probably say no, but this is Perl Monks after all.

    OK, OK already! You Win. I HATE THEM. They are EVIL and must be stopped at once.

    ()-()                                                      ()-()
     \x/    DON'T   BLAME   ME,   I  VOTED   FOR    PACO!       \x/
      `                                                          ` 
Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by tjh (Curate) on Feb 28, 2002 at 06:04 UTC
    I'm not one that could qualify for dispensation to tattoo my posts, and I suppose may never be considering the august crowd here on PM. Nor would I object to such markings for those who clearly "should be allowed to do so" (uhoh). When Merlyn began using them unobtrusively, it certainly was no big distraction - except they stood out against the other plain chars - and which may have been part of the plan.

    If more and more "pile on", will any of them then stand out?

    OTOH, if these users have a bot or other automaticity that's spotting their descendent threads, it may not matter whether human eyes can pick one symbol from a crowded symbol field.

    Maybe there's another way for any of us to bookmark or ask for notifications of any extension of any identified thread? Looks like a fad in the making... lol

Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by mojotoad (Monsignor) on Feb 28, 2002 at 08:49 UTC
    I've seen lots of interesting posts, on both sides. They seem to boil down to this:

    Are the dingbats patches that compensate for desired functionality, or are they merely ego tattoos?

    So far my impression, at least from those in favor of the usage of such splash, is that these are functionality patches rather than advertisements.

    So by all means fully integrate the bylines into all PM functions and have done with the workarounds.


Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by demerphq (Chancellor) on Feb 28, 2002 at 14:59 UTC
Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by shotgunefx (Parson) on Feb 28, 2002 at 09:24 UTC
    I actually like usernames in replies. I think it should be done automatically, or at least have a user setting for it. Helps me to seperate the wheat from the chaff when my time at the Monastery is limited. The HTML entities don't really bother me, but I think the whole entities thing will become a silly game that will probably become distracting.

    (As an aside, I posted basically this same message 6 or 7 hours ago. Apparently it got dropped into the bit bucket.)


    "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
Re: Dingbats \(^O^)/
by mattr (Curate) on Mar 01, 2002 at 05:37 UTC
    Though I've been tempted to modify the subject line to include not my name but subject info, I'm pretty sure I never have on PM. This is because SuperSearch lacks authorship or navigational functionality, so the length of the title is the only way to differentiate.

    Of course tye and merlyn have Another Way To Do It, for similar reason (i.e., self-defense). If I had my druthers I'd say if you must, change the right-hand side (say append " -mattr" to the subject on the right, if you must) so we get to keep the visual differentiation "functionality" provided by the indented width of "Re: " vs. "Re: Re:". But much more satisfying to enhance the relatively simple search engine output.

    If SuperSearch is improved there will be less need to police the memes which of course ain't fun and ultimately is difficult, is time-consuming, and highlights the problem of highly individual monks (TMTOWTDI) coexisting in a media space which paradoxically does not promote ways to enhance one's navigational and information-theoretic experience. ahem.

    Oh, there's another quick answer too - Smileys! (or Emoticons since they are way advanced in Japan anyway especially with a raft of two-byte symbols, and provide a conversational context). You can get an idea from popKmart, especially if your browser displays Japanese. Less bandwidth than an icon needs, and you can search by it to find wacky people. I don't know what happens if you eval it as a regex though..

Re: Dingbats in node titles: What's your opinion
by jerrygarciuh (Curate) on Mar 01, 2002 at 17:57 UTC
    I certainly understand dws' complaint but I for one have checked more than one reply on a thread simply because I saw that Ovid had something to say on it. Granted that information is already present in the node title bar but I still like it.
    It's not my tree.

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