LW Update 2018-10-01 – Private Messaging Works

by Raemon1 min read1st Oct 201816 comments


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Along with various performance updates to improve site-speed, we've finally got a private messaging system that looks reasonable (and now works properly on mobile)

Noteworthy updates:

  • When you send someone a private message (by navigating to their profile page and clicking "send a message") it automatically creates a new conversation with that user.
  • You can click "conversation options" to add new people to the conversation, or give it a custom title.

There are still some obvious improvements to make (such as making it easier to message a post author from a post rather than having to navigate to their profile), but the system should be basically usable now.

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Note for GreaterWrong users:

GW also supports the private messaging feature. You can start a new conversation by going to someone’s profile page (i.e., click on their name) and then clicking “Send private message”, or, by going to your own profile page, and clicking “Start new conversation”.

You could remove a trivial inconvenience in the way of extinguishing demon threads by having a checkbox on replies to make the reply a private message instead. (Perhaps it could even remain in the place where replies are, just only visible to you two!)

Yep, this is something we had some discussion about a while ago, and I basically think we should make this happen. I want to make sure the UI is non-confusing, and we still want to do some user tests, but I expect this to happen sometime in the next few months.

I rather like this idea, actually!

(Obviously, such “shadow threads” would have to be clearly visually distinguished. But that is easy enough.)

Edit: Some additional thoughts:

If this feature is implemented, then, I think, it may also be useful to have a “Make this private comment public” button. Such a button would be attached to any comment of yours which was (a) private, and (b) the response to an already-public comment (i.e., you could not “publicize” a private comment which was itself a response to your interlocutor’s private comment—though of course they could make their comment public, and then yours, which would now be a response to a public comment, would become “publicizable”). (In this way, a fruitful private discussion could be “taken public” with minimal overhead, and without violating anyone’s total over the privacy status of their own utterances.)

Naturally, such an action would have to be irreversible (or, to be more specific, “un-publicizing” a publicized “shadow comment” would have to leave exactly the same evidence as deleting an ordinary comment: an empty comment, marked as a formerly-publicized and now-un-publicized “shadow comment”).

I'm mostly joking now, but a principle of all possible things being intended would dictate that Alice can click an option on Bob's shadow reply to replace it with a public "Alice claims that Bob shadow-replied thus:". Alice can fake this, and Bob can confirm iff it's true.

It's the sort of feature you might want in a cyberpunk role-playing game taking the shape of a forum.

a principle of all possible things being intended

Uh, can you expand on this part?

It’s the sort of feature you might want in a cyberpunk role-playing game taking the shape of a forum.

That… does sound pretty cool, yeah.

People could edit their posts to claim that someone else private-messaged or shadow-replied to them, which disrespects the rule that the author can make it public but can't exactly be stopped without people just evading to the nearest unblocked strategy. By acknowledging this in the UI, we preempt attempts to use censorship or dark arts to curb the practice, and people building alternate clients that add the feature, see reddit's deleted post mirrors.

There's also the thing where people grew up on 4chan embracing the anarchy, and not used to that you can enhance the wild west web's user experience without destroying it.

Woop woop! Private messaging is *great*. I can let people know about spelling errors, take a potentially confrontational conversation private, or just give people information that I think they might want without clogging up the comments.

I've already started using this loads.

Bug report: Posts by Day page shows incorrect URLs for most posts, for example it lists the post "The Rocket Alignment Problem" with a link to Fasting Mimicking Diet Looks Pretty Good. Looks like some kind of intermittent off-by-one error that only affects some of the entries. The entries on the same page loaded with the "Load More Days" link don't seem to be affected. I'm not seeing this issue on the front page, and it only appeared around yesterday. Interestingly, if I click the "All Posts/Daily" link on the front page, which leads to the same URL, then there is no issue; it's only reproduced if I open the URL directly.

Bug report: I can no longer view old messages.

I clicked on my profile, went to private messages, and then clicked on something from the conversations sidebar.

Every message had the following red error:

"Error: TypeError: Cannot read property '_id' of null"

Well, that’s no good. Will fix that tomorrow

Bug report (I… think?):

I went to the private messaging UI, and opened a new conversation (with Raemon). I typed in some text into the text field, then deleted it, then closed the page. I never actually sent any message.

But now my PMs list a conversation with Raemon! It’s blank, of course; it contains no messages. But why is it even there? That’s pretty confusing. It seems like, if I send no messages, no conversation should actually be created/saved.

(Note that this isn’t just a display issue or a browser bug; the convo is really saved—which I know because I can now also see it on GreaterWrong!)

Creating a conversation is a separate action to sending the first message. It is how the message system is set up.

It's not necessarily great design but it's not a bug either.

Yes… I understand that it works this way. I was describing the behavior from the user’s perspective (i.e., mine!). The question is: is it intended to work this way?

If no, then it’s a bug.

If yes, then my comment stands in any case, because what I am saying is, it shouldn’t work this way (IMO, of course)!

(edit: accidentally replied without noticing habryka's reply, whoops)

Definitely agreed that it shouldn't work this way – the fact that we left it in that state was just a matter of "getting it to work smoothly would have been a nontrivial chunk of work."

There's a related issue that if you send someone a message, and you already have an untitled conversation, it shouldn't generate a new conversation, it should just use the existing one.

We hadn't actually planned to prioritize the Private Message system that much, and probably won't get to either of these in the immediate future, but I do think they're fairly obvious things to improve and if anyone is interested in creating a Pull Request to fix them I'd be happy to chat with them about how to do so.

*nods* I basically agree that it isn't super intuitive, and a conversation probably shouldn't be created, or at least not displayed, until someone sends the first message. Seems easy to fix, so I will add it to the issue list.