Beta-Beta Testing: Frontpage Rework [Update - further tweak]

by Raemon1 min read1st Feb 201832 comments


Site Meta
Personal Blog

We have a rework of the front page on Lesserwrong, that we'd like to sanity-check before either deploying live or putting more work into.

We've deployed it to our beta-beta site, (The main shift here is in how the list of posts work, and how users will interact with them by default). If possible, I recommend logging in there since a lot of the features have to do with what information is presented to logged in users.

(it's a cloned database from a few months ago. If you created an account more recently you may need to recreate it there)

I'm interested both in people's first impressions, and followup thoughts after reading my explanation of what's going on and why.

32 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:37 AM
New Comment

There are a few object-level changes, representing in some cases a shift in underlying philosophy.

Object-level Changes

1. Clicking on a post first shows you a highlight of that post (right now this is a crude 'chop off the post after 450 pixels', later post authors will have the opportunity to write their own highlights, up to 500 words).

You can get to the full post by clicking a "read more" button at the top of the highlight.

2. Click on the comments icon shows you two things - the top 3 highest upvoted comments, and any _new_ comments since you last either viewed the post or clicked on the post on the frontpage.

There's also a larger version of the "type of post' icon (i.e. Curated/Frontpage/Personal-blog-posts), which doubles as a direct link to the post itself.

Both the comments and posts-category icons turn green if there is unread content there (i.e if you haven't read the post at all, or if there are new comments you haven't read)

Goals 1+2: Simple quality of life improvements

It's inconvenient to read through a giant list of comments to find the new ones. The new "show recent comments" option makes it super easy to see the latest conversational thread (and shows all new comments sorted in proper order, with a parent comment for context)

Another obvious goal is to make it easier to "check out" a post from the front page without committing to reading the whole thing. (I personally suffer from "clicking on a new post feels like a major commitment - it may be a bad or uninteresting post, but it'll take awhile to read it and figure that out)

Goals 3-4: Highlights and Brevity

1. We want posts to have highlights - if you write a big, Scott Alexander length essay, we want people to be able to quickly figure out (roughly) what it's going to be saying and whether it's interesting. This is sort of like the abstract of an academic paper... but academic abstracts are terrible.

On FB, when you quote a giant essay, you usually post a few snippets of that essay - not necessarily from the _top_ of the essay: sometimes it's just the most interesting quote that you can reasonably share out of context.

Sometimes, a post literally can be summarized in it's entirety in 500 words (the rest is sort of fleshing it out, making the idea more salient or providing more evidence).

Sometimes, you really just have one thing to say, but it feels a bit awkward to say it _without_ a giant essay supporting it, and a highlight is sort of a socially acceptable _excuse_ to just say it, where people can read the full essay if they actually want to.

In those sorts of cases, we wanted shorter highlights to exist (both for the frontpage, and perhaps later for hover-linking, i.e. if you link to a LW post from LW, when you mouseover it shows the highlight)

And the last goal is "we just straight-up notice people writing longer essays than they need to." While writing a post, when you cross the 500 word count, we're thinking of having the highlight section appear in the editor, with a quick note that "now that your post is 500 words long, by default it'll show the first 500 words on the Frontpage, and you can edit a custom highlight section if you want"

And a subgoal there is that some people will just think "you know, I didn't really need to spend an extra 200 words here, I could just make the whole thing fit in 500 words"

I actually prefer the current system. It is very easy to open posts in new tabs and then close them if you don't like them.

  • Could we make View Full Post a larger target? Ie. a rectangle as per comments, instead of a little star? Similarly, instead of having to click on Read Full Post, I would prefer to be able to click on the entire bar with title "Post Highlight"
  • I like the highlight over the comment when you mouse over. It makes it clear that you can go straight to the comment.
  • For the comment preview, I'd prefer the View All Comments button at the top, rather than the bottom, because it'd make it easier to go through the path: Click Preview Comments -> Click All Comments
  • Why doesn't clicking on a comment take you to the page unless you click on the tiny link? If you do this, then you should highlight on mouseover like with the posts
  • I can definitely get behind the encouraging more brevity. I've noticed the issue of overly long posts too. (I think my last post suffered from that issue).

Just a PSA: right-clicking or middle-clicking the posts on the frontpage toggle whether the preview is open. Please make them only expand on left clicks, or equivalent!

Bug has now been fixed, apologies both for the bug itself and the delay in getting it fixed.

I came here precisely to say this, too. (Middle-clicking does open-in-new-tab. That's also the usual reason for right-clicking a link. In neither case is opening the preview helpful behaviour.)

Yes, this is very annoying.

There was a "right-clicking behaves like left-clicking instead of doing the same thing as right-clicking any other link does" bug, which has now been mostly fixed. But if you right-click on the speech-bubble icon at the right-hand side of a post's entry on the front page, you still get the same bad behaviour. Right-clicking there should, I think, do the same as right-clicking on the post's title.

Oh, good catch, we should fix that.

Why do some continue to full post links give word counts, and some don't?

We added a step in the post-creation process that adds word count, and haven't gotten around yet to adding it for all historical posts. So if a post was created before we pushed the update, it doesn't have a word count yet.

I also went and manually retriggered the save for most posts on the frontpage

I just uploaded a different variation to

This time, the title links to the post itself, and the rest of the PostItem opens and closes the highlight, with a hoverover message to clarify which is happening.

The main worry we have is with people accidentally clicking one when they meant the other, and I'm not sure if the current set up is enough to avoid that, but hope it's at least an improvement.

I think that most people will be able to figure it out pretty quickly. Or, at least it's worth a shot. If it's confusing, I'm sure you'll get feedback on this. But at least this way, people who want it either way have an easy method of doing it the way that they want.

Personally, I don't find the first two goals to be particularly useful. I find it easy to scan for new comments by scrolling down the page looking for the green left highlight. I also find myself always wanting to scroll down to get the actual comment in context.

However, I am a very big fan of the idea to allow the author to provide a summary. Honestly, I think it may even be a good idea to require a summary for sufficiently long posts. I suspect that requiring a summary will a) be great for users, and b) not meet too much resistance from writers.

For me, sometimes clicking shows a preview, sometimes it goes to the full post. I think that clicking the lower half displays a preview, and the upper half the full post.

Yes, this is the current implementation. (Curious if you noticed the "display highlight" message that appears when you hovered over the second half? We're trying to a) make it noticeable enough that you can see it and figure out what's happening, b) not so noticeable that it's distracting and weird as you scroll down the front page)

I did notice the "display highlight" message, but it took a while for me to figure out.

It is currently way too hard to ignore highlights for people who want to ignore them. I think that dubleclicking the highlight should send you to the whole post. Once the highlight is open, both the title and the whole highlight should a link to the whole post.

Just uploaded a new version to, interestd in whether this fixes the concerns for you.

I now think it would be a lot better if the space to the right of the actual title also opened the highlight.

The problem we are worried about with that is that titles vary in length - sometimes they stretch all the way across the screen, so a fairly common scenario would be for people clicking down the frontpage to see highlights, and accidentally click on a post with a long title and end up on the post itself.

I like this better than before, and I am not sure whether I like it better than my suggestion.

Main issue with the suggestion as worded is that for "open/close" tabs on the internet, it's common practice for clicking an "open" tab a second time to close it. So we'd expect people to frequently click a second time, only to suddenly find themselves on a new page they didn't mean to go to.

Aw, thats right. Ok, it is better than my suggestion.

I think you should be able to upvote a post from the front page if and only if it is short enough that you can view the entire thing from the front page.

Yeah, vague plans for the longterm version of this are something like: if you're post is short enough for the highlight to be the entire post, then it renders slightly different on the frontpage (aiming to "look like a post" rather than "look like a highlight", and in that case, the upvote/downvote buttons appear at the button of what would normally be the preview/highlight section)

lesswrong, lesserwrong, lessestwrong, what comes next =P

well that's what's left


Someone already took that one.