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on scrubbing through comments (on lobste.rs)

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I like browsing different forums and websites long past when they are active, whether this is by a few days or by a few years [1]. Using websites this way, it is helpful to be able to tell how the comment chains were actually formed and get some degree of what different comments are actually talking about. For instance, it's common for people to post in one chain and then reference their post in another, but just reading the comment thread makes it hard to tell what the "other" post is.

To this end, I've experimented with some user scripts for the Lobsters [2] website that let you effectively "scrub" through the comments, like one would in a video or audio editor. With it, you can see the order that comments were actually posted. I have two scripts, a first one that was just to see how well it worked, and a second that is a bit more usable.

Of course, it has a few drawbacks. To switch between comments, I modify the location.hash of the page, which causes the page to create lots of new history entries, effectively destroying the back button. Another problem is that when someone edits their post, Lobsters doesn't send the original posted timestamp, but instead uses the new one. To give an example, if user A posts at 2 pm, user B at 3 pm, and user A edits their post at 4 pm, this extension will show user B's post first and then user A's.

The difference between the two scripts is that the first one uses a range element with some buttons to go forwards and backwards by one post. In contrast, the second one adds a scrollable area so that you can effectively scroll through time instead of space [3].

simple.js
scroll.js

To use these scripts, I use an extension called Custom JavaScript for Websites 2 [4]. If you go to Lobsters, click on the extension, and paste in the code from above, click save, then the next time you go to the comment section, you'll see either some buttons on either side (simple) or a scrollable area on the left (scroll).


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[1]: I often re-read Lobsters threads when they are posted but also a few days after to get the full set of comments. For Reddit, it's easy to run out of content in a few smaller communities, so sometimes I'll go back a year or two. The details of that will be in a later post.

[2]: https://lobste.rs
[3]: https://xkcd.com/1806/