It may be true that you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you do.
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Frequent Questions loosely taken from the Balloon Juice Mailbag (aka Site Feedback)
Not to be rude, or anything, but what’s the point of Featuring? Oh, hell, it’s Balloon Juice and we’re like family, so I’ll just say it straight up. There’s the Featuring section, there’s View by Topic, and there’s the Category Bar at the top – aren’t they all pretty much the same thing? Why do we have all of those? What were you thinking? Were you even thinking?
Dear Thank You For Asking So Politely,
What’s the thinking behind Featuring? For one thing, we want the featured items to be timely.
It’s ACA Open Enrollment, so David Anderson is linked under Featuring. When Tom Levenson’s next book comes out, Tom will be featured. But you don’t need to be a writer, or be nationally known, to be in Featuring. On the Road is featured right now, because we want everyone to be able to easily find their beloved On the Road posts until they learn the other easy ways to find them.
Featuring has a lot of potential, I think. Any author, future or past, can be featured. Any topic, any subcategory, or even sub-subcategory can be featured at some point, when the timing is right.
Besides the timeliness factor, we want to call attention to some of the fun and eclectic things we talk about here, or things you wouldn’t necessarily know about if you didn’t read every thread, every day. First up will surely be the addition of duck blogging, which makes it likely that one of the existing items will be swapped out. But hey, it’s Penelope; we all have to make sacrifices for the greater good.
What’s in Featuring right this minute?
How often will it change?
Is it the same as it was yesterday?
What about tomorrow?
Dear Wow, You Have a Lot of Questions,
There will typically be 5 links under Featuring at any given time. John Cole is timeless, so I am making him stay there forever. Translation: I told John that as Blog Lord, I thought he should always be in the #1 slot forever, and he grudgingly agreed. Or, alternatively, John wasn’t paying any attention to what I was saying, which could mean that he has no idea that he agreed to that! But I digress.
Aside from the timelines factor, Featuring will almost never include a top-level category; it’s intended to call attention to particular authors or to subcategories that are fun, or interesting, or that might never see the light of day otherwise, unless you happened upon them in a front page post. But, because rules are made to be broken, there are two top-level categories under Featuring right now.
What’s in Featuring right this minute? Check for yourself in the sidebar, under Featuring!
How often will it change? Featured links (except John) will change over time, generally every month or so, but some will change in a hot minute based on what is happening around us.
Is Featuring the same today as it was yesterday? No, it is not! I swapped out “Impeachment Inquiry” and added the more specific “Impeachment Hearings”. We had a hundred front page posts on the hearings, so it seemed appropriate. I added “Dear WaterGirl” after several people repeatedly asked me to put website posts in an easy to find spot. That will be swapped out once it’s no longer timely.
What will be in Featuring tomorrow? We’ll have to see what tomorrow brings.
I had so many questions, I couldn’t get them all in with my first letter!
Who gets to decide what’s in Featuring?
Who decides when it changes?
Dear Oh My Gosh, You Still Have More Questions!
This is perhaps best answered with a story.
For years, I had two dogs: Murphy, my cocker spaniel and AC, who looked like a big, black bear. I have no idea where the name AC came from or how to spell it, because he was left behind when a coworker’s neighbors packed up the kids, the car, the cat, and the other dog – and drove off, leaving AC behind when they moved to California. Bastards! The least I could do was let him keep his name.
AC and Murphy would race down the hall when I threw the ball; it was anybody’s guess who would get to the ball first. If AC got there first, sometimes Murphy would take the ball right out of AC’s mouth, and friends thought my cocker was the alpha dog. Nope! AC knew he was the big dog, and he didn’t need to prove it to anyone. On the rare occasions when it really mattered to him, AC always got his way.
Cole is like my beloved dog, A/C, and I mean that as the ultimate compliment. So who gets to decide what’s in Featuring? I imagine that will be me, most of the time. With, I hope, input from all of you. But when John has an opinion, I will surely know about it, and John is the big dog.
What if I have a great idea for something that could be featured under, well, Featuring? Do I have to keep it to myself, a potentially great idea that will never see the light of day? That could be lost forever? That would be terrible!
Dear Funny You Should Ask,
I would love to hear your ideas! Even if you post your suggestions in a comment, please make sure to also send an email message to my WaterGirl account at Balloon Juice.
THAT’S ALL THE LETTERS FOR TODAY. I’LL CONTINUE TO DO THESE UNTIL EVERYBODY IS UP TO SPEED.
Thank you for this.
It’s possible that AC was named after Albert Champion. AC (and AC-Delco) and Champion spark plugs were both named after him.
If anyone wants to put in a plug for “explainers” they would like to see next, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
@Another Scott: I ‘spect the other dog may have been named DC. Maybe WG knows!
If I am at comment #3 and I click on “@Another Scott” I go straight to Another Scott’s comment at # 1. Perfect! Now I can better understand Commentator #3’s point.
But when I hit the back arrow, I do not go back to comment #3, I end up at comment #2.
Is there some secret method of ending up back where I started?
Now obviously, in this thread with only a few comments, it does not matter. But in longer threads it does.
I’ve already just about given up responding to comments (because I can’t see what I am typing), in my new identity as a lurker, I’d like to at least follow along on what everyone else is saying.
Why is “On The Road” in “Featuring” and not as a category up top. Garden Chat is up top, it’s a weekly series, “On The Road” appears every weekday morning.
Confused in Glendale.
Somewhere below, BillinGlendale said to click on the timestamp and then on the commenter’s name that you’re going back to. Keep clicking back through comments then hit the Back button on the browser and you’ll be back where you started. I tried it a few times and it worked. I of course have no idea why or how, but for now it’s a workaround.
This issue has been driving me crazy since way before the site upgrade. It’s a relief to find a way around it — if I can only remember to do it!
@Ohio Mom: I have already reported the “I click @ohio mom and go to Ohio Mom but the back arrow doesn’t take me back to where i originally was when I clicked” problem. So that will be resolved!
Tell me more about your second issue, please. Why can’t you see what you are typing? Are you on a tiny phone? Is that the only device you use to access Balloon Juice?
i like that feature a lot.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: Dear Confused in Glendale,
I had a similar thought about On the Road just yesterday, that perhaps it could be moved there. The 5 items in the category bar were chosen by our blog host, so I thought I would run the by him the next time we talk.
The 5 items in the category bar weren’t chosen because they are part of a series – the goal for those was to provide sort of a big picture look at the breadth of what we talk about on BJ. i.e. we are not just a political blog.
It’s the exact same function/code that is executed when you click @someone as when you click on the date/time stamp, so it’s no surprise that the date/time stamp behaves in that way. What’s surprising is that the @reply isn’t working. This is a very fixable problem. They were addressing some of the bigger issues first, though it sounds like this has been a big aggravation for you, so you may think they should have gotten to it sooner. :-)
@jeffreyw: All these people who aren’t trustworthy themselves continue to be surprised when others around them are not trustworthy, and make recordings and stuff. These people are not smart, but they are dangerous to our democracy.
@jeffreyw: I do not know. I think they must have left him behind because he had terrible allergies and when I took him there were a lot of bare spots on his back and tummy. My coworker gave me their last name, and I called every single vet in Champaign County in order to find his medical records, and they had never taken him to any vet. Bastards!
Not many comments on this thread. Maybe everybody already knows everything they care to know.
@WaterGirl: So it’s Cole’s decision, should I send him a email in ALL CAPS and in color?
@WaterGirl: Nah, Cole post stomped you with a juicy corruption thread.
Still getting bounced to top of page, then multiple refreshes before comment appears. As before, not every single time but yet with humdrum frequency. The more comments there are on a page the more it seems to happen, but that also may well not be a cause and effect relationship.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people are using double space (two Enters) to separate paragraphs or other things. This is the issue I raised during your last Website Update post. You copied and pasted my comment and removed the extra line break and said that could solve the problem. I replied that I didn’t like it without the double Enter. It’s harder for me to read than separating paragraphs with two Enters. It does create a massive amount of white space because the vertical space between the lines of text is now more like 1.5 lines and not 1.0 lines as it used to be on the old website.
I don’t think you can train people not hit Enter twice it because it’s how people have been separating paragraphs since forever. I’m seeing people do it a lot in comments. Is there any way to make the vertical space between lines slightly less? I mean vertical space between a line of text and the next line above or below it. There is so much more white space there than there used to be and I think this issue is part of the problem.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: There’s no competing with that!
@?BillinGlendaleCA: What a great idea!
He might still be a bit raw, though, from the 100 people who didn’t let up during the course of the day when we were transitioning to the new site. So maybe pick just one – ALL CAPS or color? Or you could just wait until I talk with him tomorrow and can ask him then. :-)
@NotMax: And it’s still on the list!
@WaterGirl: Now I am cornfused. I never clicked on the timestamp before Billin suggested it. The combination of the two fixes my (and OhioMom’s) aggravation. Just hitting @nym means the back button may not take me back. It’s hit or miss.
Glad to see it’s on the ToBeFixed list, though.
@Yarrow: The tricky thing is that there are also a lot of people who like that there’s more white space and feel it makes things more readable.
Maybe we could do a Pay for View, and people could duke it out?
You do the best you can, but it’s not possible to please everyone.
@frosty: You could do the date/time stamp thing to anchor on the old site, too. I used it all the time. Everybody has their own tricks of the trade!
That’s the camp I’m in, though I’m still having trouble remembering paragraph breaks. need an extra return.
Like this. I used two returns, then went back and did three returns, and there still wasn’t any space between the paragraphs.
@WaterGirl: Oh well. It hurts my eyes and makes even lurking more difficult. The background is whiter than on the old site, which makes white space more noticeable.
Can you explain why there are two comment places–the one at the bottom and the one in the pop up box? You may have explained it before but I missed it. It seems redundant having two.
@debbie: I have the same thing happen. I can hit Enter five or six times and no extra line shows up.
There is a code in the Text tab for a line break it’s . I have no idea if that’s going to show up or not. Sometimes I copy that code and paste it to get a line break.
@Yarrow: I do think there is less white space than there was for a few days, because the developer started stripping out the trail of extra line breaks that people were unintentionally leaving at the end of their posts.
@Yarrow: Will add that I literally cannot read this site in the morning anymore. It is too bright and hurts my eyes even with the device brightness turned all the way down. Never used to be the case.
I do not like the Dark Reader options that I’ve looked at so far.
@Yarrow: To answer that properly will take a long-ish explanation. That’s what I have in mind for the next Dear WaterGirl post, if you don’t mind waiting a day or two for that?
@Yarrow: I am curious, what devices do you use for reading and commenting on BJ?
I believe I understand what you are going through with the brightness issue because there was one upgrade maybe 5 years ago where my eyes literally could not take the brightness.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: I forgot to mention that for every item you want to add, you have to take one out. We are absolutely not voting on this, but which one of the top 5 would you take out of the top bar to make room for ON THE ROAD?
It’s all a puzzle, and every change affects something else.
As an explainer; may I suggest explaining HTML anchors, how they are part of the comments’ and links to replies and how to set an anchor in your browser queue using the timestamp to come back to where you are currently.
If you look at the navigation bar, you can see the comment-id in the URL for the last anchor you jumped to .
Using the next and previous page to skip around in the comments might make a little more sense to people with some understanding of how the page is structured and how browsers stack the URL history.
@WaterGirl: That’s fine. I’m mostly just curious. I find it an annoyance but I usually just close the pop up and go from there.
@WaterGirl: I only comment from one device. Nothing about it has changed. On it I was fine with the old site. I’m fine with other sites. It’s just this one I can’t handle. I read from a bunch of devices including desktop, laptop, phone and tablet. I have the same problem on all of them. Nothing has changed with them, I was fine with the old site and too much brightness and white space now.
I have to laugh about the white space. On one of the threads today–maybe one or two below this–there are comments from people with massive amounts of white space. It’s like @nym, two Enters, blockquote containing the @-ed nym’s comment, two more Enters, finally their comment. It’s like half the page before you get to someone’s comment. Maybe the developers are stripping white space but that sort of thing is happening a lot. That’s down to people’s commenting practices and like I said above, you’re not going to train people away from hitting Enter twice.
@JaySinWA: Thank you! Added to my list.
@Ohio Mom: If you see this, please write to me at my WaterGirl email address, thanks.
Personally I’d remove “Open Threads.” Open threads are usually some catch all when we just need a thread. They’re not about anything and they don’t have much in common. They’re not the Health stuff from Mayhew or Adam’s or Cheryl’s very informative posts.
I don’t really understand the difference between the top bar and Featuring, at least the way they’re done now. Bill is right that Garden Chats and On the Road are the same kind of thing and one is up top and one is on the side. Doesn’t make sense to me.
@Ohio Mom: I feel your pain. The Back arrow just tosses you all over the page.
My solution is to go to the top of the post, click on the post title and start over again. I can do a Find on Page search from any device I use to search for a commenter’s nym or maybe a keyword of a comment if I remember that instead. That’s how I find my place again.
The old site used to bounce us around too with the back arrow but it does seem more random with the updated site.
I have may more faith in people than that. I can already see some people adjusting their habits. But then, I believed we could use color judiciously, and others were certain that people would go hog wild and the site would be unusable. I think we’ve landed in a pretty good place on that one.
@WaterGirl: I agreed with you on color. I figured there would be a few people being silly with it but mostly it would be a novelty. I disagree with you about a basic function like how many times to hit Enter.
A lot of it is how people “see” things. I like a line between paragraphs online to separate them. I think that’s pretty standard to how articles are displayed online. It used to be that paragraphs were differentiated with indents but now it’s an extra line. Without that extra line it looks like a giant wall of text and is hard to read.
Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho
@Yarrow: I feel your pain on the bright white – I can’t even lurk often because I will get a headache from both the brightness and enormous expanse of whitespace. The leading between lines is wider than most sites use, which means the ¶ breaks are bigger, and so forth. Some colors are pretty painful too, but so long as everyone enjoys them, what’s a little pain among imaginary friends?
Getting back from following a link from a reply is an adventure and I’ve yet to figure it out, perhaps in part because I can’t stay on the site comfortably for more than 15 minutes. You asked also about replies in a pop up, while comments just have box. Having both in the box made it easy to interact with more than one other commenter at a time, while closing the pop up, then scrolling back to another comment is both tedious and impossible to do on a phone.
@Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho
Yep, the bright white is so glaring I can’t lurk long either. Like I said, I cannot look at the site in the early morning. It’s just too much.
I’m really perplexed by the spacing thing. If you look at posts, they have sort of a line and a half between paragraphs. We lowly people in comments do not seem to have access to that. We get two lines or no lines so one paragraph looks like the next paragraph. Can we please have the same ‘line and a half’ paragraph spacing option as front pagers get? Why is it different? How do we get that option?
As of this morning (11/25/19), “show full post on front page” does not work on either my iPad or my iPhone (using Safari or Chrome on iOS).
Can the “clear comment” button please be made to ask “are you sure?” before actually clearing the comment? I just accidentally erased roughly six paragraphs of text that contained some very colourful metaphors which I was quite proud of thanks to a misplaced click, and I’m pretty pissed off now. I don’t see an undo button, either.
Ceterum censeo factionem Republicanam esse delendam.
@Cam-WA: I just checked every front page post from 11/25 thru 11/27 this very moment. All work except two of them on 11/25, and both of those have the “read more” inside a block quote. It turns out that you can’t put that command inside block quotes, but no one is born knowing the fine print for everything. :-)
So that was the issue. All the front pagers now know that you can either put read more before a quote, or after it, or you can separate the quote into two quotes, and put read more in between them. We are all learning!
@(((CassandraLeo))): I’m so sorry to hear that! Will see if that can be done as a quick fix. By quick I mean not a lot of programming time, not that it could show up tomorrow. :-)