In-Reply-To Linking and Comment Subscriptions

Two changes affecting commenting, one simple, one complicated.

In-Reply-To Links

Sample IR2L

Sample IR2L

Responding to a user request, and also because I ran across a good code snippet by chance, and because I personally like the feature, and because it answers or at least partly addresses a problem some users noted with “Infinite Replies,” I’ve added an, I think, discreet “in reply to” link that will appear on every comment replying to some other comment. Click on the “to [Ordinary Gentleperson]” in the top right of your comment area, and it will zip you over to the particular comment the comment is commenting under/to.1 Subscribe to Comments Reloaded Up until a couple of days ago, the site had been running an in web terms ancient “Subscribe to Comments” (“S2C”) plug-in2. It worked well enough, so I was putting off doing an update, but Friday night the old S2C finally broke – possibly because it couldn’t handle a needed upgrade in the main scripting program, PHP, that the site depends on. (Something like that was bound to happen sooner or later with such an old plug-in, while problems running on an obsolete PHP version had already begun to crop up.) And so here we are… except actually I was going to say “last night” not “Friday night” when I began writing this post Saturday morning: I ran into some hinks that may be bugs or that I may be able to work around… and getting help with that is as much the purpose of this post now as informing you about the new toy. Further background: The legacy subscriptions set-up was complicated, and to some extent still is, since S2C functionality partly overlapped another comment and post subscription system, part of the popular “Jetpack” suite, and has also been supplemented by a third plug-in, under the ESL title “Mention comment’s Authors,” that produces those email-spawning @reply links some of us use, and that brings along some odd hinks of its own.
S2CR Options

S2CR “Advanced” Options

I’ve replaced S2C with an up-to-date successor, “Subscribe to Comments Reloaded.” Like S2C, it comes with a “subscribe without commenting” function (when enabled), and it also offers some new capabilities and options.3. For instance, as you may already have noticed, you now have the ability to subscribe to comment threads in one of two ways, either by subscribing to all comments, or by subscribing just to replies to your own comments. S2CR also gives the user the ability to change those subscription types by going to a subscription management page – in relation to which latter I am still running into those hinks that I was just mentioning, and that I still haven’t solved. In addition to the choice between types of subscription, the most relevant new capability for discussion is the option to make subscription of whichever type the default action for commenters. Some people like that – especially people who often mean to subscribe when they comment, but, who as they hit “Post Comment” regularly forget to tick whatever checkbox. If we do make “subscribe!” the default, standard recommended web practice is to add a “confirm” email to any such default subscription – anything else being thought kind of spammious. We could go without the confirmations, or maybe instead offer a warning, but that will tend to force people to rely on unsubscribe via links in their emails – so, I need to be sure they are working. As I understand it, sending out automated emails without a working unsubscribe link is actually illegal in the US of A, and I don’t want the G-Persons (the other kind) coming after me or Our Tod or Erik. After I’ve verified that we can, in fact, choose between settings without a major functionality sacrifice – in other words that subscriptions are truly manageable for all or close enough users under whichever settings, if there’s any substantial disagreement we can try a poll. If I had full confidence that a) it would work well, and b) everyone would figure it out, I’d go with “default subscribe, default ‘replies to me,’ email confirmations.” So, let me know about your User Experience, and don’t be surprised if the set-up undergoes multiple adjustments and re-adjustments in the coming hours, days, and whenevers, as I try to solve the bugs, or at least isolate them and find a liveable-with arrangement, before moving on to the next round of glitchancements.

Notes:

  1. Code snippets and explanations on IRTL and also on Infinite Replies available at my personal blog. []
  2. Vintage 2007, if you can believe it… []
  3. More about other capabilities later, mostly just for authors and editors, after I’ve verfied S2CR is keepable. []

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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