The posting of a 500,000th officially approved comment at Ordinary Times this week inspired me to rush a new bit of code into production.
I call the application “Commentariat.” My larger objective is to “turn the site upside down” by putting the latest comments first, arranged in a way that’s different from the usual output of “recent comments” widgets. In this initial, partial realization of the concept, we display a page of a site’s 50 most recent comments (if at this point it has produced at least 50 comments), organized by recency and secondarily by post, producing a kind of “dashboard” in which the user can survey the up-to-the-moment general state of discussion.
I’ll provide the code at the end of the post. The result or main part of it as of this writing looks like the following – and you might be able to view it in action, prior to further development developments (which for all I know will radically alter it, and soon move it to another address) at Ordinary Times:
It’s a little different from what I originally imagined – a product of built-in WordPress capabilities as I found them and results as I discovered them when they were applied to OT, an active blog. I’d originally intended, and spent some time getting at, a different kind of post/time sorting combination, but I find this result more readable, and better at conveying the state of the site at any given time.
The objective I sketched a few months ago, while in discussion with “Will Truman,” another “Ordinary Gentleperson” (“OG”), looked like this:
Even though the realized version produces a lot of white space- an alternative would be Pinterest-style mosaic-tiling – I’m not sure that’s a defect. I’m also not sure if a three column + sidebar format will turn out well under any design also intended to convey the gist of particular comments, even with fonts reduced in size, though a full-width design would have room for as many columns as the user/browser allows.
Though I find myself already using Commentariat as my alternative OT home page, I haven’t gotten any feedback on it from users, and I still haven’t decided how much further to take it, or in what time frame. One next and relatively easy step will be to add “comment-featuring” – different ways to highlight particular comments, as per authorial, editorial, or site-democratic inputs – but I think I’ll let featured comments remain “within thread/sequence” for a while, if not permanently. Other useful features might include the ability to display the entire comment on hover or click, and possibly to reply to it directly from the page. Not sure about pagination and the prospect of scanning through comments potentially all the way to the beginning. Adding sidebar items linked to archives, as suggested in the sketch, and eventually a Commentariat blog (Meta-Commentary) might also make for interesting next steps, if and as time permits, but there are other changes to OT that I think probably ought to come first. Among those will be re-expanding the sites “multisite” capacities – organizing and developing what the OGs call “sub-blogs” – which in turn may call for a multisite or network Commentariat.
Here’s the code, which I am currently adding via the Shortcode Exec PHP plug-in. Another next step from a development perspective would be to write it as a plug-in, making for my first “official” independent addition to the WordPress Plug-In Repository, also to be offered at GitHub. Got to start somewhere, even if it’s a still primitive somewhere. First the PHP, and then the basic CSS, which will have to be developed further to be made suitable for general application, since it currently rests on OT’s stylesheet:
[gist https://gist.github.com/CKMacLeod/eccc1e1e68071e84466a /]
[gist https://gist.github.com/CKMacLeod/3bfcfcfe5e1fd48af671 /]