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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

This great forum just got better

I read frequently this forum.  For me it was a pain to track new threads/posts, so i developed a simple web application to track the JoS forums and to show the differences.

After using it for a while locally in my computer i thought that it would also be useful to other JoS forum users.  So i cleaned the app, registered a domain and deployed it.

You can find it at:

http://www.forumtrackr.com/

Key features:

- for every user remembers the last visit time for each page and shows new diffs accordingly
- no mandatory login, just keep your browser cookie
- synchronize multiple computers/browsers with an anonymous login
- tracks all JoS forums, inter-forum links are handled correctly

Known issues:

- the html diff is not perfect
- the contact form does not work (mail server problems)

These issues & more are in my to-do list.

Feedback is welcomed! Both regarding functionality and style.

BTW, any postfix configuration experts out there?
/A Send private email
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
This is very cool, and Aitor sought/got Joel's blessing.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
"This is very cool, and Aitor sought/got Joel's blessing. "

Ok...well thats good news.  When I frist read it I was wondering if it was blessed or not.
Dan Hirsch Send private email
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
It's just as well FogG is hiring a sys admin. The forum is slower today than it was a few weeks ago.

And if they added NNTP access, it'd be truly wonderful. No more problem following some threads.
Fred
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
Very cool, it's too bad it doesn't update a little more often, but you did a good job and i'm using it now.
Phil Send private email
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
Any plans to add COT? http://crazyontap.codaris.com/
son of parnas
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
Don't you hate it when you do all this work and some people show no appreciation and only ask you for more stuff?
son of parnas
Saturday, July 22, 2006
 
 
son of parnas > Don't you hate it when you do all this work and some people show no appreciation and only ask you for more stuff?

Just like raising kids ;-) OTOH, it shows that people care about your product. Otherwise, they wouldn't even offer any feedback.
Fred
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Thanks a lot
Piyush Patel Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
That's very cool, nice work.

I noticed a problem with IE though: the Google Ads show on the left up at the top, and the forum starts halfway down the page.
Gavin Bowman Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Very cool, but I am not sure how happy Joel will be when he sees Google ads for competitors products on his forum...
Andy Brice Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Thanks for praise!

> It's just as well FogG is hiring a sys admin. The forum is slower today than it was a few weeks ago.

Hope that forumtrackr.com reduces traffic from JoS servers. :-)

> Very cool, it's too bad it doesn't update a little more often

Right now it's updated every 15 minutes.  This interval may be reduced in the future.

> Any plans to add COT? http://crazyontap.codaris.com/

I got that request from other users too.  It's in the to-do list.

> I noticed a problem with IE though: the Google Ads show on the left up at the top, and the forum starts halfway down the page.

I had some headaches with IE6 before, but didn't test the final layout of the adds.  I will dust again my old windows machine and take a look to that.

Thanks that my web server logs say that nearly all of you are using Firefox. :-)

> Very cool, but I am not sure how happy Joel will be when he sees Google ads for competitors products on his forum...

Joel gave me green light on putting ads, but i didn't thought on that detail.  As a courtesy i will configure adsese not to show "bug tracking" ads.
/A Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
> I noticed a problem with IE though: the Google Ads show on the left up at the top, and the forum starts halfway down the page.

Solved.  IE6 has problems with CSS position:fixed elements, so for IE6 i place the ads floating in the page (not tested with IE7).

As much as i don't like IE i'm looking forward for a compliant standard / bug free IE7.  The mass market users will use IE forever (unless M$ packages Firefox with Vista :-).
/A Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Great Idea. I recommend a FavIcon for those who may wish to add to their favorites.
jdm
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Using this now.  Its very nice.  I would personally prefer there be no red highlights (maybe I was a student for too long, but red always screams "I did something wrong!" to me), but thats just me.
Patrick McKenzie Send private email
Sunday, July 23, 2006
 
 
Nice piece of app.
Anyone got the black stripes (I'm under linux ubuntu)?
nvictor Send private email
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
Nice idea!  Care to come back in a month and let us know how much AdSense revenue you've made?  8-)

A couple of problems (which pretty much send me back to using my RSS reader to read this forum):

The main forum page gets out of date, and remains out of date when you hit refresh.  It says (for me, now) "This page is fresh, there is no diff info; it was updated 11 minutes ago".  But that means I'm not seeing any posts made in the last 11 minutes.  That's, like, six months in web developer time.  8-)

And the flip side of this is that unless I check the page every fifteen minutes, I'll miss postings.  I'm expecting the highlighting of the main forum page to reflect the changes since I last viewed it, not since your server last scanned it.

The main forum page doesn't reflect the pages I've marked read.  I look at the main forum page and Thread X is highlighted as "not 5 but 6 comments".  I click it, read it, mark it as read, come back to the main page and I'm expecting that highlight to have disappeared.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
I like it a lot. Well done
Steve Cooper
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
Thanks for doing this.

I wonder why Fogbugz's forum software doesn't support RSS comments - that would solve all of this without HTML scraping.

Anyone know why this feature hasn't been blessed?
Arthur R
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
> Using this now.  Its very nice.  I would personally prefer there be no red highlights (maybe I was a student for too long, but red always screams "I did something wrong!" to me), but thats just me.

Some other people complained also in that aspect. I want to improve the highlighting in general, but for that i need to improve the html diff generation algorithm.  It's in my to-do list.

> Anyone got the black stripes (I'm under linux ubuntu)?

Which browser are you using?

> The main forum page gets out of date, and remains out of date when you hit refresh.  It says (for me, now) "This page is fresh, there is no diff info; it was updated 11 minutes ago".  But that means I'm not seeing any posts made in the last 11 minutes.  That's, like, six months in web developer time.  8-)

forumtrackr takes periodic snapshots of the pages, this is done right now at 10 minutes intervals (it's done in a "clever" way not to overload JoS's web server).  These snapshots are cached locally and used for generating the diffs.  The pages you see are the shared cached ones, forumtrackr does not get them from JoS web server specifically for an user.

So you are stuck with that 10 minute update interval.

What if i add a "refresh this page NOW" buttom?  For those whose clock moves at internet speed.

> And the flip side of this is that unless I check the page every fifteen minutes, I'll miss postings.  I'm expecting the highlighting of the main forum page to reflect the changes since I last viewed it, not since your server last scanned it.

That's exactly how it works!

forumtrackr remembers the last time _you_ visited _each_ page.  If you spend two days without reading the forums, when you come back you will see the exact changes from those two days (with the 10 minute delay restriction).

This fails if your browser does not accept cookies or deletes them between browsing sessions.  forumtrackr needs your cookie to know who you are.  If you access the forums from different computers/browsers, you need to login so forumtrackr can access your browsing history.

Some other people complained about this too.  From the app usage, it's clear that it remembers user's last visit?  Or should i change/add something so people realize this?

BTW, when you move from threads back to the main forum use the browers "back" button, do not click on the forum index links.  When you use the back button, your browser should use the cached page it has stored locally.  Then when you are ready with the curren changes, reload the page to get last changes.  If there are no new changes you will continue seeing the _last_ changes (should i modify this behaviour?).

If you click on the forum index link, your browser will get the page from forumtrackr, and if there are new changes available it will display them and forget the old ones.

I already struggled with this issue, but didn't find a best solution.  I choosed the current behaviour believing that it's the simplest one for the user.

Maybe it's better that the user explicitly says when she is ready with the current changes and want new ones?

> The main forum page doesn't reflect the pages I've marked read.  I look at the main forum page and Thread X is highlighted as "not 5 but 6 comments".  I click it, read it, mark it as read, come back to the main page and I'm expecting that highlight to have disappeared.

Good point.  This is an implentation detail.  Thinking on it, it will be quite complex to make the app behave the way you say.  Anyway it's in my to-do list.

Thanks to all for the feedback!
/A Send private email
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
This is REALLY cool.  My only complaint is the grey numbers inside the red and green background are almost impossible to see on my laptop (I have to select it to see what the number is).
Doug Send private email
Monday, July 24, 2006
 
 
/A: Now I understand how it works and why I'm seeing the behaviour I'm seeing.  I was following the link to the forum homepage rather than going Back and hitting refresh.

I do think you've got this fundamentally wrong, I'm afraid.  You've implemented two independent tracking mechanisms, one for the forum homepage and one for the article pages, when in fact the two are the same.  On the homepage, I don't want to see either the latest changes or the changes since I last hit Refresh, I want it to reflect which postings I've read and which I haven't.  Think of it like an email client.  I have a list of folders, each showing the number of unread messages:

Inbox (4)
Work (1)
Personal (2)

I go and read the message in the Work folder, and meanwhile a new message arrives in my Inbox.  When I look at the folder list I see this:

Inbox (5)
Work (0)
Personal (2)

That's how I'd want the forum homepage to work, regardless of whether I click to it via a link or use Back.  When I hit Refresh, it should pick up new articles and update the posting counts, but it should also reflect which existing articles I've read and which I haven't.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
 
 
> I do think you've got this fundamentally wrong...

In first prototypes i had doubts about freezing changes until the user clicked a "refres now" buttom.  I though that it was more simple for users to use the scheme that is implemented now.

But i see that it's confusing for users.  And i have just realized myself that it's not a good idea.  I have closed firefox by error (tipical mac user error: press command-Q instead of command-W :-) and when i have opened the page again forumtrackr had updated the page... so i have "lost" all changes.

Your behave like e-mail client idea is great.  I will think on it to see how it could be implemented.

It's not going to be easy, i want the app to keep the spirit it has now.  That is, to be a transparent layer on top of the forum.  I don't want to change the forum style (nor develop a desktop app :-).
/A Send private email
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
 
 
> Your behave like e-mail client idea is great.  I will
> think on it to see how it could be implemented.
> It's not going to be easy

I don't think it's too hard.  You "just" need to scrape the forum homepage in a bit more detail.  When a user reads the homepage for the first time, or hits the "Mark all read" button, you store a list of all the article URLs and comment counts.  Then when they read the homepage again, you compare their stored URLs and comment counts with the current ones, and produce an annotated page accordingly.  It does mean you need to deconstruct and reconstruct the HTML, rather than just diffing it, but (certainly for a simple UI like JOS) that shouldn't be too hard.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Thursday, July 27, 2006
 
 
...and when they mark an article page as read, you update the stored comment count for that article's URL to be the current number of comments.  When they go back to the forum homepage, that new count is used to do the highlighting.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Thursday, July 27, 2006
 
 

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