Feature: Improved Handling of “Mark all notifications read”

Mark all notifications readAt 21:36 UTC on 2020-04-29 I put a new feature into production which changes the handling of the “Mark all notifications read” item in the drop-down menu from the notifications bubble at the top right of the screen.  Previously, this would clear unread notifications and display the Unread Notifications page, which was pretty silly since you’d just asked to mark them all read.  Today’s change uses the mechanism implemented to support the “catch-up” feature introduced on 2020-04-12 to mark the notifications read via a lightweight query request which doesn’t replace the page you’re currently viewing with the (useless) Unread Notifications page.  After marking the notifications read, the number and drop-down list of notifications are immediately updated.

Before, there was a potential race condition where notifications that had arrived since the last automatic update to the page would be marked read even though you’d never seen them in the drop-down list.  This has been corrected: no notification will be marked read unless it has been presented to you in the drop-down list.  This means that when you click “Mark all notifications read” you may immediately see new notifications which have just arrived: this is not a bug—it’s avoiding one which was present in the old code.... [Read More]

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Catching Up with Notifications for Posts, Comments, and Groups

Catch-up featureWhen engaging in an active discussion on the site, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of notifications you may receive for new comments on discussions in which you’re participating, likes on your posts and comments, and participation in group discussions.  Frequently, you’ll go to a discussion, read all of the new comments and look at the “likes” of the comments you’ve posted, and then find you still have a long list of notifications pending because you haven’t followed each individually, causing them to be dismissed.

On 2020-04-12, I implemented a new feature at Ratburger.org, called “catch-up”, which allows you to dismiss all notifications relating to a post or group you’ve just visited.  For example, if you log on to the site and discover there are a dozen or more notifications queued for comments in a discussion in which you’re participating, just click the first (the oldest), and then read from there to the end, catching up to the most recent.  Reading these comments does not dismiss their notifications, so you’d usually still have a long list of notifications remaining for comments you’ve just read.... [Read More]

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Ch ch ch ch annnges….

Group effort today- what changes will occur to our society by year one AV (After Virus)?

I will throw a few out to get it started….... [Read More]

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Date (yes, with an “e”) security

In case any of you still use antiquated date formats like 01/03/20, beware that such 2020 dates can be maliciously changed to a different year by simply adding two additional digits at the end. There is a simple solution for this problem: use the international date format, YYYY-MM-DD with 4-digit year at the beginning. The solution comes with fringe benefits like proper sorting and universal understanding.

Have a nice 2020-01-03, along with the rest of 2020!

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Knowledge Base: Including Images in Group Posts and Comments

The “Groups” facility in Ratburger.org is based upon the Group feature of BuddyPress, which is a plug-in (or more precisely, bolt-on) to WordPress which was intended to turn what was originally blogging software into a crude kind of social network, with emphasis on “crude”.  BuddyPress can best be thought of as a kludge hanging in a bag crookedly nailed to the side of the hack which is WordPress.  Much of the work expended in software development since the launch of Ratburger has been in fixing outright flaws and limitations of BuddyPress.  Raw BuddyPress is something to behold: group posts and comments, once posted, cannot be edited or deleted, except by an administrator, and there is near complete opacity about what is going on, with notifications completely haphazard.

The whole Groups facility is a hack.  The way a discussion group add-on to WordPress should work is self-evident to anybody who gives it a few minutes’ thought: each group should be its own little site, with its own posts and comments, but with notifications confined to members.  Posts could be promoted from groups to public pages by administrators.  All of the composition, editing, and administration functions should be identical for the main site and groups.... [Read More]

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Explanation on Read Only Members

I recently changed the status of a Member to a non-comment making level. I need to explain what that means.

  1. Comments and Posts cannot be made.
  2. Private posts cannot be seen.
  3. PMs can be sent to them and read. Replies can be made to the received messages but PM conversations cannot be originated from this member.
  4. Comments and Posts can be liked.

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Knowledge Base: Verse, Line Breaks, and White Space

When including poetry or other kinds of text in which line breaks are significant, you’ll want to keep WordPress from flowing the text from line to line based upon the width of the window, but instead place the line breaks yourself.  Simply pressing the “Enter” key at the end of each line, however, makes each line its own paragraph, which adds white space between the lines and looks ugly.  For example, here is one of my favourite Dorothy Parker poems formatted this way.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Citing Books in Posts and Comments

ISBN barcode 978-0-934035-63-7When you mention a book in a post or comment, with just a little bit more effort you can make it more convenient for a reader who might be interested in buying the book to find it and, at the same time, generate some revenue to support hosting the Ratburger site or line your own pocket.

Suppose you should mention my own classic and highly collectible 1989 book, The Autodesk File.  Note that the title of the book is in italic type (as book titles should be; magazine articles are in roman type surrounded by quotes), and that it has a link which, when clicked, takes you to the page on Amazon.com where you can empty your bank account buying a used copy.  Here’s how I did that, and how you can too.... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Scheduling Posts

When you write a post for Ratburger and press the “Publish” button in the post composition window, the post is immediately published to the home page.  But sometimes you’d like a post to be published at some specific time in the future.  For example, if you’re writing a post for the Thought of the Day or one of our weekly series of posts, you may want the post to be published on the appointed day at a time when you might not be at the computer.

You can set a post to be published at any time and date in the future by using the “scheduled post” feature.  When you’re composing a post, in the “Publish” box to the right of the composition area (or below it on a narrow screen device such as a mobile phone or tablet), there’s an item which by default reads: “Publish immediately”.  If you press “Edit”, this expands into a set of fields which allows you to enter a date and time:... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Uploading Video and Audio Files

Since inception, Ratburger.org has allowed you to embed video and audio hosted on a list of public sites such as YouTube and Vimeo simply by including the URL for the item on a line by itself.  See the Knowledge Base article “Embedding Media in Posts and Comments” for details.  But this isn’t much help when you wish to include a video or audio clip of your own, for example the latest screwball antics of your pet iguana or the latest track by your kazoo and sitar band.  Sure, you could create an account on one of the public video or audio hosting sites, upload your content, and then include the URL, but that’s a lot of fussy work and you may not want to make the item available to the general public.

In addition to images, Ratburger’s Media Library allows you to upload video and audio in a variety of formats and include them in posts and comments (but not in groups, which are basically text-only discussion boards).  You include these items much as you do images.  Use the “Add Media” button, select the video or audio file you wish to upload, wait for it to upload, and then click “Insert into post” to include a player for the clip in the post or comment you’re composing.... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Excerpts

When you write a post and publish it, by default only the first two paragraphs will appear on the Ratburger home page.  To read the balance of the post, a reader needs to click “[Read More]”, which will display the complete post and its comments.

This is done to allow visitors to the site to skim through the titles and start of posts and decide which they want to read in their entirety.... [Read More]

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General Thoughts on Comments and Posts

Ratburger.org is a place to exchange ideas and debate issues. Since we are not all the same, our views differ. You get to disagree with others and they get to disagree with you. In that disagreement negative words are often used. Why? Because people think their ideas are better therefore your ideas are bad. Mild negative words will often be used such as strange, crazy, illogical, fallacious, etc. This is normal. Take this in stride.

The general idea is not to be unkind to others but to clearly state different views. After that, it is expected for people to defend their views. Back up views with reasons, facts, and life experiences. Listen to others as they state their reasons. Let them try to find faults with your reasons as you try to find faults with your reasons. ... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Following Posts

When you publish an article on Ratburger.org (on the main page, not in a group), you will automatically be set to “follow” that post.  This means that when people like your article or comment on it, you’ll receive notifications which, when clicked, will take you to the post or comment.

When you comment on a post, you will also automatically be subscribed to notifications when people like your comment or make additional comments on the post.... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Resizing Images

When you include an image in a comment or post with the “Add Media” button, you’ll be asked to select the size at which it will be displayed in a box at the right.  You’re usually given options like:

  • Thumbnail
  • Medium Size
  • Full Size

with the dimensions in pixels of each option shown.  The options shown depend upon the size of the image you uploaded.... [Read More]

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Knowledge Base: Avatars, Profiles, Posts, and Comments

A series of changes recently made to the site are intended to improve navigation around the site and make it easier to keep track of your own activity and that of other members.  For complete implementation details, see the posts on the Updates group, which is usually updated around 22:00 UTC on any day in which the site’s software or configuration has been changed.

Avatars are the small round images which identify users.  Users can upload their own avatars or use avatars posted on the Gravatar site under the same E-mail address they used when registering their Ratburger membership.  Avatars appear on main page posts and comments, and on group posts and comments, along with the user’s name, which identifies people who haven’t uploaded an avatar image.  For likes on posts and comments, only avatars are shown, but you can “mouse over” or “hover” above the avatar to see the user’s name as a pop-up title.  On almost every place you see an avatar on the site, you can click it to display the user’s Profile page.... [Read More]

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