Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Live commenting, reloaded // A new way of keeping up with the conversation

Published by Mr. C

One of the most frequent requests we get these days relates to Live Commenting, and the perpetual aggravation of refreshing the page to see if anyone has said anything new. It's not the hardest thing to overcome, literally just a key press in fact, but it is inconvenient nonetheless.

The other time we've noticed similar problems is during live video broadcasts. Posting a comment in that situation resets the video stream meaning everything goes dark until the page reloads. That isn't just irritating, it's virtually unusable, and as we're planning on doing more live shows, it'll only get worse.

Which brings us nicely to the live commenting solution we're introducing today.

Background tasks

Preventing page refresh problems requires loading content in the background, under the browser covers, and seamlessly updating the window. This site runs on Wordpress and there are a couple of plugins which can assist in this area, but none of them really did what we wanted, so instead we built our own live commenting system and you'll find it sitting here:

Sidepodcast : Live Commenting

A word of warning though - the word "beta" features atop the page for a good reason. It's early days and not everything will work as expected (or maybe at all). For starters you'll need to have yourself a reasonably modern browser to even look at the page.

Screenshot of beta window

Assuming the page loads for you, you'll see the screen split into four panes. Top left offers a list of recent posts, while the top right pane should be large enough to display streaming video. Lower left is the place to write comments, while the bottom right panel offers the continually updated comment stream.

The final checkbox labelled "Follow incoming comments" will continually scroll through messages as they arrive. It's off by default, but it's worth a click if you prefer a completely hands-off experience.

On atandby

As we're talking about a beta service there are some issues to be aware of. Significantly there's no comment preview facility, neither can posted messages be edited. The comment input boxes fail to retain personal details after you close your browser, and finally, we're not even sure if the thing will stand up to a full race weekend.

The usual Sidepodcast experience for you there then!

At the moment we've no idea if the new system should be integrated into the rest of the site, or whether it works better living in it's own hermetically sealed world. If you're quite happy with the way the existing system has been working so far, please do say so. We're not planning on changing anything on that front at present.

Please feel free to post test messages on this thread, and let us know what you make of it all - useful, useless or something in between?

Incidentally, queued text is currently scheduled to arrive every 60 seconds. Presumably that's fine for day-to-day usage, but we'll probably drop the figure to something like 10 seconds when live events are occurring.