Update on Comments Issue

PG thanks those who have sent suggestions about PG’s mysterious problems with Comments numbers not showing correctly, either via comments to PG’s prior post on the topic or via email.

After considering the information submitted by helpful visitors and doing a bit of research, PG think he’s found a fix.

Here’s a brief summary of PG’s latest theories which may or may not be correct. (Time might not even tell if they’re correct. PG doesn’t actually care if he understand exactly what he might have done to fix the problem, he just wants the problem fixed.)

Trigger Warning for Computer Science People: PG is not going to use a lot of technical terms because he would probably not do so correctly. He’ll simplify things down to the level his brain can process today. If PG’s brain mistakenly simplifies something into total incorrectness, feel free to clarify/correct in the comments.

That said, relax. PG isn’t going to try to do this sort of thing on a regular basis or, perhaps, ever again. Unlike straightforward legal doctrines such as The Rule in Shelley’s Case, PG understands that he can’t actually understand computer science stuff.

Being a lawyer for a long time has, however, allowed PG to sharpen his hand-waving abilities into something that impresses him, if not others.

Unfortunately, hand-waving doesn’t always work on computers the way it might work on carbon-based life forms.

Statement of Problem and, Hopefully, Solution

  1. Like a great many other WordPress sites, TPV uses a caching plugin. PG has a very good hosting provider (now), Hosting Matters, but even a very good host uses hard drives and, even with fast hard drives and fast internet connections, there’s going to be a lag between a visitor to TPV clicking on something and any hosting provider delivering a response to the visitor’s browser.
  2. A widely-used means of reducing that turnaround time is to add a caching plugin to the WP site. Basically, a caching plugin tells WP it doesn’t need to bother the servers much, because the plugin already knows what WP is looking for.
  3. This works fine so long as the caching plugin actually knows what it claims to know.
  4. Sometimes when a widget or something else is changed in a WordPress site, the caching plugin doesn’t get the message. So it says bananas are still yellow today because they were yellow yesterday even if the yellow bananas have disappeared and been replaced by green bananas. (PG apologizes if he got too technical about bananas.)
  5. So PG has added another plugin that says it fixes the problem with the existing TPV caching plugin holding onto stale info by forcing the caching program to forget the stale info.
  6. PG doesn’t know what happens if the plugins disagree about what truth is.
  7. So far, it’s looking like it works, however.

Let PG know if the comments seem to be better.

18 thoughts on “Update on Comments Issue”

  1. Hmmm… I’ve never seen “comment numbers” (i.e., the number of comments) displayed with or on a post (like this one). Is that a thing I’m missing here? Most sites I visit do have such a thing. Not here? Or…?
    (FYI: Chrome, Mac)

    UPDATE: oh, wait… now I see it on top of the first comment (mine in this case). What I’m talking about is more about having the number show at the top of the post itself, in this case, up near the post title and/or the date posted. Possible? On long posts, it’s sometimes nice to know if there are any comments (and how many). At least for me. Just a thought.

    • Oh. You’re just looking for it in a different place.

      It seems to me that the placement of the “# comments” is about half and half between the top and the bottom on the sites that I visit. Most WP sites do combine the count with the link to go to the comments, as PG has elected to do.

      And – “3 comments” showing up on the main page for this post. I do believe you have it fixed, PG. (Except for those who go back to the main page with the back button, which won’t update the count. Nothing you can do about that on your end.)

      • Huh? I have to go all the way down to the reply box at bottom of any post to add a comment. There is no link I can see.

        FYI: Many/most of the sites I visit have the # and the link to comments at the very top. My site, too. I must be missing something.

        P.S. to PG: I use the “Subscribe to Comments Reloaded” plugin by WPKube on my WP site.

        UPDATE: Maybe because I don’t ever visit “Home” but only open and go to the posts themselves? Hmmm.

        • That’s it – the “# comments” is only on the home page.

          Quick check of three sites that I know are WP.

          According to Hoyt runs her blog the same way as PG – home page has several posts, the “# comments” is at the end, and you click that to see the individual post and its comments.

          Mad Genius Club) has the post headlines and “squibs” on the home page; when you click on the headline, you get the full post and comments – with the “# comments” on the top of it.

          Watts Up With That does the same thing on the home page, with the post headlines and “squibs” – but Anthony has the “# comments” link with that block as well.

          For what it’s worth, the default WP style appears to have the full posts on the home page, with the “# comments” link above the post – click on that to get another page with only the full post and comments. (That is mine right now, which is about to get a serious rework when I get up the motivation to tangle with WP.)

          It’s a matter of style, in my opinion. “What are you doing reading comments before you’ve read the whole post?” “Well, frequently (thinking of WUWT in particular), the comments are more informative than the post.” You can argue it both ways.

          • Yeah, it’s different theme/design styles. I run no posts or “squibs” on my WP site on Home but do on “Posts & Stories.”

            Here on TPV, I get the digest and typically come to each post that way.

            As a swimmer, I have the weight to state: Different strokes for different folks. 😉

  2. Comments tend to disappear 1) when they are the first in a thread, and 2) after one EDITs a comment immediately after posting it.

    They persist when entered via REPLY. However, a surprising number of comments that do persist are not listed in the index on the right.

    I can handle it, but I weep for a world deprived of my wisdom.

  3. Generally speaking, yellow bananas are replaced by black bananas, not green ones, unless you are traveling backwards in time. Let me know how you’re managing that.

    I believe I told you some time ago that you may be having problems with your cache header, an HTTP header that tells intermediaries how long to hold onto a request before assuming it is out of date. (caching can occur all along the request chain). The way I have dealt with an out-of-date home page on this site is to shift-reload, which tells my browser (firefox) to ignore caching and re-request the page from the server. Often this gets me a new page.

    • Dave, that’s all well and good for actual content. The problem appears to be that some of the actual content is not being recalculated on server, in this instance the index of the number of comments. (That the number of comments is displaying differently on the front page of PV versus on the individual item page is a good indication that it’s an internal, and not user, cache — or, more likely, “not ready to recalculate yet for Reasons” — that’s at issue.)

  4. Well, it appears that the bananas are, in fact, red. At 1608 PST, I opened PV, and it said this post has four comments. I clicked on the post inside the same minute, and it (accurately) said this post has six comments… none of which appear to have been posted or be within the “last ten minutes so might be in-edit” window.

    The bananas are, therefore, red. And/or indicate that the caching plugin(s) are only set to force a requery, not a flush-and-reset. Which, due to the foolish architecture of WordPress, is highly likely as the default…

    • Red bananas are actually good eating. A wee bit on the starchy side compared to the cavendish variety.

      One of several lesser known varieties.

      I favor “manzanos” or Apple Bananas. They’re shorter, plumper, and firmer even when ripe and slightly tangy, hence the tie in to apples.

      • And red bananas don’t get Cavendish banana fungus… because they’re not clones of the Cavendish banana.

        • Right.
          Neither do the other varieties so it’s not quite true that bananas are headed for extintion. It’s just that the commercial business is going to have to change. Or find a treatment for the fungus.
          A literal case of monoculture.

  5. When I saw this on the home page it said “11 Comments” and when I clicked on the comments link to go to the posting’s comments it began “12 thoughts…”, so a mismatch. Back to the home page – using the back button – and it still said 11 comments, but hitting refresh upped it to 12.

    So it looks like a cure but still with some small delay in updating the home page, compounded in my case by my PC caching the home page when I went back to it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the home page to up the count to 13 after I post this. The sidebar on this page has already updated as I edit.

    Also PG, I think you are being too modest. IANAL (actually a mathematician who’s done a lot of physics and end user computing) but I once tried reading up on “The Rule in Shelley’s Case” and believe that anyone who can understand such pieces of English Common Law – fortunately long repealed in the England – will have no problem with logic as applied to computers.

    • It could be worse, Mike. You could be a lawyer in California who does work for Very Important People and does not properly interpret or allow for the Rule Against Perpetuities (arguably much more complex than the Rule in Shelley’s Case). And then get sued for malpractice. Said lawyer won, with the California Supreme Court declaring that nobody really understands the Rule Against Perpetuities, so it can’t be malpractice to make a mistake regarding it (so long as you don’t just ignore it). Lucas v. Hamm, 56 Cal.2d 583, 592–93 (1961).

  6. I’m adding this just to mess with the minds of comment counters, not something I’ve paid much attention to (to which?) And I doubt I’ve ever eaten a red banana. Though we do have Bananas in Pyjamas in Australia. OK I’m going now.

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