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Changes to comments on BBC Internet blog

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 14:00 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The eagle eyed will have noticed that today the comments box at the bottom of entries on this blog has changed.

This is a new, improved "comments product" which we are trying out. After sucessfully putting it on some smaller blogs e.g. BBC Research and Development, we're now testing it on blogs which get more traffic.

As Ant Miller on the BBC R&D blog put it last month:

The changes you'll notice are around the way the page behaves as you submit a comment: it won't reload for one thing. The style of the box is getting an update, and there will be more labels and information in the page to make it clearer what's happened... In the background there is some improved caching which should improve performance and the bandwidth demand should come down a bit.

Additionally when you preview a comment it should look like it will when it's actually published. And the "link to this" link on each comment should now be working correctly when blog comments span multiple pages.

Try it out and let me know in comments.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online


  • Comment number 1.

    Hurrah, there's no longer a blank space pre-filled in the comment field! This alone makes the update worth it :)

    Seems to work nicely, including the preview (though I'd question the capital "Y" on "You wrote:").

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh, I lied. when I said "works nicely", it did when I was drafting the comment. I pressed "Post Comment" and all trace of it ever having been typed vanished :(

    It would also be helpful if the "Sorry, you can only post a comment to this article once every 300 seconds..." message appeared as soon as you started typing a comment, and vanished again if the field is emptied.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well Nick asked for us to test it so here goes.

    'Hello World' - just like I first typed on my BBC 'B' Model computer in about 1984 :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    ... and I get the lovely surprise of seeing my post with a lovely pale yellow background - just like my original Homepage :-) (at least whilst I'm logged in that is)

  • Comment number 5.

    If you put two spaces after a full stop like you are supposed to, it still deletes one of the two spaces.

  • Comment number 6.

    Also when you load the page, it shows your username for your posts then quickly replaces it with "You". Why not just show "You" initially instead of showing the username first? Also, showing "You" instead of your username will make it harder to search for your posts on that page, instead couldn't it show your username and highlight the post by colour?

  • Comment number 7.

    Just a test for non-colour version - !"£$%^&*()_

    Must admit I find the 'You' wrote a bit awkward and somewhat eccentric - would prefer to see what others will see, is there some perceived advantage in converting the user-name to 'You' ?

    Otherwise - seems to be working.... in preview anyway

  • Comment number 8.

    and in reality it seems!

  • Comment number 9.

    Let's try: As it spreads though out the blogs I will certainly want to had a link like this:

    https://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/lmsuk1110.pdf (that's the employment figures),

    or refer back to what I said before: but I can't do this unless I post first and then a second one so I can list my remarks ....and I would like a set :-) of smilies The R3 message board ones are nice.

  • Comment number 10.

    So some links do not show up. Some that existed previously have disappeared, is that a bug or intentional.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yellow - does only the one comment show up in yellow. May be more sensible to highlight all of ones comments.

  • Comment number 12.

    As mentioned (10. At 01:44am on 18 Nov 2010, John99) links tend not to be clickable, although am I right in thinking that things are being tinkered with and are not the same as a few hours ago?
    Has the facility for pseudo html been removed (bold, italics etc)?

    For example is this a link:

  • Comment number 13.

    John99 - I've alerted the technical team to the links issue.


  • Comment number 14.

    In this line, the word bold is in bold.

    Well it does not preview as such, we will see when it is posted!

    An example from

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi - the technical team have told me that they've identified the problem and hope to fix it by next week.


  • Comment number 16.

    I want the bigger edit box back please!


    Will you let us post a wider range of html mark up other than italic, bold and html links? It is particularly annoying that it is very difficult to post tabular information when talking about statistics. Your processing that removes excess spaces
    prevents meaningful posting of table of figures.

    perhaps .... find some way for the posting of images or even videos!

  • Comment number 17.

    @HD1080: The two spaces after a full stop thing is for typewriters, and had to do with the limited impact you had on typesetting. One space has been the done thing since word processors came to town. In fact, Word will mark it as an error if you add 2 spaces!

    That said, I hate it when spaces are swallowed in messages, because they're sometimes used to structure things like tables. They become completely confusing when the spaces are deleted automatically.

  • Comment number 18.

    @Nick, thanks I note you are looking at the links problem.

    Are we able to use quotes this is as the current message board method or does everything within tags disappear the tags for the quote show up in preview

    Bold probably lost, someone else appears to have tried above but I can still see it in preview.

    "can we write them out as italic ? " that does not seem to work either
    ??? although maybe this does I do re-call at one time blogs were accepting unicode or similar characters but that gets longwinded even if it works.

  • Comment number 19.

    Someone asked for a bigger comments box, at least it scrolls the text, and it-with---breaking@hyphens-line-wraps. Although comment and preview not identical. I hope preview is usually accurate.

    Not essential but what about a cancel button. ie
    [Post Comment] [Preview] [Cancel - clear all text]
    Although I can do that with three key-presses anyway.

  • Comment number 20.

    19. At 16:02pm on 18 Nov 2010, John99

    I have always used the syntax listed on
    which is not working for me any more.
    What method are you using?
    In case this is browser dependent I am using Chrome v7.0.517.44

  • Comment number 21.

    Have they removed the bug of missing spaces after a stop? Yet?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi - HD of off topic on this post. So is general chat about what the Internet blog should or shouldn't do. Stick to the topic please.


  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    What happens when you post a link to a video?

    Here is an anthem for all disappointed bloggers. :-)


    will that be accepted.

    and also for links to tables in pdf on another site (my own for example)

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 20. At 18:08pm on 18 Nov 2010, Kit Green

    I think other methods have worked in the past but current method which I have used for a while and continues to work ie to use em tags.

    That is probably not ideal as it may not truly give a bold, and the results may well be browser dependent to some extent. It could possibly for instance show my italics as say bold italic instead of italic, but it is one of the few methods we have.

    It probably only exists because the Beeb allows it for the main Blog Post author to use and neglected to remove it from ordinary comments!

    strong text, looks bold in my FireFox
    So instead of upper-case "B" use lower case "strong"
    Such as:

    {strong}text here is emphasised looks italic in my FF{/strong}

    Just use the lesser greater symbols aka chevrons; and for italics as we do not have that use "em"

    I guess the smaller input box is a feature to encourage shorter comments.

  • Comment number 29.

    LINKS there is a fault anyway at present, which BBC is trying to fix.

    At one time I believe pdf s were specifically banned. I even had one removed even though I was repeating a BBC link that was to a pdf.

    I think since the moderation was revised pdf s are no longer specifically banned.
    For clues look at pages around: https://www.bbc.co.uk/messageboards/faq/house_rules.shtml

  • Comment number 30.

    You're right, John - pdf urls were banned until about a week ago - the previous version of the editorial guidelines on unsuitable urls contained the rule "Websites that initiate a file download or require additional software in order to view them."

    That rule no longer seems to be present.


  • Comment number 31.

    @Nick #13 & #15
    although you said things are being looked into they are worse than I thought

    Links Structure Change
    Did you notice the old links to blog comments do not work at all, they just default to the blogpost itself.
    As an example if I want to link to a particular comment and use the old link:
    {... /bbc_launches_enhanced_search.html#P90986069
    it will not go to the intended BBC comment#14 or #19 of that blog

    The new link would be (#14)
    { ... bbc_launches_enhanced_search.html?postId=90964132#comment_90964132

    That is just one example, it will mean at present any bookmarked links or direct links to older comments will no longer work.
    Is this by any chance the work of the same team that is improving the messageboards, because thy have contrary to BBC re-assurances broken a raft of users links that used to work, using a recommended short link. (For more on that and an example see https://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbarchers/NF2693944?thread=7059736&skip=220#p103239835 NOTE that the failure mentioned will be general across the Archers board, NOT being restricted just to 'script users' but to any of the experienced users employing the short links - as recommended I believe in old Archers faq s )

  • Comment number 32.

    It appears in some circumstances the line wrap does not work correctly. I preveously tried to post this comment immediatly after an example where this problem had occured and the link had exceeded the ordinary border of the comment

    So that still does not work.
    The inline link works in preview but is stripped out of the post.
    The raw link displays as linewrapped plain text in preview, but becomes a link in the final post, but then even after linewrapping exceeds the width of the page. It looks very untidy.

    To understand what happened look at the comment: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/11/a-z_programme_list_back_in_bbc.html?postId=103259925
    A link I had included is exceeding the ordinary width, had I put it higher in that post it would have overlapped and obscured part of the *BBC Blogs & Boards* box

  • Comment number 33.

    The post I just made does similar to a minor extent, the last few digits of the link exceed the fancy yellow box.
    The result could be browser dependent, I am using FireFox on an XP. I tried in the default safemode same result.
    On an IE setup the offending line above in comment#32 wraps an extra time and does not exceed the width, although then in my IE #31 has a line of text exceeding the border.

    why not be consistent & truncate long links
    you do that already on messageboards

  • Comment number 34.

    The normalising of spaces (i.e. the reduction of multiple spaces to one) is generally a feature of how browsers display space in HTML documents. So you can add multiple spaces all you like, but the browser will swallow them *unless* the dev team put in code to preserve all spaces in messages (e.g. using something like an xml preserve-space instruction).

  • Comment number 35.

    Is it working now, I was getting a new message in a pink box earlier saying
    "We're having some problems posting your comment at the moment. Sorry. We're doing our best to fix it."

  • Comment number 36.

    It looks like the temporary problem this morning was fixed.

    & THANKS Nick, the problems with
    - links to older blog comments, using a different format
    - links using anchor text now also work ok again

  • Comment number 37.


    I'm wondering why #35 looks pink to me.

    Nice to lose the indent in the first line.

    And whilst I'm here I'd like to say that 'you' causes a lot of confusion and I really don't see the point of it.

  • Comment number 38.

    OK. #35 is no longer pink. It's my comment that's pink now. Will it always look pink to me? Perhaps this post will answer that question.

    OK, have now discovered the 300 seconds rule (is that supposed to make it sound less of a wait than 5 minutes?).

    Five minutes??

    'Five' should be in bold but the preview isn't showing that.

  • Comment number 39.

    I spoke too soon ! (I said thanks in comment #36 above)
    the links working with anchor text have disappeared again,
    even though they will show in preview they now disappear in the final post,
    as when I tried a few minutes ago here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/10/changes_to_bbc_message_boards_1.html?postId=103475920

    And as I can see from this current thread and others where previous comments have changed.

  • Comment number 40.

    The BBC has now broken the links on a users profile to the blog comments.

    The links are of the form :
    { ie they end merely ".html#P"

    Such links clearly do not go to the actual post because a link of this new form is needed, the link ABOVE merely defaults to somewhere on the correct blogpost!

    This type of link will work
    { ie ends in a string including duplicated number - ... .html?postId=103203658#comment_103203658

  • Comment number 41.

    John99 - the technical team team tell me they hope this will be fixed via a release on Monday. Apologies for the inconvenience.

  • Comment number 42.

    It is not possible anymore to post a link with a name (as in a href="https://etc).
    Has this feature been removed for good or is it temporary?

  • Comment number 43.

    Nick, thanks for the reply.
    I am sometimes unsure what the BBC is aware of and what they are unaware of.
    No doubt next week we will find out what does and does not continue to work on the Blogs after the next fix.

    Speaking about fixes any updates on the messageboards, the Archers BBC Host is talking about some new Release. https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/10/changes_to_bbc_message_boards_1.html?postId=103475920 (#276 AND #278)

    Shrinking Preview
    It has already been mentioned the preview window in which we type our blog comments has shrunk.
    Somehow a few seconds ago I had a preview field only 2 and a half lines high, so maybe there is yet another bug causing problems. (It is currently 9 lines high and will scroll).

  • Comment number 44.

    Kit Green #42
    It is not possible anymore to post a link with a name (as in a href="https://etc).
    Has this feature been removed for good or is it temporary?

    I am guessing this is another bug in, otherwise almost un-untested, BBC software that we are being guinea pigs for.

    I have recently attempted to post such links.
    - the links showed up and worked in my preview, but
    - disappeared when the actual comment to the blogpost was displayed.
    - HOWEVER and this is what leads we to think they may well be a bug rather than an intentional change; those evaporated links can still be seen, and used, from my profile page.

    Have a look in my profile, at the message 276 & 278 that I am mentioning above. Compare what you see in the profile with what you see on the blogpost page itself.
    You may obtain my profile page by clicking on my name 'John99' above or by going directly to https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/profile.shtml?userid=13871221

  • Comment number 45.

    Another bug
    Links within a profile page show as plain text instead of links.
    (Unless of the a href= type, then they show in the profile but not in the comment ! )

    I note we now have a 5 minute wait before posting again, but at least there is a countdown timer, and it does not prevent inputting the post and waiting.
    I now have I think a 6 line high preview box, does the counter shrink the box ?

  • Comment number 46.

    Since these comments changes came in I have found that I am 'unable' to post comments on blogs unless I stop the page from loading completely. If I allow it load completely, the comment box becomes tiny, and the post/preview buttons vanish. I've managed to get the 'post' button to show up now, but the preview has gone.

    Has anyone else noticed this? I thought it might be a problem with on phone browser but the same thing happened when using IE elsewhere.

    What is it recently with improvements actually making things worse recently?

  • Comment number 47.

    sparrows - can you give me more details. I am on IE but this is not a problem for me.


  • Comment number 48.

    Sparrows, not sure what you are seeing, and may well vary between use on a computer and on a phone.
    As I use the input box underneath 'Post a comment'
    - I allow the page to load fully and display
    - initially I have a box with a comment in it but no buttons under it
    - once I start typing within the box it expands to be higher, currently it starts as 5 line high.
    - the preview & post comment buttons appear
    - as text is added scroll bars appear.

    As I mentioned above this for some reason does not always work
    - on one occasion the box was initially only one and a half lines high making input rather tedious, because it stayed that height with a minute scroll bar.
    - sometimes I have had to reload the page to get the input box to appear

    I am not at present able to recreate such affects, at will, but something is apparently going wrong.

    I am using XPpro OS with FireFox, I will also try IE, if that produces any strange reproducible results I will post with more info. Possibly like problems with the messageboard exactly where you come from when entering the blog page may alter what happens, as may whether or not the timer has been activated, only guessing though.

  • Comment number 49.

    Have you tried with javascript disabled and enabled, does that make any difference ?
    May just give you a workaround allowing you to post again for now.

    I note comments may be made with javascript disabled.

    That then starts with a large text input box AND with a button but only the one 'Post Comment' not the two buttons, and without the initial BBC comment within the input box.
    Is it possibly then reverting to the old style of input ?
    It gives me no option to preview if I have javascript disabled.

    I am not sure I have seen any advice that javascript must be enabled in order to use and comment on blogs, but apparently that does change what happens as you use the blog.
    It seems whether javascript is enabled in your browser will affect what happens.
    (And possibly exactly to what extent javascript is enabled may change what is seen)

    I did observe elsewhere BBC blog pages are apparently not W3C compliant https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/11/building_a_connected_britain_-.html?postId=103262333
    that can not be a good omen, although I do not know whether it has any bearing on the page misbehaving.

  • Comment number 50.

    More Bugs
    Sign in bug & overlapping of header menus

    Getting the top of the blogg messed up I cleared the browser cache, still a problem, I closed the pages cleared again, and inspected cache to confirn it was truely empty.

    __ Sign in Bug __
    With cache cleared I have a none corupted display but it will not allow me to sign in from the blog itself, I had to go elsewhere (another mb)
    Otherwise although the top displayed ok sign in gave a https error page "Whoops"
    ( actual title within title tags " {title}BBC - Whoops !{/title} page ... s://id.bbc.co.uk/users/signin?target_resource=http%3A%2F%2Fidentity%2Fpolicies%2Fdna%2Fadult )

    Stuck with an impossible to comply situation
    "No destination page set

    You have arrived at BBC iD but the page you came from didn't tell us where to send you back to. That information is needed to continue. Please use your browser's Back button to return to the previous page."

    I can not use the browsers back button, I have just completely cleared the browser cache.

    __ Overlapping of header menus__
    Now that I am signed in again the header of the blog is messed up.
    Menu items are obscured, but on mousover the browser status bar will pick up the items, 'news' 'sport' etc not something I would try, but I am aware they should be
    Meanwhile 'settings' & 'sign out' have dropped down and are overlapping the blue title.

    It could of course be a problem with my browser, but I am not checking any further tonight.

  • Comment number 51.

    #50 Overlapping Headers - my fault !?

    Probably because I had left javascript disabled.
    I do not however see any BBC instruction that javascript is required to be enabled.
    But in FF safe mode I can recreate the overlapping headers problem by enabling or disabling javascript.

  • Comment number 52.

    _ CENSORSHIP _ Limit on size of Comments.

    Without warning on another blog post I was told my comment could not be previewed because of an error.
    Once I attempted to post I was told it was too long by a number of characters.

    It would appear that we are now restricted to 300 characters, and that includes any links. Another BBC improvement !

    This is a maximum length message

  • Comment number 53.

    John99 - I've raised this with the DNA team. There shouldn't be a restriction on length of comments on this blog so this may be a glitch.


  • Comment number 54.

    John99 - the length of comments should be back to what it was previously. Thanks.

  • Comment number 55.

    Thanks for a speedy response.

    A glitch ?
    although the specific pink error message seems like a bad omen that you are at least trialling restricting users comment length.

    What about the other points I mentioned, like
    - the links appearing in my profile but not in my actual comments for instance.
    - the blogs and mesageboards expecting a js enabled browser but not warning of this fact

  • Comment number 56.

    a href=

    does not work in new style comments. Is this how it will remain.


    The line above had a link tag when I sent it. If this does not work (it does not in preview) then how is John99 doing it?

    Is there a new list of allowed tags for these comments pages published anywhere?

  • Comment number 57.

    No idea what the BBC intends, they do not tend to tell us much.
    Links to old blog comments do seem to work again.

    Links from profiles to coments do not work
    But if you try the profile in some older boards they do still work, and in those boards pre-existing a href= links display and work.
    a href= links also display and work in preview, maybe thy are back again.

  • Comment number 58.

    @Kit Green,

    a href= Links
    such links display and work in preview and even within the profile but not in the comment itself.

    Again check my profile comment# 57 above contains a link that you will be able to see and use.

  • Comment number 59.

    58. At 00:24am on 02 Dec 2010, John99

    a href= Links do not work in my preview. There is a hyperlink on the line below this but it appears as a blank line and then prevents my next line of text below it from being shown too. If you can see them then it must be browser dependent.

    There is a hyperlink on the line above but it is blank in my preview.

  • Comment number 60.

    Well it has shown the name of the link!

  • Comment number 61.

    Kit Green and John99 - at the moment the use of a href= etc to link is not being allowed. The tech team tell me this is prevent users putting malicious code in comments. I'll be continuing to talk to them about this but in the meantime just putting a link in as in comment 56 seems to work.


  • Comment number 62.

    Hi - the tech team tell me that the list of styling tags currently allowed in comments includes: "blockquote", "br", "em", "li", "p", "pre", "q", "strong", "ul", "b".

    However any attributes are stripped out, so will become again so users don’t mess with the overall style of the page.

  • Comment number 63.

    I do not see how "em", "strong", "ul" or "b" can be objected to as these are pretty standard text styles that do not adversely effect the look of a page.

    Even if a comment was intended to be all shouty and was entirely in bold it would be making a point. Other users would soon put the comment in its place!

    Please treat us as adults.

  • Comment number 64.

    It seems I spoke too soon. These tags will be supported after a technical release next week.


  • Comment number 65.

    @ Nick

    I guess we will have to wait to see what happens.
    It would be nice to be given advance warning of changes a bit more often.

    Especially changes that have been planned and thought about in advance and when implemented destroy links we have already added to comments.
    If you had advised users in advance at least we could have stopped using such links.

    Surely another step backwards, the links of a href= type look a lot neater than the full length links. At least on the messageboards the full length links are truncated, recently on these blog comments the full length links were tending to overlap other areas.

    I note you have not commented Nick on restricting the length of users comments other than to say it was a glitch.
    When is the glitch going to be introduced as an improvement, and are you going to then keep comments down to a tweet length ?

  • Comment number 66.

    John99 - I appreciate your frustration about not being able to do href= type linking and agree with you that it was a neat way of doing this.

    Just to reassure you I have no intention of introducing restrictions on the length of comments on this blog.


  • Comment number 67.

    Just testing the new 'look', hmm, has the "Preview" button been neutered as it doesn't seem to be doing anything?! But once again the BBC seems to be fixing something that wasn't broken, I'm with others who worry that these 'improvements' are actually the back-door to changes that actually are intended to restrict user interaction with the BBC via these blogs and message boards.

    "66. At 21:00pm on 02 Dec 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    [..//..]Just to reassure you I have no intention of introducing restrictions on the length of comments on this blog.[..//..]"

    But does the BBC, that is the question which was asked Nick...

  • Comment number 68.

    64. At 17:15pm on 02 Dec 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    It seems I spoke too soon. These tags will be supported after a technical release next week.

    I hope so as not being able to use mark-up makes many comments just a garbled mess!

    For example, without some way of indicating a citation or quotation what prevents the comment appearing to be part of a citation of quotation...

  • Comment number 69.

    I take it that the comments outage last night (where moderation was taking more than four hours) was due to a problem with the latest comments upgrade. It is difficult to keep a discussion going with that sort of delay!
    I presume the moderators lost the ability to clear comments. This was the case on both old and new style blogs.

  • Comment number 70.

    Kit Green - the outage last night was not connected to the comments upgrade. It was a pan BBC problem effecting all blogs and message boards. However, it has now been fixed.

    Apologies for the inconvenience.

  • Comment number 71.

    Right now it is mangling posts I make in NR's Open post. I guess you have problems again.

  • Comment number 72.

    It is corrupting posts I attempt to make, I see them, sometimes with an error message as I attempt to post, they appear to be accepted and post, then they disappear.

    I was trying to ask about problems with message bards,seems you also have problems with the blog comments.


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