You know that exhibit that you'd see at the children's science museum? It's a roundish podium thing and you'd press a button. This would start a clock. You were supposed to estimate when a minute passes and then press the button again. The podium would light up to show a clock face and let you know how far off you were.

Me, I'd always be at 20 seconds.

It made me sad.

Playing this game with my comments also makes me sad.

Can you turn the lights on in the podium so we can see how long until that 30 seconds has elapsed?

  • You never had a stopwatch with you then? – random Jan 13 '10 at 14:06
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    Nobody likes a cheater, random. – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 14:13
  • You can have a stopwatch in your head also. – random Jan 13 '10 at 14:36
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    @random - wouldn't that hurt? – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 14:43
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    Yes! Like google.fade (see source of google homepage) – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 14:58
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    The same new bug also exists with the "You may only submit a comment vote every 5 seconds" limitation. – Ether Jan 13 '10 at 22:00
  • Yes, but waiting 5 seconds is a lot easier. – mmyers Jan 13 '10 at 22:22
  • I used to wish for something like that when I had to do the old 'select the old comment text, copy, delete the comment, add a new comment, paste and edit the previous comment text' trick to edit my comments; but I notice that they're actually letting us edit our comments directly now, so I don't really have much need of a countdown anymore. Especially with a top limit of 600 characters, which means that the need to continue a comment into another one (thus running into the 30 second rule) is also very few and far between. – RobH Jan 14 '10 at 3:22


There would need to be some kind of indication that the button will re-enabled in 30 seconds (it doesn't necessarily have to be a countdown). Otherwise, it would be unclear why the button is sometimes available and sometimes not.

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    Wow! Such an easy solution! Why didn't anyone think of that? – user1228 Jan 13 '10 at 14:40
  • Because it would be noise to normal people who don't write more than a comment per 30 seconds? And they are for sure a majority. – Gnoupi Jan 13 '10 at 14:50
  • @Gnoupi: How is it noise? It would be like Google's homepage where the links fade in. – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 14:56
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    It is noise because most people don't care about being able to add a comment in the next 30 seconds. So telling them that they have a limitation on it would be indeed noise, as it is not useful to them, especially in a very simple and clean environment. – Gnoupi Jan 13 '10 at 14:59
  • @Gnoupi: it already tells them there is a limit, so i don't see your argument yet – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 14:59
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    It tells them after clicking, not all the time, which is normal. You click, it tells you you can't do it yet. The point is, as most of users won't want to post a comment in the next 30 seconds, it is useless to add that information to screen. – Gnoupi Jan 13 '10 at 15:02
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    In addition to an active countdown being noise, it's not like the current solution isn't obvious: wait a few seconds and click again. – Gnome Jan 13 '10 at 16:03
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    @Roger: the problem is that you have to guess when 30 seconds is up. I don't like to guess, that's why I have a computer. – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 16:09
  • It's not an active countdown.. it's a visual indicator letting you know you can post a comment by re-enabling the option. There is no 30..29..28.. counter until you reach zero. Jon B's recommendation is sound. – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 16:44
  • Jon: Fair point, so I posted my answer that gives you that without the noise in the common case. – Gnome Jan 13 '10 at 17:05
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    How about a tooltip that showed the seconds remaining until clicking on the button will lead to :) rather than :( ? – Ether Jan 13 '10 at 17:16
  • @Jon B - haven't you ever played MineSweeper in that computer? :) – DVK Apr 1 '10 at 4:15

I used to think that this would be a good thing, but now that you can edit comments my desire for it is gone. The only time I was running into the 30 second timer was when I botched a comment, deleted it, and then tried to repost it.

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    yes, I always viewed this as a request for comment editing, which I totally agreed with. – Jeff Atwood Jan 13 '10 at 17:43
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    I've run into it when commenting on several answers in the same question. Sometimes everybody gets the same thing wrong. – mmyers Jan 13 '10 at 22:23
  • I run into it all the friggen time. It rubs. – user1228 Jan 14 '10 at 14:37

Like described by Jon B, you can't deactivate the button without explaining why, because it wouldn't be obvious to the average user.

However, explaining why a comment button is deactivated for 30 sec really seem like pure noise to me, for most of users who post only one comment.

The 30 sec limitation is an issue mostly for the people on Meta, where things are often turning into discussion, and in general for a minority of persons. Don't forget that most of people come here to just ask their question, or answer to one, and commenting is far from being something they do on a regular basis. At least not in the "I post more than one comment in 30 seconds".

The current behavior is frustrating for people spending time on meta, but it actually is the less annoying to a more "average" user.

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    if you replace normal with average, I would agree with you – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 14:59
  • Had difficulties finding the appropriate word, as English is not my first language. I was hesitating between average and normal. Point is, talking about users who are using the SOFU sites as a service, not as a place to spend their time on. – Gnoupi Jan 13 '10 at 15:00
  • I'm not supposed to be spending my time here? Whoops... – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 15:26
  • @Gnoupi: if it wasnt for people spending time on here, then the rate of quick answers would rapidly diminish. – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 16:43
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    @Roboto: I haven't said that it was a bad thing that people spend their time on these site, I do it myself (and lovin' it). Fact is, we have to remember that we are a minority, and posting comments so often is far from being a normal use case. This limit was particularly annoying to me before we could edit comments, but now, I never hit this limit. I think it's mostly on meta that you ""need"" to comment that fast, but in a regular question/answer/comment scenario, on the other sites, it's rare to have such thing. – Gnoupi Jan 13 '10 at 16:55

This is like the "let's hide the cookie jar" method of going on a diet.

Doesn't address the root problem. Might even make it worse!

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    No, it's a usability issue. "Would you like to add a comment?" "Sure" "Well, too bad, sucker!" – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 14:48
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    Hey Jeff, you need to pick up your copy of Design of Everyday Things (which I am in the process of reading and have maybe 20 more pages to go), and find the part where it explains what feedback is and why it's good. The state of the system needs to be visible to the user of the system so that he can properly evaluate it. The system's model obviously keeps a state internally (i.e. "You can't post yet") but doesn't present the state. In this case, you should have a forcing function (i.e. a greyed-out button with a timer of some kind) to indicate that this action isn't available. Bad Jeff. Bad – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 15:23
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    To use Norman's language from the book: the system image upon which the user builds his mental model isn't presenting the system's actual model. Because of this the user thinks he can execute an action (because the system image is prompting him to do the action), but he can't because the image doesn't reflect the model. The user then updates his model by keeping "I need to wait 30 seconds" in his head. But that kind of data is really hard for a human to track (hence Will's suggestion), and so it should be kept in the world, outside of volatile human short-term memory. – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 15:27
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    I know that you know this. It's the fact that you seem to resist improving your product's usability that I find hard to understand. – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 15:28
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    It is on Meta. – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 15:33
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    Gaspar: You Are Wrong. Showing a countdown timer, or enabling the button dynamically on timer expiration, is an open invitation for people to comment AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Exactly what we want to discourage! We want self-moderation, not a response time videogame interface. – Jeff Atwood Jan 13 '10 at 15:41
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    Jeff: If that's what you want then you're certainly doing it right. It seems to me that having rate limiting in the first place is enough discouragement already and that purposefully forcing users to rely on short-term memory is making things unnecessarily hard. You obviously think excessive commenting is a much bigger problem than I think it is. – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 15:51
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    Very well then. We'll resume mashing on the "add comment" button until it works. Thanks for that. – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 15:52
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    FWIW... when i get the "wait 30 seconds" message, I don't dig out my stopwatch - I, like Jon B, just keep hammering on the button until it stops screaming at me and posts the comment. I don't know why SO wants posting comments to be a twitch game, but at that point I don't particularly care - I just want to post a comment, and grudgingly jump through the hoops provided. – Shog9 Jan 13 '10 at 16:02
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    @Jeff: People are still going to keep mashing the Add Comment button until allowed regardless of whether the idea is to not recreate a videogame interface. For instance, I read fast and I would like to make a comment vote happen in less than 5 secs - why restrict? I can always turn it off if I make a mistake. The community is not self-moderated, it is moderated by Jeff Atwood through software... – Brian Jan 13 '10 at 16:42
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    So we are supposed to need stopwatches? Brilliant, just brilliant - I was really disappointed that I didn't need any auxiliary equipment in order to click buttons on a web page. Time for some Greasemonkey... – Shog9 Jan 13 '10 at 17:13
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    @Jeff - that's really lousy. If I try to post as late as 29 seconds after my last post, you're not just punishing me, you're wasting my time. – user27414 Jan 13 '10 at 17:42
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    It's official: Jeff is trolling SO's userbase. – Welbog Jan 13 '10 at 17:44
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    You shouldn't have geometrically increasing time delays. Time is too precious to waste sitting there wondering if you waited long enough, and then getting penalized when you guessed wrong. – Lance Roberts Jan 13 '10 at 20:47
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    Jeff, because of this I have peeled my SO sticker off my laptop. I am disappoint. Please, consider all of this and rethink. BTW, I really like geometrically increasing delays. Would avoid most of this nonsense without increasing noise. But I'd still add in disabling the comment button with a tooltip explaining why... – user1228 Jan 14 '10 at 14:42

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