I don't use web forums, the kind you have to read online, because they don't scale. If you're only interested in one subject, then they work fine: you can keep a browser tab for your one or two web forums perenially open and hit reload every few hours to see what's new. If you're interested in twelve subjects, each of which has several different web forums devoted to it -- how could you possibly keep up with that? So I don't bother with forums unless they offer an email gateway, so they'll notify me by email when new discussions get started, without my needing to check all those web pages several times per day.
LinkedIn discussions mostly work like a web forum. But for a while, they had a reasonably usable email gateway. You could set a preference to be notified of each new conversation. You still had to click on the web link to read the conversation so far, but if you posted something, you'd get the rest of the discussion emailed to you as each message was posted. Not quite as good as a regular mailing list, but it worked pretty well. I used it for several years to keep up with the very active Toastmasters group discussions.
About a year ago, something broke in their software, and they lost the ability to send email for new conversations. I filed a trouble ticket, and got a note saying they were aware of the problem and working on it. I followed up three months later (by filing another ticket -- there's no way to add to an existing one) and got a response saying be patient, they were still working on it. 11 months later, I'm still being patient, but it's pretty clear they have no intention of ever fixing the problem.
Just recently I fiddled with something in my LinkedIn prefs, and started getting "Popular Discussions" emails every day or so. The featured "popular discussion" is always something stupid that I have no interest in, but it's followed by a section headed "Other Popular Discussions" that at least gives me some idea what's been posted in the last few days. Seemed like it might be worth clicking on the links even though it means I'd always be a few days late responding to any conversations.
Except -- none of the links work. They all go to a generic page with a red header saying "Sorry it seems there was a problem with the link you followed."
I'm reading the plaintext version of the mail they send out. I tried viewing the HTML part of the mail in a browser, and sure enough, those links worked. So I tried comparing the text links with the HTML:
Text version: http://www.linkedin.com/e/v2?e=3x1l-hzwzd1q8-6f&t=gde&midToken=AQEqep2nxSZJIg&ek=b2_anet_digest&li=82&m=group_discussions&ts=textdisc-6&itemID=5914453683503906819&itemType=member&anetID=98449 HTML version: http://www.linkedin.com/e/v2?e=3x1l-hzwzd1q8-6f&t=gde&midToken=AQEqep2nxSZJIg&ek=b2_anet_digest&li=17&m=group_discussions&ts=grouppost-disc-6&itemID=5914453683503906819&itemType=member&anetID=98449
Well, that's clear as mud, isn't it?
HTML entity substitution
I pasted both links one on top of each other, to make it easier to compare them one at a time. That made it fairly easy to find the first difference:
Text version: http://www.linkedin.com/e/v2?e=3x1l-hzwzd1q8-6f&t=gde&midToken= ... HTML version: http://www.linkedin.com/e/v2?e=3x1l-hzwzd1q8-6f&t=gde&midToken= ...
Time to die laughing: they're doing HTML entity substitution on the plaintext part of their email notifications, changing & to & everywhere in the link.
If you take the link from the text email and replace & with &, the link works, and takes you to the specific discussion.
Except you can't actually read the discussion. I went to a discussion that had been open for 2 days and had 35 responses, and LinkedIn only showed four of them. I don't even know which four they are -- are they the first four, the last four, or some Facebook-style "four responses we thought you'd like". There's a button to click on to show the most recent entries, but then I only see a few of the most recent responses, still not the whole thread.
Hooray for the web -- of course, plenty of other people have had this problem too, and a little web searching unveiled a solution. Add a pagination token to the end of the URL that tells LinkedIn to show 1000 messages at once.
&count=1000&paginationToken=It won't actually show 1000 (or all) responses -- but if you start at the beginning of the page and scroll down reading responses one by one, it will auto-load new batches. Yes, infinite scrolling pages can be annoying, but at least it's a way to read a LinkedIn conversation in order.
Making it automatic
Okay, now I know how to edit one of their URLs to make it work. Do I want to do that by hand any time I want to view a discussion? Noooo!
Time for a script! Since I'll be selecting the URLs from mutt, they'll be in the X PRIMARY clipboard. And unfortunately, mutt adds newlines so I might as well strip those as well as fixing the LinkedIn problems. (Firefox will strip newlines for me when I paste in a multi-line URL, but why rely on that?)
Here's the important part of the script:
import subprocess, gtk primary = gtk.clipboard_get(gtk.gdk.SELECTION_PRIMARY) if not primary.wait_is_text_available() : sys.exit(0) link = primary.wait_for_text() link = link.replace("\n", "").replace("&", "&") + \ "&count=1000&paginationToken=" subprocess.call(["firefox", "-new-tab", link])
Now I can finally go back to participating in those discussions.
[ 13:10 Sep 11, 2014 More tech/web | permalink to this entry | ]