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Tracking Updates and Activity, Or: How You Know THP Isn't Dead

Early in its fifteen year history, THP was a simple site and often a confusing one for the uninitiated. Everything happened chaotically, across a slew of boards, all seemingly disconnected from each other, with no real way of knowing what was going on on-site without simply scrolling through all the boards constantly, an exercise that could be pretty draining at times.

Thankfully, we have Teruyo at the helm to keep improving the site over time, and he realised the useability issues people had as far as keeping up with activity on THP. Nowadays, there are several ways to stay abreast of any movement on the site, though some seem to be quite a bit lesser known than others. Part of why I wanted to write this post was to inform others who might not have noticed these features of the site and maybe get a few more eyes on them. If I've told you something you didn't already know, I guess I've done my job.

Thread Watcher

Very easily overlooked by people who don't bother to check the site settings, the thread watcher is a reasonably fine way of tracking activity on the site if you're spending a lot of time on the site itself. The little floaty box stays with you as you scroll, mostly keeping out of your way, and occasionally updating to show that posts have been made in threads you're interested in. If a post has been marked as an update, it'll even show up in red to alert you. Nifty, huh?

Of course, it's not automagical, which is probably the biggest downside of it. For starters, you have enable it in the site settings to even see it; look in the upper-right of any page besides the front page and you'll see a link for 'Settings'. Look for the appropriate options, enable them, and click to save your settings and you should see a floating box. Since you have to manually add threads, it won't be populated at first. Fix that by going to whichever board has a thread of interest, clicking the little downward arrow looking symbol next to the '[Reply]' button and clicking 'Watch thread'. The thread should then be added to the list, and you can monitor it whilst browsing THP. If you ever want to remove it, just click the X next to it on the list.

If the thread watcher box ever gets annoying, you can also dismiss it entirely by clicking the X on the box itself. You can also drag it around and resize it however you want.

The Front Page

For a long time, there was a mysterious box on the front page simply known as the Mystery Box. What was it for? What did it mean? Speculation ran wild for a time, some dismissing it as a joke on Teruyo's part. However, it turned out that it was no joke at all, for Teruyo eventually revealed something quite nifty and useful: the Recent Updates tracker.

The tracker already had its counterpart in the Recently Bumped list. As you can imagine, the latter showed every single thread bumped, regardless of whether or not updates were posted. This could at times lead to friction when someone posted in a long-untouched thread, leading people to believe that there had been an update after a long time; some people perhaps even did this on purpose as low-effort trolling. Because of this ease of confusion, it was necessary to have some distinction between what was simply bumped and what was actual meaningful activity to users. I could go into the changes needed to implement it, but this is more of a user's guide, so I'll spare you that in this case.

What you need to know as far as keeping track of site activity is that the front page shows it all, both simple thread activity and story updates. The Recently Bumped list obviously shows the former, and the Recently Updated list shows the latter. If you refresh the front page, you'll see any new activity reflected in these boxes. In the case of the Recent Updates box, if you click on the listed stories, you'll be taken to the latest post marked as an update; this behaviour does not apply to the Recently Bumped list, which only takes you to the relevant thread.

Of course, there are slight downsides to either list. With the Recently Bumped list, you see all activity on the site, regardless of whether or not there's been an update. With the Recent Updates list, there have been known to be small glitches where some stories have failed to show up as updated. In addition, as with all other things discussed in this post, you're banking on the writer having properly done everything to ensure that they can mark their posts as updates. If they haven't done so, they'll never show up as such on the front page or anywhere else.


Why Keine? Well, because she keeps track of history, of course!

More seriously, if you've not been around the outer communities of THP much, you might not know that we have a 'bot' — it's actually a webhook, but let's set that aside for the sake of simplicity — that announces every new update. There's a channel set aside specifically for update announcements where you can see her shout out every fresh new update, often accompanied by funny comments and reminders.

The biggest advantage is also arguably a disadvantage depending on how you want to look at it: you have to be around the outer communities in order to catch Keine's announcements. If you're already around anyway, you get that as a perk, basically. If you're not and aren't too interested in anything else going on, you're sort of forced to hang around anyway. Whilst I don't necessarily promote the outer communities for their own sake, I would say that there's some value in having Keine there to deliver the updates, especially if you set your notifications correctly. Since Keine is the only 'user' able to post in that channel, you can safely set your client, whether Discord or Element/other Matrix client, to ping you when there's activity in the channel.

RSS Feeds

This is my all-time favourite way of keeping up with THP stuff and is still largely how I monitor the site today.

For those who may not have been around or paying much attention at the time, RSS used to be the way to get notifications about activity on sites for a long time. It was the foundation of a lot of things like Slashdot (pre-Leddit days!) and largely driven by people wanting personal 'news feeds'. A billion versions ago, Firefox had an RSS reader built in standard for tracking feeds; I believe it's still in Thunderbird, but don't quote me, since I don't use it. Today, lots of folks still use it on the indie side of the web, and it's technically the basis for podcasting, though I believe many podcasts actually use Atom, which is kinda-sorta RSS but not. In any case, THP has RSS feeds because they're great and work well.

So, what do you have to do if you want to use them? First thing's first, you need some client (called a 'feed reader') to fetch your feed(s). As mentioned before, Thunderbird has that functionality baked in if you happen to use that already. Other than that, I'd be a little hard-pressed to make recommendations. I'm on Linux and use a nifty TUI reader called newsboat, but that's probably not up everyone's alley. Do a little research and find one that meets your needs. Once you've got yourself a feed reader, add the correct URL ending in 'xml' to your feeds. Depending on how your reader works, it'll probably automatically fetch the feed as soon as you add it.

What you actually get out of the feed depends on which feed you use. If it's the Latest Updates feed, you'll get a list of stories that have had posts marked as updates recently. If it's the Latest Posts feed, you simply get every post that's been made over a certain period of time in reverse chronological order. The great thing about either feed is that the entire contents of the post come through the feed. That's right; you can actually read the posts that come down the feed in full through your feed reader, no need to even open your browser and go to the site.

A slight word on how often you fetch the feed: If you're using something like Thunderbird, chances are good that your client automatically refreshes the RSS feeds periodically, something that can be configured. For the sake of not hammering THP's resources and potentially getting rate-limited, please try to set some reasonable interval greater than every minute. Every five or ten minutes should be good enough, though I would honestly say every half-hour to an hour would be better. There's not nearly enough activity to warrant pulling the feeds super-often.

As to the feeds themselves, below are the URIs to use. Append them to the end of "".

Latest posts: posts.xml
Latest updates: updates.xml

I hope this little post has informed you of something new. Please use what you've learned to stay connected to THP and continue to be a part of the community. It'll certainly go a long way to ensuring another fifteen years of THP.