Do we need a friendly automatic reminder not to over-reply to someone?

Continuing the discussion from Mozilla CEO resigned:

If you look at the stats on this topic, they are stark.

28 posts in the topic, out of 210, by the same user? Almost 2x as much as the second most active participant. And I bet many of those 28 are replies to the person who posted 18 times.

We already have a gentle reminder when someone posts 20% of all replies in a topic with 50 or more posts. But I think we might need another, more specific reminder.

If you continually reply to the same user in the conversation, over and over, is that emblematic of good discourse? Is that an enjoyable conversation for everyone to read and maybe learn something from?

I propose we add a gentle reminder when people are replying to the same people many, many times in a row.

Basically what Falcor did there – take it easy. Either reply once and say your piece, then take a break, or have a bit more diversity in your replies so the conversation isn’t endless variations of the same two guys talking at each other over and over.

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Is that still going on? I pretty much read their piece a few times and dropped out of that thread. After the first 50 or so comments most conversations just get less interesting.

That said, if they stop replying to each other but just still keep going on we all still suffer and they avoid those reminders, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

Well if gentle reminders stop being effective, then other measures have to be taken.

The value is in automating the reminder so at the exact time the behavior is occurring, we can be helpful with advice about what is going on. I am sure everyone has gone over the line a few times in the heat of the moment. It benefits all discussions on Discourse.

But, yeah, if the heat of the moment goes on forever and in every topic…

I don’t see any point in automating this.

  1. It can be 100% valid in cases where you have a support type topic. Did you do X? Did you do Y?
  2. Its annoying to implement cause you need to look at quoting and direct replies. There are plenty of workarounds
  3. People should be flagging stuff like this
  4. Its rare.
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Do you see any support type topics here? I don’t.

Seems fairly easy to implement to me, as we track direct and indirect replies already.

Maybe people should be flagging this, but they aren’t. I think it’s sloppy to put all the burden on humans and provide no automated help.

Ever seen those road signs that show you your current speed? Same principle:

So sure hire a bunch of cops, write a bunch of speeding tickets… but this can help people too, and is a lot more in tune with the spirit of the community.

20% of the replies is a very large threshold, and one that cowicide would not be even close to in this case (28/210 ~ 13%). Also, while you bet that many of cowicides replies are to albill, it turns out that six of them are. I count three where albill replied to cowicide. that’s nine posts of 210 from 2 posters of 24. 8% of the posters commanding 5% of the posts for a side discussion between themselves doesn’t seem problematic, and it wasn’t even a side discussion as others replied to their posts as well.

On the other hand, you have multiple people who seem to be concerned about those posts, at least one mod-edit to remove an insult, someone being banned from posting, and a mod feeling the need to step in to tell two people to shut it down (although one of those people had already disengaged).

If the discussion took an unhealthy turn, I don’t think the numbers are really able to show that themselves, so I’m not sure how you would design such a gentle reminder to usefully catch conversations that are going off the rails into arguments between two people.

(But as a bad actor in this regard myself I will sincerely try to disengage earlier than I do from such back-and-forths)


Maybe there is some sort of bile/spittle ratio (t) that can be determined via linguistic analysis?

t is for troll-y.

Lots of people have a bad day now and again, I’m not sure an automated thing can stop the escalation once the human ego gets involved.


But you can’t see the deleted posts. I can! Let’s consider replies to the other high volume user – of 34 posts total in the topic by this user, these are the ones that are replies to a specific user:

#13, #14, #15, (#16), (#17), #18, #19, #20, #30, (#32)

Ones in parens are mod-deleted. These are absolute post numbers within the posting history of this particular user, so you have an idea of the intensity here. If there were other replies they would have broken up the sequence.

So I count 10/34 replies directed at one specific user, almost all in direct sequence. A full thirty percent of which had to be deleted.

There’s definitely several “runs” of replies there that I think we should have interjected the automatic speed limit sign warning sign on:

whoa there champ! FOUR replies to the same user in a row?
#13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #30, #32

I mean, shit, we could have interrupted at post SEVEN in sequence to the SAME USER.

That’s bad. Real Bad™

See, I understand how this is something that moderators would know about that most of us would not. I also understand that while most of us can decide that a particular conversation isn’t worth reading or a particular poster isn’t of interest to us, but mods have to read everything.

Ultimately I don’t think a gently worded caution is a bad idea. As a litmus test of “bad things” I see it as one that has a great potential for false positives, but obviously you aren’t talking about permanently banning people from the boards or sending angry letters to their parents, just putting up a message on the screen.

(I’ve now posted 22% of the posts in this thread, all of them responding to a single user! :sunny:)


My objections here is to introducing speed bumps before doing science.

We have the SQL dump for BBS, we should some queries to see how epidemic the problem is and how many false positives “slow down joe” blue warning would have.

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In this case, the science is that I read every post in every BBS topic for about 6 months.

It’s not difficult to see that replying 7 times to the same user in sequence is really terrible for actual conversation.

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A semi-related question: Is there currently some kind of feedback given to users when their posts are deleted? Something to say that they posted something inappropriate or a way to see what they posted and why it was removed?

Not really, no, this was discussed here.

This is fairly rare in the big scheme of things: (not accounting for quoting yet cause we really need to normalize that data so it queryable first, which I 101% support)

5 or more replies, more that 15% total

select concat('',, u.username as offender, u2.username as offensie, count(*), posts_count
from posts p
join topics t on = p.topic_id
join posts p2 on p2.post_number = p.reply_to_post_number
              and = p2.topic_id
join users u on = p.user_id 
join users u2 on = p2.user_id 
where archetype <> 'private_message' 
and category_id in (6,5,7,8,3,9,1,4) 
group by, u.username, u2.username, posts_count
having count(*) > 4 and count(*)::float / posts_count::float > 0.15

order by count(*)::float / posts_count::float  desc;
concat                              offender        offensie        count posts_count 
----------------------------------- --------------- --------------- ----- ----------- nonfer          Rindan          5     12  ActionAbe       Mindysan33      9     22  PrestonSturges  TheBaron        5     13  Mindysan33      ActionAbe       8     22  miasm           Mindysan33      5     14  GilbertWham     angrydroid      6     17   codinghorror    Cowicide        6     19   William_Holz    chenille        7     23  angrydroid      GilbertWham     5     17  bzishi          sargemisfit     5     17  Mindysan33      noahdjango      7     25  noahdjango      Mindysan33      7     25  robulus         urbanistica     5     19   Cowicide        codinghorror    5     19  marilove        samsa           5     20  William_Holz    AliceWeir       10    40   teapot          Cowicide        6     24  Robert_Douglass PatRx2          7     29   PurpleStater    marilove        5     22  Daneyul         SteampunkBanana 7     31   Medievalist     snig            5     23  Cowicide        teapot          5     23  AcerPlatanoides Peacen1k        6     28  Cowicide        bwv812          10    47  AliceWeir       Kimmo           5     24  Kimmo           AliceWeir       5     24  AliceWeir       William_Holz    8     40  Cowicide        Space_Monkey    8     41  bwv812          Cowicide        9     47  Cowicide        teapot          9     47  peregrinus_bis  GilbertWham     8     42  GilbertWham     peregrinus_bis  8     42  rattypilgrim    NickyG          6     32   caryroys        dacree          8     43  bwv812          teapot          5     27  Mindysan33      niczar          5     27  teapot          bwv812          5     27  jandrese        MarjaE          6     33  chenille        bwv812          9     50   William_Holz    Ignatius        5     29  AliceWeir       fireshadow      6     35  Vallindsay2     technogeekagain 6     35  Space_Monkey    Cowicide        7     41  aikimo          milliefink      7     41  fireshadow      codinghorror    10    60   Brainspore      wanderandwonder 6     37  bwv812          hallam          5     31  SteampunkBanana Daneyul         5     31  hallam          bwv812          5     31  aikimo          Hyphen          8     50  timquinn        rattypilgrim    6     38  NickyG          rattypilgrim    5     32  Espresso        Mongrove        7     45  Dave_Baxter     bwv812          8     52   HannesAlfven    rknop           9     59  Glitch          teapot          10    66  MarjaE          jandrese        5     33          

(57 row(s) affected)

If you continually reply to the same user in the conversation, over and over, is that emblematic of good discourse? Is that an enjoyable conversation for everyone to read and maybe learn something from?

Maybe change the name of the bbs system from Discourse to Limited Statements? :wink:

But, seriously, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to remind people that after a while it’s a good idea to take the conversation into a new thread or personal messages when it turns into a tit-for-tat that no one else frankly cares about.

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[quote=“codinghorror, post:1, topic:27890”]
If you continually reply to the same user in the conversation, over and over, is that emblematic of good discourse?[/quote]

It can be, it depends on the conversation. Certainly sometimes things have degraded, but there have been other times when I think the discourse has been productive. There is no hard and fast rule.

No one is enjoying conversations on the internet. It is the hell you slog through because someone, somewhere is WRONG and They. Must. Be. Corrected.

I wonder if there is (or could be) a way for a user to more easily combine multiple responses into a single response. After the fact.

i.e. when the reminder comes up to consider consolidating your multiple replies within one conversation into one response, offer a button to do so, so if the user feels it wouldn’t detract from the conversation, automate it.

As there are times to keep threads apart, maybe this could be a semi-automated compromise?


Has been discussed a few times but has some edge cases – what if the 3 replies are directed at 3 different people? We’d have to insert either a @username or a quote of some kind, which may not exist in the 3 original replies…

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