Every forum has the TL;DR problem of regularly generating topics that have 100, 200, 500, or even a thousand posts. What I’d like to know is, who the heck is reading all 500+ posts in a giant topic?
Unfortunately, I think the answer is often “almost nobody”.
With Discourse we designed in “best of” mode for topics specifically to address this, to give visitors a handy reader’s digest condensed version of long topics by algorithmically picking the “best” posts in a topic and hiding / collapsing the other posts.
But it was not really complete. We went back and made a major pass on this to improve it. You’ll notice at the top of long topics (we define long as more than 50 posts) an invitation to summarize the topic:
There are 180 replies with an estimated read time of 54 minutes. Save reading time by displaying only the most relevant replies?
Summarize This Topic
renamed it from “best of” to “topic summary” to better reflect what it does.
shows estimated reading time of the topic based on word count so you know how much time you might be saving; the post count doesn’t always tell the full story. Does the topic consist of one line posts, or giant thousand word essays?
show the number of omitted posts as clickable bars directly in-line between the posts, rather than as a hard to see bar way down at the bottom of the page. You can also expand the omitted posts on demand so you never need to feel like you are missing out on anything by summarizing a topic.
the in-line omitted post counts are better “you are in a summary mode for this topic” reminder, which we also use when filtering by user (click a user portrait in the left gutter to fillter by user.)
Please take a look at it and tell us what you think of the new, improved topic summary mode.
Just look for topics that have more than 50 posts (remember, you can sort the topic list columns now by clicking on the column) and enter at the top of the topic, not the bottom, by clicking the first post date in the topic list.
We want Discourse to turn a world of endless TL;DR forums into … places you can can actually dip your toes in and read without quitting your job to become a full-time forum addict!
Here’s an example topic from BBS linked in summary mode, try this one out and see what you think:
Notice how many posts you’re reading in the summary, versus how many are in the total topic, and which ones get omitted.
I hate to think that we’re generating 100+ reply topics that ultimately will be read by almost nobody. I hope Discourse can make those topics readable for future visitors with an easily accessible (and one day … maybe even automatic for older topics) summary mode. Comments?