See this topic:
I think I see the problem.
Sorry I didn’t mean to be rude, I didn’t realize you were the author of the new commenting system.
Its pretty amazing in a lot of ways, but the absence of threading makes it really really hard to digest the conversation. Have you considered an option to show replies inline? Could be a button at the top or something? I know we can currently click the “reply” button below a comment, but a) that’s a lot of extra work when you’re reading a busy topic, and b) you still see those replies farther down, which totally throws off the narrative (and the beauty of BoingBoing comments is that you really do get a narrative).
Personally I don’t think you’re right about having fewer comments because of the Disqus logins being persistent across multiple websites. For my part I think the login system was the clunkiest part of Disqus, it would always log me out and would have trouble logging me back in.
And while I have your ear, its really confusing to see commenting history now. When you click a user it shows not only their comments but all the replies, which is completely unnecessary in my opinion and makes it impossible to follow. If we want to see replies we can always go to their comment by clicking on it.
And one more point: when I’ve expanded the replies, I can’t then reply to those, or “like” them. That makes participation really difficult.
I mean all the above constructively of course. This system is a super human feat and works beautifully, it just has a few very fixable usability issues.
How is it any more work than manually collapsing all the noisy threaded conversations you don’t care about? There is a narrative: chronological.
Discourse is a primarily flat system with some mildly threaded hybridization. That hybridization is subject to improvement, of course, but nobody should be operating under the delusion that Discourse will one day become a Fully Threaded System.
Well, I beg to differ. I find a simple chronological narrative much easier to follow than a thousand-headed conversational hydra where responses can come at any place or time, and the software evidence of surviving social software says the world does too. That’s why.
Simply click “posts” in the left hand column. Here’s a list of all your posts for example.
Thanks for moving the comment, probably a better home for it!
I don’t dislike Discourse in principle - I just don’t think it’s neccessarily appropriate for BoingBoing. It’s certainly an interesting replacement for a forum, which might be a nice addition; but certainly not an appropriate replacement, IMO.
Something like Reddit (which I believe is a comparable example to what this system is trying to achieve) has a journey that plays out like so:
Homepage > Post (with comments) > Source
But BB’s journey is now:
Homepage > Post > Comments
Homepage > Post > Source
It’s clunky and doesn’t really achieve the same thing. It’s certainly not a user journey that anyone would design intentionally. It’s very disjointed. Also getting back to the actual BB site is a pain; if you’re 100 posts in on a discourse thread you have to scroll all the way to the top (waiting for each set of previous comments to load in), chasing the second menu-bar, so you can hit the BB logo. It shouldn’t really be quicker to just type in the URL, but it is. This IMO is the biggest impact on BB as a business, as it doesn’t encourage the user to explore more content; it just dumps them into a forum.
The platform itself is pretty slick, the features, how stuff works etc. It’s very nicely put together, but in my humble opinion it’s not right for BB. As I noted in my OP you just end up either wanting the comments on the article, or the article in the comments. Which just brings us back to what existed before.
Discourse in-line on the article would be fine. Although the threading issue doesn’t change - it’s like all the bad stuff about forums, combined with the bad stuff with comments. I can’t help but feel that you’ve been defending something for a while now @codinghorror, and there comes a point where you have to wonder if it’s something that may work for you, but doesn’t work for others. I honestly can’t imagine any user getting any benefit from a combination of threaded comments and chronological comments - as it just confuses everything - it should really be one or the other. Have you guys done any UAT on the system? Maybe it would shut us all up from complaining if there was actually something qualitative to back up the system, rather than just 1 persons opinion.
I also think it’s pretty crazy to not have mobile support on day 1; I don’t have access to your metrics, so maybe it was a business decision, but a mobile-first approach would have catered for everyone and minimised any extra workload.
tldr; it’s not the end of days, I’m still commenting (hello!), but it feels like a step in the wrong direction.
Curious, did you write the above post on a mobile device? Then perhaps you have answered the implied question about order of priorities.
Some people prefer chocolate. Others vanilla. It is possible to combine both.
As far as threading goes, if you want to have conversations with me about that, I strongly suggest you read this article closely. There will be a quiz later.
Maybe that’s the issue. You find it easier, but no one else does.
Threads give context. Discourse has threads, it also just repeats the content in a flat system. It becomes disjointed and confusing and means I stop reading about half way down a comment thread as the assumption is that I’ve likely seen all the comments in reply threads. So content gets missed, it doesn’t make sense and I’m constantly going back and forth trying to work out what belongs to what conversation. It’s confusing.
In this context I’m just a user, not a web professional. I’m sure that there’s a theory behind it, but as a user, it doesn’t make sense.
As I say, have you got any UAT for this stuff? Or is this the testbed?
[Edit: I will read through your article, as I am interested, but as I’m sure you appreciate I shouldn’t need to read an article to understand or appreciate the system]
Opinions vary. No system can satisfy every single person.
You’re apparently a hard-core threading guy, so please read this article, but also understand that you are a guy who says “I hate comedies” willingly sitting in a movie theater playing a comedy film.
(To be fair, maybe a dramedy, like a hybrid, but mostly a comedy with overtones of drama)
How happy do you expect to be, exactly?
FYI BB isn’t for you, it’s for your users. If your users aren’t happy it doesn’t matter how appropriate you think the system is.
From what I gather not many users are satisfied with the system. It’s hardly just me. If all you care about are people using it regardless of their satisfaction then it would have saved everyones time to not change anything. I figured you were trying to solve a problem, apparently it’s just a platform to experiment with unfounded theories you have at the expense of the experience of your users. Nothing you’ve said indicates otherwise. You’re not listening to feedback, you’re rejecting it, and simple passing around a link to an article you write as sole justification for implementing the system.
Please never go into IA or UAT.
I didn’t, but I use an IPhone and iPad when not at work, which is when most of my commenting happens.
Your priority should be to cater for as much of your audience as possible, which a mobile-first site would have done. This isn’t a controversial opinion, it’s how we do web now.
The post counts, pageviews, and traffic counts are all trending upward, and have been since launch. What other metrics do you think we should measure success by? That every single user signs off as “happy”?
In my experience designing software, It is impossible for everyone to be happy. What I do know is that if you design to make everyone happy, you will build generic, watered-down Software By Committee that is destined to fail.
I’m sorry that Discourse can’t be the 100% threaded system you want it to be, for the reasons outlined here. We will, however, continue to improve the hybridization in various ways.
Sure, I know the web pretty well, as I created Stack Overflow before this. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
I know your background, but it’s not relevant - it doesn’t make the system any better. Even the comments on your article which I just skimmed basically raise all the same concerns.
This is clearly something you’re running with regardless of opinion, and as I’ve said you’re not addressing feedback, you’re rejecting it. So I’m not sure what the purpose of this conversation is. Of course not every user can be happy, that’s a silly argument, but it would be nice if most of your users were happy. Are they? That’s a metric you should pay attention to; if you disagree then so be it.
I also don’t get the focus on threading. Discourse already does threading, so you’re clearly not against threading. It just does it badly.
This commenting system wasn’t chosen because it’s the most appropriate. It was chosen because you wanted it. That much is obvious.
Happiness is best measured by usage. Usage is increasing on BBS by every metric that I have access to. So your point is… what, exactly?
That is not to say that Discourse does everything perfectly right; it is a beta work in progress and we want it to evolve towards 1.0. That’s the point of the BB partnership. But Discourse is, and will always be, a fundamentally flat discussion system with some hybridized threading.
We are certainly open to suggestions for improvements on the hybridization, but if the whole concept of hybridization is not to your taste, as it seems to be, that’s fine – 100% flat vs. 100% threaded is ultimately an irreconcilable religious issue.
I think we’re getting side-tracked by the threading issue, when in reality my primary issue (even in the title of this thread) is the separation of content and commentary.
That’s what I don’t think works; and I can’t imagine any real justification of how or why it would work. That’s the real issue. Having the first comment of every thread as a permalink to the actual website is just odd - clearly that’s where the content should be, which would bring us back to the same content/commentary metaphor we had previously.
The threading just needs slight improvements (IMO), and is perfectly acceptable for a beta.
I’m also not surprised that usage on BBS is going up. I stopped commenting for quite a while when it was launched, but at the end of the day I like the community here and I like the authors/articles etc - so I make do. If you were the only guy selling water in the desert but kicked the shins of every customer, I’d still buy water from you - but that doesn’t mean that shin kicking is a good idea.
Fair enough. I agree that the separation is awkward – but it seems unavoidable if you want a strong wall between editorial and community content.
What I sometimes object to is when the original BB article is little more than a link to another place, itself. Then I’m basically clicking through from BBS to BB just to read a short blurb and find the relevant single link the blurb is about.
I don’t mind clicking through at all when the BB article is substantive and contains a number of links, extended commentary, etcetera.
I’m guess I’m advocating a position where short BB articles are reprinted here on BBS in their entirety in the first post of the topic – and longer ones remain permalinks. But it’s just an idea.
I just don’t think combining a blog and a forum works.
You can have the commentary inline with the blog article, or the blog article as the first post in a forum. But separating them is inherently disjointed. You wouldn’t put the comments from a StackExchange (edit: I meant Stack Overflow) question into a separate forum and permalink the question as the first post - maybe not a perfect analogy, but I don’t think it’s actually that far off.
That is why I stated that I felt the platform was chosen because it’s what you wanted, and not because it’s the most appropriate tool for the job. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s how it looks.
It’s a square peg in a round hole.
Edit: HOWEVER, having a forum as an addition to a commenting system is a great idea. As they do provide different benefits.
Why are you assuming that I was the person who made that decision?
I will say that I am definitely a fan of strong separation between community content and editorial content – which can take many forms. But the details of how that breaks down specifically, and all the decisions behind it, were not mine to make – nor should they be.
(on the other hand, it is fair to engage me in discussion about the hybrid threading in Discourse, as that was completely my decision.)
Simply because of the amount of time you’ve spent defending the decision. But I appreciate there are many stakeholders involved. I know that Rob was keen to separate commentary from the articles, but I also know why that was, which had nothing to do with increasing or aiding engagement.
Personally, I don’t know why that was, though I’d like to know. It bugs the hell out of me, since that’s gotta be the reason for the content-free permalinks at the top of every BBS thread, which are extra-irritating, as Jeff points out, when the original post wasn’t much more than a link in the first place. I like BoingBoing equally for the blog content and the commentariat, and separating them strikes me as needlessly inconvenient. I can start at BB, read posts, then click again to read the comments (which I’ll always want to read if I was interested enough to read the post in the first place). Or, I’ll start at the BBS summary page to see what people are gabbing about, then find an interesting topic, click through to that, then have to click again to get the actual post, possibly have to click further on any links in the post, and then back up a click or two to read the comments. A week or two ago I suggested including a direct link to each topic’s permalink on the same line as the discussion topic on the BBS home page, just to reduce the clickery a bit. No idea how that idea was received upstairs.
But anyway, divorcing the posts from the comments makes no sense to me. It’s not like they’re hidden. It’s not like they’re kept separated from the editorial voices in any way that preserves any kind of purity of opinion or anything. It’s just less convenient. In the old system, people who didn’t wanna read the comments simply didn’t have to scroll down. What we have here is the equivalent of a walled garden with a 2" tall wall. Won’t keep anything out (not even the slugs), but it does manage to trip and annoy people.