Replying to first post vs. replying to the topic

I Just added a setting called:

suppress_reply_directly_above : Don’t show in-reply-to on a post when there is a single reply directly above

The default is to suppress, however you can change it.

I enabled it locally and personally do not feel it introduces too much noise. I also avoid the expansion there cause it would be mega confusing, instead it just highlights the previous post.

What this did, form me, is highlight something completely different.

There are so many “direct” replies to the OP sprawled around the conversations that do seem to be making conversations confusing. I really do not see the need to make “reply to OP” in any way distinct to “reply to topic”, it is just extra noise for no real reason, why do we need to make these two things different in the UI?

It took me a week to figure out that there even was a difference. I was replying at the top all the time.

i’m looking for it in my preferences, but i’m not finding it there. how do i enable, or is this just for mods/devs?[quote=“sam, post:48, topic:1135”]
I really do not see the need to make “reply to OP” in any way distinct to “reply to topic”, it is just extra noise for no real reason, why do we need to make these two things different in the UI?
it took me a while to get what you meant, but i think you mean: using the reply button from the OP (or a quote reply) ought not to show the “in reply to” box in the top left of one’s comment–it should be absent, same as if the comment was generated from the reply button at the bottom of the thread.

if I understand you right, then I wholeheartedly agree, that is redundant and noisy. good catch!

It’s a per-forum setting controllable by @Antinous or @beschizza , I think this is a forum (not a user setting) cause it sets the tone of the way conversation happens.

Yes, that is what I mean, I wonder what @codinghorror has to say on this, not sure if this should be a site setting or not.

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I am sympathetic because that one is subtle. It all comes down to one existential question:

What is a topic without a first post?

Well, it’s a title, and a category, and maybe author metadata. So it’s kind of like a Twitter message. But the first post in the topic goes a long way toward fully and completely articulating what the hell the topic is actually about. Or … not at all, depending on the competency and talent (and bias, etc) of the person writing that first post.

The issue is that you may indeed want to reply to the general theme of the topic rather than any specific thing one particular person said – even the person who created the first post.

But yeah, it’s a subtle distinction that doesn’t have to mean anything. Can we meaningfully separate the person talking in the first post from the underlying topic? I think if you take the community guidelines advice to

criticize ideas, not people

… then yes, we should be advocating reply-to-topic versus reply-to-person as not just a possibility but something we encourage.

The way I think of it is this, approach the first post the same way you approach every post in the topic:

Do you feel an urgent need to reply to specific words said in this post?

If so then click reply on the first post (or highlight the words you wish to reply to and click quote reply, etc). Otherwise, it doesn’t matter – reply at the bottom because you weren’t interested enough in any individual post to reply to it specifically.

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I get the reasoning behind this, my concerns are:

  1. It takes a pretty deep explanation to explain the distinction
  2. At BB the general reason people are clicking “reply” on the OPs post is cause they can not find the “Reply to Topic” button as it involves scrolling all the way to the end.

So, what we have here is a feature that is being misused. Given that I think it makes sense to just totally blur the distinction here. Make them mean the same thing.

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It doesn’t really matter, as the “misuse” is of no consequence, whether …

  • they reply to the topic
  • they reply to the first post

In both cases the OP gets notified in exactly the same way, nothing even mildly wrong happens.

If you are arguing in favor of visually suppressing the “in reply to” when someone replies to the first post, I don’t oppose that.

I should also point out that reply being at the bottom is kind of intentional, we want people to actually read the whole topic (in a perfect world…) before replying. If they see some specific text in a specific post they just gotta reply to before reading everything and reaching the end, that is fine. That’s why the composer does not interrupt your reading, too.

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Yes, that is the only change I really want. … N Replies below is also a subtle thing we may or may not want to address.

I wonder if this is a site setting or not though and how deep it runs.

Another area of confusion is that:


Are materially the same, if we are displaying them in the same way we should not have the composer inconsistency.

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I think I am OK with the idea that replies to the first post, that don’t quote any part of the first post, should be considered general replies to the topic.

As I already pointed out, functionally they are already identical anyway. If you reply to someone’s topic, they always get notified – whether you mark your post as a reply to the first post (click the reply action on the first post), or just as a reply to the topic (click the reply button at the bottom of the topic).

So we can probably suppress the “in reply to” chicklet at the top of the post for these sorts of replies, as a default, for all instances. It can be a setting too I suppose.

(This will be a much worse problem once BB switches as planned to the first post being a Reddit / Hacker News style link with no excerpt whatsoever. Seeing “In reply to” on replies to the first post there would be utterly pointless in that scenario, even more so than it already is…)

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I believe @sam implemented this and has now deployed it. Yes, confirmed on the sandbox at as well.

So a reply to the first post, that does not quote the first post, is automatically considered a reply to the topic.

This sets us up for much less noisy notification streams for BB editors, since they are by definition the authors of the first post of almost every topic on BBS – and now won’t be “replied to” as much.

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