Tangents: how off-topic is too off-topic?

the horrible comments on YouTube

Hey, Boing Boing “BBS”: glass houses.

ETA: I mean the comments SYSTEM here, like on YouTube, has become horrible - not the content of said comments.


ETA: I mean the comments SYSTEM here, like on YouTube,
has become horrible - not the content of said comments.

Agreed. Without threaded comments, this is just noise, not the fantastic discussion the comments here used to be. There’s still a discussion if you squint hard enough, but the squinting is tiring.

Its funny because there’s such a ridiculous number of features to the new system. Like why on earth is there an exact mirror of what I’m typing to the right of me right now? There’s every feature one could possibly think of, except the one super obvious one. I gather its some sort of dogmatic doctrine of the form “threaded commenting is old school”, without taking into consideration that BoingBoing, being a website about ideas, has different requirements in a commenting system than, say, StackOverflow, being a website about facts.

Oh well, I’m sure the discussions will return when this insanity is over.


Maybe the moderators wanted to drive down comment traffic (it takes effort to keep it polite, after all) and this is a stealthy way of killing it off?

Hanlon’s razor should apply first, but this is so random and horrible.

There are several topics about this in the meta category already, feel free to read them. Unless you view threaded commenting as a magic balm for “I am no longer obligated to read or research anything before sharing my opinion”. Here’s the TL;DR version.

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Seems to be the entirety of these type arguments. Yes, for a large thread (your given definition of “large”, whatever that is) it can be tiresome to read through them all and then post. What of it? Is it really “just noise” to design a forum around people who can and will read the whole conversation? One of the features is the jump to last arrow - use it, say what you want, and move on. How does that differ from the comment system you advocate?

And as I’ve pointed out before those threads just devolve into you talking at everyone about how right you are.

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I can use the arrow to see a response, but then I can’t see the responses to those responses. I can parse it by clicking all over the page, but that’s a lot of work just to read the sort of intelligent narrative discussions that BoingBoing used to be so full of.

That’s the “squinting” part I was referring to. Sure it’s possible under the current system, but it’s takes a ridiculous amount of effort.

Why is that?


Unless you view threaded commenting as a magic balm for “I am no longer
obligated to read or research anything before sharing my opinion”.

I’ve read your reasons. As I said in the comment you replied to but apparently didn’t read before accusing me of not doing my reading, “I gather its some sort of dogmatic doctrine of the form ‘threaded commenting is old school’”.

You’ve built in so many features to this system, why not just add a button at the top that will let people view the discussion in a threaded tree? Clearly there’s a demand for it, probably much more than seeing two versions of what I’m typing.

On a sidenote, I find it interesting that the person leading the charge to this non-threaded format on the grounds that threaded discussions aren’t truly conversational seems incapable of having an actual back and forth discussion about it, and, as @CaptainPedge pointed out, is relentlessly rude in his posts. You clearly spend a lot of time thinking about the nuances of internet discussions, so try this: talk to people on the internet the same way you would in person. Don’t be rude, or tough, or smarter than everyone else, just have a conversation. It works beautifully for keeping us honest online.


Rather than continuing to derail this topic, why don’t you rebut my points in detail in one of the existing meta topics created for this very purpose? Which I handily linked to earlier? I will be happy to explain, and show examples with existing software, of where threading breaks discussion in deep, fundamental, unfixable ways. But not here, because that’s not what this topic is about, is it?

You are reinforcing all my negative stereotypes of threaded discussion advocates. :slight_smile:

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And this very conversation is a perfect example of how a threaded system is vital. If someone isn’t interested they can just collapse the thread and then boom, no more derailment.

You are reinforcing all my negative stereotypes of unthreaded discussion advocates.

The points you make on your linked website are absolutely correct for a website about facts like stackoverflow.com. If you’re trying to debug a block of code, there’s no need to follow tangents. But on a website about ideas, like BoingBoing, those tangents can be really interesting, and add a lot to the discussion.

I’d suggest reading some of the “one year ago today” type posts they’ve been making lately. Click one and read the commentary, and notice how the tangents add to the discussion instead of confusing things.


Often, the spoken conversations I participate in will spawn several branches, and we’ll be jumping between branches.
“Oh, I wanted to get back to something you said earlier.”
“Wait, how did we get on this topic?”
And I often find myself wishing that we had our conversations laid out like in a message forum, with branches clearly laid out, so that it would be less confusing. I sincerely doubt that I’m unusual in this.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the imprinting phenomenon again. What feels natural to folks depends on what they were first exposed to, and a surprisingly large number have trouble grasping that the other way is just as valid… And a surprisingly large number of programmers aren’t willing to make the effort to support multiple views and let individuals pick what works for them, believing that the answer which is obvious to them should be obvious to everyone.

It’s often very easy to claim “X considered harmful” and cite examples on EITHER side of these questions. (I could cite many examples where quote-and-reply was actively harming a discussion by encouraging people to quote out of context.) The fact that both modes persist is, itself, sufficient reason to believe that both have strong audiences, and the best tools are the ones that stay out of the way and let folks work the way they want to work.

Yeah, it’s more work. No, the lack of threading will probably not directly drive anyone off the board; it’ll just be a continuing annoyance and we’ll probably continue to grump about it whenever something reminds us of it… which will risk derailing topics.Yeah, it’s your system, and if you’d rather put up with the grumps than do the (admittedly nontrivial) redesign that’s your choice.

Thanks for hosting the BB discussion (BBbbs? BbBbS?), in any case. Remember, we complain because we like it and think it can be made better – if we didn’t think it was worthwhile, we wouldn’t stick around to make suggestions.

Why do people keep saying this? Our comments were threaded for a matter of months in a 10-year history! It wasn’t old-school – it was the new thing crudely imposed by Disqus, and it was so gross we almost decided to can comments altogether, and we got rid of it!

Interesting data point I was discussing with some marketing-business types the other day: threaded comments are the norm on communities with overwhelmingly male demographics and (as machines see it, algorithmically) negative words and phrases (Reddit, Slashdot) whereas flat systems are found where women lead use (Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).

Thinking of just banning men, tbh.

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Jebus if my missus spots me on here I’m for the high jump!

I mean my husband. If my husband spots me here … I’m for the high jump.

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I was thinking about what can be done with the invasive Asian Carp problem, and I think that cat food may be a good solution.


There. You’ve answered the question perfectly.

This off-topic.