Why is the "In reply to" indicator suppressed sometimes?

Each time I reply to a response, it now only comes up as a general reply (ie not as a reply to a specific response).

This has only changed in the last 24 hours.

In the cases where:

  • there is one and only one reply
  • the reply is directly under the post it is replying to
  • the reply does not quote the post

… the “in reply to” indicator is suppressed in this specific case, as it becomes extremely noisy.

Okay, thanks for explaining, though I don’t think that that works very well. We’ll see.

the problem with this is: without threading and without an indicator, the replier may not contextualize his comment as in response to the above comment. after all, he hit the reply button, so it’s obvious to him. it’s obvious to the person responded to, because he gets an alert to his profile. but to all other parties reading the thread it is assumed that the post is in response to the topic. without heavy context clues by the poster (who isn’t thinking about leaving them, nor should they) their response may not look like a reply to the comment above it. that it is one might be contextuallized at the end, which requires of the reader a mental shifting of gears and perhaps a re-parsing.

tl;dr “is this guy replying to the topic or to the post immediately above? i will scrutinize it for context clues that may or may not be there. gee, homework is fun.”

i know it’s a design issue but it was in this thread.

Imagine a dinner conversation at a dinner table with, say, 6 - 10 people.

In a normal dinner table conversation, after a lull when someone stops talking, the next person who talks is very likely to be responding to or continuing a thought from the last person who talked. That’s just how conversation works. If people want to split off from the dinner table and join (or start) an alternate, radically different conversation at another table, that’s also possible.

There’s rarely the need to say “I’d like to respond to something Scott just said”, because in a normal dinner table conversation with a group of people, it’s always implicit and assumed that the next person who talks is picking up what the last person said and running with it – unless they specifically say otherwise. Or, y’know, get up and leave the table.

I would argue that this is completely normal and natural.

We’ve tried it both ways, and it is so common for the last person to reply to something that was just said that with all the obvious repeated metadata of “as Sally just said…” on every reply, the conversation quickly becomes extremely, onerously noisy.

(bear in mind this indicator is only suppressed in a very narrow set of conditions: when there is a a) one and exactly, only one reply b) it is directly under the post it is replying to, and c) there is no blockquoting of the post.)

I do think that clever-for-the-sake-of-cleverness one sentence quips and retorts and bon mots are far more strongly encouraged in threaded systems, whereas they aren’t here. You might even say they’re discouraged in Discourse. In all honesty, I would be lying if I said that wasn’t kinda by design.

well, OK, but at that same dinner party, if a guy isn’t responding to the person who last spoke, they usually say something like “getting back to the original topic…” but there’s no cue here one way or the other.

All i’m saying is that in every thread, there’s usually at least one post that trips me up this way.

but, you’re onto something as far as designing this thing to foster true conversation. and it’s your baby. Am I and @DennisArmstrong the only people having this trouble, or are we the only ones communicating it to you? I really can’t say, but your response and consideration was appreciated.


EDIT: I got to thinking about the dinner party some more. i promise I’ll shut up now. I know i’m becoming a bit of a gadfly in these threads–too much time on my hands, sorry!


In real life, yes. Here, no. It’s completely decontextualized. It’s also a single-serving departure from the semantics that rule the entire rest of the page. It’s incomprehensible.

Here’s an example: New ebook DRM isn’t just easy to break, it makes no legal sense

I can’t tell whether this commenter is critiquing the person above her or critiquing Cory.


thanks, Antinous.
@codinghorror i know what i said above, but I totally randomly just found this example in an old thread, the guy says he’s confused for the same reasons we are:

Same reply to @Antinous – in flat discussion systems that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Provide a bit more context. (I would argue this is a more healthy life strategery to cultivate anyway, since virtually nobody will actually read what you write, and taking an extra 30 seconds to be unambiguously clear is generally a good career move for any person who writes words in any language in any situation, ever.)

It reminds me a bit of Windows font rendering versus Mac font rendering. Once you get used to one system, the other “looks wrong”. (Font geekery: there is a high-DPI clause here that actually does make Apple win, but assume I’m talking about typical non-retina displays.) And it’s not unusual to have whole fonts designed to display in ClearType on Windows that look terrible without it, and I’ve seen plenty of fonts that look awful outside the Mac and even retina displays.

So yeah, you have the luxury of being one-linery and quippy and decontextualized more in threaded systems. And on low resolution displays, ClearType is better, too. It just depends.

edit: let me add that I love your spacing idea. We’ve also toyed with the idea of “THREE DAYS LATER…” to indicate big pauses in the conversation, like a black title card in a movie.


FYI, I added a site level setting @Antinous or @beschizza can disable here if they wish to remove the suppression forum wide.

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

I think the default is probably ok, I personally prefer the extra context and noise but understand @codinghorror’s reluctence to enable it by default.