So I was just reading the latest ‘pleasant discussion’ thread on General Discussion - I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about. Like most of that type on this site, it features several unrelated conversations going on at once, useful posts getting buried in replies to others, echo chambers forming around certain posts, etc, etc. For a while I thought these were somehow problems unique to CD, but lately I realized the real issue: These are natural results of the interaction between the complex and layered issues discussed in these topics, and the nature of a message board.
But then I had an idea - what if everything was threaded? To me, it seems like this would allow discussions on a certain issue within a large topic to play out more naturally, like an actual conversation, with everyone given a chance to reply to a post and be read. Of course, threaded mode is already available, but as far as I can tell few people use it; this means that it is not particularly useful, because the concept of replying to a particular post is not well-established. But if it was the default… Might that not work better? Just an idea…
I don’t use it or know how well it works, but you can switch the display mode to threaded at the bottom of the page.
I find the threaded display mode to be much more confusing - thus my preference is to leave “linear” the default and let those who want threaded choose that mode at the bottom of the page (as is now possible).
I find that threaded mode enforces a sense of flow within the discussion. Time is of the essence, because it’s somewhat gauche to post a comment about an early post late in the thread. That in turn makes it easier to read the thread and to refer to others’ comments in the context of what has come before. Threaded view attracts comments on comments, and makes it harder to understand what was posted when.
By contrast, while I like the idea of a hierarchical display as a way of showing information about who responded to what, I don’t think that metainformation is terribly useful to the ordinary reader. And if I ever want it, it’s just a link away. (Note also that you need to enforce a particular way of using the reply buttons if threaded view is to be useful. You can’t just quote people; you have to use the quote post button, or include a post number so that the software can parse it.)
Threaded view used to be more common long ago (especially with e-mail-based messageboards), but nowadays most forums use a linear view.
Did you read my entire post?
- Of course, threaded mode is already available, but as far as I can tell few people use it; this means that it is not particularly useful, because the concept of replying to a particular post is not well-established.*