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Internet discussion forums, message threading, tagging, preferring local discussions

posted Apr 20, 2015, 7:42 AM by Sami Lehtinen   [ updated Apr 20, 2015, 7:43 AM ]
A few thoughts about: Discussion forums, Message threading, commenting, derailing, tagging, bumping, and so on

I've been thinking about how to thread discussions on Internet discussion forums. I find weak spots from solutions used by most of the forums. I think most current web forums get it bit wrong and the original Usenet news reference system allowing free tree structure forming individual threading where any of the posts works as tree root and forking discussions into separate threads happened completely automatically. Tree like threading might make following a long and complex discussions which for a lot actually easier but it would make following short discussions harder as well as cause UI design challenges.

After considering several factors things, I've come into conclusion where I actually might prefer it over this current comment / thread model which is now being used by lclbd as well as most of other web forums.

Pros:
+ Technically perfect threading including fully automatic forking at any point, no need for moderator to split discussions or to whine that this is off-topic comment
+ No bump limit, threads can go on forever
+ Makes derailing discussion thread harder, because actually the derailing forms in a way it's own thread and doesn't fill the actual discussion with junk and if there are people who like that derailed discussion, let it be so
+ Moderator doesn't need to care about derailing
+ Users can modify tags during the discussion
+ Discussions which also diverge geographically would work without problems and would be seen by local people where ever the commenter is
+ Discussions which continue for extended periods won't cause problems, like causing annoying 'bumping' of really old discussions with initial posts
+ Bad initial post won't ruin whole thread, because rest of users can start actually discussion from good comments instead of starting from the bad initiatio
+ No reason to lock old discussions like some bad forum platforms do (not mentioning any)

Cons:
- It might make harder for user to read "whole" discussion, because there's no such traditional clear thread. This message came first and then was followed by these messages. Or actually there of course is, but it's not all visible in one view.
- Potential challenges on UI design. But I guess I can deal with those. It's not harder than stuff I've already implemented. Maybe I should show 1 or 2 levels of comments so it's easier to decide which discussion for to follow.

RFC, requesting for comments: What do you think about this? Would it be worth of it? I think it would provide clear benefit compared to most of currently used systems.

Each message could be a reply to existing message and there wouldn't be "threads", "posts" and "comments" anymore. Just new posts which might be about previous posts.
 
I've also revisited Local Board (LclBd) forum data structures and data access models. Trying to build it as flexible and versatile as possible. Simultaneously solving problems represented by all (?) existing solutions. 

Thanks go to the friend who had private chats about this topic and helped with all the considerations. I'll actually rewrite some key parts of this site so that the internal data structure gets improved a lot. There will be "root tags" and "Root locations", but around that everything will be revolving freely. The whole concept has changed a little when I've been trying to make this as versatile and flexible as possible.