A more social Discourse layout

So basically, have an option to show the excerpt and images directly on the topics list?

Yes, either of the last post or of the most liked post in the thread.

Maybe even go full algorithmic where the topics wouldn’t be sorted based on latest activity, but show a different ordering for different users, picking things that might be interesting for them (e.g. different content for first time visitors, once-a-month and every-day visitors).

1 Like

I started working on something along similar lines, here: My plugin that hacks bookmarks into social shares

My basic feeling is that the FB and Twitter “feed” model is sort of the “spreadsheet” or “word processor” of social, for better or for worse. In other words, there is a set of design idioms and expectations that work really well together and that most people have around what doing “social” on the web should look like.

Discourse doesn’t really conform to most of those, which is fine. But there should be a flavor of it that does conform to them to some degree.

With my own quick-and-dirty plugin, what I wanted as a writer was the following:

  1. A URL like /u/jonstokes that people could click on and see the work and content that I want them to see. Not some summary of my user stats, which they probably don’t care about, but actual content from me that I’m curating.
  2. A way to curate and share other people’s content to my “feed.”

Ultimately, though, my goal is the same as the OP’s – to transition people off of FB by giving them something they can get their heads around. Something that they look at and go, “oh, I get what this is. This is not confusing to me. I know all the things about this because I’ve seen it before.”

And in 2018, that means giving them something that looks “social” and feed-based.


This is exactly what the (well-maintained) Topic List Previews plugin does?


Interesting, I interpreted the request as more of a twitter-esque “see everything happening” feed. You’d see new topics but also replies to topics out of context (which you could then click through to see context). Kind of similar to a user’s activity feed on their profile, but for everyone.

This would kind of be like an on-site digest email? For anyone who hasn’t seen it, our digest email pulls out some popular topics and also some popular replies out of context.


I kinda like that idea. Currently, the idea of the digest email is to bring users back to the forum. But perhaps the digest has value beyond that? Perhaps the /top pages could be modified to look more “social”? (Contentwise, what is the difference between how the Top listings are generated and how the digest mails are generated? Digest mails are obviously more personalized, but how exactly?)

Another avenue could be to build on the digest preview that already exists for staff and simply give users access to their current digest.

But I also have some doubts, both regarding the digest page idea and the idea of making discourse more social.

As for the digest, I think it is crucial for bringing back people to the forum. But if people start using a digest page as their home page on the forum, I think there is a risk that this will pull attention away from the “long tail” and towards the mainstream of the forum.

As for discourse as replacement for facebook etc, this has been discussed in various other topics, so I’ll just briefly mention it here: a key difference between FB and discourse is obviously that discourse is topic focused and FB (and Twitter even more so) is relationship focussed. Perhaps there is an assimilation going on (given that FB is pushing it’s groups feature and here on meta the feature request of following people comes up repeatedly (and whether that assimilation is good or bad is a different question), but at present, I don’t really see how discourse could replace FB (especially as long as the discourse hub idea is on ice), because it’s quite different. That said, I wholehartedly endorse that


I’m strongly in favour of just this for a start, as discussed here:

A necessary precursor to such a selector would be native support in Discourse for a minimal version of https://meta.discourse.org/t/topic-list-previews/41630?u=erlend_sh.


One difficulty you’ll have is that not all topics have logical images associated with them. I also feel trying to shoehorn social network feed conventions into discussions isn’t always a wise direction to go. The closer analog for Discourse is a group email inbox.


How to handle a mix of posts with images and posts without them in a feed is a solved problem. Lots of blogs and other feed-oriented interfaces do this fairly well. It just takes a bit of curation so that you’re not trying to feature something without an image in a slot that needs an image.

As for the feed itself, some of us don’t want a group email inbox, and would rather use something with social network feed conventions. In fact, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that there are a few orders of magnitude more people who’d prefer the latter to the former. The feed paradigm is so popular that there are a number of popular email clients that are trying to imitate the feed in your inbox.

There is a lot of great plumbing in discourse that makes it a great foundation for something with more of a personality-centric social network feed style, and if the discourse community that I’ve started continues to putter along I’ll keep going in this direction with plugins.

Ultimately, I’m a writer and publisher, and I want someplace where I can curate a feed that’s a mix of my own content and stuff I’ve found for others to consume. My broader social network also has many such people in it. None of us are going to move to a “group inbox” type platform where our work is jumbled together with a bunch of other content. We all want a URL that we control and can present a content stream with – back before the rise of the feed, this was a blog, but lately it’s a feed or a podcast or an email list.

As Apple discovered by courting developers, if you cater to the makers the rest of the crowd will follow. So any social platform that doesn’t cater to makers first will always live in the shadow of those that do. FB, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other feed-oriented sites cater to those who want to build an audience and a brand, and while I understand that this isn’t where discourse wants to go there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a flavor of it that gets there via a collection of add-ons.

I feel like my previous post isn’t entirely what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. So I’ll elaborate.

I participate in a private mailing list for journalists and academics, and I wish all the time that we’d migrate from Google Groups to plain old Discourse, because the latter is better in every way as a mailing list or private discussion forum than the former. So there is a place in my life for “group inbox that I share with peers,” and Discourse fills it better than anything else out there, to the point that I’m irritated that I have to use a group inbox that isn’t Discourse.

But there is also a place in my life for FB and Twitter, where I can do one-to-many publishing and curation. But those platforms are toxic garbage and I hate them, and I’d like to fill that place instead with something that’s free and open-source and lets users own their own data and has mature moderation and access control features and has a great post editor and… well, is basically Discourse but more maker- and personality-centric.


Amen to that. I had exactly the same feeling with one of my email groups and luckily, because I managed that email group I forced the transition.

I love how Discourse is both an email group and a fantastic website.

Checkout the Topic List Preview plugin which allows you to feature certain posts above the Topic List.

It would be nice to have such a plugin create a ‘newspaper’ style view too (like Flipboard).

It’s not the same thing. What the owner of the topic suggest, it to make the first page more friendly and social, by showing a preview of the topic in a specific design. That plugin just put the first “x” characters of the first post in a single “phrase”.

Is not at all about to go with a social network. It’s just about the homepage, it would be more attractive for the new visitors which would get there so enjoy opening discussions.

1 Like

And a preview image taken from the each Topic when available … and optionally a bar of featured topics by image above the Topic List … so no, it doesn’t just do what you describe.

Of course the change is just to the desktop view presently …

It should change the entire design. That plugin just add a small image thumnail and a short description. We are talking about a screen wide image, and a much short description bellow the image and the Like and reply or bookmark buttons bellow, displayed as buttons with egual size along the photo wide.

1 Like

That’s fine … go ahead, develop it and submit a Pull Request to Angus. :slight_smile:

1 Like

There are a lot of concepts being talked about here… so I’m starting off with something small. Would this type of post layout feel more social? Showing a little content, and pulling in some of the most liked responses?

Topic list layout

Would you want this to be algorithmic like our /top page? Would it be topic based, or could good replies appear in a feed individually alongside popular topics?


What features specifically would make a social layout more engaging? Do you want to see more content from each post in a feed of latest posts? Do you want a feed more like a blog showing full posts (or excerpts that are expandable inline)?


And how this layout will look on the screen width (>1110px). This may make sense if part of the screen width is occupied by the side menu (sidebar). But then it’s a big change. Or is it just for the mobile version?

I’m just putting some concepts out here without context just to visualize what “more social” could mean. I wouldn’t get too caught up in details on these.

Here’s a quick idea inspired by @jonst0kes… further consolidating activity from https://meta.discourse.org/my/activity and varying topics from replies a bit more. I don’t think we’d ever go as far as Facebook in terms of someone posting on your personal “wall” (maybe your entire Discourse site is really your wall)… but if you remove that personal wall functionality from Facebook you essentially have an activity feed of your posts/comments/shares/likes etc…


I think that kind of layout might work for new posts in old topics – anything that would trigger a “time gap” to be displayed.