A more social Discourse layout

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.

This is a great looking feed view! I’d love to turn my hacked-up profile feed from my plugin into something like that.

Like, if somebody could load my /u/jonstokes profile page and see something like that, except where I’ve somehow manually selected what goes there (by bookmarking, or a similar “share” feature), that would be awesome.

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The other thing that would be cool, would be to have two tabs on the profile view: “My Shares” and “My Feed.” (Just spitballing on the names there, so bear with me.)

“My Shares” would the default view for a anyone who’s not me when they hit /u/jonstokes and would be a feed of stuff I’ve shared somehow, like by bookmarking it or otherwise flagging it (as my current plugin works), and it would be styled like your mock.

“My Feed” would be a feed of stuff that people I follow have shared, and it would be my default view for /u/jonstokes when I’m logged in.

I think this combination of two feed views and a “Share” button on posts would be pretty easy to implement on top of Discourse, and would make it more inviting to those who are transitioning from other social platforms.

The mock above also solves the next problem I wanted to tackle with my plugin, which I think I mentioned somewhere in that writeup — setting off replies from top-level posts visually, so that I can share replies and to my feed and they don’t look like dupes.

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I think this boils down to a personal or site preference. Reddit (which tooootally suuuuuuuuuuuuucks at actual discussion for the record, so it isn’t a Discourse analog in any way shape or form) does offer three user-selectable styles.

Note that you’re seeing the exact same content in all three views, below:

The user can transition from “just the title and stats” to “crazy amounts of content” here


… and it ends up being an information density user pref.


There’s a ‘social feed’ setting you can use to do this in Topic List Previews. It’s been there for some time. It’s not used that much.

I understand the reticence to move in this direction. I’m of two minds whether I think it’s a good idea for Discourse itself to add images and topic excerpts to topic list items.

On the one hand, images and excerpts would increase engagement with content in some cases.

On the other hand, this is not an insignificant technical change if you want it to be highly performant, and it would lead to more requests for ‘social-like’ features which would risk overly emphasising this framing of Discourse.

@jonst0kes while I understand where you’re coming from, it sounds a little like you’re after an open source Medium, or at least something that’s more author-centric than discussion-centric.

On balance I’m personally in favour of doing some incremental changes as suggested by @erlend_sh.

But I think it’s important to keep a healthy skepticism about ‘Discourse as social media’. Just because images increase click through rates, it doesn’t follow that it’s a good thing for healthy discussions.


I think there are probably a few discussions here that are jumbled together, and that is probably my fault because I kinda tried to hijack the thread with this stuff about how it shouldn’t just look like a feed, which is what the OP is after, but there should be a way for a user to actually manually curate a real feed.

So for my part, am not talking solely or even primarily about any sort information density issue. Sure, there are ways I’d like a feed to look, but I’m speaking more specifically to organization and ease of curation and to the existence of a curated feed itself. I want to be able to curate a feed and have people follow it. That’s different than saying “I want the topics list to look this other way… more like a social site” which is where this thread started. I want to curate a feed, and I also want that feed to look more information-dense (like most social feeds) than the current topics list, and this latter point is where my interest intersect with the OP’s.

Note that I’m of the clearly opinion that Discourse should move in a more social- or feed-centric direction, but of course I just got here and started using it and am not really a part of the dev community yet so I offer it more as an outsider’s take that seems to jive with some demand that I’ve seen here on and off via Googling for plugins. Regardless of what happens with Discourse itself, though, it’s extensible enough that any of us who want to see it do more feed-like things can just make it do that.

As for the distinction @angus raised between author-centric and discussion-centric… maybe, but I’m not entirely sure I follow because I don’t know that that’s a real dichotomy that I’d sign on to, or what the two terms would mean here.

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And how you get that design with topic list peview? It doesn’t work on mobile and/or for the homepage.

The topic list social site or category setting. Happy to work through your use case, but please try it first. If you have further questions or requests, post in Topic List Previews and I’ll follow up there.

This is what I meant by ‘author-centric’, content curated by reference to an author, as opposed to ‘discussion-centric’, which would be content curated by attributes of the discussion: when it was posted, how popular it is etc.

You alluded to the same distinction above, i.e. many to many v one to many.

Are you advocating for Discourse to handle both cases?


I’ve tried already and I don’t like it. I was trying to say that it is not the same the topic owner says.

The way I would say it is

On a “social” platform I am interested in what particular people are saying regardless of what is being said. On a “discussion” platform I am interested in what is being said regardless of who is saying it.

There is often some overlap so that there isn’t a clean division but that’s what “centric” means.

I can understand that some forum users might have interest in what another member is posting. But because forums typically have a hierarchy of categories it seems to me that discussions would be expected to be primary over the social. Not that member feeds are a bad idea, just that it feels more like a forum “nice to have”


:+1: This is also why “I want to follow users X, Y, and Z” is a huge red :triangular_flag_on_post: flag.


Awesome @awesomerobot! Really nice to see you’re already playing with some layouts :slight_smile:

I guess some sort of combination of last updated and popularity-based sorting would be good. As a regular reader, I find the recent/unread topics marked in a different colour useful to catch up. As a first time / occasional visitor I would like to see more engaging content on the front page (to motivate me to continue exploring).

Yes, your layout mockup looks great – if every topic in the topic list had a few algorithmically selected replies underneath it and maybe images from these posts as well (because images can often be much more engaging than text alone) that would be great!

Once you open an actual topic to see all the posts, I think it can stay the way it is – where you can read the whole exchange. I think Discourse is already doing a good job there.

just bringing up the feed that BuddyPress uses once again. no algorithms, no shenanigans, just a user-friendly feed of what’s happening in the community…

A red flag for what, though? You have a blog, and people who want to know what you have to say follow it. So you’re doing exactly the “author feed + comments” paradigm that I’m expressing a preference for, yourself, but for whatever reasons you’ve decided not to host the feed (i.e. blog) on Discourse, and to only host the comments.

In fact, there is such a demand for some kind of “feed + comment” solution based on Discourse that an increasing number of sites are going to the trouble of wiring up a Ghost or WP blog to Discourse so that they can at least do the comments half, here. And of course every now and then somebody posts the obvious question in this forum, i.e. “Discourse is a great authoring and publishing solution, so what’s with making me wire it up to an external blog so that I can blog with it? Why doesn’t it have out-of-the-box support for just blogging directly on it?”

So I don’t have to defend the idea that “follow my feed and comment/like/share” would be a popular way to use Discourse, because to the extent that such a thing possible it’s already happening, and people are jumping through hoops to make it happen by mating Discourse to something you can actually host a feed with.

I think it’s not at all a stretch for it to handle both cases. As for if I’m advocating for that, I guess I was, but at this point it’s clear to me that (absent a dedicated social plug-in) it’s not going to happen in any other form than it’s currently happening, i.e. somebody else (Ghost or WP) hosts the feed, and Discourse hosts the comments.

The team here seems dedicated to keeping Discourse squarely in the realm of a Google Groups and/or Disqus replacement, which is still awesome because both those things suck and should definitely be replaced by FOSS.

My take-home from this thread is that anyone who wants to see Discourse host a followable feed directly should focus their efforts on a plugin, so that’s what I plan to do. Right now, I’ve started hacking at my own, but I’m more than happy to ditch that and contribute to a more mature plugin that’s headed in that direction.


Creatives would be more engaged by something like this where images are used to engage as well. Food for thought

That’s right, I think some communities can be way more visual than others, which is why this depends heavily on the specific community.

Happy to help you with anything you get stuck on with your plugin. Just pm me.

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Thanks! I will definitely abuse… er, take advantage of that :slight_smile: I have a long weekend or two ahead of me of going through the code for your existing plugins before I’m even ready to start pestering you, though.


Any wayvto have the option?