Ability to Follow and Friend other users


(Martin Eriksson) #62

Reason for bumping this thread

I manage a community of about 800 members which recently migrated to Discourse from a platform which has this feature. Not having it anymore has lowered the perceived quality of discussions. I have noticed it myself and several users have mentioned that unlike on the former platform – inferior as it was in almost every other way – posts by the most interesting participants tend to get lost in a flood of posts from “random” people.

For various reasons, people are simply more interested in some people than in others. Sure, good discussion is good discussion, but sometimes a discussion is interesting simply because a particular person is participating. For example, a discussion about computer programming automatically becomes interesting if John Carmack participates – due to him being a known genius in the field and due to the low probability that such a discerning person would choose to spend time on a low-quality discussion.

Sometimes the presence of a handful of special people make up a large part of the value of being part of the community. In our case members pay a monthly fee for access and I know (because they have told me) that dozens of them pay just for the privilege of following non-public discussions among a very small set of particularly interesting people. In some cases, our forum is more or less the only way of following these people outside of reading their blogs and listening to their podcasts, and an excellent way of approaching and engaging with them.

The immediate reason for me to write this post is 10+ users recently expressing a wish to get notifications about a particular user of ours out of worry that they might miss a single one of them. This might perhaps seem unusual but I think that it is actually a normal feature of how people work, i.e. some people are more interesting than others and others want to follow these people closely.

Suggestions for implementation

My knowledge of Discourse is not yet deep enough to say how this should be implemented. One way would be to make it exactly parallel to how categories and tags can presently be followed, i.e. Watch/Track topics based on certain users posting in them. Basing it on who started the topic would not be nearly as useful in our situation since very long and interesting comments are often posted in threads with humble beginnings.

I suppose another option would be to enable notifications about all activity from particular users but I think this would mesh less nicely with the current model. One benefit of watching/tracking on the topic level would be easily unwatching/untracking topics with the familiar controls, e.g. if a person I am interested in posts in a discussion about a topic which I am not interested in (e.g. Carmack unexpectedly posting about cooking rather than programming).

In any case, some version of this feature would be very useful for increasing the signal-to-noise ratio from the perspective of individual users in our community and probably many others. So here’s another community manager, on behalf of many community members, hoping that this gets bumped to the roadmap!

(Jeff Atwood) #63

Should these people be in a group? The analog is wanting to see official replies from Blizzard staff on the Blizzard forum. Are they truly a list of random, totally unrelated individuals?

(Barry Chertov) #64

I’d also be interested in this feature, both as a moderator (I want to keep a close eye on certain users) and as a user (I’m very interested in someone’s opinions, or just find a user’s posts to be exceptionally deserving of attention).

Seems to me it should be implemented analogously to “civilized mute”, however I could not find the interface to that feature. I would expect to see something like a Follow link or Ignore link on the user’s profile page.

(Martin Eriksson) #65

I guess you could say that they are fans of this particular person. He posts really interesting stuff in all kinds of threads but is also somewhat elusive and unpredictable. So yes, they are random and unrelated, except that they enjoy the insights and style of a particular person. I don’t see how a group would fit this use case but perhaps I am missing something.

(Vasu Adiga) #66

I am part of an investors forum ValuePickr Forum that uses Discourse. I would like to follow other investors on the forum so that I separate the signal from the noise. Following them means that I view all posts from these expert investors with one single click. Dribbble also has this feature where you only view the work of expert designers you follow. Its not productive use of my time to view everyone’s work / post on an interest-based forum.

I am re-posting a couple of screen mockups from this thread that I love.

One link to view all posts from all members I follow

How to follow another member from their profile card

(Mittineague) #67

You can click on the avatar.
This will bring you to their Profile page.
Click activity.

There you are, all of their posts (that you have permission for) in reverse chronological order.
Out of context. But if that’s what you want, it’s as easy as that.

(Vasu Adiga) #68

Not just one member at a time…I want to view posts by all members that I follow with one single click. See the first screenshot I attached to my previous post.

The second screenshot shows ‘Follow’ button on the profile card.

(Jeff Atwood) #69

Set up a group for those users and go to the group page. It does what you want. We have no plans to build a follow feature for the foreseeable future.

(Eli the Bearded) #70

That only works if he is staff there. As a regular user, he would have no poser to create a group to follow users.

(Vasu Adiga) #71

I am not the moderator of this group. Like I mentioned, I am just a member of this forum without admin rights. Can members be allowed to create private groups by the administrator? Is that the right approach?

This is such a basic feature for any interest-based forum/community. I gave one example of Dribbble. I am sure you know many such examples (apart from well known Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc). Is it a good use of time to read posts from all and sundry on a busy forum? Maybe you are saying that discourse isn’t meant for busy forums. Or maybe discourse isn’t meant for interest-based forums?

(Joshua Rosenfeld) #72

Problem is that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are not forums, they’re social media platforms. Each of those sites are centered around people. I friend people on Facebook to follow them, the person. I follow someone on Twitter to follow them, the person. Discourse and other discussion forums are centered around topics, ideas, etc. The intent is not to follow a specific person, but to participate in discussions around topics.

Discourse is used for both busy forums and interest-based forums. In both cases people pick and choose from the topics they wish to follow. Take Meta for example, I don’t follow @codinghorror, or another developer, I track categories. If I’m interested in new features I track #feature. If I care about SSO I track #dev:sso. Following Jeff or another person makes no sense. His posts taken out of context of each topic would be meaningless.

(Vasu Adiga) #73

This assumes everyone contributes equally to the topic or category. So a @codinghorror post is same as @jomaxro post. I would rather let the category/topic alone until an expert (that I follow) jumps in with his/her own opinion. The category/topic is meaningful only when an expert jumps in. I find the expert first, figure out the context next.

Discourse Meta isn’t really an interest-based forum. Its more of a support forum, a subtle but important difference. There’s isn’t another official forum for discussing Discourse software.

In my example, there are tens of investor forums. I participate in this forum because it has some experts that I respect and want to follow. If its only the topics that I care about, how is this investor forum different from any other investor forum? All have the same topics, don’t they?

(Joshua Rosenfeld) #74

Interesting approach. I can understand where you’re coming from, but there’s not much else I can say. Jeff has the final say on development as far as Discourse core is concerned. I could see your idea making an interesting plugin. All the data is there, you’d just need to develop the UI for users to select who they want to follow and wire up a custom notification.

(Daniela) #75

Well, in my case I use an RSS reader to follow people, especially if they are in different forums.
So I can use Discourse Meta - Latest topics by @codinghorror to see every new topic of @codinghorror , Discourse Meta - Latest posts by @sam and Discourse Meta - Latest posts by @erlend_sh to see every post of @sam and @erlend_sh . And so on…
It’s not perfect but works.

(Vasu Adiga) #76

Good enough for me, thanks.

(Olivier Lambert) #77

+1 for the need to follow other user.

Some people are requesting this feature on my site as well.

(Matt) #78

Yes please, this should be a plugin!


Agreed, I often find myself wanting to follow specific people on technical forums that use discourse (you can usually find really a few people that generally post and answer things you yourself are working on or are interested in). This would be a game changer.

(Spacle) #80

Yes. +1. This should be a plugin. People are requesting for this feature on my forum.

(ChrisB) #81

Interesting discussion about this feature, regardless of your particular position on the topic, it is a necessary evil as far as I am concerned and should be implemented perhaps as a plugin.

The RSS example by @Daniela seems like the majority of the heavy lifting is there, so with some configuration, member settings (maybe) and a bit of plumbing it should be fairly doable?

What’s the official update on the Follow and Friend function? Are there any plugins available?

Edit: I have overlooked how notifications would work, that is probably a decent bugbear… hmmm :wink: