Ability to unroll context when in-reply-to indicator is suppressed?

Context unrolling is a very nice feature, allowing one to browse the whole chain of discussion without navigating too far away from the place we were in. However, if the in-reply-to indicator is suppressed, either because of quoting, or because of the reply being directly underneath, we don’t get the option.

I’m not exactly sure where it should be introduced, but there should be a way to browse more than one post of context, especially within long discussions.

The suppression only occurs when there is a single reply, directly above or under, so what exactly would you be unrolling?

I’d actually like to see an option (preferably a user preference) to not suppress the in-reply-to indicators at all, since a single post-reply looks exactly the same as a topic-reply.


The whole chain of discussion. I.e. whatever the post I’m replying to replied to. Basically, with this:

A -> Topic
B -> A
C -> B
D -> Topic
E -> D
F -> Topic
G -> F
H -> G
I -> H @mentions me, I jump into the thread at this point
  • there are no reply indicators at all, despite there being three different conversations
  • even if there were, I don’t know where “my” context ends when scrolling up, instead I’d need to carefully look for a reply indicator, instead of having a distinct gray box
  • when I’m done, I’m at the top of the page, and again there’s no gray box to guide me where I was before.

And weren’t there also some quote-related shenanigans going on? Can’t reproduce, but can’t find a fix notice either.

I would also like to see this as a user option, personally I really dislike the suppression and am happy when certain sites disable it. I much prefer the additional noise. @codinghorror violently hates the additional noise introduced by the suppression and as the PM for the product gets to call defaults which the way stuff needs to run.

A visual explanation of the issue here @codinghorror is:



Granted you can do the mental jogging and click on the “in reply to” on the post above, but it can get a bit confusing. I also think our behavior when clicking the button can be improved, we really should simply just highlight the post above.

Long term I really want a proper “filter down” conversation that allows you to simply collapse the stream down to a sub conversation (as opposed to duplicating content)

With multi-quoting filtering down multiple conversations is just too hard cause you need to leave your current context to achieve it (1 filter at a time)

Also I would really like to see something like this:

(click on 5, to filter down to this sub-conversation)


Yeah, if you do an actual quote you’re not going to see in-reply-to at the upper right anyway, since that’s intended for posts that:

  • do not quote anything
  • only reply to one post

Also, remember that it is an illusion that you have a tree, as each reply can have multiple parents. The actual conversation graph is much more complicated. This post quotes 3 posts, which quoted 2 other posts, and those posts quoted 6 other posts…

More philosophically, any reply that can’t be contextualized to the topic really doesn’t belong there in the first place, and having a bunch of tools that encourage random tangents – other than Reply as New Topic – should be viewed as training wheels at best, for communities that come from other software.

I’m not opposed to other “click to view a subsection of the conversation” filters, but a bunch of default extra UI for the extremely common pattern of talking to directly to the previous post, it’s like nails on a chalkboard, super noisy.

That’s another issue - in general case, quoting a post doesn’t always signify that I intend my post to be a reply to it. For example:

No you can’t. As has previously been said:

Obviously, I don’t intend to reply to @anotheruser. Personally, I think quoting and reply management should be completely separate - after all, I’ve already clicked the “Reply to someone” button, which means I want to explicitly reply to that person. Even if I use someone else’s words in my reply.

On forums, in general, people discuss between themselves. And there can be multiple of such conversations going on. Otherwise you’re making a comments system.

I disagree, and I think @anotheruser would as well. If you quote someone, you are directly referencing them – that’s a reply. The cases where you would realistically claim

Oh, I quoted something Joe said but I wasn’t talking to Joe

are exceedingly rare… unless you are “talking to” some world famous author like JRR Tolkien, if you are locally quoting someone you are referencing them and replying to them and engaging them in the context of other local ongoing conversations. That’s the entire purpose of discussion software.

(also if you really didn’t want to reply to them, use the plain > quote, not a structured expandable quote.)

If a discussion veers off wildly, to the point that others participating in the topic would object to the very presence of their posts in that topic as defined by the topic title and the first post – it means that conversation should be in a different topic. So either

  • Reply as New Topic should have occurred


  • a moderator Split of their conversation into a new Split Topic should now occur
1 Like

I’m with @Maciejasjmj on this. It’s confusing that there is no indication whether a reply was to the topic or the last post. Happens in our forum all the time. And there are situations where I have quoted other people when replying to someone else and that’s not exceedingly rare either. Both happen all the time in real conversations too. As do misunderstandings about who people are replying to in their comments.

If it saids “Replying to post 8 by codinghorror:” on top of the editor I expect it to show up on the post as well. That condescending tone is super annoying.

Perhaps I’m “talking to” some reputable member of the community who has made a post with an explanation, and I’m using his words as an argument in a related discussion, but not the one it’s been posted in.

You have a popular blog (and are quite fond of quoting it in arguments) - would you really consider everybody doing so “talking to you directly”?

Besides, I’m fine with the referenced user getting a notification of being quoted - but that’s a different concept than a reply.

Except maybe I’d want everything that comes with a structured expandable quote (link to post, unrolling, etc.).

So your idea of discussion is that everybody replies directly to the topic, and doesn’t engage in topical discussion with any other commenter? That’s a comment system, not a discussion system.

For example, let’s say the topic is “Opinions on Discourse”. I voice an opinion, someone disagrees with me, I disagree with them, and what then? Do we split off a “Opinions on Discourse - an argument between @Maciejasjmj and @someuser” thread? Should everybody do that whenever they engage in a conversation with another commenter? Or do we lock up the whole thread for other users?

@codinghorror this is a clear bug that needs to be fixed. I replied directly to post #8 here.

After I click reply it shows that this is a direct reply to your post and then on refresh that information vanishes. So its misleading users.


  1. Default behavior should at least have the information rendered as it is in the real world and not lie to users.
  2. I think a PR to add a site setting to disable this magic is fine, which can be used on the more advanced forums where users expect larger levels of control.

@Maciejasjmj @probus I really think you need a better approach here.

Instead of, “Discourse is wrong, change it” … try “Your default setting is not working for my community, I would like to be able to disable feature XYZ”

At the end of the day changing the default for every install of Discourse out there is not something that can be taken lightly and needs extensive discussion and evidence. Focus on your community and your problem first.

Also try to keep feature discussion as focused as possible. When you are talking about N general issues it is very hard to transform it into anything actionable.

I’ve never stated it should be the default. Merely a possibility, just like it’s possible to partially un-suppress the reply indicators.

I think it’s implied that when I - as an user - suggest a design change, I’m stating that current design doesn’t work for me (or my community). Nobody’s an oracle.

Well, the feature I’ve expected is pretty clear - ability to not suppress reply indicators at all. I do like your idea of a filter, though that would probably end up more intrusive into current design.

It’s just that the discussion evolved. Case in point, by the way.

I added a setting and re-framed the conversation into something more manageable.

1 Like

No, my idea of discussion is exactly what I said it is:

In other words, every post in this topic, regardless of who it is “addressed” to, should be interesting to any reasonable person who signed up for what the first post and topic title says. That’s the definition of on topic. Can it evolve plus or minus 20%? Sure.

The focus is on maximizing the actual discussion while minimizing noisy metadata. Having tons of obvious, redundant “oh look, you replied to the previous post, just like everyone else” indicator chains both above and below every post, does not achieve that goal.

There is a natural expectation that posts directly underneath are related to the posts above, just like in conversation when one person pauses, another person talks and is speaking to that person.

Note that disconnected replies, replies separated by more than one post in time, are always connected. This suppression is exclusively for singleton, one-after-the-other scenarios where there is maximum noise and minimum benefit. When you are replying to the non-obvious post, a post not directly above or below yours, there is value in the connection metadata.

Agreed, that is a bug, and we should fix it.

Even weirder is the case (as you noticed, and I noticed a while ago) where you “reply” to post #6 by Dave but only quote post #10 by Sally, so the reply indicator is suppressed. I agree that we should only suppress in reply to when you quote the actual person’s post you clicked the “reply” button on.

Not super common, but emblematic of the hybrid model we have here – partial reply-to-a-single-post-number, partial reply-to-everything-quoted.

also just to be clear the following reply indicator suppression overrides now exist:

  • suppress “in reply to” for single replies directly above
  • suppress “replies” for single reply directly below
  • suppress “in reply to” if topic contains quoting (this one is new)

So you can adjust them to taste.

Sure, but that “plus or minus 20%” makes some posts more interesting to me than others - especially when I’m a participant. Say, you have a “news articles mentioning our company” thread, where people post and comment on what they’ve found - you have a single topic, but multiple sub-conversations going on.

I kind of get where you’re comng from. The indicators themselves are redundant, that I agree with. The functionality that’s tied to them, however, is not - and that’s the whole point.

And it’s not a really consistent model to boot - if I get quoted, I get a different notification than when I get replied to.

You even quoted yourself in your post. Does that count as a reply, too?

Personally (though that’s a bit of a different issue), I think managing the reply-to list should be fully in hands of the user.

This is tricky, we are very very very careful about swamping users with settings. It is paralyzing to have too many. Perhaps long term we can allow the equivalent of about:config where all the advanced per user knobs go, but we really want to keep the default pref page manageable.

No, not settings. Simple “clicking “Reply” under a post means you’re replying to that post, no matter what”.

Replying to multiple users would be a little tricky - perhaps some kind of adding to list/deleting from it logic.

Going back to the original topic (yes, this post is not a reply to the previous post), there are generally two different ways to post in a topic, and these are:

  1. Reply to the topic itself (aka “new comment”)
  2. Reply to another post inside of the topic (aka “reply”)

Depending on the nature of the topic, one would either more likely do the first or the second thing. In this topic for example you mostly made “replies”, but in some blog post (e.g. on @codinghorror’s) people would be more inclined to comment on the initial post.

Now, one could default one’s discouse distribution to either always show a “in reply to topic” text when a new comment was posted (which would likely be the better option for this dist) or to not suppress adjacent reply links.

The problematic thing is that in a forum there might be both of these and thus a fraction of topics would have more “unnecessary noise” just because of its nature. Switching between the two modes, for example if there are significantly more replys of the other kind, on the same discourse install is not an option (and could arguably be confusing for different installs altogether too).