Category selector for latest

I’ve been mulling over this particular challenge for a while, and recently realised that the solution would probably be of use to lots of discourse sites.

Our latest page is anything but a one-size fits-all solution. It’s the closest we’ve got, but it doesn’t scratch the proverbial itch for anyone particularly well. The problem is that different groups of users need very different views.

Infrequent visitors are probably the ones who get the most use from the current view, having filtered out the high-volume posts including news stubs generated by the WordPress plugin.

Frequent visitors would prefer to see those posts included, but there’s no easy solution to achieve this. Members of staff would likely fall into this group as well, lest something be missed.

As a ‘senior’ staff member, I have access to more internal categories and primarily need to see more of those internal discussions, external stuff is interesting, but only once or twice a day.

Has anyone experimented with adding a category selector to latest, so that users can customise which categories appear?

It could be something as simple as the ‘all tags’ drop down at the top, a new floating UI element to the side of latest, or a condensed category list sitting above latest which only lists categories that have activity in the past x days or posts.


Isn’t there already a category drop down? Top left of the interface below the logo…or am I misunderstanding?

Yes, you are, that jumps to a category, it doesn’t add/remove categories from the current latest view.

My point is that as communities grow, they have a tendency to diversify. Over time the latest view becomes less relevant to any one group because of the churn. It would bring back some of the utility lost when this occurs.

When our Discourse was less active I could rely on latest for all of our internal discussions, the latest page represented exactly what I needed to know. Now that customers have become more active at least 50% of the latest topics are ones I needn’t concern myself with for 85% of my day.

Here’s a potential mockup:


So you want a multi-select option as opposed to single-select option? I could see that being really helpful on my Discourse as well.

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That’s one possible implementation, yep. The list could be much shorter too, only showing categories which have had any activity in the past day/week.

This I do not like. I would want all categories listed there. In particular, when we (the mods) were doing some cleanup and organization, I wanted to see the less used categories in particular, as part of the cleanup was re-evaluating the category system, and looking at what posts were in each of the low use categories.

I’m not sure I would call it a single-select option as-is, the latest page is a list of the latest threads across an instance, minus categories explicitly filtered out by the per-category ‘Suppress this category from the homepage.’, which removes them from that view for all users.

Clicking any link takes you through to the normal page for that category, not a specific ‘latest’ page for that category. As a result you lose all of the other top bar entries such as ‘Categories, New, Unread, Top, My Posts and Bookmarks.’

I’m suggesting a UI enhancement for everyday use, and within that suggesting something that would keep the UI manageable in those situations. I don’t doubt that it’s useful to see activity across all categories, but likewise I’m not convinced that this would be the place. This is, after all, a list of categories which have latest content, does it make sense to list them when they don’t satisfy that condition?

As with other Discourse deployments we have categories which contain knowledge posts where normal users are unable to create new threads or respond to them. Does it make sense to have to scroll past them every time to check or uncheck other options? Probably not.

In a sense the reduced list of categories would still be useful to identify those that are active, no?

Well, the top bar entries do depend on the instance, but I see your point. However, while your point is correct, I feel there would be no difference in content (topics on the page) if you filtered the latest page to a single category or looked at the latest page of a category.

I think a setting similar to this (or to use this setting to affect the dropdown too) would be a reasonable solution that works across different instances. Site A might want only recently used categories to show, Site B might want everything, Site C might want to filter out a few seemingly random categories despite high usage.

Not sure I see the point of this, admins can disallow categories from showing up on the /latest homepage by editing the category settings. And users can do the same by muting categories in their user preferences.

It’s quite a lot more for the user to do though, right? Wouldn’t it make sense to be able to quickly filter out categories from latest?

Not really, no. If you are going to force the user to decide individually about 20 categories and subcategories, it will be a ball of razor blades, barbed wire, and suffering no matter what.

The defaults should suit the majority of users the majority of the time, I get that, but muting alone doesn’t suffice, a muted category can’t be re-added to latest, right?

I get the point but it absolutely is “power user” type feature.

For example, on gearbox you may have a user that is only interested in borderlands and borderlands2, instead of forcing them to go through and “mute” all the categories of the other games they can simply tick some boxes and get a view of latest only containing those games.

It’s a less “committal” way of muting stuff from latest where you opt-in to the particular view you want.

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I think this is a great example, so I will give a similar one. Over at the Stonehearth Discourse, the busiest two categories are suggestions and support/bug reports. Most users probably don’t care about most bug reports (other than their own), but love to chat in the suggestions area. Being able to tick off suggestions and general discussion, for example, would likely be very much appreciated, rather than having to mute bug reports which you might care about a few of…

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Discussion continued here: