Consolidating Activity field


This seems like a really user-hostile way to design stuff.


Agreed. If something is truly that non-essential you may as well cut it altogether and reduce the complexity of your product.

Introducing a feature that isn’t discoverable and won’t be used by many users in the wild isn’t worth the time taken to implement it.

(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #77

I don’t see the problem with having a few non-essential but very handy features that will only gradually be discovered. I’ve owned a Mac for 6 months now and most of these 50 tips & tricks are completely new to me. I’ll probably never use 80% of that stuff, but that’s okay, because none of them really add to the Mac’s complexity; they’re just semi-hidden convenience features that make you very happy that once-every-two-months moment when you really need it.

There are other features in Discourse that I’d like to see moved into plugins eventually, but this one I like. It feels like we’ve hit the sweet spot of data display. The discoverability could still be improved, but the chances of that happening are much higher if we leave it out in the open, inviting web admins to scrutinise and customise it, as opposed to hiding it altogether. It’s not outright broken. Just needs a little tuning.

There’s not much left to discuss until we have the necessary tools to easily customise features like this one. Then may the most commonly adopted tweak win.

(Jeff Atwood) #78

It’s plenty discoverable, and provides useful “bonus” info to frequent users. As are thousands of other features in your browser and other websites you use every day. Do you remember the first time you used a mouse, a touchpad, a touchscreen? How does one “discover” double clicking, or tap-and-hold on a touchscreen? (bonus points: if you never discover those, does it matter?)

Learnability is what matters.

(Michael Downey) #79

If there’s no visual link from the coldmap colors (the only clue) on the topics list and the calculation based on the dates of posts inside the topic, just how exactly would this be discovered by real users? Some of us are obviously missing the boat. :slight_smile:

(Jeff Atwood) #80

“what’s different about this topic related to the date?”

Oh, it’s from 2005.

(Michael Downey) #81

Nice try. That’s not a valid answer to the question:

What in the UI within the topic page just as “obviously” (I use that term super-loosely) shows the same information as the calculation creating the coldmap colors on the topic list?

The current answer: Nothing.

(Rikki Tooley) #82

You are totally correct with this statement, however we must have different definitions of what constitutes learnable.

If I really put effort in I think I would be able to work it out, it would require active effort though, checking the start and end dates of several topics. I don’t believe most users would want to do that though. To make it even more complex, the relationship is not

like you say… it’s

So… a topic from 2005 which only had posts for a week after its creation would not be blue?

No one would ever think this if they noticed that:

I don’t think the relationship is as obvious as you believe it to be.


Sorry Jeff, but I respectfully disagree.

The rest of what you say is true, but these features that we’re talking about just aren’t discoverable. I fear that you’re adding more and more unintuitive and non-discoverable things into Discourse over time, and I worry where that is going to lead.

I really want to like Discourse, it could be great. You really need to get some UX guys in who really know their stuff, that’s the biggest barrier that this project is facing IMHO.

Should search prioritize recent topics over older topics?
(Jeff Atwood) #84

Sure, I hear your opinion. I guess we just disagree. I’m OK with that.

There was a lot of disagreement when we were building Stack Overflow, too – I could point you to dozens of blog entries and posts citing our UX “failures” there, too… and predicting the imminent failure of the site … but Stack Overflow is currently the #57th most popular website in the world. As they say, history is the best predictor of the future, so you can see “where that is going to lead” based on my prior history.

We’ll continue to refine and tweak as we go based on feedback, but I hardly think a bit of coldmapping “bonus” info on the activity field is really that significant to the overall success or failure of Discourse. And yes, I really do think the regular / avid users are smart enough to figure it out, and I for one greatly appreciate knowing ahead of time when I’m about to enter some giant long-running old discussion, as the tone of those is quite profoundly different than the (at most) week long discussions that are far more typical.

Anyway, if you want to change it, what’s stopping you? Modifiying the CSS or site settings to effectively remove the coldmapping would take about 1 minute, tops.

(Michael Downey) #85

This poll of Discourse implementers/admins/power users has 6 times as many users confused than understanding the current color-mapping scheme:

With Stack Overflow, color is used to illustrate something about the number rendered in that color, for example the number of answers or the number of views. (At least based on my novice understanding of the site.) It is not used (AFAICT) to signify a completely altogether different and invisible measurement and map that data onto yet a different piece of data.

This design conflates two variables into one, and no one understands it.


Have any of them done so?


(Jeff Atwood) #87

Take a closer look Newest Questions - Stack Overflow – why is the “answers” field yellow sometimes? (hint: there is a hidden value you can’t see, signified by a color. Shock! Horror!)

And as I said – if you don’t like the coldmapping, visit /admin/settings and disable it.


I couldn’t find any in the first few pages so I have no idea why that might happen. But those also aren’t colors in a table, where discordant things really stick out and draw the eye towards mysterious and confusing minutiae instead of the main content.

(Michael Downey) #89

I see that (after quite a bit of looking). By taking several minutes to do some UI research (which normal mortals won’t ever be bothered to do) I suppose yellow color on # of answers ~ green check mark meaning an answer was accepted.

Discoverability grade: C-, quite an unnecessary cognitive stretch and not intuitive at all (green to yellow, no icon on home page).

At least there was an icon to see inside the question page to show something was different. In this case for color-mapping, there’s no such equivalent “big green check mark”, which is why this Discourse feature’s current discoverability grade is an “F”, IMHO. :slight_smile:

(Jeff Atwood) #90

So you figured out what the color meant with a little basic use of the site? Interesting.

That coloring isn’t for normals, it’s for avid users like you, so you can get more nuanced information out of the same list of data, without cluttering it with a bunch of extra fields. That’s entirely the point!

Anyways, we’ll continue to tweak, as I said, and for those that don’t like coldmapping, I heartily invite you to visit /admin/settings where it can be effectively disabled altogether in well under 30 seconds.

(cpradio) #91

I still have no idea… I go into the “topic” and see nothing that relates to the yellow color, as nothing within the topic is yellow… So it definitely doesn’t make any sense to me and I don’t plan to waste my time guessing, so… you’ve got one confused user here.

Same goes for the Discourse heat/cold mapping. There isn’t anything you can look at that will tell you what they mean. You can guess, but unless you find the topic that discusses it, you won’t know for certain.


I still haven’t found any examples, but at least the color is just about nuancing the data. If you’d applied the same tweak to SO as you did to Discourse, you’d have removed the votes number completely and changed the color of the number of views. Which you didn’t do there, because it wouldn’t make sense. Just like it didn’t make sense here.

Have you ever tried to proofread your own essay? Your mind knows what you meant and you insert and remove words and punctuation automatically without necessarily seeing what’s right there on the page. This is the same thing, where you came up with a “clever” idea about how to present some information and can’t see why no one else can figure out what the heck is going on.

We’re the independent proofreaders telling you that you have sentence fragments that make no sense.

(c-i-p-h-e-r-1) #93

Actually, that isn’t what they say. In fact, the common phrase is “past performance is no guarantee of future results”. You want proof? Think of the term one hit wonder or Google “past performance future”. Plenty of evidence there. Then there’s the dot-com bubble of the last millennium, plenty of companies were successful at one point, but failed long term.

In short, past success does not guarantee future success

The Discourse team seems to be designing a lot of features for avid - or power - users in the pr- v1.0 phase. Even avoiding the fact that a lot of your power users are still getting confused by some of your design choices, this seems backwards. Shouldn’t you be designing for the “normals” - as you call them - first, and then add advance features for the power users once you’ve managed to demonstrate a stable v1?

(Jeff Atwood) #94

I don’t see any additional value in endless debate here, we’re just repeating ourselves at this point. Closing.