Display 'top level comments' separate from comment replies (Alternative to Threaded Comments?)

I already found some topics explaining why discourse has no threaded comments.

However, I would like some tips on how others solve the issues I am currently having.

I am looking into migrating our existing forum to discourse. The main use is gathering user feedback (bug reports, feature requests). We get many replies and it is a mess to keep everything organized. And the dev-team does not have the time to read through every single comment, so we end up having to create a word document with the key-takeaways of what has been said in the forum (a huge pain in the…)

So I came to discord expecting that the [summarize topic] feature would help us generate this list automatically, displaying the most liked ideas, but that doesn’t seem to always work as expected. Quite often, a well liked comment is a reply to an idea from someone else, so it doesn’t work as a filter to display only top-level replies.

Let me try to explain this a bit better.
The first main issue we have, is that multiple users create topics about similar issues. For example 2 different suggestions about the same issue:

  • I dont like the color, how about blue;
  • I dont like the color, how about red;

This makes it hard to see “What is the total number of users that don’t like the color?”.

So I am looking for a way to encourage users to create topics in which the topic itself explains the problem, and the proposed solutions are in the comments. Example:

  • I dont like the color [post]
    • I want it blue [comment]
    • I want it red [comment]

And to be able to hold sub-conversations on each of those suggestions:

  • I dont like the color [post]
    • I want it blue [comment]
      • oh wow I agree [comment reply]
    • I want it red [comment]
      • oh wow I don’t agree [comment reply]

In other words: If a post has 10 answers, and 100 comments arguing about those answers, I want a way to be able to filter only the answers and see the number of likes each received, without all the replies polluting the view. Not only for me, but also for users to be able to access a post and quickly see all given ideas and ‘like’ the ones they prefer.

Of course, users should be able to dive into replies if they wish too, but the main replies should not be hidden in a see of comments because of that.

What would be a good way to solve this? I have also looked into using Reddit, but the fact that it archives topics automatically after some time, and the horrible search integration, both encourage re-posting of similar topics which, again, makes it pretty hard to know “how many people have requested something?”. Reddit also has the problem that, while it has the nested comments feature, by default it displays them expanded, instead of just showing the top-level replies sorted by upvotes.

I have been searching for a tool to solve this for months now, Discourse is the closest (and best) I could find but it still doesn’t solve this. I am at a total loss :sob:

Would love some ideas on how to approach this.


There are bug report (#bug) and feature request (#feature) categories here on meta, could you look at how those work here for some inspiration?

1 Like

Hi @JammyDodger , I did look at those, and topics like these look a bit messy:

It works fine to hold a discussion, but it is very hard to generate a list of all ideas that were given and quickly see which ones got most support (without including comments and replies to those ideas)

For example this comment has many likes, but doesn’t suggest an idea, it is just a reply to another comment:

1 Like

Likes can mean different things when given, so aren’t always the most reliable metric (sometimes they’re given as a ‘thank you’, or even just as a form of read receipt).

There are lots of features, theme components and plugins that can help with lots of different feedback-y things (Polls, Voting, Reactions, and so on) that maybe worth looking into? I’m finding it a little hard visualising what your forum structure is going to be, so I’m afraid I haven’t got a magic answer. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’d agree with @JammyDodger that you’re incorrectly conflating “Likes” with “Support for position.” It’s entirely possible to “like” a post because of its tone, well-expressed argument, or even that the poster chose to engage in a positive way; while still arguing strongly against the position expressed in the post. I believe that I’ve done so on this very site.

I’d encourage you to look at the poll options as well. A post such as oh wow I agree really shouldn’t exist in the first place, and a disagreement should include reasons, otherwise just vote in the poll. If a topic has degenerated into 10 different squabbling sub-threads, it’s probably hosting at least one or two separate topics to be split out.


Okay well there a few plugins that might help.

Private Replies for example using the color example

So you or one of you staff asks the Question.

If you don’t like the color; please suggest a new color.

Replies will be hidden to all except team members. You can reveal/unhide answers.

Then either lock thread and post like the color you prefer. And/Or create a poll.

This is another one that may be of use as only Op and a Group can respond that is defined. Ie your dev/staff

The Question and Answer Plugin might also work for your use as well.


Hi, first of all thanks for the suggestions, I really appreciate it.

I agree with what you are saying about the likes not being indicative of support, which is why the “summarize post” feature is not working as expected for my use case.

I want users to access a post and see only the answers, before spending time reading through answer replies.

A thread might have only 3 real suggestions, but a total of 50 replies with questions/replies/comments about those suggestions. New people joining the conversation are, more often than not, too lazy to read through the whole thread, and end up only replying to the main post or the last few comments. So I am looking for a way to allow the post creator and/or the users to highlight certain replies in a way that those aren’t lost as the post grows and most of all: are easily seen first by whoever accesses the thread.

What colors would you prefer? [example Thread]

  • blue; [example comment]
  • red; [example comment]
  • pink; [example comment]

I am trying to come up with some out of the box solutions to achieve this, but I can’t seem to find a way to implement this in Discourse in any way:

  • In a threaded comments approach, those would be top-level comments (in contrast to replies to those comments). Kind of like Reddit, but without automatically expanding each comment.
  • In a Q&A system, those could be multiple answers to a question (but I don’t think discourse supports multiple answers) and showing all those answers on top (with a way to jump into the replies to each answer separately).
  • Summarize Post would be ideal, but like you said: likes don’t always reflect that it was a possible solution, often it just means people liked a comment.
  • Another approach could maybe be a layout in which replies are hidden by default, displaying first only comments that haven’t gotten any replies.

The closest we could find to this has been Stackoverflow, the dev-team is pushing us to use it because they are used to it. We would lose the whole ease-of-user of Discourse, like the amazing ‘docs’ feature, ease of attaching images and so much more.

I would really prefer to find a way to achieve something similar in Discourse.


Not sure if you saw. But edited my post to include the Q&A plugin that will re order responses.


I didn’t see that, thanks!


Your quite welcome! :beers::sunglasses::+1::sparkles:

You might be able to discuss with the plugin author about features. And or sponsor changes in the plugin or sponsor a new plugin in the #marketplace.


Erik you might also find this plugin useful. It allows users to rate topics in a category that is enabled.


Thannks! yeah already had my eyes on that one :slight_smile:
I love that it allows to limit the total number of votes users have, which can be very useful in various cases.


Discourse Reactions plugins can allow you to change Likes to have more than just like. Ie you could change it to :+1: :-1:

It will make counts on each reaction type. You might be able to have some kind of query.


Thanks, that looks pretty useful! does anyone know if the “summarize topic” would take those reactions into account?


I would maybe check with tye plugin author. There maybe ways to do it.

Summarise topic doesn’t take into account anything but likes.


I believe the Summarise/Post Score formula is in this post, if you’re interested:

But according to the Reactions topic you can pull some data out a different way:


Just to point out, you can (even today) in a plain discourse forum (without plugins) filter the replies to a post by clicking in the button at the bottom left corner of the post (The one that shows “1 Reply” or “X Replies”).

In your case, you could filter the replies to the first post in a topic (the post that created the topic). This assumes that:

  1. All the replies to the 1st post made using the topic reply button (instead of replying to another post, but referencing the 1st post).
  2. All replies to other posts are made clicking in the reply button of the respective posts.

The conditions above are what is expected anyway, but depends on the forum users replying to the correct post.