My idea here is too good to pass up. Had to open a new thread to get feedback.
Basically, it expands on @codinghorror’s idea that the OP meta bar is a map of the conversation and thus helps the reader understand visually what to expect below.
Here’s my ideas that relate to the concept of a “topic map”:
1. Include images and videos below the topic’s posted links. This could be a simple small-thumbnail gallery. The thumbs can be all one specific size and ratio (cropping). Videos can be included with this gallery but the thumbnail would be an image, not the actual video.
Clicking the thumbnail auto-jumps the browser to the reply it first appeared in. That allows a reader to get immediate context on why it was posted in the first place. If they want to see the bigger size or watch the video, they only need to click on it as usual in the reply, then follow the replies after it for future conversation and context.
2. Expand on the link map by offering links to the replies they first appeared in within the thread. This can be done with a simple text arrow such as ˅ which visually points down into the replies of the topic. This is in direct relation to the references section of any Wikipedia article. The very first thing shown is an up arrow ˄ which links to where it was mentioned and cited.