Feature request: "I will follow on at this date"

note: this is my first feature request, please let me know if I’m the wrong place or if they are guidelines I should follow

Hi Discourse team,

This feature request is in the context of discourse for teams.

When using discourse for asynchronous work communication, it can be difficult to know if someone has read a message and intends to follow up. For instance, I may want to communicate the following idea: “I’ve seen your suggestion and will follow up next week”. This is incredibly useful to communicate and manage expectations. Without this, it is likely that people will chase you either on discourse or instant messaging (ex: slack).

Right now communicating this can be done either through:

  1. using a specific reaction as a convention. Ex: :eyes:. Sadly this doesn’t give you a timeline, eg when will you follow up?
  2. reply to the topic. Sadly if 5 people reply “I will respond next week” that’s a lot of noise and unread messages in the sidebar

Instead, I would like to suggest building a feature/plugin like what threads has. Eg you can say explicitly that you will follow on:
image

and it will appear like this

image

This is quite similar to the bookmark feature in discourse, except that bookmarks are private (and I would suggest they stay so).

What do you think?

CC @tobiaseigen

4 Likes

Hmm… this is not really something that has come up in our team and I have not heard this request before myself. Generally we are happy to have the conversation in topics to discuss when we will have time to work on a reply and when a task needs to be completed etc. We do have post assign now which is nice, but it does not provide a time either. We leave it up to each of us to decide when we read and follow up on topics on the forum, and work progresses rather well.

It also seems a bit heavy handed and stressful to me to be expected to use a function for informing other people when you will be replying. It is our hope that Discourse for Teams as a platform alleviates stress and makes work more fun and productive, and does not add stress. But mybe I am wrong - can you add some more detail about your use case? Or is it just a case of you missing a feature from another platform you have gotten used to?

My perspective is a bit different. I feel that setting expectations is important. There is 10x more demand on me and my teams than they can handle so I find that acknowledging that I am aware of a request but won’t look at it for some time is helpful. I think it decreases stress because it differentiates between “I didn’t see it”/“I saw it and I don’t care” and “I saw it and will get back to it because I’m busy with other things”.

The former encourages people to chase you to get an answer, since they have no signal back. The latter gives them the opportunity to either accept the timeline or escalate if they need something sooner.

As I mentioned, that can be done today by posting a message in the topic. I feel this is a very “instant-messaging” approach though. It doesn’t make the conversation progress much and I don’t particularly want to bump a topic for this. It’s should be more like a reaction in my mind. The topic owner might be interested, but does everyone else want to have a new unread counter pushing them to open the topic and discover that A will reply next week, B will reply on Thursday, etc? I don’t think so, that’s very noisy.

The next best thing is to ask on slack when people will follow up but that now leads to a lack of transparency and added interruptions.

We are actually not using the platform I mentioned. However when we looked into our various options (discourse vs others in the context of asynchronous work) this was a really big pro for them and our team could instantly see how useful that would be.

3 Likes

I really wonder how many people would use this. Thank you for the detailed writeup, however!

This feature already exists, as you noted, as bookmark timers. The only difference is that bookmarks are private and not public. Not sure what @martin and @sam think but I am kinda unconvinced this would be used at all in practice.

3 Likes

I do like the idea behind this. Letting other people on the team know when you are likely to get back to something without having to post that as a message is nice. I also hear the concerns about this turning into a stressful thing, if someone is expecting you to get back to them on that specific date + time and you can’t, will that stress you out? That comes down to culture though. Perhaps we wait for more requests for this kind of thing before proceeding. Maybe public bookmarks with public reminders and notes are a good thing, but we really haven’t heard other requests for it IIRC.

3 Likes

Generally the way deal with this feature is by replying:

I have bookmarked the topic and will be looking at it in N days when the bookmark fires.

It certainly adds an aspect of noise, but I am also not convinced this is happening enough to need to build a dedicated feature around it.

3 Likes

Thank you all for the feedback :pray:.

If you tell your team or boss you are going to do something by some date and don’t, will that stress you out? Well 100% if you don’t communicate. :point_right:the stress is not coming from the tool, it is coming from you not meeting your commitments. This is where the tool can help. By having a way to list those commitments you can list them and decide what to do about them (including nothing).


One side note mentioned to Tobias previously: this feature probably makes very little sense for most communities that discourse supports. It is really about async work. I suspect that the proportion of users on meta that are using discourse for teams is tiny at best if only because discourse for team is a toddler vs plain discourse (one launched 8y ago, the other one 1y ago).
:point_right: there is no category on meta to discuss teams. It’s hard to know what to watch and how to contribute (you are likely off topic for 99% of readers).
:point_right:silence can thus be interpreted in 2 ways: it’s a bad idea OR there are no members of the discourse for teams community around to react
:point_right:isn’t discourse about building communities in the first place? :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Thanks, Julien! As usual your suggestions are quite good. Having thought about this for a while, I think you could go far towards addressing your need simply by setting norms within your organization. E.g. clearly communicate with everyone that topics in certain categories will be assigned to specific people who promise to respond within a certain number of days. That way people will hopefully be patient and wait for your response, and you will know which posts to respond to first. In the odd case where you need more time, you can add a reply to let people know when you will reply and maybe explain why it will take some more time to research or whatever hte reason. And then set yourself a reminder.

Did you know you can assign specific posts in a topic to a group or to a user? You can assign it to yourself or a support team, and thereby communicate with everyone involved that the post has been seen, and a response is coming. Assignments then appear on the groups page.

I do think that it’s coming to be time to start talking about adding more task management features to Discourse which I think will also help your use case. This means the ability to set deadlines or target dates for assigments, and potentially even dependencies. E.g. user B can start work on assigned post 2 once user A has finished assigned post 1. Also calendar and kanban card view of assignments for more easily organizing tasks and prioritizing them.

We do have Kanban Board Theme Component but I have not used it in a while. Would be interesting to see if that could be added to Discourse for Teams.

2 Likes