HI clay, I think a lot of potential conflict would be avoided by being able to hide certain categories. But what I’m concerned about is, to use Reddit as an analogy, is having the superusers and mods of /r/atheism being able to use their special privileges to “manage” posts in /r/christianity.
Or as a political system analogy - how does one implement Federalism on Discourse?
Indeed, again I stick with the opinion that for a number of types of large forums, tagging is going to be better.
I’m going to use a couple examples from forums I have frequented in the past (but I don’t any more because forums SUCK) or use only infrequently which have extremely large user bases. I’m going to assume that the target audience for this Discourse product would be these forums which are currently on the unwieldy side for phpBB-style forum usage.
It is reasonable to think that someone would post something about unique geocaches they had seen in two different regions by tagging it with a region code or a city code and get feedback from users in both locales. It is reasonable to think they might post about police issues across regions, so people interested in LEO problems might be able to track that tag.
It is also plainly clear that participating in this forum is extremely unwieldy as a casual user.
XDA Developers: http://forum.xda-developers.com/ device specific forums, with identical sub forums for themes etc for EACH device. There is no ability to tie together the sub forums for similar devices, either.
Note that their forum has gotten so bad, they have:
At this size it’s really a meta-forum. No one can possibly use the entire forum, your usage effectively is going to be restricted to your particular choices of subforums.
Again, this root listing screen also dwarfs the example @codinghorror gives. I think it’s also an example of a place where tags more than make sense - they make the current design within the constraints of phpBB or whatever it uses look idiotic. Imagine a post tagged samsung galaxy-note jelly-bean getting a lot more useful coverage then having to decide whether your topic is related to the OS or the device or even the hardware vendor’s particular add-ins. Plus people who could care less about Samsung devices still might have useful information.
That would need to be configurable. Discovery is an important part of browsing a forum. With the way categories currently are nested away from the Discourse home page, I’m afraid that a lot of people never would find content they might find interesting. Reddit handles this pretty well, obviously.
Allowing two tags will be limiting on some large scope forums like XDA. I would be opposed to hierarchy of tags if that meant that the two was related to levels because that would kill cross-posting. So while I agree five (a la SO) may be overkill for forums, it is not overkill for SO because SO uses that ability to be able to handle the hierarchy informally for high level scanning combined with specificity filtering - i.e. sql-server sql-server-2008 sql-profiler - while you might say this would be just as easily done as sql-server sql-profiler that might cause problems as the product evolves. Of course in a SE just about SQL Server, then one tag is redundant, so it does depend upon the scope of the largest expected Discourse.
How does moderation work in relation to categories/tags? Are all moderators global to a given site? The current paradigm of forum software generally allows for different moderators to be specified for the various categories and/or forums. Are there any plans for allowing something comparable with Discourse?
If you’re going to federate content, items and users can be moderated on a federated basis also. Have ‘Hacker News’ and ‘Reddit’ views of say, the term ‘technology’, with the same posts, but their own local (and possibly also federated on a smaller scale) upvote/like and user auto hideban. Certain services that provide access to this with their own framing (including highlighted user(s)?) would become reputable for filtered and curated news and analysis (and metadata). Multiple tags would give more to filter on. I’ve always thought meta-moderation would be good for keeping such sorted, though I could forsee inclusionist/deletionist like issues, though, hey, if it’s federated and certain tags/posts/comments are filtered on certain ways, this might accommodate even, say, the 4chan end of the scale…
when thinking about discourse as a tool for collaboration, categories are less about segregating users and more about opt-in interest tracking. a merged thread list across categories is great, except when i don’t care about some of them.
to me, categories as admin-defined hierarchies is a curious carry-over from traditional forums.
i’ve found that the “subreddit” style of user-created post groups is really helpful for an end user to explicitly subscribe to topics that interest them while keeping all posts globally viewable. allowing users to define ephemeral categories just to organize conversations on something really specific is powerful to help keep long-lived categories from becoming derailed.
Is it over-simplifying the matter to think that people can have settings to opt-in/out of certain categories? I definitely use forums where the segregation of categories is crucial. It is hard enough to keep up with the categories I am interested in with the volume of discussions, I can’t imagine if every category was on the same page. I feel like there has to be some method of segregation for a forum with any significant volume of posting to be usable.
Another thing is the fact that a lot of forums use categories as a means of enforcing different permission sets.
Say you want one category where flaming/swearing/goatse is allowed, or one category that’s just for BDSM roleplaying where posting nude pictures is allowed, or something else you don’t really want to be public or jumbled in with the rest of your threads. It’s an incredibly common way to manage sub-communities in a given forum.
Can such a thing be accomplished in the Discourse model?
This is exactly how we organise our traditional forum at the moment, the top level is specific products (which have generally distinct user bases), then there are subforums for general chat, support, modifications, donor-only discussion, etc. This model works really well for us.
Almost all of our active members enter the forum directly into one of the top-level categories nowadays, so they don’t have to see stuff they don’t care about at all.
This is perhaps the most critical thing that this platform has to work out - and the way the problem is tackled will IMO be the “make it, or break it” factor.
I used to manage a rather active forum centered around a game - which was essentially one big community. I keep drawing parallels as to how I would fit that forum in with Discourse. I see alot of permission stuff that is missing - which is going to be a huge thing as well in my opinion, but for now I am kinda assuming that it is stuff to come.
However the way the topics are organized and presented - at the moment I have a hard time getting the same feel for overview as I felt I had with out old board (It was an Invision Powerboard for those who might care). Our setup obviously had its own problem - but with my usage pattern of simply loading up the front page (as topics in several forums were of interest to me), I quickly could glance down and find out which forums I had to dig deeper into to stay up to date.
I see the current layout work very well for smaller (not as active) forums - but I am just not quite convinced that it would work for larger forums. I think some kind of overview page where it can be easily spotted if there’s a new post in each forum would be of great help.
All in all - I am not too sure if I am just stuck with my old habbits, or if there is actually a concern here that is worth looking at.
I did see that page, for some reason it doesn’t quite get me though. Like I said I am not too sure if this is simply the fact that old habbits die hard. Although, that is for me much better than the Popular topics page - and knowing it can be set to the default page does sound great. I guess a more condensed list where I would be able to easily see if there’s anything new in each category is what I am after.
I will get back to you once I have been using Discourse a bit more - and hopefully have gotten a better idea of whether or not this is simply a matter of changing my habbits, or if there is actually something that might be missing here.
On top of that, I might add, that at least for the amount of activity there is here - the Popular topics page is slowly but surely growing on me as a public user of this forum (and as a person where there is not a single category that I need to stay up to date with).