Here's my Categories as Sub-Reddit / Sub-Discourse Idea


(Lowell Heddings) #1

Continuing the discussion from Forum categories as social isolation, not as information organization:

I started thinking about this even more, and I think the sub-reddit concept could really work here - the key would be to have navigation that makes sense, and make the sub-categories, or sub-discourses, or sub-areas, or whatever you want to call them, very discoverable from the home page.

  • The main home page shows all the best discussions.
  • On small forums, this means that all the discussions end up on the home page, solving the dead sub-forum problem entirely.
  • On large forums, this allows people to camp out in their favorite sub-discourse instead of seeing everybody else’s posts from areas that you don’t care about.
  • Each sub-discourse needs to have full navigation elements - Unread, New, Favorited… just for that sub-discourse.
  • You can allow people to “subscribe” to the sub-discourses that they prefer, and then just put those discussions on the home page… for them.

Once you’re in a sub-discourse, you need to make sure that the navigation works for the sub-discourse just like it would for the main level discourse.

So here’s my very badly 'shopped mockups of how that could work.

Global home page, with new “Discourse Areas” box on the right to let you easily find sub-discourses.

And here’s the Sub-Discourse for “Feature”. Note that the navigation is ugly, but is pretty clearly just for this sub-discourse.

Obviously a real designer who doesn’t suck could come up with much better versions of this.


Civil Discourse, How about Civil Moderation?
Feedback on plugin idea: sub-categories as "Discourse Arenas"
(Alex) #3

Honestly, @codinghorror, I’ve been following the conversation on Categories that’s been going on and Discourse ready for primetime, is fine as it is. You could just make it so that the admin can add a second level of subcategories if they want, via the config file… but otherwise it seems unnecessary to change anything.

My rationale is the following => Findability and Discoverability is excellent as-is. I can Watch or Track conversations, search is amazing, I can check for New threads or what is Unread… My reading-position is saved… I can Bookmark posts… I get all pertinent notifications I need… What more could I possibly want? So far I haven’t once spent more than 3 seconds to find what I was looking for…

I think that Discourse as-is does away with the need for excessive categorization and tagging… One has to ask oneself why such features would exist in any design… It seems unnecessary to me to tag and categorize posts if I can find them under 3 seconds at any given time… But if an admin wants to have categories with one level of subcategories, stick it in the config file… but otherwise, it seems extraneous and unnecessary… Just my opinion.


(Jeff Atwood) #4

I agree with you @antiface but Discourse is a rainbow system – it must be all things to all communities. I like Geek’s mockup a lot. I am putting it on my list. Right under this of course.


(Alex) #5

Then, my question would be: Why not have tags + wiki summaries like on StackOverflow? What are the sociological & technical lessons learned from that tagging system? And what about the ability to “merge” Topics somehow, similar to how Wikipedia might merge articles, and also slightly like how questions can be flagged as “Off-Topic” or whatnot on SO? (you do love discourse suppression, don’t you? and self-healing, community immune responses?).

Also, look at Quora for one moment. On Meta.Discourse, like for this Topic for instance, I have meta.discourse.org then /t/topic-name/some-numbers… On Quora I might have quora.com + /topic-name/question-name… What I’m getting at is that Categories could be like Topics on Quora… which already exists to some extent, like with 301 Moved Permanently…

Why not just have 301 Moved Permanently?? Anyway, regardless, I have a few actually useful insights with regard to Categories and Tagging… that I didn’t think would be useful until you said “it must be all things to all communities”. I happen to come from the knowledge management, content analysis, intelligence analysis community… information retrieval is a passion of mine, faceted classification, taxonomies… I just figured it was irrelevant since you mentioned not wanting to throw the whole Dewey Decimal System at people on their way through the door…


(Doug Moore) #6

I’m not sure how this will work on a forum of varied interests. Things like reddit, Something Awful or Operation Sports. I’m not convinced the categories are enough to segregate such large communites.


(Jeff Atwood) #7

Yeah, one thing I found in my research is that categories are sometimes used to wall off folks from each other.

In the case of the “Politics & Religion” subforum, believe me, that’s a good thing…


(Chris Leong) #8

My ideal system would have categories at the top level and then tags within categories. Or, if so desired, just skip out the top level and only have tags. On the face of it, this would seem like a small feature, but I believe the social implications would be rather significant in that it would allow the forum to “just work”


(Sam Saffron) #9

How would you see the dock in the topic page working? I would imagine it would need some tweaking too


(Lowell Heddings) #10

My general thought is that there is room at the top of the page that gets scrolled up anyway, so adding some navigation there would work without sacrificing vertical real estate during the reading experience.

I can try to put together some more concept screenshots tomorrow.


(jcolebrand) #11

Is the dock the thing at the top that (for instance here shows “Here’s my categories as sub-reddit/sub-discourse idea” [feature] … iconboxes) shows the title and nav?

I would amend that by tossing some sort of “up arrow” to “jump to the top” so they can hit the nav section from there. And change the icon to point to the top level “sub-discourse” that we’re under. Between those two we can find our way to the next place.

The top level of a sub-discourse the logo should lead back to app-root.


(Tess) #12

[quote=“codinghorror, post:7, topic:1301, full:true”]Yeah, one thing I found in my research is that categories are sometimes used to wall off folks from each other.

In the case of the “Politics & Religion” subforum, believe me, that’s a good thing…[/quote]

This. And on a related note, some forums use subforms specifically dedicated to flame wars so they can order fights out of the regular forums.


(Lowell Heddings) #13

@sam, @codinghorror

Couple of quick ideas for the topic page, which would actually work for the Sub-Discourse pages as well.

So when you first go to the topic, you’ll see the Video Games “category” on the top bar, which will let you very quickly hop back to the Video Games sub-discourse, as well as immediately let you know that you are within that sub-section.

When you scroll up, instead of the category being to the right of the topic title (and being somewhat odd-looking there, to be honest), it will be in a fixed position just to the right of the small Discourse logo. I fattened it up so it would be the same size.

On the Category page, it would be easy enough to do the same thing there. The category being in the header would immediately let you know you’re in a sub-section, and the Popular / New / Unread would be specific to that category. There might be a better way to indicate that these tabs are specific to the sub-category - perhaps make them smaller, I’m not sure.

You could also put these same Popular/New tabs above the title on topic posts if you wanted - they would scroll up and disappear, so they wouldn’t take up any real estate for the reading experience.

And obviously a better designer could make it look better, but I think overall, this, combined with my earlier screenshot for putting the Sub-Discourse areas onto the right side of the home page list, would really work nicely. That could be a per-forum option that not everybody enables, especially for smaller forums.

  • As always, the Discourse logo would take you back to the home page, on every single page. No confusion generated.

  • The great thing about this is that it would scale much better, but still work for tiny forums, since all of the best posts would bubble to the front page since there wouldn’t be that many posts.

  • On a large forum, only the best would bubble up, which would solve the clutter problem.

  • You could also have per-category options to hide a category from the front page, and you could even have tags within these top level categories to further organize posts.

  • Personally I think there should be very strict top-level categories, restricted to only a select set of them. The tags, on the other hand, could be assigned by users without messing up organization too much, since posts would be in a category.

  • For forums that don’t require picking a category, you could restrict adding tags only for topics that are within a category - so uncategorized posts can’t be also tagged (which would be an organizational nightmare).

And I guess when it comes right down to it, all I did was add some breadcrumbs.


(Jeff Atwood) #14

This is great, and is definitely on the road map in some form – this one looks like a practical option!


(Jens) #15

I second the desire for subreddit style category subscriptions, including a homepage filtered by “subdiscourses” I’m subscribed to. It’s an excellent filtering mechanism for large communities.

I agree with @codinghorror, categories or subforums wall people from another, but they drive engagement and activity within the subdiscourse in return.


(Kiran Patil) #17

May I know when will this feature hits the Discourse ?

Any progress so far ??


(Jeff Atwood) #18

Perhaps sometime in 2014.


(Kiran Patil) #19

We feel that it (Sub-Categories or Sub-Discourse) is a core feature and should be addressed soon.


(Lowell Heddings) #20

There are a lot of important core features that are being worked on already, or in the pipeline to be finished this year… Personally I think that proper Mobile support is more important. But that’s just me, and there are a lot of other features.

That said, Discourse is an Open Source project, so you’re more than welcome to assist in building features. Considering that I was the topic starter here, I’d be interested to see somebody tackle it.


(rocode) #21

Perhaps we could create a issue ticket for it on Github has a feature request, then use http://www.freedomsponsors.org/ to fund its development. It would allow for non-coders or those who can’t code ruby or Ember.js to contribute toward this popular feature.


(Sam Saffron) #22

@geek we have a basic implementation of this deployed now, try drilling into a category.

unread/new/favourite etc are all automatically scoped.

@awesomerobot we need to improve the UI somewhat, any ideas?