Highlighting the reply as linked topic functionality

Continuing the discussion from: Threaded discussion is ultimately too complex to survive on the public Internet?

Since this topic was bumped today, I’ve been wondering for a while if there’s anything that Discourse could do to promote the “Reply as linked topic” functionality. It’s fairly common to read a topic and be inspired by it to reply with something that might be the beginning of a thread on other discussion platforms. The post I’m writing now might be an example of that.

I know I have the option to reply as a linked topic by clicking the share icon from the upper left of the post editor, but I find myself reluctant to do that. One reason for the reluctance is because creating a new topic feel like a lot of responsibility. I have to come up with a title for the topic, and there’s a good chance no one will be interested in the new topic.

Just spitballing here, but I wonder if the suggestion to create a linked topic could happen when a someone replies directly to a post. For example, if this post generated some interest and someone replied to it, they could be prompted to create the linked topic. The OP of that topic would be this post. There’s still the issue of generating a title, but maybe AI could offer some title suggestions.

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I also experienced this when I first used a Discourse-powered community. But then I realized that if everyone did it, it would greatly reduce the stress involved.

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I wonder if there’s an opportunity for the Discourse AI plugin to automatically create a draft name for such linked replies. It could make it a little more streamlined to reply that way.

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For sure. It seems that many Discourse related issues can be solved through the UI, culture, or a bit of both. It might just be a matter of finding ways to highlight the existing functionality. I’m not sure how aware people are of this button:

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Also, my suggestion that when replying directly to a post, the post that’s replied to should be turned into the OP of the new topic could be solved by quoting the post.

It seems this has already been done. Selecting this entire post and selecting the “Suggest topic titles” option from the AI popup gives me these options:

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Those aren’t great titles, but I suspect that’s because this reply isn’t providing enough context. If I open the editor on my previous post in this topic, AI is generating some good title suggestions:

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Edit: Starting from my first reply in this topic, I’ve essentially created a new thread by taking the conversation in a different direction from how it started. I suspect that it is fairly common to not notice that a reply has caused a conversation to drift in multiple directions until after the fact. As a regular user, the option that’s available to me to try to resolve this is to flag this post with a “Something else” flag and ask a moderator to move my initial post and the subsequent replies to a new topic. I’ll give that a try.

One last edit and I’ll leave this for others to reply. Maybe the “Move to” modal could have a “Linked Topic” option. Either that or it could have a URL input that could be used to create a linked topic:

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Yes, I think this UX design is not good. I once posted a poll on my forum and concluded that about half of the people didn’t know how to reply as a link topic.

I just tried to tweak the UX a little bit. It might be more informative to the user that the button is pressable.

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I agree that the UX does a good job of hiding some functions away. I didn’t know this option existed and had never thought to click on the button that leads to it because I assumed the button was just decoration.

However, I think this comes down to people understanding the Discourse culture rather than just having the option made very obvious. I’ll admit that my forum only migrated to Discourse this year after over 20 years of using less fully featured software, but I have difficulty getting a lot of my user’s thought processes past…

I have a question I’d like an answer to.

Should I use a general search engine? No!

Should I use the forum search function to find the answer that’s been given the last 20 times this question has been asked? No!

Will I look in the specific category where questions like mine would be asked? No!

I’ll create a new topic.

Will I look at the popup “Your topic looks like one of these older topics perhaps you could look at them instead?” No!

I’ll create my new topic…in a general discussion category rather that the specific category that’s designed for questions like mine.

The subtlety of a create linked reply option would be lost on them!

I think I’ve read the cliché “make easy things easy and hard things possible” here! I think this option might be deliberately hidden.

Users are doing all those no-things, or… not doing because of

  • they’ve learned solutions as searching just don’t work
  • functions are hidden
  • they just don’t know how

Not using search is an excuse. It’s never been hidden in any of my old software, nor in Discourse and users have been reminded to use it on a regular basis.

Quite a few of my users will often respond to a query with “Have you tried using search?” and then provide an appropriate link they found quickly using search.

I think the main issue is that too many people want others to think for them and do things for them. Why use (slightly) more complicated functions when you can just hit New Topic and type a query…often without enough useful info provided for anyone to easily help.

Anyway,b I’m drifting off topic. I don’t think UX changes or making some functions easier to find will really help these users.

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Did I say search is hidden :smirk: It is just useless normally. Yes, Discourse has working one, but when an user has learned searching is just huge waste of time that user doesn’t do searches. Anywhere.

So, that all means we need

  • seach that finds relevant hits
  • no hidden features and easter eggs
  • familiar and easy to use environment with helps written to end users, not to dvs and coders

Those should be universal points, not Discourse dependent. Searches are working here, other two… there is still work to do.

I also found this in the Related section below:

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You’re probably right. Especially since the use case I’m imagining is Discourse as the comment system for a news site. For that case it’s not reasonable to expect most of the users to be familiar with Discourse.

I’m working from the assumption that posters going off on tangents that are not directly related to a topic’s OP is a good thing. It’s the essence of any good in-person conversation. The trick for online discussions is to figure out how to generate coherent, readable topics while still allowing users to post in an unconstrained way.

My guess is that for topics with a limited number of replies (<20?) there’s no need to be concerned about the issue. Once a topic’s generated a significant number of replies, there might be a need to parse it to see if it should be broken up into a few linked topics. It’s likely that Discourse’s AI bot could be trained to assist moderators with this task. I did some tests with it against a few topics on Meta. It was surprisingly good at identifying sub-discussions within a larger discussion and linking to the posts where each sub-discussion began.

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I can’t find the reply as linked topic when I’ve looked. And even when people are telling me, I don’t think it’s visible on mobile.

When I started using Discourse, it was a key feature that I used. I created a topic that was an assignment and they’d reply as linked topic to give their answer (and also add a tag, if memory serves).

Also, reply as linked topic seems like a solution to not having threads. I have a site that has topics Wyeth thousands of replies; maybe if linked topics were more obvious they could split off into more topics.

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In iPhone with the Hub:

Does that mean same as visible is another question :wink::face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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You can also click the post date and use the new topic button

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Aha! There it is! I think it’s somehow not obvious that icon does anything. I think I thought it was just decoration. :person_shrugging:

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Exactly. That’s why

  • a button must look like button, nothing else
  • a link must look like a link, not be hidden

Those are the two most common UX-crimes in webistan.

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That’s exactly what I thought until I read about it on this forum! On the other topic I think it was said that they didn’t want people to use it willy nilly so were happy that it’s obscure. I think it might be better if it were a bit more obvious.

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Yes, when I first found out about this feature, I was quite surprised.

If a person who is active on meta isn’t aware of this function, it can be said that this function is too concealed.

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FYI, this was already discussed here a few years ago:

And the issue remains, and I’m glad to see others making noise about it. Important functions being effectively never discovered (even by moderators often enough!) is a really bad design.

EDIT: I see that was linked above already, oh well, anyway, the reason I found this again is yet another case of ignorance of this in yet another different instance I was just at.

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