How does Suggested Topics work and how can we improve it?


(Kane York) #41

Suggested topics, as the last step, just fills in N random topics selected from the whole database. (And then the first N are taken, so they get thrown out if there are better choices.) So that’s by design at the moment.


(Tobias Eigen) #42

@codinghorror is there an up to date, accurate explanation of how suggested topics works? I reached the bottom of this thread and am not sure. I am getting some complaints from my community about this and want to be sure to give the best possible answer. :smirk_cat:


(Jeff Atwood) #43

Probably close, last thing I remember was @sam changing the order of New vs Unread.


(Pad Pors) #44

the suggested topics only suggests topics in the category similar to the topic opened. does it?

if yes, then what was the logic?
p.s.: asking out of curiosity and to learn.


(cpradio) #45

No, it places priority to topics in the category of the topic you are viewing first, Once there are zero topics in that same category, the priority goes to topics you are tracking/watching with unread posts, then new topics, then a set of similar topics that you might be interested in.


(Pad Pors) #46

thanks, i may have made mistakes, but i think it was different 2-3 months ago. at the moment these three are snapshots of what i see:

p.s.: perhaps the priority is with the topics i’ve already read which have new posts in them. and since i haven’t read much topics some months ago, it was shuffling topics much more than now. han?

then another thing:

Those topics that i’ve already read, if i’m interested in following them, i’ll follow them. and i won’t need the forum to suggest them to me that much. but there are other topics which i miss and i may get a chance to visit them if they appear in the suggested topics.


(Mittineague) #47

Those three screen captures look the way they should to me.

Each is showing that there are unread posts in topics in the category you’re in,

Unread based on topics you are (Watching)/Tracking


(Pad Pors) #48

it seems that you prefer to see previously watching/tracking topics in the suggested list to be able to follow your favorite topics easier, but there already exist notifications for these topics.

but what about those poor topics that accidentally were out of sight? :wink:


(Mittineague) #49

Those show with a “new” next to them when you Watch the category.


(Joshua Rosenfeld) #50

Suggested topics uses the best information it has about your interests. If you watch or track a topic, that is a very good indication of interest. If you don’t have unread or new topics in the category, then you’ll likely see topics that you have never read, but aren’t marked new or unread.


(cpradio) #51

Which is covered by

Once you complete those topics in that category, it will start to expand to other categories.


(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #52

That is a misconception of what Suggested Topics are. I ran into the same problem when I first encountered Suggested Topics, mistaking them for “Related Topics” that weren’t working very well.

Since then I’ve warmed up to the concept, and now it’s how I always sift through my latest Unread posts.

Some communities would probably benefit from a “Related topics” widget, but it’s not a request we’ve seen much of, probably in some part due to it being partially implemented already as a “just-in-time pop-up” when you’re writing a new topic.


(probus) #53

For forums where new topics are rare (i.e. discussion continues in existing topics) the system fails spectacularly. It randomly suggests old topics instead of those that are active now.

The same goes of course for the Top page. Topics are not considered “most active” if they haven’t been created in the selected time frame even if they had the most posts, likes etc. during that time.


(Jeff Atwood) #54

This reflects the reality of the vast majority of discussion sites that I’ve ever seen. It is very unusual to have ancient discussions get resurrected on a regular basis. Can you describe your use case in more detail, with examples?

Also, if the old topics are truly dead – close them. Then they will no longer be suggested.


Closed Topics should not show up as unread
Minor editing should not bump the topic
(probus) #55

We are a sports community. Whenever interesting things happen (often after some period of inactivity), people tend to comment on a topic that already exists and rarely create new topics. It’s just a different way to manage discussions than here where every new conversation gets it’s own new topic.

I didn’t say old topics are dead just that they are not active (relevant) right now. They might pop up again in a couple of weeks.


(Graham Perrin) #56

I was asked by a reader of a recently created forum to set suggested topics to 0, and I did so without hesitation – imagining that suggestions were based on some relatively complex logic that attempted to, but failed to, please readers.

A few days later, I began wondering why I no longer found basic logic – unread and new – at the foot of a topic.

Today I found:

Now, that seems clear enough – if I understand correctly, zero suggestions also causes zero unread, zero new (and so on) at the foot of a topic.

Clear enough now, but in other fora I love the ability to step quickly – with a single click – from one topic to another. In those fora I’m a frequent user of the feature so :cry: now I regret rushing, without understanding, to disable the feature at the new forum where I’m an administrator.

Also found today, above (from 2014):

Back even further:

Three years later I’ll cheekily take that out of context and plead for … I guess:

  • a _use_r preference to override the number of suggested topics that is predefined by an administrator

– does that make sense?

For example: whilst site administrators might prefer zero, I’ll prefer five suggested topics.


(Joshua Rosenfeld) #57

Curious: did the reader not like the concept of suggested topics (that topics would appear at the bottom of every topic page) or just dislike the word suggested? If the latter, a possible immediate fix would be to re-enable suggested topics, enable limit suggested to category, and change the word “suggested” to something else.

Also, just to be clear I am not against a new user preference, just trying to think of an immediate fix to satisfy both you and your user.


(Mittineague) #58

I would be interested in knowing why the member considered Suggested to be a problem to the point that it should be removed.
It isn’t like anyone is forced to use it if they don’t want to.
I have seen discussions about “they don’t make sense” but AFAIK that is only an issue when a forum has few topics to pull from when putting together the list.


(Jeff Atwood) #59

This is not planned nor is it on any of our road maps for the foreseeable future.


(Graham Perrin) #60

Thanks folks.

I suspect the former.

When I disabled the feature, I described it as

… useful …, but not when there’s so little content. Nice catch. …

– quite open-ended, not the hole that I thought I had dug myself into :slight_smile: – my :cry: yesterday was probably over-dramatic.

Hopefully when things gain momentum there’ll be a shared realisation that:

  • some people find suggested topics extremely useful; and
  • other people might quietly ignore the feature.

It is unobtrusive.

I still think “Wow” whenever keying End takes me to the end of a topic without bringing suggestions into the window :clap: