In-Topic Navigation

(Adam Davis) #1

Continuing the discussion from How do I immediately jump to the end of a topic?:

Many people have expressed a feeling of loss of control in the transition from pagination (typical forum model) to infinite scrolling feels. Not being able to jump to the middle of a topic seems to be a common theme.

What are the use cases (what are people trying to accomplish) that infinite scrolling as currently implemented prevents?

What are the unique features (keys) available in topics that users might want to focus on?

Note that loading pauses and in-topic searching have topics here already, so let’s use this topic to discuss jumping around and navigating inside a topic.

(Adam Davis) #2

Key: Posts are time sensitive

In some cases, say a long topic about Iron Man Movies, if you’ve seen the first two you don’t need to read from the beginning, you might only want to read posts starting in 2012 and later.

Further, post activity in a thread, graphed along time, show bursts around each release, ramping up prior to release for trailers and speculation, peaking at release, then trailing off. Seeing this in either graph, timeline, or another visual form would help navigating long topics.

(Adam Davis) #3

Key: Posts are like sensitive

Graphing likes posts receive again post number in a topic provides useful information in terms of which posts are most interesting to other users. In a given topic there are usually a few good or great posts by “experts” and knowing where key posts are in a topic can be useful in jumping through the topic and reading the most relevant parts of the ongoing conversation.

One possible solution is listing snippets of the most popular posts directly below the top post. Perhaps the five most highly liked posts, given a single line each. Clicking one jumps to it, and from there people can branch up (using the “replied to” button) or down (using the “replies” button) to flesh out the highly rated post’s context.

(Adam Davis) #4

Key: Posts are user sensitive

In some discussions there are clear experts that post many responses throughout the discussion. You can see who’s participating just below the top post, and how much they’re participating. I’d like to be able to click on one of them, and have it give me a list of their posts in snippet form, or a method to see when and where in the thread they made a post.

Perhaps highlight their posts, and provide a “jump to next highlighted post” button on the right near the topic progress counter.

(Adam Davis) #5

Use Case: Topic is too long to read completely

Some topics grow to a size that it’s unreasonable to read all in one sitting, or the user is simply not interested in slogging through the entire thing at all. In paged forums, they choose some arbitrary point, based on their experience, that will be easily consumed in the time they have available. This is difficult to do even in paged forums though, where long topics have page links that skip most of the pages (First 1, 2, 3 … 55, 56, 57 … 132, 133, 134 Last) but given a fast forum (or knowledge of how to manipulate the URL) it’s not too difficult to jump to about the 75% position and start reading.

Many of these cases can be handled by providing tools that show posting over time or the most liked posts, and giving them an easy way to jump to a specific point based on time or a method to visit the most highly rated topics in order.

(Adam Davis) #6

Use Case: Too much noise in a long topic

Some long topics are interesting discussions throughout, and thus there is little noise - a “funny pictures” topic, for instance, is likely to consist mostly of funny pictures in nearly every post. Others are characterized by occasional posts of interest, with a lot of, “wow, thanks, this is awesome!” or “Anything new about this subject?” inbetween.

Here, likes will probably provide the most guidance as to what’s interesting. Jumping to the middle is useless, because you still have to slog through all the noise to find the jewels.

And interesting thought here would be to provide a “like” slider at the top. If I set the slider to 5, then it will tell me how many posts have 5 or more likes, and a button to the right lets me jump to them backwards and forwards. Set the slider higher to have fewer most liked posts to view, and lower to increase the number of most liked posts to view.

Time can also be an indicator, depending on the topic. When someone make a useful post it’s usually followed by a flurry of responses, so there will be definite peaks and troughs in the posts by time graph.

(Adam Davis) #7

Use Case: Research, learning

If one does decide to slog through an entire topic one may be trying to gather discrete bits of information in order to understand the whole. A topic tracking an Alternate Reality Game thread will have clues scattered throughout. While one can use tools like evernote to gather all the disparate posts and notes into one collection, it would be nice if the forum made information retrieval and noting a little easier.

Right now one can bookmark items in a topic, but can’t navigate to them easily. Having buttons to one side “Previous bookmark” and “next bookmark” could be helpful without providing a research plugin, for instance.

(Jeff Atwood) #8

To be clear, some of this already exists, though we need more:

  • Once a topic gets to a certain size, the topic map under the first post allows you to switch to “Best of” view which filters the topic down to just the most interesting posts. This is measured by a scoring formula which includes reply count, number of bookmarks, number of likes, number of reads, read time, length, incoming links, and so on. Posts below a certain threshold are filtered out in this view.

  • You can fitter long discussions by people, also in the topic map. Expand it, then click on the avatars to show just posts by that person in the topic. Click again to keep filtering, so you see posts by just Tom, then just Tom and Martha, then just Tom and Martha and Steve, etc. This is a mode similar to best of that you can switch out of and back to seeing all posts with a click.

Karma, conversations, and untrusted idiots
(James R Grinter) #9

a good point - I often find myself ‘binary chopping’ paginated web-forum threads, to get to something recent (or to see if there is something recent.)

(finid) #10

For me, this is how it should be. Say there are 200 comments in a post, it would be nice to have a jump to “most liked,” or “top comments,” etc. Just to make it easier to skip comments that users have judged to not be that VIP.

Of course nothing stops any user from disregarding that and reading all 200 comments.

(Jeff Atwood) #11

Great old topic, thematically captured in

(Jeff Atwood) #12