Issues when using slow mode on a topic forever

I’d like to offer some feedback on the slow mode feature. The overwhelming feedback we got from our users when we turned on “slow mode” on a contentious thread was that they hated that editing a post reset the timer.

In fact, public understanding quickly metastasized into a false belief that we were unable to correct that in slow-mode, threads simply don’t allow you to edit your posts. “This thread doesn’t allow post editing so I’m making a new post.” After half a dozen people say it, it must be true, and that sucks, and the moderators suck for enabling such a ridiculous feature. (But but but…)

I think you might be right, and that sucks, but IMO that would actually be better than what actually happened when we used slow mode.

I think a good fix for this would be to allow one free edit per post without resetting the slow-mode timer; then restrict subsequent edits within the timer time limit.

Until this changes, it’s hard to imagine us ever wanting to turn on slow mode again.

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Sorry, I’ve read your post several times, and I don’t understand?

Users… think that slow mode has something to do with editing? I don’t get it, I’m sorry.

Slow mode affects editing. During the cool down period, you’re not allowed to edit your post, and editing your post itself resets the timer. This makes perfect sense to me. As you wrote,

The problem is that people then think “slow mode means you can’t edit any posts ever.” [EDIT: you can’t any posts in slow mode, I mean]

Does that make sense?

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Not really, no?

So your community believes slow mode has somehow made it so they can’t edit posts on any topic, ever?

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No, just that they can’t edit posts in slow mode threads. So when “slow mode” is turned on, they say “Moderators don’t allow editing posts in this thread.”

So your community thinks that the temporary no edit restriction of slow mode lasts forever for that specific topic? Even after slow mode is turned off? I’m very, very confused myself. I don’t understand what you’re describing; it doesn’t make any sense to me.

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Maybe it will help to spell out the example in more detail.

Our forum is about online games. Nonetheless, we have an off-topic section where people socialize, and folks wanted to have a Covid thread there. As you might expect, a thread like that bears the risk of getting heated and political, and in particular runs the risk of “flaring up” at odd hours when our moderators aren’t necessarily available.

So we said, “why don’t we turn the Covid thread into permanent slow mode?” We set it to (I think) once every 24 hours (and we did not set an end date for slow mode, like this:


Let’s imagine a user Jane who posted something incorrect, then later went back to edit it, and found that she couldn’t, due to slow mode. (Of course, Jane couldn’t post at that point, either.) While Jane waited, other posts came in telling Jane that she was wrong, and she wished desperately that she could update her post to stop the bleeding, but she couldn’t.

Eventually, Jane’s 24-hour timer ran out. The thread was still in slow mode, because it’s in permanent slow mode, so what did she do? She posted. “Sorry, everybody. I wanted to edit my post, but the moderators have configured the Covid thread so I couldn’t edit my post. I agree that I posted a wrong thing. Furthermore, I want to respond to X, Y, and Z.”

Now, at that point, Jane’s 24-hour timer reset again, so Jane still couldn’t edit her original post. Each time her timer would run out, Jane had to decide whether to edit her original post or to participate in the ongoing conversation, but she didn’t understand that. And as long as you take every opportunity to post, you literally can’t edit your old posts.

(Even if Jane had understood it, if forced to choose between editing an old post or creating a new post and keeping up with the conversation, she might well have decided to post.)

This kept happening. After half a dozen users have said “I can’t edit my posts in this thread, so I’m just making a new post instead,” it because a public fact.

“No, no,” we tried to clarify. “You can edit your posts, you just have to wait for the timer to run out, and when you do edit your post, that will itself reset the timer, so if you want to edit anything, you’ll have to wait two full days to post instead of one,” some people replied saying “nuh uh, you’re wrong, I couldn’t edit my post” “yeah, me too, I couldn’t edit my post.” “You suck for turning on this mode where clearly nobody can edit posts, and you double suck for not listening to us when we’re telling you that editing doesn’t work.”

So, back to your question.

Your phrasing here is a little ambiguous; I think perhaps you’d incorrectly assumed that we turned on slow mode temporarily in response to the conversation briefly getting heated. But slow mode was permanent in our Covid thread; 24-hour slow mode never turned off.

But, in the case of this Covid topic, which used permanent slow mode with a 24-hour timer, it is correct that people told us, with frustration, that the no-edit restriction lasts forever for the Covid topic, and they didn’t understand why the mod team would be so foolish as to permanently disable editing posts on such an important topic.

Surely now this example makes sense??

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Thanks for the motivation and detailed explanation of your users’ behaviour and beliefs. Always good to get experimental evidence, as it were.

I have two immediate reactions: one is for the mechanism to separate edit and posting actions, and allow (for example) one of each. And the other is that 24 hours is a very slow slow mode: did you try say 1 hour and find it not slow enough?

Another thing to add, as an anecdote: on another forum I use there was the possibility of setting it to show or not show people’s edit counts on posts, and in the discussion about whether to enable or disable this facility, it transpired that there was a set of users who very much did edit their posts, several times, as they discovered things they had not expressed well or not typed correctly. (These people felt that showing edit counts was shaming them, whereas the idea was, I think, to advertise and discourage after-the-fact substantive changes to posts.)

Although that forum did have a preview facility, some fraction of users did a lot of editing after submit. In this case, a slow mode for edits would be unwelcome to those users, and perhaps have a chilling effect such that they felt shut out. (Personally I favour the idea of a time-limited edit window, of say 15 minutes, which allows people to express themselves as they like, but doesn’t allow them to change what they’ve said at a much later point.)

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I see. So the problem is you put a topic into permanent slow mode, which led to the community misunderstanding things. You kinda bured the lede on this one, my friend. You should have opened your question with:

We put a topic in permanent slow mode, and…

but instead, you said

This says “when we turned on”, not “when we intentionally left a topic in a permanent state of slow”. Nor did you explain this in your subsequent reply, either. :dizzy_face:

I’ll need to think about this use case; permanent slow mode wasn’t something we really designed for.

I’m surprised that this is considered burying the lede! Permanent slow mode is the default in the UI.

As for 24 hours being “long,” the problem we’re trying to solve is to have a thread where controversial topics may be discussed but not have them suddenly blow up.

“You were away for the weekend and now there are hundreds of flamey posts to review.”

4 hours probably wouldn’t help us solve that particular problem.

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I suggest increasing the grace period for “free” unregistered edits in this case, if you have a lot of users who do editing after posting. The default is 5 minutes, but you could extend it to 10, 20, even 30 minutes. The site setting is editing grace period, and the unit is seconds, defaulting to 300.

I agree with this @dfabulich – your usage of the mode is, in my opinion, an extreme one. Have you tried reeling it back in a bit? I am open to changes, since this is an experimental feature, but I don’t feel the problem with what you’ve described so far is the feature, but the rather extreme way that it is currently being used. I suggest going with 12 hours instead.

(Maybe we should warn people when they enter very large values here; what’s the point of a discussion where you can only post once every 6 days? It becomes an anti-feature.)

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In light of what you’re saying here, at a minimum, I’d suggest modifying the Slow Mode form.

The cooldown timer is blank by default, and offers these options

  • 15 Minutes
  • 1 Hour
  • 4 Hours
  • 1 Day
  • 1 Week (!!!)
  • Custom Duration.

The “set a timeframe” option is labeled “(Optional)” and it defaults to permanent.

Based on that form, I had no idea that I was doing anything “extreme.” I picked permanent 1-Day slow mode right off the menu; it wasn’t even the largest value on the list. If we think that permanent 1-Day slow mode is an extreme, unusual value, then the UI should guide me away from that and toward success.

Specifically, I propose:

  • The cooldown options should all be in units of hours (1, 4, 8, 12, + custom, default to 4). 15 minutes is pointlessly short, and 1 Week is ridiculously too long. And it seems like even 1 day is too long in your opinion? Then don’t suggest it to me!
  • Default to auto-disable slow mode after 24 hours

That would have been a better hint to me as to how the feature was meant to be used, and I’d have felt pretty sheepish coming in here saying “I picked a custom setting way out of the maximum suggested range and I didn’t like what I did to myself.”


Having said that, I do actually think the existing feature is very near to what we’d want for my actual use case: an important, controversial topic where we know it’s gonna be controversial in perpetuity, and where we want our (mostly volunteer) moderators to be able to “take the weekend off” without being afraid that we’ll come back to a tire fire.

I (now) recognize that this is a modification of the intent of Slow Mode: you’d intended the feature to give tempers an opportunity to cool down. I want a feature that ensures the thread itself remains low-traffic enough for our moderators to manage it. I think this use case is pretty common, and worth considering.

I think all I want is to allow users to edit their posts in slow mode. (Earlier I suggested one free edit.) Now, I know you’ve historically opposed allowing edits during the cooldown period; as you said, folks may try to abuse the feature by editing their posts to get an extra word in during the cooldown period. But I’m not afraid of that, because I’d be happy to hand out temporary suspensions for abusing the edit feature to circumvent the cooldown period.

I don’t know whether “allow editing during cooldown” needs to be a checkbox setting on the Slow Mode form, or whether free editing should just be allowed across the board. (I wonder whether the risk of edit abuse is entirely overblown.) But I do think allowing more editing is needed for my use case.

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For sure. Not trying to come across as combatative, so I apologize if I am. But I never ever imagined someone leaving a topic in slow mode forever! That thought never even crossed my mind a single time.

Something to think about for sure, thanks for all the detailed feedback, but in the meantime I strongly advise reducing the time interval from 24 hours to 12 and see if that helps?

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I can confirm that, while sometimes we also make use of temporary slow mode, we use the slow mode feature in exactly the same way as @dfabulich said. Sometimes I’ll slam a 1d or 4h slowmode on a discussion just by the topic alone, since I know it’s going to cause some ruffled feathers. This allows me and other mods to catch a breath and more people to intervene; it also forces people to think more about what they write, since they know they’re only going to get one chance at it.

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So you have topics that are in slow mode forever, OK… do you also set it for 24 hour interval?

It definitely isn’t. People will use it as a live chat system if that’s what it takes. We already have this problem for topics about ongoing sports events, etc.

I wonder if we could allow one, and only one, edit. That’d remove the risk of live chat problems.

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Our most used intervals are 1h, 4h and 24h. I usually set them permanently.

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We also have topics in slow mode forever, usually with a 1h posting delay.

There are some topics which some folk just get mad over, and sometimes real-world events can bring old topics back to life and re-kindle old fires. Having slow-mode ensures things don’t fully ignite before mods notice, but doesn’t stop others from making genuinely valuable comments some time later.

At times I’ve wondered if certain whole categories could benefit from all topics being in a permanent slow mode!

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The feature decision didn’t make much sense to me either, so I understand your confusion here :woman_shrugging:

OK I just tested this on try and … I’m not entirely sure what the issue is @dfabulich and @FroggyC.

Most importantly I was still able to edit my post for the full 5 minute grace period after posting. I got the impression from both of you that no editing was possible at all when a topic is in slow mode. This isn’t the case. Even in slow mode, you can edit your new post for the entirety of the standard grace period after posting it, which is 5 minutes by default.

If this is a concern, @dfabulich and @FroggyC, why not increase the post editing grace period from 5 minutes to something larger, like 10 minutes, 15 minutes, even 30 minutes?

I really just don’t understand why there is such a compelling need to edit posts after the grace period has expired – and why the existing five minute default editing grace period isn’t enough to correct typos and problems with the post.

(That being said, I do see a few things we should improve on slow mode messaging, so I’ll open an internal todo on that.)

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I wonder if that limit should be more per-account than per-topic, though…

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