Less noisy notifications for prolific topic authors

(Jeff Atwood) #1

On Boing Boing BBS there are ~40 new discussion topics per day created from Boing Boing posts, and each one is attributed in Discourse to the editor who started the topic.

This created a lot of Discourse notification noise for editors, who were automatically notified of each new reply on all their topics – even if those replies weren’t really talking to the author, but addressing the general topic of the Boing Boing post.

Thankfully, BBS topics auto-close in 5 days, so the bleeding does stop eventually. But the “cry wolf” nature of so many notifications meant that the editors disabled almost all automatic notifications on BBS, resulting in a situation where we couldn’t talk to them on the forum either! They’d never see our replies to them, our @name mentions of them… we have to email them directly or PM to get a response. :cry:

We decided to make two changes in Discourse to help people who, for whatever reason, spawn a lot of topics in the forum:

  1. Replies generated by clicking the reply button on the first post are now considered replies to the topic. They are no longer considered direct, notify-able replies to the author of the topic. (Replies that quote the first post in some way are still considered replies to the author of the first post.) This change is already in and implemented.

  2. Add an option to the Discourse WordPress plugin allowing auto-created topics to default to regular instead of tracking for the authors. In practical terms, this means the owner of the topic won’t be notified unless they reply again to the topic themselves, and someone replies to that post, or someone @name mentions them.

Number 2 also implies we should make this a per-user option in the user preferences – even if you aren’t using WordPress, if you post 30 topics a day for whatever reason, you’re going to be in a world of notification pain pretty soon without the ability to default your new topics to “regular” instead of “tracking”.

I know it’s kind of a rare-ish set of conditions, but it’s important, because we want topic authors to engage on their topics! Clearing out the notifications so they get just “real” replies directly to them, rather than an overwhelming, mind numbing stream of generic “new reply to your topic” is a prerequisite for any kind of meaningful engagement.

Replying to first post behaves as reply to topic
What sort of replies trigger a notice?
(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #2

Great solution. I was afraid you were gonna go overboard with the automagic for notifications.

This would have made a good blog post imo.

(cpradio) #3

Unfortunately, we see this happening a lot and it is causing confusion… As it doesn’t make logical sense in longer discussions…

Here is the issue. You enter a topic of discussion that is already active. You click the Reply button on the first post and add your input. The post now added to the end of the discussion doesn’t have the showing it being attributed to the first post.

If you do that to the second, third, fourth, n+1 post, it would have that indicator.

So when you get far enough down the discussion, your post doesn’t logically make sense. It looks like it was a a response to the last person’s post instead of the initial post that started the discussion.

I understand that you think this is a “training” issue, but how do you go about forcing process that doesn’t logically make sense on other users? They utilize the Reply button on posts 2-X and it behaves one way, and on post 1, it goes against all prior interactions they’ve had.

I think a stronger solution for Boing Boing BBS would have been to remove the Reply button on the initial post (forcing users to use the Reply button on the topic level). It would have solved their problem and permitted the button to retain consistent usage for places where the discussion can go on for a while and needs to keep the granularity of what post the response was derived from.

Seems like a specific unique scenario got a alteration to core that doesn’t bode well with other instances here… Color me confused.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

I don’t agree.

  1. The first post is different, it is the definition of the topic. What is a topic without a first post? The difference between the second post, the third post, the fourth post, etc, is that they are not the definition of the topic.

  2. We like to err on the side of not “crying wolf” when it comes to notifications. And getting a notification every time someone replies to the topic – whether or not they were actually speaking to you or not – sets the volume to 11 for every topic starter. Getting individually notified every single time someone replies to the topic was super noisy in practice.

We’ve had this change in for quite a long time – over a year, see the dates above – and you are literally the first people to ever bring it up as a potential issue. So if it was this huge problem, I certainly wasn’t seeing it in the last 14 months across any Discourse site I participated on. And there are zero meta topics here about it. Hell, even this topic had one reply for 14 months. And 10 likes.

Stop suppressing the Reply To Indicator
(Andy Routledge) #7

I’m a little confused by having two reply buttons on the 1st post.

The reply button attached to the post has a tooltip “begin composing a reply to this post”.

The one at the bottom has the tooltip “begin composing a reply to this topic”.

I have to think very briefly which one to use.

By replying to the topic, I’m replying to that post. So why have the reply button attached to the post?

(Sam Saffron) #10

This change was very important. Working great.

(Sam Saffron) #11