"Nodding your head" in online communication


(Pekka Gaiser) #1

Whenever I am communicating with people on the Internet, I find myself longing for an “acknowledge” feature. Say for example in a discussion, somebody responds to a question you asked. There is nothing meaningful to say in response, but you want to, like, nod your head to point out “yes, I read what you said.” Not as a value statement (“I like it!”), but a neutral one.

In the absence of a dedicated “acknowledge” feature, what I will often do (and see other people do) is misuse whatever response channels are available: comment upvotes on Stack Overflow, Likes on Facebook or here on Discourse, or if the urge is strong enough, a noisy “got it, thanks” forum post (uggh!) However, as neither of these features was designed to merely “acknowledge” a contribution, using them for it doesn’t feel right.

Would a dedicated “acknowledge” feature be a good thing for a forum to have, next to whatever “like” or “upvote” capabilities are on offer? Could it help reduce noise? Arguably, noise is a huge issue in Forums. What could the “acknowledge” feature look like? How should it work? Should Discourse do it? Or is it just unnecessary fluff?

(I realize the general consensus in digital communication is that not to respond at all is perfectly acceptable, but it really goes against my social conditioning, for better or worse. Maybe it’s a European vs. US, or Anglo-saxon vs. central European culture thing, I don’t know. I notice Americans tend to be much more comfortable with not continuing or abruptly terminating a conversation, and I envy them for it!)


(Sam Saffron) #2

Thing is, we already know who read your post, we track it.

An extension could possibly surface that information in a aggregate way, eg: 30 users read this post. It does feel a bit like info porn to me.

I don’t know, I haven’t run across this yet, as you say it may be cultural. If I like something, well I would like it. If its really critical for me that @codinghorror read it, I would ask for an explicit response.

The vast majority of over “chattiness” is mainly people neglecting to use the “like” button, sometimes cause they want 17 flavors of like, and the one on offer is too general. Sometimes they simply have not discovered the like button.

Keep in mind, we are trying to encourage conversation here, what would seem like chattiness in the Stack Exchange land, is often perfectly valid here.


(Pekka Gaiser) #3

Agreed. How about a compromise though - if I @username someone, show me when that user has seen my post? Facebook does this in PMs. If I see you read my post, and don’t respond within a minute, I can assume you’re not going to and lay the matter to rest.

Maybe it’s overthinking though. If this were a needed feature, somebody would probably have come up with it already.

True, true. Still, the issue of filtering out the signal from the noise remains an important one. It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of cultures Discourse will spark in this regard - especially seeing as there’s a dedicated team that will develop the product on a cultural level, as well.


(Sam Saffron) #6

Personally, I like this idea, my only concerns are privacy and ui clutter.


(Pekka Gaiser) #7

Yeah. Two ideas:

In the post footer:

Or inline in the text:

Say you introduce a configurable option to display “last seen” as discussed over in the “presence list” topic. The “user read this post” feature could be made dependent on whether the “last seen” option is turned on (globally or per-user)


(Sam Saffron) #8

I worry that the benefit of such a feature would be fairly low, and risk of stuff going wrong a bit high, it would have to be explored in a plugin IMHO, at some point it becomes information overload, does it really matter a week in that Jeff read the post a week later or 5 minutes later? Does there need to be a public record for that?


(Pekka Gaiser) #9

I wasn’t thinking so much of a public record as a dynamic one shown to only the user(s) who are having the conversation. As mentioned, FB has introduced this in private discussions and I find it kinda cool. I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but it helps the conversation flow, especially in conversations with more than two participants.


(Tim Post) #10

I think this would be a really cool feature for private messages. I agree that it’s icky in the context of privacy for public messages.


(Clay Heaton) #11

I like the idea with the inline check, but I feel that only the original poster and other people @ mentioned in the post should be able to see it.


(Adam Davis) #12

I’d prefer not having something that tells people when I’ve personally read a post. Seems like a tiny invasion of privacy, but an invasion nonetheless.

However, I agree that it would be nice to have a few more options for marking a post publicly. I might, for instance, agree with a post, but not like it, so I wouldn’t want to click like, but just adding another post saying, “I believe you’re right.” feels noisy to me.

However, I don’t believe this should be in the core - this is plugin territory, and someone will eventually come up with a plugin that allows administrators to allow a variety of post ratings. Like, hug, disagree, funny, informative, bro-fist, etc will appear in those forums where the administrator believes they have value.

Until then, though, like simple and straightforward.


(Pekka Gaiser) #13

I don’t entirely agree (“seen” should be a configurable core feature IMO) but I’m bro-fisting what @stienman says anyway.

(That sounded weirder than I intended…)


(Pekka Gaiser) #14

I’m usually touchy about this stuff, but I’m completely unbothered by this feature on Facebook. It seems fair to tell the person on the other end of the conversation whether and when I read what they wrote. (I’m not saying this should be public information.)


(FAE) #15

I’m not sure “seen” is completely comparable with the feature you’re asking for though, as “seen” doesn’t always necessarily equate to “read and acknowledged.” Sometimes people misclick, sometimes they open a discussion in a tab for later perusal but haven’t actually read and parsed it yet. While some may say it’s fair to assume that if the view counter has marked a topic as read by a particular user, I still don’t think that should equate to an implicit “read and acknowledged/agreed.”


(AM1) #16

I am not sure what the code behind the “You’ve read this post; click to bookmark it.” and “This is the last post you’ve read.” ribbons are, but what @pekka is asking for does not seem any more presumptuous than what is already in place.

The possibility of misclicks and tabs opened for later perusal did not stop those ribbons from being implemented, so those should not be grounds for not implementing the acknowledgement feature in the same way.


(Frankie Sachs) #17

If one were a troll, this would be a very nice feature for validating that a target was still paying attention even if they were refusing to respond.

Even in Facebook messages, it’s susceptible to people reading too much into it. “Why didn’t my friend answer? I know they saw my message. Are they mad at me?”

For that reason, if no other, I’d rather not see something like that built in as a default.


(AM1) #18

Now that actually is better grounds for not implementing read receipt.

Still, if Discourse has enough anti-troll-ness in its DNA already, maybe we should not let fear of trolls be the sole justification for implemention or non-implementation of any given feature. …then the terrorists win. :laughing: :flags:


(Frankie Sachs) #19

I think considering how features might be abused is probably essential to building in anti-trollness.

Maybe the solution would be a compromise, where such a feature existed, and could be set on or off as a default by the admins depending on the forum culture, but that users could change depending on their comfort level.

Then people like @pekka who would like the sender to know their message was seen could do that and people like @stienman could keep that info private.


(Lucas Nicodemus) #20

I haven’t really read the entire thread, but I know the feeling. I use forums primarily for feedback and criticism, and I’d prefer not replying to x topics with the same canned “I read your post but have to think on it before acting” response. Maybe a plugin would be better suited to this?

The behavior could be as simple as @mentioning a person, and if that person viewed the post, a checkmark appears or some sort of acknowledgement of having been read appears.

If the idea is a general “users have read” acknowledgement, then thread view count does a lot to convey this already - but it should probably differentiate between “logged in” and guests who aren’t likely to reply.


(AM1) #21

This sounds like a different topic, and one that might have an answer somewhere else on this site, but I love that idea @nicatronTg : separate counts of number of views from viewers signed-in and not signed in (or total views, and views from viewers signed in).

It would be pretty neat to see how much different topics and posts attract eyes from other commenters versus from the wider intertubes.


(Lucas Nicodemus) #22

I understand and appreciate that frustration though - if a question is asked and no replies happen in 24-48 hours on an active board, the question becomes one of whether or not people are ignoring it or if the only views are from bots or guests. Acknowledgement would be a sign of “yes, I’ve read this,” so as to curb that “thorn in the side” feeling of being ignored.