"Refer to" ability to reduce redundancy?


(happycollision) #1

If a topic gets long, naturally people may not read every post. Someone may comment without realizing that their opinion has already been voiced and replied to.

Rather than replying to them with a quote from above and adding another post to the topic as a whole, perhaps there could be a feature where users can refer each other to previously posed comments within a topic. The references could appear in a similar fashion as quotes do already except that these would not be appended to the entire topic, but just appended to the comment of the user who must be referred to a previous post.

Might make for a much more streamlined experience.

I find that often, I want to respond to someone’s comments, but my response would add nothing new to the conversation. So I do nothing because I don’t want to overcrowd a topic.


(Bill Ayakatubby) #2

So basically comments on posts, a la SO/SE comments on questions and answers?


(happycollision) #3

Not even comments, really. It would be a non-editable thing. Basically, somehow tell Discourse which post already exists that is a good response to the one you are reading, and Discourse does the rest. It might end up saying something like:

“Referred to BhaelOchon’s post by HappyCollision”


(Bill Ayakatubby) #4

Sounds like a great idea for a plugin.


(Nicholas Perry) #5

Might be something that can be done via flagging a post?


(Jeff Atwood) #6

Why isn’t quoting previous posts sufficient? You can click on them to expand them, like any other post quote.


(happycollision) #7

With smaller topics, this is not really an issue. Where it really comes into play are with topics containing 40+ (or so) posts. Especially since topics that grow to that size often are controversial in nature.

Using quotes are perfect when you want to add your own opinion before or after, as you just did above. But what if your opinion (or the answer to a question) is completely encapsulated in a post that is already much further up in the topic? Adding a post with nothing more than a quote of a previous post takes space on screen and adds to the total post count of the topic. People following the conversation might also be alerted, only to see that they have already read the contents of this “new” post. Sometimes all you want to do is let someone know, “This opinion already has a direct answer further up in the topic. You might have missed it.”

It is similar to discouraging “+1” as a reply to a post. It just adds cruft.

Assuming that the replies I got on my post earlier were actually replies to some other post much further up stream, maybe it would look like this:

The beauty is that those two referrals (or whatever they should be called) would take up zero additional space at the bottom of the topic and would not add to the post count of the topic.


(Jeff Atwood) #8

Ok if that is the issue, then what’s the problem with a simple link to an upstream post in the topic, like this?

Then you click it, and you go upstream.

I have tried, but I guess I am still not fully understanding what problem this solves? I’m sorry.


(happycollision) #9

You will see in any topic large enough that there are people who missed something because they (understandably) didn’t read every single post. They might post something that has effectively been answered or addressed already. Now we have one post that doesn’t add to the topic (noise). Then someone will kindly link to the answer above. Now we have another post that doesn’t add to the topic (noise to topic, but signal to previous post).

We could have avoided the second post altogether. In larger topics, the numbers start to become more significant.

In a topic with 70 posts, you could have 40 “legit” posts, 15 where people missed something above, and 15 well-meaning links. If there were a system like the one I am describing, that topic could have been reduced to 55 posts instead of 70. Keep scaling this up (and bearing in mind all the emails sent to those following the conversation that could be avoided) and it might actually be worth considering.

I’ll show you below this post an exact example of what I mean. The next post will have “missed” something above, and the one after it will refer to the missed information, adding nothing of consequence.

I do realize that a big hurdle would probably be educating people on when to use such a function.


(happycollision) #10

Sort of like comments on posts?


(happycollision) #11

No: see this post


(Bill Ayakatubby) #12

This is definitely plug-in territory. It doesn’t sound at all like a feature the Discourse devs should spend any time on, and so far you’re the only one asking for it.

Can you find some relevant examples from meta.d, BB, HTG, or another Discourse-powered site where your proposed feature would have any meaningful impact?


(Jeff Atwood) #13

Why not just “educate” users to edit in references to their previous post rather than posting twice? That’s definitely what I would have recommended in your example. It is rare to have an entire post that does nothing but point to earlier posts! Usually it’s more like:

I have some things to say about this topic, blahhh blahhh blahhh…

And I concur with what Joe said above.

(where “said above” is just a link to the earlier reply in the topic.) This is kind of rare in my experience, because if you’re going to refer to a post you usually…

quote the earlier post in some way, then you can expand the quote by clicking on the topbar to pull in the rest of the post like so:

Click or tap the down expansion chevron (or really anywhere in the topbar) on the quote, above, to see what I mean.