Request for feedback: how do you use the topic map?

Under the first post in a topic (also known as the OP) we show a topic map:

This includes a brief overview of the participants, replies, views, posted links by order of popularity… and the ability to filter or summarize the topic (when Discourse AI is enabled)

This particular piece of Discourse hasn’t been modified much over the years, and we’re considering ways to make it more useful… but before we get too far into new ideas, it seems worth asking… how are you currently using it?

  • Do you use it at all? which parts? does it provide a useful overview?

  • Is the position useful? is any of the data within something you’d like to be able to access at the end of a topic? in the middle of a long discussion?

  • Is there too much information? not enough? Is it too redundant? for example:

    Image showing where we have repeat information when the topic map is in view

One consistent piece of feedback we’re received over the years is How to show topic-map on non-commented posts?

Any thoughts are welcome!

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A few years ago when I helped a community move from Vanilla to Discourse we got very specific feedback on this bit of UI:

We considered removing the Frequent Posters section based on that feedback, but it never got addressed and people adjusted to it. I also think it helped that more people changed their avatars to not be the initial circle so it’s a bit more useful.

This community loves megatopics. (I blame Vanilla for this habit.) In theory that would make the summary more useful. In practice I think people just don’t see it because they scroll past or revisit an ongoing thread mid-stream. I’m curious if anyone would notice if it were turned off on that site.

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I normally skip over it.

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Your screenshots show the expanded version of the topic map in both cases - is that what you’re largely interested in or would this discussion relate to the collapsed version, too? I actually hadn’t noticed the expand arrow until now (though I’m new-ish) to see the additional info it contains.

In general, I appreciate having a summary, even if I don’t use it every time.

I am curious whether its location might impact how much it’s used. Since it’s the metadata about the thread, rather than the topic, having it live between the topic and the first reply seems like it would be easy to miss and difficult to find. Would it be more useful floating somewhere on the page or in an expandable section on the header bar with the title? Because you point out that much of the info is duplicated between the topic map and the timeline scrubber, tucking it somewhere accessible could be a reasonable choice since much of the more crucial data is visible already.

While I appreciate the icons of the Frequent posters, which makes it possible to quickly assess who’s joined in, I’m curious whether there could be utility created by using their icon to highlight or jump to their posts on the thread. While the expanded card can be used to filter to that user’s posts only, I lose the context by having the rest of the thread hidden when I do. When I expand to the full thread again - it appears to latch onto the post at the top of the screen to anchor the page, which is good if that’s the post I’m interested in, but not if one below it is.

Instead, if it worked more the find feature in a document or webpage, it shows markers in the scroll bar where that text appears and I can hop between them quickly. If such a feature were implemented, I could select a participant (or multiple?) and it could show indicators in the timeline of where those posts are, letting me quickly see when they posted. It could also give a previous/next option to hop between them.

Anyway, I definitely see opportunity but it’ll be interesting to see how much people use it to determine if it makes sense to invest in improvements.

Aside, when it comes to duplicate info, I wouldn’t necessarily consider “users” and “Frequent Posters” the same for a couple of reasons:

  • the user count is all-inclusive, so while it’s frequently the same (as in your second example) it isn’t always (as seen in the first).
  • They serve different purposes - the count lets me know how many people, the avatars give me a quick idea of who.
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As I read every topic in my forum from the start, it’s usually empty in the beginning or I skip over it because I continue reading down the line. Only sometimes I check the Popular links section in a bigger thread.

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Great question!

Although my feedback is short and telegraphic as I need to sleep early morning tomorrow :clock5: am. Here goes…

I’ll start by answering some some of the questions you bullet pointed above.

  1. Yes I use it often especially the popular links section because I feel that if you don’t read the discussion fully, the useful / popular links are where you are most likely to discover something interesting. :brain: :star_struck:

  2. The position seem logical to me. A topic map helps you at the start of a long topic. I’ve never thought of having something like this in the middle or the end of a topic. For example you wouldn’t open a map up at the end of a hike [1]. This links well with the 3rd question

  3. I was envisioning the topic map to look something like this. Obvious but at the same time tucked away as sometimes its in the way with too much information on it.


A lot of the info provided is probably overlooked eg created , last reply etc. as it seems kind of irrelevant? Most of the info like amount of posts, date created & last reply can be seen in the topic timeline. However, I like seeing the views, users and likes.


  1. Unless you wanted to make sure you have arrived at the right place :stuck_out_tongue: ↩︎

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The expanded user card is easier to find by reading the topic and clicking on a user avatar next to a reply. I have the same problem with the user filter: context matters. I just stopped trying that feature.

Somewhat off topic, but I have the same frustration with the Moderation History view of a topic. What I’d really like is a way to jump from one post in the filter the the next with the full context available.

There’s a thing on mobile that feels like it’s headed in that direction. When you select the progress bar you get a dialog that looks like this:

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Uncollapsed on mobile is pretty useless information imo.

“created” is entirely redundant. When the last reply was is informal (“how old is this topic”). Who the last reply is from is not very informative when presumably you haven’t even read anything in the topic yet.


I like the summary statistics such as views and likes, plus this information can’t really be seen anywhere else so they are non-redundant.

“Frequent posters” has never proven useful to me more than a occasionally mildly interesting thing. I wouldn’t mind if it went away or hidden by a few clicks.

I find I do click on the Popular links sometimes, especially when there seems to be an outlier. But again, this could be hidden behind a couple clicks.

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Even if you’re not already looking at their reply? If I’m at the top of the page, particularly on a very long thread, and I want to see what you had to say about something, finding your replies to get to the user card could require that I either do a lot of scrolling or use the browser’s find tool - and hope I remember your username correctly.

I don’t know that people even do this - but say I’m a staff member on a very busy and opinionated Discourse. It seems understandable that someone might want to skip ahead to my responses when they see that a staff member has replied, particularly if they’re seen as somehow more “official”. Again, I don’t know whether people do this and, since I’ve not used a platform that even displays everyone who has participated in a topic like this, I don’t know what I’d do here.

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I meant scrolling to the top is a pain. :wink:

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Ah, yeah. That’s where the “pin it at the top with the topic title” bit comes in. :wink: It’s always accessible, no matter where you are on the page.

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Coming here for the first time since December to give some feedback on this.

I do think it’s pretty nice, I look at it a lot to see frequent posters, views, etc. It’s a nice feature, it just looks out of place more recently with changes like the user cards. I think it’d be better suited underneath the topic name with views and the other numbers. I think the “frequent posters” is nice but doesn’t really need to be so large. Try stacking the profile pictures on top of each other.

I tried drafting something in Figma but ended up trashing it, but I think that might help a little bit.

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Hello :wave: This is a really great idea :heart:

I think it’s might would be good idea to merge the topic map with timeline somehow.

I made a rough mockup about the posters how looks like on timeline. This can suits with embedded replies design. This section would always on timeline and dynamically change during scroll or clicking the avatar to always show the avatars in the current area.

This way the topic map can reduce. The avatars can remove from there and move to timeline. (of course smaller size) :smile: but the active reply avatar can be bigger. Something like on MacOS Dock Magnification effect.

The main avatars on timeline is depends on likes or reaction and if there are replies between avatars then it can show the number of replies clicking on that expands the area with the avatars. Something like on maps.

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Let’s see another real life example from here.

It looks nice and gives a pinch of graphical elements between text blocks, but

  • created is unnecessary, we already know that right away when a topic is opened
  • last reply is useful only when there is a risk of bumped topic, like this is, because (for me) there is zero indicator if a topic is an ancient one. Yes, I know that by definition it is unread but still
  • every other points are totally unnecessary and just noise per se — or is here, there, everywhere someone who start thinking if a topic is worth of reading because of amount persons, posts and likes?
  • amount of posts can tell if there is a point to open summary, though.

I use topic map practically only then I’m looking for something and that topic doesn’t offer any real solutions. Then I open list of links and trying figure out if there is something I should check out.

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I don’t think, I have ever actively used the topic map. For me, it is, unfortunately, one of the places where Discourse has a tendency towards visual clutter. This becomes especially prominent when threads become long and there are many participants in them (see e.g. screenshot from a Stay Forever community thread)

My main complaint is that, as already pointed out by @ondrej, there is a significant amount of redundant information there that is already presented in a less obtrusive way otherwise.

In addition, some elements also have unclear semantics. In particular:

  1. I assume the number of likes is the accumulated likes from all posts in the thread. However, it’s not clear to me how this information would be useful
  2. The is the option to show the top answers, but it is not quite clear what constitutes a top answer.
  3. There are sometimes links directly above the statistics block (two in the screenshot), but it’s not clear why they are there and what makes them important.

The one section that I do find moderately useful is the popular links section. I don’t think I have used this a lot, and I would prefer if this was something that is shown only on request also on desktop (where the section seems to be expanded by default), but in general here I see potential value.

If a redesign is in discussion, I would prefer if the current implementation gets replaced by a significantly more minimalistic design and that additional information is only shown on request.

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I may be slightly late to give my feedback here but I’ll post it anyway :blush:

I personally don’t use it too much, more or less than what it is used for. If I do end up using it it’s typically if I enter a topic for the first time and want to see who posted in it and the frequency of posts. I also sometimes use it to see the amount of replies + the estimated reading time. But the other stuff I don’t use.

One thing I do want to say could be improved is the link portion of it. Sometimes the links are just placed there with no description or context, like so.


Maybe it would be beneficial if there was the option to jump to the post where the link is present.

One thing I think it would be beneficial to add…is a section that shows the top 5 posts in the topic. That can be most liked, most viewed, etc.

Anyhow, just my feedback as a regular user. Cheers!

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Yes this is a real downer when it happens:

sam@arch ~ % curl -I https://twitter.com/historyinmemes/status/1755852782534578533
HTTP/2 403 

If we get a 403, no way to get a title. We could use Twitter API key if set up, but oftern there is no Twitter API even set up.

I think in cases like this we may need just come up with different formatting?

Twitter.com (XboxP3: requires login)

Maybe something like :arrow_double_up:

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