Should views column be removed?


(Konrad Borowski) #1

Continuing the discussion from What should selecting each topic list field do?:

First of all, this is a topic about views column, not view count in topic itself.

Does this column provide useful information? Or could it be simply removed? First of all, there is no doubt that views column shows topics that become popular, like discussion of JavaScript vs CoffeeScript. But, is that information useful to the user?

Views column is part of forum tradition. It’s practically default on many forum systems, with few exceptions where admin manually removed view column from the layout (like Pixelmator Support or CSS Tricks).

But let’s take a look at it. What does view count say? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s just an arbitrary number for me that I always ignored. On any forum system, including Discourse. Perhaps it means something else to you (tell me if it does). Why you would care how many people viewed this particular topic before viewing it yourself? There is no doubt that lurkers are important part of Internet culture, but information about their activity isn’t useful for a forum user.

There is only one advantage of view column I can think of - it can be used by topic owner to determine how much activity the topic brings. However, Discourse offers a perfectly fine solution - view counter inside the topic itself.

And if we push it, there is another advantage. It could be used by staff members to determine popular topics, for analytics purposes (like the most common referrers). On Stack Exchange, there is Tools page which shows various statistics, one of them shows most active questions (yes, I know the “questions” on this image aren’t question-like, but this is https://codegolf.stackexchange.com/). This could be added to admin dashboard page, if it could be useful.

However, the view column has its disadvantages. It’s yet another column in the view, confusing the users with the numbers. Without it, the main page would become cleaner. Wouldn’t it be great to make topic list less confusing? In fact, I believe this is the goal, with the removal of way more useful likes column (view counter is just a rather arbitrary counter, when likes actually show if users like this topic).

One less column, and there is just one column with just numbers (the activity column doesn’t quite count, as it has units) - the post count itself.Continuing the discussion from What should selecting each topic list field do?:


Proposing a left-aligned slide out hamburger menu
(Jakob Borg) #2

Something like the same could be argued for the Posts and Activity columns. Do I really need to know the number of posts in a thread before I open it? If I’m interested in the topic, I’ll open it anyway, and then I’ll see how many posts there are. And do I really care if a topic was updated an hour ago or 27 minutes ago? There are other indicators for whether it contains posts I haven’t seen yet, and higher up in the list means more recent activity…

50% tongue in cheek, 50% devils advocate here…


Relationships between posts
Relationships between posts
(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #3

As I’ve stated before, I think the idea has merit, but the time for change is not now. The topic list just underwent some drastic changes already; it needs time to settle.

But I suppose we can still entertain the idea.

The views column has great value as a necessary counterweight to the post count. It’s of paramount importance that we don’t to teach users that post count is the only high profile metric.

Not every topic needs to invite long winded debate. Making high quality threads that garner a lot of views (and likes) should be encouraged on an equal footing.

[quote=“calmh, post:2, topic:18941”]
Something like the same could be argued for the Posts and Activity columns. Do I really need to know the number of posts in a thread before I open it?
[/quote] The post count is the end-all be-all of your average forum thread. Imagine you see a topic called “The best way to toast marshmallows” - meh - but you notice the post count is 124, in a forum with an average of 10 posts per thread. Something unusual is happening in here, and I for one would feel compelled to at least have a looksie.

However, you can infer more if you add in the Views datapoint.

  • If the thread has 2500 views: There’s something going on here that interests the majority
  • If the thread has 500 views: This is basically an endless back-and-forth between a small group of opinionated people.

(this begs the question of whether we should consider adding in a “# of Participants” count somehow, but please start a new topic for that if you want to go down that road.)

The first change I’d like to try isn’t a complete removal of the metric, but a simplification of it. We’re already doing it for Activity (and more drastic measures have been suggested), with exact minutes quickly becoming rounded hours, then days etc.

This only happens in the very late stages of view counts: 1000 becomes 1k. My off-the-cuff proposal would be:

  • 1 through 10
  • 10 +
  • 50 +
  • 100+
  • 200+, 300+ etc.
  • 1k, 1.1k etc.

Here’s an example of pretty rounded numbers from Google Play Store:


(probus) #4

My take on this is that views count is promotional in nature. Looking at the topic list page in a newly found forum it gives me a good idea about how much traffic the forum receives. But for the forums I visit regularly, there is little value in views count for me and I pretty much ignore it.


(Dave McClure) #5

I think @probus has a good point, but I still think removing the additional clutter would be best in the long run.

Regarding this point:

I think the best approach in the end will be to ditch the Views column and factor the Views count into the heatmap on the Posts column.

Eventually, I think it’s worth considering combining the algorithm for the hotness on the topic page with the one used to calculate the score for the top page. That may need further tuning as well, but I think they could go hand in hand.


(Jeff Atwood) #6

Pretty much what @erlend_sh said.

Views is the only public representation of a massive, silent, invisible majority on any discussion – the lurkers and anonymous folks.

Participation Inequality: The 90-9-1 Rule for Social Features

All large-scale, multi-user communities and online social networks that rely on users to contribute content or build services share one property: most users don’t participate very much. Often, they simply lurk in the background.

In contrast, a tiny minority of users usually accounts for a disproportionately large amount of the content and other system activity. This phenomenon of participation inequality was first studied in depth by Will Hill in the early '90s, when he worked down the hall from me at Bell Communications Research.

When you plot the amount of activity for each user, the result is a Zipf curve, which shows as a straight line in a log-log diagram.

User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

If you don’t show that, you are missing a key part of your demographic.

Even if we assume anonymous and unregistered aren’t present in large numbers, which would be unusual – if you see a ton of views and a ton of posts, you know regulars are coming back to that topic a lot. If you see a ton of posts but a tiny number of views, the odds of that discussion being the same 10 people yelling at each other for dozens of posts is high.

Views is a very defensible bit of information about a discussion.


Further simplifying the columns: quality score > view count
Further simplifying the columns: quality score > view count
What's more important on the categories page, topic count or post count?
(Soviut) #7

It seems like some sort of “quality” or “heat” metric that compared other metrics (like post count to views to likes to thread age to last modified) might be a better way of representing this instead of the separate values. This could all be represented inside the topic beside the “heat score” as well as in a tooltip or expand-on-click in the topic list.


#8

I’ve used it for time management purposes. If I don’t have a lot of time to devote to a new topic right now, I may defer looking at it until later, when I can fully digest it. Or I may go to a more active topic because that makes it more interesting (and don’t suggest using some mysterious color scheme in place of a self explanatory number).


(Salman, Freelance Developer) #10

At this rate someone is going to suggest the title column :smile:


#11

That’d be more suited to a tooltip as it’s just bonus information that people will figure out. :wink:

Seriously though, I think the suggestion of allowing things to stabilize for now is the best course. Let’s get V1 out of the door, because we’re wrangling over rearranging the drapes when there are bigger fish to fry.

Once customisation has been improved we’ll be able to adjust these things to our own preferences.


(Jeff Atwood) #12

As for hiding the views column specifically, you could do that right now today in about 2 minutes by simply entering the CSS in /admin, customizations, CSS/HTML to hide the column.

There’s even a topic here with cut and pasteable CSS!


(PJH) #13

Already have.

Well sorta. @downey expounded in the next post…


#14

Why isn’t that what happened to the likes column?
Or the first post time column? (though the first post time did at least sort of survive as a tooltip, if you’re on a device that’s hoverable)
Or any of the columns that were recently martyred?


(Jason Ives) #15

I do like the new activities column but it would have been nice if we could choose to use that or the old (traditional) first post/last post style.


(Lowell Heddings) #16

Seems like the columns should just be configurable like the top menu, post menu, and other things are.

Default:
star|topictitle|category|users|posts|views|activity

Hidden:
lastpost|firstpost|likes

And then everybody can set it however they want.


Huge avatar loading delay when clicking to see who Liked a post (on iPad)
(AstonJ) #17

Further to what @codinghorror and others have said, views also raise the appearance of activity of a thread (and your forum) - if your forum appears to be dead, that will not only be off-putting to newbies but also have a knock-on effect to members.

Obviously there are other factors too, but view count is pretty important imo.


How many views are counted per IP?
(Jeff Atwood) #18

I moved 7 posts to a new topic: How many views are counted per IP?


How many views are counted per IP?
(Jeff Atwood) #19

Over time I came to agree with part of this. Views is a “nice to have” but not as essential as last post date, and post count. So I decided to meet you halfway – the views column is now suppressed for narrow widths like iPad portrait. It will be visible as before on wide landscape displays.

We were already doing something similar (courtesy of @awesomerobot) where we reduced the avatar list from 5 to 1 (most recent poster) on portrait widths, so I hooked up the same CSS responsive width media query that was already present, to the views.

This affects both topic list and suggested topics.


#20

I strongly believe something like this should be optional. Personally, I would keep it.