Sink and Bury topics?

(Stephanie Daugherty) #1

I’ve seen the functionality to “sink” and/or “bury” posts on other discussion software, where they seem to be valuable tools for combating trolling, flamewars, and gravedigging. These options can provide for a non-confrontational, discreet alternative to other moderation tools, particularly when forum regulars get dragged along for the mud slinging.

“Sinking” a topic refers to not allowing it’s last updated time to update anymore, such that it can naturally sink down in the list order. This works particularly well as a response to gravedigging, since gentle, public correction can be applied, and then sinking the topic makes sure it will never float back to the top. This is also a strong option against a flame war, as it effectively hastens the natural end without even needing to inform the participants.

“Burying” is essentially the opposite of pinning - rather than showing up at the top of the list of topics, a buried topic is always shown last, after all the topics which are not buried, so that a user has to scroll to the end of the list to find them. This allows those who are tracking the topic to continue, but makes it very unlikely that anyone else will join, effectively doing a soft close on the topic

By “inhibiting” rather than “prohibiting” an unhealthy discussion, there’s far less pushback from those involved in a flamewar than there might be by closing the topic or banning/suspending members, particularly longtime members, and in particular, the participants are less likely to redirect their anger at moderators and admins.

(Jeff Atwood) #2

It’s a good idea, but conflicts somewhat with the goal of the Hot tab, which is different than the Latest tab (a dead simple list of recent topics). The goal is to make Hot tab the default.

Sinking has the most potential as a mod function, just prevent the last activity date from updating. But again – consider what the role of the Hot page is. To have a more subtle ordering of topics than “duh, someone replied, bump this” Latest offers…

Burying is weird in an infinite scrolling scenario, where will we put a buried topic? At the bottom of the… infinite list of topics? We already have invisibility (you can only visit this topic if you have the URL to it, it does not show up on any list of topics except for moderators) which can be applied to any topic, and if a topic is at the bottom of thousands and thousands of topics, what is the practical difference between that and being invisible?

(Stephanie Daugherty) #3

I think invisible nearly fits the same purpose of burying, although I’m not sure how invisible topics interact with search engines.

I agree sinking would be tricky, but as far as the “hot” tab goes, the idea is that sinking a topic “partitions” it’s activity, so that activity after it’s sunk doesn’t reflect how popular or how active the topic is considered to be, regardless of how that popularity is calculated. Essentially, as a mod tool, the intent is to starve off fires so that they go out on their own, rather than trying to put them out in a way that’s so confrontational as to stir them up further. If it takes a while, that’s ok, but obviously, if something has reached an “all time” high which will take it a long time to fall off the “hot” tab, then something else might need to be available, or some kind of artificial decay might need to happen to “sunk” topics over time.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

True, if a contentious topic is getting a lot of replies it would be likely to appear on the Hot tab just as much as the Latest tab.

(Jeff Atwood) #5

I have to say there hasn’t been much demand for “sink” to date. In practice any topic you would want to sink, you kind of want everyone to stop posting in anyway so you just… close the topic. It works.

Sink then becomes a “I don’t wanna publicly close, so let me do this secret thing” like hellbanning. I am pretty sure the people in the topic would notice this and open support topics about why their topic was broken and no longer appearing in the normal place in topic lists. And secrecy is not healthy for communities, not this kind of mod secrecy for sure.

If it’s the kind of topic where people are just bickering with each other, there is zero value in letting people bicker endlessly even if the topic never got bumped. Extended bickering generally leads to buildup of animosity, and you don’t want that. You want them to take a time out.

If anything this is an argument for a “timed close” where you put the whole topic on pause for a few hours so everyone can :snowflake: the hell out.

(Stephanie Daugherty) #6

My thought is that it’s sometimes better for fires to burn themselves out, rather than directly confront participants. In some types of conflicts, particularly those fueled by religion or politics, or of course, the dreaded “holy war”, the line between moderation and censorship is very muddled, and prematurely closing a discussion that people are truly passionate about breeds resentment.

I can see where a “time out” could achieve the objective: with less resentment, as could being able to toggle sharp rate limits on a discussion that’s seriously out of hand. The ability to toggle the new user guidelines reminder popup or a variation of it to everyone replying to a particular topic could also help keep people on track