Summarize this Topic -> Write a Summary for this Topic


(Andrew Meyer) #1

Recently while reading a long topic on Discourse with many posts, I came across the “Summarize this Topic” button. I initially thought that this button would allow me to write a summary of the topic which others could read. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the button instead allowed me to view a condensed version of the discussion with some posts hidden.

That got me thinking though: what if Discourse allowed users to create community-editable summaries of long, popular threads? This would be useful in all sorts of situations, such as:

  • Product support questions: add answer / progress in finding answer
  • Long discussions on feature proposals: document community consensus, and the current point the discussion is at
  • Any sort of long-running discussion where it’s difficult for a new participant to understand the discussion without reading everything

The existing “summarize this topic” button is helpful in those situations to some degree, but it still requires a lot of reading and can’t sum things up nearly as well as a human might be able to.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for replacing the “Summarize this Topic” button; this suggestion is for an additional feature, not a replacement.

What do you think? Good idea? Or not worth the effort?


Plugin: Manually curated topic summaries
(Jeff Atwood) #2

You can already sort of do that… either:

  • edit the first post to include the summary
  • edit the second post to be a summary

Or, eventually:

  • add another post and then manually. as staff, change the date on it so it sorts under the first post (not currently possible, but I think it should be)

The problem is that writing a real summary is real work by real human beings and is very unlikely to get done unless the human being or the topic is exceptional.

Having a machine summarize the topic by writing is basically impossible…


(Andrew Meyer) #3

True, but all of those actions would require you to be a site administrator, or at least a mod. Regular community members can’t edit other people’s posts, or mess with post metadata.

Right. In the original post I said:

what if Discourse allowed users to create community-editable summaries of long, popular threads

So the way I’m envisioning it a human (or multiple humans) would be doing the writing, and I expect this would only actually get done for long, popular threads. That’s why I also made the comment at the end about whether this would get used enough to be worth the effort.


(Dave McClure) #4

I don’t think a dedicated feature is warranted here, but i have seen others change the first post to a wiki before, or sometimes make a separate summary or how-to topic.


(Andrew Meyer) #5

Can you create “wiki posts” that anyone can edit? If so, that does seem pretty close to this feature. The only thing missing would be a way to move the post to the top of the thread, right below the original post.


(Jeff Atwood) #6

Yes you can, as a staff member.


(Andrew Meyer) #7

Ah, in that case that is pretty close to what I’m proposing here. In fact, if there was a button that allowed a regular user to do that, and a way to ensure that the wiki post displayed above all other replies in the thread, that would basically be a rudimentary implementation of this feature.


(Sam Saffron) #8

In general I tend to wikify the OP for “howtos” and such that need a better “crowd sourced” OP. I think its a valid way of making this happen.

There are some interesting algorithms for automated summarizations and some open source tools that do it eg: http://www.summarization.com/mead/ long term this may be worth exploring.