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…


Changing the TimeStamp of a Post
(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.


(Mark A Schmucker) #9

Just checking, is this possible yet? This would be perfect for our use case. Assuming it’s not possible from the web page, how about from the API?


(Jeff Atwood) #10

I am not sure that’s technically possible, what do you think @sam

Even if we changed the date of the post, it’d still be out of order in absolute ID, which I suspect would be a serious problem.


(rizka) #11

An ugly but possible way to achieve this would be to move all the responses to another topic. Then you add your post to the original topic and then you move back the posts which you previously moved.


(Sam Saffron) #12

We always order on post number, absolute id does not matter, technically we can re-sequence a topic for cases like this, it is a pretty expensive operation on large topics but technically can be done.


(Mark A Schmucker) #13

This seems like it might be the best option. We’re toying with it and found a few side effects, the worst of which is that Replies, Views and Activity counts are reset. So a topic might have 100 replies and 1000 views, at which point we decide it needs a summary, and after the ugly trick there are 0 replies and 0 views. Any thoughts how to maintain the counts?


(Mark A Schmucker) #14

Correction- topic views is the only things that gets reset.