Threaded discussion is ultimately too complex to survive on the public Internet?


(John Engleman) #1

In 2012, Jeff’ wrote that he thought “threaded discussion is ultimately too complex to survive on the public Internet.”

Since it’s been nearly another 6 years, I was wondering if he still saw flat threads as the wave of the future, considering threaded conversations continue to be used by the largest and fastest growing social sites(Facebook, Imgur, Reddit)?

Given the apparent acceptance, perhaps even preference, of threaded design by these hundreds of millions of users, would he now be willing to consider incorporating threaded design into Discourse?

It seems that at the very least, this makes pragmatic business sense, since threaded conversations are now what the majority of people are used to using.


(Jeff Atwood) #2

No, I would not. For the record I am not against one (and only one) level of threading, but even that causes temporal and spatial problems with the discussion.

Also, are Imgur (?) , Reddit, and Facebook really discussion systems?

  • Reddit is a “post the funniest thing and vote to get it sorted above the others” system. Putting aside threading, the voting is probably as damaging to discussion as anything else, given that it re-orders the discussion. Good luck posting a reply to the fifth top level reply by votes and having anyone see it… ever.

  • Imgur is even more explicitly an amusement system given the focus on images. Race to post the funniest thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but discussion is not in any way the goal. Odd to include it in this list.

  • Facebook is more akin to a commenting system than a discussion system. While I have been linked to interesting Reddit comments before, many times – that is a valid metric of “it is producing at least some interesting discussion artifacts” – I can’t recall a single time anyone has ever pointed me to a discussion on Facebook. Maybe that is because unlike Reddit, 99% of the discussion it produces are private and visible only to people in those conversations?

It is valid to ask “where is discussion happening today”, but it is also valid to distinguish between actual discussion and (the equivalent of) YouTube comments.

Also have you seen how Reddit is collapsing pretty much all older discussions for anons by default? That is not an argument in favor of threading to the nth degree…


(Jay Pfaffman) #3

It is almost impossible to read a discussion on Facebook. I regularly stop reading discussions I find interesting because so much and so many of the messages require anther click to see them. I have even seen tweets truncated on Facebook. It’s simply not designed for people to even read what’s there.