What I like most about Discourse is how it resolves the old flat-vs threaded controversy (see also Jeff Atwood’s blog entry Web Discussions: Flat by Design on the subject). Discourse uses a flat display, because a threaded display is a tree, and trees cannot be displayed on a screen in a “usable” manner. On the other hand, Discourse allows replies to earlier posts. It makes it very convenient to see the immediate parent of a reply, and even to navigate up the path of parents in case of replies to replies. That UI design is absolutely phantastic. I have talked to a number of died-in-the-wool thread-view lovers, and they had to grudgingly admit that Discourse is good. There is just one thing that they all asked for, and it is exactly the thing that came to my mind when I first looked at Discourse. When looking at a specific post, it would be nice if one could filter the entire topic so that it only displays:
- This post itself,
- the path of replies from the top of the topic to this post, and
- the subtree of replies and replies-to-replies below this post
A mathematician would call this the path to this node and the subtree rooted at this node. I understand that this may be confusing/complicated/cluttering for a good UI. What I can pretty much guarantee though is that it would win over even the most die-hard of the thread-view aficionados. Just a thought.