Since Discourse first appeared online, my interest has primarily revolved around the concept that a forum, by definition, exists to facilitate a discussion that, in the end, will generate valuable content for community members and visitors alike. The natural trade-off is that the format of the content forever remains in a state of conversation: A collection of posts and replies with a horrible signal-to-noise ratio, the noise providing nothing but some context to the info that inevitably does matter when someone digs it up looking for the answers they seek.
Discourse has already made steps to take on this problem from one of two different angles: Either by attempting to prevent an increase in noise (trust level moderation, similar topic feedback), or by helping a user navigate through it (improved search, ‘best of’ topic sorting).
However, I’m curious if there isn’t an opportunity to actually tackle the problem by actually reducing the noise in a non-destructive manner. We’ve talked in the past about allowing a post to be flagged as ‘best answer’, with some good back and forth as to the pros and cons, but I realize that there are frequently times where such a feature is insufficient to provide the needed info without further searching through replies.
So, a series of thoughts:
- What if Discourse offered features similar to, say, Storify, and gave trusted users the ability to quickly create a summary of a topic (or multiple topics), adding additional context where necessary and automatically embedding/citing/linking excerpts?
- What if such a summary could earn sufficient approval, and a visitor reading a topic would see the summary first, and could still scroll below it to read the full topic for themselves, should they wish?
- What if such a summary could be pushed into a blog feed, motivating site owners/admins to summarize topics by rewarding them with easily generated (and useful) site content that attributes contributors without any additional effort?
- What if users who are cited were notified, and allowed to weigh in as an ‘aside’ to accompany the summary?
This has similarities to the past proposal of offering a “wiki topic” with a space at the top for open editing, though I think I prefer this alternative to the open-endedness of free-form content creation.
Lots more to say on this topic, but interested to hear initial reactions.