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Indexed Threaded Discussions

I recently got an idea for how to possibly improve ThreadMode discussions. The cool thing is that it requires no new features - simply using existing features in a new way! cool! Basically, this is simply a "convention" for creating and displaying ThreadMode discussions that provides some clearer structure and better navigability.

It occurs to me that since this does not require any code changes, that it is possibly not an appropriate topic for the Codev web. My apologies if that's the case. I just thought it might be something worth trying out on some of the longer discussions here.

Intention of convention

The goal is to create threaded discussions that:
  • are easier to navigate - i.e. finding and jumping to the particular comments you're interested in.
  • enhance the "threaded" structure - i.e. more clearly delineate and display responses to earlier comments.
  • create headlines for new entries
  • help clarify where to add new comments

How to do it

To test out this idea and provide an working example, I've copied and refactored part of the discussion in BeijingRelease as BeijingReleaseIndexedThreads.

The convention I used to create an IndexedThreadedDiscussions goes something like this:

  • When someone adds a new comment to the discussion, give it a heading using the "---++" syntax.
  • If the new comment is a response to an earlier comment, add it right below the first comment and make the heading one level lower.
  • Add your signature at the end of the heading rather than after your comment.
  • Perhaps add a bar at the end of each comment.
  • Finally, add %TOC% somewhere before the discussion. Voila, you have your index.

Note: Discussion below was refractored to include blockquote indenting which was not part of original convention described above. See #NewLook for further discussion.

-- LynnwoodBrown - 08 Aug 2002


I invite you to try it out on this topic. -- LB

What about separating it? -- WoutMertens - 10 Aug 2002

In many cases, you have some kind of concept being worked on and ThreadMode comments at the bottom.

Now I've been thinking that while the concept text may be refactored, the comments are generally left alone, and I think that it might actually be a good idea to keep the concept text separate from the comments. So if you have SomeTopic, comments might be saved to SomeTopicComments, and be %INCLUDE%-d.

This also allows something like the CommentPlugin to work without having too much trouble with locking, and mail-in comments are easy to add, too. We could even make a %COMMENT{author... date=...}%...%ENDCOMMENT%= setup, with a plugin that will resort the comments according to your wishes a la slashdot.org.

I guess this isn't too difficult to make. Thoughts?

I've been thinking along same lines -- LynnwoodBrown - 11 Aug 2002

I've with you 100%. I've been thinking for some time about SeparationOfDocumentAndThreadModes and how both would benefit by being more clearly delineated from each other. It seems to me that in TWiki.org site, these two modes often are very jumbled together which makes it very hard to get an overview of any particular topic. While refractoring would address this, we should face the reality that it happens very little. Having SeparationOfDocumentAndThreadedModes would make refactoring easier and, even in its absence, would make most discussions clearer.

This could be done either by formatting (which is what motivated me to explore IndexedThreadedDiscussions) or, as you suggest, by separation into different topics. You're right: this very much relates to the intention behind CommentPlugin.

Somewhat related to this, I have been thinking it would be nice to be able to display two topics within one window. So, for example, you could have the DocumentMode topic in the top and the ThreadMode topic in the bottom. This is a variation of what I was trying to get at in IntegrationWithOtherWebApps.

I once implemented a web site that used two frames in this way. In each feature article, there was a button that said "discuss." Clicking this brought up a frame in the bottom half of the window that displayed a bulletin board that was linked to that particular article. The two frames scrolled independently. I personally found this a very workable layout which allowed you to simultaneously see the text you were commenting on while making your comments (and without having to switch back and forth between windows). What I'd love to create now is a similar layout (implemented as a skin I suppose) that lets me put a Twiki page in the lower frame. Then we could have one Twiki topic in the lower frame to comment either on another TWiki topic, or even an external web page in the top frame.

I realize that I'm getting further afield here. It's something I'd like to explore further.

Further discussion on this refractored into TWikiAsWebCommentaryTool. -- LynnwoodBrown - 13 Aug 2002

New look -- WoutMertens - 12 Aug 2002

I went ahead and refactored the comments so that they reflect the tree. This is difficult to do manually because you have to keep putting blockquotes, but in my opinion it's much more readable. So consider this a case for having a CommentRenderPlugin. Another problem with doing it manually is that the table of contents will only go 6 levels deep, and there is already one used for the discussion.

So how about a this:

  • You can tag a comment area in the page, or all pages get one automatically. It looks like what CommentPlugin does.
  • Comments are added to a %TOPIC%Comments page, embedded in %COMMENT{number="3" author="Main.foo" time="12345678" replyto="2"}%, where the author, timestamp and parent comment are saved.
  • When displaying the page, the comments are rendered like here, with an optional separate TOC, and sorting and so on like the user likes it. (See http://slashdot.org for ideas in this area)

I like the "New Look" but wish it was easier to do -- LynnwoodBrown - 13 Aug 2002

The indents definitely enhances the ThreadMode structure. It's too bad that within the current TWiki framework that it is too troublesome to do (keeping track of nested blockquotes, etc.) I like what you propose for a new-and-improved CommentPlugin combined with a PluginCommentRenderPlugin!

In the mean time, I would use the convention I originally proposed of using bars to delineate each new comment - simply because it's easier to do. Let's continue to use the blockquote convention here to see how difficult it is to manage.

Great idea -- PeterMasiar - 15 Aug 2002 (and inspiring to enhance CommentPlugin)

I like this idea and am thinking about how to extend CommentPlugin to something like ThreadCommentPlugin. In view it will render only link like comment, on clicking should lock page, render it in HTML like view, but with comment expanded with edit box, and possibly some control elements (Reply -- More ideas --Start New Thread etc.) Just raw ideas, no idea how to implement, but just challenging old ThreadedDiscussion concept is excellent! Good job, LynnwoodBrown!

BTW, See how I used !!! to remove last part of header from TOC.

Sorry I have no time to read/understand what proper format in this page should be, so if I screwed blockquote or something else, please feel free to fix it. THX.

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Topic revision: r8 - 2002-08-15 - PeterMasiar
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