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Threaded Discussions

Everybody knows Usenet, the medium to discuss topics in groups. There are now many web based discussion engines that mimic Usenet. One of the most popular is the Ultimate Bulletin Board ( Infopop Corporation at http://www.ultimatebb.com/ )

TWiki could have also a discussion feature that would use the benefits of a Wiki system.

Key Requirements

  • Define groups (irregularly by administrator)
  • Everybody can easily create a new discussion thread in a group.
  • Easy to add a message to an existing thread.
  • Use HTML text area to add text.

Key Features and Spec

  • Use a TWiki web as a discussion forum
  • WebHome page has a list of groups (link to groups).
  • The groups are initialized in the usual Wiki way by the administrator.
  • Each goup is a page with a list of threads and an edit field to create a new thread.
  • Creating a new thread will automatically:
    • Add the thread to the list in the group in chronological order.
    • Create an empty thread page.
  • A thread page has messages separated by horizontal ruler. At the bottom is a text edit area to add a message to the thread.
  • User never needs the Edit link at the bottom of a page.

Open questions

  • Hide Edit link at the bottom of the page for discussion webs?
  • How to handle authentication (if any). Or better to submit messages as user nobody?
  • What fields besides the text edit aread? "From" line? Subject line?
  • How to handle edit contention? (No problem if added "on the fly".)
  • All messages of a thread linear in one page, or links to individual messages?
  • Offer threaded view of a message thread, or just a linear view?
  • Related to above: Always append messages at the end of the page, or possible to insert a new message to a specific message?
  • How to handle "message read" status, if at all? (There is email notification)

Implementation Issues

  • Use category table for group name.
  • New variable %ADDTEXTFIELD% (??) for text area.

-- PeterThoeny - 16 Jan 2000

Um, ThreadedDiscussionsWhy? usenet does it, most bbs's do it--why should a wiki do it?
-- KevinKinnell - 10 Apr 2000

Well, I am just looking for a mix of wiki and threaded discussions to implement a web teaching tool (see also MathematicsWiki): authors (say, teachers for simplicity) can edit the main part trough the usual wiki mechanism, while questions (with eventual answers) and comments are kept separated. I fear that with some thousand students editing the pages to add a question or a comment, every day one has to recover from scratching or vandalism.

Most of the tools needed to handle this approach are already present, starting from MultiLevelWikiWebs.

One has to insert an "add comment" button to the end of the template. This probably simplifies also commenting a large discussion or a large document (instad of editing the whole thing just to add a line).

The visualization of the thread can be easily customized: "only titles" or "whole messages". The customization can be done using different templates, and choosen on the fly or following user's preferences

As noticed in ThreadedDiscussionsWhy, it is easier to comment something if you have the text at your hand, but this can be done easily either editing the text in a frame next to the original one, or editing it in a new window (well, only for browsers that run in a graphical environment, I believe). The frame solution is rather elegant, in my opinion. Anyhow, it can be customized following one's preferences.

The big point concerns authorizations, in my view (see UserAuthorizationSchemes or HostileUsers). I am in favor of using different permissions, allowing editing to a selected group of users and commenting to a broader one. One has to store permissions on a "per web" basis, allowing inheritance to subwebs.

I've found similar topics scattered in AuthenticationBasedOnGroups, WebAdmin and TwikiUsers. Have I missed something?

-- FrancoBagnoli - 28 Aug 2000

My interest on TWiki came exactly from the same motivation! Using TWiki for teaching!

-- AndreaSterbini - 28 Aug 2000

I'm studying the problem for a few days. Probably the best think to do is to use one directory per message (in which attachments and subwebs are stored too) and then use some tool like libweb to authenticate users, instead of relying on apache.

However, I do not want to modify too much twiki, so a possible workaround to separate a page from comments is

Warning: Can't find topic ""."" the page at the end of the original one

  • attach a button to jump to the comment page

Everything could be done automatically by templates, I guess.

I think one should also be offered the possibility of attaching text to the end of the message instead of editing the whole message (since this is what one does generally), possibly while viewing the original message in another textarea, so one does not need to scroll up and down to comment something.

-- FrancoBagnoli - 30 Aug 2000

I implemented this feature, with several others, as described in the WebTeach page

-- FrancoBagnoli - 26 Sep 2000

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Topic revision: r12 - 2006-02-14 - PeterThoeny
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