Challenges with the forums format

Sorry, just grousing here, but here's what I've noticed:

Threads get long because articulate people are discussing complex issues.

This has been a particular issue for me in the gmLess design space thread.

I finally get around to reading through part of a thread. There are things I want to respond to or ask questions about etc.

But maybe it's already been addressed below.

So a reader (read: me) has two options:
1). scroll way down to the end of the post and comment. This may be rendered redundant by all the intervening posts that have accumulated. You might be just cluttering the conversation strand with annoying repetitions.

Or

2). read through all of the branching pathways the conversation takes. All of these pathways are channelized by the format into one tangled dreadlocks of a strand. All mixed together... difficult to hold in mind simultaneously.

Since I don't have the cognitive bandwidth to track all the staggered and asynchronous conversations simultaneously, and I don't have the patience or the time to read and take pen and paper notes to remind myself about what comments I want to make when I get to the end of the strand, I go with the quick scroll mostly. But it's a crummy way to communicate. I end up feeling badly about it.

Someone worked hard to make this site and it's a truly awesome thing. Thank you!!!

but I've noticed that the way commenting works in Facebook groups handles this challenge soooooo much more effectively.

I do appreciate the independent status of this site... and the fact that it seems to attract great people, unlike some Facebook groups can be... I'm not suggesting everything moves to Facebook. Heaven forfend!!

Anyway, thanks for all the good conversation. I'm happy this place exists. I plan to continue to hang out here as much as possible

Comments

  • It seems like the issue you are describing is that it's tough to jump into a long discussion thread without reading the whole thing. Is that correct?

    Generally, I agree that people could be more proactive about starting new threads to cover disparate topics which crop up in a single thread (and leaving links at both ends).

    That's a good practice.
  • So it is.

    Forums could be better as a medium, but we've been sort of stuck with them in their current form for years nevertheless. I'd say it's because the forum medium is good enough to hold onto its niche for now. Nobody's put in the work to really take it to the next level that I know of. (I imagine the next level is something that supplements the concept of a "thread" in various ways, so as to facilitate a conversation web, all without compromising on the linear simplicity of the existing paradigm.)

    The reason why an old-fashioned forum (of which the Vanilla software is actually a pretty recent iteration) is not going to be superceded by social media style stuff is likely that it supports long-winded essay style communications better. As has often been remarked here, the people still hanging out at SG seem to often be doing that because they dislike the ephemeral bleating that's so natural to the fast-paced world of the social media communities. I imagine that there's actually quite a bit of selective pressure here: the people who find long-winded correspondence a chore migrate away, encouraging all sorts of self-involved bores to conquer the territory [grin].

    My advice for handling the rambling threads is that you should ignore the boring parts and engage with just the bits that are relevant to you. It's not uncommon for me to jump into a new thread to address the original poster directly, disregarding the existing discussion, and I haven't found this to be particularly problematic. Improving your skimming skills helps, of course.
  • Well... these things are easy to judge in retroscpect. Yet, when you are in the middle of a discussion, who is to say which line of thought is going to take off?

    I sometimes have similar feelings when I stumble upon a thread that has been going on for 3 pages and think to myself "gee, would be nice to join the conversation".

    We had a similar discussion in this thread:
    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/21278/where-else-do-people-discuss-the-art-of-story-game-design

    FInally, another option is to spend more time on the Story Games Google Plus page and post there. Chances are that you have an easier time there.
  • We've had many discussions touching on the relative strengths and weaknesses of fora as opposed to social media sites. They are clearly different animals, different mediums, and they attract different sorts of readers and participation. While your comments about threading are true to an extent, other issues - such as permanence, searchability and the capacity for the aforementioned long-windedness - are seen as serious strengths by those who prefer fora.

    I look forward to the fora of tomorrow with smart and dynamic re-threading capability. But until then, I use social media for brief chats, public announcements and opinion-gathering, and fora for researching design theory and discussing complex topics that I'll want to reference later.

  • I still prefer the long conversations, though I agree it's kinda hard trying to read everything before posting. It's always worth the effort though. However it's good to know there are other people with the same problem, and that if my post gets ignored it isn't because anybody thinks it's worthless, but because reading through it all isn't something everyone has enough time to do. Thanks!

    It's somewhat the same for me here, I feel bad when I miss somebody in the discussion who already talked about whatever I just said. I don't do in in purpose, it's just that sometimes you just try to read too fast and skip important parts without noticing. Or something pops in your mind and you want to share it quick -that comes with my memory issues- so you skip to the end and start posting without checking everything. I'll take these things less seriously, but I'll still try to read as much as I can before posting.
  • Ha! I'm hoisted on my own petard. The very issues I was grousing about have presented themselves in this very thread. I'll try to use the format greatest effect though:
    It seems like the issue you are describing is that it's tough to jump into a long discussion thread without reading the whole thing. Is that correct?

    Generally, I agree that people could be more proactive about starting new threads to cover disparate topics which crop up in a single thread (and leaving links at both ends).

    That's a good practice.
    Paul: it's not just that new convos evolve, but that It'd be so much easier if this present comment appeared nested in a thread directly under your comment. Instead of at the end of the thread. The problem is compounded when responses to a comment are spread out over several pages...
    So it is.

    Forums could be better as a medium, but we've been sort of stuck with them in their current form for years nevertheless. I'd say it's because the forum medium is good enough to hold onto its niche for now. Nobody's put in the work to really take it to the next level that I know of. (I imagine the next level is something that supplements the concept of a "thread" in various ways, so as to facilitate a conversation web, all without compromising on the linear simplicity of the existing paradigm.)

    The reason why an old-fashioned forum (of which the Vanilla software is actually a pretty recent iteration) is not going to be superceded by social media style stuff is likely that it supports long-winded essay style communications better. As has often been remarked here, the people still hanging out at SG seem to often be doing that because they dislike the ephemeral bleating that's so natural to the fast-paced world of the social media communities. I imagine that there's actually quite a bit of selective pressure here: the people who find long-winded correspondence a chore migrate away, encouraging all sorts of self-involved bores to conquer the territory [grin].

    My advice for handling the rambling threads is that you should ignore the boring parts and engage with just the bits that are relevant to you. It's not uncommon for me to jump into a new thread to address the original poster directly, disregarding the existing discussion, and I haven't found this to be particularly problematic. Improving your skimming skills helps, of course.
    Eero: I've seen massive posts on Facebook group sites. It's not a limit imposed by the format. The categories offered in this forum are a better initial parsing tool than is available on FB though (I think...)

    Well... these things are easy to judge in retroscpect. Yet, when you are in the middle of a discussion, who is to say which line of thought is going to take off?

    I sometimes have similar feelings when I stumble upon a thread that has been going on for 3 pages and think to myself "gee, would be nice to join the conversation".

    We had a similar discussion in this thread:
    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/21278/where-else-do-people-discuss-the-art-of-story-game-design

    FInally, another option is to spend more time on the Story Games Google Plus page and post there. Chances are that you have an easier time there.
    Beepeegee: ive joined that google group. Thanks. It seems like the conversations don't really happen there though. Not in the same way. Not sure why.. sounds like the emphasis is more on promoting something than discussing things.

    We've had many discussions touching on the relative strengths and weaknesses of fora as opposed to social media sites. They are clearly different animals, different mediums, and they attract different sorts of readers and participation. While your comments about threading are true to an extent, other issues - such as permanence, searchability and the capacity for the aforementioned long-windedness - are seen as serious strengths by those who prefer fora.

    I look forward to the fora of tomorrow with smart and dynamic re-threading capability. But until then, I use social media for brief chats, public announcements and opinion-gathering, and fora for researching design theory and discussing complex topics that I'll want to reference later.

    Aslf: I look forward to that forum too
  • On second thought I have a few more things to say: for some reason a big chunk of my comment above disappeared when I hit post. Maybe I've angered the forum gods? A funny thing happened on the way...

    Also, is there a way to just quote a part of someone's comment? Seems like there is and I've tried to select just part then hit "quote" but I get the whole thing...
  • Interesting problems...

    I find the best way to have productive conversations is to utilize a forum that has a small enough audience, or at least sub-forums that help divide that audience, such that the responses to a post typically don't explode before I have a chance to jump in.

    To that end, while I follow some discussions on Face Book, I find them almost impossible to participate in with hundreds of responses (and they only do one level of comment tree, so some comments still have way too many responses).

    I do miss NNTP news readers where a tree structure for conversations was maintained by the newer "GUI" readers.

    I also find finding the continued conversations I'm interested in in Face Book challenging, the same with Google+ (though Google+ at least reliably notifies me of which threads have responses, but finding an old thread can be very challenging).

    Frank
  • Good points frank.
    And btw: I just noticed I'd always been using a mobile interface to this forum and if I tap the "full site" button I see the search bar and categories. Duh! I'm a slow learner.
  • Also, is there a way to just quote a part of someone's comment? Seems like there is and I've tried to select just part then hit "quote" but I get the whole thing...
    You'll need to learn about the formatting language used in these posts to fine-tune the way you post. In this forum's case, the default language is simple HTML - you write raw HTML markup in the comment box, and assuming it's not one of the security-limited tags you're using, it should show up just as on any web page.

    For example, a quote box is produced on this forum software by using the <blockquote> tag. You can see an example of what a quote box looks like as html markup code by clicking the "Quote" link on any post, which then copies that entire post inside blockquote tags into the comment writing box.

    However, what you put inside that box is arbitrary, you don't need to be limited to just quoting a whole post! You can easily go into that text inside the box and chop it up, just like I did when I quoted that one part of your post. I simply removed the parts that I did not want to quote.

    You can also use this method to create quotations from whatever other text material, it doesn't have to be from the particular thread. For example, here's me quoting from Dracula the novel, because I like it:
    Fortune favoured us, and we got home without meeting a soul. Once we saw a man, who seemed not quite sober, passing along a street in front of us; but we hid in a door till he had disappeared up an opening such as there are here, steep little closes, or “wynds,” as they call them in Scotland. My heart beat so loud all the time that sometimes I thought I should faint. I was filled with anxiety about Lucy, not only for her health, lest she should suffer from the exposure, but for her reputation in case the story should get wind. When we got in, and had washed our feet, and had said a prayer of thankfulness together, I tucked her into bed. Before falling asleep she asked—even implored—me not to say a word to any one, even her mother, about her sleep-walking adventure. I hesitated at first to promise; but on thinking of the state of her mother’s health, and how the knowledge of such a thing would fret her, and thinking, too, of how such a story might become distorted—nay, infallibly would—in case it should leak out, I thought it wiser to do so. I hope I did right. I have locked the door, and the key is tied to my wrist, so perhaps I shall not be again disturbed. Lucy is sleeping soundly; the reflex of the dawn is high and far over the sea....
    I hope that clarified that. You can do all sorts of things to cheer up your posts with simple HTML - insert images, lists, tables, various text effects. It's well worth the effort to learn some HTML even if you're not into programming and web site design per se; it's one of the basic building blocks of our modern environment, and as you can see, it pops up in places.
  • I seem to remember that it was possible to select part of a post and then quote just that. It doesn't seem to work like that anymore, however.

    The way to do it now (which is occasionally a chore) is to hit "quote" and then remove any text you didn't want to quote.

    Sometimes the software hides a bit of the quoted text behind three little dots, which people can click on to reveal. I don't know how it chooses when to do this - it's a relatively new feature and it's opaque to me.

    I agree that some kind of more dynamic threading could be handy for nested conversations. However, I still wouldn't trade that for social media-comment-style discussion. I find that almost unbearably awkward. I'm pretty sure that the lack of intelligent conversation you're seeing on, say, G+ is a direct consequence of the difference in format (after all, it's almost the same group of contributors!).
  • Good points all. I will learn some basic HTML, Eero. Thanks for the inspiration! I'll try my one HTML trick below. What follows is a direct quotation of the mentation the proceeded in my brain as I read your Stoker quote:
    Wow, I've never read Dracula... I love the cadence of the writing. Less gothic than Hawthorne or wollenstein-Shelley, less distant than lovecraft, less showey than dickens. He seems to pull off that combination of formal eloquence and intimacy with less of the excesses that sometimes put me off in writing from this General period.
    .
    Well... I didn't really think all that while reading just now, but I did appreciate it.
    Thanks for the lesson and the encouragement to go further.
    Davey
    In retrospect these writers probably span a couple hundred years huh?

    Now I'll post and see how the block quote worked...
  • Somehow the text after the "quote" showed up as a nested second quote within the first block... I'm getting closer though!
  • If you look at your text in that post (hit "edit"), you'll see that you have multiple "blockquote" tags.

    Each tag should be "opened" and then "closed". A [blockquote] tag opens a quotation; a [/blockquote] tag (note the forward slash) then closes it.

    In your post, you open several "blockquotes" but only close one, so it doesn't come out the way you'd like.

    This is a basic principle of HTML - all "tags" must be closed with a "/tag".
  • Here is your text again, with a forward slash added to the second "blockquote" tag:
    Good points all. I will learn some basic HTML, Eero. Thanks for the inspiration! I'll try my one HTML trick below. What follows is a direct quotation of the mentation the proceeded in my brain as I read your Stoker quote:
    Wow, I've never read Dracula... I love the cadence of the writing. Less gothic than Hawthorne or wollenstein-Shelley, less distant than lovecraft, less showey than dickens. He seems to pull off that combination of formal eloquence and intimacy with less of the excesses that sometimes put me off in writing from this General period.
    .
    Well... I didn't really think all that while reading just now, but I did appreciate it.
    Thanks for the lesson and the encouragement to go further.
    Davey
    In retrospect these writers probably span a couple hundred years huh?

    Now I'll post and see how the block quote worked...
    Now each "blockquote" opens and closes, and we get two separate sections.
  • On some G+ communities, we have long and meaningful exchanges. In my experience it depends mostly on the dedication of the participants involved. At the same time, anyone can participate with a simple +1.

    I find +1 on posts and comments actually quite helpful.
    On this forum, sometimes I overlook a hot discussion because the title doesn't sound appeealing to me. On the other hand, some posts look very active and turn out to be just a long dialogue between two people.
  • Not as a mod at all:

    I like threads which encourage (via first post rules or just encouragement) aggressive thread splitting. I often feel like the long complex threads often have four or five things which could make their own interesting discussions

  • ...[S]ome posts look very active and turn out to be just a long dialogue between two people.
    @James_Stuart Does the board's software offer any functionality to address this issue? One can see the number of comments in a thread's table of contents listing. Is it possible to display the number of commenters? Is that something already build into the Vanilla platform that could be implemented, or something impossible to implement?

  • What you suggest would be technically trivial (he says, without having studied Vanilla code), but somebody would need to do the legwork - either find a plug-in made by somebody else to modify the forums, or write one themselves. If Vanilla's built at all like other forums and content management systems I've seen, the actual change would be basic - just a function to count the number of discrete participants in the thread, and a reference to the result in the page template. Maybe save the count somewhere - presumably you'd want to do the same thing the software does with the other thread metadata, whatever it is.

    It can be said that in general we live in an initial stage of the information age where the number of things that could be done vastly surpasses the number of proficient and dedicated coders. This holds pretty much for all areas of life, excepting perhaps video game studios, which seem to often have more coders than good ideas [grin]. This means that many ideas fall into the category of things that could be done in principle, but nobody bothers to do them because everybody has better things to do.
  • edited October 2017
    Eero’s correct: it’s technically easy but still effort to package it well. That Story Games is a very old vanilla forum that was modified to add capability still actually causes maintenance today.

    That said, I think if somebody made a plug-in which did this, I’d scan it over and install.
  • I'm sure that if you find enough of value here to stick around, @davey , you'll get used to the format. In reading that GMless design space thread, I was actually thinking, "Whoa, Davey and Mongrel are treating this like social media; why haven't they started their own thread(s)?" Forums just have their own unique logic and best practices.

    If anyone wants to coach me on how to use FB / G+ to get the same bang for my buck there that I do here, I'm all ears! I don't post often enough to cultivate a personal following; I like that the users at S-G will still be here if I wander off for a few weeks or months.
  • @Hopeless_Wanderer: cool, will put it on my todo list.
  • That's pretty interesting. The forum used to display who started each thread and the latest poster.

    Then it was removed, since people thought it biased the way people read the threads.

    I, however, am all for this kind of transparency.
  • @Hopeless_Wanderer: cool, will put it on my todo list.
    Awesome, thanks!



  • I had this idea years ago, a forum where you could reply to a comment laterally, so divergent threads would take off *sideways* from the OP thread.

  • Thanks David. I will be staying around. I've been reading forums here for a year or so. I guess I'm still on a Learning curve re- how to best utilize the forum. I honestly hadn't realized my approach was out of sink
  • edited October 2017
    Cool that you're posting now after reading so long!

    I hope this format doesn't annoy you too much. Many of us are happy to share what works best for us when we use it; hopefully some of it'll work for you. :)
  • There was a really nice trick in older versions of the SG forum (Before Vanilla?) where you could post a private response to a particular comment, effectively making a sub-thread to which you could bring whoever you wanted. It could be used to discuss some stuff privately as a PM or avoid spamming another thread when small side-discussions erupted. Sadly, it got removed when Vanilla was implemented.
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