Simplifying comments

I think the comment system has to be simplified by removing p/c comments and adding option comments at the bottom of the option page. Like this:

I understand the reasoning for comments being the way they are now and I even prefer it in terms of neatly organizing everything in its appropriate place, but it creates roadblocks for community building.

The comments are always an extra click away. Meaning that discussions get buried, notifications get buried and reading all option comments requires a lot of clicking and waiting on pages to load.

It’s hard to start a discussion the way comments are set up now.

On the other hand having a single comments section at the bottom of the option page would allow smoothly transitioning from the structured information to a more free form exchange of opinions. It would help create a sense community and allow for an easy way to engage. In a way that’s intuitive and super-simple.

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What if (not to sound like a broken record) the comments opened with a drop down animation without a full page refresh (like how disqus is hidden on so many sites)? So have the comments where they are in your mockup but not visible until one clicks on the word comments. I know this still keeps them hidden but at least they are still on the same page.

Is that for page load speed purposes? I guess you could simply load them last / only when the user scrolls to the bottom of the page to make sure that the page loads quickly. Hiding it for users that don’t care for it would be a nice option, but I’d argue that the default behavior should be to show the comments.

There are two separate issues here.

  1. Comments are broken up into p/c/option level
  2. The UI for accessing the comments has a high cognitive load.

Those two issues are coming together at the moment to form the unpleasant commenting experience, but are somewhat orthogonal problems.

One thing we were exploring to solve issue #2 was keeping the comments segregated, but exposing them simply via a slide in panel from the right:

The panel would just slide in over the current content and be accessible via the summary, compare & option pages.

I do like how it looks popping out from the side, the user does not have to leave the page to see comments, though it does (also even in our current implementation) feel weird to have the “edit” option with it. Edit feels like it should be separated from comments as it is a tool that should be not often used, I mean how many times is someone going to change the wording in a question? It also could be misconstrued as an edit for comments.

The one drawback I see from opening comments from the side is that it covers some of the page, so if there were text one wanted to copy/paste, or just something they wanted to reread while in the middle of typing a comment, they then have to close comments to do this. If the comments (separated from history and edit) were at the bottom of the page as in thekodols mock-up but still remained hidden by default and then had an animated drop down, once dropped down users would still be able to go back to the main content without problem.

I feel this would be the best of both worlds, keeping the page clean with a hidden comments section, while still having the option to expand out all comments while not obstructing anything else on the page. Maybe there could be a pin top comment that is view-able while comments are minimized on the page, thus giving a bit of insight of what is happening in the fully expanded comments, drawing the user in (to expand comments).

I like the concept of this very much, but…

  • It’s still a lot of clicking waiting for things to load.
  • It’s still a higher cognitive load than a simple continuation of what you’re already doing (scrolling)
  • On mobile it would still need to be either a separate page or require giving up screen space that’s in limited availability there as it is

To return to issue #1 of dispersed comments a bit.

I’m worried if we’re not being too clever too early. If not removing p/c comments completely, how about hiding or de-emphasizing them until there’s a critical mass of people already engaged in option level comments?

My concern with why I started this discussion is community-building. Community needs an informal way of communication for it to exist. It can’t be all about the pros and cons, it has to be about “look at this cool thing I made, because I like this product so much” and stuff like that as well. And it has to be effortless.

Here is a potential solution to both 1 and 2. Usability thoughts? (this would be at the bottom of the question)

Love it.

A comment box at the top?

Am I correct in assuming that the rest of the system stays as it is, and this is just an aggregation that helps bring it to the user’s attention? Very nice. Collapse threads by default IMO, but the idea is solid.

My one big concern is placement. On a Q with only half a dozen options, dumping this at the bottom is fine. But I’m pretty sure no normal user will ever see the bottom of e.g. programming fonts – and our goal is for every question to be that way, right? :slight_smile: Maybe offset this with a prominent Jump to comment activity button at the bottom of the Q header?




Thanks for the feedback!

This. Three levels of comments is just too complex. I’m still not convinced that every pro/con needs its own comments tree.

One possible solution is to reduce the number of levels, but make linking to various items from comments possible. This way, if I’m clicking “Add Comment” while viewing a viewpoint, I’m not forced to visit separate pages, but can optionally choose a pro/con I want to discuss (the choice of adding a comment to a viewpoint rather than pro/con can be explicit, not default, to enforce choosing a pro/con instead of just mentioning it in the comment’s text). I don’t want to see “Add comment to X thread” links all over the place. It’s too complex.

Most often, I want to view all comments for a viewpoint. If I want to view comments for a specific pro/con, it can be presented as a filter instead (show all / show for pro X / show for con Y / show for pros / show for cons). “Comments” links on pros/cons can scroll to comments at the bottom and switch the filter instead.

The same with a question page. I don’t see pros/cons from there, so I likely want to discuss viewpoints. When adding a comment, I can choose what to link it to: to question / to viewpoint X / to viewpoint Y. I shouldn’t be able to link to pros/cons from here, I shouldn’t see links for adding comments to top pros/cons — this functionality should be exclusive to viewpoint page where all pros/cons are listed.

(Well, the object model remains the same I guess, but from user’s point of view, it’s one level of comments less. And no extra pages, just comments linked to items.)


Let me explain our rationale for the current state of the commenting system. There are many types of possible discussion we could aim for on Slant, the one we wanted to focus on is the discussion surrounding the legitimacy & quality of the pros/cons.

People add a lot of Pros/cons. Some are great, some are crap. One way to convert a shitty pro to an amazing one is to have a discussion about what the core point of the Pro is, what a good source might be, is it actually accurate etc. Our hypothesis was if we have a scoped/dedicated comment thread for each Pro there will be a higher chance of that sort of discussion instead of a general chat amongst the community about the question. This has worked out reasonably well in practise: etc

We found most people have an emotional reaction to a particular pro/con (this is wrong, I agree! etc) so the pro/con comments worked well as an outlet for that and led to productive discussion.

However, it’s obvious that we made something too complicated, so something does need to change.

@Athari what do you think about combining your idea (select what to comment on) with the mockup I did of the combined comment thread? Basically a question level commenting thread where you can select what part of the IA to comment on? Then the thread displays the comments like the mockup shows "Stuart commented on “pro” in “option”.

Just five comments. Smells of overengineering. It’s like having 20 forums, with 10 subforums in each, when there’re 10 active users — I’ve seen that many times (especially back when popularity of forums was at its peak and “one click to create a forum” websites began popping up). It never works. In the best case, all visitors use “most recent posts” link and get a flat list of threads.

The only thing I didn’t like about your mockup is numerous links “add to X thread”, the rest is good.

The question is, how to present choice where to add a comment? When on a question page, adding a comment to the question or one of the options is easy. When on an option page, adding a comment to the option or one of the reasons is easy. But I’m not sure how to (and whether to allow to) add comments to reasons from the question page — two-level dropdown is doable (though confusing), but most reasons aren’t visible on the question page. Even if you add floating hints to quickly view the discussed reason, context still won’t be full.

I could get rid of all the “add comment to” with some kind of comment editor that has the dropdown to specify where to add the comment to, but as you pointed out that might have some UX issues related to context.

One solution is to just get rid of the P/C comments and just have comments at the option level. Then if we wanted to combine them all at the question level the dropdown in the comment editor would only have 1 level and the context would be there as all the options are shown. I’m not afraid to kill things that aren’t working.

Linking to reasons seems to be useful, it’s UI which is the problematic. When I don’t agree with a reason, being able to see all related comments (and whether they exist) is useful. Maybe linking to reasons should only be possible from the option page? Then dropdowns become simple on both question and option pages and thus clutter can be avoided. And to reduce mental complexity, options on question pages and reasons on option pages can be used as comment filters to git rid of extra hierarchy while keeping functionality.

Oh I like that a lot. I’ll throw together a mockup of the flows to see what it would look like.

Continuing the discussion from Complied list of complaints about the current community experience:

The roadmap also talks about comments:

Re-work comments/history/activity
inline comments could be a boon for SEO

I’m not really following…

I can see comments have been something worrying the team for the longest time, but I can’t see what’s so bad about it as it is now: having it on its own page. Looks perfect. Have it changed that much in the last 3 months?

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ve already asked this elsewhere but… Why not using discourse there?

I do think history is very confusing, and no idea where’s that activity, but looks like both could be solved by simply using discourse.

Hasn’t changed at all. The general issue is Slant requires a lot of navigation to new pages to see data. Inline comments would allow people to see the comments on a question without having to leave the question page.

Too weird/hard to integrate discourse and the main site together

[quote=“Cawas, post:17, topic:129”]
I do think history is very confusing, and no idea where’s that activity, but looks like both could be solved by simply using discourse.
[/quote]Agreed, history needs a lot of work.


Could you elaborate more?

Embedding to blog is fairly simple and if questions don’t allow for duplicate I don’t think it would be either weird nor hard.

For example, comments wouldn’t show up in the Slant profile as they would belong to the discourse db. We couldn’t tie the comments into our notification system etc etc