Simplifying 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

I think, simply guessing here, what [@Stuart]1] meant by Too weird/hard, is from the little of what I’ve seen about Discourse, is simply meaning that Discourse seems to have quite a set of rules and restrictions for using their software, but not to mean that it’s not something that it’s anything impossible to do. But I don’t think the work for doing it wouldn’t provide enough value to the comments part would be enough to justify it (work to doing this change).

Another thought I feel can be helpful, is that I like how is very much custom to it’s own thing and should fully remain that way. Also about the comments, I also found it a bit confusing at first myself, but now that I understand it’s use, purpose, and why for where it’s placed is perfect. I wouldn’t want it to be changed in any way i can think of to simple improve it. However, I am always open to hear more about it and curious to hear what can be proposed in this specific topic of the comments system.

But why would that be so important? Wouldn’t it be better to have comments separated anyway?

I would just move all categories from meta.slant into subcategories inside a new meta category. And rename it to or something.

It’s just a bad UX in many use-cases. No-one expects a subset of a site to work differently than the rest. Comments are already integrated into Slant in so many ways including the flagging system, it honestly makes very little sense to split them out into discourse. Agreed with the rest of your ideas @Cawas but not this one :smiley:

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Coool! :slight_smile:

I’ll take that.

@StuartK, nicely put and explained in how Discourse stores data and how it conflicts with Slant’s commenting design. Thanks for simplifying that up :smile:

By the way, what is the latest on the design for the commenting system, specifically in how it differs from the current one?