Comment Ordering

by pieterh on 24 Jul 2009 09:14

You'll have noticed that there is a very common stone-and-sand pattern: person A writes something, and people B, C, and D discuss it. Such a common pattern, but still hard to use when the discussion gets long.

In my experience, the two main ways we navigate a long discussion are:

  • To jump straight to the reply to one of our comments, using the link in the notification email
  • To read the latest comments

And reading the latest comments is always a pain. It requires scrolling down to the end of the page, or on forums that use pagination, clicking "Last page" and then scrolling down to the end of that page.

Some non-Wikidot forums use collapsible comments, with various tricks to rank comments from "flamebait" to "interesting" but that makes the whole user interface more complex again. I like the idea of collapsible comments but it should really collapse everything we've already read, and leave visible the stuff we've not yet seen. That is just hard to do, technically (the caching we use for speed means most page views are not user dependent).

So, a simple experiment: reverse comment order. I'm using this on the blog now, which I did by editing the blog:_template page so that it says: [[module Comments order="reverse"]]. That's a new feature in the Comments module we pushed out today. Comments show in reverse order, though replies to a comment show below it, as you'd expect. To make this obvious to the reader, the 'add a new post' box is at the top of the page, rather than the bottom.

Try this, here and on your sites, tell me what you think.

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