Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Why do we put up with non-threaded responses?

Thu 26 Feb 2004, 01:00 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
In reading Rocky's recent monster blog thread, I was struck by a technical observation totally separate from the content of the thread.  Why do we, as Domino developers using Domino templates, put up with the single response hierarchy?  Imagine how much more easily one could follow the comments and responses with a hierarchy, just like any Domino discussion would have.

Almost all of the Domino bloggers use a standard Domino blog template, such as Blogsphere from OpenNTF, so it is not because we don't control the technology.  Blogsphere is open source, as are most of the Domino blog templates, and we are all very familiar with hierarchical response threads, yet nobody is jumping in to add this to Blogsphere.  A few Domino bloggers, such as Richard and Andrew, actually use hierarchical response threads, but they are using home grown templates not available to the rest of us.  Maybe this isn't much of an issue because most response threads are short in the Domino blogging world, but I would think at least Rocky would have some incentive.

How about it?  Anybody going to add this to one of the freely available Domino templates?  Who can get it in first?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

123.1. Colin Pretorius
(02/26/2004 04:27 AM)

As Andrew says, it's easier to see the entire discussion, which I prefer. Especially if you don't have a fast internet connection, and given that most posts don't grow to the monster lengths that Rocky's did, a single load-and-view is a lot quicker than click-wait-read-click-next-wait-read. Less effort, less time :)

123.2. Rob McDonagh
(02/26/2004 05:57 AM)

I think one of the reasons the threaded discussion fell out of favor was poor implementation techniques. When you have to load each individual response as a separate page (as in the old Notes.Net discussions, whatever they're calling it this week), it's cumbersome to follow the discussion. I think the limitations in the browser at the time forced a lot of people into the 'flat' camp out of self defense. I believe domBulletin does a VERY nice job of showing a threaded model that works well, and I think that if we were all using Notes clients none of us would put up with a flat discussion model. The fact that the two most successful collaborative environments in the history of computing (Notes and UseNet) both rely heavily on threading certainly seems to indicate that it is a valid model when implemented properly.

123.3. Ben Langhinrichs
(02/26/2004 06:39 AM)

OK, these are pretty good reasons. It is awfully nice to be able to see the whole discussion as once. It still seems like we could get the benefit of the threaded response while still getting the benefit of all posts showing. One possibility is an anonymous replication model so that it is possible to view through a Notes client. Another possibility is a link system so that if I am responding to a particular response, the one I am responding to has a link, or floats to the left in a layer, or something along those lines.

123.4. Jerry Carter
(02/26/2004 06:42 AM)

I think we may be on the cusp of a rebirth of the threaded format, though. Some of the xml tree/node techniques people have been talking about lately promise the best of both worlds... an entire repsonse hierarchy that can load at once, but be displayed in a collapsed thread tree.... sounds nice, doesn't it?

123.5. Ben Langhinrichs
(02/26/2004 08:24 AM)

I added the first step by putting numbering in. This makes it a heck of a lot easier to respond to a specific response. The next step is to add logic so that if you specify (#1) or something like that in your response, it will either be a link back to, or a mouseover extract from, that response. I should be able to do that programmatically with Midas.

123.6. Ben Poole
(02/26/2004 02:54 PM)

There was a HUGE discussion about this a while back on NotesTips, as Mike used to have hierarchical discussions there (so did I, against articles anyway). I can't remember all the detail about it, but generally I don't see much value in them for the average weblog discussion. The LDD uses them appropriately though.

123.7. Ben Poole
(02/26/2004 03:23 PM)

... Not to mention the average web site layout screaming as the discussion reaches the 68th level ;-)

123.8. Ben Langhinrichs
(02/27/2004 08:19 AM)

I agree that most weblog discussions don't warrant it, but I do like the idea of at least identifying posts so that subsequent posts can refer back unambiguously. I'll suggest to Rocky that he change his site to work that way, as it should be possible without any other serious design changes.

123.9. Ben Poole
(03/01/2004 02:48 AM)

Oh dear... sorry. The linking mechanism doesn't appear to work!

123.10. Rob McDonagh
(03/02/2004 12:32 AM)

That's interesting, Ben (and a neat site in general). Very clever! It's interesting that one of the comment sequences I saw included a single child referencing two parents. Neat. It doesn't solve my biggest issue with flat comments, though, because even after I click on a comment that has responses (which turns a border on around those responses) I either have to click a # link and bounce around in the list of comments or I have to scroll until I find the right colored responses. I'd rather see the responses in a thread, right away. Which isn't to say that I'm not impressed - I am! I think it's a very cool implementation, and I'd love to see it used in our own blogs. Food for thought...

123.11. Nathan T. Freeman
(03/02/2004 08:48 AM)

Personally, I think the way to do this is with a, *gasp*, IFRAME. Show the thread in some kind of representative way in one of the nav bars on the side (preferably the left) and have the clickable links activate an embedded frame showing the individual post. Have that thread map include a "show all" feature that just loads the flat view that's so common.

But the contextual element of such an approach is absolutely vital. I *never* read the comments on RHS's site because of his threaded comment implementation. It just takes too long.

123.12. Steve Castledine
(15/06/2004 04:29)

I've only just come across this article Ben - the dominoblog template allows the blog owner to specify flat or threaded responses (as demonstrated on the website) - or a combination of both if they wish.