Forum Software for the Future
Long ago, the Internet was created, and the first Internet forums appeared. But then nothing happened for twenty years: forum software almost didn't improve or change.
I'm developing what I hope might be one of the future's forum software alternatives. (There's a demo at the end of the page.) It's intended to deal with things like:
Huge discussions, topics with 10 000 replies
(But I've only tested 200 replies thus far.) Imagine that you start a forum topic about a recent news event, and it grows hugely popular. With other forum software, interesting comments will be lost among all other comments, because people read only the first few comments and the last few comments. But with Debiki's forum software:
Subthreads are sorted so that stuff that people deem interesting appears first. When people start reading, they won't be reading the earliest comments — instead they'll be reading the most insightful and informative comments.
A novel two dimensional layout that...
... shows many replies to the original post — instead of only showing the single most popular subthread.
... gives a nice overview of the discussion. If you were to visualise a discussion graph, you would do that in two or three dimensions, right?
Obsolete subthreads closed and tucked away. (To be implemented.)
Long subthreads summarized and collapsed. (To be implemented.)
Going off-topic without distracting others
Sometimes, people at your forum go off-topic. With normal forum software, moderators or other users might tell them to stay on topic, or perhaps even ban repeated off-topic goers.
With Debiki's software, however, off-topic subthreads would be collapsed so they won't distract others. And those who want can happily continue chatting in an off-topic subthread. It could optionally be broken out to a separate page. (To be implemented.)
Sustaining a high quality discussion
Besides off-topic goers, there are trolls and newbies. They post upsetting or crazy comments. With normal forum software, the trolls start flame wars, and newbies might cause the quality of the discussion to plunge.
With Debiki, however, trusted users can click and improve rude or verbose comments, to make them reasonably respectful and concise, and thus set the tone of the debate. This removes the fun in trolling? And tends to make newcomers behave as intended? (Somewhat implemented.)
Anyone can submit improvement suggestions of pages, topics and replies, and thus help fixing broken links and updating obsolete information. (Somewhat implemented.)
Questions and Answers (Q/A)
Since interesting/useful answers are shown first, the software should work fairly well also as a Q/A site.
Your thoughts? (After having had a look at the demo?) For example:
- Would you consider using it?
- The 3 most important things to improve?
- Does it matter if I open source it?
*I would consider it
*Too early to tell, is the development still ongoing?
*Maybe, if you want to other people to look at your code. If not you will need to promote it.
Yes development is still ongoing, and some rather important features are missing, mostly related to the admin interface. (For example, listing recent actions by a certain user, or from a certain IP.) — I think it'd be possible start beta testing now, however, if one can live without a fully implemented admin section.
Re promoting it: I wonder how :-) When I posted to SlashDot, people left 0 comments, no effect at all. However a SlashDot post about Discourse that mentioned Jeff Atwood (http://www.codinghorror.com) arouse lots of interest and > 100 comments! And similar results at HackerNews and Reddit.