Improving Wikimedia’s Discussion System

Hi all,

Some of you might have already seen my blog posts about LiquidThreads, Wikimedia’s in-development discussion system.

For those who haven’t, this is a quick primer on what LiquidThreads is, and what it’s going to do for Wikimedia’s communities.

Currently, Wikimedia’s discussion system sucks. Here’s why:

  • It’s not easily usable by the average user. It isn’t obvious how to leave a comment on a talk page, or how to reply to a comment. The indenting we use now is ad-hoc and unsustainable for long discussions.
  • Signatures are done manually and we have to jump on poor unsuspecting newbies who don’t know this (or write bots…)
  • Archiving is done unevenly by bots, which are maintained by users and therefore of very uneven quality. Archives are something of a black hole — they aren’t searchable, easily maintainable or easily accessible. You can’t resurrect an archived discussion easily, nor can you view its history.
  • It’s stored as plain wikitext, which is opaque to any sort of automated process.
  • You can’t move a thread to a different discussion page and preserve its history.
  • There’s no encouragement, mechanism or incentive for quoted, point by point inline replies like we’re all used to with e-mail.
Imagine being a new user and trying to figure out how to add your comment to this.

Imagine being a new user and trying to figure out how to add your comment to this.

Enter LiquidThreads. LiquidThreads is a system that makes MediaWiki’s discussion system behave like a forum or comments thread, while still maintaining the unique refinements that make wikis work. It was originally designed by a Google Summer of Code student, David McCabe, and I’ve been making incremental improvements to make it work for Wikimedia.

Overview of the new LiquidThreads interface

Overview of the new LiquidThreads interface

So, what’s changed?

  • Comments are separated from each other in the wikitext, so there are no more edit conflicts in discussions, and the usability is vastly improved.
  • Instead of indenting, each comment is in its own box, along with its replies. It makes it much easier to follow each post and its replies, and it’s much nicer on the horizontal whitespace. Hopefully, it will be the death of the ‘arbitrary section break’!
  • Each post has its own history page, making it easy to see what’s going on with individual threads without trying to navigate the history of a whole page.
  • It’s easy to move threads between pages, preserving the page history.
  • Discussions  are never ‘archived’. Instead, older discussions fall to the bottom of the page, and eventually they drop off entirely, to hit a new page. If you missed the chance to have your say, just reply to a discussion and it’ll be bumped right up to the top of the page again!
  • Discussions with recent changes are at the top of the page. Discussions that have fallen dormant fall to the bottom. It’s easy to find out what’s happening!
  • You can watch individual threads of a discussion, and even get an email when they’re replied to.
  • It’s easy to link to a discussion, and the links are permanent unless the discussion is deleted. There’s no need to point to an archive or to an old revision ID.

If you’re interested, I’ve put together a test setup for you to play with it.

Andrew Garrett, Editing & Discussion Features Development Contractor

As always, questions, comments and suggestions are more than welcome, in the comments or elsewhere.

Categories: MediaWiki, Technology
Tags:
Categories:

Tags:
8 Show

8 Comments on Improving Wikimedia’s Discussion System

andrew 5 years

Diaa :

Is there somewhere to post bugs or feature requests for the discussion system?

Yes, use bugzilla, assign it to the product “MediaWiki extensions”, component “LiquidThreads”.

Here’s a handy link to do that: http://bit.ly/2y8Dz

Nemo :

It should be possible for editors to edit/move/delete/split/refactor messages or threads as a whole (e.g. vandalic ones).

It’s easy to edit messages, move them between discussion pages, and delete them. I’m working on the ability to split messages between discussion pages.

jps :

Can you collapse threads? Really need that because too many people are collapse-box crazed, usually for pretty poor reasons having very little to do with improving the quality of the ‘pedia. But if you make it an option for the end user to collapse threads on demand we might be able to have some progress.

Great idea, I’ll add that in…

penubag :

One question/request:
Can the quoted text be a grey or light color?
This will make it look less cluttered and help find the actual content.
If users have a short reply, the quoted text gets too much in the way.

We’re looking at making the quoting optional, and visually distinguished from the rest of the post.

Diaa 5 years

Is there somewhere to post bugs or feature requests for the discussion system?

Nemo 5 years

It should be possible for editors to edit/move/delete/split/refactor messages or threads as a whole (e.g. vandalic ones).

penubag 5 years

One question/request:
Can the quoted text be a grey or light color?
This will make it look less cluttered and help find the actual content.
If users have a short reply, the quoted text gets too much in the way.

penubag 5 years

Awesome!
Any ETA yet?

jps 5 years

Can you collapse threads? Really need that because too many people are collapse-box crazed, usually for pretty poor reasons having very little to do with improving the quality of the ‘pedia. But if you make it an option for the end user to collapse threads on demand we might be able to have some progress.

brion 5 years

Sweet! :D Making good progress…

lucasbfr 5 years

I’ve said it before, but this looks awesome (even if old timers will be lost and conversations seem to take a bit more space). I hope it makes following things a bit easier, especially for newcomers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *