Threaded comments have advantages but they also have disadvantages. I won’t mention the disadvantages because if you don’t know what they are already than they aren’t disadvantages to you. The advantages are: 1) You can keep track of a sub-conversation in a comments stream; 2) You can refer to a specific upstream comment easily (which in non-threaded contexts often uses a reference to a comment number, which has the disadvanage of not being fixed if old moderated comments are inserted prior to the numbered comment); and 3) at least in some cases, you can subscribe to a specific comment (like on you just made) to see only responses to it and not to the entire comment stream.

It seems to me that we can have our cake and eat it too.

What is needed is a convention by which a comment can be linked to a prior comment. So, when you are making the comment. This can be done in several ways, including:

1) You hit “reply to comment” on the comment to which you are replying, and you make your comment. However, visually, your comment will not be threaded under that comment … it will just go at the end of the comment stream as the most recent comment. However, it will have a header that indicates what comment it refers to and you can click that to go right back to it.

2) You simply use a particular bit of text using as standard format referring to the number of a numbered comment. Like [123] for comment 123. Later, if the comments are renumbered that reference gets changed appropriately (or changed to a [comment removed] if it is removed. This code also supplies the data for the linked comment navigation referred to already in 1) above.

3) Some kind of menu that lets you access a list of prior comments.

This would prompt a comment navigation system which would have the following features:

1) User can fold the comments into threaded form or unfold them into sequential form;

2) User can find a link to the next sub comment at the bottom of any comment to which a referal was made, and follow through all the threads this way, using a simple visual navigation system;

3) Since this will get confusing no matter what, the user can mark a comment “read” and thus, later on, look at the comments that are not read in any of the available layouts; and

4) The user can see a visual tree of all comments with the usual annoying ballons popping up out of nodes on the tree.

OK, WordPress coders, let’s see what you can do!

See more Needed Software here.

Comments

  1. #1 AK
    October 3, 2011

    Have you looked at the system at slashdot.org?

    My own thoughts (separate from slashdot):

    Allow the user to decide whether to view comments as threaded or sequential.

    If threaded, add a link to the next sequential comment, so you can see comments in the order they were added.

    If sequential, add links to comment replied to (1 up the heirarchy) next/prev reply (at the same level in heirarchy), and replies (to the comment being viewed).

    Better yet, allow the user to choose the view, but have all the links there all the time. If the links use on-page anchors, most modern browsers won’t require a reload, so you’ll jump around the page pretty fast. And you can use the back key on the browser to back up from any jump.

    I have a feeling you’re trying to re-invent the wheel here, though. AFAIK Slashdot has most or all of this in some form, and there may be other open-source products out there that also do it.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 3, 2011

    Allow the user to decide whether to view comments as threaded or sequential.
    Right, that’s my Section 2 number 1.

    If sequential, add links to comment replied to (1 up the heirarchy) next/prev reply (at the same level in heirarchy), and replies (to the comment being viewed).

    Right.So like a four way rocker switch.

    I have a feeling you’re trying to re-invent the wheel here, though.

    I have that feeling too. But I can’ find the damn wheel. Let me know if you see it! I’ll look at /. but I don’t think they are using wordpress.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    October 3, 2011

    I think /. is just folded ajaxy type threaded comments.

  4. #4 AK
    October 3, 2011

    AFAIK Slashdot uses its own custom software. But IIRC it’s open-source. I remember a while back when it became available to anybody who wanted it.

    I’ve never done anything with WordPress, but looking at their codex I see they use PHP on top of MySQL. But so far I haven’t been able to find out anything more detailed about the design.

    I think you’re right you’ll need a new plug-in. At least.

  5. #5 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 4, 2011

    Greg,
    I love the way Panda’s Thumb comments work. I don’t know if there is any way to do something similar with WP. But have you gone to the forum at WP to talk to anyone.

    I recall that they are quite amenable to ideas over there.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    October 4, 2011

    Panda’s Thumb might be home built software. We have a link, of course, between FTB.coma and Panda’s Thumb (same co-founder).

    Yeah, they may well come up with something at WP. One can hope!

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich
    October 5, 2011

    I am pretty sure that Panda’s Thumb is in Movable Type.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    October 5, 2011

    I remember getting an email from Reed Cartwright a while back asking me to change how I linked to his site because strange things happened, and we got talking, and I got the impression that he had made the whole thing up on his own. But now, looking at the site, they do seem to be “Movable Type Pro” so either I misinterpreted back then or they’ve changed platforms but kept the look.

  9. #9 Riya
    October 7, 2011

    What about readymade plugins for wordpress? I like to suggest video comments with wordpress blog from http://www.apptha.com/wordpress

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