On Fri, Sep 5, 2014 at 10:42 PM, Risker <risker...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The major deficiencies that have long been identified in the current
> discussion system (and that can be addressed by technology) are all able to
> be addressed in MediaWiki software or by extensions. Automatic signatures
> have been done by bots for years; indenting could be added to the editing
> function gadget and moved to an extension; much work has already been done
> on graceful resolution of edit conflicts.  The ability to watchlist an
> individual thread or section of a page is more challenging but, I have been
> told, still possible.

Let's just acknowledge that the limitations of what can reasonably be
layered onto wikitext-based representation of comments have not been
fully explored, rather than jumping to conclusions about what's easy
to address and what's hard. As noted separately, I agree it may be
worth pushing the boundaries a bit more on this, if only to know
exactly where they are, and to achieve short term improvements.

> Automatic signature (something that is currently
> functional on Flow, but is not customizable) turns out to be more of a
> challenge when users are widely known by a signature line that doesn't
> match their username,

I've not talked to them about it explicitly, but I'd guess that the PM
and the UX folks have a negative aversion against custom signatures
because of their free-form nature (including sometimes
layout-exploding ones). Perhaps a middle-ground can be found here,
with some more sanitization applied to prevent some of the
sigs-from-hell occasionally found. Other than that I can't see a good
reason to not just show them when they're set, and it's certainly
technically trivial to do so.

> and there is no method by which users can add an
> "explanatory" note to their signature such as "formerly known as
> User:Whatever".

From the point forward that Flow is in wide use, a user rename would
be automatically reflected in old comments if desired, much as it is
reflected in old edits. But if signatures were supported, as above,
you could still use them for these types of indicators, as well.

> The "more efficient" indenting has reduced possible
> indents to three levels, without exception;

This seems to be the most religious topic when it comes to Flow. The
database stores all threading information. It'd be trivial to expand
the threading level if that's more popular and usable.

I've heard the argument that this doesn't work on mobile, but we could
just set a different threading level on mobile.

I think it's worth experimenting with flat pages (with quoting) for
certain purposes, and Danny wants to, but it strikes me as most
reasonable to start with something that more closely resembles talk
pages as they are now (which is why we did that with LQT originally).

> "Rigid predictable technical
> restrictions on who can edit what" has resulted in inability to remove
> posts that are obviously unsuitable (there's no "undo" or "revert"
> function), replaced with a "hide" function that can only be applied by
> certain users that's practically a red flag for people to look-see what the
> problem edit is.

The team has pretty strong arguments why they don't want posts to be
editable (the gist is, they fear that no other discussion system does
this, and it will freak people out -- they see the introduction of a
new system as a good opportunity to reset expectations). I personaly
am not religious about it; when we built LQT we made posts editable
(and made it clear who had edited someone else's posts) to preserve
that normal aspect of wiki-style editing. I think we should keep
talking about this.

I've not seen it named as a dealbreaker for small scale deployments.
The architecture can easily support both models.

> At the core is whether or not there is value in developing a "discussion
> system" that is radically divorced from any other interface used by the
> system.

That's a legitimate question, although it's not as "radically
divorced" as you would think; ultimately it'll use the VisualEditor
(probably with a simplified toolbar by default) just like Flow does.

As for the claim that the team never looked at current use cases,
having spent hours in rooms with them where they pored over printouts
of hundreds of talk pages, analyzed use cases, categorized them,
prioritized them, etc., I can assure you there's been a lot more of
this kind of thinking than you appreciate. There also have been round
tables and other outreach efforts, and a dedicated community liaison
from the start. Still, I don't think there's been enough talking to
each other -- we're still getting better at doing that, collectively,
and trusting in the value of conversation even when there's a lot of
noise and a lot of heat.

This is an opportunity for me to remind folks that the cost of heat
(accusations, insults, reverts, etc.) is that people withdraw. We
(WMF) have to do our part to prevent things from getting heated, but
I'd ask folks who notice this kind of thing and who understand why
it's harmful to help step in and contribute to a calm, rational,
constructive dialog, as well. I can take a lot of heat, as you may
have noticed, but a lot of folks just tend to back away when things
get personal.


Erik Möller
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

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