How are people feeling about Discourse?

From my experience, I’m finding this hard to believe. In vBulletin, if I started a reply and navigated away from the thread for any reason, whether back button, navigating to another thread or just had too much time elapse, my entire post would disappear into the ether, never to be seen again.

That’s happened to me dozens of times. I’ve lost hours and hours of time composing posts that disappeared. I used to have to post a copy to my clipboard and even then, if I didn’t copy often enough, I’d have to re-create most of my post when my post would disappear.

I realize we’re all different, but for me, any software that saves posts is less punishing than one that doesn’t. Even if I lost a post that I didn’t find for days or weeks, it’s still less punishing than losing a post forever for accidentally pressing a button.

You can also close the editor. The name of the thread shows up on the bar of the closed editor.

Also, if the reply button is pressed, it will ask where it should post, the original thread or the one you’re in. That will tell you the thread where the reply came from.

Because the screen of my phone is small, and i need to minimize the typing window to see anything else. That’s not a problem for me when i use a laptop. But i mostly use my phone.

I used vbulletin in a browser. I just created a new page. That worked fine on the phone, as well as on a laptop. I did that all the time.

I’m actually finding discourse harder to do that with, perhaps because I’m using the discourse app instead of a browser. Discourse “remembers” more from instance to instance, which makes it harder to grab text from another window in another thread – because there’s a risk of discourse getting confused. I see that as a reasonable trade-off for the nice feature that i can start a post on the phone, and move to the laptop without needing to email the post to myself.

(Also, most of my time in vbulletin was on a different site, which had a MUCH more robust implementation of vbulletin. This site’s vbulletin was fantastically underpowered for the job and crashed a lot. But it was perfectly smooth and reliable on my other site.)

I don’t find the buttons intuitive, and often click the wrong one. That’s usually how i get into this problem. Today’s XKCD is surprisingly relevant

Manage Your Preferences

For myself, I want to see the terms highlighted. When I’m making a point that I think is salient, I want to make sure no one has made it before or that it hasn’t been answered. When I am able to control-f like with most other pages on the Internet, it only shows what’s been arbitrarily loaded, and when I do a thread search, it doesn’t highlight the term. I then have to scan word by word to find the actual instance - or multiple instances that I could overlook! - of the word, to make sure I didn’t miss something that other people are going to call me out on. I could control-f control-f again, but a thread search, click on result, control-f, control-f is at least twice and up to four times as slow as control-f, hit next page.

Strange. It highlights the term for me. Perhaps it depends on which theme you are using? I’m using SD Light.

Another alternative:

  • Press Ctrl-P, when not editing, to open a print window.
  • Cancel the printing, which leaves you with the full text of the thread in one window.
  • Search normally via Ctrl-F.

What I find most awkward about Discourse is simply reading a thread. Noticeably fewer posts fit on my screen than on the old board, even with a smaller-size typeface than I remember the old board being.

And in other ways I really just plain can’t identify (so don’t ask me to, okay?), Discourse is just not as conducive to continuous reading as, say, comments at most blogs that I’m familiar with, let alone the old board. It just feels mushy and undifferentiated somehow.

And just like with a book, where I could remember that I want to go back to chapter 5, I miss being able to do the same thing with pages here. If one used the standard 50-post page size at the old board, this post would be at the end of page 6. It was easy to find your way back to the page a post you remembered was on, and scroll down until you found it. Here, unless you’re into memorizing post numbers, that’s a lot harder.

Which is one of the reasons I share puzzlegal’s frustration with being able to jump back and forth between different parts of a thread. (And the ‘Back’ thingy, when it’s there, only gets you back to one place, then it goes away.) The browser scrollbar is good for a dozen or so posts, then it jumps you to somewhere else.

And the short scrollbar - for one thing, a short movement on the short bar takes you way away from where you were, and for another, a careless mouse movement causes the damned thing to move you to a whole 'nother part of the thread when you weren’t intending to move at all.

Other identifiers: usernames are barely bigger than regular text; I don’t notice them the way I did on the old board. Sure, I can search by username, but if I didn’t notice who posted a post, I can’t search that way. Post numbers were a lot more noticeable on the old board too. All the clues that gave threads an internal geography have been muted or erased altogether.

I will say the a good word for Discourse’s within-thread search function. Good thing, because I sure need it a lot more here than I ever did at the old place.

It boggles my mind that, twenty years after the Dope went from UBB (remember that, old-timers?) to vBulletin, there’s nothing out there with a similar feel to vBulletin, but better underlying architecture.

Pages are still an arbitrary demarcation, unlike book chapters, which are usually logical breaks in the stream-of-thought of the book. Not to mention the fact that different users used different page lengths (I went with 100, for less next-ing – which of course meant my browser had to load a lot of posts so that I could read that one 99th post on the page). My page length could put post 350 in sequence with post 351, where they would fit together as part of a conversation, whereas 50-post paging would break them apart on pages, making the content flow less well.

The other downside to paging was that, for one reason or another, you might fail to notice that you had not reached the end of a thread and end up posting a comment that was out of place because 25 intervening posts had been added unbeknownst to you. With the live refresh on Discourse, a thread left open in that one tab no longer acquires a bunch of unseen posts while you were over doing something else. That is a good thing.

Yes indeed. I really enjoy not looking like a doofus quite as often.

It sometimes does this to me when they’re the same thread.

Yes. I like that feature.

I don’t get the problem with different users using different page lengths. That didn’t affect me and my fifty-post pages. My pages 5 and 6 may have been your Page 3, but I wasn’t telling you to look for anything on Page 5. I was remembering that I should look back for a discussion on Page 5. That gave me a sense of place in the thread, even if the divisions were purely arbitrary, as you point out. The arbitrariness was only a trivial drawback AFAIWC.

And yeah, I’d occasionally fail to notice that the last post on the page wasn’t the last post in the thread, but that happened to me rarely enough that I wasn’t bothered by it.

Yeah, i basically keep track of my world spacially. And there’s no sense of location here. So i always feel slightly lost. It’s just a lot level of anxiety the forum gives me now.

You can also use the :bookmark_tabs: bookmarking tools in your browser as a third or fourth line of defense, if necessary. Here’s how for mobile, I just booted up my Android devices to test them too:

Android / Chrome

  • Tap on the browser menu (top right of the screen) for options.
  • At the top of that options menu, look for the Bookmark Icon. It’s shaped like a star :star:
  • Tap on the star :star: to save the page as a Bookmark.

Once you’ve created the bookmark, open the menu again and select the word “bookmarks” to see the list of bookmarks.

iOS / Safari

  • Tap on the “send” icon at (bottom of the browser) … it looks like a box with an arrow pointing up
  • Tap the words “add bookmark”

Once you’ve created the bookmark, select the “open book” icon :open_book: at the bottom of the browser to see the list of bookmarks.

The advantage of using the browser’s built in bookmarking capability as a backstop is that they work on all websites, and all devices – the browser will typically do a bookmark sync across all logged in devices.

Ah yes, that’s something I forgot, we added that recently. Thank you for pointing that out. Minimizing the editor will show the topic name, regardless of who the post is “in reply to”, the topic, or a particular post.

Printing a topic is also a valid way to generate “one giant page” on demand, thanks for sharing that option, I always forget printers… exist, but print can have other purposes. It’s almost like a “reader mode” hack for some websites as they usually have simple print stylesheets. :printer:

You may be interested in the # key. That will let you jump to an arbitrary point in a topic, either by post number or date. The post numbers are visible when you click or tap on the date at the upper right of each post, but if you want “just the middle” or “near the end” you can do a quick estimate based on the visible post count; right now there are 305 replies to this topic, so if I really wanted to plop myself in the middle, I’d quickly type

#, 150, enter

As usual, to see a full list of keyboard shortcuts, press ?.

In a fast moving thread, I’d occasionally hit the button, on the thread listing page, for the last page, not realizing that when I read the thread last it was on page 5 and it’s now on 7. Generally not that big of a deal other than people telling you you’re repeating things that were already mentioned, but in a game of Mafia I had a hell of a time defending my posts that, to everyone else, made little sense.

Yeah, I am virulently anti-paging, for the reasons I describe here

Hmm, looks like that post needs some editing, will do that now. I hope we can assuage some of your concerns @puzzlegal !

So if you knew the post you are looking for is between 250 and 300 just type SHIFT + # and write in 250 and it takes you right there. Hope that helps.

edit: now I see @codinghorror already brought this up but I’m leaving mine up anyway just because I can.

It’s not so much that I have concerns, as that I’ve used both paginated and unpaginated sites, and I find pagination more comfortable to read.

If there are 50 posts, yes, a single seemless experience is better than 5 little pages. But once you get to large topics, perhaps 100-250 posts, pagination is just easier. It’s easier to jump around (I don’t have to pick some precise number, with the cognitive burden that choice entails). It’s easier to find something when you vaguely remember “where was I when I read that?”

I’ll point out that this is not a new problem, invented in the computer age. Once upon a time, we wrote words on scrolls, that endlessly paginated. Then actual pages, with page numbers, were invented.

I still use a Torah scroll from time to time. Because of the ritual significance, the object hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. But how many books have you purchased in scroll form, and how many with pages? Paginated books completely won in the marketplace because they provide a better user experience.

Again, if the list is small, sure, I’d rather get it all at once. I hate little pages when I’m shopping on line. But once the list of items is so large that it’s not efficient to load all at once, it’s not efficient for me to “page through it” without pages, either.

Like many people, i remember space better than i remember numbers.

I use that feature all the time to get to the beginning or the end of a topic. But i find it quite useless to get to something i read a while ago, um…i don’t remember exactly when… But the list of page numbers at the top of the screen was about so big…

But thank you, @mordecaiB , and @codinghorror , for assisting with tips and tricks. It really is appreciated.

You post from your phone, right? I know little about posting from phones but can you explain how you did it on the VBulletin?

Of course! One size does not fit all, but we do try… and we’re serious about trying to make it a little bit better, each day, every day… tending to our small open source garden. :seedling:

The idea is the software should empower the people, and avoid the world turning into a Facebook company town…