Threshold on Timespan for Suggested Threads


Apologies if this was covered everywhere, though I’ve tried to do my due diligence to ensure I’m not duplicating another thread.

I had some suggested threads pop up that seemed interesting to me. I got to reading and I went to reply to one only to be informed I was creating a zombie. The last post was 2009. I bailed out of there because I have no truck with necromancy.

So I wonder if we mightn’t have a default threshold age for threads–perhaps a year?–to prevent other unintentional acts of necromancy. If one could adjust that timer in user preferences, that’d be lovely to. (If it IS there, then I look like a fool because I could not find it.)

That seems to be a new-ish phenomenon, since the old vBulletin platform didn’t really have “suggested” topics in the way this platform does.

Those suggested topics seem frequently to include old dormant threads. I think that’s why we are seeing lots of zombie threads rising from the dead since we’ve been on this platform.

I think the way they have it might be for the best. How else will you ever be made aware of an old thread about a subject? Has searching through a search engine begun to work again?

These are the relevant site settings available to the site operators, along with their default out-of-box values:

suggested topics 5
limit suggested to current category false
suggested topics unread max days old 90
suggested topics max days old 365

I’m surprised you got a suggested topic with a latest reply from 2009 – by default we limit max suggested topic age to 1 year (365 days). We instituted this suggested topics max days old setting because we noticed the same effect on old, large, migrated communities – suggesting a topic from 2002 isn’t usually helpful!

That’s interesting, C. Horror.

In general, my experience matches up with what you’ve posted and I have no reason to doubt you.

I tried to replicate it by finding a thread that was inactive for over a year. The topics suggested were ones that I was active in recently, so perhaps this is some manner of edge case. I dimly recall the thread I was reading (before being given a suggestion) was an older thread with recent activity, and I recall the thread I chose to read and almost-necromanced was one about SEO optimizations (Companies that sell SEO services)

I know that’s not really useful data. If I can replicate it again, I’ll try to recall to take screenshots and note what I was doing.

Yeah unless there was a recent reply to an older topic that you had participated in (creation of a topic, replying to a topic, or long reading times in a topic) will automatically mark a topic as “tracked” meaning the software thinks you are interested in that topic enough to want basic updates about it.

But for a topic from 2009 with no recent replies that is a bit of a mystery, my apologies.

One possibility is that the posts have been posted in by spammers, whose posts have since been deleted.

One problem I’ve noticed is that such threads are still treated like they have new posts. They show up in the recent threads list and everything.

I would argue that, if the new reply is deleted, the thread should not be counted as new anymore, and should revert its age to the most recent post it still contains.

What BigT said.

Yeah – good call, I forgot about that, but it definitely happens. This is called a “ghost bump”. There is a staff option to return the latest post date to the original one on the last visible post.

  • Press the admin wrench button on the topic
  • Select the “reset bump date” option (it has the glyph of an anchor :anchor: next to it)

It’s also possibly advisable to globally close all the really old topics so they can’t be bumped (closing a topic prevents any new replies). This is something your hosting service could do behind the scenes if staff thinks it is a good idea.

It’s nice that this is available, but it sounds like it’s something that the mods would have to do every time they delete a spam post. Assuming that is the case, it would add a lot of extra work.

I’m arguing that resetting the latest post date should be automatic when deleting the last post of a thread. Or, at least, there should be an option to make it automatic.

As I understand it, one of the main goals of Discourse was to make less work for those who moderate it.

That’s been suggested before, but the mods have always been against it. We actually want threads to be bumped if the poster actually has new information to add. Leaving them open makes it much more likely that people who stumble on the thread and have new information will post it. Few would want to create a whole new thread.

That aspect–of new people finding old posts and posting–is so important that one of our criteria in upgrading our forum software was making sure that we wouldn’t lose our Google indexing.

It’s a bit of a dichotomy. We want to encourage engagement by new users who stumble upon our threads, but we don’t want them to make useless posts.

It’s a good idea! I’m adding it to our list. Ghost bumps are annoying, I completely agree. It’s like “why did this ancient topic get bumped??” from the perspective of anyone who isn’t staff and can’t see the “1 deleted post” indicator at the bottom.

(note that I am not staff here, I’m a normal user just like you. This is my original account that I posted the theory of Discourse on way way back when!)

I am in agreement with this, but I think there’s a threshold of oldness where this becomes a liability. It’s also fine to gather data and observe how often it happens (maybe super rare? one a week? one a month?) and then take action rather than assuming.

Regarding ghost bumps, I can tell you the SEO thread I linked above was the suggested thread. Surely there must be some hint of a record somewhere about deleted posts in it? Hopefully?

Yes, staff would see the deleted post indicator for sure. Regular users will not. It looks like this

view 3 hidden replies

In a light grey color. Click or tap to expand and see the deleted posts. I’d post a screenshot, but I don’t think this is a screenshot / image allowed discussion area.