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phoebusg's avatar

How would you implement a branched question system?

Asked by phoebusg (5241points) December 9th, 2010

This is a brainstorming thread. Let’s come up with a way to break questions into smaller questions but without losing the original thread. Or alternate ways of doing this. An easy way to go back and forth with the question and its subsets.

You can go ahead and post ways to do that with the current system as well.

Why could we use such a thing? Not all questions are easy questions. A lot could use subset questions (or parent-child), leaving the original question alone until the user/seeker is ready to address it. If the user is ready to address it, they can go ahead. One example such question: with the first responder as the casing point. His ‘answer’ is not exactly off-topic, but not on either. This would also make it easy to mod/move responses to relevant threads/questions for the purpose of organization.

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31 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I swear you’re doing this to me on purpose.

marinelife's avatar

I would want the option to see the original thread chronologically if answers were removed to sub-threads.

Would you have the sub-threads be links within the main Questions and answer framework or would they be off to the side?

phoebusg's avatar

@marinelife I assume that’d depend on the configuration. I’d prefer them to be within the question – but viewable directly as well. But you can, and will have both judging from the current implementation.

Another question is, would it be cool to have different users collaborate to answer a larger question? Each leading/starting a question under it but at a different scope? This dynamic could lead to some exciting results and collaboration.

bluemukaki's avatar

The first thing that came to mind is arrows like at the edges of folders in list-view in file directories on computers: you can click the arrow to collapse parts of the conversation that are bundled under a sub-topic, but you can also view the entire question’s responses all at once if you wish.

Another thing to do would be to implement some kind of hashtag # system. So I would end this post by writing which topics I answered.

#Fluther #Design

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phoebusg I’ve never thought about multiple user collaboration to answer a question more effectively – I actually think that’s kind of an innovative but logical approach and would love to collaborate with some folks in order to more effectively answer questions. Of course it’d take more time and sometimes it’s best to answer a q quickly so as to set a tone for it, prevent rampant misinformation from spreading, etc.

bluemukaki's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir we almost need an answer placeholder so you can list what information you plan to provide and then while you are researching others can fill in the other parts of the question.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bluemukaki This is interesting to ponder. GQ, @phoebusg

phoebusg's avatar

@bluemukaki that’s has come up in the previous brainstorm thread for re-design. And I definitely like it. Being able to turn on/off different tags. Being able to follow different conversations under one question more smoothly.

It doesn’t mean you never want to see the comedy, or discussions branched off between other individuals. But it does mean, readability is pretty hard when you start losing track of the references—making it much more likely to skip huge parts, read selectively and respond like that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phoebusg I can’t remember everything these days but I feel like had something like that and when I came to Fluther, it took a bit to get myself used to this format again (because I think had this format, then branched format) and I thought this is never going to work but brains are funny things, I adjusted fine over time and don’t miss it as much these days – if the change occurred (I feel like people are always suggesting this particular change), I’d feel neutral about it.

phoebusg's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I quickly looked up info about for the sake of reference. This was a yes/no question site. Their implementation is largely different than fluther’s anything goes. Although I like the latter, I also like good organization. Right now it feels like every question is stuck on one channel :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phoebusg Oh no no, my dear – it was so much more than a yes/no site – it was a lot like this site minus moderation so we there was entirely way too much of anything goes on there but like all good ideas that go big, it was way more awesome in the beginning and pooped out after a lot of changes were introduced and some serious assholes joined and fucked everything up; after a while, the owners gave up and moved on to better things. Anywho, the concept and the questions were just like of this site.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Just out of curiousity, @phoebusg , have you posited this to the site managers? It seems to me that it would be more helpful to first find out what this kind of change would entail (in terms of code intensity and such) before putting it to the collective.

phoebusg's avatar

@JilltheTooth to avoid repeats, site managers read the meta section closely. I don’t need to, ideas are welcome. Also, “this” is not yet one thing, it’s a brainstorm thread. There is nothing to post.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I guess that’s a “no”, then.

Edit to add, “posit” was not a typo.

Seaofclouds's avatar

They would need a way to know exactly who each response was too (in cases when people don’t use the @ function) and a way to separate a person’s response when they post to multiple people in one response.

I think if they could come up with a way to branch the responses that use the @ function, it might work, but the responses that have more than one person being responded to would pose a problem (because they would go in more than one space). Unless we had to post individually (which I think would be a pain).

Personally, I’d rather see the responses chronologically as they are now. If they were to be branched, I would want them to be something we had to click on to see the branched responses so that it would look neater (I personally think branched threads start to look horrible after a certain number of branches).

I’m not really sure about them leading to other areas, I think all the responses should stay with the original question since that’s what they were originally written in response to.

timtrueman's avatar

We never read the meta section—nor does the CIA.

Soubresaut's avatar

(I think this is a great idea/brainstorm too.)
Maybe—I’m not too sure on how well this would work, but maybe?—there could be an option below each person’s post, alongside the “GA!” and “Flag as…” for replying to that particular post within the thread? Kind of going off of @bluemukaki‘s idea of the arrows, and having your, @phoebusg,‘s idea of threads/branches/tangents, but keeping them still in the original question. They’d just be tabbed in a little and clearly put under the response they’re directly replying to?
They would still be in chronological order, where the first subresponse is directly below the original response. And you could always have @bluemukaki‘s arrows to close them when you wanted… but so when some excited jellies go into side conversations they’re kept together rather than interspersed throughout the thread?
It should really only be used for when you want to reply solely to the responder rather than the question as a whole, and not simply @______ in your own response. If you wanted to reply to the thread in general you’d still go down to the lovely “Answer this question” box at the bottom.

Just an idea. I don’t know for sure if that would make it neater or more confusing… and not sure if that would take away from the OP or if subresponses would keep main responses more directed at the OP. Definately shouldn’t have subsubresponses… but the overall concept seems work well in my mind, haha

talljasperman's avatar

each topic could be a sub-thread

BarnacleBill's avatar was like Fluther until someone just couldn’t resist tinkering with it. It was like a girlfriend who loves you, but keeps making changes to who you are. Then, one morning she wakes up wondering what happened to the guy she fell in love with, and how she ended up in bed with some asshole.

That being said, I am going to answer this under the supposition that you are interested in creating a site of your own, and want to discuss ideas.

Hashtagging answers would be the most effective way to allow answers to be searchable as well as the question. There is often situations where the answer to a question is actually a gem of knowledge with other implications, and one would have to rely on tribal knowledge about which question holds the jewel. The problem with hashtagging answers is that people don’t like tagging; it doesn’t come naturally. To force people to tag would defeat the flow of responses. Hashtags are most effective with constency in terminology.

Parent-child rollups are generally more effective on a bulletin board format, which arguably, QA sites are. Allowing people who answer to create a subhead under a question relies on users to be able to think critcally enough at all times to create a cogent subhead.

The “unique” about Fluther is that in addition to being a QA site, it shares characteristics of a conversation salon; within a question, there is a conversation going on amongst the jellies answering. It’s not just about the answer, it’s about the conversation. Also, any change that is viable for the site has to be actionable without requiring more activity on the part of users or moderators. An online site that requires manual maintenance to sustain efficiencies is poorly designed.

BarnacleBill's avatar

A true branched system would be like wikipedia. Instead of asking questions, a knowledge base of topics could be created, with links to child pages embedded in the text. A back page could allow for commentary and discussion. People could own a topic and collaborate on it. Perhaps its a social wikipedia, and instead of search “Lafayette in America” you would search “Cheating Girlfriend” or ”“Barking Dog” or “Dream Meaning” and there would be an aggregation of suggestions on what to do for that situation or topic.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Every time someone proposes a way to change the layout of the site, @timtrueman dies a little.

phoebusg's avatar

@timtrueman nah he doesn’t. Developers are always looking for ways to improve their creations. Bouncing off more ideas increases the probability of running into the next great feature.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@phoebusg: You think I’m joking. Remember, you don’t speak with him about these matters on a regular basis. I do. making huge changes to a site that is not broken causes him and the other staff members, not to mention the moderators who have to deal with the user backlash, a lot of grief.

phoebusg's avatar

@KatawaGrey which is why I love open-source models :) Small teams of developers will always have less of a time resource for implementations. One more reason why it’s helpful to really iron out concepts before the implementation stage.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KatawaGrey Seriously? Aren’t you playing the little violin a little too much here? He dies a little, it causes a lot of grief is someone proposes changes and you’re saying these are huge changes to a website – I don’t think anything we’re discussing here will actually be implemented so it’s not like it matters.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@phoebusg, yeah I didn’t really pay attention to the thread. The system looks neat on paper, but might be hard to implement. There are a lot of questions on fluther.
(notice how I edited my post to respond to the post after me)

phoebusg's avatar

@PhiNotPi most concepts discussed by this thread are not talking about separation, take a moment and check out the responses :)

phoebusg's avatar

To add another level to the usefulness of a similar implementation. Threads will get all of their sub-questioned answered instead of being ignored. A lot of questions are really impoverished without the context created from answering their subsets. So @PhiNotPi as you brought up the issue of context, your answer for example didn’t provide enough to really give me an idea of what you were thinking. What your mind used as tools to come up with that response, where you were coming from.

But in any case, there’s many questions out there that get answers only to the bold/headline question. Often with the descriptions completely ignored—which impoverishes the thread.

Or often a reader will post relevant questions to the superset—but that only sidetracks the discussion if done on the same visible thread.

Lastly—often a subset question is inspired by reading the headline one. It’d be much easier to keep it in context and keep the discussion going while being able to use more “knives of reason” aka, questions. After all, it’s often just the questions we have. And we’re always left with more questions.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: What’s the point in getting angry with me? Implementing a change like this would take a lot of work and it’s kind of insulting for someone to say, “Hey, see this thing that works quite well? Lets change it to suit me better and make a lot of work for the people who actually have to do it.” It’s not broken, why do we need to fix it?

phoebusg's avatar

@KatawaGrey because there is no <this> yet, this is a brainstorming session. You could compile a <this>, but that you compiled may be different from another. And a dev that may actually decide one of the ideas in the session are worth making it to an implementation. No one is demanding anything to change. Are we unable to pose hypotheticals about design? Furthermore, I don’t see any devs complaining. I get that you hear the back-end of the difficulties in design and maintenance. But to my view, there’s no reason they should remain back-end, transparency does wonders. A community could help you solve something just as easily.

<This> isn’t fixed. How do you define broken? But that’s a different discussion. You could start that thread, would be fun to debate :) Though this is really off-topic here as far as I can see. If only we could branch it chuckles.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@BarnacleBill If it really turned out to be more like Wiki, I would lose all interest. I like answering specific questions for people in real time.

I think if another question comes up from the original one, there’s no reason it can’t be asked as it’s own question. If the person wants to post a link to the question that inspired them to ask the new question, great, if not, no biggie.

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