To thread or not to thread

The 500s thread of polymath1 is going to run out soon. Before I start what I think will be the 800s thread, I would like to ask whether the general view is that threaded comments would be a good idea for this, because I have recently learned from Luca Trevisan that WordPress now allows them. At the beginning of the experiment there appeared to be a clear view that threaded comments would be highly desirable. Now that things have quietened down somewhat, I find it less obvious. The simple numbering system has served us well (though one could have a numbering system like 8.13.2 for the second comment on the 13th comment of what would have been the 800s thread) and with a more tree-like structure one would lose the easily viewed chronological order of the comments. But perhaps a very limited amount of threading would be helpful, e.g. for quick comments such as “There’s an easy counterexample to that: just take …” or “I have now seen how to prove this: more details can be found in comment 8.27 below.” So the choices are to go the whole hog and allow many levels of nested comments, to leave things as they are, or to allow limited threading (up to a maximum depth of 1, say, counting a comment itself as level 0) with a general agreement that it will be used sparingly. (The last option sounds potentially good, but would depend on people adhering to this agreement, and I can’t tell at this stage whether they would.)

3 Responses to “To thread or not to thread”

  1. Jason Dyer Says:

    The main thing to keep in mind is threading is more to the benefit of those joining the conversation rather than those already in it.

    I can follow the thread at Terry Tao’s blog quite well, but have a harder time with the one here because I check it more intermittently.

  2. Ryan O'Donnell Says:

    To be honest, I kind of like no threading. It forces me to read all the comments and keep everybody’s different angles in mind.

  3. Richard Says:

    If I had to choose between threading and no-threading, I would also choose no-threading. I find threaded comments at n-Category frustrating to read if the threads become many and deep because temporal order is lost, and that alone is a turn off for me. Most recent comments tend to be scattered all over the page, and clicking on the most recent comment in the sidebar often positions the browser display incorrectly so that the desired comment is sometimes actually completely off the page. When threads become deep, text is squished on the right side of the page. I find myself hitting the “View Chronologically” button far more often than not. I wish that there were a way to specify a display preference so that in my case “View Chronologically” would be a the default.

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