What can I do to make Discuss better?


With the new year starting, the one year anniversary of the public release of Atom approaching and my end-of-the-year vacation being over, I wanted to talk to all of you and see what I can do to make Discuss a better message board. (Switching away from Discourse is not an option and I wouldn’t want it to be, so perhaps snark all you want … just don’t expect anything to happen :laughing:)



I assume you don’t mean feature changes in the discourse software. If so then I would say your handling of the board is awesome and needs no changes. I have never ever seen such a supportive and attentive moderator. And I’ve been in forums for 30 years.


I could advocate for their implementation. Or if they could be achieved through plugins that already exist I could see about getting them installed. So it doesn’t hurt to mention them if there are things you’d like to see. But yeah, for the most part I was thinking of working within the system.



About Discourse software… it’s awesome. The ability to easily typeset code fragments, get nice previews with only a URL, and many other things is great. Any programmer forum should use it.

The only thing I can think of right now is the 20 character limit for a post. I assume it’s mainly there to filter out a +1 or a Thanks, since that functionality is provided by the Like button under a post. I like the like button, it aggregates all the small posts in a single place and keeps the thread clean. Yet sometimes I see people still (need to) bypass the 20 character limit.

For example, if a post consists of multiple (possibly completely different) parts, and you think it’s an addition to the discussion by letting people know you agree with one such part, how would you do so? Using the Like button you cannot differentiate between the parts.

This may be personal, but sometimes I feel that taking the time to reply, even if it’s a simple ‘Thank you!’ is more of a thanks than simply hitting a Like button, for example if someone took the time to help you with a problem in a back and forth of a few lengthy posts.

Simply removing the limit will likely mean an increase in ‘spam’ posts, which is probably not desirable. Instead of blocking the ability to post, perhaps use some form of confirmation, along the lines of “Your reply has less than 20 characters. If it is a simple +1 or a thank you, the Like button might be better suited. Are you sure you want to post your reply?”

Hopefully something like that can still keep the threads clean and focused on a discussion, rather than one word replies, while allowing for a short reply in the rare case that it is useful (without using fillers that distract from discussion).


There’s a problem with generic praise – it is hard to evaluate and feels insincere when someone says “I agree” or “great job” or “thank you”.

It is much more effective to describe in detail what was specifically helpful/great/agreeable, and why:

Lots of studies on this in children, but I believe the effect is just as valid in adults:

Be specific.

Generic praise is nice but specific praise is wonderful. Don’t just tell an employee she did a good job; tell her how she did a good job. Not only will she appreciate the gesture, she also knows you pay attention to what she does.

And those details and specificity certainly would be 20 characters or more…

More character limit discussion
Window.prompt-like modal dialog in Atom?

I recently was at a dinner with a woman who never said, “Thank you” or gave idle compliments. She would go out of her way to make small remarks like @codinghorror is describing:

  • “I really appreciate your gentlemanly nature.”
  • “You obviously care deeply about the welfare of your employees.”
  • “I wish I had your attention to detail.”

It really only took a few more seconds than, “wow”, “how nice” or “thank you”, but you could see the effect she had on the other people around the dinner table. It was probably the best dinner party I’ve ever been to.

And in that vein, @mark_hahn and @Alchiadus, I really appreciate the high praise you’ve both given me. I sometimes worry that I’m too active and it stifles discussion.


You keep these the friendliest I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, I myself, have never been as active before!


Hmmm. I guess I should say what great grammar Lee uses?


One suggestion I have for discourse is:

Let’s say I have a specific set of skills, to help with on the forums, and would like to, but don’t always have the time to read all of the new questions (the “New” icon is super helpful though).

It’d be cool if, discourse had some user input for categories or skills and then if it finds these keywords in the question is more likely to alert you (thresholds TBD). Also, everyone here is linked to github, so technically it could scan your github public repos for expertise as well…


It’s great to see features have a strong motivation backed up by human studies. Makes me like Discourse even more.


I dunno Mark, I think

Is fairly specific praise!


I’m not going to heave any more praise onto your moderator qualities, I think it’s clear you have earned everyone’s respect here, and are, objectively, a very positive influence on user engagement. People are more active here and more civilized, because of you - that says a lot.

In terms of improvements, I echo the general sentiment that the way it currently works is pretty darn good. We have a well-designed UI, effective moderation, useful categories and a lot of skilled and helpful members.

I also agree with the character minimum, for the reasons both @leedohm and @codinghorror explained, but also for the simple reason that nobody likes scrolling through threads that have dozens of “+1s” or “thanks” comments, as their usefulness is outweighed by clutter after the first one or two instances.
I was tempted to post short comments like that a few times, but then appreciated the call to elaborate a little. Much more productive that way.

However, I like @DavidLGoldberg’s idea to establish some kind authority reference, some way of identifying specific expertise. In other forums this is sometimes facilitated by allowing you to add tags to your thread (e.g. java, css or atom-shell… etc), and then those who are particularly interested in that area can subscribe to those tags.

People’s profiles could also be enriched with Github information, as David suggests, or simply by providing extra fields one can fill in with their skills and interests, which could then show up in a subtle floating popup when one hovers over the user’s profile pic or name…

Just throwing stuff out there…


I agree with the replies on this topic. I just want to add that the global Welcome topic could use an update.


Thanks, I took out the reference to requesting an invite :smile:


I was looking where to say that this forum manager is the most “intelligent” I saw. The way he shows post related to the new discuus I was opening made me avoid to create an unnecesary thread at least four times. The bluish window and the way to see that related published post without losing my in curse discuss is AWESOME. So I don’t see anything to make better.