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samzenpus

benrothke writes "When I first heard about the book The Death of the Internet, it had all the trappings of a second-rate book; a histrionic title and the fact that it had nearly 50 contributors. I have seen far too many books that are pasted together by myriad disparate authors, creating a jerry-rigged book with an ISBN, but little value or substance. The only negative thing about the book is the over the top title, which I think detracts from the important message that is pervasive in it. Other than that, the book is a fascinating read. Editor Markus Jakobsson (Principal Scientist for Consumer Security at PayPal) was able to take the collected wisdom from a large cross-section of expert researchers and engineers, from different countries and nationalities, academic and corporate environments, and create an invaluable and unique reference." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.

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Another very misunderstood yet over used metaphor from game design that we use in gamification, is Bartle's Player Types. What follows is an attempt to create something similar to Richard Bartle’s player types, but for gamified systems.

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It's been six years since I wrote Discussions: Flat or Threaded? and, despite a bunch of evolution on the web since then, my opinion on this has not fundamentally changed.

If anything, my opinion has strengthened based on the observed data: precious few threaded discussion models survive on the web. Putting aside Usenet as a relic and artifact of the past, it is rare to find threaded discussions of any kind on the web today; for web discussion communities that are more than ten years old, the vast majority are flat as a pancake.

I'm game for trying anything new, I mean, I even tried Google Wave. But the more I've used threaded discussions of any variety, the less I like them. I find precious few redeeming qualities, while threading tends to break crucial parts of discussion like reading and replying in deep, fundamental, unfixable ways. I have yet to discover a threaded discussion design that doesn't eventually make me hate it, and myself.

A part of me says this is software Darwinism in action: threaded discussion is ultimately too complex to survive on the public Internet.

Hacker-news-threading

Before threaded discussion fans bring out their pitchforks and torches, I fully acknowledge that aspects of threading can be useful in certain specific situations. I will get to that. I know I'm probably wasting my time even attempting to say this, but please: keep reading before commenting. Ideally, read the whole article before commenting. Like Parappa, I gotta believe!

Before I defend threaded discussion, let's enumerate the many problems it brings to the table:

  1. It's a tree.

    Poems about trees are indeed lovely, as Joyce Kilmer promised us, but data of any kind represented as a tree … isn't. Rigid hierarchy is generally not how the human mind works, and the strict parent-child relationship it enforces is particularly terrible for fluid human group discussion. Browsing a tree is complicated, because you have to constantly think about what level you're at, what's expanded, what's collapsed … there's always this looming existential crisis of where the heck am I? Discussion trees force me to spend too much time mentally managing that two-dimensional tree more than the underlying discussion.

  2. Where did that reply go?

    In a threaded discussion, replies can arrive any place in the tree at any time. How do you know if there are new replies? Where do you find them? Only if you happen to be browsing the tree at the right place at the right time. It's annoying to follow discussions over time when new posts keep popping up anywhere in the middle of the big reply tree. And God help you if you accidentally reply at the wrong level of the tree; then you're suddenly talking to the wrong person, or maybe nobody at all. For that matter, it absolutely kills me that there might be amazing, insightful responses buried somewhere in the middle of a reply chain that I will never be able to find. Most of all, it just makes me want to leave and never come back.

  3. It pushes discussion off your screen.

    So the first reply is indented under the post. Fair enough; how else would you know that one post is a reply to another post? But this indentation game doesn't ever end. Reply long and hard enough and you've either made the content column impossibly narrow, or you've pushed the content to exit, stage right. That's how endless pedantic responses-to-responses ruin the discussion for everyone. I find that in the "indent everything to the right" game, there are no winners, only losers. It is natural to scroll down on the web, but it is utterly unnatural to scroll right. Indentation takes the discussion in the wrong direction.

  4. You're talking to everyone.

    You think because you clicked "reply" and your post is indented under the person you're replying to, that your post is talking only to that person? That's so romantic. Maybe the two of you should get a room. A special, private room at the far, far, far, far, far right of that threaded discussion. This illusion that you are talking to one other person ends up harming the discussion for everyone by polluting the tree with these massive narrow branches that are constantly in the way.

    At an absolute minimum you're addressing everyone else in that discussion, but in reality, you're talking to anyone who will listen, for all time. Composing your reply as if it is a reply to just one person is a quaint artifact of a world that doesn't exist any more. Every public post you make on the Internet, reply or not, is actually talking to everyone who will ever read it. It'd be helpful if the systems we used for discussion made that clear, rather than maintaining this harmful pretense of private conversations in a public space.

  5. I just want to scroll down.

    Reddit (and to a lesser extent, Hacker News) are probably the best known examples of threaded comments applied to a large audience. While I find Reddit so much more tolerable than the bad old days of Digg, I can still barely force myself to wade through the discussions there, because it's so much darn work. As a lazy reader, I feel I've already done my part by deciding to enter the thread; after that all I should need to do is scroll or swipe down.

    Take what's on the top of reddit right now. It's a cool picture; who wouldn't want to meet Steve Martin and Morgan Freeman? But what's the context? Who is this kid? How did he get so lucky? To find out, I need to collapse and suppress dozens of random meaningless tangents, and the replies-to-tangents, by clicking the little minus symbol next to each one. So that's what I'm doing: reading a little, deciding that tangent is not useful or interesting, and clicking it to get rid of it. Then I arrive at the end and find out that information wasn't even in the topic, or at least I couldn't find it. I'm OK with scrolling down to find information and/or entertainment, to a point. What I object to is the menial labor of collapsing and expanding threaded portions of the topic as I read. Despite what the people posting them might think, those tangents aren't so terribly important that they're worth making me, and every other reader, act on them.

Full bore, no-holds-barred threading is an unmitigated usability disaster for discussion, everywhere I've encountered it. But what if we didn't commit to this idea of threaded discussion quite so wholeheartedly?

The most important guidance for non-destructive use of threading is to put a hard cap on the level of replies that you allow. Although Stack Exchange is not a discussion system – it's actually the opposite of a discussion system, which we have to explain to people all the time – we did allow, in essence, one level of threading. There are questions and answers, yes, but underneath each of those, in smaller type, are the comments.

Stack-exchange-threading

Now there's a bunch of hard-core discussion sociology here that I don't want to get into, like different rules for comments, special limitations for comments, only showing the top n of comments by default, and so forth. What matters is that we allow one level of replies and that's it. Want to reply to a comment? You can, but it'll be at the same level. You can go no deeper. This is by design, but remember: Stack Exchange is not a discussion system. It's a question and answer system. If you build your Q&A system like a discussion system, it will devolve into Yahoo Answers, or even worse, Quora. Just kidding Quora. You're great.

Would Hacker News be a better place for discussion if they capped reply level? Would Reddit? From my perspective as a poor, harried reader and very occasional participant, absolutely. There are many chronic problems with threaded discussion, but capping reply depth is the easiest way to take a giant step in the right direction.

Another idea is to let posts bring their context with them. This is one of the things that Twitter, the company that always does everything wrong and succeeds anyway, gets … shockingly right out of the gate. When I view one of my tweets, it can stand alone, as it should. But it can also bring some context along with it on demand:

Twitter-threading

Here you can see how my tweet can be expanded with a direct link or click to show the necessary context for the conversation. But it'll only show three levels: the post, my reply to the post, and replies to my post. This idea that tweets – and thus, conversations – should be mostly standalone is not well understood, but it illustrates how Twitter got the original concept so fundamentally right. I guess that's why they can get away with the terrible execution.

I believe selective and judicious use of threading is the only way it can work for discussion. You should be wary of threading as a general purpose solution for human discussions. Always favor simple, flat discussions instead.

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About

“You must be new here” is a phrase used to call attention to incoming noobs in discussion forums or social networking sites. The expression has been also commonly associated with a still image of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka from the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.”

Origin

The colloquial usage of “must be new here” has been noted in popular films and TV comedy series for many years, with the earliest mentions found in an episode of the 1967 British TV series The Prisoner and more recently in an episode of the FOX sitcom series “Titus”[3] that aired in 2000.

Number 6: [referring to the chess game] Why do you use people?
Chessmaster: Some psychiatrists say it satisfies the desire for power. The only opportunity one gets here.
Number 6: That depends what side you’re on.
Chessmaster: [quickly] I’m on my side.
Number 6: [quickly] Aren’t we all.
Chessmaster: You must be new here. In time, most of us join the enemy – against ourselves.

- The Prisoner, Checkmate

On the web, the phrase has been used in the comments of numerous blogs and news sites as a response to stereotypical newbie questions or as the title of forum threads addressed to the newcomers, as seen in a Badminton Central forum thread[11] in October 2002 and a Geek Culture forum thread[12] in July 2004.

Spread

Throughout the 2000s, the phrase became widely used in the discussion forums and chatrooms in mocking redundant or obvious comments, most notably on Slashdot and 4chan where cultural elitism is more tolerated. The earliest archived threads[9][10] on 4chan were posted in 2007.

Acronym

“You must be new here” can be also shortened in the form of acronym “YMBNH,” according to the Urban Dictionary entry[14] submitted on July 21st, 2006.

YMBNH: Shorthand for You Must Be New Here; used in internet chat forums to slightly mock posters of redundant/obvious comments.

Reaction Image

Similar reaction images stemmed out of an exploitable macro series titled “Condescending Wonka”] which features a still shot of Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka accompanied by patronizing captions like “You must be new to this.”

The Willie Wonka instance initially spread through Gizmodo forums[4] and Tumblr[5] in January 2011 and the image has since become a common response to new member who may not be fully aware of the rules or social cues of the site they are interacting with.[6][7][8]

Notable Derivatives


Search Interest

Search for “You must be new here” began in August 2010 and has been increasing, with popularity spiking in February and November 2011.

External References

[1] MemeGenerator – Willy Wonka Creepy

[2] Quick Meme – Creepy Wonka

[3] IMDb – Christopher Titus quotes

[4] Gizmodo – Forum Comment

[5] Tumblr – eiknarf

[6] Oddly Enough Blog – Comment from October 4th, 2008

[7] Fontlab – Comment from February 8th, 2009

[8] Today I Found Out – Comment from March 21st, 2010

[9] chanarchive – Post from August 28th, 2007

[10] chanarchive – Post from February 18th, 2008

[11] Badminton Central – Mississauga/toronto west end?

[12] Geek Culture – Computer beep on startup=

[13] FunniGirl – The Nudist Colony

[14] Urban Dictionary – YMBNH

[15]IMDB – The Prisoner, Checkmate

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About

“Abandon Thread” is a catchphrase that is used in online forums to indicate that a discussion thread has degraded in quality and should be abandoned. The phrase is often used as a reaction to thread jacking, flame wars or more general trolling behavior. In image macros and animated GIFs, the phrase is often paired with people or animals that appear as if they are attempting to flee. (See also Hey Guys What’s Going on in Here)

Origin

The phrase has been used in discussions threads on sites like the Democratic Underground[5] forums as far back as January 19th, 2004.

The earliest known animated GIF version shows a snail transforming its shell into a jetpack before flying out of frame with the caption “Abandon Thread” flashing in red. It was uploaded to ThreadBombing.com[1] on August 14th, 2009. The GIF was made from a clip of a CGI test video from Spon.com[3] titled “Spontaneous Snail” that was uploaded to YouTube on November 21st, 2006.

Spread

Usage of the phrase in discussion threads have been noted across a wide range of forums and websites like Lone Portal[8], Gaia Online[9] and IGN forums.[11] In addition, GIF derivatives of “Abandon Thread” images can be found on sites like Funny Junk[4], GIF Ninja[10], GIF Soup[6], Ebaumsworld[7], and Threadbombing’s “Thread Sucks” category.[2]

Notable Examples

Fuck This Thread I’m Outta Here

Similar to “abandon thread” responses, another set of image macros and animated GIFs featuring the catchphrase “fuck this thread I’m out of here” can be used in the same context.

Search Interest

Search queries for “abandon thread” had a small spike in July 2010 before picking back up in January of 2011.

External References

[1]Abandon Thread – Thread Bombing / 8-14-2009

[2]Thread Bombing – Thread Sucks

[3]Spon.com – Spon

[4]Funny Junk – abandon thread=

[5]Democratic Underground – Abandon thread! Abandon thread!

[6]GIF Soup – Gif Results for abandon thread

[7]Ebaumsworld – abandon thread

[8]Lone Portal – ABANDON THREAD!

[9]Gaia Online – Abandon thread. Troll attack.

[10]GIF Ninja – abandon thread

[11]IGN Forums – Someone cap Abandon Thread with this GIF

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About

“Didn’t Read, LOL” (or simply “Didn’t Read”) is a slang expression commonly used in response to someone else’s post that is deemed long or uninteresting, quite similar to the usage of the term TL;DR. It is typically iterated either in the form of reply comments or animated GIFs of people dancing in a nonchalant manner.

Origin

The earliest known mention of the phrase “didn’t read, LOL” can be found in a ColoradoFans forum thread posted on September 14th, 2006.[1] In the thread, the original poster (OP) shared photographs of his 2006 Silverado pickup truck with a verbose description of upgraded features, to which forum user Dillusion replied:

I didn’t read lol. I just looked at the pictures.

The first known instance as an animated GIF was years later in July 2008, when IGN forum user[2][3] Jaslar_Tha_Kidd_2 posted an animated GIF of dancing Samwell from the 2007 viral music video What What in response to the original poster’s lengthy post about his relationship issue.

Spread

Prior to the emergence of captioned GIFs in 2008, the phrase had been often used in an apologetic tone by forum commentators who hastily replied to a discussion thread without actually reading the original post. Throughout 2009 and 2010, the GIF collection continued to grow as they spread across other highly-trafficked discussion forums, most prominently in male and athlete-oriented communities such as BodyBuilding forum[4][5], Sherdog[6] and InsideHoops forum.[7] In most circumstances, “Didn’t Read LOL” GIFs are used deliberately to heckle others for posting something unworthy of one’s time.

Viral Instance: “Movin’ Like Bernie”

In early 2011, an animated GIF of “Didn’t Read LOL” featuring the “Movin’ Like Bernie”[8] dance began to circulate across the aforementioned forums and became one of the more prevalent iterations to be used in online conversations.

Notable Examples



Search Interest

As Google Insights reveals, search queries for the keyword “didn’t read LOL” didn’t pick up in volume until March 2010 and continues to increase to this date as of November 2011:

External References

[1] ColoradoFans – What I’ve Been Working Pics

[2]IGN Forum – I was an idiot

[3]IGN Forum – Having an extremely hot female roommate blows

[4] BodyBuilding Forum – Didn’t read LOL!---Where is this from misc?

[5] BodyBuilding Forum – first one to post the “didn’t read lol” gif gets reps

[6] Sherdog – GIF Thread #17

[7] InsideHoops – Didn’t read lol .gif

[8] YouTube – Movin’ Like Bernie – Two Best Dancers

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