Do Long Threads Unravel Dialog?


Ah, one of the traditional great debates of online discussions.

I have always been a splitter rather than a lumper, but so many people disagree so vehemently.


I am getting a distinct “go away weird kid, you’re frightening the normals” from this sort of thing.

In some of these cases, we were having smaller conversations, and everybody said “hey, you’re bringing us down and dampening the mood of the party” so we found a corner booth and staked it out and started having our conversations there precisely because we were asked not to have our conversations (and yes, there really are conversations) in with everyone else. Now we’re being told that the conversation we took to the corner as an accommodation to everyone else isn’t inclusive enough and is intimidating.

You think that there is something in one of those threads that needs pulling out? Nobody is stopping you. Reply as new topic isn’t just for derails, but also works wonderfully when you want to narrow the scope of something.

Why do you have to stifle someone else’s conversation, just to have one of your own?


I’m not trying to “stifle conversation” I’m trying to encourage it, and suggesting that some methods of posting are not conducive to bringing in new people and perspectives. I’m not outlawing anything. If you want to keep doing what you’re doing, nobody’s stopping you.

I was unaware that there was any request to take your conversations elsewhere. And that strikes me as particularly antithetical to what this site is (?) about…either way my intent was not to call out Wanderthread in any particular way but to raise the topic of what the best way to encourage dialog would be, and whether our current practices are in line with our motives.

You seem to have some defensiveness and hostility either to this thread or to me. Please DM me if you’d like to discuss that.


So, yes, Wanderthread is a way of letting people know that if you do not want to engage in these kinds of conversations then you know which topic to stay out of. And vice versa.

On another board I moderated, we had a similar thing only the structure of the board was broken into topic lists (similar to our topics, but it was visually grouped so all the threads on the same topic were together). There were certain topics that were pets of certain people who some people loved and others avoided. So, for example, there were a couple of topics I hardly ever read unless there got to be a moderation issue.

In that case, the structure of the board helped a lot. Here I think the topics are less visible.


Well, they certainly aren’t visible in something like Wanderthread. The first post describes what it is, but there’s lots of content (links to news articles about various issues) with no differentiation after that. I don’t want that thread to be altered in any way that @Wanderfound doesn’t want it to be; it’s their thread, and they’ve put a lot of work into it.

But as much as I might like to engage with it, I can’t. I don’t have time to keep up with it, and anything specific that I might specifically want to read or engage with is drowned in the firehose. It’s inefficient and not conducive to conversation. If it suits the needs of Wander and the other fans of that thread, swell, but I have to find my engagement with those selfsame topics elsewhere. Where they’re not so damned difficult to find or keep track of.

I just think there’s a better way to organize and present that stuff where you won’t lose eyeballs and voices that might have something valuable to contribute to (or learn from!) that thread.


I used to, of course. :blush:

I’d be happy to do something like a regular blog post summarising the political theme of the day if people wanted to read it.

Wanderthread began as a way to avoid firehosing the other threads; these days I use it as a sketchpad for my own thoughts as much as anything else. Rough ideas get posted there as they happen; bits of it end up replicated at the other place when they become appropriate.


Personally I enjoy wading in sometimes. A lot of interesting stuff. I go when I have the time to explore.


Thread off wanderthread if you like a topic. Tell all your friends. Heck, if wanderfound is agreeable to it set a tag like the badass games so you get notified when someone else wants to dive deeper into a topic he’s brought up.


I’d like to see some proof that long threads dissuade participation – something past people’s hunches and conjecture. Thinking over discussions both here and at TOP, I’m not seeing it.

What I have seen happen is people from earlier on will drop off, having said their piece. Others will join in. A few people who are passionate about the topic will stay for the whole thing. Yes, the subject will gradually morph, but I just don’t see that as a bad thing.

Again, newcomers don’t have to read the whole thread to join in; the last several posts are more than sufficient.

This looks like a grab for control looking for an excuse.


I don’t know where this accusation is coming from, and frankly I’m hurt by it. There is no “grab for control” going on here.

I personally feel discouraged from joining threads that are too long. And I’m looking at this from a newbie’s perspective because I took a hiatus for a few months and I’ve only recently returned, and find myself having to catch up a lot. That’s N of 1, but that’s my experience, which is why I started this thread – to find out if others felt the same way and if so, whether there was something that we could do about that. I see now that I’ve ruffled feathers in some weird way, and now I’m being accused of gender based suppression and some kind of power grab. I see this all headed in a toxic direction, like so many other conversations that I’ve seen recently. Everybody’s got their back up for some reason. So I’m going to bow out of this conversation and let others discuss. If anyone wants me to lock or delete this thread, please let me know, but I won’t do that without being requested.


As someone else who just returned from a hiatus, I agree that I’ve been delving into shorter threads and just dipping my toes into the longer ones.

But I don’t see how it would be much better if things were split up; there are only about ten threads that I’m not caught up with, of those which have been posted into since my return, and I’m slowly catching up on those.


I don’t mean to accuser anyone of anything. I do have two sincere questions though:

Why ask about this if you’re not willing to listen to other opinions?

Why mention gender in the reply to me when I haven’t mentioned it at all in this thread?


Uh… I don’t think it really matters how long or short a thread is, to be frank.

If it’s an interesting topic to me, then it makes me no never mind how many other people are or are not participating.

Different strokes for different folks.


I’m not sure I’ve ever really looked at a thread length before deciding to read it. Deciding to read it now or later, sure. I do participate in a few email-based discussion groups where if the dialog gets to be over X emails, it gets moved to an issue tracker or the group blog or whatever. In my experience, that seems to shut down discussion hard. In a recent discussion we went from ~5 emails a day to no further comments on the issue tracker. I don’t think we’d see the same effect here, since it’s not “Now check this additional webpage for the discussion,” it’s “check here.” So I’m wary of a lot of top-down management or branching.

I don’t really see the need for further action beyond what you suggested in the OP, @waetherman. Be mindful of how on-topic your contribution is, and if you could see it being a long discussion, branch (or ask for a branch?).

Edit: typo.


We can’t have dialog about Do Long cause you weren’t there man!!!


I think making a sub category and giving each AMA it’s own thread is a good idea and it would also allow late-comers to ask things.

As for something like Wanderthread or Not Feminism: The length indicates that the topic is still being discussed. I say leave them.

Some sorta “Dead for a month” auto-close might be good to motivate a later revisiting of the topic in a new thread. Because this is the internet and people love endlessly restating something they already said.


For people coming new to a board, the other board I moderated had a function to select “Mark all Read” which helped because a new user could mark all the millions of old posts as read, then the next time they came to the board they could see precisely where the active threads were and pick up into the flow of the conversation more easily.

I do wish we had a way to split the board into categories because, for example, feminism and gender issues is one of the categories that we have, as a group, been discussing for a long time and it would be nice to break that into more discrete threads.

Maybe we need to look at the long threads and think about making those topics into categories.


I think Wanderthread is evidence that certain types of long threads dissuade participation.

The Not Feminism 101 threads both here and at TOP were good, and had a lot of discussion. The roundup threads at TOP also had more participation, if not discussion, than Wanderthread. Wanderthread is just one person posting all the content without commentary, and this is really inaccessible to me. I’ve actually blocked someone’s email for doing something like this to me over email, because it interfered with my ability to check my email without wading through hundreds of links to articles I didn’t ask for every day.

I don’t see the point of a long thread that’s just links to news articles, with no commentary or discussion. News aggregators exist, and I could (and do) go there and read all of these same articles. It’s just that a thread with lively non-troll discussion and fresh perspectives would be far more interesting to me than reposting the news, or even just reading the news the first time.


I totally agree with you on that. That’s a tumblr feed, not a discussion thread as such.

And I like Tumblr, so that’s cool. A place for everything and everything in its place etc.


It’s not hurting anyone and it helps him to have a place to post, so I feel it serves its purpose. If you don’t want to visit, stay out. If you do, you know what you are getting into.