'Summary' section at the top of each post (Plugin Proposal)

My core question is:

Would having a summary section at the top of posts be something that sounds useful to you?


This is something that’s been on my idea list for ages, and I believe it could possibly transform discussions, and I’d be keen on developing that plugin for us to dogfeed during this exploration.

I’ve always found that reading through all the posts in a thread can be way too much if I only want to know what’s the current status of things. (Nice to follow the evolution of thoughts and get deeper insight, but not everybody has time for that). And just skipping to the end also doesn’t work, because the actual important posts might be somewhere in the middle.
Especially in forums that are supposed to discuss about improving something, there might be a lot of ups and downs and backs and forth’s, and what I’d really love to have is something that summarizes all that, preferably at the very beginning, so that I know what’s going on and only need a minute.

How would this summary work?

I imagine the ‘summary’ to be an editable text field just like any post, and anyone can go and make changes, just like wikipedia. Possibly changes could or should only be allowed when you’re also posting something to the thread, which would kinda work like the justification for your change to the summary.

Let me illustrate it by using this very conversation as an example:
Say, the first person (me) starts a new conversation (this) and posts something.
Discourse would then prompt me: “Do you want to edit the summary?”
I’d go sure, and add the first text to the summary:

A summary could help new people to catch up quickly and will help the community to come to better conclusions.

Ok, so far so good. Now person B comes in, and might say as a response:
“I’m not sure whether it’s worth doing that. I’d imagine it to be quite difficult to implement, and wouldn’t it just add to the noise?” , post it and then be prompted whether to update the summary:

A summary could help new people to catch up quickly and will help the community to come to better conclusions. It might add to the noise though, and not be easy to implement.

3rd person C: “I think it would be a great idea, but I agree with B, might not be worth the effort. … Unless… Could this be used in our proposals and votings as well? Hm, maybe we should have a list of pro’s and cons for this, what do you think?” C decides not to update the summary, he’s not sure how.

4th person D: “Yes that could totally work for our citizen engagement and during the process of coming up with proposals. And yes, I second C’s idea to make some pro’s and cons, I have some more:
We could make it so that each edit is linked to the editor, and when you click on it it will jump directly to that post, it’s basically a quick navigation. Of sorts, right?”

A summary could:

  • help new people catch up quickly
  • help the community to come to better conclusions
  • act as ‘quick navigation’
  • Not limited to this discourse forum

However, possible downsides are:

  • It might add to the noise
  • Probably not easy to implement.

B jumps back in: “Hold on, hold on a minute. Before we go down that rabbit hole, what is that summary actually supposed to summarise? Is it just a rephrasing of every single post that’s been done? That wouldn’t make all that much sense, right? Could we have a definition of that first? I think it should only summarise what is actually important, i.e. only what is contributing to answering the OPs question, right? Otherwise I stand by my earlier statement that it will just generate more noise, or more overhead in what users need to type, and UI overhead, etc…
Btw, D, I found your ‘quick navigation’ was a bit hard to understand, so I modified it a bit, hope that’s still ok now?”

A summary should summarise all the relevant content in a post that contributes to answering the authors question.
It could:

  • help new people catch up quickly
  • help the community to come to better conclusions
  • sections in the summary can be hyperlinked to the editor
  • Not limited to this discourse forum

However, possible downsides are:

  • It might add to the noise
  • Probably not easy to implement.

User D: “Yes thanks B, you’re right that’s not necessarily obvious what I meant. I think I’d still like to have the quick navigation mentioned there though, because it is a somewhat separate point I find. Linking something up gives a bit of … verification? Authenticity? Not sure what the word is there…
Oh, and just rephrasing my initial point about using it outside of discourse a bit…”

A summary should summarise all the relevant content in a post that contributes to answering the authors question.
It could:

  • help new people catch up quickly
  • help the community to come to better conclusions
  • sections in the summary can be hyperlinked to the editor
  • Quick navigation to details for individual statements
  • Can be super useful for proposals & voting in the wider seeds universe

However, possible downsides are:

  • It might add to the noise
  • Probably not easy to implement.

Then user X comes in, sees this last version of the summary, everything’s intuitive except the ‘hyperlinked to the editor’ bit, so he’d hover over it, see that user D’s post was the first linked entry, and user B’s post the second. (Some kind of info on hover popup). He can directly click on the link to D’s post and read the details from there on, with B’s directly afterwards (there might have been others in between that would be collapsed because they didn’t contribute to the change).

… ok, I hope you got the picture. :wink:
Super breezy to catch up, isn’t it?
Well, it ain’t gonna be easy to write this plugin in all the glory details that I imagine (some of my yet unnamed faves would be to increase or decrease font size/weight/color based on votes/reactions associated with the contributing blog posts), and some of it might be a bit tricky logic (e.g. correctly attributing the changed bits to the author, and visualizing what happens if someone just deletes a ‘not’, etc… ) but we can start with the basics and take it from there. :slight_smile:

(This was much more than I intended to write, but it was fun coming up with that example :laughing: )


What are your thoughts, do you think I (and / or someone else, I don’t have ruby experience yet) should immediately start working on that, or should we better focus on other things and there are actually many downsides to this? Or maybe someone knows of something similar that already exists? And, last but not least: Does someone with experience with Discord know whether this kind of plugin would technically be feasible?

Cheers :slight_smile:

3 Likes

This would be a gamechanger if you could get it right!
Perhaps a few ideas to add:

  • A count of the number of contributors and number of posts
  • The date of the first and last post, with an elapsed time between (to show the relative freshness of the conversation)

Hope to see it developed by next week :rofl:

3 Likes

Hi Michael, my first reaction was: great idea. The second was: why does this need programming. It could be done manually. Now as I started my reply I see what you mean. I feel this is a helpful way for person who „just looks for information and it would be very helpful for me. On the other hand one would skip all the learning part which we go while writing and adding content. For the art of storytelling I would always want to hear / and read the full story and would take the time. For „just finding out what kind of information I need“ this would be very helpful and would help to spend time wisely.

We also all have our own context and field of interest. So what is important for someone might not be important for someone else. With a summary some people might miss there very personal „gold nugget“ hidden in the text, that might be for someone else not so important

In the end it‘s like always dependent on the people who use it and who commit contributing.

To cut a long story short: it‘s a prototype save enough to try so let‘s do it.

2 Likes

Sure, give me a day or two! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Just curious, what information do you think the number of contributors and dates would give us?

But yeah realistically for the summary field is probably need… 3 weeks. I can only work sometime in a weekend and the odd hour after work… (Trying to reduce my work though so that I can focus on seeds more)

Yes totally understand.
A lot of good information can be in the in betweens.
It definitely won’t be a feature that’s for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be added to every post either.
It will mainly be beneficial for discussions that involve concrete proposals, facts, and/or … other topics that expect to surface a well defined outcome.

I believe it will have some other possible benefits in the character building space as a side effect…

  • Hopefully seeing a well maintained Sunday will give people good examples of how to deal with various opposing / divergent opinions
  • It might surface how to Steelman each other (maybe?)
  • It will train us to keep on point (so often discussions motor into completely unrelated terrain, which can be interesting, sure, but it can also be very distracting and counter-productive)

So yes, depending on what you want to achieve in a thread sometimes it’s good to have this Sunday, but sometimes when you’re more after some very open exploration and creative process it so it might be better not to have it. Or people can just ignore it if they want.

This part of the summary isn’t that relevant when it’s a new series of posts, but let’s imagine a topic that has been running for more than a year, with multiple people contributing and some of them more than 10 times each - might be useful to see: “This series of posts is more than a year old and was contributed to by 18 people with a total of 166 posts.” It just helps give a feel for how much/little to expect.

1 Like

@apostol Is this discourse somewhere on github? Could you point me somewhere so I can play around with it a bit? Also, is there a staging environment or somesuch? Otherwise I’ll do it completely local first…
Thanks :slight_smile:

Jonas, I think this is a very good idea and I like it. I think it also has to be enabled on certain kinds of posts and maybe not enabled on others. I think it’s something that you can propose to the Discourse developers. You can find their Meta community here. You can actually move this whole conversation there, as it’s something that could benefit the wider Discourse ecosystem. And they can give you far better feedback on the feasibility and technical difficulties of creating it.

All their code is open-source and on GitHub and they also have plugin with GitHub for code reviews and plugins for other websites as well, so they might be open to developing this.

I’ll move this post to Uncategorized, because it’s not directly about updating this forum space right now, but more of a general communication improvement in the capabilities of the forum software which is not currently available. I’d love to see it happen, though! :herb:

2 Likes

I am now discussing about this in the meta.discourse forum as well: Plugin: Topic Summary Section - feature - Discourse Meta

However, I would also like to enquire whether you guys would be open to or see a pathway to developing this as part of the SEEDS ecosystem, and getting paid for that.

I know it would be great to get the discourse devs / community to do it, it’s just one less thing for us to do ourselves. However, it will be really useful to us, and I do sincerely hope that one day we (SEEDS/the world) will be in a situation that we can just say that ‘whatever we consider valuable can and will receive tokens that correspond to that value’, and that we can say that from a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity and competition.

In this concrete instance, me having to go to discourse and asking there makes it much less likely for me to actually work on it (because it is less likely that I will receive compensation).
And I know, many people are contributing without receiving adequate compensation either, and I don’t mind doing it without it, since I am quite interested in it. But I am hoping that I can transition completely to this new healthy economy, and I will only be able to do that if I know that I will have some income for it.
So one of my aims with developing this summary section was to find out how the whole compensation thing in SEEDS (or as I gather from discord chats at this stage probs only Hypha) actually works.

I know this probably should actually be it’s own topic, to discuss about income within SEEDS, but I’m not sure whether I want to open that barrel just yet, and if doing so I’d like to write a better thought-thru post with more details and discussion points than this one.