OK, the forum is coming..

Henryk Plötz henryk at openmoko.org
Mon Jul 23 00:47:10 CEST 2007


Am Sat, 21 Jul 2007 23:31:55 +0000 (UTC) schrieb Valerio Bruno:

> I don't understand your sentence. Forums haven't threaded view ?!
> Anyway...

Yes, in my (and probably Sebastian's) part of the Internet, phpBB does
not count as a threaded forum. 

Based on http://aktuell.de.selfhtml.org/artikel/gedanken/foren-boards/
(sorry, it's in German, but there are clarifying pictures) I'd make a
distinction between a forum, which is inherently threaded (not in the
phpBB-sense), and a board, which is flat (like phpBB).

A thread in a forum captures the more natural way of discussion: someone
says something, multiple people reply, maybe focusing on different
aspects of the original post, the discussion might drift away in more
than one dimension, sub-aspects get discussed, maybe even the topic
changes completely: 
(A, B, C are people; 1,2,3... are aspects of the subject)

A says 1, 2, 3
  B responds to 1, 2, brings up 4
    C responds to 1, 4 (from B's post)
    A responds to 2, 4 (independent of C's post)
  C responds to 1, brings up 5
    A responds to 5
      C responds to 5 (from A's post)

Graph-theoretically speaking: Real[tm] threads are trees. (Well,
actually, from a real-world point of view they should be directed
acyclic graphs, meaning that one could reply to more than one posting
at a time. But that just adds all sorts of headaches and is difficult
to visualize. It's like multiple inheritance in the programming
language of your choice. But I digress ...)

A 'thread' in a board, like phpBB, is inherently flat, one-dimensional,
restricting. There's always only exactly one subject being discussed,
and it's harder to cherry-pick the aspects that you want to reply to.
Especially if you want to reply to an aspect that has been brought up
several posts ago:

A says 1, 2, 3
B responds to 1, 2, brings up 4
C responds to 1, brings up 5
C responds to 1, 4 (from B's post)
A responds to 5
A responds to 2, 4 (independent of C's post)
C responds to 5 (from A's post)

Trains of thought that ought to belong together are separated by this
structure, and completely unrelated aspects are forced to stand
And now imagine being a new person D and wanting to say something about
aspect 3. That's why phpBB postings basically must make use of these
"@poster A" forms, and even that doesn't help too much if the posting
being replied to was 30 postings (read: 3 "pages") ago.

There's a reason that the 'classical' discussion systems (usenet and
mailing-lists) model real threads.

Oh, and yes, some boards offer proper threads as an optional view. But
that's hard, because replying in a plain-board style loses information
about the intent of the poster. It's easy to transform a forum view
into a board view by just throwing the "who responded to
whom"-information away, but it's impossible the other way round.

And finally: Should the discussion really be one-dimensional and flat,
well that's just a special case of a tree and no problem at all for
real forums.

Henryk Plötz
Grüße aus Berlin
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