Over on our beta-beta (I guess the technical term is "alpha") site, we're experimenting with a new system for Recent Comment, renaming it to "Recent Discussion" and tweaking some features.
The recent comments are organized by post, sorted in the order of "post most recently commented on", showing the three most recent comments for each post.
If you haven't read a post, it also shows a short blurb of the first 300 characters of the post (similar to how the recent comments themselves do).
A couple motivations for this:
- If there's one thread with loads of discussion happening, it can easily overwhelm the recent comments section. (For example, as of right now on Lesserwrong.com, all 10 Recent Comments are from the Jorden Peterson thread right now. If you haven't logged on in 4 hours, you'd have missed the discussion happening in Connection Between Math and Philosophy and Subtle Forms of Confirmation Bias. Whereas on LessestWrong it shows you each of those posts (plus a few others) clustered by thread.
- High-volume discussions not only makes it harder to see all the active threads, but also produces runaway affects where "only one thread is showing up in Recent Comments, so people are predisposed to comment on that discussion instead of others."
- Old posts that get commented on get highlighted slightly more than they were before (in particular, if you haven't read them already, you'll get a bit more context about what the post was about).
- I wanted it to be easier to skim the opening text of new posts (empirically I don't actually click the "show highlight" button that I worked so hard on last month. :P). Up till now it's been way easier to peruse random comments with no context than to start reading actual posts, which seems backwards to me.
- Posts with negative karma will not have their comments show up in the recent discussion, preventing runaway demon threads from taking over the front page.
This is a fairly major change, so we wanted to collect some feedback before moving forward on it, and it seemed easier to get that feedback if we temporarily connected the live database to the Lessestwrong.com. For the next few days you can log in there normally.
Longterm, there's a few other features that could get rolled into this, such as:
- displaying proper threading for recent comments (since multiple comments from a single post can be loaded and once and sorted together)
- highlight comments you haven't read
- hide discussions on posts you aren't interested in