Reviving old topics

It is only a minor thing, but the topic comes up quite often:
Whenever someone posts something in a thread that has been abandoned for more than an undefined timespan, someone else will certainly react with a (polite but) determined censure.
The argument is always that yet someone else might not like being reminded that they took part in an old discussion. Note that nobody ever claims to be affected themselves — it's always a hypothetical third person which might not like getting notifications (which, btw, can be turned off).

I think it is okay to have rules which I consider superfluous, but it is plain stupid to enforce a rule which nobody wants to exist.
So, who is actually annoyed by bumped threads, and if so: When is a thread considered to be dead?


I think it would be reasonable to say that threads which were imported from before these forums existed, should not be bumped.

However, I would generally prefer not to lock them, for a technical reason.

If an old post has relevance to a new discussion, it can be helpful and productive to quote the relevant part of the old post in the new thread. In order to quote a post, one selects the portion they wish to quote, and clicks the “quote” button. This begins a reply in the same thread which contains the quoted material. One then copies the quote out of there, and pastes it into the new thread.

However, locked posts cannot be replied to, hence they cannot easily be quoted. In general, if the portion to be quoted contains non-trivial formatting, one would need to look at the raw text of that post—which there is no button to view, you have to know the secret URL incantation—and construct the quote manually with the proper link and attribution.

Thus, when old posts are locked, it becomes much more difficult to quote parts of them into new discussions.

Indeed, the same issue arises when proposal review threads are locked after acceptance or rejection. It becomes difficult to quote those discussions in the future.


I vaguely recall that threads which were migrated from the mailing lists could have people notified without the ability to turn the notifications off, so that might have been one source?

On the flip side, I've searched through the forums for previous discussions and missed a thread or two due to slight differences in wording on multiple occasions, so in general I would slightly prefer fewer, longer threads than splintering them up just because there hasn't been much movement in some arbitrary timespan.

Edit: I also think starting new threads instead of continuing old ones actually does a disservice to those who would have been notified and are instead left in the dark about new movement on a topic they were presumably interested in following, even if it took a bit.


I am actually annoyed, because a bump requires me to scroll back sometimes hundreds of messages to page into my working memory what it is that the thread is about. It’s gratifying that the forums make it very easy to catch up on old conversations, but threads aren’t visitor logs where everyone who makes it to the last message signs at the bottom.

These bumps are often without any new substantive content—and sometimes the post will literally say something to the effect of: “I have nothing additional to add to the discussion but because it has resonated with me years later, I feel like I should use this opportunity to ping others who’ve contributed to the discussion to contribute more and/or want to know if anyone else has done any work related to this.”

It’s been my observation that those who have something substantive to add about a long-dormant subject will naturally gravitate towards starting a new thread because they want their point to be seen by the broadest possible audience. By its nature, a reply in an existing thread only goes to those who’ve already participated or subscribed and it is supposed to omit any exposition that establishes context because readers are to carry it forward from preceding posts. If a comment seems devoid of sufficient content to be appropriate for summoning the attention of everyone in a new thread, then it is equally inappropriate—if not more so!—to resurrect an old thread to summon anew the attention of specific people who’ve already said what they mean to say about the topic.

When is a thread too old to resurrect? Here’s a nice rule of thumb: If you have to ask, it’s too old.


Indeed, in my thread from yesterday I said more or less literally this, so perhaps you are referring to that.

Between your use of the word "literally" and your description of certain messages as "signing at the bottom", I think the subtext is clear that you view these types of posts as negative, and you would prefer that they were never brought into being in the first place. Correct me if I'm wrong about the subtext.

If I'm understanding the subtext correctly: 👇

It is of course relevant to distinguish between posts that do and do not contain technical insight. However, it seems to me like you are taking an extra leap that I'm not sure that I buy, which is the conflation of technical insight and "substance". Obviously, I'm not disputing the utmost importance of technical insight in these endeavors - I'm simply suggesting that the definition of "substance" be broader than just "technical insight".

However, that being said, it seems clear to me that my post in particular is rather low in substance no matter how we define it. However, by (what I think is) your definition it has zero "substance", and by the definition I'm suggesting it would have non-zero "substance", and therefore would be desired by the community in some form, although perhaps that form should be altered (e.g., not a new thread).

Specifically, I would say that my post contains two small pieces of "substance":

  1. My vote in favor of the proposed change.
  2. The fact that I care enough to make the post.

I would argue that #1 is actually a form of technical insight and therefore should count as non-zero substance by your definition as well.

It might be reasonable to counter with: "Sure, it's non-zero, but it's not worth its own post let alone its own thread - that that's what liking other people's posts is for". If not for Substance #2 I would already agree with you that I should have just added myself as one more like to Jordan's original thread and left it at that.

I'm open to be disillusioned about #2, but my current perspective is that "technical insight" and "proof that I care" are like "a car" and "gasoline". If everyone more or less agrees about the technicalities but no one posts about it in two years, are you very sure that my post trying to ignite some new flame is entirely worthless? Maybe the second kind of substance that I'm bringing to the table is actually exactly the kind of substance that that particular equation is needing.

It might be reasonable to counter with: "If no one has posted about it in two years maybe it's because most people actually don't care that much about it, and if it's only you that cares then that isn't enough to matter, so don't post." To me it seems clear that the way these things work is that there is often latent consensus that is periodically triggered by one person eventually speaking out about a particular topic. From that perspective, it seemed like a fine idea to me to allow the flame that spontaneously lit inside of me to travel to others via the forum, by way of doing a few minutes of refresher-research on the topic and then posting about it. If the flame only finds wet wood then it will go out swiftly (:smirk:) and won't have caused enough bother to outweigh the times when that flame blazes a later-beloved trail.

If I become convinced that the community as a whole only wants to read posts with novel technical insight then I will happily downgrade all other content to well-placed likes (within the technical site categories of course).

Lastly, regarding the topic of "likes", I'd like to add that I would love to have a formalized system of consensus tracking like I briefly mentioned here, which I think would make it so much easier to cut through the noise and get clear a sense of the landscape of ideas.

I don't read Xiaodi's post as identifying "substance" with "technical insight." Indeed, I think summarizing past discussions on a dormant topic, expressing renewed interest, and distilling remaining points of contention can be substantial, and may be precisely what is needed for someone who had missed or was not around for the previous discussion to take interest and whip up a formal proposal and implementation.

OTOH, I do also agree with Xiaodi that posts in the vein of "what's the latest on this?" are of particularly low value, and so folks who care about driving a discussion forward are likely better suited, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, putting in the effort to recap the conversation in a manner that makes it approachable. That can be a nontrivial effort and is definitely a way in which community members (who may not want to take a whole proposal through the evolution process) can participate productively.


Nice, this is awesome - if I’m ever tempted to say something to the effect of “what’s the latest?” I’ll do this instead.

I wasn't referring to any particular person or thread. And indeed, looking at the new thread you've started, that seems entirely appropriate to me—you've kicked off a new conversation and provided adequate context by linking to and/or quoting relevant past conversations. The specific topic at hand doesn't really need much more than that (it's not some complicated puzzle) and it's fair that most people who've thought about it in the past will feel ready to dive in if they're interested after reading what you've posted.

Maybe I'm a little biased in this case though, because personally I'm inclined to revisit that topic for the next language mode ;)


Well… you could also just ignore the message and skip all that scrolling, couldn't you?

Ask who?
It would be possible to avoid those inconveniences automatically, but that would require a specific timeframe which Discourse could use to adopt its reactions.

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it would be better for everyone if we just reconfigured discourse to automatically lock threads after 6 months on inactivity.


…everyone except those who want to quote those old threads, when creating or replying to new threads.


Can you not quote a locked thread?


No, the native Discourse "Quote" feature that copies the proper user ID, post ID, and formatting does not work on locked threads (because it opens the reply dialog and that's disabled on locked threads). :confused:

ETA: Looks like this may have changed!


I'm getting a little bit off topic, but as I started the thread, imo that is ok :joy::
Maybe I understood something wrong, but afaics, you can quote locked threads, and it is not that terrible.
Just start your post, and navigate to the old thread.

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Actually it looks like this may have changed recently—I was just able to quote from a locked thread and it pulled up the reply dialog automatically populated with "Continuing the discussion from..." and the relevant quote.


Oh nice, looks like it did change!

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6 months may be a bit too tight, but I think we should at least do it for threads that are 12+ months old.

IIRC I've been pinged about responses to threads that are 7 years old. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that anybody holds the same opinions as they did 7 years ago. It's not worth carrying on those threads.


Just curious, what about "likes"? I upvoted very old posts sometimes. It usually occurred when I googled some topic and found helpful information in a thread (I use discourse likes as bookmarks/thanks and its bookmarks as read-later reminder). A serious question: did people feel confused/annoyed when I upvoted an old post? :sweat_smile:

BTW, can a locked thread be liked or bookmarked?

That's a great use of likes.