EDIT: Threading was turned off, due to popular demand.

Well, ask, and ye shall (eventually) receive.  WordPress.com has finally added support for threaded comments, and we’ve added it to the blog.  Everyone enjoy.

## 18 thoughts on “Threading!”

1. Let me be the curmudgeon who argues against threading. I find the comment threads at the $n$-category cafe harder to read than ours or Terry Tao’s and I think threading is at fault in two ways: (1) new comments are inserted all over the page, instead of at a predictable place near the bottom and (2) I have to keep a stack in my head to figure out what is being replied to at any point. I prefer to have commenters who are replying to old comments explicitly say “In reply to D. Hilbert at #39 … “, rather than assuming that I can keep track of where I am in the tree.

The usual argument for threading is that it makes it easier for discussions to fork into multiple topics. I think that, for a medium/low traffic blog like ours, this can be better handled by moderators explicitly starting new posts when necessary. I also don’t mind reading two conversations in parallel; it can lead to useful cross pollination.

Finally, let me vote very strongly against any system where not all comments are displayed (as in Livejournal). Reading through long comment threads there drives me nuts.

2. Aaron Bergman says:

Just so you kno, there’s a “view chronologically” button at the n-category cafe that removes the threading.

For small numbers of comments, I think threading is generally preferable, but it’s not a huge difference as everything is easier to keep track of. For more comments, threading organizes things more nicely, but makes it hard to find new stuff. Even with unthreaded comments, however, it’s hard to remember where I left off reading when there’s a large number of them. That’s why I generally read comments in RSS feeds.

It’s always a little depressing to me that Usenet had all this figured out years ago, but it’s pretty defunct these days, replaced by hideousness like pretty much every web forum and blogging software in existence. (Livejournal, as you say, deserves special opprobrium, but no more than something like the original Chowhound interface.) Maybe someone can figure out a way to turn comment feeds into a nntp server….

3. I’m considering adding threading to my own blog, and this comment is for the sole purpose of getting a better idea of what it might look like. Does WordPress have a “view chronologically” facility of any kind?

4. I suppose I should have consulted my fellow bloggers before turning on threading, though I think there’s not much harm in seeing how it goes. We can always turn it off if it’s a disaster.

I think how good an idea threading sounds like also depends a little on whether you read the comments RSS anyways. I do, so I’m not worried about missing new comments because they’re not at the bottom of the page.

5. john mangual says:

In response to Gower’s response… a gratuitous response.

6. I was wondering how long it would take before we got a gratuitous “how far does this threading go?” thread going.

7. Scott Carnahan says:

I agree with David! If you’re enjoying a threadless RSS feed, why inflict the threads on us plebes?

8. john mangual says:

perhaps the threading itself is gratuitous

9. If you’re enjoying a threadless RSS feed, why inflict the threads on us plebes?

Ah, yes, me and my dastardly unwillingness to share the comments RSS feed.

You know, you can go into settings and uncheck the box allowing threading, if it bothers you so much. I think it’s a good idea, but not worth having a fight over.

10. Is threading an option that can be on for some posts and off for others? I know comments can be on for some posts and off for others – maybe some topics seem inherently more threadworthy than others.

11. I haven’t seen any strong arguments in favor of threading yet, so I’ve disabled threading for now. Naturally, I’m open to being swayed in either direction. It appears that the thread metadata is still saved after flattening, so the gratuitousness of the above thread is only hidden, not lost.

12. Andy P. says:

Threading is evil and should be destroyed post-haste. Thanks Scott!

13. Is it a jihad now, Andy? Seriously.. “evil”?

14. Henry Wilton says:

I’m with you, Andy.

15. So you added it to the blog, but how do we use it. How is it possible to reply to a particular comment? Following Gowers’s blog with some limmited threading I am curious about several issues regarding unlimmited threadings.

16. Gil, read comment 11. I was shot down by my cobloggers.

17. Actually, I also at the end and based on Gowers’s blog experience prefer no threading. (Somehow it works nice on the n-category cafe). However I was curious to learn what will happen for high depth threading. The lines are becoming narrower at every new level and I wondered how it will look when the lines will allow only a single word, or a single letter? and then at higher levels when the lines will become negative what will happen then? Will it cause us all to be swallen by a black hole or all our theorems to become instantly self-contradictory?

18. Scott Carnahan says:

I heard they’re doing such threading experiments at CERN while waiting for the repairs to finish.