Fri 4 Oct 2013 3:10AM

Discussion activity chronology

JD Jesse Doud Public Seen by 222

We're rolling out natural discussion item chronology early next week (7.10.13).

We wanted to have a place where members can go and talk about the change. The user testing we've done has shown that the flipped discussion order will be quite intuitive for new users. On the other hand, our lovely members who have grown accustomed to "new to old" discussion chronology may have some growing pains.

In the end, we think that our users will love arriving at a new discussion and reading from top to bottom, and commenting in the flow of the dialouge.

Here's a blog about the changes.


Mike Hargreaves Fri 4 Oct 2013 3:18AM

Great news, far more natural IMHO to read down in one motion rather than scroll to the bottom, scroll up to top of last message, read down and then go up two messages and repeat.


Jesse Doud Fri 4 Oct 2013 3:32AM

thanks @mikehargreaves, our thoughts exactly!


Anna Guenther Fri 4 Oct 2013 4:13AM

@emmahosking just posted a blog about some tech developments too (including this): http://blog.loomio.org/2013/10/04/journeying-along-our-roadmap/


Tom Lord Fri 4 Oct 2013 9:55AM

Heh :-) We ummed and ahhhed about this for a while. We've got it in old-to-new at the moment, and some people have been asking for it the other way... In the end I think we might just make it user-controlled to flip it one way or the other, e.g. like in an email client.


Anna Guenther Mon 7 Oct 2013 6:12AM

It's flip time! Shout out if you have any questions or comments for the team :)


Chris Taklis Mon 7 Oct 2013 6:38AM

and how we can change it back, so new messages be on the top...

because some discussions maybe have dozens pages with comments, and i think that won't be useful to read try find where you have left last time you read..

And personal i don't like the "post comment" button on the bottom.


Matthew Bartlett Mon 7 Oct 2013 6:40AM

@christaklis on discussions with more than one page, Loomio should take you to the first page that has comments you haven't yet read.


Chris Taklis Mon 7 Oct 2013 6:44AM

@matthewbartlett ok for me that i haven't read something and loomio takes me to that page!

But what happens when i post the link to some friend who is on loomio but haven't read that discussion and ask him/her to answer??? He/She should go to the bottom of all discussion, which can be very big, so to find that i wrote and answer that???


Chris Taklis Mon 7 Oct 2013 6:45AM

I think the most easy is an option what do you want for your group or your profile settings? normal chronology or reversed...


Matthew Bartlett Mon 7 Oct 2013 7:46AM

hi @christaklis, a couple of ideas would be to send your friend the link to the page you want her to see (e.g. adding ?page=2 to the end of the link), or you could get the link to the exact comment you want her to see (it's the time stamp — e.g. '1 hour ago'). For instance, the link for your most recent comment in this discussion is https://www.loomio.org/discussions/7637#comment-54257


Anna Guenther Mon 7 Oct 2013 8:53AM

Loving the new layout! On some convos, it doesn't automatically take me to the most recent tab though (even if I've read the comments already), so I have to scroll through the pages at the bottom. It's happened twice on the same discussion now.

And, @matthewbartlett - how do you figure out the link for a specific comment?


Robert Guthrie Mon 7 Oct 2013 9:03AM

Thanks @annaguenther, the correct page on load will be fixed in about an hour.


Alanna Irving Mon 7 Oct 2013 9:05AM

The thing where it's supposed to automatically take you to the first new part of the discussion doesn't seem to be working for me - it's just loading all discussions from the start @matthewbartlett @jessedoud


Robert Guthrie Mon 7 Oct 2013 9:11AM

@alannakrause - it'll be sorted in 30 mins


Joshua Vial Mon 7 Oct 2013 9:17AM

I'm absolutely hating this experience - I'm guessing that's because of the broken thing Alanna mentioned.

I pretended that was working for a bit and imagined I'd just landed at the part of the comments that were unread and I still didn't like the feature. Mostly because I was disoriented and had to scroll to the top to figure out which discussion I was on again.

This may relate to my workflow of inbox management which is along the lines of ctrl click 5 subjects in new tabs - read through each one at a time, go back to inbox and refresh which is probably a non-standard way of using the site.

Either way I'd really appreciate a very prominent 'hey we've changed stuff' thing in the app whenever changes roll out. Trello does this very well

Currently loomio is currently behaving more like yammer and I feel like I'm being abused by microsoft.

It's awesome that you're focusing on the new user experience but please don't ignore your power users in the process.


Matthew Bartlett Mon 7 Oct 2013 9:18AM

@annaguenther right- or Ctrl-click the timestamp (e.g. '10 minutes ago) and click Copy Link Address (slightly different with different browsers)


Alanna Irving Mon 7 Oct 2013 10:10AM

@joshuavial my workflow is exactly the same - go to inbox, open all new content in tabs. So you're not that unusual :p

Personally I'm going to withhold any judgement until they get the "jumps right to the blue line" bit working. I agree about being disoriented about which discussion you're on, but I think I'd get used to it.

However I agree that we should urgently post of of those "blue box" messages that appears in the app to all users letting them know about this change. Just so people know what's going on.


Joshua Vial Mon 7 Oct 2013 10:24AM

@alannakrause To test that I just opened up 5 tabs, scrolled to the blue line and then ignored them for 5 mintues. When I came back there was no visual queue on each one as to which discussion it was so I'm pretty the auto scroll won't fix that.

Personally I would suggest rolling the whole feature back until the fix is up and it's gone through more testing. Then introduce it by giving everyone a heads up first.


Jesse Doud Mon 7 Oct 2013 10:59AM

@joshuavial @alannakrause sorry you all are having such a bad time! What we all experienced during the roll out is a migration bug that will be fixed shortly.
To be clear, the expected behavior that is not occurring is on multi-page discussions where the reader has already read past the first page. When new activity occurs, you'll be brought back to the last read activity point, no matter what page of the discussion that point may be. There isn't any auto-scrolling in this feature.
I agree that without this part of the feature, it's a poor user experience. We are absolutely committed to getting it right for new, experienced and power users. Thanks for the amazing feedback everyone, keep it coming!


Joshua Vial Mon 7 Oct 2013 11:05AM

@jessedoud in that case I would suggest an immediate rollback as without the auto scroll this is a big usability regression that will annoy the majority of the user base. At the very lease provide some configurable options so users can opt in to the old way of doing things.


Poll Created Mon 7 Oct 2013 11:06AM

rollback the flip until autoscroll or opt out is in place Closed Wed 9 Oct 2013 10:12AM

Having to scroll down manually on each discussion is a big usability regression in my mind and I would like to not have to do it.


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 22.2% 2 HD CT
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 66.7% 6 AI RDB BK MI VM DU
Block 11.1% 1 LP

9 of 901 people have voted (0%)


Richard D. Bartlett
Mon 7 Oct 2013 7:35PM

I think we'll make a better design if we allow ourselves to feel the pain for a little while. Also opt out seems unfeasible.


Benjamin Knight
Mon 7 Oct 2013 8:47PM

I'm personally keen to let this settle in for a while - I think it'll be better in the long run as the discussion page evolves in the next month, but I totally understand that it feels like a pain right now.


mix irving
Tue 8 Oct 2013 2:19AM

this is tested with wider public already, the autoscroll needs work but a rollback would add more chaos at this point


vivien maidaborn
Tue 8 Oct 2013 2:22AM

I'm wanting to see this feature all up and running right before any radical change is agreed


Alanna Irving
Tue 8 Oct 2013 2:33AM

I would have liked to see this tested more thoroughly, or a way to roll it out to a few select groups first. But now that it's done, I think we should live with it a while. It's not fully broken - still useable.


Hemon Dey
Tue 8 Oct 2013 10:47PM

I don't like having to scrolling down to have to get to the latest post. It was fine previously and I've grown accustomed to that interface. However there appears to be a few who like this new format, so is it possible to make it user selectable?


Lachlan Priest
Wed 9 Oct 2013 5:54AM

Autoscroll takes approximately 15 minutes to implement, this rollback is unnecessary.


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Mon 7 Oct 2013 7:16PM

I love the idea of this feature but it totally caught me off guard this morning. There wasn't anything anywhere that told me something had changed... was there meant to be? Did I miss something? I did read the blog but I thought a major interface change like that might have some kind of alert at the top of the page or something similar? Perhaps if autoscroll had worked that wouldn't have been neccesary...?


Benjamin Knight Mon 7 Oct 2013 8:48PM

Totally agree that we shouldn't neglect super users and it was a massive oversight to not put an announcement up when the feature was rolled out. Thanks for raising this @joshuavial and @malcolmshearer


Richard D. Bartlett Mon 7 Oct 2013 11:34PM

My main gripe with the flipped discussion is that the comment form is now distant from the proposal, so I can't refer to it while I type.

I wonder if the discussion and decision panels should scroll independently of each other?


Jesse Doud Mon 7 Oct 2013 11:52PM

agreed. a sticky proposal that stays fixed wherever you are in the discussion would be pretty sweet.


Alanna Irving Tue 8 Oct 2013 1:02AM

I think that would address @joshuavial 's issue of losing track of which tab he's on as well... if the title/context stayed on top while you scrolled through comments.


Joshua Vial Tue 8 Oct 2013 1:27AM

The simplest fix for now would probably be to change the links that go to discussions.

override show_discussion_path so it is aware of the blue line and all links generated have the #comment-xyz hash like https://www.loomio.org/discussions/7637#comment-54443

That would get around the immediate frustration which I think the majority of users would feel the first time they encounter this feature.

Sticky proposal may be a longer term fix but in the future I would strongly suggest using feature flippers to roll out changes like this to a subset before making live for the whole community.


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 8 Oct 2013 1:52AM

@joshuavial good idea. Would it be even easier to link to
https://www.loomio.org/discussions/7637#latest, and throw the #latest anchor on the little blue bar? (Does that make sense?)


Joshua Vial Tue 8 Oct 2013 1:55AM

yeah, simplest would be to put a javascript check on the show page html that adds #latest if it isn't there already - should be a 10 min tweak.


Jesse Doud Tue 8 Oct 2013 1:55AM

I'm not certain this is the way to go with the current setup. I agree with the point @joshuavial made earlier that one can't see proposals if you're jumped down the page. Disorientating it sounds.


Joshua Vial Tue 8 Oct 2013 2:22AM

Agree it's not that good @jessedoud but it beats the hell out of a manual scroll to the bottom of the page every time you visit a discussion.

I still think the best course of action is to roll this back and put it through more testing.

It's fine for a team to inflict pain upon themselves while they work on a better design as @richarddbartlett suggests but loomio is a tool that thousands of people use to go about their business and inflicting pain upon them while you 'figure it out' isn't acceptable in my opinion.


mix irving Tue 8 Oct 2013 2:34AM

thanks for your input @joshuavial , we've heard your message clearly and are integrating it into our decision making.


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 8 Oct 2013 5:27AM

I'm thinking there are two pains at this point:

  • Scrolling down to see new activity is tedious (hot tip: hit cmd+down to jump to the bottom of the page).
  • Orientation: when you're down at the bottom of the page (where the latest activity + comment box is), all the orienting information is invisible to you (discussion title, context + proposal).

Making the page automatically scroll to the new activity will resolve the scrolling pain but make the orientation problem worse.

I think the orientation pain can be fixed by having static content on the page, e.g. when you scroll down, the discussion title could stay at the top of the page (the way Discourse does it). Or we could do something like this site, where the article titles have their own sidebar, which provides great orientation and easy navigation between articles.

I'm not sure what to do about the scrolling pain. We're going to have a big design jam tomorrow to try out some ideas. My instinct is that the answer might involve a much reduced initial page length, combined with on-demand loading (aka infinite scrolling).

The more I use this layout though, the more I like it. The blue 'Here's where you read up to last time' indicator solves one of my biggest pains with the discussion page.


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Tue 8 Oct 2013 9:40AM

I have to say, despite the criticisms so far, using the new scroll on an iphone at lunch and now with an MBP trackpad, even with lack of auto-scrolling, it seems pretty cool. Admittedly I wouldn't call myself a “super-user”, and the discussions I've looked at aren't really long but this interface feels a lot more natural to me. Although, like everyone else, I'd love to be able to refer back to the context easily. If I was on iPhone, I'd be swiping it from the left, have a quick squiz then back to the discussion. Not sure on the laptop, perhaps I could click a button to drop it down, I might get a bit weirded out if it followed me up and down the screen though


Craig Ambrose Tue 8 Oct 2013 11:09PM

I'm not enjoying the new interface at present, but I'll give it some time.


Joshua Vial Wed 9 Oct 2013 10:12AM

I agree a rollback would only make things worse for users at this stage, look forward to the autoscroll.


Anna Guenther Wed 9 Oct 2013 7:59PM

I think @lachlanpriest should have a cuppa with @jessedoud and talk about autoscroll.


Richard D. Bartlett Wed 9 Oct 2013 8:50PM

@joshuavial @lachlanpriest would either of you care to weigh in on my thoughts above about how autoscroll would not help?

Right now I'm thinking the solution is: on initial page load, only 1 or 2 old comments + all the new activity is visible. That would be a quick page load, no scroll, no disorientation solution. I'm imagining a 'click to view the previous 20 comments' button at the top of the discussion, which will load in the old content without reloading the page.


Anna Guenther Wed 9 Oct 2013 10:50PM

@richarddbartlett it sounds a bit like emails in gmail - right? Sounds good to me!


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Wed 9 Oct 2013 11:30PM

Interesting. Anna's comment is the only one I can see on this page without clicking "earlier comments". I like the earlier comments feature but would be good to see a couple of previous comments as well...


Joshua Vial Thu 10 Oct 2013 12:09AM

@richarddbartlett that would be my preferred solution - yammer style comment threads.


Richard D. Bartlett Thu 10 Oct 2013 12:57AM

@malcolmshearer that's because at the moment the thread uses dumb pagination, meaning it just puts a break in after every 50 events. The design we're thinking would work exactly as you say, showing a couple of previous comments for context + all the new activity.

@joshuavial I think we're going to play with putting some Angular in this discussion thread and making all your dreams come true.


Alanna Irving Thu 10 Oct 2013 2:31AM

The design being suggested is also what Facebook does with "view more comments" - seems to work well and not lose continuity with the original post.


Alanna Irving Thu 10 Oct 2013 2:32AM

@lachlanpriest did you know Loomio is open source? Feel free to jump in an implement endless scroll the next time you have 15 minutes :)

No but seriously, if you're keen, help out!


Robert Guthrie Thu 10 Oct 2013 3:53AM

Hey guys, I've added a jump link to the top right hand corner of the discussion. Discuss


Alanna Irving Thu 10 Oct 2013 3:55AM

Functioning pretty well for me! But display is wonky (I'm using Chrome).


Robert Guthrie Thu 10 Oct 2013 4:05AM

Hrrmmm.. so am I and I don't see that wonkyness..


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Thu 10 Oct 2013 7:49AM

Ooh! It jumps! Yusss


Robert Guthrie Thu 10 Oct 2013 7:02PM

Is anyone else experiencing the layout bug @alannakrause posted? @alannakrause, are you still seeing this?


Alanna Irving Thu 10 Oct 2013 8:53PM

Yes I am still seeing it


Robert Guthrie Thu 10 Oct 2013 10:02PM

@jessedoud Got any ideas about this?


Jesse Doud Fri 11 Oct 2013 3:00AM

The width just needs to be adjusted, but I can't replicate. @alannakrause let me know when is a good time to have a look. Will take less than 5 min.


Danyl Strype Sat 12 Oct 2013 2:38PM

There have been a number of good design solutions suggested here, but one of the simpler ones seems to have been lost on the flow: provide a button where the user can toggle from 'most recent first' to 'oldest first', like email clients do. You still have to decide which will be the default, but users can decide which order they like best, case-by-case, with the touch of a button.

Sticky proposals sounds good, as does making the discussion title (and maybe Context Box?) static. What about making the comment box static as well? It would save a lot of scrolling back and forth to give quick replies to multiple comments along the thread.

In terms of a process for rolling out potentially disruptive features, would it be possible to offer new features to admins, and let them opt-in? When a feature gets a certain proportion of opt-ins (eg 51% of 75%), and presumably has an major dents hammered out of it, you announce in the app that it will be rolled out as a new default feature, and when. I'm thinking along the lines of keeping the users as participants in the development process, rather than just consumers of a commodity which is changed arbitrarily by invisible decision-makers.


Lachlan Priest Tue 15 Oct 2013 9:33PM

@alannakrause I did! But I had issues with set up as it appears to be a nonstandard implementation of postgres - which causes issues with all of my other projects.


Lachlan Priest Tue 15 Oct 2013 9:35PM

This plus will_paginate is pretty much all you need: https://gist.github.com/lachlanp/6999049


Danyl Strype Wed 16 Oct 2013 12:34AM

Just so you know, members of the Permaculture Council were quiet thrown by the sudden reversal of the familiar UI, and it's made them a bit concerned about using Loomio. They'll get over it, but it confirms the need to involve users in the roll-out of UI changes.


Jon Lemmon Wed 16 Oct 2013 9:21AM

@strypey thanks for passing that on. Yeah, we've definitely learned a couple lessons here. :)


goob Wed 16 Oct 2013 9:44AM

I still don't like the new order of posts - it involves a lot of scrolling each time I visit a thread to catch up on the one or two newest posts. If you could code it so that the page automatically scrolls to the first new post on the thread, that would help a lot. But to me, on a 'live' presentation, latest activity first (at the top) is more natural.


Jon Lemmon Wed 16 Oct 2013 10:06PM

Thanks @goob, good to hear your feedback. We're about to do a big overhaul of our entire UI (designing mobile-first) starting with the discussion page, with our sole aim being to make everything as easy and natural as possible. I'm feeling pretty confident that the new designs will fix most of the pain people have been experiencing, but we'll be posting up all the designs for feedback and do extensive user-testing along the way to make sure we get it right. So stay tuned. Will probably have a blog post up about it next week.

Also, I agree with @christaklis that different users have different preferences, and really big discussions are going to want to be displayed differently than smaller discussions. So having a UI which is flexible enough to respond to these different sets of needs is going to be really important. And that will probably mean being able to sort comments by a number of different factors (e.g. chronologically, most liked, etc.).


goob Wed 16 Oct 2013 10:13PM

Thanks, Jon.


Chris Taklis Thu 17 Oct 2013 10:22AM

@jonlemmon as i said in the User preferences and/or group preferences, users and groups must have their own preferences.

And that is because Loomio is growing fast and will grow. With everyday, every week, every month to have new features or have small or big changes.

How is going to be Loomio in 3 months or in 6 months or maybe a year? Perhaps not even close as it started! All that new ideas that are falling every day will make Loomio greater that we imagine.

In how long we don't know, but all users and groups don't have the same requirements or needs. So it is so simple, just users and groups have their own preferences, and that solves all the negatives that maybe someone has for a proposal or proposals, because they don't want it for their groups.


Alanna Irving Thu 17 Oct 2013 8:59PM

Sometimes what users think they want isn't actually what's best for them :) I know that an unpopular thing to say, but there is a reason not every user is a software designer. Sometimes you have to force change on people before they can understand why it's actually an improvement. On the other hand, sometimes software designers are totally wrong, too!


Joshua Vial Fri 18 Oct 2013 2:33AM

True @alannakrause but uncofigurable software is only applicable in a very narrow band of functionality. Loomio plans to appeal to broad base and in my opinion it would be madness to try and build something this complex without preferences.

This doesn't mean you expect your users to be software designers but it does mean giving them choice in how they want the tool to function.

btw I'm still frustrated everyday by having to scroll to the bottom of the page to read comments and you might want to think about putting out a quick fix to that problem outside of your big 'overhaul the ui process'


Alanna Irving Fri 18 Oct 2013 3:19AM

@joshuavial use the little down arrow at the top of the discussion to jump to the unread comments. I'm using it and it's working great.


Malcolm Colman-Shearer Fri 18 Oct 2013 3:20AM

Does everyone have access to the "Jump to the latest unread activity" button...? Or is that just a select few.


Matthew Bartlett Fri 18 Oct 2013 3:29AM

@malcolmshearer everything's for everyone at the moment! With a bit of luck we'll shortly be able to beta test features with particular groups that opt in. That will be nice.


zack Sat 19 Oct 2013 5:57AM

I also want newest posts on the top. It took me few seconds to get used to it and liked it ever since. it was following the natural flow of a discussion: read and respond to latest points raised instead of scrolling through all the things which were said. In fact I am more interested to see what they have decided before in decisions, so I would include that in the main discussion flow. But my main point is that it shouldn’t be required to scroll a lot in order to be active in a discussion.