Toby Interested to hear other peoples' thoughts on all of this sticky behaviour.
This discussion reminded me of an issue I've been dealing with in my esoTalk forum. We're using esoTalk as a combination forum and database, which is complicated by the lack of Japanese search support. So we've adopted a very structured forum layout with some definite rules about what gets posted where, why it's important to avoid off-topic responses, and so on. The conventional way to handle this would be to provide a sticky in each channel containing the rules for that channel. Of course, as you noted, that sort of approach can be problematic in esoTalk:
Toby For a forum with an "all discussions" view like Flarum/esoTalk, the conventional sticky behaviour (pin to top no matter what) becomes problematic when you have more than a few sticky topics, like on this forum.
Having too many stickies show up on the front page would defeat the purpose of having an all-discussions view, so it makes sense that stickies don't stick in that view. But that left us without a way to make the rules visible, so we ended up sending our users an email with links to the rules, accompanied by rather draconian warnings. "Read this info carefully! If you don't read and follow the rules, you could end up losing privileges!" Et cetera, et cetera. Not a pleasant way to start participation in a forum.
A "super sticky" like that proposed by thomje112 would give us another option to work with. That being the case, I'd like to repond to your response to the idea.
Toby The idea of a super sticky is interesting but I'm not convinced it's a common-enough use-case to warrant the extra complexity in the base sticky plugin.
Certainly our application of esoTalk as a forum-slash-database should be considered a rather rare use-case. But I'm not sure the idea of posting board rules is quite all that uncommon. I'd say a large majority of the forums I've used in the past have had some sort of rules posted in sticky threads. And I've also seen many forums use stickies as described by Franz:
Franz On the FluxBB.org forums, I often used sticky topics to have something to refer people to in case of typical questions / problems.
These Flarum forums already have their share of typical questions that are being asked and answered repeatedly:
- Can I use Flarum on a production site?
- How do I install Flarum?
- When will the beta be released?
- Why isn't there / Will there be a WYSIWYG editor?
- Why can't I / Will I be able to use BBcode?
- What are your plans for extensions?
... and so on. It seems some sort of sticky functionality could definitely be useful here. If you don't make that information readily available from the top page, then users are forced to use the search function to find it. Or to check in the appropriate category, as Franz said:
Franz But since you say they're easy to find by browsing to the appropriate category, this should be fine. =)
... But that approach has the same problem as expecting people to use the search box: more often than not, they won't. We all know that expecting users to do these things before posting is a bit, well, optimistic. Folks are more likely to just post their questions, regardless of how many times they've been asked and answered. And this leads to a reaction from the self-appointed forum police, who take it upon themselves to take others to task for not following the rules, not using the search function, and so on ad nauseam. After that, the forum environment can quickly become toxic...
I'm guess I'm trying to say that the sticky topic should not be thought of merely as a means of conveying information; it's also one of the tools that admins and moderators can use to keep the forum environment, er, moderate. With that thought in mind, let's look at the alternatives:
Toby For guests and brand new members, and for existing members when new sticky topics get posted, stickies will stick to the top because they'll be unread. i.e. everyone will get the proper exposure to a sticky topic at least once.
That is an improvement, but I'm not sure it goes far enough. While it does give the admin a chance to put the rules (or FAQ, or whatever) at the top of the "all discussions" view the first time a new user visits the site, it also means that any stickies posted later will push that information down the list, making it seem less important. A "super sticky" setting, on the other hand, would keep that information up front and center, no matter how many normal stickies get posted after it.
What's more, many users may just glance at the thread and think "Oh, it's long, I'll come back to it later!" on the assumption that since it's sticky, it'll be there waiting for them when they visit again. (Of course, by the time they come back, they'll have forgotten all about it, and won't think to go looking for it.) And I'm sure many more users begin their first forum visit by hitting the "Mark all as read" button without reading anything. In these cases, the "sticky-when-unread" approach won't get the message across.
Again, as thomje112 pointed out, admins may use stickies not only as a way to convey information, but as a way of keeping that information handy for repeated reference. When you post a sticky thread containing the board rules in a prominent place, the very fact that that thread title is there with a pushpin next to it can help remind users that there are rules that need to be followed. When that reminder goes away after a single reading (or non-reading), well, "out of sight, out of mind" as they say.
Toby Also, the message in the welcome hero (the big blue box at the top of the discussions index) can be customized, so could be used to direct users to important topics (i.e. have a similar effect to a super sticky.)
That sounds like a useful alternative. Unfortunately, although I think I know which big blue box you're talking about, I cannot see it while logged in because I turned it off back when I was first checking out the new software. So as a means of making information prominently available, it's not exactly bulletproof. If you're going to let users turn it off, perhaps it would be a good idea to allow admins to force it back on again when the info it contains is updated? (Also it might be nice to give users a way to toggle it back on from their control panels.)
Some other alternatives worth thinking about:
If admins will have the option of setting the /tags view as the default view for the site (similar to how esoTalk allows us to set the Channel List as the default view), then that would allow admins to create a tag for board rules and FAQs and such, and label it with a "Read this stuff before you do anything else!" message. Even if users are given the option of changing their default view to "all discussions", this will help create a stronger impression of where the rules can be found.
A possible variation would be to allow the admin to specify a tag as the default view for the forum. Then the stickied threads in that tag would then be on top of the list at all times, even once they've been read. Again, users could be given the option of changing that default view to "all discussions", but hopefully the initial default setting for new users will have given them a chance to assimilate the information the admins want them to read (or at least learn where it is).
I think this last one might be worth considering, since it would probably be easier to implement than a "super sticky" setting.
Another approach to keeping information up front and in users' faces would be to add some sort of CMS functionality for a FAQ-slash-portal kind of page ... but that's definitely getting into the "should be plugin" territory.
I hope these thoughts are useful to y'all.