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Lack of Interest Wanted: More sophisticated handling of conversation participation

Discussion in 'Closed Suggestions' started by Dominion, May 24, 2011.

  1. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    EDIT: This is no longer my own preferred suggestion on this topic. Please look here instead.

    Perhaps this should really be added at the end of this other thread in the support forum; but I intend to make some concrete suggestions, so I'm posting it here instead.

    I have to say, I love the way XenForo does conversations ... up until somebody leaves, that is.

    The way XenForo behaves when users leave a conversation seems to be based on an assumption that XenForo will be used primarily for social interaction between relative strangers. From that perspective (and given the generally poor etiquette of many internet denizens), it is reasonable to assume that users will want to leave a conversation without signaling their departure.

    But as Floris pointed out, this behavior is not necessarily appropriate in a business environment. For conversations between business associates, it may make more sense if all the participants know just who is listening at any given time. Misrepresentation of this information can lead to confusion and hard feelings that will interfere with the successful conclusion of the business at hand.

    I don't think it's necessary to eliminate the option of "sneaking out" of a conversation; but I think it should be just that: an option, not the default behavior.

    Here's how I'd like to see conversations work:

    Starting a conversation should work just as it does now. Thereafter, the system should log changes (or imminent changes) in the number of participants by inserting a message within the conversation itself. For example, when a user is invited to participate in a conversation, the system should alert all participants to this fact by inserting a message that says:

    User_A has invited User_C to join the conversation.

    Then when the invitation is accepted, the system would insert this message:

    User_C has now joined the conversation.

    This sort of logging (timestamped, of course) can be useful when a participant wishes to look back over a longish conversation and understand how it evolved over time. It's not exactly necessary, since any of the participants in the conversation can do the same thing manually; but having the system do it automatically would be a nice labor-saving touch.

    Now when a person clicks the "Leave conversation" link, he should be offered a choice of two options that are slightly different from the ones currently available in the "Leave Conversation" dialog:

    Option 1: The user can choose to "Leave the conversation". In this case the conversation will be removed from the conversation list, and the user will receive no further alerts about it. The system will log the user's departure by inserting a message in the conversation:​

    User_B has left the conversation

    The number of participants in the conversation sidebar will decrement, and the avatar and/or name of the user who left will be color-coded or something similar (as Treasurer suggested) to indicate that the user is no longer actively participating. Current conversation participants will be able to invite the user to rejoin the conversation, if they so desire.​

    Option 2: The user can choose to "Ignore the conversation". In this case the conversation will be removed from the conversation list, and the user will receive no further alerts about it, just as with Option 1. But the system will not log the user's departure. The number of participants will not decrement, and the user's avatar and name will remain displayed as if the user is still actively participating. Current conversation participants will not be able to invite the user to rejoin the conversation.​

    You'll notice that I've more or less revised the current first choice, which allows the user to remove the conversation from his list but still receive alerts when a new message is posted. I can't really see the point of such an option, since it has no real effect other than removing it temporarily from the conversation list. (If someone can explain any other benefit of this choice, I'd love to hear it.)

    As you can see, Option 2 is essentially the same as the current second choice. By revising Option 1 (and adding the logging behavior), I believe XenForo could become a more reliable platform for business conversations. This would hopefully extend its appeal in the business market, leading to increased sales.
  2. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    I've been mulling over this suggestion for a few hours now, and a couple things have occurred to me.

    First, I may have overstated the degree to which this will improve the suitability of XenForo for use in business. Inasmuch as Option 2 is essentially unchanged by my suggestion, the potential for interrupted communication remains. The main improvement in this respect is the renaming of that option to "Ignore the conversation", which should help the user leaving the conversation to understand what this option implies.

    As I've explained elsewhere, the main thing is to prevent a user from unwittingly choosing to ignore a conversation and thereby giving offense. A better description of the second option can go a long way towards that.

    Second, I've begun to appreciate the reasoning behind the current system. I think much of my own confusion stems from the idea that a conversation must naturally end at some point. The current system does not assume this. The conversation goes on for as long as someone keeps responding, and ends only when all of the participants have left. That sort of makes sense to me now.

    Certainly my suggestion also has some downsides. A user who has left the conversation (but not ignored it) must be invited again before he can continue participating. This can be bothersome to everyone if someone accidentally chooses to leave a conversation prematurely, thinking it's done. The current way of doing things avoids this bother nicely.

    So why suggest changing it, then?

    I think my suggestion arises mainly from an attempt to make the system behave as one would expect when someone chooses to "leave the conversation." When you leave a conversation by walking out of a room, you don't want the person you were conversing with to follow along behind you, talking away. Similarly, when you hang up the phone on someone, you don't expect to pick up the receiver and hear them still gabbing.

    But when you leave a conversation in XenForo, you haven't really left it. You still get alerts about new messages, and I assume it's possible to jump back in again at that point. (Or what would be the point of the alerts?) The only thing you've achieved by "leaving" is to deprive yourself of the opportunity to respond before someone else does.

    So it seems that the only way to really "leave" a conversation is to choose the second option and ignore any further responses. But in doing so you perforce leave the other participants with the impression that you're still participating when you aren't really, which can seem rude.

    All this suggests that the phrase "Leave the conversation" may simply be the wrong metaphor for what's happening. The word "leave" evokes an expectation that the program's behavior doesn't meet. Perhaps people would be less confused and more at peace with this behavior if the link said "Remove conversation from list" instead?

    At any rate, I think my suggestion would work, but I won't claim it's the only way of doing things. The current system would also be good if only it were described a bit better (so people don't come into it with mistaken expectations). There's still plenty of room for discussion here.
  3. Peggy

    Peggy Well-Known Member

    If you leave a conversation and select "Ignore future messages" in the pop-up, you no longer receive future messages.
  4. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    I understand that, Peggy. I indicated as much in the paragraph just after the ones you quoted:
    The point I was getting at is that the other (default) option is also called "leaving" even though you don't, really.
  5. Peggy

    Peggy Well-Known Member

    And that's why I suggested that when someone chooses to leave the conversation for good, their name should be removed from the participants' list on the right.
  6. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    But then people wouldn't be able to use that option to ignore a conversation without letting the other participants know they're being ignored. Mike has stated that this was the intended use of that option.

    To be honest, I'm with you. I don't really feel the need for that option. If I felt someone was being abusive I would tell them, as politely as I can, that I think the conversation has accomplished all it can and I won't be reading it any more. Having my name disappear from the current participants list would be a good thing, given this approach.

    Yet it seems others find a use for the silent exit option, and I'm not ready to gainsay them at this point. I am getting an idea for an alternative suggestion, however. I'll post it after a bit more thought.
  7. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    A good Project Addon might be more suited for business Teams.
  8. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    That addon looks as though it offers some valuable tools for business use.

    But it doesn't seem to do anything about the issue being discussed in this thread.
  9. Dominion

    Dominion Active Member

    Alternate Suggestion: An ACP option to disable the silent exit

    The suggestion at the top of this thread was aimed primarily at getting the "Leave conversation" link to do, by default, what one would expect when one tries to leave a conversation. (Currently the default behavior of the link does not cause the user to leave the conversation, it simply removes it from the conversation list.) After some consideration, I think the suggestion is unnecessary, as it was trying to remedy a mainly semantic issue that can be better addressed by modifying the description in the dialog box so that users will better understand how leaving a conversation works.

    One thing I was not trying to do with that suggestion was change what happens when a user chooses to ignore the conversation completely. Yet this particular behavior is the one that seems to cause the most confusion. Although many (like Brogan) appreciate the ability to leave a conversation silently, others think this ability is not desirable. I'm with the latter camp. Although I can understand why some might want the ability to sneak out of a conversation that (for example) has become abusive, I can also imagine circumstances where the ability itself might be abused.

    I don't think it's necessary to get rid of the silent exit, but I do think the question of whether users are allowed to exit a conversation silently is one that should be left to the forum admin. Some admins may think it is appropriate that forum members have this ability, while others may think the opposite. It really depends on the type of site, more than anything.

    So here's (the current version of) what I'd like to see:

    Change to the ACP

    A new checkbox should be added somewhere in the ACP. It would look something like this:

    [ ] Allow users to leave conversations silently​

    When this checkbox is ON (which would be the default setting) conversations will work exactly as they do at present. (I still think it would be good to reword the "Leave Conversation" dialog box slightly for greater clarity, but as far as how the feature works, absolutely nothing will be changed.)

    That should be enough to please those who like this function just the way it is.

    New behavior

    When the checkbox is OFF, conversations will work exactly as they do now with one exception: you will be allowed to ignore a conversation, but the other participants will know you have chosen to do so. More specifically speaking, this is what will happen when a user clicks the "Leave conversation" link:

    If the user selects the first radio button: everything will happen just as it does at present. The conversation will be removed from the user's conversation list, but the user will not actually leave the conversation. The user will still receive notifications when the conversation is updated. The user's avatar and name will continue to appear in the "Conversation Participants" box in the sidebar, and the number of participants will not be decremented.

    If the user selects the second radio button: in this case only the behavior will change as a result of the ACP setting. As with the current behavior, the conversation will be removed from the user's conversation list, and the user will receive no notifications when the conversation is updated. However, the user's avatar and name will no longer appear in the "Conversation Participants" box in the sidebar. Instead, they will move to a "Former Participants" box that will be added directly below "Conversation Participants". (This allows people to recognize that someone was participating earlier but has stopped, without resorting to color-coding or italics.) The number of participants in the "Conversation Participants" box will be decremented, as well. As with the present system, users who elect to leave a conversation in this way cannot be reinvited back into the same conversation.


    I think this suggestion provides an optimal solution for both forum admins who want to allow their users to leave conversations silently, and those who don't. (Without this ACP option, admins who absolutely do not want their forums to have the silent exit option have no choice but to use another forum software.)

    I left out any mention of the automatic participant logging feature I described in the OP because I consider that a separate topic from this ACP option. I suppose some XF customers might benefit if that idea were rolled into this one; but if that were done, there wouldn't be any need to log participants leaving conversations unless (A) the ACP option is turned OFF, and (B) the user chooses the second radio button in the Leave Conversation dialog. (In all other cases, no one ever leaves a conversation, so only participants joining would need to be logged.)

    I hope Kier and Mike will consider adding something like the ACP option described here. We've been discussing this topic over here quite a bit the past couple days, and (for various reasons) my wife isn't sure she likes the idea of users in her forums having the silent exit option. As I said above, this is a decision that is perhaps best left up to the admin.
    Digital Doctor likes this.

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