Structured Discussions (previously known as “Flow”) is a project of the Global Collaboration team at the Wikimedia Foundation to build another discussion system for Wikimedia projects. Structured Discussions provides features that are present on some other popular websites, but which were believed to be impossible to implement in wikitext. For example, Structured Discussions can show readable threads on both mobile and desktop, automatically signs posts, threads replies (with an in-database relation between each), and permits per-topic notifications.
User-to-user communication and collaboration.
- For information on how to install and use the Structured Discussions extension, see Extension:StructuredDiscussions.
The main goals for the Structured Discussions project were:
- to make the wiki discussion system more accessible for new users
- to make the wiki discussion system more efficient for experienced users
- to encourage meaningful conversations that support collaboration
Structured Discussions has been deployed on user talk and wiki-wide discussion pages on various languages in the Wikimedia content projects, as well as on MediaWiki.org – see Structured Discussions/Wikis. On some wikis, including main ones like French Wikipedia, Chinese Wikipedia and Wikidata, it is available as an opt-in Beta feature, based on community decisions, allowing users to turn on Structured Discussions for their own user talk page.
Structured Discussion was formerly known as “Flow”. Flow was a bigger project that has been re-scoped to focus on user-to-user discussions. The software has been renamed to reflect this change.
After the initial development round, StructuredDiscussions has been in active maintenance mode, with no major development since mid-2015; no significant new features have been added since then (other than a rename from "Flow" to "StructuredDiscussions" in 2017). The team has continued to support the product and fix bugs and to make sure that people who are using StructuredDiscussions continue to have a good experience.
The Collaboration Team remained interested in the project and in providing an improved system for structured discussions. Communities also expressed interest by requesting StructuredDiscussions for testing or for real usage. To help decide about future development, a survey was sent to many Flow users in September 2016; the results were published in February 2017. Those results were used in planning.
StructuredDiscussions improvements were a goal of the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year development plan, focusing on search and interactions between topics. Discussions around those improvements led to the Talk pages consultation 2019, where talk pages usages and culture were discussed broadly across the wikis. The result of the Talk pages consultation 2019 was to develop the DiscussionTools extension, implementing many of the same features as Structured Discussions on top of a wikitext backend.
Structured Discussions are available on certain wikis. It will not be enabled on any more Wikimedia wikis.
Components of the discussion system edit
You can have a look at the quick tour to discover the most important features.
Overall design edit
- Design density: readability is improved and eye-fatigue is diminished by a more airy design
- Topic order: topics are displayed from last-added to first-added, like it is on most discussion systems on the Web.
- Message separation: different messages in the same thread will be visually distinguished through design cues.
- Navigation and archiving: the software features infinite scrolling on a Structured Discussions board, with all of the discussions accessible on the same page. A Table of Contents in the side rail to help users navigate quickly between topics on a board.
Notifications and interactions edit
- Topic namespace and links to replies: each topic is a separate page and every message has its own link to ease quoting.
- Notifications: a set of notifications ease topic watching. Users are notified when a new message is created on a page they watch, or if a reply is posted on a topic they watch. Notifications link directly to the messages.
Add or edit messages edit
- Input method: the visual editor and wikitext editors are equal input methods, users can switch back and forth at anytime.
- Threading: Messages are posted below the oldest one and don’t require editing a whole section. There is no need to know the threading system using wikitext, reply buttons provide two sets of indentations for digressions.
- Auto signature: each message is automatically signed and timestamped.
- Editing messages: each message can be edited (depending on user’s rights) without editing the whole section of messages. If someone other than the original author edits a comment, that fact is highlighted.
- Mention users: mentioning is eased by a mini-search system.
Message moderation edit
- "Hide", "Delete" and "Suppress" - analogous to revert, revision-deletion and oversight - are available on Structured Discussion. Users can perform these moderation actions on both individual posts and entire topics.
- User links automatically include links to their contributions and block links, to help sysops deal with disruption quickly and effectively.
Release and features FAQ edit
- IRC channel: connect