Forums and commenting systems could use twitter style hashtags and @ thingies.
(... other questions and rambling ...)
SomeOneElse wrote:(... other responses and stuff ...)
(... other posts ...)
YetAnotherUser wrote:@SomeThreadStarter Have you read my blog's recent post on multithreading?
It can also use meta information like seeing which post YetAnotherUser hit "Reply" on, and automatically create a link on the @SomeThreadStarter text to the original post. When not available, they can link to the last post by that person (or show it as a tooltip/expand it), and do other stuff like highlight that person's post (or maybe even show a "conversation" button). Hashtags, when clicked, can hide posts which don't include the hashtag (with or without the #, so posts without the hashtag being explicitly defined also get included).
It's not intrusive, and it can be used alongside good old BBcode. But it would help clarify how conversations flow on web forums without wasting space with giant quotes.
Just a thought. Probably could use some refinement.
Also, more of a design thing, but whatever:
Why do forums' most important UI elements become the smallest ones? The most common functions I use on the xkcd forums are:
- Jumping to last unread post in thread. How: Hit the tiny 11x9 pixel icon beside thread name
- Moving to next page in thread. How: Hit 26x15 pixel "Next" text link on bottom lower right of thread near pagination
- Marking threads read. How: Go to very bottom and click "Mark Topics Read".
- Finding posts in response to mine. How: Scan all threads where I've replied in, and see if anyone replies (why not show clearly when someone mentions my screen name or quotes a post of mine?)
Overall a lot of things can be improved just by making bigger buttons. Take the breadcrumbs to forum sections on the top edge. They're inline text links. Why not floated block elements so we can use the wide padding for extra clickable space?
(Nothing against this forum in particular, of course, I love it here and those faults are part of the template I'm using. It's just a sort of trend that probably needs to change. Hitting those buttons on my iphone is depressing.)