"ignore" feature for forums

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"ignore" feature for forums

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At one point Saro said the "ignore feature" was on his to-do list, and it is clear many people have requested the feature--it is easily the most requested feature ever.  It has been years since Saro said this though, and we still have no "ignore feature."  Perhaps it is the opinion of a few that is keeping the feature from coming into being.

Many people say that an "ignore feature" would be bad for forums.  They say they would never use it, and that its use would make the forums worse.  The admins/moderators exist to stop bad users--they decide what is useless by nuking it/deleting it/banning people/closing threads, and so what is the point of an ignore feature then, if moderators are doing their jobs (which they are)?  Also, people say the point of the forum is to discuss, and so if people can ignore each other the point of the forum is ruined.  Furthermore, letting people ignore is censorship, which is dumb, and therefore we should not use it.  Few if any forums have such a feature and this must be because it is a bad idea.  And why does anyone need such a feature, when they can use discipline to act the same way?  Why not read the posts you want to ignore and act mature about it, or skip the post when you see a certain person's name?  Perhaps you should not assume they will not improve their posting--how can you ever be sure it is right to stop reading someone?  Perhaps we would end up with everyone who disagrees with each other never responding to each other ever again, and we would have a pointless, boring forum.  And making a new feature just to please a few "whiny children" is excessive--there are far better things the feature-makers should be doing, perhaps.

Despite this, I believe an ignore feature is a good idea.  While overuse of "ignore" could become a problem, that does not mean it will be.  And if it does, we can tweak it.  At this point there is no way to know that the best solution is no "ignore" feature at all.  Clearly there are some potential gains of such a feature, so we should explore the ground between "no feature" and an "unlimited ignore"--see what happens.  If overuse becomes a problem, the ignore feature can be limited and tweaked to allow users some improvement of their experience, some gains in the quality of what they read and write, while keeping any damage minimal.  You could limit how many users the user is allowed to ignore at a time, and post a leader board for "most ignored" users.  I believe such controversy would generate threads and discussions that I would be far more interested in than most of what goes on in forums.

Another possible limitation on an ignore feature would be to require the poster have a certain amount of posts before you can ignore him--or even, posts that you have "seen" (count posts in threads you have viewed).  You could require the user mark each post they find useless and meet a quota before they are allowed to ignore the user.  You can also combine this limitation with the idea above, if that proves necessary.

Such a feature does not say the moderators are not doing their job.  The moderators decide which content shall be ignored by all.  An ignore feature lets a user decide which content will be ignored by them individually.  The two are distinct, and users making their individual ignore-needs known can actually provide useful data so that the moderators do their jobs easier--such a list of which content is being most-ignored.  So not only does the feature not insult moderators, it makes their job easier and increases their coverage, which is good for the site as a whole, the moderators, and the users using the feature.

The fact is, many users would use it.  Those who say they would not use it, do not erase those who said they would, or have even said they would like it or need it.

As for censorship, if censorship is so stupid and bad then we should not have bans, closed topics, nukes, and other deletions at all.  If we favor those, then we are not anti-censorship in a way that would forbid an ignore feature.  In other words, censorship is not necessarily bad after all.

Even if no forums have the feature, this does not prove it has no merit.  There is a first time for everything, even things with merit.  Furthermore, I believe if one does a little searching, the feature has been used before, quite successfully.

As for why anyone should need the feature, let's just be honest.  When you see a post, when you know it exists, you may respond to it.  If it is hidden from you, there is less chance of a response.  It is well within the bounds of what a user does to see and not see what he wants to, already.  An "ignore feature" gives the user more effectiveness to do what they already are trying to do.  We give more attention to some posts and not others, and we do this so that our responses will be better.  Every glance at one type of post increases the chance we will contribute poorly, or at least it is time wasted when it could be spent on a different type of content that yields better contribution.  The ignore feature is an enhancement in the user's ability to attempt improvement in their contribution to the forum.  Users already do it--the ignore feature lets them do it more efficiently.  It lets users more efficiently produce what they believe is their best--it will improve the quality of many, we will have less bad posts and more good ones for the above reasons, which is the central reason I desire such a feature.  It is utterly not the same as making users do it without a feature to help them, because it is all about how easy it is to do and what the chance is the user will be able to ignore or skip certain content effectively--what is the chance it will effect them?  Let them make it 0, and they will all be better posters.

What if users make bad decisions about who to ignore?  We cannot prevent users from making bad decisions and that is what moderators are for.  We can only give those, who make good decisions, more power and more tools to enact their decisions effectively.  The users who fail to make effective decisions will always have to be dealt with, tools or no tools.  So I do not believe it is a problem.  When a user posts in a thread where ignored people posted above, it could say in their post "Ignoring X, Y Z, ..." so that everyone knows who the post is in response to, and who the user hasn't read.  If this becomes a problem then people will make it clear and he will perhaps stop ignoring that person.  Such discussions add interest to a forum for me, as long as they are not also censored--and those who don't like it, can ignore them...

Therefore, I believe this feature is worth the time it takes to make it, because it will reduce the workload for mods and make users produce more good posts, and less bad posts.  Also extra interesting issues will be available for discussion because of the feature.  As I am aware of no other objections which have not been destroyed above, I conclude that an ignore feautre is an improvement to the forums.

Original discussion which was censored long ago:  http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=17777

Also talked about:
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=7901 (even earlier)
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=13286 (earlier)
http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=36871 (more recent)