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In a discussion forum, you will often see threads sorted by the last reply to that thread (please disregard the sticky threads in the image below).

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What I'm beginning to wonder is what part editing a post should play in the sorting order. Shouldn't you rather sort by the last reply and last edit (whatever occurred later) than only the last reply?

Basically, if a user edits an original or reply post, the thread is pushed to the top, signalling that something in the thread has changed.

I can see the following advantages:

  • When someone updates their post with useful or additional information, you are immediately made aware of it. This is basically the same as if the information had been provided as a reply.
  • Moderators can quickly review edits and detect vandalism (i.e. a user posting an innocuous looking post that passes an initial review, then editing it to include links to malware sites).

I can see the following disadvantages:

  • A user who corrects just a minor spelling mistake is pushing his thread to the top.

What are your thoughts?

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1 Answer 1

I've run several very large forums in the past (25k+ users per day). At first this seemed like a good idea in theory but boy did this backfire.

I'm not sure if your forum gets people posting "bump" in order to bump their thread to the top of the list. Instead of doing that, people would constantly edit their posts to keep it at the top. This essentially mimicked stick threads and it became very annoying as the same threads were constantly edited.

Of course you can always add limits to how often people can update their thread, but that eventually becomes annoying for those who like to continue to refine their message.

In most cases it would be best for users to make an update to their main post and use that as an amendment to their original post. Or they can edit their original post and let users know that they've edited it. However these types of forums tend to focus on the discussion less so than the original post. The disconnect between that initial post and the discussion 10 pages down can be so great that editing that initial post may not make much more sense anymore.

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Thanks! I've thought about that, too. But isn't that more a problem with the behavior of users itself, that should be "punished" according to the forum rules, than how the threads are sorted? Or put differently, what would prevent the users who constantly edit their posts from simply constantly posting "Bump" instead? Isn't it bumping that should be penalized rather than disabling a feature that may be abused if you don't penalize bumping? I'm not sure about that myself. –  JohnCand Apr 29 at 12:38
    
You can put a time limit for the next time the thread is updated as a way to avoid abuse. But as I mentioned this would have a fairly negative consequence. The alternative is that you only allow some edits to actually update the last update time, though that would be confusing. It would be harder to enforce that behaviors on threads as some of the users made the edits seem legitimate enough, though they made them often. –  Francis Pelland Apr 29 at 12:55
    
Bumping is something we did in fact penalize, but sometimes you still wanted to allow it. We ended up building a plugin that allowed the thread owner to click a button to bump and from that point on all bump replies would get the users warnings. –  Francis Pelland Apr 29 at 12:56

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