I wonder what are the advantages \ disadvantages of the following three types of forums...

  1. Tree like forum
    • One parent Thread that can have multiple child threads
    • Each child thread can have multiple child threads
  2. Flat Forums
    • One parent thread that can hold multiple replies
    • Replies cannot hold anything underneath
  3. Stack exchange
    • One parent thread that can have multiple replies
    • Replies and parent thread can hold comments
    • comments cannot hold any children
  • 1
    It really depends on what information/questions are relevant per forum Jul 4, 2013 at 11:00
  • Can you please elaborate... how is the content actually related to the structure ?
    – Mortalus
    Jul 4, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    I think codinghorror.com/blog/2012/12/… covers it fairly well.
    – pipTheGeek
    Jul 4, 2013 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


Tree like forums

  • Best to use when you are likely to have or need multiple conversations at once in separate threads.
  • Possible to have side conversation threads without derailing any other point.
  • Easy to ignore conversation threads that you aren't interested in.
  • Difficult to follow the overall chronological flow of a conversation
  • Tends to be messy with many levels of discussion

General discussion and commenting sites like Reddit are well suited to this, although Reddit uses a ranked listing

Flat forums

  • Best to use when there is a single discussion point and there is a low likelihood of many side conversations.
  • Easy to follow chronologically.
  • Clean and simple to use.

Most forums tend to use this because of the ease of use, but you can also think of chat programs as a form a flat forum.


  • Best to use for Question and Answer type sites, where the focus is on an answer and not on the discussion around the answer.
  • Much easier to find the better quality answers.
  • Discourages discussion.

They are applicable in different types of circumstances.

The tree structure is good for when the subject is of a discussion nature. There is no clear end to the main subject and it doesn't aspire to be. The topic is expected to evolve and go on until it dies out on its own.

The flat structure is best for when there's no interest in letting a subject carry on. It should have a clear beginning and a clear end with no trickle down content, such as a Q&A.

The StackExchange structure still carries the foundation of a flat structure, it is still a quite shallow structure (three layers instead of two which the flat structure is). The reasoning here is to bring in an element of dynamic into the mix, which the commenting feature provides. But the main topic is still what sets the theme for the discussion and there is no aspiration of letting the topic evolve (which is one reason for why there is a system message displayed when a chat reaches a certain length, asking the users to bring any discussion to the chat instead of the comment section).


Tree-like Forum - Best way a forum can be with repetitive conversations sprung from one question but emerges to look at side conversations. Its organic, allows conversation in a humanely form (since you discuss lots of things simultaneously).But sometimes takes so much of side conversations, that filters your main context, and can be tough to track,people miss the main subject, more noisy,and may strive to tie to the main goal. Metaphor: Its like in a kids school. Tough to get answers, but striving to!

Flat Forums - Its a Q&A that deliberately gives one's viewpoints. Say, I want you to tell me if I can invest in Stock A,B,C Metaphor: This is more of viva-voce or interview talk. You have one chance to say that and please move on (We are time constrained or result driven)

Stackxchange - This is just alike Tree Forum, here the difference is that any noise that emerges or cross-questions are stacked in as comments. So you best know these are side conversations. It is more clearly restrained and best organized. Best of both the two earlier worlds, in silos. Metaphor: This is alike patient treatment/diagnose. Doctors speak on the main subject to diagnose/but will allow side-talks of situations, questions about treatments and remedies or parallel cases to get to the final solution - may be best!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.