It’s been a long time since you’ve seen a meaningful update to Discussions, leaving communities feeling rightly frustrated with the state of Discussions and with Fandom for not providing long-awaited features. Honestly, we don’t blame you. You weren’t wrong.
For the last eight months, we’ve been taking a long, hard look at our priorities and the things that we need to focus on in order to create a better community experience. There’s a lot we’re going to be announcing over the coming weeks and months because of that, but right now I’m excited to say we have some fresh improvements for Discussions that will go live next week!
We recently conducted an experiment
When analyzing how people use Fandom, we see that there are a lot of users who drop in on your wiki, find what they’re looking for (hopefully), and then leave for good. They don’t stick around long-term because wikis in and of themselves inherently aren’t great at getting visitors hooked into the community and turning them into repeat contributors or even visitors. To your average reader, a wiki looks like a valuable yet often-static and impenetrable repository of information. It’s part of its appeal, but also part of its limits.
To address this issue, we’ve been testing a feature for the last several months called Community Feeds on a small subset of communities. This was originally intended as a new landing page experience drawing from both the wiki and Discussions to give visitors an overview of the wiki, more ever-changing content, and a place to jump right in. They can see which articles have recently been edited, which topics are currently being discussed, and what pages are popular right now, and then learn something about the community at a glance.
As a result, we’re updating Discussions
Our original intention of making Community Feeds a new landing page didn’t really net any great results. What it did do, however, was create an enhanced Discussions experience in important ways:
- Bridging the gap with the wiki. Discussions has always felt disconnected from the wiki’s encyclopedic content. That's one of the most frequent points of feedback we’ve received. By bridging the gap through the combined Feeds/Discussions experience, users looking at Discussions are more likely to learn more about the wiki’s deep encyclopedic content.
- Unified theming. For years, Discussions has only had a light/dark color scheme that was totally disconnected from the theme that admins and users have worked hard to create. By bringing the Community Feeds design into Discussions, it shows a stylized version of wiki’s background and color scheme that makes it clear that it’s one site.
- Easy to use and engaging. Discussions has always been easy to use on any platform. It’s more social, and those who use it tend to come back a lot more often because they find posting less daunting than editing. With the integration of more content, it’s also now the beginning of a more comprehensive gateway into everything a community can offer.
These changes have been made as a result of feedback you have given us over the years, feedback we gathered during the Community Feeds test, and the extensive input from the Community Council. Our hope is that by merging Discussions and Community Feeds into one enhanced feature, we can address many of the shortcomings and provide the best of both.
What does that look like?
Starting next week, if your community has Discussions enabled, you will notice the new design and functionality on desktop and mobile (the Fandom app will follow shortly, with a combined “Home” tab replacing “News” and “Discussions”). It will maintain its existing functionality and receive everything that Community Feeds has to offer. You can reach this combined feature via any link that previously led to Discussions, or by adding /f to your community’s root domain (such as starwars.fandom.com/f).
We have also added the Community Feed as an additional landing page option in your user preferences. This will be the default setting for newly-registered users, and any logged in user can choose to use the new Community Feed, the Main Page, Recent Changes, or Wiki Activity as their preference. Logged out users will continue to see the wiki’s main page. If you have the Feed set as your landing page and visit a community that never had Discussions and therefore doesn’t have a Community Feed, you will be redirected to the main page instead.
This currently only applies to English communities. Because Community Feeds has been in a testing stage up until now, it has yet to be translated into other languages. But don’t worry, we’re working on translations and our international communities will see these updates soon!
We’re also going to be introducing article tags shortly after to further bridge the gap between wiki content and Discussions content. When creating a new Discussions post, you will then be able to preview it before posting. On the preview screen, you can assign your post a category as well as tag it with articles existing on the wiki to link it directly with the corresponding article. That way, if you post something about Luke Skywalker, you can directly relate it to the Luke Skywalker article so your post’s readers can easily reach that article. You can also tag posts with multiple articles.
The most recent posts tagged with an article will be shown underneath that article on the wiki, giving readers a chance to join the conversation. Moving forward we’ll be experimenting with other ways to spotlight these posts on the wiki and to highlight articles in Discussions posts.
What updates are coming next?
While these changes represent a big step forward based on your feedback, we know there’s still a lot more to do. These are the next feature updates we have planned for the new combined Community Feed:
- Text formatting. For years you’ve been asking for post formatting in Discussions, and we’re going to deliver that functionality soon. We’re not going to support wikitext in Discussions—Discussions is not built on MediaWiki, and that sort of integration would create more technical problems than it would solve—but we’re working to enable formatting like bolding, italics, and lists that users could reasonably expect to find.
- @ mentions. Another frequent piece of feedback we’ve received is the need to directly contact other users who aren’t active on the wiki and therefore may not see your Message Wall or talk page posts. We’re going to be introducing @ mentions so you can ping other users. This may require some fine-tuning later to prevent spam, and it’s not the only thing we hope to do to bring more structure to Discussions, but it’s a start.
These changes won’t cover everything you’ve asked for, but we hope they offer some solutions to long-standing problems and concerns while we continue to build more functionality in the future.
Thanks for reading this far! Let us know if you have any questions. We’d be happy to answer. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more feature updates from Fandom!
EDIT: The Discussions update has now been released to international communities as well!
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