Reply To: Please move 'Elections Aftermath' thread/s to 'Still Discussing' section

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Hi cimarrón

Your request entails a functional change to the sidebar menus, which moderators don’t have the power to implement. Those permissions are available only to the system administrator, ‘Darth’. It’s a technical issue which involves more upheaval than you might suppose.

There is a confusion between different kinds of entity. Craig’s blog is primarily a publishing platform for his own articles, and the discussion forums are provided as a courtesy for readers who wish to raise their own topics. The ‘Still Discussing‘ sidebar widget shows a list of articles, written by Craig, which are still accepting comments. It doesn’t list topics created by blog readers in the discussion forums, and there is no facility to make it do so.

The discussion forums aren’t a core feature of WordPress: they’re generated by additional software (bbPress) which is installed as a plugin and which uses its own data tables with a different structure to the WordPress tables that contain the articles and comments. Accordingly, including discussion topics in the same list as article titles would require some creative PHP programming.

It would make more sense to ask for a change to (or replacement of) the sidebar widget which relates specifically to the discussion forums. At present, we have the ‘New Forum Posts‘ widget, which shows the most recent reader-created topics in reverse chronological order. It’s one of the built-in widgets included in bbPress. Alternatively, there’s a ‘Recent Topics‘ widget which can be tweaked to show the most popular topics with recent replies. Moderators can’t view or change the widgets or the options within them, although Darth (and possibly Craig) should be able to do it.

Unfortunately, the ability to keep a specific topic at the top of the list isn’t supported by any of the standard bbPress sidebar widgets. The underlying PHP/CSS code would have to be re-written to prioritise topics with a ‘sticky’ flag. As I’m sure you appreciate, making changes to source code can be hazardous, so it would need to be done very carefully.

In summary, changing the blog functionality to make certain reader-generated content more prominent on the sidebar would affect the appearance of all pages throughout the blog, so it would first have to be approved by Craig. Darth would then need to modify the PHP/CSS algorithm to incorporate and prioritise the ‘sticky’ flag, and test the new code thoroughly before deployment. New permissions would have to be assigned to the moderator accounts to enable them to mark certain topics as ‘sticky’; and of course the list of privileged topics would have to be continually monitored and revised. (And as the sequence would be determined by subjective choice rather than by algorithm, it would no doubt attract demands from frustrated commenters who want their own topic promoted in the same way.)

So the seemingly simple tweak you’re requesting would entail changes to PHP code, plugin configurations, account permissions and moderation procedures. The task would involve all members of the blog team.

Unfortunately, the prospects of making any functional changes on this blog are rather slim. When fixes were requested for bugs in the bbPress control panel, the system administrator responded that it would require an upgrade which could be very difficult due to underlying version incompatibilities.

Perhaps the best compromise would be to deploy the ‘Recent Topics’ widget and tweak it to show the “freshest” topics that have received the most recent replies. The request should be addressed to Craig or Darth. Bear in mind, though, that there have also been numerous pleas over the years from readers and moderators alike for other reasonable tweaks (such as including a link to the ‘moderation rules for commenters’ in the standard page header), to no avail. So don’t bank on your request being granted any time soon.

I notice that Kim is regularly linking to the petition and the discussion forum in her comments. That’s probably more effective than tweaking a sidebar menu.