Web Discussions: Flat by Design: I agree with Atwood: threaded discussions have too many drawbacks, not enough benefits.
[…] threading tends to break crucial parts of discussion like reading and replying in deep, fundamental, unfixable ways. I have yet to discover a threaded discussion design that doesn’t eventually make me hate it, and myself.
The biggest problem is that they invite people to get off-topic. Threaded discussions splinter, badly, and the overall experience is worse for it.
Before you jump to their defense, review Atwood’s complaints, and he has many:
Rigid hierarchy is generally not how the human mind works, and the strict parent-child relationship it enforces is particularly terrible for fluid human group discussion.
[…] it absolutely kills me that there might be amazing, insightful responses buried somewhere in the middle of a reply chain that I will never be able to find.
[…] I find that in the “indent everything to the right” game, there are no winners, only losers. It is natural to scroll down on the web, but it is utterly unnatural to scroll right. Indentation takes the discussion in the wrong direction.