Over the past weeks, whenever I read longer conversations on Cake, I regularly had this little critter at the back of my mind. I want to bring up the problem and see if there's anything that can be done to solve it - both in terms of "Cake feedback" specifically, but also regarding the general problem with online discussion.
The problem is topic drift. What that means in a nutshell is that a conversation started about some topic (in the general sense of the word, not necessarily a "Cake topic") eventually ends up as a conversation about something completely different.
This is something that I believe has happened with all sorts of online forum or board systems, and which of course also happens in the offline world. I think it is currently a bigger than average problem on Cake, for a variety of reasons:
1. Cake is still relatively small, so the active users tend to flock to whatever new conversation appears, even if they don't have something to say about the exact starting topic of the conversation. I'm sure that this is often done for completely benign reasons - like thinking that it is better to foster a conversation with something slightly off-topic than eventually losing the conversation starter due to lack of responses - but it leads to topic drift anyway.
2. Conversations on Cake appear to be single-threaded. They technically are not, because a new post can be written as a reply to any of the posts before it (making these conversations a multi-threaded tree) - but conversations are still presented to users as a single, chronologically sorted list. Someone joining the discussion is probably more likely to read through and then reply to one of the latter posts than to one of the earlier ones. Taking into account topic drift, this means that a reply is more likely to be written about the drifted than about the original topic.
3. Conversations on Cake are supposed to be "long-term". On other platforms, a conversation is started, active for maybe a day or two, and then forgotten in the avalanche of new conversations started in the meantime. On Cake, the idea instead seems to be that people can search for a conversation topic even after weeks or months, and are invited to "resurrect" a conversation after a long time. If the topic of a conversation has drifted in the meantime, that makes it harder to do.
4. Perhaps the Cake feature of being able to add a new conversation to several "Cake topics" even adds to that. If person A sees this conversation because I added it to the "forums" Cake topic, they might have a vastly different background and experience than person B who sees it because they are into "problem solving".
Do you agree that this is a problem?
What can be done to solve this?