Video Discussion

Last modified: 7 October 2010

Video Discussion

A mini spec for discussing the per-video discussion feature


 Issue 22  contains a lot of discussion about the per-video discussion/message board feature. Here's a first shot at a functional spec/mockups. Everything is open for debate.


This spec is largely implemented and deployed.


The more we thought about this feature, the more it became clear that the type of behavior we most want to encourage is question-and-answer. We absolutely need to have a lightweight way for users to comment on videos and spread the positive attitude that's so abundant in the Khan Academy with comments like, "Thank god for this video I don't know how I'd learn algebra without it." And we need to make sure bugs aren't reported and lost in the message boards.

By and large, the best interaction we can encourage in the Khan Academy is one user watching the video, having a question about its content, and receiving help from a bunch of eager other users who happen to know the answer and are proud to share.

These mockups are designed to encourage the question-and-answer behavior not only because it creates the best community content around Sal's videos, it also lends itself toward a future of voting on answers, ranking answers, and using other mechanics to encourage active participation. They are designed to allow easy communication without inundating the user with all conversation about the video, so users can quickly scan and see what questions are relevant to them.

Note: Many decisions mentioned below will be made later as we'd like to iterate relatively quickly on this. Also, the look'n'feel of this is just a doesn't have to look like this.


Q and A Overview

1: The biggest UI feature on the page is the "Ask a question about this video" bubble/textfield, which has grayed out text that will disappear when the user clicks in the textfield to start asking a question.

2: The top 2 or 3 questions are listed by default, along with the number of answers that have been provided (the definition of "top" is up for debate. For version 1 it can be "most recent", but later on we may have voting/rankings).

3: The answers themselves are not shown by default, just the number of answers.

4: The rest of the questions are hidden behind an "N more questions" link, which expands the rest or pages them in.

Expanding a Question

5: When a question is clicked on, it expands in-place to show its accompanying answers (indented).

6: When a question is expanded, the "Answer this question" button appears.

Asking a Question

7: When the user clicks in the original "Ask a question about this video" textfield, the "Ask a question" button appears below the box.

8: Also, when the user is typing their question and focus is in that field, a helpful little popup sticky thing shows up on the right-hand side that tells users to be descriptive and provides a very clear link explaining where to submit bugs in the event that this question is about a problem with the video.


9: Lightweight comments about the video should not be discouraged...anybody can comment on a video to just send Sal thanks, etc. Clicking "Add a comment" shows this little box, and comments are displayed in a slightly less emphasized manner than questions and answers.

10: Whenever a user types a timestamp such as "5:43", this is automatically turned into a link that, when clicked, skips the video to that specific timestamp and starts playing.

Many Comments

11: Only the top 2 or 3 comments are shown when the page is first loaded, and the rest are hidden behind a single click that expands the rest (or expands a paging UI for the rest if there are tons and tons of comments).

Answering a Question

12: Clicking "Answer this question" gives you a textarea to type your answer into and a new "Answer this question" button appears below the textbox to post your answer.

13: Any URL typed into a comment is automatically turned into a link.

14: Questions with 0 answers will be highlighted somehow, perhaps with red "0 answers" text, to help indicate that they're in need of help.

Comment by salman.khan.academyJun 15, 2010

Looks great to me! I actually like the look and feel (goes with the hand-drawn nature of the videos themselves and feels informal). I especially like the sticky note! The eventual functionality of being able to vote up or down questions, answers and comments will be great.

I do agree with Dean's point that it is important that new people to a concept know when/if there is a mistake in the video. My experience, however, is that only about 1/3 of the reported mistakes are real ones. Given this, I think users should be able to notify us via the issue tracker (with the link that you have on the sticky note) and a smaller set of knowledgeable people (say the five of us right now) would be able to post warnings or messages above the video--this functionality could be independent of the message board. We could eventually give good/responsible question answerers this type of control as well.

Comment by dean.brettleJun 15, 2010

Looks great! Thanks!

Minor nitpick: it wasn't immediately obvious to me what to click to provide an answer. Perhaps change "# answers" to "# answers so far, add one", where "add one" is a link or button.

Comment by kamensJun 17, 2010

@dean Great advice, this will be adjusted.

@sal Agreed, that feature will be important. If we decide to during iteration, perhaps administrators can also "promote" a comment or question to be always noticeable beneath the video. Dunno. We can decide later.

Comment by augustin.mogaJun 29, 2010

A few comments if I may...

(1) Could a tab interface work here? Three tabs: "Comments" default?, "Questions" and "Issues", each of them containing an ordered list of topics just as shown on the mockups above. This may help with keeping the UI consistency between the various types of feedback provided as opposed to the way described above when a question could be added by first clicking on a text-field, a comment by clicking on a link, and an issue by clicking on a text-field THEN a link. It may also help with easy categorization of the various types of feedback.

(2) A way of promoting the unanswered questions may be by changing the summary line from "12 more questions..." to something like "12 more questions (4 unanswered)..." and having a link under "4 answered" that when clicked filters out the questions that already have answers.

That's it! I really like the mockups, BTW. Good work!

Comment by kamensJun 30, 2010

@augustin Thanks for the feedback!

1) This could definitely work. We're very open to change once we give this a shot, and we may very well use a whole different UI for categorizing conversation if it becomes clear that this won't work as planned. Tabs may be the eventual answer.

2) I definitely think one of the first additions to this system after version 1 is launched will be a way to sort the questions/answers by things like "answered vs. unanswered", "most recent", "highest votes" (once votes are added), and more. This will clearly be essential to getting answers.

Comment by omar.rizwanJul 01, 2010

Hey. I think what you guys are doing here is really exciting. A few comments:

1. How are you going to square this with the YouTube? comments? - There's already a moderate amount of stuff there. Is that worth saving somehow? Do you want to leave that hanging around, potentially confusing people? Do they have some kind of API? - Should those be shut off and redirected here somehow for just new videos? I'm wondering what additional value you could add here to attract people.

2. Up and down voting could create a kind of competitiveness and echo chamber effect which might not be helpful. I don't think questions should be ranked too finely; you don't want people to feel like they're asking 'stupid questions.' Really great answers could be promoted somehow, but I feel like the difference between 4 votes and 6 votes is often going to be negligible or meaningless, and someone without any votes may feel bad.

3. Is this going to balloon into a whole forum system/social network thing? I can see it implied with the clickable user names. Maybe for the first iteration you should leave those out and stick with a simple nickname and/or email? I guess that these comments are going to require heavy moderation anyway.

Comment by kamensJul 01, 2010

1) I've been thinking about this myself. YouTube?? does have an API for grabbing all of a video's comments, so we could definitely import to get the ball rolling. We could even consistently sync. This hasn't been implemented yet, but it could be a great idea. It has a couple complications w/r/t questions vs comments, though.

In terms of added value, keeping people on the khan academy video pages will let us build all types of helpful tools that YouTube?? has no interest in providing. Just being able to focus users on the question/answer format will hopefully improve discourse (and if it doesn't, we'll switch to the simpler comment/reply format). In the future, these sorts of features and integration w/ the Khan Academy exercises will become more and more important.

I don't think there's a way to redirect users from youtube here, but perhaps we can add some clear message below the youtube videos that explains that discussion should happen here. I've been thinking about this, as well.

2) You could be right. We could simply not implement the idea of a downvote and just have "Starring" like the issue tracker system, perhaps that would help. Or just the ability to tag a question/answer as "great question/answer." While I agree that "stupid questions" should not be an insult thrown around, at some point the community may (hopefully) need the ability to police things a bit and get rid of inappropriate or non-question questions. Maybe just star/flag can handle this.

This feature won't be there in version 1, so we can see how the system is used and adjust accordingly.

3) That's not the plan, and you're totally right about the username links. I realized this while implementing, and version 1 will do exactly as you say: stick with a simple nickname/email.

Comment by antonkarevAug 05 (5 days ago)

I think user can mix up a comment textfield with a question textfield. In order to prevent this, we can ask user who has typed "?" sign. Something like a sticky note with "I want to receive an answer!" link.

Comment by kamensAug 05 (4 days ago)

This is an interesting idea, I was actually thinking of something similar...we'll be considering it. So far the comment/question accuracy ratio is fairly solid.