Design a discussion thread

Ok, I am working my way through all the design elements for a small web project to manage changes to the production environment. It is pretty simple, it allows you to create a change record, the change management approver/reviewer can approve/deny/cancel/put on hold the change, it sends out an email to the reviewers and the author when the status changes.
simple stuff. now I am stuck. There are only a few things left on my requirements list (no one has seen this yet, so the requirements will change).

One of the biggest problems with the current/old system is that the discussion of the change is done quite often by email, outside of the change management process. so, two days, months, or years later you have a very difficult time associating what you learned or why you did something a specific way with a change. So I would like to add a discussion forum to the change record. I just do not know what it should look like - design wise.

For example, should it email the change committee with every discussion entry? Should a person that wants to add to the discussion follow a link back to the change request to add to the thread? Should I have unlimited possible discussion threads for a any change?

I really am not sure what I want, or need. So, I ask you all. Do you have an opinion?

Maybe instead of a full blown discussion forum you just need a large requied text field associated with a timestamp when the change was made to enter a detailed expaination.

I appreciate your thoughts on this. I will look at the wiki stuff on pointed out on the TRAC web site, but I think the vanilla idea makes the most sense.

Thank you again.

Well if the threaded conversation is stored somewhere, and each addition triggers an email event, then you have both, dont you?

If you are just firing off emails without storing them then unless you can get those email records together - the record is just lost isn’t it?

I replied with the Vanilla idea because the only part of a blog you want is to be able to capture the conversations which appear as traditional “blog comments”.

That and the fact you can optionally hand off emailing, registration to Vanilla.

The thing that turned me onto it is that at its heart it is so simple to work out that you can actually incorporate it into other “recognised web UI patterns” like wikis, blogs, cms etc. by joining-up or reusing the vanilla user-registration, so giving you the option of single sign in.

Its incredibly pliable (version 1, I haven’t looked a 2 yet).

To answer your question the change request could be described as being the start of a new thread. That thread would be part of say, a department or subject, and you would want to be able to:

assign that department or subject to 1 or more adminers who can play god with the posts and the users.
let users add a new thread
let users add comments
let users un/subscribe to threads
let adminers close threads

when a thread is closed it becomes a finished or abandoned feature.

However, don’t let me push you in the Vanilla direction, I just dangle it there when asked “what would you do?”.

Have you thought of using trac or something of that nature? (scroll to the bottom of that wiki page to see some PHP equivalents.

I will look into the vanilla forum software.

If you were designing this, would you want the discussion forum attached to the change request, or would you just let the email thing - unattached to anything - be it?

I am still thinking attached with some blog type software - incorporating work that has already been done would save me work. As mentioned above, I will look at vanilla forum software.

Thanks for your input.

I think I originally approached vanilla in the spirit of “how do others do it?”, but found I fitted the bill very much.

This was to make a proof of concept, comment-able policy document manager IIRC.

It sounds to me like you could adapt blog code with commenting might do what you want.

It sounds as if you are creating an audit trail of changes.

That could be as simple as one long text record, each element of which is kept in a table, and they are just joined together by a) common original title and ordered by b) date.

If its more complicated than that, and you want threaded comments within each reply I’d recommend you take a look at Vanilla Forum. Its very stripped down, and you add only those components you need, such as email notification. It takes care of users’ details/registration etc - but they key component is this threaded comments on a comment (called “whispers” in vanilla 1 anyway).