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I’ve just implemented a feature I’ve long wanted on many news aggregation sites: story merging.

Stories that are similar without enough new content (like general news sites all reporting on the same story) can now be merged into a single story rather than being downvoted or deleted, while preserving comments made on them and still working with the duplicate detector and other things.

When a moderator merges a story into an older one, it:

  • takes the merged story off most of the story lists (such as the home page),
  • automatically redirects users visiting the comment page of the merged story to the original story comment page (with an appropriate message),
  • shows all comments/threads made on the merged story on the original comment page (indicating which story they were originally posted under along with a merge icon), and
  • lists its title and URL under the original story on its comment page with a merge icon.

For example, a news article about the Heartbleed Bug has been merged into the original story for the bug. Visiting the first link automatically redirects to the original story and the one comment that was made is visible there.

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    The feature is fantastic, but I wonder if the merging approach can be tweaked in some way.

    The original Heartbleed story gives a good example: the merged comment by apy is only applicable to the old story. And while it might be a 4 point comment for that story, it ends up displayed over a threaded group of comments that are very interesting & useful - links to the fix, updates on individual vendors, etc.

    And, again, while apy’s comment may be +4 in the pre-merged story, it becomes off-topic in the new one. That’s bad for the comments on the merged story, and it could end up bad for apy’s karma.

    All in all having merging is far better than not, so I definitely don’t intend this criticism to be taken harshly. And unfortunately I don’t know what the fix might be. Just some thoughts for consideration.

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      Could this be avoided by turning the merged story into a comment on the original story, with all its existing comments as sub-comments?

      Also, that way you could redirect links to the merged story to the specific comment it turned into.

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        It’s off-topic because it’s sort of meta, but I think in most instances, the comments will still be on-topic for the merged-to story.

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          Yeah, I think that’s probably fair. I’ve been trying to think about what kind of change could be applied (reorder comment display, no penalty for down votes after a story was merged, …) but I can’t think of any improvements that don’t add problems or make things worse.

          You’re probably right - it’ll be good for 90% of comments, and that makes it well worth it.

          Again, thanks, this is a really cool feature.

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            You could put an indicator near the carried over comments. Either a text label of “merged” or a little icon. This may help put the comment in context.

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              There is an icon.

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          This is sweet. I like the layout.

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            This looks pretty awesome. Thanks jcs!

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              Great work, this is a feature I’ve wished out of a lot of sites too.

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                This is badass, thank you!

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                  This feature is great! Something I’ve wanted for a long time on lobsters. Is it appropriate to merge a link with an older version of the same link?

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                    Nice. Thanks!

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                      Great idea!