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Sometimes I want to refer to a question, all of its answers, and the comments on everything, collectively.

For example:

I've read through a entire thread that contained many answers. It also had dozens of comments on both questions and answers.

Or, to give an example of where it might be useful:

Did the [insert noun here] contain any references to X?

Is thread the right word to use? It's obviously the correct word on forums, but is it the right word on Q&A sites?

Wiktionary defines thread in this sense as:

(Internet) - A series of messages, generally grouped by subject, in which all messages except the first are replies to previous messages in the thread.

Is this the correct word to use for this? Reasons I'm unsure:

  1. I can't recall this word ever being used like this on SE. I'm sure it happens, but I haven't personally seen it and I don't believe it's widespread. I'm not sure about other Q&A sites.
  2. I associate the word "thread" with forums, where there's a continuous, chronological conversation going on, thus thread. Q&A is quite different, as chronology is much less relevant, and it's not really a conversation in that sense. Q&A sites like SE are more about providing helpful information (and deleting or hiding useless information) than to have a continuous thread of conversation.

Is thread a fair word to use, or are there better alternatives?

I'm aware I could just say question, but that's ambiguous, as it's unclear whether I'm referring to just the question or the rest as well. In my perception, the same thing applies to the word post.

And saying "the question, its answers and the comments on both" is not very elegant.

Looking at SE isolatedly, I also asked it at Meta SE.

  • I think either "thread," "Q&A" ("take a look at this Q&A") or even simply "page" will be perfectly well understood. – Ant P Sep 30 '16 at 9:02
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    A post, perhaps? – BiscuitBoy Sep 30 '16 at 9:27
  • @BiscuitBoy Hmm.. Seems a bit ambiguous, maybe? Don't know. – Revetahw Sep 30 '16 at 9:28
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    But we refer to the author of the question as original poster (OP), don't we? That's the reason behind why I tentatively suggested 'post'! – BiscuitBoy Sep 30 '16 at 9:30
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    @BiscuitBoy but the goal is to refer to all the answers and comments as well, not just the original post. – Helmar Sep 30 '16 at 9:34
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Merriam-Webster gives several definitions for thread.

One of these definitions is older, and relates to conversation and storytelling:

a line of reasoning or train of thought that connects the parts in a sequence (as of ideas or events) <lost the thread of the story>

I suspect that the original usage of thread sprung from that definition. It is important to note that another definition speaks to the internet definition of thread:

a series of newsgroup messages following a single topic

This definition moves away from the connotation of a sequence. This definition seems to apply to more than a linear sequence of posts. While Stack Exchange has a somewhat unique structure, there are plenty of other places that also deviate from the "linear" formula (arguably, anything that nests or can sort non-chronologically). Like Reddit, which still calls them threads.

I would say that the only thing preventing Stack Exchange from using the word "thread" is its forum connotation. That is not to say that it isn't used, since you can see otherwise.

Personally, I use the term "posts"; it's hardly ambiguous when you say "the posts [here](link)".

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This entire page is called a question. When I refer you to it, I will say "look at question such and such". It is then perfectly obvious that I also mean the answers and the comments and everything else. Nobody will go and look at just the actual question and then immediately go away. (That's why the actual question gets a special name, "original post", to distinguish it from the question as a whole.)

Of course you could also call this page here, well, a page. But nobody at all uses that. Like, ever. This here is a question on SE, not a page on SE.

And do not use thread. That is just wrong. This is not a discussion forum, the answers are not sequential but orthogonal. The comment thread above is a thread alright. But this entire page is not a thread and never will be.

When someone shows up in chat and asks us when to use "a" vs "an", we tell them, "there's a question for that". We never tell them "there's a thread for that" or "there's a page for that". That'd be just silly.

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    Thread is not silly, at all, some people use it this way for precisely this type of "orthogonal discussion" for a long time see fullcirc.com/community/threadedlinear.htm for a more thant ten year old usage thttp://www.fullcirc.com/community/threadedlinear.htm See this idscussion on what format is best stoicstudio.com/forum/… What you call thread is a linear or chronological discussion. – P. O. Sep 30 '16 at 10:42
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    I agree. They have always simply been "questions" to me. – Catija Sep 30 '16 at 17:07
  • Also some help forums have a similar accepted answer and rating system. So suddenly we should stop naming those threads, and call them questions too? – jiggunjer Oct 2 '16 at 12:45
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    @jiggunjer what are you on about. I am not saying what you should call threads on help forums. I am telling you what questions are called on Stack Exchange. And they are called questions. Nobody, ever, uses thread for them. Not because I tell them not to. But because nobody does. I am describing, not prescribing. – RegDwigнt Oct 4 '16 at 9:32
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    @P.O. yes, people call questions on SE "threads". However, that tends to piss regular SE users off since it suggests that we are a forum and that posts here can be discussions. The use of thread is actively discouraged on the SE network, so please don't use it. – terdon Oct 4 '16 at 12:11

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