Piazza Placeholders

Piazza doesn’t have the ability to reorder pinned posts. Instead, it automatically orders pinned posts by post date, which means that the most recent post shows up on top, and the oldest post shows up at the bottom.

Sometimes you might want to reorder posts, e.g. make a new pinned post but have it not show up at the top. Luckily, there’s a neat little hack you can use: in short, make a private placeholder post ahead of time, then edit in the post and make it public later. This will slot the post into the pinned posts depending on when you made the placeholders.

Personally, I try to always make a handful of placeholder posts before each pinned post I make, so that if I ever need to slot a new post underneath that pinned post, I have a bank of placeholders that I can edit and make public.

Piazza post order

Disclaimer: This section might not make a whole lot of sense because it’s from informal ordering discussions we had, but I wanted to write this down as a reminder for later. If it works out, maybe we’ll revisit this and clean it up with additional advice.

Here’s the post order we’re trying out for CS 61C this semester. Ordering pinned posts is honestly not that important in the grand scheme of things, but I think it’s nice to have consistency on Piazza as a student, and it’s nice to have the more important posts that everyone should read appear near the top of the pinned posts.

In general, I like having announcements at the top since those are important for students to read. Announcements are usually updated often (weekly), so those don’t need to be made with placeholders.

Below the announcements, we’ll have posts for weekly homeworks and labs. These are pretty heavily trafficked since people have lots of questions on labs and homeworks, so I like having them near the top. Since new homeworks and labs are released every week as well, they’ll naturally float to the top, though it might be necessary to make a few (2?) placeholders before every announcements post so that homework and lab posts never end up above announcement posts.

Below the homework and labs, we’ll have the project posts (usually one post for every part of the project). These are the most heavily trafficked posts, but I still like homeworks and labs above projects because homeworks and labs have weekly due dates, so putting them near the top is a nice reminder to stay on top of them. (In contrast, projects are usually out for a couple weeks, so those posts will stay there for awhile.) Putting projects above homework and lab posts also might cause those weekly posts to be buried, since there are multiple project posts and only one post each for labs and homeworks. Project posts should naturally sink below the weekly homework/lab/announcements posts, but we might need to pre-make project placeholders approximately a week before the projects are released, so that the homework/lab/announcement posts for that week are made after the project posts and show up above the project posts.

Below the project posts, we’ll have posts for weekly discussions. Discussions don’t have anything due, so I think they’re not as important to remind students about and it’s fine to have them near the bottom. Discussions are weekly, but we want them below not-weekly projects, so we’re going to make all the discussion placeholders ahead of time. Making a bunch of placeholders at the start of the semester has the unfortunate side effect of the posts immediately sinking to the very bottom when they get unpinned, but we’ll have links to discussion threads in a pinned resources post, so I guess it’s not a big deal.

Finally, we’ll have a Piazza private post template and a Resources Central Post linking to every relevant thread at the very bottom of the pinned posts. These can just be made once at the start of the semester and left at the very bottom.

We discussed having lecture threads in the pinned posts too, but we ultimately decided against this. Lecture threads would probably be near the bottom because they aren’t an actionable assignment (like discussions), so we would probably have to make them all at the beginning of the semester and have them sink to the bottom when they get unpinned. We have two lectures every week, so that means that a Tuesday lecture thread would sink to the bottom on Thursday. People usually fall behind on lectures too, so leaving pinned threads might not be useful for most students. Instead, we’ll make lecture threads after every lecture and link them in the resources post, but we won’t pin them. Although the lecture thread won’t be in the pinned posts, it’ll still be near the top of the normal posts, so that should be enough for visibility.

It’s funny to think that all this creative hacking can be avoided if Piazza implemented one simple feature…