If I go to a forum (VB.Net in this case) I see a number of threads marked as NEW. I select one thread somewhat down the list and open it. I respond to the question, then redisplay the VB.Net threads. All of the NEW flags have now been removed. Is this by design? My expectation is that the NEW flags should not be reset until I have actually opened the associated thread, or clicked "Mark Forum Read". If all of the NEW flags get reset then I can't determine which threads I have visited.

Is this by design?

Yes. The idea is that when you view the first thread in a forum, all subsequent threads are marked read. If you respond to a thread then that thread becomes the first, and by viewing it the marked read logic applies.

My expectation is that the NEW flags should not be reset until I have actually opened the associated thread, or clicked "Mark Forum Read".

Include the age threshold which also currently is in place (I can't remember the exact amount, maybe a week?), and I agree. I'm not a fan of the first thread feature, but Dani seems to think it's necessary. Maybe she'll hop on with the explanations that I've since forgotten. ;)

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Feature that has confused me too to be honest.

I generally do not complain about features since I always have the option not to use the product, but just for constructive purposes, I can tell you that my experience with this feature has not been too positive. It forces me to find the oldest post in the category and then move my way up. The work-around for me is fine, but sometimes I click on the first post in the list and then I can't tell if I have actually read the older posts.

James, correct me if I'm wrong, but there are four ways for a thread to be marked read:

  1. The forum has been intentionally marked read
  2. The thread has actually been read
  3. Threads older than 7 days are automatically marked read, as they were in the old vBulletin system, simply because it is not practical to perpetually store the read status of every single thread for every single member. It's assumed that a thread that hasn't been replied to in over 7 days has most likely fallen off the first page of the forum and if it still hasn't been read, odds are it never will be.
  4. Forums are automatically marked read upon the newest thread in the forum getting marked read. This was a vBulletin feature that we simply copied to maintain the same rules as in the old system. The reason that I like it is because, without it, it would be nearly impossible for anyone who visits regularly to ever see any forums not marked new unless they deliberately use the mark forum read feature, which only about 10 members on the site currently do. Therefore, not having this feature would make the forum read icons useless to all but ten of the regulars. This is most likely the exact reason why vBulletin had it designed this way as well. The reason that the entire forum would become read when selecting a thread somewhat down the list is because the sticky threads don't count, and the first non-sticky in some forums is quite a few items down.
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1-3 make complete sense. The only question is that sometimes, after replying to a thread, say at work, I then get online at home to find most of the threads read, although I've not looked at them. I often target '0 replies' threads first as others may have ongoing discussions or have a senior contributor as last reply, so I tend to work 'backwards' I suppose. Mind you, the 'unread/read' icon is no big deal for me - doesn't really affect me - just nice to know the rationale behind it.

Forums are automatically marked read upon the newest thread in the forum getting marked read

Newest as in based on first post date or newest based on most recent reply date? I had selected a thread that was about halfway down the page and all other posts above it were flag-wiped. Now I notice that all of the icons to the left of the threads are completely missing (Firefox 16 AND IE9 on Windows 7 Pro).

I believe based on most recent reply date, aka the first item in the listing below the stickies.

By the way, all the avatars are missing as well.

OK I'll check with James to make sure that our image server is working for everyone.

According to James, one of our servers went down. Our load balancer was smart enough to detect this and remove it from serving up any web pages through Apache, but we don't have anything as complex set up for our images which use LightHTTPd instead of Apache. Therefore, the down server was still being called upon to serve a percentage of the images ... you're just one of the lucky ones.

We're working on getting that fixed though :)