Talk pages—as a discussion technology—are antiquated and user-hostile.
Many things about the culture that has grown up around talk pages (such as "talkback" templates or being able to edit other people's comments) are confusing.
Better methods for collaboration will improve collaboration, which will improve all of the projects.
|Users Expect||Users Get|
What is Flow? 
Flow is the code name for an ambitious project being started by the Wikimedia Foundation. At first glance, Flow is a next generation discussion system - but that is only one part of it. Flow is actually a rethinking of how we do collaborative work in the projects. Initially, the key components of Flow are likely to include:
- The Feed module. This is a powerful way for users to have insight into their discussions and interests, and introduces several modern software conveniences (such as subscriptions and tagging)
- The User Discussion module. We are starting our focus only on what we call "User to user discussion" as these discussion types are not overly complex. As we learn more, we can expand the technology to cover additional cases
- A Workflow Description Language module. This will allow local wikis to create both simple and complex software workflows that work with in Flow. Example workflow ideas include:
- A Block Module. This is an example of a specific user-discussion use case that is best solved in software.
- A Welcome Module. This is an example of a specific use case that is best served in software rather than templates (think: welcome templates that are interactive and teach new users how to edit before they make mistakes).
In the future, Flow will grow to encompass all manner of tools, including:
- A Watchlist module
- A Wikiprojects module
- Further Discussion modules to cover additional use cases (like !voting, noticeboards, the Teahouse, reference desks, article discussions, and so forth)
Primary Use Cases 
The primary use cases that Flow's user-to-user discussion system attempts to solve are:
- Ease of Use - The User talk system of responding in Wikitext is user hostile.
- Fragmented Discussions - It is difficult to determine where a discussion is to take place.
- Determining What's New - There is no easy way to see what has changed in a discussion without resorting to complex, power-user behaviors (such as viewing the diff between the current revision and the last viewed revision).
- Contextual Interest - Users are required to watch all discussion topics, not just the ones they are involved in.
Ease of Use 
Let's face it: using wikitext as a discussion system is antiquated, opaque, and frankly embarrassing in its difficulty. New users are often scared away by viewing talk pages. They are often afraid of "breaking" them and, once inside the code, don't have a clue about how to respond. There isn't a reply button. How do you do indicate that you are replying to someone in particular? What are all these curly braces?
There are no discussion systems in the world that require users to sign their own posts.
Even reading talk pages is problematic. Users can quickly get lost within deeply threaded discussions. Think about every other kind of conversation you get involved in - in person, via physical letters, via email, via forum software, chat systems, blog comments - you always know who is speaking before you read (or hear) the words. Always. Only in talk pages do you not know who is talking until after the fact.
Fragmented Discussions 
When you leave a message on my talk pages, do I respond to you on my talk or yours? What happens if I do? How do you get notified if there are responses on my page? When I leave a message for you on your talk page and you respond to it, how am I alerted to this?
For many power users, using the watchlist to track conversations is useless. Some talk pages have such high activity that hundreds of responses to non-relevant topics are created per day. Some users will page back through their contributions to find changes (which is again a power user ploy and still doesn't display if there has been new activity).
Let's kill off "talkback" templates.
Determining What's New 
Watchlists can tell us if there has been a change to a page, but determining what's changed requires a peek into the history. The typical way that one reads discussion pages on MediaWiki is by selecting different revisions and reading the diff. That is, frankly, crazy.
What's new should be obvious. You shouldn't have to resort to Black Magick and Other Trickery to keep up with a conversation. So let's fix that.
Contextual Interest 
When I post a new message on someone's talk page, I really only care about that message. I don't care about the tens of other topics that are happening there. And yet, if I want to watch for replies in my topic, I have to see everyone else's. On some high-volume talk pages, my topic (and unread responses) may very well be archived away before I get back to reading them!