delete your shortcut link. Open the site and go to "active topics" and make that your new shortcut. Then you only ever see the active topics page.
The question is not how to make Active Topics the primary shortcut.
-> It is about whether the Recent Discussions sidebar is necessary, especially considering that Active Topics is similar.
I created a button in my browser. When I click it, the browser opens multiple tabs from my favorite WoodworkingTalk sub-forums. The last tab is Active Topics, which shows me posts in other sub-forums that I may otherwise miss. It works for me.
In fact, that's how I found this thread.
On my screen using chrome on windows 7, the width of the side screen for "Recent Discussions" is around 20% of total width. Not an issue to me at all Also not that above and below the "Recent Discussion" side bar are several commercial ads for tools, mostly CPO. My best guess is that if they had more ads, the sidebar of Recent Discussions would be gone. So maybe the Recent Discussions is just a 'filler'.
Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx