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TechRepublic's 2011 upgrade: Simpler and lot more social

TechRepublic has launched a major upgrade that features a streamlined new design and a host of new community and social features. Here are the highlights.

Welcome to the new TechRepublic! We've been working on this upgrade for over a year and we're pretty excited to share the things we've done to both simplify the site and launch new features and a new design to make TechRepublic easier to use and more community-friendly than ever.

One of the things that you may NOT notice is all the stuff that we've pulled off of the TechRepublic pages. You probably won't notice because most of the stuff that we got rid of -- from ad units to promotional boxes to redundant text and graphics -- is stuff that you probably never clicked on and trained your eye to simply ignore.

We went through the site with a fine-toothed comb and removed everything that we could, based especially on the statistics on how much our members used various portions of the site, along with aesthetics (we tried to get rid of the ugliest stuff, which turned out to be a lot of old graphics).

Simpler

The result is a much simpler and cleaner TechRepublic that focuses on giving users the content that they want to in easy-to-view formats. Here are a few examples:

  1. Articles - In all of our articles and blog posts, the column is now wider so that you don't have to do as much scrolling to read an article.
  2. Galleries - In all of our photo galleries, the image width has increased in size from 500 pixels to 600 pixels for better viewing. The galleries also load faster and we've added new controls that make it easier to navigate among the images.
  3. Video - Our video player is now 620 pixels wide (up from 480 pixels). This improves viewing. Plus, we've added a new option that allows you to download the video to your system and then watch it.

More social

The other places where we put a lot of emphasis in this upgrade were in the related areas of community and social media. TechRepublic has long been (arguably) the largest online community of technology professionals on the planet. This has been a social network since before they called it a social network. We've enhanced our community features with this relaunch and laid the groundwork for more new community features to come in 2011.

We've also made our content easier to share and connect with via social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, which have become an increasingly important part of the online lives of our community members.

Here are highlights of some of the community and social media upgrades that we've made:

  • Voting within discussions - Each discussion post, article comment, and Q&A response now have + and - voting buttons. Well-reasoned, useful posts can now be voted up by members (and will eventually provide reputation points for their posters) and personal attacks and name-calling can be voted down. By default, if a post gets voted down 5 times then it gets collapsed (users can customize their collapse threshold in their community preferences).
  • Revamped Q&A - We have separated out the Q&A and updated the features to make it more intuitive to post questions and to both receive and provide answers. We have a new intelligent feature that, as a user writes a question, looks for similar questions that have already been answered and presents them to the user in order to save duplicate questions. We've also set up a separate option for respondents to ask the original poster to clarify the question vs. someone who wants to simply answer the question.
  • The Water Cooler - TechRepublic members also like to occasionally chat about politics, religion, and pop culture with their geeky peers on TechRepublic. We now have a dedicated Water Cooler for these discussions. There is a link to it on the Discussions home page and you can mark a discussion for the Water Cooler by simply selecting "off-topic" as the tag when starting a new discussion.
  • Share Box - On all of our blog posts (articles), photo galleries, videos, and lots of other pages we've added a new "Share Box" that makes it easy for users to share content on Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon (the three social services our members use the most). And, using the APIs of those services, we also show you how many times the piece of content has been shared on those services overall. If you click the "more +" link in the Share Box then you can also share with other popular social services including ones like "Hacker News," which our members specifically requested.
  • Most Shared - On the TechRepublic home page, we've also added a new box called "Most Shared" that provides a real-time look at the TechRepublic content that is currently being shared the most on social networks.

Kick the tires

We invite you to try out all of the new features and the revised, simplified design. Go ahead and kick the tires and then let us know the new stuff that you like, where we've changed some things that you wish we didn't change, and any bugs or errors that you encounter while you're doing your usual activities on TechRepublic.

We've created an official feedback thread and that's the best place to jump in and share your thoughts. You can also check out our new FAQ.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

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