General discussion


Update on community revamp. TRI feedback needed...

By Jay Garmon Contributor ·
Hey everybody. Remember when we posted those mockups of a promised community revamp a few montsh ago? Well, we understand if you've forgotten. The process has been slower than we hoped, but only ebcause we've been testing and retesting the crap out of the system. So, if you're wondering when the new version of the site is going to launch, well, we have a very loose time frame...


Not very precise, I realize, but there are reasons. Mostly, we have some physical infrastructure projects (read: server moves) that have soaked up all our engineering resources, and we won't get them back until late July, at the earliest. We won't have a real timeline until then. The new hardware should improve things, but while we switch over, there will probably be some hiccups. Fair warning that the summer might be occasionally bumpy as far as site performance goes.

The good news is that our front-end production guy is not part of the infrastructure project, so we have extra time to tweak and refine the presentation layer between now and launch. Beth and Smorty have spent the last two weeks beating the crap out of our beta site, and it's far from over. That's not to say there won't be a few visible seams when we launch--our beta environment can't exactly match or predict the crazy stuff you guys do to our site--but we feel confident the end result will be a dramatic improvement.

So, of course, we're already dreaming of the next phase of enhancements. In my opinion, our site is pretty feature rich--and I would argue TOO feature-rich. I think we've tacked too many bells and whistles on over the years. While all of them were done in an effort to enhance the site, we've got a lumbering giant now with so many hidden capabilities that it can barely move under its own weight. I'd like to strip the site down a great deal, and get at its essence, so more users would be willing to use it. The planned revamp does a fair bit of this, especially in Tech Q&A, but I think we could go farther. On that note, I'd like to solicit some opinions...

1. Does TR need 3 kinds of threads?

Right now, we have blogs, discussions, and Q&A. The redundancy is evident in many places, especially when new users are involved. Should we streamline this, and if so, how?

2. Do we need a granular rating system?

The new Q&A will be a binary rating system. Either it helped, or it didn't, and the negative state is assumed. Articles, downloads, and product reviews have granular (1-5 or 1-10) rating systems. Is that necessary? Should TR go to a simple binary rating scale from everything. Basically, should everything have a "recommend" button, or is the granular rating scale useful?

3. Do we need off-site Linking?

Right now, the TechRepublic Links system lets you save links to URLs outside TechRepublic. Almost nobody uses it for that, however; the bulk of the TR Links directory is taken up by articles and downloads from TR. Is this functionality worth supporting and, if so, why?

4. Do Suggestions need to be personalized?
Right now, the Suggestions in your Workspace are based on tags you've used, articles you read, and whole glut of tracked actions that eat a lot of database space. Think Amazon recommendations. Digg has made it pretty clear that what's popular for a large audience is usually pretty popular with almost every individual in that audience. In other words, strict personalization may be a waste of energy. Could we trade out suggestions for a list of most popular content, or are personalized suggestions worth the effort?

I look forward to the feedback.

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by Jaqui In reply to Update on community revam ...

what about having TRI testing like was said months ago.

1) nope, the three threads are a waste of time, if it was all combined it would make it easier to track.

2) yup, the granular system is usefull, specially as applied to articles and downloads.

3) It pretty much duplicates the bookmarks/favorites of people's browsers, right now it's being used to combat the ineffective content search on TR.

4) They need to be MORE personalised or done away with.
give the user the ability to EXCLUDE tags / subjects from them, or get rid of the section. I have had frequent times when absolutely none of the suggestions fit my interests at all.

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The beta test site is still on the board...

by Jay Garmon Contributor In reply to hey!!

...but that takes engineering resources we don't have available right now. We can't hold up the launch even longer building a test environment. It will happen eventually.

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Thanks for the info.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Update on community revam ...

1. Does TR need 3 kinds of threads? I've been on record for several months that only one type is needed. Kill Q&A and the blogs. Discussions are frequently misused as Q&A, so you might as well drop the formal Q&A. The blogs don't do anything that isn't being done in Discussions, and doing them poorly.

2. Do we need a granular rating system? Maybe a tertiary scale - Good, Bad, Indifferent or something.

3. Do we need off-site Linking? If it adds to the overhead and causes additional workload, drop it.

4. Do Suggestions need to be personalized? Again, if it's causing more work, drop the personalization.

It would be nice if the links in a My Workspace project would NOT also appear in My Workspace Links list. This makes it difficult to determine if you've moved a link to a project; you save it to a project and it's still in the Links list anyway. If a link is going to show up in the Links list, why bother moving it to a Project?

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Revam City!~

by The Admiral In reply to Update on community revam ...

Here are my thinks:

1. Get rid of the doubleclick ads. They are annoying when I get red boxes cause I get doubleclick not found errors.

2. I think three threads can be killed to a single thread with the availability of two or three different topics with different sub topics. Such as Blog, Discussion, Q&A as the Primary, and the subject of the post as the sub. So it says:

Blog: Do we really need all this mess?

3. I have never seen a site that does off site linking that is needed. Most if not all of it never amounts to money in the pocket.

4. Dump the friggin TAGS! They are absolutely annoying and should not be used as a suggestion as for new topics. I often put in:

Winders, Critters and Messes - Oh My!

What can put possibly take out of that other than it is a mess of jumble ripped off and retaped with technojargon from the Wizard of Oz?!

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I have been wondering about that

by jdclyde In reply to Update on community revam ...

After the last "please look and comment because the boss is coming tomorrow", that you would have at LEAST had the decency to let us know how that meeting went! X-( how rude...

There NEEDS to be a way to choose a discussion vs a TQ&A or the Q&A's will get lost in the mix. If they are not a big draw anymore, get rid of them all together rather than decrease their visibility.

I DID like in the screenshots the ability to at that time decide if it was a discussion or a question.

Blogging. Was it a fad? Do people do it much anymore? I would follow them if a note showed up from my contacts. If I have a contact, (I have a few) I should be notified of ANY activity in discussions/Q&A/Blogs.

I DID like the other day in some history screen it showed that someone added me as a contact. I always thought it would be cool to see WHEN you were added.

Off-site linking. bitbucket.

Personalization, there ARE some things that I will refer to in a few months (like the emoicon list) and without this, it would be impossible to find. I don't CARE about the suggestions, because I often don't have TIME to look them over anyways.

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This happens already, and will be improved

by Jay Garmon Contributor In reply to I have been wondering abo ...

Blog Posts from Your Contacts already exists. It's on the Blogs door. Under the revamp, all PFMC will be merged, and will be sortable by Blogs, Q&A, and Discussions.

Some folks blog religiously, but the numbers are pretty low. I've always been of the opinion that a blog was just a series of posts, so if we listed every thread you ever started, that WAS your blog. There's real debate about that internally, however, as some folks see blogs as a distinct content type with a distinct purpose.

I don't see us resolving the issue any time soon, but I'm interested in what our hardcore users think.

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Site Update

by Tig2 In reply to Update on community revam ...

I agree with Jaqui- three kinds of threads is unnecessary. Being able to identify if something is a question, blog, or discussion might be handy but I think even that much might be overkill.

I personally do not find the granular scale useful. It is entirely dependant on the engagement level of the person doing the rating. I catch myself listing virtually everything as a 5 on a 1-10 scale. Not because that is appropriate but I often am pressed for time and so don't analyse further. Comes down to "the information is there and I will make use of it." The thing that I would like to see fixed is the point system. I see too many times that the questioner does not feedback on the information received.

I have a file of links that lives on my desktop sorted by type. I use it almost exclusively. The only other hotlink tool I use is on my Google homepage which is always open. I use my Workspace to check contact status, add contacts, and subscribe/unsubscribe threads. I should at some point do a better job with my workspace but haven't gotten that far as yet.

I won't miss the personalisation feature at all. At present, I don't use it. I spend my TR time on what I have determined is a priority and don't bother with much else. The newsletters are a different matter- I often can take a quick read from my email and let that help me determine how I will spend my TR time.

I hope you find this helpful!

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by Wayne M. In reply to Update on community revam ...

1. Does TR need 3 kinds of threads?
I like consistency. Go with one kind of thread.

2. Do we need a granular rating system?
I would go with a 3-level rating (if, as implied, rating is required): Good, Bad, Indifferent. If rating is not required, just go with 2 levels. I wouldn't bother to rate something as Indifferent if I was not forced to choose. Having 5 - 10 levels of rating is simply beyond my capabilities.

3. Do we need off-site Linking?
I would drop the linking. If someone wants to save a link, he can just save it in his browser and browser and use up his own memory. There is no real need to fill up your servers with that stuff.

4. Do Suggestions need to be personalized?
Right now the suggestions do not seem to give me a very good hit rate, so I don't think personalized suggestions are worth additional effort over generalized suggestions. Maybe expand the "Hot Posts" list and include expanded TR Staff suggestions.

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quick analysis

by apotheon In reply to Update on community revam ...

1. Does TR need 3 kinds of threads?

Yes and no. You should combine the handling of the three behind the scenes, but provide different tools for working with each. The notion of just giving a "list by author" interface to discussions has its appeal, and might be appropriate to TR -- that depends on whether TR should actually become a blogging site. The truth of the matter is that for blogging, TR should probably not try to be a blogging site (on top of everything else it's doing), but it shouldn't leave the concept of blogging twisting in the wind, either: I think you would be better served simply by doing the list-by-author thing and providing a way to better integrate external blogs with the community. Having a stand-alone blog functionality just doesn't seem to fit with the TR community as it stands.

I don't agree with Palmetto's bizarre anti-blog fetish, though. I don't know what's up with that. (Hi, Palmetto.)

Q&A shouldn't be seamlessly merged with discussions, or it will cease to be used. Like I said, same back end, different interface. What that actually means in terms of final implementation details is something I'm sure you'll have to work out for yourselves.

One thing that absolutely must be done, though, to improve the overall user experience, is to pare down the categories for discussions and Q&A. I don't think I need thirty different, often overlapping, only barely separate categories under which I can file a discussion thread.

2. Do we need a granular rating system?

Not really. Just provide an increment, a decrement, and a "didn't vote". Have your system total up the values and provide two displayed numbers to people viewing the site: total value and average value (where average ranges between -1 and +1). Anything else is frippery.

If you really want to get fancy, though, you could give people user values that are influenced by the voting they receive on their posts and articles they've had published and so on, then allow their increment and decrement votes to have a weighted effect on the total and average values of stuff on which they've voted. Be very careful with this, however, as a poorly implemented system can backfire. If bad stuff ends up being encouraged over good stuff because of a poorly implemented system, you'll end up with a site that attracts people who are unlikely to find any value in the stuff in your ads, and as a result you could hurt advertising revenue. You're probably better off avoiding the whole weighted value thing.

3. Do we need off-site Linking?

Not really. The linking in general, whether offsite or onsite, is mostly of value to people who don't get out (of TR) much, I think. As such, the off-site linking is probably pretty much entirely superfluous.

4. Do Suggestions need to be personalized?

If you keep them, yes.

Do not -- repeat, do not -- replace personalized suggestions with "hot discussions" or "popular links" or something stupid like that. It's entirely redundant and unnecessary. If you can't justify personalized suggestions, you shouldn't have anything there at all. If you want a "popular discussions" thingie, just make it a single toned-down link on the first page. People who use it will find it and always know where to get it. People who don't won't care. Cramming a bunch of lemming bait into someone's personal space on TR will just drive people away.

If you keep personalized suggestions, MAKE THEM BETTER. I don't use personalized suggestions, really, but I want to. They're just not very effective. I don't find stuff I want -- or at least not stuff I want that I don't already have -- in my suggestions, so I don't end up using them. I'm sure I'm not the only TR regular in this position. If you could make the algorithm used to determine what's relevant a bit more effective, you'd probably get a lot more use of the personalized suggestions.

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Hi, apotheon

by CharlieSpencer In reply to quick analysis

While I do think blogs in general are a waste of electronic resources, I am decidely against the way blogs are implemented on TR.

I can't subscribe to a member's blog the same way I can subscribe to a discussion. Yes, I could use RSS to subscribe to the overall blog but not to an individual posting or the follow-up comments.

Second, the structure of TR Blogs makes those follow-up comments more difficult to track than the "tree" layout in the Discussions area.

Finally, I don't see anything being done in TR Blogs that can't be done in TR Discussions. I freely admit this may be due to a misunderstanding on my part of the Blog format. It looks like both are used for someone to voice an idea, opinion, etc, and for others to respond, and it appears to me the Discussions format does this better than the Blog format. Why waste TR resources and staffers' time on two ways to perform the same function?

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