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On The Subject of the New Forums

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Paril
Developer
Level 81 : Elite Scapegoat
4,456
Hi there everybody. I'm writing to address some of the common themes I see pop up about the new forums; specifically this is in response/addendum to the Forum Restructure thread, but these are things that have come up for a while so I figured I'd post about them and see what happens.

Admittedly, I see the irony in posting this as a blog post and not its own forum thread; the best I can offer for that is just that the site integration of the forums are still not 100% as I'd like them to be (front page subscription box, for instance). Submissions are still the best method of reaching subscribers and users.

All of your criticisms have been heard and will be addressed in one form or another - especially in regards to the front page of the forums. I think that that is the weakest point right now, and strengthening that area will be our first goal.

One area that will unlikely to be changing a lot is the replies/thread area. Everything there has a purposeful design decision. The problem was that we came to a point where a decision had to be made that would benefit either one of two philosophies for discussion. With phpBB, each thread is, for all intents and purposes, one continuous linear thread of discussion; the subject line acts as the subject (naturally), the first reply is the poster's opinion/words on said subject, and replies are subsequent posters' words on that subject. On its own that's a great concept, but it breaks down when you start to consider replies-to-replies and "sub-conversations". It starts to take many clicks/page-switching to follow the thread, it is nearly impossible to follow a sub-conversation from A to Z (Z to A is easier because quotes link to their parents), you start to get walls of quotes on each post where you need 4+ posts of context just to understand a reply, and good posts easily get lost in the shuffle and have no way of standing out from the low quality posts that surround it. A good quality post on page 5 is just as relevant as a bad quality post on page 20.

We took inspiration from Reddit on this one, and decided that their approach of each reply being its own branch of a larger branch (and overall the tree itself) instead of a linear line with hops back to their parent was better for the kinds of discussions that take place on our forums. People like to talk to one another in a certain discussion while still contributing to the discussion at hand.

Content can be upvoted to increase its potential visibility, and as such good quality content stay visible while lower ones stay at the bottom; not invisible, but less visible than the better content. New content is also weighed so that new content won't immediately be lost to the depths of the low quality content.

A lot of what we set out to accomplish with the new forums did work, and surprisingly launched with very few technical issues. For such a large feature it was impressive to me how much of it worked right off the bat, but also disappointed that it seems to have done so poorly for a lot of users. Whether it's a majority opinion I'm not entirely sure, but addressing the problems that these users see is going to be high priority for me.

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  • Nii-chan
  • Level 26
  • Expert Archer
  • November 7, 2017, 5:56 am
Now I feel bad that the first thing I do when I come back is throw a brick, but at least it accomplished...something....

Overall I like the design idea yet I'm sure it just needs a couple tweaks to just get everything to at least workable state.

This is something that's frustrated me for a long time, there's a disconnect between the Moderators/Admins and the people. If there were more ENGAGEMENT between both sides, there wouldn't be a need for problems like this. For a Creative Community fansite, I see a lack of any.
  • Paril
  • Developer
  • Level 81
  • Elite Scapegoat
  • November 7, 2017, 1:13 pm
The new forums had tons of engagement during development. I posted many early shots and nabbed a lot of good feedback from members. I prefer this approach, whereas Cyprezz prefers an approach where nobody but himself + near-to-release the moderators will know about the full details. The Profile Update was something that launched with very little input from the community apart from widget ideas.

The thing is I had a specific vision, and without trying it out on the actual community it's impossible to know if such a large shift is going to work. I didn't want to just lazily re-implement phpBB and call it a day, I wanted to design something new that would work well for the kinds of content that we see on the forums and that fit in with our site design goals.

The forums are workable, which I'm glad about. They work, they function, but they aren't ideal to everybody and that's something we have to figure out. The idea was for it to be customizable to a point, after all.

This wasn't your doing, it's been a point of contention since launch, but I wanted to be sure that the "things have changed and I'm scared" phase of the launch was over.
  • Nii-chan
  • Level 26
  • Expert Archer
  • November 7, 2017, 1:34 pm
> This wasn't your doing, it's been a point of contention since launch, but I wanted to be sure that the "things have changed and I'm scared" phase of the launch was over.

Not that I was completely out of the loop, I used to check back in every so often just to keeep an eye on things and that this is the most activity I've seen out of you in the past few months.

And probably because I wasn't here and hence didn't see much done because last I saw of it looked completely different and thought "Oh, almost done" only to see a much different version now.

Making them "good for many" is going to come with its own headaches but again, I'm sure it just needs a simple change here or there like I saw you mentioning the A to Z and the Z to A thing and wouldn't mind something that let me do kind of YouTube style of "Sort oldest to Newest" and vice versa.

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