New Forum Issue - Poor Usability (w/ Analysis)

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  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 21,213
    edited 2015-07-05 - 14:28:37
    potatohead,

    You have too many thoughts there to deal with.

    I'm disturbed that your "young peers" want an app rather than a browser. Are they realy prepared to give up the openness and utily of the web for the silos of the app? Should I have to create an app for them to view my little blog or random web page I have thown up somewhere?

    On the other hand I might see their point about browsers. I have been pondering this for a while now. I can be viewing and interacting with the most beatutiful site ever but it is still surrounded by whatever windows my OS puts it in, with all those clunky looking tabs and buttons and menues and scroll bars, and status lines. It all detracts from the aesthetics of the thing. Yeah I know, I can go full screen or hide menues etc but that's an extra hassle. All I want to see the page.

    I'm not sure the young generation thinks forums are a thing of the past, these young guys put up a very beautiful forum http://talk.resin.io Of course they don't call it a forum it's just "talk".

    It's not clear to me that Parallax should be running blogs for people. Or that forum software should support blogs. There are so many other blogging possibilities easily available to people. all it takes is a link from posts here to wherever your blog is. Here is mine: http://:the.linuxd.org

  • @jmg: "How does it cope with multiple programming languages ?"

    Github handles it with what they call code-fencing in their "github-flavored Markdown" (GFMD).  You bracket your code with three backticks, and optionally put your programming language on the first line. Their parser does the syntax highlighting.  The source looks like this:
    ```python
    def testo():
        j = 0
        print "this is a test of some python"
        for i in stuff:
            j = j + i
    ```
    

    You can see how this renders halfway down the page the Vanilla Forum devs know and use Markdown.

    Syntax highlighting can be handled a few different ways.  I can't find any syntax highlighting libraries that support Spin or PASM, but adding the syntax tree to some of the more popular ones seems like a worthwhile goal and probably not too hard.  Vanilla Forums appears to looks like this.

    A stopgap would be to do this in highlightjs or a similar client-side highlighter (syntax for that system is also expressed in Javascript and looks like this) and allow pre's or div's to have their class specified by the author for advanced users who really want to syntax highlight their code.

    Going above and beyond would be to make Spin/PASM language definitions for GNU src-highlite, Pygments, highlight.js, etc. just to get good coverage.

    @Tor:

    Excellent points and well described.  This is exactly the kind of feedback to devs that results in lower defect software.  That #latest bug is a nasty one.  It might just be an attempt to be helpful in page rendering.  But it could also be a side effect of a database schema that doesn't separate created and updated timestamps, which would be a major design flaw.
  • potatoheadpotatohead Posts: 9,712
    edited 2015-07-05 - 15:07:30
    Apps are all about maximizing the mobile device. And they are about data efficiency too.

    When I use Quora via mobile browser, my data consumption is very significantly higher than it is with an app that can cache and be really smart about what it needs.

    Where data isn't at issue, an app may get in the way.

    An app can tie into the system notifications and provide a more robust push type system where a browser really can't to the same degree.

    Skype me, or comment on something I wrote on a tool with an app, and I get that as a Droid notification. Spiffy. Or, if I'm not using apps, I know next time I look, kinds of use cases are in play.

    Busy, mobile people use notifications to manage how they use their time to interact. I do this a lot, and flirt with a few more apps to better optimize my time so that I can better support more communication.

    Battery is another factor. Script heavy browser content eats power. Apps can reduce that to a trickle.

    On mobile, there are a lot of great reasons to use apps.

    This Note 4 phone is a powerful thing. same one Chip just got, BTW.

    Frankly, with a keyboard mouse added, I can go a whole day and do all my work, even drawing some CAD files on this 8 core ARM.

    Younger people, and many older people like myself, are seeing how much can be gained by moving to mobile. This is very similar to how the laptop move happened for people. I watch my younger peers and try things their way at times. Some of it has paid off nicely. Other ways, not so much.

    Apps are a part of that picture. Target a few high value use cases, make it sing, and people will gravitate to them, ignoring more feature rich and generalized cases, but for where they are needed. I don't like this much, but the time savings is compelling.

    As for blogs, again it is about center of gravity. If this were my project, I would have integrated GitHub and the forum and some project specific features for files and other things and would have hosted it in cloud somewhere to keep internal IT low.

    I would do that to leverage my alpha users and their sharing to attract others and grow the community for marketing, product test, support, and other business reasons.

    This is why I am drawing a distinction between community management and running forum, blog, IT type tasks.

    We need community management most. We might not need much in the way of IT at all, done right.

    I don't know how Parallax sees it all, or why. I would like to though.

    What I do know is those places I see doing community management, and who employ the center of gravity idea, grow and flourish and are generally robust.

    That is important to us and Parallax, which is why I bother to have this dialog at all.

    Yes, you can link off all over the place. That's fine, and the most likely scenario here going forward. That works for individuals and those who know or follow them. It does not work so much to grow the community and it's attraction in the same way.

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball! @opengeekorg ---> Be Excellent To One Another SKYPE = acuity_doug
    Parallax colors simplified: https://forums.parallax.com/discussion/123709/commented-graphics-demo-spin<br>
  • As for thoughts... yes. Lots of them.

    This stuff goes beyond simple UX dynamics. I'm gonna just put it here for a while, until I see it no longer is relevant.

    Food for thought.
    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball! @opengeekorg ---> Be Excellent To One Another SKYPE = acuity_doug
    Parallax colors simplified: https://forums.parallax.com/discussion/123709/commented-graphics-demo-spin<br>
  • potatoheadpotatohead Posts: 9,712
    edited 2015-07-05 - 15:10:09
    Here is one blog case: Tachyon.

    If Peter were on the InVision software, he would have a place to hold Tachyon discussions and expand that into a little sub community, rather than work a single thread as he has done well.

    The site I linked is full of those and it's a powerful attractor.

    These days, people have more than one place where they do blog type activity.

    If they do it in the context of a community, that community and they both benefit where the community has those features.

    If they do it subject based, like for politics, having it separate makes best sense, as does the personal brand and promotion use case. Couple the latter with GitHub, and it's an online resume I would argue is increasingly required.

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball! @opengeekorg ---> Be Excellent To One Another SKYPE = acuity_doug
    Parallax colors simplified: https://forums.parallax.com/discussion/123709/commented-graphics-demo-spin<br>
  • potatohead, 
    When do all the mobile app enabled, push notified, socially connected, googlefacebookapple tracked people ever get any thing done?
     
  • Depends on the thing to get done.

    When one is a director, coordinator, manager, evangelist, sales, etc... those features are awesome. More of the getting done happens for users who grok it.

    Developer, engineer, etc.. not so much. Gotta be careful.

    Product manager? Yeah, you want em. Same for author, educator type roles.

    The dominant use case is to compress your connect and be aware time. True for all roles.

    Many people let those things expand to consume all idle time. Not good.

    A developer, for example, can take 10 minutes to do what might be half an hour. The sales person can use non interactive time to do demand generation and other tasks.

    I could go on...

    Connectivity type features are relevant to all of us. Some see it as entertainment that must be managed, others will see it as ways to augment collaboration.

    I don't put Face Book on my phone at all for this reason. That one just eats and gives little back in terms of making money or making things. Great for yes, no, maybe so, ooh, ahh, da cute hurtz... kinds of things.

    This software does mesh well with mobile and social trends, and I'll defend that. Don't have to like it, but I do understand Parallax choice.

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball! @opengeekorg ---> Be Excellent To One Another SKYPE = acuity_doug
    Parallax colors simplified: https://forums.parallax.com/discussion/123709/commented-graphics-demo-spin<br>
  • jmgjmg Posts: 13,351
    @jmg: "How does it cope with multiple programming languages ?"

    Github handles it with what they call code-fencing in their "github-flavored Markdown" (GFMD).  You bracket your code with three backticks, and optionally put your programming language on the first line. Their parser does the syntax highlighting.  The source looks like this:
    ```python
    def testo():
        j = 0
        print "this is a test of some python"
        for i in stuff:
            j = j + i
    ```
    

    You can see how this renders halfway down the page the Vanilla Forum devs know and use Markdown.

    Syntax highlighting can be handled a few different ways.  I can't find any syntax highlighting libraries that support Spin or PASM, but adding the syntax tree to some of the more popular ones seems like a worthwhile goal and probably not too hard.  Vanilla Forums appears to looks like this.
    Thanks, sounds like it is possible.
    I wonder how/why Parallax missed Code posting in their 'testing' ?

  • Hmm, I live in or close enough to Silicon Valley, and most of the engineers, PM's, FTE, vendor, contractors use the following daily:

    IM, WebEx for meetings, and email.

    For Dir's and above who are tasked with media/PR, yes they use Facepalm and twatter, but that really a seperate discussion.

    Forums may be old-school, and not popular with the cool kids now, however Parallax needs to stop jumping around like a frog on a hot plate.
    I logged into the forum from my phone the other day while at the dog park. Yes, it looked nice.  Aside from a consumption type experience, would I ever think of spending much time posting from the phone? No.

    This isn't facepalm, or a celebrity gossip site or even icanhazcheesburgers.
    Spend time and money focusing on mobile because everyone else says its a must.  I think its a waste of both valuable resources.
    Don't think the type of community here is going to see much input from mobile users. 

    Mobile is primarily a consumption media, and Parallax should probably be doing other things more worthwhile if it feels it needs the exposure.  This first effort at making desktop/mobile has probably lost/discouraged more business than those 800 hours already.  


    ---- This space available for rent ----<br>
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 21,213
    edited 2015-07-06 - 06:11:53
    Agreed. Forget the emphasis on mobile. It's a resource sucking distraction for Parallax to perfect and basically not very useful. 
    Edit:
    Why do we call it mobile? Why don't we call it "stupid small screens that you can't do much useful on".
    A lot of mobile is laptops and tabs and larger phones for which a regular page formatting works just fine.
    In my experience even on my little phone I can get on with viewing and posting to a non-mobile forum. Pinch, zoom and scroll/pan have been quite sufficient.
  • bartgranthambartgrantham Posts: 67
    edited 2015-07-06 - 07:03:36
    @koehler: Hmm, I live in or close enough to Silicon Valley, and most of the
    engineers, PM's, FTE, vendor, contractors use the following daily: IM, WebEx for meetings, and email.

    Ditto.  Heart of silly valley (Mountain View).  This is neither here nor there, but for me the official list is Jira, github/bitbucket, Slack, Skype, and email.  Unofficially stackoverflow, Dropbox, Google Drive/Docs, and BittorrentSync pop up here and there.  Almost everyone uses Macs, everyone is unix-savvy, code is in git, data is serialized in JSON, APIs are ReST, hosting is mostly with Amazon.  My wife and I lived in NYC until 3 years ago and we visit on a regular basis, the story is much the same there.  I'm not sure if any of that is relevant, take it for what it's worth as a data point in engineering culture.
  • Just a thought... one of Parallax's big concerns is in education.  So they desire to cater to kids and to what schools and teachers want for their students. Take a look at what the demands are in that arena, and you will likely discover why Parallax has made some of the choices you question.

  • Roy,
    From experience with my own students, I can tell you exactly what they want first: a good search facility. When students come here for the first time, they're reluctant to engage by registering, logging in, and asking questions. So they look to see if their questions have already been addressed. vBulletin failed my students in that regard, according to what I was told, and this forum's search is not even up to vBulletin's standards.
    If a student's first experience with the forum is a negative one, I suspect he/she will be too discouraged to register and engage the members directly. At least that's what I was also told by one of my students.
    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Heater.Heater. Posts: 21,213
    edited 2015-07-06 - 16:12:06
    Phil,
    In my experience search in all forums and such software is always broken. Has been since forever. 
    I always have to turn to Google site search.
    SQL databases just aren't much cop at free text indexing and searching. 
    Back in the day, late 1990's, we bolted the TRIP free text database from the Finnish Tieto company onto a web site to solve this problem. It was fantastic. TRIP is what all the Finnish newspapers use(d) to archive all their news stories going back decades. IT could find anything very easily and very quickly.
    Today we just use google for that.
    There is this idea of tags to make finding stuff easier.  I don't know if there is some deep idea "semantic web" idea about that or whether it's just a bodge to use with SQL to make search a bit easier. I very much doubt that will be effective. It puts the work onto the users.  
  • Heater,
    In that case, I think the native search function should be disabled completely and a link to Google search added instead. Why offer something that you know is broken when there is a better alternative?
    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • GordonMcCombGordonMcComb Posts: 3,366
    edited 2015-07-06 - 16:20:07
    It's always possible to replace the native Search box with a Search by Google box. It automates the in-site search, and options can be coded in, so that less savvy Google users still benefit. I don't know what Google search addins are available for this forum, but it could always be hand-coded in PHP. There are good functional examples from the vBulletin community, including Google searches that actually work to improve the forum SEO.
    Google's own solution is free for basic use, or $100/yr to remove their branding.

  • There is this idea of tags to make finding stuff easier.  ...  I very much doubt that will be effective.  
     

    It usually isn't. But it's a nice gift to the spammers. This comes from the combination of 1) arbitrary creation of tags, and 2) elevation of tag names to a top-level URL. Search engines put heavier weight on keywords that also appear in the URL.
    In all, more work for moderators and Parallax staff to counteract all this, once spammers identify the forum as being vulnerable.
  • I'm locked and loaded. :)
    Infernal Machine
  • Roy, I pointed out that it being kid-friendly might have been a goal several posts ago. But I'd argue that it's only superficially kid-friendly due to the choice of colors and stylistic choices.  If the interaction is confusing for adults it'll be confusing for kids, too.

    My concerns aren't that it's "so simple a child could use it", if it was I think that'd be fantastic.  But it's not, and it doesn't meet the expectations younger engineers have for tools.
  • Define "kids." The TOS of this forum restricts its use to only those 13 and over. To not require this involves a much more robust privacy implementation to satisfy COPPA. It's time consuming and expensive.
    I'm less concerned about the overall look -- easily changed -- than I am individual features that most participants of a technical forum have come to expect.
    If anything, "kids" (and some bored adults) will post messages in 48 point Comic Sans using alternating colors. There's a reason Facebook doesn't allow HTML in their posts. If the goal is to attract kids of any age, allowing arbitrary HTML isn't a smart feature to have.
  • There is nothing "kid" friendly about this forum in format, style or usability. Except perhaps for those comic book reading adult "kids".



  • bartgranthambartgrantham Posts: 67
    edited 2015-07-06 - 20:01:13
    > If anything, "kids" (and some bored adults) will post messages in 48 point Comic Sans using alternating colors.




    LIKE THIS!


    "Bored adult" is a pretty accurate assessment. :)
  • Ah, the stuff great sig lines are made of!

  • LIKE THIS!


    That is the best looking thing I have seen here this week!
  • My comment was more in regards to the connection with "new fangled" stuff like facebook, twitter, and gravatar. Although, most kids have abandoned facebook because their parents invaded. :P
    Anyway, aside from a few things that have been fixed or that I think will be fixed, I found the new forums to be pretty nice and easy to use.  My current main annoyance with them now is the number of posts complaining about them.
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