Misc comments about site

Dear Ops and Mods,
. Overall, y’all have put together a very nice site. :clap: Lots of good info and very helpful/friendly users.
. But, as with anything that I didn’t create, it has some minor flaws. :rolleyes:
. Seriously, the following comments are meant only as a constructive critique - I ain’t complainin’. As such, don’t feel obligated to defend anything (but it would be nice to know why you don’t do things my (ie, THE right) way :smiley: ).
. A little background on me: I consider myself to be an advanced user when it comes to computers - I took control of my first computer in 1972 and make pocket money by servicing PCs in my home. My personal knowledge base is wide, but not necessarily deep. I’ve been using BBSs since the late-'70s (anybody else here ever use a 110 baud modem? A 300? 1200?). I’ve Op’d or Mod’d 8-9 BBSs/forums over the years. Been burning CDs/DVDs for at least 15 years (I think I burnt my first disc on a Mac Plus), but never gave it much thought - I’m a true Newbie to the technical side of burning. Hell, I’ve just discovered that CDs don’t have a plastic layer on the label side!
. I find it hard to pinpoint what I’m looking for by using the Search or browsing Subjects. Granted, my ignorance of CD/DVD-ese is the major factor here, but y’all really ought to implement/enforce some sort of “Subject must make sense” rule. I understand that, for many users, English is not the language they think in, but it is very frustrating to click on “How to xxx” and find a question, not a tutorial.
. Way too much redundant info. Impossible to avoid on a board this size, but it looks to me as if it has gotten out of hand.
. I haven’t found a section of articles/reviews/tutorials. I’ve been spending most of my time in the Newbie and Blank Media fora, so maybe I just missed it. The things I have found labeled as articles are nothing more than another thread.
.
. One of HagenB’s Rules for Life is: If you’re gonna bitch, offer a reasonable plan to fix the problem or chip in to help (or both). Since I don’t have a plan, is there anything I can do to help?

Perhaps this link is useful (stickied in the newbie forum):
Helpful tips, particularly this link: Tips on how to use our search more efficiently. I think this covers your first comment.

As far as redundant info…who defines what is considered as redundant info? I have seen many very old threads dug up because someone felt it related to a topic that was contemporary for that user… What may be redundant to you, may not be to others…

There are several tutorial sections accross the forum. All sections are directly linked from the forum mainpage…not all are very obvious perhaps (smaller font size), but there are many. I think that this link will help you on your way: Some useful threads / sections in this forum (or CD Freaks in general) (which is, again, linked in my first thread, if there are any broken links in there, let me know)…

As far as articles are concerned, I would recommend that you visit our (new!) mainpage. It has a separate search function to search previous articles and reviews.

Hopefully this helps…

Forums are not, have not been, and will never be a good format for presenting static information.

There are lots of sticky threads and FAQs, but because of editing rules (no edits after 30 minutes unless you’re a moderator), most of them are woefully out of date. A lot of the stickied guides and FAQs are also somewhat out of date.

Most of the updates to a thread happen in the posts that people make. Which is fine for long-time forum users who keep up with the important threads, but not fine for new users who have to not only have to find the right thread, but in the case of long threads, the right post as well. For example, if someone posts about a problem, it may be several posts (or pages) later before someone posts a solution. A newbie who finds that thread will not only have to read that first post, but wade through the discussion (some relevant, some irrelevant) to find the solution to the problem. A moderator could edit the first post of threads with all the important information added in subsequent posts in the thread, but that generates a huge and untenable workload.

A forum is what a forum should be: a place for discussion. This attempt by CDF to make the forum into a general-purpose repository of information is totally unworkable. But, there is something that works…

MozillaZine is probably the best example of a workable model. The site is composed of three parts. There is the news page. There is a forum for discussion. And then there is a knowledge base, created using a wiki. A wiki solves all of the problems listed above: People can easily create and edit resources (like FAQs) without the worry of some 30-minute limit (and because wikis keep a log of all changes and an easy way to undo changes, it’s safeguarded against vandalism). The wiki’s built-in history that shows the changes made and who makes them eliminates the need for “ownership” of posts or threads and thus people can edit other people’s content (instead of just adding a new post to a thread and hoping that people who read the thread would actually get that far in the thread; also helpful for people to maintain a resource like a FAQ started by someone who is no longer around). It’s MUCH easier to consolidate information with a wiki than with a forum (instead of having stuff spread over multiple posts in a thread or even multiple threads in a forum) and it’s MUCH easier to maintain and to update that information.

Scenario: You are a newbie and you want to find information about model XYZ drive? Search for it in the forum. Find several pages worth of threads about the drive, with some threads containing not much information, and with some threads containing dozens of posts. Visit each page of each thread and filter through the drivel (pardon me) that make up the majority of the posts and find the few nuggets of useful information. But wait, some of the information you see may be out of date, so you have to check all the posts to make sure that there isn’t some newer post in there that corrects or obsoletes the information that you are currently reading. After a few hours, you have found your information. Unfortunately, only people with too much time on their hands or who visit the forum very frequently (and thus can spread this search cost over long periods of time) will ever invest that sort of time into finding info on the forum. Most likely, they’ll give up, say “screw it” to the forum rules about searching before posting, and post a new thread and hope that knowledgeable people will then give him an executive summary of the needed info in a reply. Of course, with this new thread, the next person who wants to search for that drive now has one extra thread to wade through. But what about a wiki? You find the wiki page for that drive and you read it. One single page instead of dozens upon dozens of different pages (lots of link clicking and back&forward button clicking is needed in the forum format), and all the relevant information is there with the useless chatter removed. Don’t need to worry about new information that obsoletes what you’re reading because people with new information can just edit that right into the wiki page. In all, it’s a short 10 minute deal with wikis.

CDF does (edit: or did; I guess it got clobbered in the [thread=197734]new redesign[/thread]? oh joy) have a wiki: wiki.cdfreaks.com. But there has been not nearly enough done to promote it and to get people to contribute to it. Do the powers-to-be at CDF even remember that they have a wiki installed? (edit: since it looks like the wiki no longer exists, I guess not) Also, the seductive lure of rising post counts and the titles associated with that means that people are rewarded for posting information in forums instead of on the wiki. But ultimately, this is untenable because a forum is, at a fundamental level, is simply just the wrong paradigm for presenting, storing, and maintaining information. I used to visit CDF a lot and I used to keep atop it all and I felt like I know what was going on. But now that I visit CDF only occasionally, I feel like a total newbie, with no idea of even where to start to catch up on things.

Next time someone asks a question on the forum and gets an answer, post that problem/solution on the wiki and link to that instead the next time someone asks the same question. As new solutions emerge, that wiki page can be maintained, and a problem/solution wiki knowledge base would be much easier to search and use than a haphazard collection of forum threads. Next time someone has information about a drive to share, have him create a wiki page for it (or to use the existing page for that drive) to post screenshots, photos, stats, etc. And other people can contribute too. Instead of creating a FAQ that relies on staff maintenance, do it in the wiki. The forum should ideally be used for discussion and discussion only.

This model, as I said, works beautifully for MozillaZine and that place is, relatively speaking, a pleasure to visit compared to CDF. A lot of questions at MZ get answered by posting links to the particular problem in the knowledge base. Tutorials like profile backups or guides on stuff like about:config are presented in a clean wiki format that is much easier to update instead of as sticky threads (oh, and because it’s a LOT easier to refer to and link to other wiki articles–with threads or posts, you need thread/post IDs, cross-referencing info like adding a link to the about:config guide in a tutorial is easy to do any makes life so much easier for the newbies who visit MZ). I could go on and on, about why the forum model is incorrect, but I think I’ve made my point now and you’re all getting sick of me sounding like a broken record.

So, HagenB, if you feel strongly about it, go edit that wiki and tell other people on the forum to do so as well because that’s really the only way CDF can solve this information scatter/disorganization/chaos problem. (edit: well, scratch that idea, since the wiki seems to have disappeared)

And for the powers-to-be who read this: I never realized just how important wikis can be until somewhat recently. You really should promote the wiki; might not be an easy transition, but methinks you’ll be glad that it was made.

. I didn’t word my comment very well. My problem is not with the Search itself, which is excellent (and I did read that thread - pretty standard stuff), but in trying to use the Subjects returned to decide which posts are pertinent. I’m not suggesting that the board be run with an iron hand, but I think we users should be strongly encouraged to use meaningful Subjects.

. I didn’t say unimportant. “The exact same data stored in more than one location in the same hard drive or database.” – Google: define redundant. Not much of a decision to make - either it is or it ain’t.
. This is where FAQs/articles/tutorials come in handy. Instead of having to explain something again, the responder can just point the questioner to the appropriate link. If the FAQs are well organized, the responder doesn’t have to be very specific; eg, “See the yyy section of the xxx FAQ” with a link to the xxx FAQ home page. This should be a godsend for a board about such a fast-paced subject - as conditions change, only one page/thread needs to be updated and old info is not left hanging around. Why dig for, keep track of, and link to an old thread (that may become obsolete) when you can link to an “official” FAQ that is presumably up-to-date?
. Of course, some responders will not make use of the FAQS and obsolete data will accumulate, but that’s life.

. I haven’t taken time to fully explore that page (there’s so much other good stuff on here and I get distracted easily). I’ll make an effort to do that ASAP. Thanks.

. I’ll give it another try.

. I’m sure it will (as soon as I check out your links).
.
. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to run the board, just sharing some things that have worked for me in the past. My experience is with much smaller systems and I realize some of my ideas may not be practical here. If everyone is happy with the status quo, just say so and I’ll butt out.

. Damn, kliu0x52, you’re even more longwinded than I am! :wink:

. I must respectfully disagree. Maybe not the best format, but I’ve seen it done quite well.

. If you setup the FAQs as threads (or sub-forums, depending on your software) and assign a FAQ Owner (the Mod) to each thread, then the Mod can use Stickies and such to keep the body of the FAQ at the top. Since the Mod is not affected by the editing time limit (1st time I’ve noticed that feature on a board - I understand what it’s for, but not sure I like it), he/she/it can update the FAQ at will.
. The “normal” posts are comments from readers.

. Exactly the problem I’m having. I’m willing to accept that my ignorance is part of the problem.

. The scheme I give above means the the FAQ Owner doesn’t have to do all that. The FO controls what is in the FAQ (usually just 1-3 posts) and if a user posts something that should be changed in the FAQ, the FO can make the change then edit the user post by appending “The changes have been made to the FAQ. Thank you for your contribution.” As I’ve said, this may not work with the current software.

. Five or ten years ago, I would have agreed with you. From what I’ve seen lately, true fora are pretty much seen only on maillists, IRC, &c (text-based). The Web, with it’s GUI and attendant bells & whistles, is an excellent venue for the community sites - like this one.
. Forum-based software may make it a bit awkward, but it is doable and being done.

. I’ll take your word for it that MZ is superior, but the Ops may not be willing to expend (or have) the resources required to change.

. Excuse me for being so blunt, but you do something about it. Contribute, promote, and recuit.

. I just found this place a few days ago, so I’m not familar with the “old” site. Seldom do upgrades go without a hitch. Major changes are never smooth. I’m assuming that this board is run by volunteers; if anybody’s getting a paycheck, I bet they’re not bragging about the size of it. Volunteers have real lives. A Mod may be an expert in his/her area but be a real doofus when it comes to running a BBS - just like you or I. Lighten up on 'em. For all we know, they’re jumping through their asses to fix the problem.

. Yes, many ppl get an ego-boost when they see a high post count by their nick, but so what? If they are posting fluff, just ignore them. If they post something valuable, make an entry in the WIKI to the effect of “John/Jane Doe said in post xxx that …”

. I know it’s not my place to say this, but I am compelled to (Mods: if I’m too far out of line, I will graciously accept the deletion this section). If you don’t like what’s happening then either make polite suggestions to the Ops and help implement the ones they accept or go somewhere that is more to your liking. This site is not here for you, me, or any other individual - it is a community of ppl, with similar interests, trying to help each other.

. Can you not do that (when the WIKI is running)?

. This is not MZ. I’m sure MZ is great, but it may not be what the Ops have in mind.

. See comment 3 sections above.

. Unfortunately, I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to disc burning and don’t have much to contribute in that area. Eg, I just discovered that CDs don’t have a plastic layer on the label side. But if you need help doing it, please feel free to ask.

. If you had just added “What can I do to help?” it would have been perfect. :wink:

I guess the data is still there but the site has been deactivated.
The Wiki never had enough active people working on it. With the Wiki being spammed and nobody removing this garbage, I first switched it to only accept changes from registered users and finally only from users that were manually added.
You can probably imagine how this ended…

This is really a matter of scalability. Wikis are inherently scalable and the amount of effort needed to maintain one is O(1) in respect to the number of users. Whereas the forum is not scalable and requires O(n) work in respect to the number of users.

@Hagen_B

Trust me when I say that, based on what I’ve seen over the years, the forum-sticky system of presenting information doesn’t really work. Maybe if people put a lot of work into it, but that requires a lot of time and a lot of extra work (vs. wiki) to get a solution that might be “good enough” but still not as good as a proper solution. And I did contribute to the wiki back when it existed.

(BTW, my post was never aimed as a critique of the staff, but rather, as a critique of the shoehorning of a forum into something for which it was not designed; it may work, but it is imperfect and problematic.)

@Liggy

Is there a way to link the wiki login with the CDF login? You managed to link the CDF login with blog comments on your site, so can you do that with the wiki? The main problem with the wiki is that policing the wiki requires that there are enough people who use to wiki to keep an eye on it. So there’s a chicken-or-the-egg problem. If the wiki is deserted, few people will use it and so there will be few people keeping an eye on it, which, in turn, makes it deserted. But look at the CDF forums, and there are LOTS of people who have a lot of time and who are willing to contribute. They just weren’t doing it on the wiki. CDF never really promoted the wiki, so I wonder if things could’ve turned out differently if there was a greater push for it. Like I said, such a transition would be by no means easy, but in the long run, I think it’ll be something that people will like.

. Good help is hard to find. :wink: Hard enough to find ppl who are willing; oftimes impossible to find someone who is: ready +willing +able.
. While I know almost nothing of CDs/DVDs, I am pretty good with computers. If there is someone who has the knowledge to put in the WIKI, I should be able to help them with the operation/maintenance (a few days after I get my hands on the manual).
. At least you tried. Please don’t let your discouragement lead you to give up. The WIKI is a good idea. If you don’t have the resources to pull it off, then, gee, you’re such an a-hole for not doing more for me. :bigsmile:
. You have a very good site here. :flower: Not perfect, but what, designed by homo sapiens, is? Maybe next week a volunteer who knows burning AND knows WIKI operation AND doesn’t have a life AND can write a decent sentence will show up.
. No good deed ever goes unpunished. No matter what you do, there is always someone who will not be happy about it and feel justified to go into great detail about your lack of intelligence/smarts/dedication/morals/&c,&c,ad nauseum (or whether you really care). But will they do anything to help? Don’t hold your breath. Do your best and sleep well at night, knowing that many ppl appreciate your efforts.
. You can please some of the ppl …
. Is that enough platitudes? :rolleyes:
. Since you didn’t tell me to butt out, I’ll assume you will, at least, tolerate a few suggestions. I have no idea what your level of expertise is, so don’t be offended if some of these suggestions are “beneath” you. There shouldn’t be a problem with me going over your head. :slight_smile:
. Have you tried getting recommendations for a WIKI Master from your Mods and gurus? If you don’t have a Mods-only forum, set one up. If you have multiple Ops, that don’t communicate frequently by other means, give them their own forum. The inner workings of the board only confuses a lot of ppl.
. Mods and gurus make good recruiters. I know I would be more likely to take on a task if someone who has helped me out before (eg, Arachne) asks.
. Judging by the comments I’ve seen, the board is in a state of flux. If you haven’t done so already (I’ve had my head buried in the Newbie and Blank Media fora), tell the users what going on, where you’re trying to get to, and the resources you lack to get there. Ask for volunteers. You can use cookies to make sure everyone who logs in sees the info at least once during the next few months.
. And all that is worth every penny you paid for it. :wink:

. As I said, my experience is limited. If this board is too big for the forum-model to work well …

. Evidently, I misunderstood several comments you made and over-reacted. My apologies for getting rude. Thanks for the PM straightening me out.

This might be the case if you have people who are experienced with Wikis, but although I’m quite familiar with several aspects regarding PC stuff (including burners), I never really got used to how Wiki administration works.

While Mediawiki may potentially be a good software, I think administration currently requires much more work than maintaining this forum. At least we much less need access to the filesystem than I needed for the Wiki (LocalSettings.php for example).

I doubt this is possible. The Wiki and forum use completely different authentication schemes. And if you mean this blog - it definitely needs a separate login. If you’re talking about the news page - this one was written from scratch in a way that the forum login could be added. But I doubt anyone already tried to adapt the vBulletin login to a Wiki.

In the beginning we really kept an eye on the wiki with some people, but there once was a time where the ammount of spam was much higher than the number of good contributions and removing it again required a lot of time. Unfortunately I didn’t find an efficient method to ban these people from posting.

The Wiki was linked directly on the old newspage but the number of visitors was not really high. Most people find everything they need in the forum and so it’s hard to make them create articles on the wiki instead. And I also think that modifying articles is a bit harder than on the forum - but people who are more experienced with Wikis may have a different opinion :wink:

At least I never interpreted it this way. And even that may be OK if it is well formed critique with maybe some suggestions on how to improve things and that are not impossible.

I will remember this - in case we should really re-enable the wiki. The documentation can be found here.

Sorry, but this guy is already posting our news :bigsmile:

We have such a forum, but most of these people were recruited from the forum. There was a thread about the Wiki in this forum but it looks like nobody was an expert on how to deal with Wikis

Liggy,
. Well, it looks like you are aware of the problems and have the know-how (if not the manpower) to handle it. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have something you think I can handle. E-mail would be best (yes, that is a valid address that I gave when I registered, even if it doesn’t look like it to some ppl).
. If, for some strange reason, Ops don’t have access to user e-mail addys, you can use yourNameOrNick dit CDF ampersand Bollen dit US. Exchange the appropriate character for &. How long before someone figures out how to parse that with a computer? Catchall rules! Geez, I hate SPAM! :a
. And I’m outta here! Thanks for taking the time to consider and respond to my suggestions :flower: and keep up the good work. As far as I’m concerned, this thread is closed.

. OK. I can’t resist. One last suggestion. :rolleyes: No response expected. Some of the more technical sections should be further segregated from the general audience (the <oppositeOfNewbie> Forums?). Anyone who actually needs (and can understand) the info is probably willing to scroll down a little further to find it in the forum list.
. Eg, test results. I found the media test results very interesting (I was looking at archival quality discs), but won’t even try to pretend that I fully understand it, yet. I’ll guess that 90%+ of the users, when assessing media, are only looking for (or need) a chart (WIKI/FAQ) listing the relative quality of different types/brands and the test results will only confuse them.

I think wikis are hard only because people haven’t tried to play with them. In the case of Wikipedia (which I guess is the best example of working wikis), I used it solely for reading information for a long time and I was afraid to edit it because I had never tried so I assumed that it was hard. And then one day, I tried to fix a small problem on an article, and despite having never edited wikis before, I found it to be extremely easy, and within 5 minutes, I was going around and fixing up little things that I saw wrong with the articles that I had recently read. And I think that this is rather common, too. Based on anecdotal evidence (so take it with a grain of salt), a lot of people don’t edit on Wikipedia because they either don’t know that they can edit or because they are afraid of it, and none of them had ever tried editing before.

I remember watching video of a presentation by one of the Google founders. He was talking about wikis, and he said that he had never edited Wikipedia before because he didn’t believe that he could and because he wasn’t familiar with it. But to prepare for his talk, he decided to try editing, and when he saw that his edit was instantly viewable by the world, and said something along the lines of “wow, I didn’t know I could do that”. And this is the sort of reaction that I see with other people who are introduced to Wikipedia-editing for the first time. Wiki editing is very easy, and I would even go as far as to say that it’s significantly easier than forum editing/posting. Trying to format a FAQ post with a table of contents and links to the Q&As in a forum post is complicated and messy to say the least. Try it in a wiki, and you’ll see the difference.

And I still think that if it was actively promoted (not just a link on the main page) and if people were actively encouraged to try editing it, that it would become successful. It’s worked well in many places. Wikipedia, MozillaZine, BattlestarWiki (for the TV show) are all cases where a community of users can make the wiki work. Do you remember how many people were contributing back when the CDF wiki was alive? Maybe half a dozen people, tops, which is far too few for community self-policing to work (which is why you had to resort to admin policing). But there are a lot more than half a dozen active contributors on the forum, and if they could be convinced to try out the wiki, it could gain the necessary critical mass.

Of course, I’m not saying that convincing people try to the wiki would be easy. :slight_smile: But I think it’s something that should be attempted.

Finally, you claim that the forum is “good enough”. I must respectfully disagree. I think that this is true for regular users and frequent posters because it’s easy for them to keep up. They can come by every few hours and catch up on what has changed during that time. And since these people are the ones who post the most, and since the staff fits into this category, it’s easy to say “oh, it’s good enough.” But this is not true for newcomers who, if they’re looking for information, are not looking for just what was posted that day, but for what was posted over the past several months or years. And for THOSE people, it’s a nightmare. When I used to visit this forum frequently, I would often look at all the newbie posts (the ones outside of the newbie forum, at least), shake my head, and say “what a clueless n00b; can’t you follow the rules and use the search function before posting?!” Now that I visit the forum much less frequently, I can see things from their end of the table. I can say from personal experience that keeping up with the forum if you don’t visit every day is impossible and that finding information without the background knowledge and updated information that only frequent visitors have is an exceedingly frustrating exercise. And instead of shaking my head at the newbie posts that ask for things covered in the FAQ or an existing thread, I now sympathize with them. It all depends on who you want to cater to. If you’re going to cater to the existing base of regular users, then okay, it’s “good enough”. If you’re going to cater to the people who have lots of time to spare to diligently dig things up from the mess of threads presented by the search function (these people do exist, of course, but they only represent a small fraction of your user base), then yea, it’s “good enough”. If you’re trying to appeal to a broader base and make CDF a repository of ODD information, then no, I don’t think that it is not “good enough”. Also keep in mind that as a staff member, it is likely that you may see things from different perspective than most users and that sometimes the chasm isn’t apparently until you become one of them. See my “scenario” in my first post in this thread; that was partly based on my own personal experiences coming back to this forum to try to find new information (and how terribly frustrating that exercise was).