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Forum - current state & improvements

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Total Posts: 242

Joined 2011-02-27

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I know some people are unhappy with the forums, so I wanted to have a separate conversation about this in its own thread.

The common complaints I’ve seen:
- No ‘skip to last read’ button
- Some issues with UBB code parsing (color tags, image tags)
- Sig & bio entry fields too big
- No ‘go to top of page’ button
- No thread pagination at the top of page
- No forum jump drop-down list
- “View new posts” / “mark posts read” buttons only on main page

The first on that list I’m still investigating. The second may take a little while to address but I see no reason why that can’t be improved. The rest are template changes that can definitely be made. As for importing old threads, we can do this once we have the time/resources to do this.

What I need to know now is whether these are in fact the main issues you see with the forums. Also, I need to know whether you will be reasonably satisfied when they are addressed. This is essentially the “speak now or forever hold your peace” thread.

I also briefly want to address why we picked this forum. I can’t make you agree but at least I can share the thought process.

We knew going in that this forum module wasn’t as fully featured as vBulletin. It’s obvious that it doesn’t have a calendar, no friend list, no post tags, etc. These I felt we could live without. We also knew the template was a little more basic, but that can be addressed over time.

Just to make it clear, we will not be going back to vBulletin. While the forums aren’t quite as slick and fully-featured as some other stand-alone forum packages, the advantage of using this forum module is that it’s specifically designed to work together with the system that runs the main site. This mostly offers advantages to us from an administration/development point of view. From a user perspective, it means forum and site use the same header/footer/stylesheet, logging in to the site also actually logs you in on the forums (and vice versa), and there’s likely going to less spam than we had in vB (as we can install anti-spam plugins that work accross the site).

The other advantage is that we can have potentially more integration further down the line. This is only an example, but if in the future we also want to show comments and user reviews in profile pages then this would be possible, whereas using another forum this would not (or at least, be a lot more difficult to achieve, to the point where it probably would not be worth doing). If we would want to do something like letting you tag your favorite games, we can then also display that on the forums in some way. These are just some examples. There are many more possibilities because of the flexibility the changes give us. I’m just a little hesitant to be more specific, as this could set expectations of features we haven’t yet planned. The point is that the forum is not a totally separate entity the way it typically is, so there can be a lot more site/forum integration if we want.

It’s possible that you don’t really care for this type of feature - certainly some forum members might not even visit the main site. But we are trying to develop the site for the majority of users, and we felt it was a compelling reason to favor this forum.

The ‘skip to last post’ missing feature is something that I missed entirely. It’s not something you really notice until you have real threads with many posts and not just a few test posts. None of the reviews of the forum module mentioned it, probably as these sites were using the forum module in other ways (e.g. support forums where people move in and out).

So, to recap, I need to know where the serious complaints are (and maybe they are just the ones listed in this post). Some things may be mostly perceptual (i.e. we have less subforums here perhaps making it subtly feel ‘less busy’, the smileys are different, the templates don’t have as much icons and other details in them). Others are genuine issues. I’m trying to gauge what and how much we can and should improve.

Needless to say we’ll also be upgrading the forum software as new versions come out, and a next version is said to be in the works.

     

Retired AG founder

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Total Posts: 350

Joined 2003-09-12

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Skip to last read, and better navigation between unread threads are the biggies for me.

In vBulletin I’d go to the oldest thread I hadn’t read, and in there there’d be a link to get to the next oldest unread thread. The thread links at the bottom of these forums’ threads aren’t great, as they’re just sorted in the order that they were originally posted.

Those two features made catching up with the old forum a breeze.

     

Now Playing: Beyond a Steel Sky, Erica, Baldur’s Gate, The Interactive Adventures of Dog Mendo├ža and Pizzaboy, The 13th Doll
Recently Completed: Close to the Sun, Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don’t Dry, Mafia 2: Definitive Edition, Mafia: Definitive Edition, Neon Abyss
Anticipating: Beyond Good and Evil 2
Backing: Asylum, Psychonauts 2

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Total Posts: 2576

Joined 2005-08-12

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Thanks for the clarifications and explanations, Marek.

Here’s my current list of annoyances (some minor, some not), on top of those you’ve already listed (the first one you’ve listed being the worst, obviously):

* Lack of formatting options, such as centred text and lists (and font selection, but please don’t add that back!).

* Keyboard shortcuts for bold, italics, etc. would be nice.

* When starting a fast reply and switching to the full editor, the text is lost.

* No smileys list in the PM editor.

* When clicking a smiley, it is inserted at the end of the post, not at the position of the cursor. Extremely annoying.

* Tooltips on the smileys (at least in the editor) would be nice; it’s hard to know what some mean.

* We have more options for smileys, but there’s a dramatic lack of sarcastic smileys: “shifty”, which used to double as “pissed off”, now just looks shifty; “barf” now looks kinda happy; and “frustrated” is gone. Generally, even the unhappy/angry smileys look sort of cute, like in some sort of Disney / Brave New World totalitarian regime where negative thoughts have been banned.

* After making a new post, the view goes to the top of the page instead of the current post.

* Having a New topic button at the bottom of each thread is a bit weird, and having it between Fast reply and Post reply makes no sense.

* It’s nice to finally have in-line spoilers. However, they make the page look really ugly, like some sort of anonymized copied document. Is it possible to choose a colour/style that’s less jarring? Also, you can still see the text.

* Here’s an infuriatingly annoying one: Start typing a post, and make it long enough that you get a scroll bar. Have the cursor near the end of the post (so the scroll bar is at the bottom). Click outside of the editor box, then back inside: the scroll bar jumps to the top for no good reason. Happens with both Firefox and IE, so I’m guessing it’s a bug with the forum, not the browser (and it only happens here).

And that’s all I can think of for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with more.

     
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Total Posts: 8068

Joined 2012-01-02

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i will say this Mr.Marek and it might sound hypocrisy (if that term is correct) for many members here,but that is what i want to say (head proofed or not)

God Bless You and the Crew of AG!

i have Page for my work at FB and i can not stand the sarcasm and complains and ungrateful comments, i even dont bother to respond to every single post members make, but on the other hand i see here how you guys take all members (long time or short) seriously and try to do all what you got to bring satisfaction and happiness upon them/me, not to forget the guests which as Mr.Jack in another thread mentioned they are a bigger number than the posters and the forums users .

so,to make a point , i have this site as the homepage for my browser its one of little things that makes my Day, from reading Posts, making comments and getting updates about the new and the upcoming games to reviewing old games that i played and especially those i missed, and that pays my nostalgia just fine.

i know that all members here consider the work you and the crew doing, and when they give a feedback about something they not like its just out of helping and appreciating .

Thanks Mr.Marek-Jackel-Dale and all the Admins , Mods and the Reviewers for taking care of this site which brings much pleasure for us .

     
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Total Posts: 167

Joined 2003-11-15

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The skip to last one is the main issue I have, and the only real dealbraker.
I also have a feeling that posts get automatically marked as read much sooner now, but maybe that’s just my imagination. Ideally for me, that limit should be at least a couple of weeks, but I understand if that’s not possible due to either software limits or memory limitations. (I do however strongly think it should be no less than a week, or it becomes too easy to miss things.)
There are some other issues (mentioned by others), but for me they just amount to minor annoyances that I can live with.

As someone who has once integrated a phpbb forum with the main content of a site, I can understand why you made the choice you did regarding forum software, and I want to add my thanks to the pile. You’re running a good site (which - if we ignore the forums - is improved by the recent changes), and have in addition managed to create one of the friendliest and nicest forums on the net to visit.

     

You can play my game Frasse and the Peas of Kejick for free! (AG review here.)

Total Posts: 68

Joined 2006-06-06

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I am having issues with the search function.
I think this has been mentioned before: When searching, the results page does not display individual posts, but full threads. I supposedly can tell it to search within them, but I get a page which says that it found nothing.
There is no option to search inside a thread on the thread itself.

Also, I miss the selected forum comment on the front page.

     
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Total Posts: 347

Joined 2006-01-12

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‘Skip to last read’ is a function that I find important for the flow of browsing the forums. I also like to make multiple quotes which doesn’t seem to be possible. The smileys are all looking very similar which is a bit boring as they are supposed to enhance the text. (Kuru said it very eloquently. I agree with him. Grin)

     

Lazy Bee
Temporary guest in your life.

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Total Posts: 1813

Joined 2005-10-23

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Kurufinwe has a lot of good points. I also miss the multiquote option.
Is it an idea to make a “fixed issues” thread where nobody can post but Marek, so he can show what works now?

     
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Total Posts: 2576

Joined 2005-08-12

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Here’s an annoying UI problem that I haven’t completely put my finger on but which needs to be investigated because it’s happened to me now twice in less than a week.

I made a post, and wanted to make a small correction to it. Instead of clicking Edit, I clicked Quote, which created a new post quoting mine; I made my corrections to it (without noticing the quote tags around it), clicked Submit and ended up with my original post and a new one quoting it. The fact that I couldn’t delete the new one is a problem, but that’s not my point. My point is that it’s never happened to me on the old forums, and it’s the second time it’s happened here in just a few days, so there’s definitely a UX problem.

Possible diagnostics (I can’t remember exactly how things were with vBulletin, so I’m kinda shooting in the dark here):

1) With the old forum, the UI for Edit (an edit window replacing the post) and Quote (a new page) were very different, so you immediately knew if you had clicked the wrong button.

2) The buttons were big and had icons, so that your peripheral vision could recognize them instantly. With the new forum, the buttons are identical unless you actually pay attention to the tiny text.

3) I think the order of the buttons is wrong. Quote appears on every post, aligned to the right of the box. So I think the intuitive assumption is that any additional button, such as Edit, would be inserted “at the top of the pile”, i.e. to the left. Inserting Edit to the right is completely counter-intuitive.

I think the problem is a combination of all three, but mostly #3. If it can be done easily, please try reversing the order of the buttons and we’ll see what happens.

(Generally, I think it’s those dozens of little UX problems that make the new forums so hard to embrace, especially since it’s difficult in these cases to put a finger on what it is that feels wrong. It’s clear that the people who made the forum software devoted extremely little time to UX research, and it shows. So far, it has been like switching back from Mac OS X to Windows XP, from a system that helps you do stuff to one that feels like it’s constantly trying to impede your progress.)

     

Total Posts: 68

Joined 2006-06-06

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When posting a regular reply you no longer see the thread you are replying to. This is kind of annoying since I tend to multitask and I can forget just what I am replying to.

     
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Total Posts: 2576

Joined 2005-08-12

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Shany - 24 May 2012 01:21 PM

When posting a regular reply you no longer see the thread you are replying to. This is kind of annoying since I tend to multitask and I can forget just what I am replying to.

There’s a Thread review button carefully hidden at the bottom of the form (under Preview/Submit). Isn’t that what you’re looking for?

     

Total Posts: 68

Joined 2006-06-06

PM

Ah yes, thank you.
By the way, found a new issue - sticky posts remain grayed out even when there’s a new post.

     
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Total Posts: 192

Joined 2006-08-07

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Shany - 24 May 2012 01:34 PM

Ah yes, thank you.
By the way, found a new issue - sticky posts remain grayed out even when there’s a new post.

Funny. For me, they are always highlighted, even when I’ve read all the replies.

     
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Total Posts: 133

Joined 2006-02-14

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On my ipad the stickied threads are grey, here (I’m using the latest version of Chrome) they’re always highlighted.

     

I play story-heavy games, watch animation, anime, B-movies, disaster movies, sci-fi movies and crime shows and try to write about it all on my blog: Snark, pedantry and random geekery

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Total Posts: 946

Joined 2005-06-02

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Shany - 23 May 2012 02:18 PM

I am having issues with the search function.
I think this has been mentioned before: When searching, the results page does not display individual posts, but full threads. I supposedly can tell it to search within them, but I get a page which says that it found nothing.
There is no option to search inside a thread on the thread itself.

I really hope the search function can be improved. For me, one of the most important problems of the new forums. That, and the (ugly) smileys, which are useless if they are automatically added to the end of posts.

PS: And the forum software can’t cope with image thumbnails?

PPS: As mentioned before, the Ignore list doesn’t work the way it should. I can still read all of their posts, although I do get a useless warning for entire threads started by posters on my ignore list.

     

Now playing: ——-
Recently finished: don’t remember
Up next:  Eh…
Looking forward to:
Ithaka of the Clouds; The Last Crown; all the kickstarter adventure games I supported

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Total Posts: 3163

Joined 2005-04-14

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To whoever is responsible:

YES, THE FORUM SOFTWARE CAN’T COPE WITH IMAGE THUMBNAILS!!!!

     

The human race is doomed to progress.
Tony Clifton

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