Re: For Problems Or Broken Things With The Recent BuddyPress.Org Redesign
Yeah, I’m very much in agreement with Modemlooper on the sitewide Activity stream, here and in general. Focussing on it as a hub of activity is the wrong paradigm, because it moves too fast for anything but the smallest communities. One excellent solution is rich’s plugin that brings activity stream replies to forum posts inline to the post itself — I use that on the site I’m building now, to try and keep conversation from being fractured.
Different users use sites in different ways, of course, and the Activity stream is certainly one user story that shouldn’t be ignored. But, as I’ve said so many times before over the past almost-a-year, forums, in one sense or another, have a sense of permanency for users, a ‘virtual place’ they can return to, and I believe should be the anchor of a site like this and many others, where the ongoing stream of activity and making-friends for superfans and power users is less important than information being discoverable and discussion interactions being aggregated rather than just fading away. I am growing more disenchanted with the apparent lack of attention being paid to what I believe for many is essential for a successful community site — a featureful forum setup that is the steady beating heart of the swirl of activity.
Yes, I know the bbPress option is suboptimal as a solution, but it’s what we have to work with, and it can’t be ignored or passed off to bbpress.org, because we’re not running bbPress, we’re running an interface free, bbPress-plugin-incompatible fork of it, in essence if not reality, and I really do believe that more attention needs to be paid to the limitations of it as a component of BP and ways to make it work for community-building and user satisfaction.
Anyway, back to Activity. On true social network sites (whatever that means, exactly), it makes some sense that things are ephemeral, that interactions disappear beneath the fold, because, hey, it’s all about interacting with people, socially.
But the focus of this site (and most sites I might consider building with BP) is not just making friends and having a grand old social time. It’s sharing information, asking questions, discussing solutions, offering and asking for assistance, and it’s important that the interface those interactions be structured discoverable for people who are going to have the same questions in future as BP adoption grows, and the toolset for creating them be rich, both from the administration and user-facing perspectives.
How many times do we see the same questions being asked, basic or otherwise? To answer my own question, a lot. That’s just human nature in part, certainly, but it’s also, I think, because the tools we have for using these forums are vestigial, and people just don’t have the information they need at their fingertips. User confusion and frustration will kill a community faster than goatse images. We’re all so used to using this app that I think we lose sight of just how daunting it is for new users. The site I’m building for an existing community on a different platform has taught me that, very quickly.
Not a comprehensive list, but just stuff that comes immediately to mind: things like the lack of a link in the overall forums directory view to the last post in a thread, thread pagination links, or the username of the thread starter, like the inability suddenly to post code, like the lack of pagination to get to older threads in the forums directory (which leads to a ‘uh, now where do I go to see older threads’ reaction, in me, at least, a question to which I still don’t know an answer that doesn’t involve an awful lot of clicks and blind alleys), like the fact that a and a:visited elements are styled the same, like the eyestrainy new design, like conversation being fractured between activity stream and forum posts, like the loss of the ability to favorite threads to bookmark them for later and a place to easily survey and keep up with the threads we’ve started or commented in, well, it’s death by a thousand cuts at the moment.
Don’t take this as just moaning, though. I don’t mean to insult anyone, and I know how much my feelings are hurt when my own users level harsh criticism of my design decisions. I love BP, I think @apeatling and everyone else involved in building and supporting BP, ‘officially’ or not, are doing a great job, and I see nothing but further successes. But I think BP itself, as it stands, without thinking a little bit (OK, a lot) more about how actual users use it, is a poor match for this site, so far. It wasn’t that great in the old design, but it’s orders of magnitudes more confusing and difficult to use now, even for someone like me who’s been nipples-deep in BP for many months.
OK, I’ve typed enough. I’m going back to work on my Stylish Firefox extension stylesheet for this site so that the low-contrast doesn’t give me headaches any more.