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Major update to dpreview forums coming soon: tell us what you think

By dpreview staff on Sep 27, 2012 at 23:04 GMT

In an ongoing effort to improve the performance and user experience on dpreview, we've rewritten and redesigned the forums, and will be launching the new version in a few days. From a look-and-feel standpoint, we made an effort to stay faithful to the core of the old design (no point throwing out the bits that work well) and from a functional standpoint, we focused on adding, rather than removing features.

The new forums look a bit different (nicer, we think) and are built on totally different code, so there will inevitably be a few things you'll have to get used to. Below you'll find some images of the new design and descriptions of what's new, and what's been changed. We encourage you to provide feedback, positive or critical, as we make the finishing touches. We're nearly ready, but if there's anything we've missed, we want to know before this goes live. 

As we set out on what ended up being the major task of redesigning our forums, we had two main goals. As well as adding some long-overdue features that bring our forums into the 21st Century, we also focused on addressing the most common comments and criticisms that we get in user feedback.

For example, there is a lot of great information and advice shared in the forums every day, but it is often difficult to find. To solve this, we implemented a number of new navigation and design aspects that will both help users find what they were looking for, and hopefully, discover a few things along the way.

Here's a quick outline of the new forums - please let us know what you think.


Top-level forum pages:

The new forum index pictured above shows off the new color schemes and increased spacing that pervades the rest of the forums design.

Posting and viewing pages:

The posting and viewing pages have also been substantially reworked:

The posting panel is now a full WYSIWYG interface, with buttons on the right for directly linking to an image on the internet, for uploading from your computer or for pulling an image from your dpreview gallery.

The main viewing screen has a number of changes. Dots next to each post appear white for unread posts and turn grey once read. At the forum level, partially-read threads will be represented by half-white dots. Note also the ability to preview a post by hovering over the post.

The record of which posts you've read will now be stored on our servers, not in your browser, so the read status of threads will be correct whatever device you log-in on.

Questions and Answers

For years we've been discussing ways in which we could make it easier for users can find the information they are looking for on dpreview in general, and the forums specifically. We've made some progress on our product search and comparison tools, but we recognize that forum threads often contain extremely useful information on a wide range of topics, and it isn't exposed very well. To this end, we've introduced a new thread type, 'Questions', which enables you to specifically mark a post as a question.

Once you're happy that the question has been answered, you can mark the best, most useful response as a 'top answer' for all to see. We plan to begin displaying the top questions throughout the site on product pages and widgets to help existing users and newcomers find the most interesting and useful posts.

The original poster can identify which response best answers their question. Once marked as answered, subsequent visitors can jump straight to the selected answer.
The selected answer post is clearly marked, but can be de-selected if a better answer is given later. Answered and unanswered threads are easily visible and can be used as filters, so you can find questions still in need of an answer.

User and post ranking

It has been a long time coming, but, we've added user rankings into user profiles. In this initial version a user's ranking is defined simply by the number of posts they've made and the date they signed up. However, in the near future we will be incorporating a considerably more complex logic which uses forum and site activity to influence ranking.

Additionally, we've incorporated ratings into the forums, so as you browse through threads you can up- and down-vote posts. This will later be tied-in to user rankings and will also allow us to add a feature to rank posts by popularity - making it easier to get to the most interesting threads.
Individual posts can be up- or down-voted. Note also the white dots for unread posts and
Each post has voting tabs. Votes on the original post appear at forum level.

We realize that many users are so used to the existing design, for better or for worse, that we wanted to provide some options that will help put the choice in your hands as to how the forums work for you.

There's an option for a collapsed view, which more closely resembles the current forum view. And, at the bottom of the page, an option to view in the legacy custard colorscheme.

Full list of changes

New features:

  • WYSIWYG text editor (no more markup)
  • New 'Question and Answer' threads
  • New 'breadcrumb trails' and quick-jump navigation at the top of each page
  • New (larger) buttons for creating threads 
  • New search bar, removing an extra click
  • Voting on threads and individual posts
  • The ability to preview a post by hovering over it with your mouse
  • User rankings
  • Community mods – better moderation, based on feedback
  • Image viewer mode / lightbox for going through image (or text) heavy posts
  • More filter options and an easier-to-use feedback form for 'For Sale' threads
  • Direct upload of images into forum posts
  • Dialogs to insert image from web, from file, and from gallery
  • Read status of threads persistent across devices

 General style changes:

  • Fonts and rows are larger throughout the forums
  • Search is more prominent throughout forums
  • Compact view mode which condenses more posts vertically
  • A legacy color mode enabling users to view in yellow rather than blue
  • Improved icons throughout the forums
  • More keyboard shortcuts
  • More filter options
  • Post contents will be hidden if down-voted enough
  • User can one-click subscribe to thread updates
  • Ability to hide posts' 'subject' in threaded view (avoiding repetitive “Re: Subject” titles if subject is unchanged)
  • More prominent actions (Reply, Quote, etc.)
  • Easier to use controls for managing your 'For Sale' thread
  • EXIF (if available) from all sources of attached images

The key thing to realise though, is that, while these initial changes may not seem huge, they represent only the visible aspect of the months of hard work that has gone into totally re-coding the forums. There is a lot of data in the forums and we prioritized speed and consistency in how we approached this upgrade.

The old forums were originally written in 1999 and have done an admirable job in helping to build and foster the dpreview community into what it is today. But the software industry has come a long way since then, and adding new features onto a software platform that is no longer supported, as well as maintaining it was not an option if we wanted to provide new and exciting features to the community.

Now that the new forums are using a software platform with modern conveniences, we can react quickly to feedback provided by the community and easily add new features. (Different 'skins' for instance)

Comments

Total comments: 698
4567
caterpillar
By caterpillar (Sep 27, 2012)

Sounds good! We'll just have to wait to see how it actually works before more comments and suggestions come in!

I have a question though, how will this revamped pages work out with android OS or tablets/smartphones accessing it? Do you have a separate/alternate template for that or it will work just the same?

On another subject, I bet those stats on complaints column is going to be a subject by itself! A positive or thumbs up column would also be helpful.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Adrian Godong
By Adrian Godong (Sep 28, 2012)

For tablets, we will keep using the current layout. For smartphones, we will have a different, lower-resolution optimized layout that is coming in the future. It will not be on this iteration, but it is not far out.

0 upvotes
seri_art
By seri_art (Sep 28, 2012)

I second (or one-hundredth) the Skip the 'Voting on threads and individual posts'. If would very much degrade the forums and quite possibly push me right out the door.

0 upvotes
Model Mike
By Model Mike (Sep 27, 2012)

Guys, you have a nice lightweight cruiser - please don't turn it into an overweight battleship.

For example, the idea of pre-classifying posts into Q and A - it's one of those ideas which sounds good, but is too open to misuse, willful or otherwise. A more intelligent search function could do the job of finding answers just as well or better without complicating the posting process.

As for the idea of the questioner 'rating' the answers - the questioner is not necessarily the right person to 'rate' an answer as he/she is by definition not an expert. And it fits badly next to the crowd-sourced ratings.

Kudos to DPR for striving to keep the forum system fresh. Some of the ideas are pretty good, but please remember KISS - keep it simple.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (Sep 28, 2012)

Take for example a question, asked by a photographer new to DSLRS, with two answers:

  • the first answer is simple in explanation, to the point, and is easily understood by the questioner
  • the second answer is more technically accurate and goes into much greater detail, but is aimed at too high a level for the questioner

Both answers are correct, but the questioner may select the first because it answered their question, while the community upvotes the second more.

We hope that having both systems will allow all good answers to be surfaced to the top. As always, we will monitor the questions asked and adjust how it works if required.

2 upvotes
Scott Everett
By Scott Everett (Sep 28, 2012)

Good feedback Mike. We may experiment with having a "Community Answer" viewable after 24-48 hours of replies. Letting the most up-voted answer rise to the top alongside ay answer the OP might have selected. And if they are the same, then a single answer will just have both tags.

0 upvotes
Tom Caldwell
By Tom Caldwell (Sep 28, 2012)

Of course those abusing the site could have some of their privileges to screw things up switched off?

3 upvotes
micksh6
By micksh6 (Sep 28, 2012)

"A more intelligent search function could do the job of finding answers just as well or better without complicating the posting process"

I agree. It also would be nice to have a feature from phpBB forums - once you type a title for a new thread, a script automatically searches for previous threads on similar topics.
There are many repeating threads with questions about the same things that have been answered before. And people don't search before posting.

Comment edited 42 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
LouMeluso
By LouMeluso (Sep 28, 2012)

"The biggest problem with DPReview forums is the lack of active and swift moderation."

Ditto. The troll factor here is very high and I've avoided these fora because of it. I hope the new moderation makes good headway. If so I'll participate more.

2 upvotes
fyngyrz
By fyngyrz (Sep 27, 2012)

Thanks for leaving the option for a less-spacious, more efficient listing of forum threads. The more threads visible in the list, the happier I am: most threads are not of interest, so the denser the list, the more likely I am to find something to read.

1 upvote
Absolutic
By Absolutic (Sep 27, 2012)

also is it still going to be that you can only edit your post only once and also only during the first 10 or 15 minutes, or you finally will let people edit their posts at any point?

1 upvote
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (Sep 27, 2012)

This makes people think a bit harder about what they're going to type though. At least it should. It's too easy to shoot from the hip and then edit later. If an error is made you can always make another post and own it.

1 upvote
fyngyrz
By fyngyrz (Sep 27, 2012)

Unfortunately, as we know, it /doesn't/ make people think harder about what to post. It just means typos and slips stand forever, which isn't a good thing.

AFAIC, if it's your post, you should be able to edit it. OTOH, if you want to make sure that others know exactly what you were referring to, then quote the post effectively. Ideally, you could view the edit history if you felt you needed to.

See? It's all about the ability to use the forums. Some have it; some don't. Assuming they do leads to an incorrect assumption that (some method) is sufficient.

3 upvotes
caterpillar
By caterpillar (Sep 27, 2012)

I thought about that same thing in the past, however, in an argument/debate, the OP or anyone can't just back out of a position if he can't continuously change his older posts to remove/edit the offending logic error or idea. By locking the post after a time, it makes sure that you can't weasel out of what you wrote before.

I wouldn't mind the spelling errors. It's the factual reference that is frozen in time and must be preserved that is more important. We can always ask the site to put a spelling checker there (auto or on demand) if spelling is just your beef. Even that, won't be perfect though, but still not the main thing why you should not be able to re-edit your post after a certain time or no of times.

The most that can be done reasonably is give you 3 chances to re-edit say, within 10-15 min which is just reasonable I think.

1 upvote
Adrian Godong
By Adrian Godong (Sep 28, 2012)

The rule is not changed.

1 upvote
Tom Caldwell
By Tom Caldwell (Sep 28, 2012)

Yes you need to edit your post enough to credit all typos (one edit is often not good enough) also to correct your own) wordings that don't make sense, repetitive construction, or have construed meanings that were not intended. This can end up with some biffo that surely should be avoided.
Yes and a US-English spelling checker can send the rest of the world stir-crazy.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Robert Hoy
By Robert Hoy (Sep 28, 2012)

Tom, just read your post before you post it, it's prett simple to do!

0 upvotes
GodSpeaks
By GodSpeaks (Sep 28, 2012)

The time limit is fine, but maybe could be extended to 30 or even 60 minutes.
But a single edit is not fine. Even though I read what I wrote prior to posting, I still often manage to miss something (usually spelling). And even after editing I have on occasion spotted an additional error.
So it would be nice if one could do multiple edits within the alotted time.
Plus, a spell checker would be nice. :-)

2 upvotes
Absolutic
By Absolutic (Sep 27, 2012)

Guys how about a iphone app finally, with everything properly formatted?

0 upvotes
Adrian Godong
By Adrian Godong (Sep 27, 2012)

If the current layout is not properly formatted in an iPhone, let us know which page and what iPhone you are using via the feedback and we'll make it right.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Nic Walmsley
By Nic Walmsley (Sep 28, 2012)

am I right in thinking you need flash to upload photos. that's pretty limiting for these days

0 upvotes
Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (Sep 28, 2012)

you do not need flash to upload images to the new system

0 upvotes
zkz5
By zkz5 (Sep 27, 2012)

I think it would be a lot nicer if the thread tree in the "main viewing screen" were displayed on the left hand side of the current post instead of below it, at least as an option. The tree could possibly be in a frame with the tree automatically centered on the currently shown post.

Having to scroll so far in large threads with long posts is a huge pain in the current layout. The above would mean you can navigate around to adjacent posts without scrolling at all.

Or you could just show a small portion of the thread tree of posts "near" the currently shown post with the entire tree below it as it currently is if that would be easier.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
migus
By migus (Sep 28, 2012)

Besides mobiles/tablets, many of the dpreview community do use high res screens, 4Mp or more. The current format doesn't exploit the properties of such screens.

0 upvotes
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (Sep 27, 2012)

Brilliant! I especially like the "hover over message" and image linking features. It might seem like censorship, but I think that any message that receives 10+ thumbs down should be automatically deleted.

0 upvotes
fyngyrz
By fyngyrz (Sep 27, 2012)

It seems like censorship because it *is* censorship.

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

So I say the thumbs down is sufficient. You see a 10, don't read. This way, for you, it's effectively deleted. For me, I can still read it.

0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (Sep 27, 2012)

"I think that any message that receives 10+ thumbs down should be automatically deleted."

People with multiple accounts would have a field day shutting down any opposing views and removing posts.

2 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (Sep 28, 2012)

Agree with the others. Deletion is the moderators' purview only. And it was mentioned that the long-awaited community moderation is going to be supported now.

By the way, I *love* that definition of democracy, fyngyrz!

2 upvotes
GodSpeaks
By GodSpeaks (Sep 28, 2012)

Personally I do not think we should have thumbs up OR thumbs down. Such rating systems will be very badly abused by the trolls and fanboys.
And it *IS* censorship.
Personally I absolutely hate the mouse over popups, so I say no to that *feature* too.

1 upvote
migus
By migus (Sep 28, 2012)

"People with multiple accounts would have a field day shutting down any opposing views and removing posts."

Though not trivial, IBM's Watson, Google, Amazon, MS and FB can actually detect patterns leading to multiple accounts. Alter egos are not dishonest per se, yet they seem to correlate w/ forae abuse. Mitch

0 upvotes
ck3
By ck3 (Sep 27, 2012)

Wish you'd have included something to visualize which post replies to which post. Right now - and as it seems in the future as well - the only indicator is the horizontal position of the posts relative to each other. This gets quite difficult to work with though as soon as there's a lot of posts in between the 1st post and the post that replies to that post.
Using a lines to connect these posts (like branches on a tree) would make navigation easier.

And I really hope your community moderators use their powers with utmost care. Many will disagree, but the appeal of theses forums for me was that (for the most part) the moderation was - well - very moderate. A "forum police" deciding narrowly what can and cannot be posted in a certain forum would be something I'd rather not see.

EDIT: And if you introduce ranking of posts, please consider including the option to see who voted on each post, ranking posts shouldn't be anonymous.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (Sep 27, 2012)

Unfortunately there are a few out there who often spoil it for the many. For a site like this, I favor narrow moderation. Plenty of other places to go and bully or intimidate on the iWeb.

0 upvotes
Kim Letkeman
By Kim Letkeman (Sep 28, 2012)

Narrow moderation will work fine, assuming that the moderator supervisors (the current moderators) watch the patterns of the community moderators and send the biased ones packing quickly.

I do like the idea of reducing the shield of anonymity somehow. Way too much freedom to be an a$$ with total anonymity (he said ironically.)

1 upvote
Tom Caldwell
By Tom Caldwell (Sep 28, 2012)

Rather a good idea - that anonymous stirrers have their veil of anonyminity lifted. All to well to trash a reasonable debate and sit back and watch the fun from a hidey-hole.

0 upvotes
migus
By migus (Sep 28, 2012)

Moderation can increase the quality, and yet Internet has grown precisely because of the lack thereof, it's more of a Bazaar model. Moderators are humans too; they will need moderation themselves, and so on recursively.

"Post contents will be hidden if down-voted enough": What's the algorithm in setting the thresholds? Can it lead to cyber-mobbing? Is the offending content retrievably hidden, or just removed?

Thus I suggest care and light feets, not anarchy :-)

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Sep 27, 2012)

Hope the "update" avoids the addition of any further java script.

0 upvotes
Teila Day
By Teila Day (Sep 27, 2012)

Excellent! I praise all the hard work that has gone into such a great site. Good work guys/gals.

I hope they will start deleting "opinions" from the user review section.
When I click on a camera to see what actual owners have to say, I don't want to hear opinions from people who've never laid eyes (let alone hands) on the camera.

1 upvote
zoranT
By zoranT (Sep 27, 2012)

Silver Award

8 upvotes
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (Sep 27, 2012)

LOL. The preview gets an award.

0 upvotes
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (Sep 27, 2012)

Highly Recommended (Just)

1 upvote
asdf photographer
By asdf photographer (Sep 27, 2012)

I love it and It's about time. The 'old' forums were cumbersome to look through. Now adding pictures will be easy. Keep up the good work!

0 upvotes
JohnyP
By JohnyP (Sep 27, 2012)

Outstanding ! WYSIWYG, answer ranking and other changes are exciting!

I'm usually the first to be a skeptic when anything is changed, but this was long overdue.

1 upvote
EgidioTX
By EgidioTX (Sep 27, 2012)

Nice features you're implementing! I'm a new forum user (about a month or so) and am still learning some of the present features. One thing I still have not been able to find is how to mark posting as read. That would a great improvement if the new format allows users to easily mark posting read even without reading every single post.

0 upvotes
joejack951
By joejack951 (Sep 28, 2012)

From the above text: "At the forum level, partially-read threads will be represented by half-white dots."

0 upvotes
EgidioTX
By EgidioTX (Sep 28, 2012)

I read that. It seems to indicate that unless you read all, the threads will still show as unread. I am not interested in every thread and would welcome the option to mark them as "read" completely.

0 upvotes
Denis of Whidbey Island
By Denis of Whidbey Island (Sep 27, 2012)

These seem to be real improvements resulting from thoughtful evaluation of how to bring the forums up to the latest standards. Particularly welcome are features that support ranking the usefulness of posts and value of user contributions to discussion.

0 upvotes
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (Sep 27, 2012)

This is great and all, but all I ask of DPR is to be available online 24/7 without frequent system crashes and down servers. Unfortunately, these have been too common of an occurrence for a seemingly professional website.

1 upvote
joejack951
By joejack951 (Sep 28, 2012)

I find any interruption in service to be both short and infrequent. Every forum I've ever been a apart of has had a similar amount of down time. Shockingly, I've managed to live on despite these outages :)

1 upvote
richarddd
By richarddd (Sep 27, 2012)

I'd prefer posts being listed in chronological order, as is done on just about every other forum, rather than the threaded view currently used.

I'd like a "new" button that actually takes you to the first unread post

3 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (Sep 27, 2012)

Flat view (as opposed to threaded view) displays posts in chronological order.

In the current and new forums, you can click "Next new" in the thread navigation (or use the keyboard shortcut) and that will take you to the first unread post in the thread.

2 upvotes
mgrum
By mgrum (Sep 27, 2012)

Why can't we have The full text of every post on one page, but still indented to show who's replying to who like on reddit: www.reddit.com

4 upvotes
richarddd
By richarddd (Sep 28, 2012)

Mrgrum's proposal answer's my main issue. The current flat view isn't very good, because you can't tell what people are responding to.

The "new" link on the forum list of threads doesn't work. "next >" only appears in threaded view

3 upvotes
migus
By migus (Sep 28, 2012)

"show who's replying to who[m]": this is an important feature. In active threads w/ multiple sub-threads (humans diverge on tangents!) it's confusing to tell who's replying to what/whom in which time order.

1 upvote
D200_4me
By D200_4me (Sep 27, 2012)

Looks great. Now....is there a feature to filter out the whiners on the forums? The ones never happy with any camera and who have nothing but endless complaints about every single review? :-)

0 upvotes
dennismullen
By dennismullen (Sep 27, 2012)

Sounds like whining to me. :)

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Robert Hoy
By Robert Hoy (Sep 28, 2012)

There's been an ignore list for a while now.

1 upvote
nail33
By nail33 (Sep 28, 2012)

Dpreview is great website as far as content is concerned, but it has one of the worst color schemes that I have ever seen. The black background is horrid, depressing, and hard to read. If you want to see a great color scheme and layout then look at this site:
http://photo.net/
Do you ever wonder why most business documents are on white paper with black text? Does easy to read ring a bell? It's been done this way for centuries for a reason. Otherwise, keep up the good work Dpreview.

0 upvotes
Intros64
By Intros64 (Sep 30, 2012)

I didn't read all the above opinions so maybe it’s already proposed, but a real time graphic result of polls (like in other forums) would be nice to give us an overall opinion.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 698
4567