1) I like that it is a community that is transparent enough for me to see who’s in it. I like the profile pages and the photos and the names and the information. To make it useable — I’d like the fields to be better defined (more detail) and searchable, so that I can filter the 1000s of members down to the dozens who I might like to be in contact with over a certain issue. I’d like the data to be useable for research purposes, also — such as members indicating details of their school — number of physics teachers, for example, courses taught, average number of students on courses. I’d like to get to the point that you’re not a physics teacher unless you’re a community member of TalkPhysics! (Okay, perhaps that’s a bit far-fetched.)
2) I like that I can post messages for others to read. I like that I can tag them, both with existing well-used tags (“14-16”) and with my own. I like that I can embed files, links and media. I like that I can use rich text formatting. To make it more useble — filtering messages by tags needs to be radically improved (this is different to “searching”). Other people need to be able to tag my posts. Tags might need to be curated? Messages also need some level of edittability to them and probably the ability to be deleted. Message threads could probably do with being nestable, too, if only to one level. And this box I’m typing in right now — I don’t trust it not to lose my post. I still CTRL-C the entire text before hitting “Post” as I’ve lost too many posts that way to make this a comfortable way to discuss things. It’s too small, too. I know there’s a “full screen” button, but I’m scared it’ll do something bad to my post (like lose it) and, anyway, I won’t be able to see the rest of the thread to refer to something if I go full screen.
3) I like the groups — that I can make or join a discussion group dedicated to one thing and that that group becomes a defacto depository for wisdom and resources on that one thing, or a record of a discussion that can be referred back to. To improve — the groups need organisation, either manually by admin or by the group owner placing it into predefined categories. It needs to be easier to find groups and to browse them.
In contrast, here are the things I would happily lose/radically redesign as I think that they obstruct use of TalkPhysics:
1) The hub, with its 4 filters (11-14, 14-16, 16-18, N&C). I’ve been dipping in and out of TalkPhysics for over a year (more?) and I still just don’t get it. It is one my 3 top reasons for not using TalkPhysics more. Similarly, the way discussions are listed on the Home page — both graphically (too much space devoted to things that aren’t messages, so that the messages are overly squashed/truncated/reduced in number) and logistically (groups I’m in, groups I’m not in, groups I made…what?! I just get lost.) Also, the details of the posts in the lists — who, when, where, how many, etc. It’s just not easy to use.
2) The login. Argh! I don’t know why: my PC at home never, ever, ever asks me to log in to GMail, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook…but TalkPhysics…Argh! Drives me absolutely nuts. Even with the “don’t log me out” box ticked. And why is my browser not permitted to store the login information, so that even if I am logged out it’s just a quick click to log back in again? eBay allows it, so why not TalkPhysics? Anyway, is there a necessity to log in just to read posts (close groups excepted)?
3) The compatibility with email. PTNC is sooooooooo easy compared to TalkPhysics. And still, after all this time, that ease of use outweighs every positive that TalkPhysics has over PTNC. TalkPhysics doesn’t need to be email-based, but it needs to be as easy as that if it isn’t email-based. Potentially — integration with other social media (Facebook, Google+, Diaspora, Twitter, …)
I’d lose everything else not explicitly mentioned. The Tools (every last one of them). The Inbox (in its entirety). The IOP Resource Groups (they’re groups, just like all the rest of the groups. It annoys me that they have their own slot on the menu.) The Bookmarks — huh?!
Focus on doing some things really well, rather than a lot of things merely okay. That would be my advice.