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    • #19067
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Hi,

      For the last week or so I’ve been making a concerted effort to use TalkPhysics.  These are the main issues that are making the experience a struggle at times…

      1)  Purple menu bar

      I find the main menu bar counter-intuitive in that it has “The Hub” (I’m not clear what this is, but it seems to be a focus on four particular groups, that users are automatically members of?), the “IOP Resource Groups” and “Special Interest Groups”.

      I would find it easier if there was just “My Groups” and “All Groups” and that the latter had headings to split the long list into the Hub’s four groups (at the top, to highlight them), the IoP’s groups, and the special interest groups.  Furthermore, I’d prefer to see the special interest groups listed by categories (or at least alphabetically), perhaps highlighting new ones.  I’d also like to see the closed groups listed, so that people can at least request to join.  “Closed” shouldn’t be the same as “secret”.

      More generally, I’m unclear how the Hub’s four groups will work alongside the main interest groups.  I’ve just joined all the interest groups I’m interested in and would more likely post things in the relevant one of those rather than the Hub’s groups.  My preference would be that all posts to non-Hub groups require that the author ticks one or more of the 11-14, 14-16, 16-18, N&C, and that the post appear as a feed on the Hub — ie that the Hub’s four groups are really pseudo-groups that present tagged posts from elsewhere.

      2) Email notifications.

      For me, TalkPhysics will never be as useful as PTNC unless I am (at least given the option to be) emailed the full message, as it is posted, in full.  I do not want time-limited snipets or digests.  I know that others will, though, so we need to be able to select on a per-user, per-group basis.

      The ability to email groups rather than log in to post would also be a big advantage (although not as important as the notifications).

      3) Log in cookies

      Love them or hate them, cookies are useful when they work for you.  I’d like the option to “remain logged in on this computer” — especially as this would make the emailed links work properly.

      4) Editting posts

      Maybe I’ve missed it, but there doesn’t seem to be a way for the author of a post to edit what they wrote (eg to correct a spelling mistake.  That is a reasonably normal facility for forums and I’d like to see it here.  Like I said, maybe I’ve missed it.

      5) Home page feed

      Not sure what this is supposed to achieve — I don’t currently find it useful for anything and ignore it.  However, at the very least it needs to display which group a post has come from.  “Forum” isn’t useful at all.

       

      I’ve only used the groups so far and haven’t yet investigated the rest of the site.  However, it is really looking very good, isn’t it?  So, my heartfelt well done to all involved!  I am very optimistic and excited by this site.

      All the best,

      Stu

    • #19068
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Hi Stu – you’ve given lots of detailed, constructive feedback – thank you! Let me know have a go at responding.

      > 1)  Purple menu bar – I would find it easier if there was just “My Groups” and “All Groups” and that the latter had

      headings to split the long list into the Hub’s four groups (at the top, to highlight them), the IoP’s groups, and the special

      interest groups.

      I’d be interested in others’ experiences before acting on this. What do other users think?

      >  Furthermore, I’d prefer to see the special interest groups listed by categories (or at least alphabetically), perhaps

      highlighting new ones.

      Currently these are listed in the order that they are created, so new ones are at the top of the first page. It would be

      helpful to be able to list them another way. We are trying to get tagging of groups, resources, topics, etc. working properly

       – hopefully that will do this for you, because you’ll be able to checklist some tags, and all relevant groups should then be

      found.

      >  I’d also like to see the closed groups listed, so that people can at least request to join.  “Closed” shouldn’t be the

      same as “secret”.

      I agree, but they should appear already (as of about two weeks ago) – for instance can you see “Jon Clarke’s Stimulating

      Physics Group”? That is closed, but should appear under all groups, or in any search.

      > More generally, I’m unclear how the Hub’s four groups will work alongside the main interest groups.  I’ve just joined all

      the interest groups I’m interested in and would more likely post things in the relevant one of those rather than the Hub’s

      groups.  My preference would be that all posts to non-Hub groups require that the author ticks one or more of the 11-14,

      14-16, 16-18, N&C, and that the post appear as a feed on the Hub — ie that the Hub’s four groups are really pseudo-groups

      that present tagged posts from elsewhere.

      That is a profound and possibly very powerful idea. We think it is important that there are groups that all automatically

      have joined (the Hub), but your idea allows for an equivalent idea, given that all open group discussions can be accessed by

      all. We are modifying the Dashboard (the bit when you log in that shows recent posts) so that one tab shows activity in all

      open groups.

      I think we need to see how The Hub works in practice, when use of the site picks up. Maybe review this in a couple of months?

      > 2) Email notifications. For me, TalkPhysics will never be as useful as PTNC unless I am (at least given the option to be)

      emailed the full message, as it is posted, in full.  I do not want time-limited snipets or digests.  I know that others will,

      though, so we need to be able to select on a per-user, per-group basis.

      I’ll check how many characters we’ve limited this too, currently. Maybe we can at least ensure it is a usefully large limit,

      then see how many others would like a similar facility?

      The ability to email groups rather than log in to post would also be a big advantage (although not as important as the

      notifications).

      > 3) Log in cookies – Love them or hate them, cookies are useful when they work for you.  I’d like the option to “remain

      logged in on this computer” — especially as this would make the emailed links work properly.

      I have a “remember me” tickbox at log-in. Does this do what you want?

      > 4) Editting posts – Maybe I’ve missed it, but there doesn’t seem to be a way for the author of a post to edit what they

      wrote (eg to correct a spelling mistake.  That is a reasonably normal facility for forums and I’d like to see it here.  Like

      I said, maybe I’ve missed it.

      No, there is currently no facility. We took the editorial decision that people need to view their posts as being like emails

      – once you hit send they have left your hands. This was to ensure that people can’t (deliberately or accidentally) disrupt a

      discussion by deleting an early, crucial post. We’d like to add a facility that allows a user to revise their comment, whilst

      the system retains the original for reverting if necessary, but that’s going to be a lot of development time.

      What do other users think about that balance? We can simply allow editing again, but we risk losing important content.

      > 5) Home page feed – Not sure what this is supposed to achieve — I don’t currently find it useful for anything and ignore it.  However, at the very least it needs to display which group a post has come from.  “Forum” isn’t useful at all.

      We are about to start “seeding” discussions in the Hub, so you should begin to see activity there. We will also add another tab which shows activity in all open groups. Yes, I think we should change this so that it reports the group *and* topic from which a post comes.
       

      > I’ve only used the groups so far and haven’t yet investigated the rest of the site.  However, it is really looking very good,

      isn’t it?  So, my heartfelt well done to all involved!  I am very optimistic and excited by this site.

      Thank you – interested users will be what determines whether this site thrives.

      Jon

    • #19069
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Oops, missed this:

      > The ability to email groups rather than log in to post would also be a big advantage (although not as important as the notifications).

      This appears to be impossible – we couldn’t find a single piece of software that allows it, as this was the team’s first thought for moving on from LISTSERV email distribution lists such as PTNC. There is a fundamental incompatibility between “send one message to many people” and how social networking sites operate. I find that intriguing, given that people can email to blogs, but there we have it.

      Maybe you could let us know if you find an equivalent site / software / etc. which provides this? Maybe something will develop? Jon

    • #19070
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      I agree with a great deal of what Stuart has said.

      The purple menu bar particularly needs to be more intuitive, and I think Stuart’s suggestions are an excellent way forward.

    • #19071
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Hi Jon

      I’ve only just started posting on my group’s forum and am currently trying to get the hang of the formatting. I can understand that you don’t want people deleting earlier posts, but how about a preview button so that we can see how it looks before it goes live?

      Cheers

      Manchi

    • #19072
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Hi – and another user, Trevor Plant, would have liked to edit his posts. Jon

    • #19073
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      The difficulty with this is that other users may well be relying on what is said as a context…so you’d kind of need to limit it to comments with no children – or else treat it like email – once its said, its said…typos and all

       

      Many BBS style sites (eg CIF) don’t allow after posting editing…

    • #19074
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Sorry, had meant to link my comment from Trevor to the idea of a preview button – would people find that sufficiently helpful? At least with email you can review your message before sending it to the world. Jon

    • #19075
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Maybe. Not as high a priority as some other things. What would it add to what I can see writing this now?

    • #19076
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Previewing would allow you to check things, such as formatting of tables, which don’t always come out as you expect, and encourages a pause for thought before publishing. Other possibilities would include allowing editing and deleting if no-one has replied.

    • #19077
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      We’re going to change the names of the menus, and the names of some of the items to try to make these more intuituve. This is likely to “go live” in mid-July.

    • #19078
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      For me, the bonus of having a ‘preview’ option would not be to check formatting etc, but rather to be able to hold a thought and mull over a posting for a while. This was a really handy feature of the Blackboard VLE on a distance learning course I took part in a while back.

       

      If you look at some of the emails on PTNC, they are so detailed and well thought through that I find it unlikely that they have been produced in a single sitting. I know most of mine have been stored as drafts at one stage or another.

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