Do you like the current interface?
Dear Chowhound Team (and kind fellow members of the Chowhound community),
This post is a follow-up to my post of a few days ago where I attempted to build a case for a return to the older style Chowhound interface. The title of that post is "Technical interface considerations (long)", and it can be found at the following URL:
Although my previous post was authored with the Chowhound Team primarily in mind, I would like to now open the discussion to any of my fellow chowhounds who would like to join in. I believe this to be an issue of utmost importance which needs to be fully explored NOW; while there still may be time to change it.
If this item is still on the table, then I would like to offer another installation of what I hope is being received as clear thinking on the subject. Otherwise, kindly inform me that this issue has been closed and I will post no further concerning it.
First, let's take a look at the current state of the Chowhound interface.
The new interface is hierarchial, yes. But not in a relevant way as it was in the old interface. The benefit of a hierarchial layout is that it provides the user a means to "follow" the various conversations that are taking place within any given thread. This benefit is gained through allowing the user to click their way through the thread at their own speed -- one post at a time -- until all information in that thread has been digested to the user's satisfaction.
This benefit is totally lost in the new interface where all the posts in a given thread are opened and ready to be read at once -- from top to bottom. In doing this, the hierarchial tree -- present as it may be -- is rendered unusable. When shown a list of items (or posts) on a page, human nature is to read them one after the other, in sequential order until finished. The hierarchial tree is not a "normal" example of sequential order; top to bottom is! So, when presented with a list of posts (even though a hierarchial structure is present *in* that list), our nature is to read that list from top to bottom. In doing this, we lose the context of each post in the list. And the benefit of the hierarchial system is not gained. Yes, one could go back after reading the list and make the effort to "re-assemble" the various conversations and responses *in* that thread -- by using the (included) hierarchial interface. But why would they? The list of information (posts) has already been skimmed for relevant substance. And all relevant content has been digested, from the user's standpoint. Most will simply click onto the next thread and continue skimming.
But will they have received all the value that was contained in that thread?
No, they will have not. Because inherent in the drone-like "skimming" process (as the user is encouraged to do in the case of an expanded thread view -- as is present in the new interface), is the temptation to ignore the relationships between and identities contained within each post in a given thread. The skimming process does not need to know the origin of a post or the history behind it; only the post is relevant to the skimmer.
And that is what this new interface is destined to turn us into; skimmers. And the value of the Chowhound resource will diminish. And the quality of the user base will wane.
Because we will cease to be a community. Our identities will be lost amid a sea of posts; posts that we compose but are no longer given credit for.
The old interface made us gleaners; searchers; treasure-hunters -- Chowhounds! We could see the whole set of conversations in front of us; unexpanded and waiting to be clicked on and discovered. We could see who was responsible for each individual post *before* we began to digest it. In this way, the vital link between subject and author remained intact; and we were a community!
I could go on, but I am curious what others' feelings are on the subject.
Fellow chowhounds? Chowhound Team?
Personally, I very much DISLIKE the new look, the new interface, just about everything about the site now. David hit on most of the reasons in his post, but I will add that there is an entirely different look and feel to the site now that is cold, impersonal, false, corporate... call it what you will, but it isn't as welcoming and friendly-looking as it was before. That sense leads me to come here less often and be less likely to post on the boards, which is the only reason I ever visited.
It is bad enough for me, watching the number of posts fall off the charts, to wonder if this will result in the end of Chowhound as we knew it. It would be ironic that the thing that purportedly came along to save Chowhound... ends up destroying it.
re: Greg B
I agree with you. I loved the ghetto-ness of the previous hound... without all the colors and what not. More focused on the food rather than the shiny pretty graphics. Just pure talk. The new interface does seem a lot more corporate and impersonal.
However, I'm wondering if we will like this more once we get used to it??
It didn't partiuclarly bother me -- in some ways, it added to the character of the site, sort of like the anachronistic architecture of a great restaurant in a quirky old building. This new place feels like a McDonald's. To be honest, gee-whiz features like some of the things I see here (like the changing colors of the box your text appears in when you make a post -- why bother coding something like that?) annoys me far more. Especially when other things fail to work and I think of how those development resources could have been put to better use. For example, the links in the Big Red Box at the bottom of the screen will lock up my browser with great regularity. I'm surprised something like that wasn't found in testing.
re: Greg B
Greg B - perhaps you are simply very used to the old format, and need to give this one a chance? Some points from a Chowhound "n00b"-
1) Are the number of posts really decreasing? I signed up today, despite being a Chowhound lurker for years now, because of the new interface.
2) Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this simply a problem of "threaded view" (the old chowhound) and "flat mode" (the current chowhound).
I post on another message board where the *overwhelming consensus* is that flat mode is far superior to threaded mode. Who likes to click on links all the time? And how difficult is it to scan through a full thread by scrolling?
To the Chowhound engineers - why not simply put, as many other message boards do, user options to viewe in threaded or flat mode?
3) Searching - is maybe 1 billion times easier now, thank you for that.
I agree with you, Al!
First, the search *is* awesome now. And I join you in thanking the Chowhound Team for fixing that.
Second, you're right; this is simply a problem of "threaded view" (the old chowhound) and "flat mode" (the current chowhound).
Finally, I echo your suggestion to the Chowhound engineers that (they) consider "...simply put (ting), as many other message boards do, user options to view in threaded or flat mode".
That would work for everyone!
P.S. I actually do have a comment on your fourth point:
"I post on another message board where the *overwhelming consensus* is that flat mode is far superior to threaded mode. Who likes to click on links all the time? And how difficult is it to scan through a full thread by scrolling?"
Not all message boards are special in the same way that Chowhound is. Chowhound generates so much passion from its users because of the unique community that it has been successful in building. It is not unusual for a chowhound to be on the "fringe" of popular culture; leading the way!
I say all that to say this: In other message boards, people do not speak "to" each other as they generally have done in Chowhound; they speak "at" each other. And many times, they do not even care if they are heard.
re: David Ford
That's not true of one foodie site I hang out on, which will go unnamed (since every time I've posted it's name here the post was deleted). Folks are very passionate there and for me, the site has a far more developed sense of "community" and folks there, have communicated with me directly a whole lot more than here on CH.
re: Greg B
Just because the new interface isn't living up to its potential doesn't mean the old interface was automatically great. I always hated the old interface, but accepted it as the only way to interact with this particular community. As time wore on, with broken promises of site revamps, and interface advancements elsewhere, it got harder and harder to take the old interface. Good riddance.
Gotta say that I absolutely love the new style Chowhound. I confess that I am relatively new to Chowhound, but when I was reading the threads in the old format, it was a pain in the rump to scroll down to threads I wanted to read (and re-read). Searching for topics was nearly impossible, and was only enabled through the Mozilla search option. Whenever I did a search, my computer screen would freeze. Also, the older format was rather messy.
The new format is very user-friendly and easy on the eyes.
Regardless, though, I think both the Chowhound administrators, as well as the posters, are doing superb jobs with respect to recommendations, reviews, website management, etc. This is such a wonderful site!
Hi.. You mention 'easy on the eyes', regarding the new style. Boy, I could not disagree more. The old interface only required a literal glance, I swear, just a *glance*, to determine whether a specific response (to a specific response) was new and therefore of interest within each subset of a thread. Livin' was easy, back in the day. New Chowhound is better than no Chowhound at all, so I'll adapt. As humans, it's aruguably what we do best...
I like the new interface. The clicking back and forth and waiting for the board to slowly reload each time. I have little trouble following the trees, and like the relatively sleek new look.
The only think I would find very useful on this issue is making the trees collapsible. Not a huge deal (and probably a programming nightmare), but that might make sorting a tad easier. Overall, the current interface is a marked improvement.
I say this with a tremendous amount of respect for the community you helped to build on Chowhound, but if you actually enjoyed using the previous software, then there was absolutely nothing we could have done to make the transition any less abrupt than it was.
The old system was a simple piece of code that was never meant to handle the load that Chowhound put on it and was a perfect example of what a user interface should _not_ be.
re: PJ Hyett
> it and was a perfect example of what a user interface should _not_ be. <
With equal respect, that comment would be sent back to the kitchen by a fair number of us here. I would suggest that the number of people commenting exactly the opposite should be sufficient to make you reconsider the sureness of your position.
re: Greg B
But greg - you took it out of context - the line before from PJ says it ALL:
"The old system was a simple piece of code that was never meant to handle the load that Chowhound put on it"
The old system was complained and complained and complained about and just as many of us LIKE the updated version. While great changes are probably to come - what do you expect: that this will all be ditched and we'll go back to the old board?
I'm going to go ahead and say that an engineering team for CNET has a better idea of how the back-end of an interface works (I'm sure there was wailing and gnashing of teeth when they saw the old site) and whether or not it is sustainable or workable for the volumes we have.
My husband (software engineer) did some work on another project for Jim and they had conversations about just how broken the old site was for the year 2006 with thousands of posts per day. This was no big secret to anyone.
I don't mean disrespect but I think it's time for a lot of people to move on and let it go.
I don't think it was out of context at all. The first part dealt with load issues and the part I quoted dealt with a very negative comment over the quality of the interface. Two entirely different (and in my mind unrelated) subjects.
I am a bit sensitive to changes in board software largely because I used to be a regular at an automotive board at edmunds.com that has been systematically destroyed by the site owners over the years, largely by a series of ill-advised software changes that were very poorly implemented and largely unexplained to the user community. It would be a shame to have the same thing happen here.
re: PJ Hyett
I respect you too, but part of what you have just said makes no sense to me.
>The old system was a simple piece
>of code that was never meant to handle
>the load that Chowhound put on it and
>was a perfect example of what a user
>interface should _not_ be.
I have no problem understanding how the old system was a simple piece of code that was never meant to handle the load that Chowhound put on it.
Fine. Sounds like you had a simple "plumbing" issue on your hands. Break down the work cycles; distribute the various jobs to a more specialized network of servers; re-code inefficient cycles to be more efficient; things of this nature. I have no doubt that the old site was choking the hardware. You don't have to be a system administrator with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Chowhound to see how inefficient it was to enable users to re-load the entire board just to read the next thread.
Again, fine. And much respect to Chowhound Engineering for the job you have all done in this emergency plumbing repair. And for putting all the hard work in trying your best to build a new Chowhound from the ground up.
However, the second part of what you said is not at all related to this. At least if you mean the same thing when you say "interface" as I do.
Nowhere in either of my two posts outlining my reasons why I think the new interface should be improved -- and in my suggestions for how the new interface *could* be improved -- do I say anything that should relate in any way to placing an increased load on a server. Certainly not once you have cleaned up the code and limited message board re-loading to 40 at a time (down from 36,000 plus on my home board).
Please tell me how, for example, that re-coding the thread view from being a scroll-based process to a click-based process would place any significant load increase on your servers? This, after all, is the heart of my complaint. Matter of fact, it is my ONLY compaint!
The thread view is already hierarchial -- just like the old board. All I am asking that you do is to collapse the threads and let us click again. Scrolling does not serve an adequate function for all the reasons that I have given. I have no problem with the 40 thread view. I also think you could tone down the font size and clean up some of the graphics; but that is not a deal-breaker.
Scrolling through expanded threads is evil, though. It completely disconnects us from the identities and relationships that we have spent so much time developing. And it serves to discourage community-building; which is at the heart of Chowhound.
All I am asking is that you collapse the threads and let us click again. I am not asking that you trash the entire interface. Just apply the necessary tweaks to this (I hope) small part of it.
Thanks for listening,
re: David Ford
"Scrolling through expanded threads is evil, though. It completely disconnects us from the identities and relationships that we have spent so much time developing. And it serves to discourage community-building; which is at the heart of Chowhound."
Please remember that that is your opinion, not fact. I'm finding exactly the opposite.
Thanks for replying. Let me begin by saying that I completely respect your right to a different opinion than mine concerning scrolling. And I regret that my admittedly passionate set of posts gave you the mistakened impression that I am under the illusion that my opinions are anything more than, well, *opinions*.
Finally, I can appreciate what you are saying -- to a point.
Here is where perhaps you can elaborate a little more. When you say that you are "finding exactly the opposite (to be true)", do you mean that you just don't dislike scrolling as much as I do (and for the reasons that I do), or do you mean that the old interface was guilty of all the bad things that I have attributed to the new interface?
I bring up the point for the simple reason that the two are very different.
Thanks for clearing that up! And again, thanks for your opinion -- disagreeable as it may be.
re: David Ford
I was specifically speaking to the idea that we are disconnected from other users and that this site, in it's current form, does not engender community-building. I'm finding I actually take notice of names more often and enjoy personalities here that I didn't before. I'm also spending time on many different boards, rather than just one, and 'meeting' new people I hadn't before. I'm defintely way more involved.
I've said before that I'd scroll rather than click any day - but perhaps because that is my preference I am enjoying myself which is leading to my own 'community-building' whereas someone that is unhappy with scrolling might be disagreeable to a feeling of community because they are unhappy.
Have no idea what could be done about that, however. SOMEONE is going to be unhappy either way.
Hi David... You've said it all and I strongly concur. I now feel disconnected to the 'hounds on my local board(s). I'm now reduced to looking for information, as opposed cultivating relationships based on agreements and disagreements re: food products, restaurants, and dining experiences. Like the classic Twilight Zone episode, I feel like those toy dolls stranded in a collection bin, who don't know who they are or why they've been brought together. It's a feeling of detachment and I no longer know if others are responding precisely to what I write or what the thread demands. In any event, I thank the Chowhound Team for the monumental task before them, and my gripes are really the gripes of the overly privileged. Mea culpa...
re: Jack Flash
Agree completely. Old format I could tell with a glance where I'd left off reading. This format, I have to reconstruct it again each time from memory. I don't find that the "new" is particularly helpful. Can we have the posts we open turn a different color, as previously? It would make navigating tremendously easier.
A couple of simple suggestions, nothing too volatile or wild here:
1. I've always disliked that you can't change the title of a reply to quickly summarize your position or comment. This is a powerful feature in other boards - no reason not to have it here (there MUST be a way around that "hot post" feature relying on title as a tag of some kind)
2. A compact view is desired by a lot of folks, so you should offer one:
a. Allow viewing responses and hier. chain as you are now, with text open (or)
b. Responses are minimized, with only title, time and username of responder shown
The user preference as to which view would be shown as default can be made in the user profile.
3. You should put the most recent responses to a thread on top, as was done before. I actually liked that. This, could also be a user preference, perhaps. It may matter less if you provide a minimized hierarchical thread view.
Just my 2 cents. Ooooh, make that 3 cents now that inflation is kicking in.
>1. I've always disliked that you
>can't change the title of a reply
>to quickly summarize your
>position or comment. (snip)
I have good news for you, Culverjack; you CAN! Simply mouse-over the title in your thread and wait for it to change yellow. Then click on it! And thanks, Chowhound Team, for this little ditty.
>2. A compact view is desired by a
>lot of folks, so you should offer
>a. Allow viewing responses and
>hier. chain as you are now, with
>text open (or)
>b. Responses are minimized, with
>only title, time and username of
>The user preference as to which
>view would be shown as default
>can be made in the user profile.
Couldn't agree more! Very good stuff. Chowhound Team?
>3. You should put the most recent
>responses to a thread on top, as
>was done before. I actually liked
>that. This, could also be a user
>preference, perhaps. It may matter
>less if you provide a minimized
>hierarchical thread view.
This sounds good too!
Culverjack, you ROCK!
There are many things that have improved on this site, but I also agree with David about losing the flavor of all the interesting sub-conversations because of the way the thread hierarchy is laid out now. Not only does it seem less friendly, but I find myself scrolling up and down trying to match up the indentations and eventually lose interest if the threads have a lot of posts. I do enjoy not having to click back and forth between screens, but maybe the option of a toggled abbreviated view/expanded view, with the "new" tags and the original hierarchy, would do the trick.
Also, about the profiles/tracking features: Since I participate on Home Cooking, I'm enjoying learning which regions the posters are from. And I'll read what they have to say in the canned profile questions since they took the time to fill it out. I'm glad we have the option not to answer the questions. However, I'd prefer that the "who's tracking me" list be private. It seems such a distraction when I look at someone's profile and immediately find myself thinking, wow, that person is really popular/important/sophisticated/writes well/etc/etc. If anyone want to track someone else, that's great as an option, it just creeps me out a little that we all get to see it. Shouldn't be anyone else's business.
Thanks for the beer board! Yay!!!!
A "Ferture" of the old board is not on the new board.
There are many posts that for reasons of topic or geography don't interest me.
I had a trick on the old board to flag me that I am not interested.
I would look at one of the replies in the center of the choices and not the ones above or below it.
Thus when I workd scan the main L.A. board I could immediately see which ones I need not revisit.
Now, other than the title I have no way of knowing that I did not like the content. I always would scan a long way back to catch stragglers. Kudos for the new reply feature!
I think the perceved lower posting is due to some resistance to getting a userid and will pick up when simply cannot resist a reply.
I am learning to like the new board.
I much prefer the new interface. Yes, it needs some tweaking but it is much snappier and easier to use, keeps current topics always in view and encourages participation on boards other than one's regular hangouts. As far as I'm concerned, the threaded interface was superior only for very long topics (30+ posts), which, I admit, are a bit unweildy now. Occasional unwieldiness I can live with, however.
Me too, woodrow. It does feel like the conversation is hidden now. Data in a vacuum; soulless; lifeless and without passion. We need the conversation back.
Like you, I also used to like to scan a thread for replies from some of my favorite regulars. To do this now is not impossible, but takes so much effort it's not even worth it.
It's as I said in my original post; the new interface is destined to turn us into "skimmers".
I don't like the new tread titles are displayed. The font is way too big, I feel like I'm being yelled at when I scroll through the topics. I do like the interface, it's much easier to find the various forums.
As with the part about the conversation being hidden, I am sure that can be easily fixed using DHTML dropins (UI, like you have with the menu) with AJAX (Content).
I agree - I prefer this new site as well - I can honestly say I've fallen in love with Chowhound all over again. :-)
While I would appreciate a collapsible tree view, and I hope that's one item on the Team's checklist to see if they can add, I'm willing to be patient and wait. They've got a gazillion people throwing suggestions at them, and they're obviously working on suggestions they think are good ones to upgrade the site and make it more user-friendly.
The site is a WORK IN PROGRESS. The old site was about ready to fall into oblivion, and I think the CH Team has done a damn fine job in getting everything moved over to a new site without losing the content or having the old software blow up before they got it converted!
Are there still some changes to be made? Yes - and it's obvious they're working on it....we've gone from 20 to 40 messages per view, as one example. They've added color to the background of new posts to make them easier to find, for another example.
But you know what? It ain't going to be exactly perfect for everyone at all times - that's impossible. And it isn't ALL going to be done NOW, as so many people seem to be demanding. Nor will it ALL be done as some people think it should be. We're users, not owners. As such, we deal with things that might not be to our liking. Or make the suggestion, and hope that it's a good one and doable by the Team. Or we move on to other sites and leave Chowhound behind (although why anyone would do that, I don't know!)
I, for one, will wait. And enjoy the new and improved Chowhound. And give my utmost thanks it didn't go away before CNet found them. :-)
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the content and the community that make Chowhound Chowhound? A new, clean, modern interface does not a "corporate" website make! The content is still unpaid for and completely real. It's just changed clothes.
Would you judge a person for the clothes he wears? Should we all start wearing flour sacks to avoid being labeled as "corporate" too? It seems to me that a lot of close consideration in order better serve the Chowhound community went into this redesign. I see nothing more "cold" or "impersonal" than before.
And really, how is scrolling down more "drone like" than see-sawing back and forth with my browser's back button? That always made me seasick. And the old small blue lettering made my eyes burn after a while...
I like the new site and it really does seem that the Chowhound team is listening to constructive criticism. I'm not saying it's perfect, or that everyone's negative points are invalid, but it really is better than before.
Thank you for verbalizing my thoughts as of late.
It seems to me the new Chowhound (if left as is) will be best for random searches -- but, due to the new format which induces 'skimming', you DEFINITELY loose the relationships with people.
Part of what I loved about Chowhound was reading the responses of favorite posters -- and growing to know who had similar tastes to mine. All that is lost in the new format - since it expands out.
I definitely agree that this would be solved with adding threaded view....
I DO think it takes about a month or so to get used to new interfaces, so I'm giving it some time and hope the engineers will be able to do something with all the feedback they are receiving.
I find myself being generally annoyed as I read through ALL posts, instead of clicking on the links. I didn't mind clicking back and forth... and it allowed me to weed out posters I cared not to read.... now I have no choice.
Font size, colors, new pictures -- none of that matters to me, as it is secondary to why I enjoyed the site. I was here for the information, to share, to learn, to enjoy!!
Here's to hoping some great changes are in process.... if not, I'd imagine I'd interface with Chowhound on a less frequent basis.
On a different note -- has it struck you that the quality of posts have dimminished (perhaps this is indicitve of new hounds -- but it just seems like the recs coming through aren't as solid as they were - say - 3 months ago? (...just a random thought).
Thanks again for getting this particular dialogue going....
re: The Oracle
I only read the old Chowhound for a brief time before they changed the style and format, but many posters have remarked that with the new Chowhound, one loses the original community feel. I have to disagree, but maybe my definition of "community" differs from your definition. Of course, I haven't been a long-time member of the Chowhound community, so I guess I missed out on that part, which, from the sounds of it, was one of the most enjoyable portions of Chowhound.
Actually, what I love about the new chowhound site is how community-oriented it is. I love reading the different recommendations and reviews. I'm always so amazed by how complete strangers will assist in the inquiries of other foodphiles. And, frankly, it doesn't matter how old and young the posters are, or where they reside. Their comments are always so insightful.
Another reason why I like Chowhound is how un-elitist it is--or at least I thought this was the case until I read your post. It seems to me that SOME of the old Chowhound guards believe that the posters from the old Chowhound are far superior to the new Chowhound posters. As you commented above, you felt that the quality of the posts have diminished with the entry of a crop of new Chowhounds. I'm not sure I agree with this at all. Perhaps the "old" Chowhound posters were eloquent and provided thoughtful and comprehensive reviews and responses, but it seems to me that many of the new Chowhound posters do as well. Also, I didn't realize there was a hierarchy here.
If you want to read ONLY your favorite posters, why couldn't you simply track them? I ASSUME that this was the reason for the design of the tracking option.
With respect to the search option for Chowhound, with the old Chowhound it was darn near impossible to do a search for, say, a specific restaurant, food type, or food issue. With the new Chowhound, the search is easily done with the search engine, and the search is easily performed without freezing one's computer screen.
A lot of the old Chowhound folks also have complained about the gigantic font. I find this complaint a bit trivial. I think the purpose of the large font is to highlight the topics, which they have effectively done. I don't think the large font constitutes "yelling" or "screaming," as one poster suggested, especially since the headings are not all capital letters.
Change is always hard, so I do sympathize with those who preferred the old Chowhound, but change can be good too. I personally love the new Chowhound.
I didn't mean to imply that there aren't great new posters out there (there most CERTAINLY are!) -- however, it has struck me lately that there has been a flurry of just random suggestions (ie: horrid chow spots touted as the best thing ever, suggestions that strike me as odd, or vague requests that when asked for more specifics to assist are ignored).
And, while something may be good to person "X", it may be horrid to person "Y" -- and, over time, I've found that I have similar foodie tastes with certain posters than others.... so, if person "X" is the person that has my similar food tastes and recommends something - I can almost guarantee that I'll enjoy it or have similar views on the topic.
We were all new chowhounds at one point in time - I'm not discouraging new posters or the value that they bring to the community, I just miss the way I'd zero in on some of my old favorites - while incorporating the other posters. I don't want to read ONLY my favorite posters -- however, know that I could click to track them, if I so desired. My goal is for community and being able to read and be selective about posts - instead of having to skim through EVERY post.
Suggestion about having posts in a collapsible format or having the thread view option would solve that.
It took me a while to get used to the old Chowhound format, when I was a newbie, and I would suspect it will take all of us a while to get used to the new format. That's just the nature of a change like this.
I'm not entirely opposed to the new site - and I love reading how much people prefer it, I can only imagine the time and energy that was poured into making it a site that would work for everyone. And, I DO love the search functionality. But, for now -- a lot of the magic has been lost for me.... I do hope that will return.
re: Peter Cuce
To Oracle and Peter Cuce:
Thank you for the clarifications. I now better understand some of the concerns from those who prefer the old Chowhound. Weeding through a long list of posts for any one topical area can be incredibly time-consuming and frustrating, that's for sure.
As for the quality of the posts, I'm not sure that the Chowhound administrators have any control over this issue. From the sounds of it, it seems that the new crop of Chowhounds are much, much younger. And that's not a bad thing at all; in fact, I think the younger Chowhounds provide a nice burst of energy and creativity to the boards.
I do think it's difficult to offer a venue that will please everyone, especially when the audience is so diverse. It's like teaching a class in which the students are at different levels: We have the old school folks, many of whom have incredibly sophisticated palates and ways of understanding, and then we have the younger folks and everyone in between. Of course, people come to these boards for different reasons too: Some come to read extensive restaurant reviews; others want recommendations for good, cheap eats; others want to try the new fad restaurant; others simply want cooking tips; and the list goes on indefinitely.
I wouldn't go so far as to say I dislike it, but I'm finding the more I use it the less I like it. Still relatively neutral about the change at this point, slightly preferring the old format. That's taking into consideration the better search function and the statements that Chowhound has made about bugginess and problems maintaining the old format and not based solely on the way forum content is presented. I do really like the editing feature.
One improvement that I don't think anyone's mentioned across all these many posts?
With the new login system, it tracks what you've read no matter what computer you're on.
With the old blue link/purple link system, I was endlessly out of sync between my work computer and home computer -- constantly clicking into a bunch of posts just to mark them purple.
No site is perfect, and change is hard, but I think that not only is the site better now, but they have a platform that has tremendous room to grow.
Peter in the Heights
"With the new login system, it tracks what you've read no matter what computer you're on.
With the old blue link/purple link system, I was endlessly out of sync between my work computer and home computer -- constantly clicking into a bunch of posts just to mark them purple."
I've discovered that as well, and I *LOVE* that improvement.
I'm still going to say - this new format is BETTER. At least for me.
With all due respect, Linda, your idea to bookmark one's favorite threads in a way such that one is enabled to more easily return to them without searching may not be speaking to the gist of prpjam's complaint. While your suggestion does offer a legitimate method of tracking a given thread for recent activity, it offers nothing in the way of providing easier navigation among posts (and sub-posts) *within* those threads. This is where I believe the issue lies.
If I may be so bold, the source of prpjam's frustration is the way the current interface all but disables the user's (previous) ability to follow the myriad (and multiple levels) of side "conversations" that naturally occur within a moderately active thread. These side conversations -- where many people join in and offer their opinions and responses to the given topic (and each other) -- are part of what makes online communities such as this one so compelling.
An example of a side conversation would be this. Let's say that user Aaa starts a new thread. Next, users Bbb, Ccc and Ddd all post responses to user Aaa. In this way, three people have responded to the OP (Original Poster), yet there is still only *one* conversation going on. And the subject of the conversation is that of the OP. OK, now let's say that user Eee posts a response to user Bbb. By doing this, user Eee has just introduced the first side conversation to this thread! And since it is only one level removed from the pool of responses to the OP, it is a level 1 side conversation (and a level 2 sub-post). Finally, the subject of the conversation is that of user Bbb (or, to be more specific, the substance contained in user Bbb's original response to the OP).
See how complicated things can get in describing a level 2 thread with only *four* responses containing *one* side conversation? Now imagine more. Many, many more. This is why a means is needed to "chart" the courses of these side conversations in a way such that readers and participants alike are enabled to both read and post in the correct order.
And in this way, the relationships between them are preserved! The old interface provided for this beautifully. Never mind all of its shortcomings; this is where the old interface really shined. Never mind that it was a backend maintenance nightmare. Never mind that certain other visual elements and processes were in dire need of repair. Let's remember what it *did* do -- and do well!
But if the proper *value* of these relationships is not demonstrated through the interface, and users are allowed to break the discipline of posting (and reading) without observing the correct order in each "branch" of sub-posts, then it is the fault of the interface -- not the user. A properly designed interface should encourage the proper execution of events. It should serve to *instruct* the user on a subtle, intuitive level.
This is a current (glaring) weakness contained in the new interface. Yes, the new software *behind* that interface is far superior to the old software in numerous respects. And I am thrilled that the new team is so obviously talented. I am also encouraged that they are showing a genuine desire to respond to the very special needs of this very special community.
But this needs to be fixed. And, given the already prolific track record of this amazing team, I find it almost inconceivable that most (if not *all*) of the technical concerns that I have tried to address in this and other posts on the subject are either on the table or being dealt with as I write.
If this is the case, then *thanks in advance*, Chowhound Team! If not, then I hope that this latest installment of my thinking on the subject is being well received and considered.
See what I mean, Linda?
re: David Ford
I hate this new site too. It probably does have many new cool features, but the site really doesn't attract me well enough to stay here longer to check them out. I just want to come and read latest posts, but since there isn't much going on on the boards since the switch, I don't even remember to check back and explore the site further. It is like a new expensive camera that comes with a 'War and Peace'- thick manual, but most 'cool' features hardly ever get to be utilized, when all you do is point and shoot.
I liked the quirkiness of the old site and its simple interface. The genius of Google or Craigslist was (and still is) just plain text interface with no graphics - no need to remind us how well they're doing now. When Craig's List outgrew its initial readership, they just moved to better servers and improved the coding and kept the same look and feel. Why can't we at least get the old 'retro' look (same type font, same colors) on the new software?
And last but not least - Red color has to go! I think it's almost identical to Zagat's.
re: David Ford
David - I'm fully aware of what you're talking about - it's the collapsible tree thread comment I made further upthread. Which has been asked for. Many times. By many people. In simple requests. And the Team is (hopefully) working on. Until then, people have to deal or move on.
I still prefer the new Chowhound.
No rants from me. I like the new system, especially the searching. And I never much complained about the old system.
I agree that once a thread gets over about 6 replies, it gets hard to follow and tedious to read. My suggestion would be along these lines:
1. A floating sidebar that follows you as you scroll, showing a compact tree view of all the replies and where you are in it. Sort of like Google Groups.
2. The ability to put a title on a reply that gets inherited by subsequent replies. Which would show up in the above outline.
3. A bit more thread status info in the topic list views, maybe on rollover. Not just who originally posted and how long ago, but also who last replied and when. And if the latest reply has a different title (see above), show that too.
Stuff like this would bring back some of the "scannability" that's been lost in the move to new software. The old beast had to be taken out back and shot, but there were some good things about it that the development team can learn from.
These are some really interesting ideas, hatless.
With your RoR background, I would love to see some mockups. And I'm sure the development team would only stand to benefit from such an effort.
As you can find the time, perhaps?
I wish that I could. But alas, I am only able to theorize concerning what it could (or should) look like once completed. English, after all, is the only language that I speak.
But you speak Rails! And a picture is worth a thousand words. :-)
Something to consider, I hope.
re: David Ford
Thanks. If C|Net or Mr. Hyett's team offer me a job, I'll code it. Right now, words and the occasional illustrative snippet will have to suffice. ;)
Since then I've had some thoughts on more radical list and thread view changes and sort of wondered if the time-tested and much-loved old expanded thread-list view could be mimicked in short (20-50 line?) scrolling snippets fetched via AJAX into a viewport. It would allow the sort of quick "scanning" many 'hounds liked without the gigantic and bandwidth-straining thread lists of the old site.
See, that is EXACTLY what I have been imagining! No big deal, right? Just mimic the old site but clean up/replace cycles creating unnecessary bandwidth overhead. Offer it as an optional view for those preferring to read threads that way. We don't need to see the whole board in tree form -- just one thread at a time. Just a perfect, simple hierarchial tree for each thread. Think of as a road map.
At least I *think* it is (what I have been imagining, that is). You may have lost me somewhere between AJAX and viewport. :-)
Still, it sounds like *you* know what you are talking about, so I am encouraged.
I haven't been on CH lately and this new interface came as a real shock today. Mostly, I dislike it. But what I truly find disconcerting is having to "register" after all these years of using chowhound. I know it's painless, and only took a second, but something about it really bothers me...
At first, I disliked it, and thought registering was a pain in the neck. But I think that was just because it was new. Now that I'm used to it, I rather like the new setup. I like how it posts messages with new responses so one doesn't have to search down that endless column that never fully loaded anyway. I like being able to track other hounds whose posts I enjoy, to see what they're up to. I LOVE the board page and have visited several new boards just because I can see them now. I've always appreciated Chowhound's close attention to list content, so I hope that will continue.
Just saw the new interface for the first time yesterday, but was unable to do much as most of the links didn't work--the server(s) must have been overloaded or down. Better luck today.
My first impression is *very* favorable. So far, what I like best is that the thread subjects are up front--no need to scroll through a monster thread to get to the next subject. I think that may encourage people to add to threads that they have bypassed because they got too far down the board too fast. And I haven't yet found anything not to like. Maybe later. <grin>
I agree that it's a bit harder to follow conversations. However, being able to quickly access a board without waiting minutes for it to load, etc., is a total joy.
I do see some problems with the new site, like the search engine sometimes comes up with 0 results when I know there's something there, and doesn't always seem to find relevant results. However, the benefits of the new system outweigh the problems.
Registering is easy....don't see what the big deal is about that.
Also, I had really cut down on my visits to chowhound before, because it was so cumbersome that I would just lose patience. Now I'm coming back often. I understand the problems people are pointing out, but perhaps some minor tweaks to the interface would solve some of the issues?