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Community Update

Dear Car Talk Community friends,

I thought it was time for another occasional update regarding functionality upgrades to the Car Talk Community.

First, I wanted to thank everyone for bearing with us through several rounds of important infrastructure changes over the last six months. The entire Car Talk site, including the community, is now powered by a Drupal content management system, which brings us very much up-to-date in terms of the architecture under the entire web site. Single sign-on, which allows registered users to move between the community and the rest of cartalk.com, is working and the handful of glitches have been debugged-- that’s another big step forward, and integrates tens of thousands of legacy users from our old community.

We recently added the ability to upload audio and video files. We encourage you to try this out, use it, and let us know how it works. We hope you’ll use it to share photos, videos and sounds-- whether of a bad wheel bearing, leaky brake caliper, or something more fun. (Just be sure you have the rights to share what you’re posting. And, of course, keep it to within our Terms of Service!)

Coming up next week, we’re about to launch another round of updates to community. Here’s a quick highlight of what’s included:

  1. For those of you who remember, we’ll be bringing back some fun Car Talk style categories for users-- now called “badges”-- based on the numbers of posts you’ve each provided to the community. We’ve divided users into four (in our humble opinion) fun categories. (Oh, back by popular demand? Long Lost Magliozzi Brother!)

  2. We’ll be making sharing via social networks much easier. So, if you spot a discussion you like, or create one and want to share it with your Facebook pals, you can now do so very easily. For those of you who could care less about such things, please just avert your eyes. For those of you who are active in these other venues, you can immediately understand how nice it is to be able to bring in friends from your other worlds, and share great items with them.

  3. We’ll be adding, a “Who’s Online?” indicator. Think of it as a way to look around as you walk into your neighborhood cafe.

Let’s give these changes some time, to see what we think, and how they impact the usability and web visibility of the Car Talk Community. I like to think that we’re flexible enough to change course, if need be. But, I also want to give these updates time to settle in with all of us-- meaning, have patience for some months, while we get used to the changes. The process is a slow, steady and iterative one.

Our overall goal is pretty simple: to make available to this community the best possible tools to create and share your content, whether comments, advice-- or a fun car noise.

Your feedback is always welcome. Please just remember the usual caveats… there are literally just a few of us here, and we do everything from polish the server to change the oil in Tom’s MG. We have a huge list of things we’d like to do across the Car Talk web site, but changes are steadily being made as time and resources allow.

All Best,

Doug Mayer
Senior Web Lackey

Here’s a (hopefully minor) request: can the “Include audio or video (Here’s how)” button be renamed to something like “Include a picture, audio, or video (Here’s how)”? Pictures are the number 1 thing we use, it’s not clear the current button is for them, too.

Another request: Can you extend the duration of the login cookie? It’s sort of annoying having to re-sign in every few days.

You still have some bugs that seem to effect some users more than others…50% of the time, I get the message “Bad Response From Server” when I press the “Post Comment” button or any of the agree-disagree-like buttons…

My new computer has Win7 and IE9 and has no problems at all on the website. My spare computer has WinXP and IE8. It still has a problem sometimes unless I use Firefox. (My wife hates Firefox).

Something(s) changed with the post lists, but I can’t “decode” it.

I always enter via “Recent Discussions.” It used to be that I had the list of threads with all of the thread subjects in bold. Every thread showed me the number of new posts (all if I’d never been in the thread before) in the little yellow box.

Now I’ve got a weird mix of bold faced subject lines and non-bold. Some of the threads are giving me the little yellow box with the unread/new number. Others aren’t even if there have been new posts. Some of the thread subject areas are highlighted in that light blue (such as those for the sticky “Announcement” threads). Some just look normal - no highlight.

I see no rhyme or reason to any of it. Can anyone enlighten me as to how to decode this change?

Cigroller:
I’m seeing the same problem.

If it is bolded, you haven’t looked at it ever. If it is not bolded but no yellow box, you have looked at all the posts. If there is a yellow box, you have visited the thread but there are new posts since your visit.

Keith, I already thought of that one. But I have plenty of non-bolded thread titles with new posts but no new message alerts. I also have threads I’ve not been in that aren’t bold, and bold threads that I have been in. It all doesn’t match up. If there is rhyme or reason I can’t find it.

The basic yellow box with # of new posts was simple and clear. This is a complete mess.

@dmayer @CIGROLLER is 100% right this new set up is confusing and just does not feel/act correct. It makes it very hard to see which posts have new comments since the last time I clicked… If we have a vote, change it back !!

It works, but if you just view a post and hit your back button, it does not update the information. Just like before, you have to “return” to the board for it to update.

Can we get rid of or consolidate the multiple “Cartalk community” pinned discussions? They fill up the first page, and only one is needed.

@texases, click the gear to the upper right of the pinned message headers and choose “Dismiss”

@shadowfax - Thanks!

Hi Folks,

A number of the changes are now in place-- as of just a few hours ago, we’ve pushed the following changes live:
Car Talk, comment badges (removing default comment badges)
Added highest earned comment badge next to each user’s name
Enabled :Who’s Online: and " Share This" add ons.

We’ll compile your comments and share with our forum provider. We also have a number of smaller fixes to make, coming in the next week or so.

Thanks,

Doug Mayer
Senior Web Lackey

Just to better summarize my own reaction to the new system for indicating unread threads/posts - the old way that just showed the yellow box with the number unread was very simple and very clear and very easy to navigate.

The new system adds complexity, but for me doesn’t add any advantages at all. It just makes me work harder when I scroll the list but doesn’t help.

Others may certainly have different opinions.

I like the labels - though it is a little depressing as it can just mean I need a new hobby.

I’d now add that I have not gotten used to it, and I still don’t like it. And I suppose I could chalk it up to just one more glitch on the glitchiest platform ever - but on occasion the system is wrong about it. Sometimes it will leave threads showing I haven’t been in them even when I have - even when I haven’t come in via the back button.

I’d like to pass on a suggestion to the platform techies (not the CT lackeys), even though I’m quite certain it will not be welcome and the word “moron” (if they’re in a polite mood) will will be directed at me. The suggestion is that when you have a system that is already prone to bizarre and unpredictable glitches, its a good idea to start by simplifying. Add complexity and you just add more doors through which the glitches enter.

@dmayer or anyone at CT:
FWIW: I’d welcome a way to return directly to the list of Repair and Maintenance threads from anywhere in multiple page threads. As it is now, if I’m on page 2 or beyond, there’s no link to “repair and maintenance” anywhere on the page I’m viewing. So to return to the list of threads, I either have to click “page 1”, and then click the r & m link, or click “topic index”. and then r & m…that’s two steps either way.

Am I missing a direct route? Does anyone else think this would be helpful? Or am I just too lazy?.

PS: of course it’s the same no matter which list of threads I want to return to, (Repair and Maintenance / show / Community update, etc) but it would make sense I think to have a link to r & m if that’s where I am, or a link to “community” if I’m on this section.

I’ve had issues logging in. I use Chrome, and I’d log in and it’ll take me to my profile. I click “community” and I am logged out. I tried in IE as well (ugh) and had the same problem. I eventually got it to work by opening an incognito window on Chrome.

A second issue found was when I was creating a post. I added more than 5 tags and got an error, so I deleted all just to be safe and I was still told I had too many tags. It then said “Tags 47185 is too long” and the number would change each time. I eventually had to cancel the post and try again with no tags to get it to work.