Responses to Beta Feedback


#1

We are preparing to archive this topic since the Public Action tool upon which this community is based is now out of Beta. We will, of course, continue to provide ways for people to share feedback.


#2

While not always pleasant, I have found the comments in (and around) these feedback discussions enlightening and extremely helpful. For example, we have identified and fixed at least 4 or 5 significant bugs based on specific comments here (page back and look for my ‘fixed’ comments if you want to know which ones). Obviously, a lot more issues and concerns than this handful of bugs have been raised - specifically around the usability of the system and its lack of traditional message board features. I will attempt to address that input here. But before I do, I want to thank everyone who provided constructive input, and I wanted to let you know that myself and the Car Talk staff are paying attention, joining in when we can (which is nearly not as often as we’d like), and are carefully considering and addressing concerns at the pace that we’re able to with our limited public broadcasting budgets and staff.


#3

Now, to respond to some of the oft-made suggestions, requests, and complaints that people have made in this and other discussions. Please excuse my paraphrasing of your comments - this allows me to use a Q&A format and save some time. Less time making comments = more time building a better environment.

Why did you take away the old BBS? It wasn’t broken. Now you’ve replaced it with something worse. Can’t you just go back?
The old message boards were really, really broken. I swear. Doug could go on for hours about how bad they were from the admin side. Here?s what he just emailed me on this topic:

On the old boards, we received literally dozens of support comments each day, often for aspects of the boards that were broken and, for various dull reasons, could not be fixed. Already, just a month or so into the new system, we’re getting 1-2 support emails a day-- an amazing reduction, which means that more Car Talk visitors are able to get advice, which is really important to all of us at Car Talk Plaza.
-Doug
Senior Web Lackey

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But I, for one, do not want the useless search, fully moderated comments, and slooooooooow performance to return.

OK, how about you go look at any good message board software and add those features instead, or better yet, just use another piece of standard message board software?
The new Car Talk Community is based on hosted software that is designed to do things differently than a message board. Car Talk, for example, sees an opportunity to expand its online community around show content and better integrate online participation back into the show and all across cartalk.com. BBS software can’t do this. As one initial example, a Tom and Ray show opener on 6/23 initiated a page here that incorporated real-time user comments from here, ultimately resulting in it getting picked up by digg.com here: http://digg.com/offbeat_news/The_Car_Talk_guys_driving_commandments. This brought in a flood of new community members, ones that likely won’t use feature-rich discussion board software. These new users now have an opportunity to see the existing, vibrant community and the people helping each other out with car problems. On the old boards, Car Talk fans had little opportunity or patience to find out about the great stuff going on here. This software is also currently running for other nationally syndicated public broadcasting programs and for over a dozen radio and TV stations in markets across the country - because of this shared platform, the discussion content can be syndicated for national exposure and users can benefit from single sign-on, a larger community, and more content. In short, there is a tradeoff for broader applicability and use, openness and exposure in exchange for giving up some message board software features that support best answering car questions. Understandably, this will be frustrating for those who are used to message boards.

Yeah, but just because it’s not message board software doesn’t mean it has to be frustrating to use and get around. How about fixing this other stuff?
Yes, we know the usability needs work and we are addressing it. I sorted and organized the hundreds of suggestions that have been made before authoring this post. I know that finding new comments and questions and just generally getting around should be easier. For example, things like seeing what’s changed and having more informative lists (e.g. who the OP is) makes total sense. I want to avoid quick fixes and Frankenstein features, so we’re likely to think through these decisions carefully. Between this and our limited resources though, you won’t see these improvements immediately. However, we are committed to improving the software and environment over time - we can’t really do this with someone else’s software.

How about telling us what specific improvements you will add and when we’ll have them.
We’re changing this on a daily basis based on what we’re learning, workload, priorities, etc. I’d only be made a liar if I promised anything. However, I can tell you that we are currently working on edit-a-post, discussion archiving, and addressing confusion around logging in/registering. Other priorities include: making posting a new question easier to find, and basic getting around the system stuff. The cursor thing and the not-being-able-to-see-the-prior-posts thing will take a bigger fix addressing the whole popup reply box, but this drives us nuts too.

What about anonymous posting!
We certainly have mixed feelings about anonymous posting too. Especially after some of the anonymous comments we’ve received on the software;-) We’re definitely addressing the login usability issue so that people who want to be recognized can. For now, anon replies stays.

This software has been up here for over a month, what have you actually fixed?
In a prior post, I outlined recently added features that impacted the user experience (most were shoring up the back-end). At least a couple directly stemmed from early user suggestions (e.g. RSS). We’ve also made many bug fixes, again, some resolved directly by your guidance.

Keith
Product Manager


#4

Let me at least say thanks for posting this. If I hear you are working on stuff, instead of the dead silence we got for the last month, then it’s easier to ride it out.

Please try to keep us, the users, updated once a week or so. Oh, FYI, I get the missing cursor about 50% of the time using Firefox on a Windows system, I think I got the missing cursor with Firefox on Linux as well, but I don’t use that system for Car Talk very often.

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.1.4) Gecko/20070515 Firefox/2.0.0.4

I have not seen any pattern. Some times it’s the first message I post, some times not. Replys or new posts doesn’t seem to matter. Some times I have a cursor, some times not. Like this message box has no cursor, but one I used a while ago did.


#5

I just noticed on this board that you ARE trying to get our identities posted when we reply to a subject matter. Things take time and I’ll be patient. Submitted by ANONYMOUS! (Actually, Professor Handy).


#6

Maybe, this thing is out of Beta; but, it sure the heck isn’t out of the BIRTHING process. I can fault all of the managerial types at CARTALK for not taking care of their “baby”. How many days (weeks?) was the “baby” unattended while ONE person got married and went on a honeymoon? THAT’S management! Now, if the “machine” is being prepped and tweaked, we (your supportive public) don’t have a glimmer. A week has gone by, and for all we know, the entire staff of CARTALK, and them lawyers, have gone on a cruise to the Mediterranean. What YOU can do, at least, is to show us that you are at least reading these columns, is to give us SOME acknowledgement on, at least, a weekly basis ---- or, doesn’t this “baby” mean anything to you, or Tom, or Ray, or et. al?


#7

Having been a programmer it appears from the outside looking in you have just entered BETA not finished it.

?Obviously, a lot more issues and concerns than this handful of bugs have been raised - specifically around the usability of the system and its lack of traditional message board features?

?Yes, we know the usability needs work and we are addressing it?

?we are currently working on edit-a-post, discussion archiving, and addressing confusion around logging in/registering. Other priorities include: making posting a new question easier to find, and basic getting around the system stuff. The cursor thing and the not-being-able-to-see-the-prior-posts thing will take a bigger fix addressing the whole popup reply box, but this drives us nuts too. ?

Beta level software is about 60 to 70% complete with known issues and bugs. And it appears you are at about that level.

?Already, just a month or so into the new system, we’re getting 1-2 support emails a day?

Maybe it was because we weren?t getting any response here for A MONTH! Or maybe people just gave up and left or are just putting up with it and not saying anything. After all as long as most people can post questions and answers without logging in what?s to complain about? They accomplished what they wanted. A drop in support calls doesn?t mean people are happy it just means they aren?t asking for support. Maybe instead of emailing you they posted to the board. It very well could be that most of the people are happy with the new system and aren?t having problems. But you can?t judge success by the number of support calls.

?..sees an opportunity to expand its online community…?

Fair enough, everyone wants to see the community expanded.

?As one initial example, a Tom and Ray show opener on 6/23 initiated a page here that incorporated real-time user comments from here,??

But with anonymous posting and not having to approve anything just about any BBS would do that

??ultimately resulting in it getting picked up by digg.com here: http://dig…mandments.?

Yes, it was very nice of them to post a link back to your board. And it might bring a few new people in.

?On the old boards, Car Talk fans had little opportunity or patience to find out about the great stuff going on here.?

Part of that was to keep the trolls out. Remember the old board was at one time so full of trolls that you took the steps to get rid of them. You ended up approving all posts just to get rid of them. Now you once again have anonymous posting and we?ve already seen spam here. How much longer before the trolls come back?

?This brought in a flood of new community members, ones that likely won’t use feature-rich discussion board software. These new users now have an opportunity to see the existing, vibrant community and the people helping each other out with car problems. ?

But what do they find when they get here? ONE person gets married, congratulations by the way, has a hot project and this board is left in the dark for a month. That?s customer service for you.

?This software is also currently running for other nationally syndicated public broadcasting programs and for over a dozen radio and TV stations in markets across the country - because of this shared platform?..?

Just because this software is a good fit for others doesn?t mean it?ll be a good solution for you.

??because of this shared platform, the discussion content can be syndicated for national exposure and users can benefit from single sign-on, a larger community, and more content.?

What communities? I don?t see any links to any other communities is there a master directory that points people here? If so where is it, where is this larger community?

You?d get much more exposure if Tom and Ray just mentions the board.

? In short, there is a tradeoff for broader applicability and use, openness and exposure in exchange for giving up some message board software features that support best answering car questions. Understandably, this will be frustrating for those who are used to message boards. ?

Read this part again ?giving up some message board software features that support best answering car questions? Excuse me isn?t this one of the main reasons for the board, to answer car questions. It?s the main reason people come here to answer car question. I?m certain if I ask for a cake recipe someone out there would give me one, but it would be out of place. If I have a question for my 1987 Escort, I wouldn?t go to a cake board. You?ve had 1961 discussions with 10283 comments, in the car questions part, while combined the other two had 45 discussions and 987 comments, where do you think the focus should be? I can understand wanted to expand into other areas, but not at the expense of the core.

?For now, anon replies stays.?

While I can understand the decision to keep anonymous posting, I don?t agree with it. By the time you realize that trolls and spam have taken over your board, most of the very people you need and want will have left. Then you have a very hard job of getting rid of trolls and spam and bring back the people you want. I remember when the last board was overrun with trolls, I really don?t want to go back to that again.

My opinions are subject to change with new facts.


#8

First, I want to say that I have grown to like this board better than the old one. The learning curve was steep for sure, but I think that it is an improvement.

The features I like best are not having to wait for a moderator and that the response is attached directly to the thread intended. You don’t have to figure out who is responding to who.

The tip on one of these threads on how to get logged on and stay logged on has worked for me. I have not been logged off since. I don’t remember how to do it if I ever need to, I’ll have to wade through all the posts here to find it again, but so far so good.

For me, an edit feature would be the top priority. I would also like to be able to move this window so I could see the post I’m replying to if needed. Fix these two and I will be very happy.

BTW, I am not Keith, the product manager. I am the keith who has been visiting and posting on this web site since sometime in 96 or 97 or thereabouts. For awhile I was keithp because on the original board, you could post and use your name without registering, up until someone registers your name, flames a bunch of people and leaves, as happened to me. On that board I had to register as keithp, until it crashed and everyone had to register again. Been keith ever since.


#9

Keith, you cant move the (reply to box), but you can now at least move the darkened out text underneath with arrow up or down or the slider bar on the right, at least with firefox


#10

I take this to mean that this dreadful piece-o-garbage software has been shoved down your throat by clueless boneheads above you, and you have been given the unenviable task of trying to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. And sing the company while doing so. You have my sympathy. But not being able to view long threads in a flat, chronological mode is pure idiocy. New posts are hidden all over the place. This is but one example of how this board is apparently now FUBAR.

Another way for me to express my disapproval will occur during the next NPR fund drive: I will be withdrawing my financial support.

Since


#11

No offense, but I’m sure NPR is real upset that mr. anonymous donor will be withdrawing support. At least if you’re going to threaten financial ‘penalties,’ say what your username is, at least.

But, I agree about the non-chronological listing… any discussion longer than a page is a bitch to find new posts in.


#12

leave the username/password blank, click login, sign in on that page, click the keep me logged in box and click the login button.


#13

Car Talk, for example, sees an opportunity to expand its online community around show content and better integrate online participation back into the show and all across cartalk.com. BBS software can’t do this.

What, you mean you want us to post messages and have Tom and Ray read them on the air? 1) where did you get the idea that you can’t do that with good forum software, and 2) do you really want to mess with an on-air formula that’s been a success for this many years?

As one initial example, a Tom and Ray show opener on 6/23 initiated a page here that incorporated real-time user comments from here, ultimately resulting in it getting picked up by digg.com here: http://dig…mandments.

Again, normal forum software will support realtime posts. Just because you guys decided to disable it on your old forum software doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The car club forum that I run can do this, and if you take intelligent anti-spam/troll steps you won’t be plagued by them.

This brought in a flood of new community members, ones that likely won’t use feature-rich discussion board software.

Ahh yes, feature rich such as the ability to scroll back and read what you’re replying to. You’re right. NO non-net.wizard would EVER want to do something like that. /sarcasm

On the old boards, Car Talk fans had little opportunity or patience to find out about the great stuff going on here.

You can’t compare a completely locked down forum to a completely open forum and then claim that the primary difference is software. YOU chose to lock the old forum down. That’s not the old software’s fault.

This software is also currently running for other nationally syndicated public broadcasting programs and for over a dozen radio and TV stations in markets across the country

I wasn’t aware that NPR was in the habit of jumping on the bandwagon :wink:

because of this shared platform, the discussion content can be syndicated for national exposure

Again, nothing that can’t be done with normal software. Really now, even if every show had completely different software, the discussion content can still be “syndicated for national exposure.” It’s called cut and paste.

and users can benefit from single sign-on,

Single sign on across multiple forums? We’d be happy if you guys got the signon on THIS forum right. It’s crazy that I have to relog in every single time I come here, even though I check the remember-me box.

a larger community, and more content.

  1. larger is not necessarilly better. 2) The guys listening to Splended Table or This American Life probably don’t have a whole lot to say on a car forum, and vice versa. Forcing divergent communities together results only in confusion. The other shows are great too, and I’m sure the discussions they generate are great, but just as it’d be stupid for us to pop into the Splendid Table forum and start talking about gear ratios, it’d be pretty silly of them to want to come in here and share recipes.

In short, there is a tradeoff for broader applicability and use, openness and exposure in exchange for giving up some message board software features that support best answering car questions.

I’m starting to feel insulted here, because I’m starting to think the admins around here think we’re stupid. We’ve been around the block. Some of us run our own forums, quite successfully I might add, and we understand the concept of normal reply boxes. I had to copy your entire post in here just so I can read what you wrote instead of scrolling back like normal forums let you do. Are you trying to tell me that if you got rid of this idiotic floating reply box all your master plans for forum integration and national syndication would be ruined? Gimme a break!

I sorted and organized the hundreds of suggestions that have been made before authoring this post. [/quote]

Yeah, but then you pulled a Microsoft. You had TONS of feedback when this thing was in beta that it wasn’t ready for prime time. Most if not all of the suggestions you see here today were brought up during the beta phase. But you went live with the seriously flawed software anyway instead of ironing the bugs out FIRST, and THEN rolling it out to the general public. That’s why people hate Microsoft.

Between this and our limited resources though, you won’t see these improvements immediately.

This seems to be yet another argument to go with an established, free forum software provider. phpBB has already gone through this tweaking and bugfixing stage. Any modification you could possibly want has already been written for it. All you have to do is install it, which would seem to be a much more logical use of your limited resources. Rather than having to spend so much time fixing a kludgy forum software that’s so flawed in its very concept as to require a complete rewrite just to achieve so-so status, why not go with something that’s already established?

we can’t really do this with someone else’s software.

Funny, all the other car related forums seem to have pulled it off. Everything’s completely customized on hundreds - thousands really - of car forums across the internet.

We certainly have mixed feelings about anonymous posting too.

Well you shouldn’t. As one forum admin to another, allowing anonymous posts is insane if you want to have a viable forum. It’s a spammer and troll paradise, and this non-standard forum software might keep the spambots out for a little while but the manual spammers and trolls will start appearing as soon as they figure out you guys have no defenses set up.


#14

I prefer Safari, but I do have firefox.


#15

Thanks Keith for pointing out the things that are improvements in your view.

Edit-a-post is in development now. We decided to release it in tandem with a replacement of the pop-up lightbox reply window and kill two birds with one stone. This will push out the release a few more weeks, but there will be other improvements before then.

Moving at the speed of public broadcasting…


#16

At prese t, the PREVIEW REPLY is the same as the draft. So, why is it? Give us a preview which looks like the post will look like.


#17

Last night we launched a usability enhancement around anonymous posting.

Significant feedback from this community and elsewhere made it clear that the system was doing a poor job letting people know when and how to register and log in. e.g., people were posting anonymously that didn’t mean too, etc.

We now require users to actively post anonymously rather than allowing them to do this by default. We also redirect logins back to where this alert was initialized. Let us know if you have any feedback on this mod. It’s obviously just a an initial step towards a more usable system, but we felt an important one.


#18

I tried it. It worked like a charm! Now, when I write a draft, I won’t discover that I’m not logged in and have to login and rewrite the draft, or post as you know whom. Positive.


#19

Ok getting a Java err

java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException


#20

This error (happening yesterday on recent discussions) has been fixed - due to active discussions being moderated out and then subsequently getting a retrieval request.