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Trimming the layout a bit: Phase 1
#1
Okay, so here's something that's been on my mind for a little while now - and, it concerns our board layout.

We've been operating for nearly a decade now - and, over the years, the scope of our discussions has broadened and expanded considerably. As a result, the board layout we started with soon proved to be inadequate - because we often found ourselves wanting to start topics, and having nowhere to put them! As a result, we ended up adding new sub-forums for these subject areas that didn't fit anywhere else - and so, we've pretty much fixed our old problem of "There's nowhere for me to put this thread!".

The bad news is, we now have the opposite problem: "There are multiple places for me to put this thread!". Quite a few of these new forums and sub-forums have a fair amount of overlap with one another, to the point where it's quite often not obvious where to put a given thread. Now, there's always going to be some overlap between the categories, because the various subject areas (science, tech, history, politics, and so on) are not self-contained fields with clear edges: they're all inter-connected. However, I do think it's possible for us to trim our layout down a bit, in order to cut down the amount of overlap between the various categories.

Now, I'm deliberately not going to propose any major, ground-breaking changes here. If I do a radical overhaul, then I'm worried that I'll: a) confuse people, and b) introduce new problems (or re-introduce our old problem), which will then require a second radical overhaul in a couple of months' time. It doesn't seem like a wise course of action to me - so, instead, I intend to fix this issue gradually and incrementally. I'm going to start by picking off some of the relatively low-hanging fruit, which can be implemented with relatively little disruption.

So, here are my ideas for now:

  1. Scrap (or merge) the 'Art and Design' and 'Stories and Literary Work' sub-forums.

    These are two of the least-used forums on the entire board: they have 13 topics each. Excluding read-only archives, I think the only sub-forum with fewer topics is the 'Profiles and Information' sub-forum of Roleplaying (which has 10 threads) - and this only stays because it's necessary separate the actual RPGs from the related threads. However, I don't think there's a need to have separate 'Art and Design' and 'Stories and Literary Work' sub-forums, especially when both of them are little-used. At the very least, they can be merged into a "Your Creative Work" sub-forum, but I think even this isn't strictly necessary: if these sub-forums didn't exist at all, it'd still be clear that these threads belong in 'Community Showcase'.

  2. Break up the Intellectual Curiosity Chamber.

    On the old board, the 'Science and Nature' forum was the most-used of all the 'Topical Discussions' boards: it had over 1,200 threads, and over 11,000 replies - and, in anticipation of a continuation of this activity, I decided I should split it into two. Additionally, threads about philosophy had been shunted around the board without ever having a permanent home - so, I thought this would be a good opportunity to establish one. The solution I came up with was to have one forum for the 'nature' stuff, and one for other 'scientific' stuff, as well as maths, philosophy, and 'general intellectual' threads (which always looked silly in General Chat but which otherwise didn't have an obvious home).

    In practice, there hasn't been as much 'science' discussion on the new board as there was on the old one, so the split wasn't necessary. Besides, the idea of trying to make a distinction between 'science' and 'nature' is silly, when science is chiefly devoted to the study of nature in the first place! So, I would suggest we undo this split, by moving all of the 'scientific' threads back into Nature and the Universe, and re-naming that forum back to 'Science and Nature'.

    This still leaves the maths, philosophy, and 'general intellectual' threads, which will be dealt with in Point #4.

  3. Break up the 'What If?' section.

    This is a bit of an oddity. It's not devoted to a particular subject; instead, it's devoted to a particular type of thread (namely, fantasy hypothetical stuff). Generally, I stay away from sections like this, because of the amount of overlap they create with other boards. For example, when a 'Reviews' section was suggested, I rejected it because I didn't want the awkward task of explaining that "Game reviews don't belong in Gaming". However, that's exactly the problem that we have with the "What If?" section! For example, I recently moved "What if Pokémon ended at the 4th Generation?" from "Nintendo" to "What If?", and I felt a bit stupid when I did so :( .

    So, I'd suggest that the "What If?" and "Alternate History" threads be split by subject area. For example, the sporting what-ifs should go to Sport, and that Pokémon thread should go back to Nintendo, where it was originally posted. The alternate history threads that are actually about history would go into a new sub-forum of History and Society, which would be called "Historical What-Ifs" (since there are quite a lot of those, and I don't want them cluttering the main "History and Society" section). The Face-off Arena would stay together - but, more of this in Point #4.

    Breaking up the What-If section would make me a bit sad, since it's a ton of fun when it's done well. However, it simply doesn't fit into our forum layout structure :( .

  4. Combine the remaining bits of the Intellectual Curiosity Chamber with the remaining bits of the What-If section.

    This layout leaves several threads and sections without a home - most notably, the Face-Off Arena. I don't want to break this up, for two reasons: first of all, these are quite off-beat 'for fun' threads (and I don't want them cluttering forums that are devoted to more serious discussion); and secondly, some of them (like 20,000 Jedi vs. 3,000 T. rex) feature participants from entirely different subject areas, and therefore would lack a clear home on the board index.

    So, what I would do is create an "Odds and Ends" forum, at the bottom of Topical Discussions. This would contain the Face-off Arena; the 'topical' threads devoted to subjects not covered elsewhere (e.g. maths and philosophy); and the 'general intellectual' threads not devoted to any specific subject area (for example, Quick Questions and Answers).

  5. Section ordering

    Once we've done this, I think it might make sense to swap 'Technology and Computers' with 'Health and Lifestyle' in the board layout - which would leave us with the following:

    Proposed new 'Topical Discussions' section

    Essentially, this would give us two 'Science and tech' sections at the top, then three 'People and Humanities' sections after those, and finally one at the bottom that's more of a 'Miscellaneous' section.

Now, this doesn't solve every problem I have with the current board layout: there are still more things I'd like to change. However, like I explained at the start of the thread, I don't want to do attempt to do everything at once: it's almost certain that I'd get some things wrong, and have to make a further raft of changes to fix the new problems introduced. More than likely, a radical overhaul would just end up generating extra work for me, and extra confusion for everyone else. So, for now, I plan to stick with these 'easier' changes (or changes along these lines), and deal with the more difficult changes in Phase 2 (and perhaps even a 'Phase 3', if I don't get everything right in the first two :P ).

So, should I go ahead with these?
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#2
I am all for it, then again I pestered you about it many times. :p

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  • Kyng
#3
Full speed ahead, man!

(But watch out for the icebergs) :P
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  • Kyng
#4
(04-21-2019, 06:37 PM)Lurker101 Wrote: I am all for it, then again I pestered you about it many times. :p

Yeah, that's one of the things that inspired me to do this anyway - so, thanks for that :) !

Now, just in case anyone's curious, I've eyeballed down the forums that are to be broken up under this plan, and here's a rough breakdown of how the composition of the board would change:

  • Around 60% of the Intellectual Curiosity chamber would be moved into 'Science and Nature'. In total, the 'Science and Nature' section would be gaining around 50 new threads (these ones, plus a handful of What-Ifs);
  • History and Society would be gaining around 25 new threads (most of them going into the 'Historical What-Ifs' sub-forum);
  • 'Odds and Ends' would start with around 100 threads. 68 of these would be face-offs, while the rest would be coming from the Intellectual Curiosity Chamber;
  • Most of the other 'Topical Discussions' and 'Recreation and Media' sections would gain a small handful of threads (from the 'What If?' section).
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Lurker101 Wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Mega Blok movie planned but the pieces wouldn't fit together.

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#5
As a principal I really don't like the idea of Odds and Ends, because it'll only results in the lumping together of things that shouldn't go together, thus creating more problems than it solves.

I think "What If?" makes perfect sense as it is - it's for discussions about hypothetical ideas and speculation.

Honestly, to my mind, breaking up a couple of subforums because they don't fit right and then making a subforum for things that don't fit makes little sense. I think that section of the board is as good as I've seen it, in terms of organisation.

Though when have I ever agreed with the layout changes? :P
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  • Shiny Star
#6
Well, I think 'What If?' makes sense in isolation, or as part of a forum structure where everything is categorised by type of discussion rather than subject (for example, if we had "News", "Opinion", "Reviews", "Videos", "Polls" and "What If?", then I think the "What If?" board would fit right in). I just don't think it makes a great deal of sense to have "What If?", and then a whole bunch of forums for specific subjects, when the kinds of things we'd talk about in the "What If?" section are already covered by those specific subjects. I mean, you could argue that most of the "What If?" stuff is quite off-beat and therefore shouldn't be clogging up the more 'serious' boards (heck, that's the exact argument I'm using for keeping the Face-Off Arena together!), but even so, I did feel pretty stupid moving that Pokémon hypothetical out of the "Nintendo" forum, which is where it would clearly have belonged if "What If?" didn't exist.

I suppose the difference between the Face-Off Arena and the other hypothetical threads is that I view the Face-Off Arena as a "just for fun" thing, which I'd rather keep away from the more serious threads if I can think of a good way to do this (see also the trivia quizzes: I'm not proposing breaking these up by subject, because I view these as 'just for fun' as well!). On the other hand, the alternate history and the other What-Ifs are usually still at least semi-serious, and many of them are entirely serious (and therefore, IMO, would be better off being categorised into the subject-specific forums rather than being in their own separate place). I suppose it might be possible to re-purpose the "What If?" section into a place for "just for fun" fantasy discussions, but I can't think of a good way to do this right now :( . (If we were going to do that, then it'd probably be better to move it to Phase 2)

As for "Odds and Ends", I am open to alternative suggestions on what to do with these threads. I suppose the maths and/or philosophy could be shoehorned into Science and Nature, but I'd have to either make a new sub-forum for it (which I suspect would be little-used), or choose a different name and description which makes it clear that maths and/or philosophy threads go there. But then there's the issue of threads like Kurzgesagt and Answers With Joe (both of which are educational channels which don't focus on any specific subject). I'd feel really silly putting those in General Chat, but I can't think of any other home for them, except perhaps "The Internet" (based on the fact that they're on YouTube, which is part of the internet) - but then, should I move all educational channels to "The Internet", even if they focus on a specific subject? If the answer is 'Yes', then we're going to end up with science-oriented threads that aren't in the Science forum, and history-oriented threads that aren't in the History forum; if the answer is 'No', then we're setting up a confusing double system.

Of course, I'm not going to pretend that a "perfect layout" exists: every layout we could possibly think of will have advantages and disadvantages, and it's an exercise in making trade-offs. At some point, we'll encounter an annoying problem, and the only correct way to address it will be by saying "Yes, but it means we get to keep X, Y and Z, which would be a worthwhile sacrifice".

(I think I'd best stop now. Whenever I think too hard about forum layouts, I always seem to fall down the rabbit hole of trying to perfect one aspect, and then I end up hurting all of the other aspects :( !)
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Lurker101 Wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Mega Blok movie planned but the pieces wouldn't fit together.

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#7
Okay, in that case, I would suggest the following:
  • Make Alternate History a subforum of History and Society once more, like it used to be.
  • Make Face-Off Arena a subforum of Roleplaying (because that's the closest thing to it, really).
  • Move the rest of the What If? threads to their relevant forums (e.g. move the gaming ones to the gaming or Nintendo sections, the ones about people to History and Society, etc.)
As for the science subforums, I've always imagined Intellectual Curiosity Chamber to be about abstract ideas and science on a molecular or quantum level, whereas Nature and the Universe is about macroscopic things (the earth, the creatures that inhabit it, and the universe).

I suppose what I would do is keep Intellectual Curiosity Chamber, but move the science threads into the new Science and Nature subforum. Then run a period of trial to see if the subforum is still active. If it goes inactive after a while, perhaps we'll have to think of something else to do with the maths/philosophy/abstract threads.
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#8
That would be possible. If the face-offs are a "Just for fun" thing, then they should really be in the final "Off-topic" section of the board, with all the other "for fun" things (e.g. contests, quizzes, role plays), rather than a new 'Topical Discussions' board. Though, they'd be too small to have their own forum, and they don't even remotely fit anywhere other than with the RPGs, so that's probably what I'd do (in this case, I'd probably re-name "Roleplaying" to "Role Plays and Fantasies", or something like that).

And, yeah, I think that's sort of what I was getting at with the Intellectual Curiosity Chamber. I was trying to split the scientific threads between "nature" and "hard science", which was a stupid idea to begin with, but in practice it fell largely along "microscopic vs. macroscopic" lines. In any case, I don't think the "Microscopic vs. macroscopic" distinction is a helpful one, so I'd still want to move all of the 'scientific' threads into 'Science and Nature'. Then, the leftover Intellectual Curiosity Chamber would likely be re-named to something more descriptive, like "Abstract Ideas and Knowledge".

Trouble is, if we did this, then the "Abstract Ideas and Knowledge" section would be very small. It'd have around 30 topics and under 300 replies - making it by far the smallest forum on the main board index - and it'd have little realistic potential for growth. Is there anything else we can bring in from elsewhere on the board index (or even anything which currently isn't covered anywhere, but would fit in with the 'abstract ideas' theme? A quick Google search for 'abstract ideas' brought up this word cloud, which might help to get us thinking :P !)

If we don't have any other ideas, then I suppose I could do that for now: even if it only has 30 topics and 300 or so replies, most of those threads would be pretty high-brow, so giving them their own section wouldn't be a disaster, by any means. However, I expect I'd want to re-visit it as part of Phase 2.
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Lurker101 Wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Mega Blok movie planned but the pieces wouldn't fit together.

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#9
I did have another think about the "Abstract Ideas and Knowledge" board, and I haven't yet thought of that much that could reasonably go there, beyond just the non-scientific parts of Intellectual Curiosity Chamber.

The Assorted Pearls of Wisdom thread - currently buried and forgotten in General Chat - would fit in quite nicely. However, that's only one extra thread.

One idea I did have was that we could add threads related to formal education (i.e. school, university, and so on). This would probably get us about a dozen extra threads; for example, "UK schools abandoning music lessons". Currently, this thread is in the Music forum, where it kind of fits in, but it looks like a bit of an outlier - especially considering it's under "Entertainment" despite having nothing to do with entertainment. IMO, it's much more of an 'education' topic than a 'music' topic.

If we did this, then I'd probably call the board "Knowledge and Academia", rather than "Abstract Ideas and Knowledge", although "abstract ideas" would still be mentioned in the forum description.

So, does that sound like it would be worth doing?
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Lurker101 Wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Mega Blok movie planned but the pieces wouldn't fit together.

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#10
I like this - makes a lot of sense to me to have a board discussing education in general.
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