Web Paint-by-Number Forum
Topic #1073: Making the forum work better for new users
By Valerie Mates (valerie)

#1: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 7, 2024

I am thinking about how to make the forum work better. Jan designed it with the idea that everybody would read all the topics. If you have already caught up on reading everything, then the default options work very nicely. But, me personally, I have oodles of topics that I have never read, and that makes all of the menu options very unwieldy. I would like the forum to show me newly entered topics automatically, and also I would like it to show me new replies to existing topics, even for topics that I haven't read.

I'd appreciate people's thoughts about what might make the forum topics more approachable.

Some ideas that I have been thinking about:

* When new people create an account, all of the existing forum topics would be marked as "unseen" -- a new status that is different from "unread." When they looked at the forum they would only see new topics that were added after they arrived. When someone added a new reply to an "unseen" topic, it would be shown from the beginning through to the most recent posting.

* Anybody could choose to mark all postings as "unseen" or as "read" or as "unread." Users like me, who already have an account but there are lots of unread forum topics, could use these options as a way to catch up, so that it would be easier to find new postings when they are posted.

* Maybe we need some new options on the pulldown menu for ways to read the forum, such as "Show me everything that was posted in the last ___ days" or "Show me everything that is new since last time I was here."

* The front page mixes forum topics together with puzzles that have new comments. I am thinking that maybe it should give a higher priority to showing forum postings, especially the News topic. (There isn't often news, but when there is, people should see it.) Maybe puzzle comments and forum topics could even have their own separate sections, instead of being mixed together, to increase the chance that forum topics are seen.

* I am thinking that when there is unread News, the website could turn the News button a different color, to nudge people to go read it.

What do you think?
#2: Byrdie (byrdie) on May 7, 2024
Reading the forum is always the first thing I do when I check in, even if I don't stay and puzzle (some nights there just isn't time). The "show only new" works great for me because I'm up to date. Puzzles only get added to my list to read after I've solved them.

I seem to remember that it did take me a while to get caught up when I first started participating on the forum. Just figured it was part of the price of belonging to the community. Of course, there weren't quite as many topics then either . . .

I guess I don't have anything of value to add because I don't see any issues with the way it currently works.
#3: Kristen Vognild (kristen) on May 8, 2024
I like the idea of a notice of New Forum Entries, particularly the New forums.
#4: Bill Eisenmann (Bullet) on May 9, 2024
How about a new column called "Last action date", where we can list by clicking that category, and the most recent comments would be on top?
#5: Joanne Firla (JoFirla) on May 9, 2024
I like the thought of the news button being a different color when there is something new to read. I'm usually glossing right over that to look at puzzles, so I tend to miss stuff.
#6: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 10, 2024
Bill - I like that a lot! Thanks!!

Joanne - News postings are so rare that there is usually no reason to check for them. So I think having the button change color when there *is* unread news would help people to find it.
#7: Brenda Barnes Jamieson (bbj) on May 11, 2024
It took me a decade of puzzle solving before I ever looked at anything besides puzzles. What if, occasionally, the "Yahoo! You solved it!" message includes something like, "For more fun, click on 'View and Make Comments'"?
#8: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 12, 2024
Brenda - Yes! I've thought about that too. I've been thinking about adding code so that when a person solves a puzzle, the comments are shown automatically, so that the person doesn't need to click on anything to see them.
#9: Philip (Philip) on May 12, 2024
I also have lots of unread forum topics, but I've read most of the recent ones.

I think Bill's suggestion would be helpful, especially when there's new activity on an old topic.

Separating forum topics from puzzle comments on the front page might be helpful, it's definitely helpful on the Forum page.

Making unread News more noticeable could be nice.
#10: Brian Bellis (mootpoint) on May 13, 2024
I like the idea that the view and make comments would come up automatically when a puzzle is solved. Newer users may not even realize there are hidden comments. Besides, it may encourage more solvers to read and respond to comments. As I have stated before, it is the comments that make this a community.
#11: David Bouldin (dbouldin) on May 13, 2024
Bill's suggestion pretty much covers the main wish list I had. I make sure I'm up-to-date on "New Replies to Your Postings" and then I pick away at trying to tackle my "New Comments For Solved Puzzles". What I've always thought would be nice is a way to sort that second list by Most Recent Comment. I mean, I'm going through and looking at very old conversations, would be nice to prioritize more recent activity. I can sort by clicking the header of the results to get most sort orders I want except that, so Bill's idea is an intuitive way to do that without having to introduce a "Sort By" that either duplicates the functionality of clickable headers or looks rather wanting for choice.
#12: Brian Bellis (mootpoint) on May 13, 2024
A few years ago I "looked at" all of the comments in all of the forums so now only new ones come up and I just stay up to date. It took a long time but once It was done, it is a snap to maintain. It is just a few new comments every day.

I usually don't solve large puzzles so I am unaware of any comment threads happening on those puzzles unless they are in the home page active discussion list.

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