First of all, nude Angelina Jolie = big
Other than that I personally think DC is doing juuuust fine. Is NANY a bit cloudy in direction at the moment? Sure. But even if we "just" end up what doing what we did last time, I think that would be great. I'm totally open to trying new things, even if they fail, because I think we do have a baseline model that we can always return to and should work reasonably well, if not "perfectly".
The "life" of DC is the forum at this point, and I think the discussions here are very healthy. DC keeps up in posting rates with most of the other forums I visit regularly that I consider to have "healthy" communities without (thank god) going into the "too many damn posts to keep up with!" realm that really big sites get. And indeed, as traffic goes up, noise goes up too, and I think overall signal to noise ratio gets worse. Personally I think that this ratio is pretty good at DC right now, despite the proclivity to for some threads to simply peter out in a flurry of increasingly clever puns (I'm a fan of puns btw, hehe).
However, I can see how it might not be entirely encouraging for new users. A couple of thoughts occur to me about that. First, I see new people come in from time to time, despite whatever "problems" might be here, and several of them seem to stick around. If we grew much faster than we are now, I'm not sure it would be a good thing. So, related to that, I think there is a certain range of personality types that do well at DC as it is. Certainly we can change or *maybe* even broaden the range of types that thrive here if we want to, but I think most would agree that you can't be all things to all people, and what we have here is pretty good. So why fight it? New people who come along, if they like what is happening here, will join in.
We are not necessarily a "public service" that neophite users need to feel totally 100% comfortable and easy coming into and asking every tech question they've ever had; it's sensible and right that there be reasonable "barriers to entry" based simply on existing community relationships. It's no different than anywhere else in the world where existing relationships make it a bit uncomfortable for any new person to join in, but these issues are overcome every day all over the world, and they are here too. Not only that but I think DC actually stands out, both from the real world and many (most?) online forums as being *more* friendly and accessible.
With all that in mind, the only slight tweak I could see having some benefit - though I would be very cautious of implementing it too - is to allow people to tag their *own* posts as "off-topic" or "joke" or whatever, so that if someone browsing is *really* just interested in the info posts, they can filter them. That's actually an interesting take on the whole tagging/filtering concept, and might have some merit since it is only self-"censorship" if anything. Who knows if people would use the tag though, or how we would present the option to new users. Actually, not-so-new users might appreciate the ability to ignore the pun-storms too.
Ultimately, I don't think changing the forums or discussion styles or anything is the right way to address any difficulties with the site for new (or not so new) people. My feeling is that, as a forum, DC is pretty darn successful, useful, interesting. What I *would* like to see is expansion and improvement of other services and areas of the site. The suggestions for listing all, or at least a lot more, of the software produced here is spot-on for example.
There is far too much useful software that gets no visibility. I don't think it should necessarily involve a manual submission system either, as many coding snacks might not justify doing so for their authors. Instead it could be some kind of simple manual or semi-automated tagging system like the blog. Maybe make another posting template for general software posting/coding snacks (similar to NANY pledges/project posts, with version #, download link, etc.), and allow authors to update their own threads, keeping the first post (which becomes the tagged post, visible on the software list page(s)) up-to-date. I think a list of software, with links to discussion threads, in a categorized list in the main content areas of the front page would be very valuable. Particularly active authors might have their own pages *in addition*, but I'd suggest that A: those pages be used to talk about the author and let them pick out a few specific apps they want to highlight and then B: link to a list of all their software pulled from the main categorized list, rather than simply having all their software listed on their page. After all, most people are probably looking for software that does a particular thing, not necessarily looking for "more random software from that guy who made Trout" (although admittedly some people might be looking for that too
Moving on, I also think that the review "problem" needs to be addressed. Fortunately I happen to know there are long-term plans to do this, but they're very ambitious. I think the system that is in mind has a good chance of solving the problems, but until it's in place, there is really no option but a lot of work input from one or a few people working together, to produce a large review of the level of quality and professionalism of the best major reviews of the past. If people have the ambition to do it, that's great, but it's not something we'll be able to count on our expect until there are better systems to distribute the effort IMHO.
That being said, last and not least I think a general wiki might A: be interesting as a general place to hold info (hopefully people would get into using it and copying data from the forums) and B: might be a short-term stand-in for a more purpose-built system for review writing. A review authored in the wiki could easily accommodate conctributions from lots of people, thus helping to distribute the effort. Wikis are so easy to put up, and are integratable with the existing forum userbase and authentication credential system, that I think it only makes sense to put one up and see what happens. The only major issue I see with it as far as pulling content from the forums would be copyright concerns, so some kind of system for easily requesting permission for a wiki copy of forum post content from the author might be necessary to sufficiently streamline things. Other than that, I think it's a no brainer to at least try.
So ultimately the takeaway from my characteristically lengthy post is: A: The forums are great way they are, let's not screw them up by trying to structure or control posting or make them more "friendly" for new users (or anyone who is not a currently happy participator) at the expense of what we already have; B: New and/or updated/improved systems for exposing the existing info, software, and other resources here would be great.