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Discussion: How can we Improve DonationCoder?

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some of the things that are out of our direct control (having more coders participate and share their skills) are things that would be helped by things that are in our direct control, like organizing and making it easier to locate and browse content already created and shared on the site, in ways that gothic and skrommel and others have suggest -- making a better software section where everything can be found in an orderly way.

so i propose we put the organization/exposure/view/browsing improvements as our first priority.

i think that means moving to some kind of cms/wiki system for the main pages of the site, especially the software/reviews areas, instead of static html pages uploaded with ftp, which is how the site was started in 2005 and still exists today.

@mouser : I would like to pick up on your comment (Reply #65 on: 2010-05-03, 06:47:53): (and without teaching my grandmother to suck eggs)
"so i propose we put the organization/exposure/view/browsing improvements as our first priority."
--- End quote ---
I should perhaps first off say here that, having a somewhat autistic, pedantic and analytical mind, I do not understand the driving purpose behind the question ("How can we Improve DonationCoder?"), and thus I do not understand what areas of DC are potential candidates for improvement. I therefore feel unable to make any useful, specific suggestions to "fix" an undefined problem - if there is indeed a problem (though a lot of ideas do come to mind, which could be useful in a brainstorming session).

(a) the quote above would seem to indicate that the way in which people view/browse is seen as a problem to be fixed, and so it is being assigned "1st priority" (I'm not sure what that means - is it "mandatory", or "urgent and important"? Could there be other 1st priority problems placed alongside it?).
(b) I do not see the "Why" of this. I could be wrong, of course, but it does not seem to have been demonstrated that organization/exposure/view/browsing is in fact a causal problem and therefore needs fixing. Therefore, if it is a problem then it might be just a symptomatic problem, the cause lying elsewhere.

Just supposing it does need fixing though:
IF the way in which people view/browse is seen as a problem to be fixed, THEN:

* Do you restrict your problem definition to the view/browse limitations of using the nested structure of the DC forum, and address/"fix" that?
* IF you do that, THEN where do you consider how else DC users might be viewing the content of the DC forum?
I only mention/question this because, whilst I have no idea how other DC users view/browse the site, I have always found the nested structure to be logical, but a very rigid/cumbersome constraint - which makes for S-L-O-W going - so, very early on I decided to avoid the constraint roughly 98% of the time by using new technology. Specifically, by browsing/viewing all the NEW forum comments and topic posts in my Google Reader (a feed aggregator technology) - thus never going near the actual DC forum for that purpose. If I wanted to subsequently see all of the related thread history for an item, then I would click into the relevant NEW item in Google Reader, and hop straight into the DC forum nested structure, to that that item in its specific thread in the DC forum. Once you are looking at that level of detail, the nested DC forum structure seems to be VERY well-suited to information-gathering.

Using Google Reader in this manner:

* You can keep tabs on every single comment and new posting, and do it with minimal time spent on the activity.
* You can sort and filter duplicated NEW comment titles - thus simplifying the view of changed discussions and reducing the number of lines that need to be scanned (see the greyed-out lines in the screenshot below).
* You can sort and filter just NEW topics (using sort on the Donation Coder unread items, "-Re:" - as in the other screenshot below)The thing is, therefore, that, IF you restrict your problem definition to the view/browse limitations of using the nested structure of the DC forum, and end up doing something similar (say) to what I have described, then that would mean that you had put considerable thought and effort into duplicating what can already be done using Google Reader (or other feed aggregator technology) within a browser.

This might be relevant to CWuestefeld's comment (Reply #12 on: 2010-04-24, 07:49:09):
"I haven't been using DC as much as I used to. I think at one point I would check for new posts every hour. Lately, I might check once at lunch, if that."
--- End quote ---
I hate the thought of missing something in DC forum, but there's stuff that's interesting to me and there's stuff that isn't, so, how do you sort what is (for you) the wheat from the chaff AND avoid using the actual forum? I don't have the time/inclination/patience to go off to each forum or blog or whatever I am interested in. I therefore use a feed aggregator to collect the information and then I scan/sort through it. IF you use Google Reader (or some other feed aggregator) in similar fashion, THEN there's no need to EVER use the DC forum itself until you spot something of interest to you. Then you can go straight in to the point itself. Potentially a real time-saver.

So, to summarise:

* Rule: If it ain't broke, then don't fix it.
* Technology: Use new technology (e.g., including feed aggregator technology).
* Problem definition: Distinguish between symptomatic/superficial/"perceived" problems and causal problems.
* Priority: Only assign priority to addressing causal problems (i.e., expend your finite efforts where they can be most effective).

I am not sure when it happened, but the main page of the site stopped looking like a site where you can download software and began looking like a general technology blog.

The blog is a great idea, but I don't think it should be the main focus of the main page, with the software buried behind a link in the top border of the page.

If you are going to use the blogging mod to place content on the front page, it should be all DC software & review related, with the rest being on the actual blog page.

I might even go as far as breaking the front page into sections, showcasing the main points of what DC is all about: the software we offer, the reviews we write, and something about what we do, why we are doing it, and why the visitor might want to support this site.

Currently, this is what makes up the bulk of the main page:

Discussion: How can we Improve DonationCoder?

Based on that, what would you think this site is? Really look at it objectively through the eyes of a first time visitor.

app: ok i just reverted to our more normal front page.. i changed it a while ago to make the front page show the blog content in an effort to make it more useful.

but i think the issues you raise about what should the front page show, go right to the heart of what skrommel was saying and also what i agree we need to do, which is make the front page more like a NEWS front page, with the latest content on the site highlighted.  latest coding snacks, latest mini reviews, latest software updates, latest blog items, etc., all in a compact format.


your post may be an example of the fact that the sophisticated users will almost always have a way to get at the content they find interesting, and locate the stuff they care about.. and so i'm not so sure you are the kind of user who will be much affected by organizational changes.

personally i'm satisfied with the way the forum is basically structured and navigated, in terms of following discussions, etc.

i think the case for re-organization is best made if you view the site from the standpoint of someone new to DC, who comes in and is interested in for example, any small utilities that may have been created on the site for managing keyboard hotkeys..  how would they look for it? they would probably have to search on the forum for "hotkey" and go through tons of results.  here's a case where having a better indexed and organized catalog of coding snacks developed by dc users would go along way.  Our current Coding Snacks page is here.  While it's not the worst thing in the world, it is still far from ideal, as well as not being easy for coders to update themselves.

so from my standpoint i think maybe the best bang for the buck in terms of improving site organization is to leave the forum as it is -- and just focus on making the rest of the non-forum website pages on better in terms of exposing the rest of the content on the site, and making it easier to maintain those pages.


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