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Site software priorities -- aesthetic alterations vs. repairing functionality? Answered

(Yes, this is a rant.  "Suggestions" are implicit in my complaints...)

I am curious as to where the rather long list of known and reported bugs falls with respect to priorities regarding the I'bles server software.

For the past few weeks, it has been clear that I'ble staff are "experimenting" with altering the appearance and available features of the sites pages.  Switching information around, removing primary category links, eliminating classified lists within categories.

Certainly developing and deploying new features, which add value to the site and thereby (hopefully!) increase revenue, should be a high priority for limited staff resources. 

However, it doesn't seem quite so obvious that removing features, or tweaking things like font size and color (which for accessibility should be under control of the browser, anyway), really deserve precedence over repairing problems that have been known for months or years.




8 years ago

These are very good points.  I am really glad you posted this (and sorry you had to).  This post has sparked off quite a bit of discussion here at HQ as to the details of how to improve our communication.  That discussion isn't over yet so I can't comment on that now, but it has shaken things up for sure and you will see improvements.

Regarding the bugs vs. cosmetic improvements.  We are still seriously working on ways to encourage Pro subscriptions and longer site visits.  The theory is, if things are easier for new visitors to find, they'll stay longer and maybe sign up for Pro.  The recent UI changes have been based on a bunch of research we have done regarding what users actually click on, where on the page, how long they stay, and so on.  So it's not just, er, wankery :)  Additionally, there are some slightly larger changes that are coming soon... I've poked Eric to start letting you all know about that as part of the Better Communication discussion mentioned above.

Secondarily, there are still some issues with the Pro payment system... the service provider we use does not, unfortunately, have a very complete testing system so we have to try certain things out in production and see what happens.  This is a very long test cycle so it moves very slowly.

Finally, we've been short one developer for several months now.  I'm happy to say that it looks like we may have a new front-end developer very soon; once that's finalized we'll introduce him.  So with some luck we should be able to move a bit faster going forward.

Still. We do need to get on the bugs more, you are right.  We've been remiss on that, and I'm personally going to promise at least one old bugfix per release for the next few months.  What is your most annoying bug?  I will do that one first.

These are very good points.  I am really glad you posted this (and sorry you had to).  This post has sparked off quite a bit of discussion here at HQ as to the details of how to improve our communication. 

...well come on then , get Eric to communicate. I've asked him directly why you have screwed up the main page and hidden the answers section, and he hasn't responded.

This lack of respect for existing users is a major reason I feel like quitting the site. 

Regarding the  Answers button being removed, I can tell you from other sources that the "missing" button generated almost zero traffic to the Answers section.

Removing it is a visual tidying-up that does no actual harm to the site or its users.  The only "harm" was a lack of communication.

As for the main page - different isn't necessarily wrong. 

I counted three questions on the topic, one from me, one from Re-design and one from another member, plus all the comments here in "Bugs"  from other regulars - including you. .

I fail to see how this  "visual tidying up" was necessary - it was hardly cluttered there to begin with !

Like I said, its drip, drip, drip. If we hadn't made a noise about this change, I don't see that they would even be considering improving communication, and now they are, so that's a result then.

I agree with you, different isn't always wrong, but when once clearly labelled functionality is completely buried, then it is to me.

Removing the summaries has removed the annoying (and sometimes off-putting) "this is my first" comments.  Personally, the brief taster of the intro was never an influence to look at the project, but the title and image were.

I believe the removal of the text has made the front page much more accessible to the first-time visitor, and made them much more likely to explore the site.

Answers is not buried.  It is just accessed differently.  In fact, it is not different at all - the routes that people used are all still there.  The route that almost generated almost zero clicks was removed.  The number of questions does not seem to have fallen, so there was clearly no reason to leave it.

If you need a direct link to the Answers section, then do as I and others have done - customise your personal tool bar.

Pause and consider - are you annoyed at the changes, none of which affect functionality, and should increase revenue-generating traffic, or are you just annoyed because nobody asked you first?

Generated almost zero clicks was removed.

I didn't know there were any other ways to find it.  It is the only way I knew to find it.  Perhaps a bug in the link trackback polling?

If I had to venture a guess I'd say that a LOT of new user accounts are generated with the answers section - a good 20% of quesions are new signups with no past history.  A foot in the door in my opinion.

Eric doesn't have to guess about the traffic to/from various parts of the site, since he has all the data to hand.

keyword BUG - the data may not be correct;

Maybe I'm wrong, I often am - but to hear "there are near zero clicks" compared to the numerous complaints coupled with my personal experience that I literally did not know where else to find answers, and used the link 20 times a day...


I count less than a dozen actual people who have complained.  Compared to an unknown (to us) amount of traffic to the Answers page?

Certainly, even just amongst the active posters on the forums, those who have complained about the loss of the button are very much in the minority.

I cite the bystander effect....  ;)

I'm not annoyed that "I" wasn't asked, I'm annoyed that NONE of us, apart from you, evidently, were given any kind of preview or TOLD that the function had changed after the update - how many other sites (Yahoo, Google etc, you know, bitplayers) give you a few weeks to look at the site in Beta before unleashing it on everyone ?

I did the toolbar customisation last week, once I'd verified that the sudden loss of an old function wasn't down to some weird cookie problem - there are plenty of them here - A wasted half an hour in the end.

Like someone else said, you buy a DVD player, and it works great, until someone, unannounced, and uninvited, walks into your front room and removes the fast forward key from your remote control. Now, sure, you can still do it from the player, but you have to mess around. I see that as a pretty exact analogy.


I wasn't asked any more than you were, I just found out afterwards.

It's not the loss of an old function, it's the removal of an unused button.  The DVD analogy is wrong.

If it was "unused", there are an awful lot of people here who were "unusers". The DVD analogy seems a perfect one to me - you can argue about the button, but not the removal method.

I didn't use it.

I didn't even notice it had gone until people started whining about it.

A better analogy would be the USB socket on the front of a Sky box.  Have you used it?  Do you know anybody who has tried?

Whatever, if someone walked in and disabled it without asking would you just let 'em ? Would you feel annoyed ? or are you the perfect consumer, who accepts whatever scraps they're thrown ?

But nobody has walked into my home.

An establishment I visit has had a switcharound.

Are you the nightmare consumer, who moans to head office when a shop moves the shelves around a bit?

OK, Lets rewrite it for you.  This establishment has shelves which occasionally fall off the wall for no satisfactory reason, doors which lock themselves randomly, and when I decide to browse an item on the shelf  someone knocks the shelf away from my hand and redirects me to the sub-basement, and a filing cabinet marked "beware of the leopard"

Your move.

And yes, The Customer is King.

What move?

Do you think that badgering me will persuade people that you are right?

Look up and down these topics.  How many people are bothered enough by the change to keep commenting?

The market is king, and one person is not a market - "squeaky wheel" is not a philosophy I have noticed this site subscribing to.

Carry on shouting into an empty room if you want, or try talking to the admins.

Small hint, though - try using a damn site more respect than you are giving me in this thread.

Apart from Eric making one comment about how hunky dory he thinks it is, and "Rachels comments, there has been a lot of silence from the management.

Unfortunately, I am evidently, as you say,  "shouting into an empty room", where no one is listening.

We'll agree to disagree and leave it.
Sorry I hurt your feelings.

.  Dude! I understand your frustration, but try to remember that Ibles is a pretty small operation. I see 9 full-time employees* and one intern on the About page.
.  I too think Robot has been remiss in letting us know what's going on, but I see it as a group of ppl trying to do an awful lot with very little resources and stopping to notify us kinda gets forgotten in the hustle, bustle, and rush - not a lack of respect.
.  Eric's other endeavors probably feed his family (from what I can tell, Ibles isn't exactly a font of wealth) and deserve most of his attention. Eric claims to read all his PMs (I can't find a link easily). I have PMd Eric a few times, but I didn't expect an answer (and certainly not a quick one) because of how busy he is. If I want an answer, I've found that PMing someone a little lower on the ladder works much better.
.  We're just one big family here. Give me a brotherly hug and take the chill pill that LR offered. I feel confidant that things will work out ... it just may take a little longer than we like.

*There's a good chance that some of those folks are actually part-time.

"For only $ 1.95 a month, you can feed a starving Corvidae..."

I would do it as long as I get pictures of it every now and then.

Whoa now.

I don't perceive a lack of respect for existing users. Staff maybe doesn't hang onto our every word as individuals, but you must understand the vocal members comprise a tiny, tiny minority of all users - and of necessity they must make decisions based on the preferences of the majority of users (as best they can determine what those preferences are).

I totally agree we could do with a little more communication, but that doesn't translate into disrespect. 

Rachel, thank you very much for the long and informative reply.  I realize that my tone was somewhat accusatory (yes, I'm annoyed :-), but I sure hope I didn't imply any "wankery" on the part of Staff!  You all (clearly) work very hard, and it's good to know that you've filled a vacancy.

I think Better Communications would go very far to reducing the annoyance factor among the more seasoned users (there will always be those who gripe no matter what).  Having a forum under Help to announce changes a few days in advance could be useful -- if you make it clear these are already-decided announcements, then it's reasonable to ignore criticisms :-)  Using the mailing list to discuss some of the planned changes in advance would also provide you with a cadre of advocates to respond to gripers (recall some of the Pro-only feature changes).

You asked me, "What is your most annoying bug?"  Unfortunately, the most honest answer will always be, "The last one I ran into." :-) 

  • Today, it was the "pre-formatted text" bug (failing to respect carriage returns in <PRE>...</PRE> blocks). 
  • How about the formatting issues with PMs?  Ah, it looks like the line-break problem is fixed. 
  • The last time I updated my summary of editor bugs, there were several still pending. Perhaps a status report on those could be posted to that topic?
  • Speaking of which, it appears that the double-conversion never got resolved, as your long comment in the thread above still has lots of embedded HTML tags.

8 years ago

Apart from the odd minor change (like the sudden swapping of the right hand bar) I've not noticed any problems.

And I have (no choice in this) to use IE6 :-(

Most people don't support this at all anymore, including this week youtube! (not that I can access that here anyway)

I would think that getting the major "alterations" finished before working on the bugs would be the way to go at this point, only because, fixing a bug, that may come back or be worse, after an alteration is installed, would be doubling or tripling the work load on the staff who are obviously working very hard already.
I DO understand your POV however kelsey :-) 

.  IMO (humble or not), the biggest problem is the lack of communications between Robot and we users.
.  It would be nice to have a little advance warning of changes. Maybe add a Change Log category where coming changes can be posted. This could avoid a lot of confusion after changes such as the recent disappearance of the Questions/Answers link. It would allow the more active/helpful users to link to the Change Log post when someone asks about it.
.  Be proactive, not reactive.

A change log would be good! Do you guys use bug tracking software (Mantis? Bugzilla?) internally? Would be cool to be able to see the list of known bugs so we don't report multiples and waste your time. While a nice idea I guess, probably not a good idea for security reasons :(

Some part of me likes it when sites change in seemingly random ways, it makes me feel like I can relate to the staff... Mainly it tallies well with my 'hey if I do that' logic, which explains my furniture moving around a lot and why there are hats, guitars, weird russian posters and a gun on my kitchen walls.

However I walk in to things in my house constantly.

That analogy can also be extended to include the dodgey trackpad on the laptop with a crate of beer... 

...what he said.