Introducing BBS, our new forums

I have been trying to formulate an opinion about this that doesn’t use napalm to make the point. I am feeling a bit like I was invited to a party with a bunch of smart funny people and the conversation is just heating up and the host steps up and announces that they have planned some party games to liven things up.

Recognize that the results of your experiment have outgrown your preconception.

Also, don’t expect the shunted aside to cheer when you announce how the new digs are freshly painted and just a block away.

Boing Boing needs the heavy ladling of skepticism provided by your commenters. The main crew is chosen for their focus and passion, but there is a lot of mis-conception and unconscious boosterism that sneaks in by way of over-worked brains failing to judge. The ruthlessness of the commenters combined with the awesome intellects many of them bring to the discussion is one of the things that keeps Boing Boing as useful and entertaining as it is.

You guys got together and decided you could carry it on your own. OK, I’ll give it a chance, but I already have a bitter taste in my mouth when I go to BB now.

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Yes, I meant the front page. (Good to hear the counts will be coming back, or something like them.)

@dnebdal, well said, regarding the discussion being part of the article, rather than something ‘away’ from the article. (@Martin_Greve also said it well, above.) To me the discussion is as much ‘content’ as the actual article/posting. It’s user-generated content, which is now being split off and squirreled ‘away’ in a separate location (which is just another forum, just what the internet needs…) To me it seems backwards to take what is perhaps the most valuable content on your site, and put it more mouse clicks away from the front page, and your readers.

Honestly, I liked the fact that BB was pretty well moderated and ‘locked-down’, commenting-wise. (Else it would end up looking like YouTube). I really don’t care what Sally has to say about XYZ, such that she needs to go start a new thread about it. Yay. Go do that somewhere else. If it’s not directly tied to the article somehow, it’s noise as far as I’m concerned, in terms of being part of what I consider the ‘BoingBoing experience’.

BB to me has always been a collection of bookmarks (25%), and refined, intelligent commentary on those bookmarks (75%). Now it’s bookmarks and a forum, which is a different animal, and is sure to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio. I prefer the KISS approach of the way things were originally set up, and am not seeing the need for the added complexity of a forum here. (Occam’s razor, and all that…)

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It’s interesting. BB.net was bringing in attention from far and wide (I first discovered via a CNN article in about 2006 - latecomer), and plays an ever more important central cultural role. I never felt it was mainstreaming.

Part of the massive interest (addiction) was that real people came with strong opinions and positions, and openly expressed them. For example, with gun control, I knew the people debating were in it for real, not just randomly spouting. I learned more through the commentary about NRA attitudes and the diversity of NRA supporters than any news article, book, expose, whatever, could have taught me. My opinions on other areas have shifted and morphed.

So many fascinating things have come to me via BB, obviously central to that being the key team’s posts, and I’ve followed up on them to greater or lesser extent. But also the comments - I’ve followed up, researched, learned, leaned in on positions, unbuckled and challenged with engaged and vivid participants in a rare way, that really, and rapidly, got to the heart of issues and peoples’ inner feelings.

I feel a lot of that came from the idea that it was very public, albeit somewhat anonymous, but in discussion you knew that many, many people would follow the trail and read it.

The forums are interesting, but it feels harder, much harder, to catch that wave.

Everyone I’ve introduced to BB has raved - and raved about the comments. I’ve seen people giggling devilishly for hours following a single thread, tears coming from their eyes. A strong part of that was, again, the knowledge that the world could and did watch what was going on - it was very, very public.

Ach. Somewhat bereft. Many ideas for the go forward, but all would involve development beyond the status quo of forum workings. I know things are evolving - but do we get to mainline that stream of consciousness again, that delicious injection?

Are we free to ask what the overall strategy is? What direction BB is heading? What drove the change?

Anon.

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Yep, I have often been boggled at the bizarreness of this “comment” section thing that accidentally popped up on the site years ago. Never seen the like. Called my wife in and we both gaped at it for like 20 minutes before she got bold enough to poke out a few words with the wooden spoon she was holding at the time. Damned if what she typed didn’t appear right there, on the site, like magic. “Martha,” I said. “Look at that there. We’re publishing just as we please!”

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So, I’ve given this new “feature” a couple of days to win me over, but I’m afraid it’s not happening. Frankly, it’s a huge step backwards in terms of encouraging reader involvement. The net effect is bit like requiring readers to needlessly jump to an entirely different website if they wish to comment on an article over on the main BB site. Simplicity has been sacrificed on the altar of bells-n-whistles.

I wasn’t a fan of Disqus, but this isn’t an improvement, unless your goal was to actually reduce reader presence on the main BB site. Or, perhaps, the point was to make sure only sympathetic posts are featured on the main BB site, while all other posts remain balkanized over on the bbs? It’s hard to tell, honestly, what the impetus really was in creating the bbs, but simplifying and encouraging reader involvement on BB site doesn’t seem to be it. This effectively segregates BB from readers’ involvement, especially given that posts that do make it over to BB are curated. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a walled garden (yet), but BB is certainly no longer a wide-open green.

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RIDICULOUS COMMENTS AFTER BOING BOING CHANGED ITS COMMENTS SYSTEM-AND ALSO AFTER THE SECOND TIME I HAD REGISTERED WITH DISCOURSE.

ON 28 JUNE 2013 I WROTE A RESPONSE TO THE COMICS RACK ARTICLE.

Unfortunately a large amount of the comment has gone “lost in the sandbox” I was to find out.

I had said something about how irritating it was that I couldn’t post a comic response to the article.

LukeTempleWalsh said:
IMAGE BLOCKED. The forum’s message:
“Sorry, new users can’t put images in posts.” Wow. Months and months and months ago I replied to a comic article on Boing Boing by doing a comic as a response. The comic article included a review of a comic done in comic form. Note I said “months ago”? But that was using Disqus. Now Discourse, or whatever this new thing is, has told me that new users cannot post a picture with their comment. Wow! Digitotalitarianism! Oh, I also wrote a thing about that on Boi…

That’s as much as was left of what I had written. However I remember I did point out that there was an inherent contradiction in the idea that there would be more freedom and the new interface as fanfared by Rob Beschizza would apparently improve the user experience of commenting, and the fact that my trying to use an image to comment was immediately vetoed.

So, what was left of that comment was only available thanks to this ‘codinghorror’ dude who wrote a reply to my comment:

Coding Horror said:

"Hey! I saw your post above.

To make it out of the new user sandbox, just spend a bit of time browsing around BBS reading a bit and you’ll have regular user permissions – which include posting images – in no time at all.

Also your old Disqus comments have not gone anywhere, see: (he redirects me to the post about people who made 50 comments get special passes with a link to it).

29 June 2013

I woke up to find the reply. And that the comment I had posted on Boing Boing was not there. Not in the article’s comment thread. Not on the Discourse site.

Well I hadn’t discovered that yet but here is the reponse I made (which will no doubt disappear, which is why I am saving it on my own computrer this time) to the comment from ‘codinghorror’:
Responding to this comment which was made private for some reason. I think it should be public:
codinghorror said:
"Hey! I saw your post above. To make it out of the new user sandbox, just spend a bit of time browsing around BBS reading a bit and you’ll have regular user permissions – which include posting images – in no time at all.
Also your old Disqus comments have not gone anywhere, see: New BBS Accounts "

To which I responded:

Hey! Thanks for replying and explaining that to me.

So my previous comments are out there, somewhere drifting in the Sargasso of Forum space.(As James Doohan’s remains will be if the ashes rocket thing happens, and hopefully he will find a planet where they can go back in time and retroactively teach him how to do a Scottish accent properly).

In one of those comments I discussed Digitotaltarianism. I am not going to précis my thoughts on this subject or why I invented the term here. I basically have gravitas in sort of “underground legend” terms. One of the things I find strange about all this is that my work as an individual is being pulped, mashed, disintegrated, jettisoned in this process of the introduction of a new system. As much fanfare about this new system as can be made, it is apparent to me that it has already failed by systematically destroying the context of previous history - something I think contradicts exactly what Cory Doctorow talked about (another- article I commented on funnily enough) in relation to books. He did a talk on it. Though it was somewhat obfuscated, he seemed to be saying that the history of literature is important and should not be lost in the “Age of Kindle”.

I had already read the link you sent by the way. I have never counted how many comments I made - I count the meaning and substance of my comments as vastly superior in value to the amount of them - the content within my comments is the product of deep thinking, not of Twitteresque micro-responses. I have also spent time reading Boing Boing content, however I tend to be very choosy, and analyse the headlines in the regular newsletter, then choose what I am going to read. I am even more choosy about what I comment on. Being told to go and read Boing Boing for a while to “make it out of the sandbox” is like a Professor being told to go back to first grade,.

Thanks for your suggestions but they are actually misdirected.

SUFFICE TO SAY, I WON’T BE COMMENTING ON bOING bOING AGAIN UNLESS SOMETHING CLEVER HAPPENS.

Oh. I also noticed that the circular avatar design Google+ (and who were a main target for my Digitotalitarianism thesis) stole off me and which I used on Boing Boing is now part of the coding. Just an afterthought there.

Me too!

I had a feeling that claim might raise an eyebrow. Unfortunately irony isn’t always communicable through text. I thought my James Doohan gag was funnier.

Martin, thanks for your thoughts.

See, here’s the problem:

"The basement of the Web, “first floor of the boingboing Palace”

We get obsessed with venue. It hardly matters if we create a more open, free, permissive, peer-reviewy, substantial place to discuss things, and it hardly matters if our old comment section was not these things. Why? Because what’s wanted is the sense that everyone’s an equal, to whatever extent, in the same editorial project. But this was never really true, was it?

Removing the ‘notable comments’ section on the post is a possibility. If it creates the appearance of a “real” Boing Boing and a “basement” Boing Boing, it’s failing to do what we want, which is to make sure casual readers–the 95 percent or so of visitors who do not even read comments–get to see the best of it.

(Lest this seem like an unfairly dismissive response, please read my thoughts earlier in the thread, which go into more depth on how we’ve always been very selective about what comments are published, and how we hope BBS will be far from a ‘basement’)

Understood. The answer to all these fears and questions, is to make BBS a better thing than the old comments were, so that it feels like a new wing of the palace rather than the proverbial comment basement.

Good news! You are now, by virtue of reading, out of the new user sandbox and can post images at will. Sorry for the temporary inconvenience, but new users and images are a volatile mix.

Great avatar by the way.

Aha! I’ve figured out 75%. Makes all the sense in the world now. Wow.

Thanks codinghorror (likewise re: your avatar too). Not strictly a new user in terms of making comments on Boing Boing, but now realize that my flouncing was way over the top, though I do tend to write with some ironic self-awareness, and realized how I must have come across. It’s half tuth as I know nothing about coding, and I find a lot of the internet confusing, but I also respect that coding is not easy, and setting up something as big and, considering the status quo at Boing Boing in terms of how commenting used to work, as radical, is a brave move. A move that’s actually one probably more in alliance with the Boing Boing editors’ thinking - despite my claims it was totally the opposite (well done me!).

I am probably one of a clichéd percentage that were a little upset at the shock of the new. Everything in my life is like that lately and at my age it is harder to deal with than when I was younger. New stuff I mean.

So really, it is all quite embarrassing for me, but thanks to you and Sam (Saffron) who took the time to help me out on this, I have learnt something, and things have been done, and I tried posting an image and it worked brilliantly.

Which also means I now have to put my money where my mouth is (as I claimed was something I wanted and which Mark Frauenfelder agreed would be cool), and at some point make a serious comment post in the form of a comic. Thanks for your help today. And Rob too, sorry.

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Rob,
Somewhat sheepishly, I have to say that I’m starting to come around to the new system
(I won’t bore you with the details).

Thanks for helping me through the transition. :wink:

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Familiarity breeds content.

Bring back the old system.

Keep the forum.

See which one wins out in the long run. Maybe each has its place.

(I know it’ll never happen, but it’d be a great experiment.)

To my mind, it seems like a lot of the discontent on the part of the community stems from the fact that the medium that fostered the growth of the community has changed. There’s concern that the community that grew up in a commenting system with threaded replies will be changed, and not in positive ways, by transitioning to a flat forum system. And while a forum system can be nice, and the Discourse system is very pretty and snazzy, none of those facts really address the concerns of changing the community’s medium.

My guess? The lawyers recommended it.

It’s a very diverse crowd. I’d say he’s being polite.

I created this account with one thing in mind … to voice displeasure at the lack of full comments being shown on the actual article page. I’ll continue to visit BoingBoing for the links to “wonderful things” but won’t be participating in the discussions any longer. With all sincerity I hope this forum succeeds. For me though, divorcing the full spectrum of commentary (including Antinous’ often hilarious moderations) from the content is a huge step backwards. Best, Darran.