Edgeryders website overhaul!

Last week in Brussels Matthias, Noemi, Nadia and myself spent a full day giving the Edgeryders platform a pretty major overhaul.  Here’s what we have done:

  • changed the home page (both logged-in and unlogged-in) to an editorialized page of featured content
  • added a dashboard Updates page where you can see what's new, both in the content you are already following and in the content you are not following. Essentially, select "following" to stay updated with what happens in the groups you have joined and the posts you have commented; select "not following" to explore new content. In the right column you see a feed of recent activity.
  • changed the layout of the projects page. See if you like it better!
  • the user profile now has tick boxes to say you want to come to LOTE3 (and you definitely want to tick that box, because this, my friends, is going to be our best LOTE yet – that's a promise); tell your fellow edgeryders what you would like to see happen in LOTE3; and join our fabulous team of volunteers.
  • added a LOTE3 section of the website to be visible asap – participants would start at the LOTE3 menu item, and everything should be intuitive. 
  • there's also some stuff going on behind the scenes to make the website more usable and help us stay connected.

How cool!?

There’s some clever stuff there, very nice!

Not everything is entirely clear to me, though. The “dashboard” neither looks remotely like a dashboard nor is labelled “dashboard”. “Updates” as a label works for me OK, but then the page is called, confusingly, “What’s going on?” when it may not be at all clear at first sight that what is there is a selection governed by individual choices. Personally I hadn’t come across drop-down menus looking like ordinary links before. It would help if they were given a “hover” pop-up title.

The content menu is a bit of a surprise. There aren’t any questions and answers, so that is rather puzzling, though could be really useful. Maybe take them out and put back in when there is a clear facility to ask questions and have them answered? Also, the difference between a page, a post and a wiki could be explained somewhere. Is a wiki simply an editable page? The page/post distinction is perhaps familiar to people who have used WordPress, but not at all clear to beginners. Why would people want to see one and not the other? Why can’t one ask for new comments, as well?

This reminds me of usability thoughts over many years. Extra features and options tend to confuse beginners, who get lost (and may be put off). If there were a way of turning off advanced features until asked for, that would be great. (Then check how many people actually use them!)

“Following” and “not following” is logical, though rather surprising (again potentially confusing to newcomers) that I can look at specifically what I am not following. Could there more simply be an “all” option?

“last updated first” unfortunately means that, as I have updated some of the really old blog posts, they are now coming up on top of that list. Could that be, additionally or instead, the original publication date?

What I think I would be looking for, and would be most useful to me, would be (given I am logged in) something like a “show me what I haven’t seen already”, which isn’t there – yes, the options of following and all would still be useful here. Of course, to do this one needs to record exactly what has been looked at – I don’t see this as a problem provided it is strictly private, but anonymised statistics on what exactly has been viewed would be useful (perhaps that exists).

All in all, it’s great to be cool, but to be too “cool” is uncool!

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Thank you!!

Usability testing is the kind of thing those who create a new website version can’t do, so thanks a lot for the detailed report! Most of your proposals make sense to me, so I put them on my list. Some I will just care about tomorrow (disabling Answers and Questions for now, CSS styling these dropboxes to look like dropboxes again). Others are harder. I guess I can implement the “show me all content, following and not following” thing quite easily (but not tomorrow). For the “show me everything I haven’t seen”, I realize now that I, too, was missing that feature for long – we should propose it in the Drupal Commons project, I think.

“Following” and “not following” is logical, though rather surprising […] that I can look at specifically what I am not following. Could there more simply be an “all” option?

I noticed that a next version of Drupal Commons will include that kind of feature for the group browsing widget at least (see their UI mockup). So we can expect some updates soon. Process is tracked in task 436-651. Also I disabled the Questions and Answers content types as you proposed. I found where to adapt the little description text for post, wiki, event etc. in teh widget that appears when wanting to create them from a group’s homepage. So if we get better descriptions, we can easily adapt that now. Note that only admin users can create pages, so that should not create a newcomer user.

"Following" and "not following" is logical, though rather surprising (again potentially confusing to newcomers) that I can look at specifically what I am not following. Could there more simply be an "all" option? - See more at: https://edgeryders.eu/comment/1197#comment-1197

Simon, thanks so much!

My fault. The page was being called “dashboard” when I wrote the post, then someone changed the name to “updates”. As for the “Wht’s going on?”, that comes from Drupal Commons standard settings, but I was able to change it to “Updates”.

With that particular Drupal Commons system block no, I can’t show you only the things yuy have not seen. We may be able to implement views that tell you what you have seen or not, but of course, for each one of us there is a great majority of content we have NOT seen. Anyway I am traveling now, so that will have to wait. If you do Drupal, I’d be happy to set you up and let you build the view you want in a sandbox, so we can all try it!

The general problem is that we are using this Drupal distribution called Commons, which has some great features out of the box but also some rigidities. To make it more complicated, the first stable version of Commons 3 (running on Drupal 7) is only a few months old. Matthias here is one of relatively few early adopters. It takes some time to figure out.

Matt has now implemented an auto-follow feature: when you comment something, by default you follow it too (users can always unfollow follow anything). This should make it easier to stay on top of the conversations you are in. As for exploring things you have not seen yet, I find the activity stream a very useful tool, perhaps the one is use most:


Would this help?

Simon (and everyone), try this:


I could also create a similar view for comments, except with comments I have not found a way to point out whether it’s new to the viewer. Does it help?

great idea!

Great idea, that would be really useful, but only of course if things one has read disappear from the list. I can’t get it to do that right now, not sure why…




Ah, I see what you mean. Good point. That’s just a filter on the view, and I am reasonably sure it supports Boolean operators (filter for “has new content” OR “new comments > 0”. I’ll try and do this later.

Try now

Simon, I filtered it… maybe now the behavior is closer to what you expected?


suggestion: a more frictionless user experience for newbies

I was quite surprised to see that EdgeRyders has taken a principled objection to oAuth tools that would allow prospective members to sign up to the EdgeRyders community with the click of a button-- a tool which authorizes data to be pulled directly from Facebook or Twitter.

I am a huge fan of privacy myself, but consider the massive downside of forcing new users to create a new registered profile from scratch. Namely, we would be asking new users to do something that no one does anymore. So we are shifting the burden onto new prospective members to care enough to fill out a form. While this burdening may be appropriate for those applying to the university or a job, it seems like EdgeRyders might miss out on the opportunity to attract lots of users who would simply be “weak users” initially. I.e. they will only start out as passive readers. However weak users can turn into strong users over time, when the moment is right for them. This transformational phenomenon is something that has been referred to as the “reader-to-leader framework” (http://www.cs.umd.edu/~ben/papers/Jennifer2009Reader.pdf). I originally wanted to post this comment within a dev group, but I didn’t have default permissions to do that, so right now, I still see a website that may be inadvertently biased towards users who are pre-commited, to whom EdgeRyders means a whole lot.

I began to think about this as I was asked to start brainstorming ideas on the marketing side of things. The more porous EdgeRyders is as a platform, the easier it would be for me to suck in outsiders who could potentially transform into much more active members over time. oAuth is one such solution, even if it isn’t trendy given the privacy scandals of recent day.

It also need not be the only solution. But I have been meaning to share this observation for quite some time, as I observe my own state of mind online. I find myself always wanting to keep my EdgeRyders communications on Facebook as much as possible, unless absolutely necessary (don’t ask me why – it’s a lizard brain thing). So now you will find me on the site itself much more frequently because the timing is right for me and I am ready to be more committed as I have recently made some decisions to work more closely on lote, etc.

I don’t have access to backend analytics but my guess is that EdgeRyders could benefit from a strategy that make it easy and frictionless for newbies to dip their toes into the sometimes frigid waters of online collaboration.

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Excellent point

Said, thanks for your thoughtful observation. That is a painful tradeoff right there. All you say is true; the downside is that some people in the community don’t like Facebook and we lose the analytical power. The latter is made worse by how Drupal 7 does not store user data in a user profile node like Drupal 6, but now keeps everything in an entity called “user”. If we do that, we lose all user information to Facebook; plus in the first Edgeryders our experience is that Facebook interoperability is bumpy at best, becuase they keep changing their code. Any other thoughts?

This is not about us, it’s about “us all”

Said, you are really making a convincing case here. What can I say? I use FB too (though less and less, and with increasing skepticism). But some people – especially the hardcore hackers in the community – don’t like it.

Also, I am not sure you should be rolling out too many red carpets. The stuff we do here is hard, and will get harder. People are expected to put in some serious thinking and doing. We want to keep a reasonably high level of conversation, if we are to make this work. And if we do, then creating a profile is trivial.

As for the title of the comments: if you leave the field blank, the platform will automagically set it to the first few words.

Oops … fixed the permissions now.

“I originally wanted to post this comment within a dev group, but I didn’t have default permissions to do that,”

Congrats, you had found a bug in our site :slight_smile: That’s indeed a good thing that you found it so early. I have fixed that issue now and you will hopefully find that Edgeryders Dev & Testing is a very open developer group. Apart from server passwords, everything is shared with the public. So, welcome to discuss site issues there. The permissions issue that you found was introduced by a change of the widget that governs group visibility in Drupal 7, when two days ago I added the Task feature. I guess I inadvertedly did that change when looking up the group fields, though I don’t remember.

This shows the downside of Drupal’s gazillion options: you can’t remember them all :smiley: A similar funny story happened a few days ago: the main body field on edgeryders.eu was not showing any more, and I had no idea why. So I even had to create a script that overwrites the Drupal database (of a testing site) with values from a backup, table by table and then record by record, until I found the single “1” where a “0” was needed to display the body field again. Turns out I had forgotten about enabling  a certain module, and the default permissions of that module where such that they broke the site (see my bug report about it).

I originally wanted to post this comment within a dev group, but I didn't have default permissions to do that, - See more at: https://edgeryders.eu/blog/edgeryders-website-overhaul#comment-1198
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i also encountered the same issue when trying to follow a link to /t/unmonastery/315 from main blog post announcing Matera. seems to also be resolved. great!

y hackers must be so principled at the expense of being more inclusive? lol. anyway, if anyone has used the internet, the NSA already has owned that data and is storing it in a limestone cave for the next 40,000 years thanks to fiberoptic splitters. there is no such thing as a concern for privacy when privacy simply does not exist on the internet. now, if the goal is to express a set of values, then ok, fine. I just wanted to make a point about the tradeoff and the potentially massive downside.

Do an experiment, maybe?

Hmm… randomize across users… some people (treatment group) see the possibility of signing up with FB… others (control group) see a message explaining why we disallow it… hen we do some statistical analysis and see if the FB effect is indeed very large… hmm…

the point I’m making I hope is pretty obvious though, and doesn’t need research to back it up. Newbies aren’t yet prepared to do much, by definition. But they may one day become valuable to the EdgeRyders community. I feel like at the moment, that outreach and recruitment of prospective users, however weak newbies may be, might only be realistic in the spaces where there is least resistance. Not sure how important this concern is though for it to warrant changes to the main site, as opposed to, say, doubling down on activity in the secondary social spaces.

if we were to use myself as an example. I started off trying to be a power user on the main site, but then my activity dropped off fairly quickly as I decided I was to become a more passive member (for reasons I couldn’t control. heh). and somehow I didn’t get pulled back in a way that has the persistence of a Facebook newsfeed. until now, cuz im secretly an active EdgeRyder in hiding.

Also, heavy to maintain

We did have Facebook signup in Edgeryders 1. Then we disabled, not for ideological reasons but because FB kept changing things, and then the developers of the oauth plugins had to scramble to update. Meanwhile, you’d have a big shiny “Log in through Facebook” button that did not work; we got complaints. Disabling the option gave us at least some control on our own signup process.

That said, if you really want to be inclusive as opposed to consistent,you should go for FB signup too, not just Twitter. But I am not sure about a notion of inclusivity based on the idea that the user is a lazy bastard. I know that’s the basic philosophy in advertising; but I also know that, so far in my career, it has always paid to frame the user as people like us. I mean, we all met that way, right? :slight_smile:

"But I am not sure about a

“But I am not sure about a notion of inclusivity based on the idea that the user is a lazy bastard.”

This. If somebody bothered to create a Facebook or Twitter account then they’re obviously capable of being arsed enough to do the same here. It took me a while to make an account here after the old site because I wasn’t checking here consistently, but I registered when I was ready to participate.

So many sites have one-click integrated registration, but the process is so simple that it’s easy to forget (or not care afterwards). I think putting up a tiny hurdle is a good way to see if people are committed.

So, welcome back :slight_smile:

Welcome back, HE! :slight_smile: