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Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds! 2219

Posted by timothy
from the there-would-be-this-picture-of-a-cat dept.
We've had only a few major redesigns since 1997; we think it's time for another. But we really do take to heart the comments you've made about the look and functionality of the beta site that houses Slashdot's future look. So let's all slow down. Right now, we're directing 25 percent of non-logged-in users to the beta; it's a significant number, but it's the best way for us to test drive this new design, to have you show us what pieces need to be fixed, and how. If you want to move back to Classic Slashdot, that path is available: from the Slashdot Beta page, you just need to select the "Slashdot Classic" link from the footer (or this link). We're committed to keep you informed of the plans as changes are implemented; we can't promise that every user will like every change, but we don't want anything to come as a surprise. Most importantly, we want you to know that Classic Slashdot isn't going away until we're confident that the new site is ready. And — okay, we've got it — it's not ready. We have work to do on four big areas: feature parity (especially for commenting); the overall UI, especially in terms of information density and headline scanning; plain old bugs; and, lastly, the need for a better framework for communicating about the How and the Why of this process. Some of you have suggested we're not listening; on the contrary, some of us are 'listening' pretty much full-time. We're keeping you informed of this process, because we're a community and we want to take everyone with us. But, yes, we're trying something new. Why? We want to take our current content and all the stuff that matters to this community and deliver it on a site that still speaks to the interests and habits of our current audience, but that is, at the same time, more accessible and shareable by a wider audience. We want to give our current audience the space where they are comfortable. And we want a platform where we can experiment with different views of both comments and stories. It's not an either/or. It's going to be both. If we haven't communicated that well enough, consider this post a first step to fixing that. And in the meantime, we're not sorry to have received a flood of feedback, most of it specific, constructive and substantive. Please keep it coming. We will be adding more specific info here in the days to come.
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Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

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  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2014 @07:51PM (#46180111)

    Exactly. If they were really listening they would just stop doing what they're doing. Instead of just plowing forward pretending to listen.

  • by PGC (880972) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @07:55PM (#46180199)
    You misunderstand. Slashdot is not a site about stories and/or links. It is about the comments and only about the comments. Nobody gives a sh*t about the articles themselves. Mess with the comments, then you mess with the user-base.
  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:05PM (#46180351) Homepage

    The comment system isn't finished yet, that's for sure -- but we've implemented a number of changes and improvements in response to the feedback from the October launch.

    We can't implement every suggestion -- some contradict each other, and there's only so much time in the day. But we are listening and incrementally improving the experience based on what users are telling us.

  • by t0qer (230538) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:09PM (#46180433) Homepage Journal

    Yah wonderful, you had a few redesigns over the years. Did you ever test them in lynx? Browsing the site on lynx in the late 90's was easy, now it's a shiftfest.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:11PM (#46180455)

    I remember when Bruce postsed his office telephone number in a slashdot story. I'd make use of that right now to tell him to get moving, if it wasn't for the fact that it was about 5 jobs back!

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:12PM (#46180493) Homepage

    I just don't see why you had to start over with a completely new design when the old one works so well. A few tweaks is all that is needed.

    Well, those few needed tweaks never stop piling up. On top of that, UX research and (more importantly) user expectations continue to evolve.

    To keep up with that, websites either need to constantly change in small increments, or to do it in big chunks. We'd been doing the former for a while, but the decision was made to start fresh. I totally understand how jarring it is to see such a huge amount of change all at once, but we also have to look at what the website will look like a few years down the road.

    The classic design in 2014? Not too bad. The classic design in 2018? Probably not going to cut it.

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:15PM (#46180547) Homepage

    Here's the link: Slashdot classic []. I'll add it to the summary above.

  • by ttucker (2884057) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:16PM (#46180557)
    I just tried to cruise the comments section using the beta, and that is where things are the worst. There is no quote parent button, and it made me copy and paste the reply title by hand. There is no link to get a permanent reference to a single comment. Comment text does not show bold or italic. Quoted text is merely italic, but not indented or anything.

    The mixture of serifed and sans-serif fonts feels disorganized, and does not seem to serve a clear purpose.

    Comments are the heart of Slashdot, and the current beta offering is not complete. It is more of an alpha... functionality is woefully inadequate.

    Curated articles are what set Slashdot apart from hive-thought sites like Reddit. Keep the articles unique and on topic, that is why I visit.
  • Re: Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:17PM (#46180577)

    I wouldn't say it sucks in EVERY way. It does seem to work better on my tablet, except for when I login and have to expand every single comment to read it. Hence the reason I am posting anonymously, I wouldn't be able to read the comments if I logged in.

    That said, I do think it sucks overall.


  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by BranMan (29917) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:21PM (#46180625)

    OK. Ok. First a disclaimer - I have not even looked at the Beta. Now, onto my observation - at a company I worked at we took the existing UI for a massive product and wrote a new UI from the ground up. Sent to evaluate it my overall comment was - it is NOT ready. However, so much time and effort was put into it that it was moved out to production anyway, over my protests. ALL the customers stuck with it did not like it, bug reports ballooned out of all control, and we spent the next year and a half fixing problems while our credibility was hit REAL hard.

    On the other hand, the change was needed in the end, it did provide a lot more flexibility, allowed for new features that could not be done in the old one, and it looked snazzier.

    However, the lesson to take here is that if it not ready, do NOT push it out anyway. We had a basically captive audience due to the nature of our software. We should have taken that extra 6 months to a year to iron things out. Slashdot does not have a captive audience. Please keep that in mind. Do NOT release it until it is at least as good as the current system - no matter how long that takes (or how much it hurts to keep spending on it).

    I may not have a 4 digit id, but I have a 5 digit one. Please listen to the voices of experience here.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by lister king of smeg (2481612) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:21PM (#46180627)

    Really all that needs changed about slashdot is support for unicode (which could be copy and pasted from slashdot japans site) and fixes for auto compacting/baning the mycleanpc spam and gnaa trolls.

  • Specific Complains (Score:5, Informative)

    by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:32PM (#46180775)

    In honor of you posting recognition of today's complaints, I've posted this using the beta. Even if some consider it pro forma at this point, here are some specific complaints:
    1) "Oops! You do not appear to have javascript enabled. We're making progress in getting things working without JavaScript." Glad to hear it. No one should be "migrated" so long as javascript is mandatory.
    2) White space and wasted space. Enough have made detailed complaints about this, so I'll just register my chagrin. I will say this: the people who come to this site are used to, indeed prefer, a denser presentation of information. This includes the text editor, which is absurdly restrictive on the x-axis.
    3) Font size. Perhaps this falls under wasted space, but it's atrocious enough to deserve its own comment.
    4) Incomplete summaries. Waste less space and use as much of the old summary as "Classic". (I recognize the drop-down menu allows one to switch between "Standard", "Classic", and "Headlines", but this, again, requires javascript. What is more, Standard adds nothing. Changes shouldn't be made for the sake of changing something. A change should be an improvement.)
    5) Absurd margins on the right.
    6) Obnoxious or irrelevant photos. We're literate here. Many of us read books that go on for hundreds of pages without a picture. We don't need pictures added like some security blanked.
    7) Load more? The old system gave preference to higher modded comments but did not require that you filter for higher comments to see them. Of course when there are a great many comments, a load more button is useful. But such a button should not be obscuring high ranked comments within moments of an article being posted.

    8) I just found another as I went to "Preview Comment." Why does the p tag produce what looks like four lines of white space?
    9) Above all, all changes should be subjected to this test: Do they get in the way of the conversation? Do they make it harder to scan through the conversation, looking for interesting comments. If so, they are not improvements. They detract from the reason people come to Slashdot.
    The formatting matters are some of the most obvious and often discussed. They should also be the easiest to fix.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:32PM (#46180777)

    fuck you slashdot.
    why in the fuck do you think you and every other goddamned motherfucking site out there JUST HAS to make themselves look like a FUCKING USELESS PHONE UI? it's fucking retarded.
    we're techies, and WE FUCKING LOVE PLAINTEXT.
    so yeah
    get lost

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LDAPMAN (930041) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:38PM (#46180855)

    Good lord! Are you still running Netscape Navigator on a 386? It's 2014, you can get a full featured browser on a wrist watch. There are MANY reasons to hate the beta but using Javascript is not one of them.

  • by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:43PM (#46180909) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot lacks Unicode support due to past vandalism [].
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by anagama (611277) <> on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:43PM (#46180919) Homepage

    1) White Space is noisy. As Noisy as overly dense is. Hard to read, hard to navigate ... hard on eyes.

    I was shocked at how little information is viewable. I have two nice wide monitors, but they've designed the site as if I had dug my 800x600 CRT out of some 3d world recycling operation to replace my LCDs.

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @08:49PM (#46180987) Homepage

    User expectations change; it's the nature of the web.

    For example, fire up the Wayback Machine and look at some popular sites from a decade ago. Many of them look radically different. Can you honestly say they wouldn't look out of place alongside modern sites? If you were browsing through modern news sites and you stumbled across this [], would it not give you pause? At some point, your website just looks old and unmaintained -- that's why virtually every major website updates their design.

    It's not necessarily a lightswitch moment, and you personally may not care. But a lot of people do.

  • by t0qer (230538) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:00PM (#46181105) Homepage Journal

    When I'm working on a locked down machine with no browser or gui, yes.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by linebackn (131821) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:00PM (#46181109)

    The beta site feels like the kind of place where one would expect hear "We only support Windows, Mac, and Linux with current IE, Chrome, or Firefox".

    let's take a moment to reflect on what Slashdot HAS run on over the years.

    Here are just a few screen shots I have handy:

    Amiga []

    BreadBox (GeoWorks) []

    BeOS []

    QNX 1.44MB demo floppy: []

    MacOS 7.5.5 []

    OpenStep: []

    Lynx: []

    Windows NT 3.51 (this actually shows a version of SeaMonkey modified specifically to view current Slashdot correctly!) []

  • How to call Bruce (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <> on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:08PM (#46181189) Homepage Journal
    You dial 1-510-4PERENS. Email is probably better, though. .
  • by mindriot (96208) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:11PM (#46181217)

    Up front, let me say thanks for joining the discussion with us here. It's definitely appreciated.

    Well, those few needed tweaks never stop piling up. On top of that, UX research and (more importantly) user expectations continue to evolve.

    [citation needed]. Yes, UX research evolves. But could you please point out some concrete examples of where UX research has brought out new insights that you think Slashdot needs to integrate into their site? Also, please provide some details on these user expectations that you have learned about which led you to the conclusion that the new design was necessary. What were some concrete aspects in which the old site did not meet the users' expectations? Who are these users? Are we talking about user expectations of some "general public" or of those users currently using the site and making it what it is? Please clarify.

    To keep up with that, websites either need to constantly change in small increments, or to do it in big chunks. We'd been doing the former for a while, but the decision was made to start fresh. I totally understand how jarring it is to see such a huge amount of change all at once, but we also have to look at what the website will look like a few years down the road.

    If the premise holds (if!), then I am willing to follow your conclusion. But I don't think this is really about big chunks vs. small increments. In both cases, the changes incurred should have a justification and rationale behind it. And it seems that a significant part of your userbase (myself included) either does not understand your rationale, doubts your justification or simply has no idea about what your concrete justification and rationale is. And as others have pointed out on here, it's not the articles that make Slashdot the great site it is, it's the comments. In other words, your userbase is not an audience, and I don't think they deserve to be called that. The articles are the seed. The conversation, and the Slashdot community, are what make the site great. If there is an audience, it's for the most part our audience (or at least it's the audience of those posting here more regularly than myself).

    The classic design in 2014? Not too bad. The classic design in 2018? Probably not going to cut it.

    Again, [citation needed]. Now, I don't want to be a proponent of complete stagnation. In fact, there are a number of things that I think could use improvement. But please be more specific: How is the classic design not going to cut it?

    My personal opinion on what Slashdot needs to improve in general, in the Beta (if it is to survive) in particular, and in communication with its userbase as the Beta progresses:

    • Unicode. I think this is way overdue.
    • I don't have a problem with the general idea of a new design. In fact I'm all for a design that suits the larger variety of different screens you have to cope with now. But as many others have said, don't waste my screen space. I want to see a compact design that allows me to gather information from not just a single comment, but as much context as possible.
    • You pointed out yourself that the comment system isn't quite there yet. I completely support the sentiment that the comment system is the heart and soul of your website. If it isn't quite there, Slashdot isn't quite there, and in my eyes a beta is pointless as long as the comment system is in such a horrendous, unusable state.
    • How about you keep us up to date about what your general aim is with the new design; what concrete features are still in planning, currently progressing, or finished; what conclusions you drew from user feedback and what actions you took as a result of them?
    • How about, more in particular, you keep giving us feedback on our feedback, so people know what you think of their feedback, and so they actually get the impression that you are listening?

    That said, I hope you take all the feed

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:16PM (#46181257) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure contemporary ideas about UX design are inappropriate for Slashdot.

    Sure, I can certainly agree that not all current design trends belong on Slashdot. I mean, I have my own personal preferences for the look and behavior of the websites I use.

    That said, while I'm no UX expert (and before anyone asks, no, I wasn't one of the designers of the Beta site), I do think all websites, even sites like Slashdot, need to evolve. You may disagree on the particulars -- and clearly, a lot of people do -- but I'm surprised so many attribute that to malice.

    Anyway, regarding your suggestion: comment editing is something we've gone back and forth on for a number of years. The immutability of reader comments has always been a prized feature. I don't think we ever discussed versioning/revision control, though, and I really like that idea. I can't make any promises, particularly with the amount of work that's ahead of us with the beta, but I'll run it up the totem pole.

  • by geminidomino (614729) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:19PM (#46181297) Journal

    Those passive viewers aren't coming for the fresh, hot-off-the-presses news. If enough of the active participants are ducking out and not posting in the famous slashdot discussions, they'll find something better to do.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by xyzzymage (3415857) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @09:56PM (#46181647)

    They also censored all signatures that slammed Beta, mentioned a boycott or encouraged a protest. That level of manual censorship tells me that they have no intention of making any real changes and hope to placate users into sticking around.

    Thanks to ElectricTurtle's new signature, at least now I know there's a "Slashcott" next week. I might not wait until then... While it's their website and their right, Ifind censorship of this particular variety near-intolerable.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:39PM (#46182005) Journal
    From Bruce's Web site:

    Hot topics as I write this: Why doesn't Bruce resurrect now that Slashdot is owned by and stinks more than the last two times I've shut down due to lack of readership?

    Think it would really work this time? You've got my email and phone.

    So yes, email him to give him an idea of how much actual interest there is so he knows the readership will be there.

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @10:57PM (#46182161) Homepage

    However, since you claim to have been receiving valuable feedback about the beta experiment since at least 5 months ago, why is it that the nature of the beta has not radically changed to accommodate that feedback?

    In some ways, it has. For example, one of the biggest complaints back in October was that the beta site was limited to a relatively narrow max width. I don't recall exactly what it was -- around 900px, perhaps. In response to feedback, we made it responsive up to a much wider limit. We've also been busily implementing features as we work toward full parity with the old site. (It's not there yet, and we know it.)

    Has it changed radically? Well, clearly not, for a lot of people. But it has changed, and in ways readers asked for. It will continue to do so! We brought it back to everybody's attention again specifically so we could continue to get reader opinions on it. If we didn't care, we'd just flip the switch to set it live and not look back.

    What factors does slashmedia use to make these determinations, and why do you believe that a radical change instead of a refinement and polish of the current system is in order? Can you please elaborate on some of the design choices that slashmedia has taken in the beta, ans why they felt these were good decisions...

    I'm afraid I can't answer this, since I'm not part of the design team. I will ask them to share their thoughts on design choices, but I can't promise anything.

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @11:03PM (#46182209) Homepage

    Here's our official survey []. Thanks for contributing.

  • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 06, 2014 @11:13PM (#46182293) Homepage

    We're well aware that people come here for the comments. That's why comments are at the top of our list of features that need more work on the Beta site. I agree that "audience" was the wrong word to use. Another commenter described us as a chalkboard, and I think that's fairly apt.

    When design/feature discussions happen, we editors are most fiercely protective of the commenters and submitters, because you're the ones who drive the site.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2014 @01:28AM (#46183123)

    On mobile
    Plus, I can't see that I have mod points, can't moderate, can't see my post history. Read my lips: on mobile beat is unusable, on desktop only slightly better

  • As I said (late) in the previous thread [], the people over at Fark gave an incredible talk [] on this very issue, after figuring out how to recover from their "You'll get over it" incident. It is literally the perfect discussion of the ways /. is failing hard right now.

    As you say, it's about a fundamental miss-understanding of relationship, by thinking of your members as an "audience", and not peers. Even worse, they are peers that are only here because it's the current familiar ploace to "hang out" at. Piss them off - or even simply surprise them the wrong way and they will simply go hang out somewhere else.

    (*sigh* - the /. staff doing the beta *REALLY* needs to watch this talk ASAP, because they are currently doing basically *every* single bad move discussed in the talk. Yes, you there, slashdot staff - drop what you're doing and watch this talk right now. There's a good chance you know the incident I'm refering to with the phrase "You'll get over it", and you need to listen to these lessons from those that walked the path your're currently on. You still have time to reverse course, if you change right now)

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.