Suggest forum may need categorization

DaveVM's picture


As more and more users are posting here in the forums it may be time to break out into categories by appliance. Though I realize a lot of the appliances overlap in functionality. Which means answers may be duplicated.

Sometimes it is a win win others not so.

Something to think about.



Liraz Siri's picture

Sorry for the late reply. We pretty much read everything eventually but in the middle of a development cycle it can take a bit longer than usual.

Anyhow, my original design for the forum included this feature but then I decided it would be better not to fix something that wasn't broken yet. As you said, there are pros and cons to dividing up the forums into categories. I doubt having a forum for each appliance would improve the user experience. More choices aren't always a good think. Sometimes simplicity trumps over that.

But... adding optional tags per post might be a nice way to achieve something similar without the cons. It's on my todo list to take a closer look at sometime.

Jeremy Davis's picture

And I think the simplicity was a good move. But (and there's always a 'but' isn't there!?) there is a couple of things that I'd like to see when starting a new topic in the support forums:

  • A solved button (like Ubuntu forums)
  • Option to select a specific appliance (again like Ubuntu forums - eg "Ubuntu", "Kubuntu" etc except in this case it'd be "LAMP", "PDC", etc)
  • Option to select specific release/version
  • Option to select specific install medium &/or environment eg ISO, VMware/VBox etc
  • Perhaps even other options eg network setup (not really sure how this would work best).
  • An advanced search function/page/whatever where you can search using these tags.

If they were drop downs when you went to post a new topic in the support forum it may help newbies get a feel for what type of info others need to be able to help (or at least is helpfull to know from a support perspective). This could also allow more refined searches (using advanced search) which will be desirable as the forums grow. Particularly if you choose to keep a simple/general layout (which I'm in favour of).

Also I think subscription to comments you post should be default.

Liraz Siri's picture

Thanks for the feedback JedMeister. I've cut and paste your suggestions into my todo list for the web site and hope to take a closer look at this soon.

There may be some good features we can add to the support forum but I'd still like to try and keep things relatively simple. Complex interfaces with too many bells and whistles are noisy and can easily confuse and distract.

BTW, subscription to comments you post is (supposed to be) the default. Even for anonymous users.

Jeremy Davis's picture

I agree that too much complexity is undesirable, especially from a visual perspective. If posting a support request on the forums gets too painful or confusing you may well find newbies throwing their arms in the air and moving to an alternative platform rather than seek support here for their TKL install/config/etc issues.

IMO tagging is a far more efficient and effective way of separating posts (rather than strict forums/sub-forum catagorisation). It also relieves the need for duplication and reduces newbie (and perhaps other's) confusion and anxiety over which forum to post to with a specific problem. Tagging would allow users to post a support question relating to their specific appliance, but the topic could still appear in generic searches. I've got no idea how you'd go about it but I'd imagine that it could even potentially allow for the forums to be viewed by (tag) catagory thus giving users the option view the forums in their current 'basic' view or a catagorised view similar to many other forums.

Perhaps by default new support posts could just show some of the basic dropdown tags with a '+' (another dropdown) to reveal additonal/'advanced' tagging options (perhaps also including the option to include cutom tags). I think that having some default tagging options (such as appliance name and install medium &/or environment) would be a good move (perhaps with the option to set them to generic such as "all appliances" - as with Ubuntu forums).

Another great thing about going that way is that newbie users who aren't sure can do the minimum tags (or none even?) but it would be quick and easy for forum admins to add/change/remove tags thus making future forum searches much more effective at finding the specific info a user is after (especially if an advanced search is available).

Please excuse my rambling! Obviously I understand that regardless of how cool some of my ideas may be - especially to me:)! - that they may be impractical or difficult to implement or just increase underlaying code complexity too much. As a non-programmer I tend to approach these things from a user perspective focusing on what I would like to see as a user rather than what is practical for a programmer. I have a history of over complicating things and have even been known to reinvent the wheel! Still I'd like to think that's it a useful perspective for you guys (who I would guess tend to approach things with a background knowledge of whats practical code wise).

As for forum subscription: When I post, by default the "Notify me when comments are posted" is unchecked. I haven't actually tested it (I always check it) but perhaps its something to do with the fact that in my user settings I am subscribed to all TKL forum/wiki activity? Maybe that overides the forum by forum settings (which for some reason makes it default to unchecked)? Is it checked for you by default Liraz?

Liraz Siri's picture

The exact message is "Notify me when new comments are posted" and there are two options beneath it? 1) "All comments". 2) "Replies to my comment". Is that it?

Argh. Only anonymous users are supposed to see that. So assuming you're seeing this when you're logged in, it's a bug. I logged in with a test user and I can't see it there so this may be a side effect of your super powers. Anyhow, you don't have to check it. Authenticated users are always auto-subscribed to forum topics they post to. If I'm not mistaken you've subscribed to the forum content type so you're getting notifications for everything anyways. But I'll look into it.

Just ignore it for now.

Jeremy Davis's picture

It doesn't change whether I'm logged in or not. I wonder if its also related to why I sometimes get multiple notification emails? (Most come from no-reply@turnkey... the other ones come from admin@turnkey...

Anyways its all good!

Liraz Siri's picture

Thankfully Drupal gives us a lot of leverage, so implementing tagging and fields and such shouldn't really be too difficult. I won't know for sure until I look into it (there are always gotchas), but that's not the main type of complexity that worries me. Implementation complexity is hidden from users, so it's just the webmaster's problem. But interface complexity, that can be a problem for users (e.g., if it's intimidating). So that's a more serious kind of complexity in my book.

As you suggested hiding advanced stuff inside a collapsible interface is one way around that though. On the other hand I worry that these sorts of advanced bells and whistles woill add to the overhead involved in forum maintenance. It's a bit counterintuitive, but often simpler, imperfect systems that don't need too much hand holding work better in practice than a system that is "well engineered", at least on paper. Think wiki vs a more traditional document management system.

None of the above constitutes an opinion, just random considerations. I'll think about all of this in more detail when I get to it.

Jeremy Davis's picture

I certainly understand where your coming from. I guess my suggestions are somewhat selfish in essence. I was just thinking about how it could be made more intuative for newbs to give the info required to help them without others having to ask. I guess its a tradeoff either way (like most things in life really) because if its too daunting, they may well not bother, give up and head off somewhere else which is obviously not what we want! Not that we get too many "help it doesn't work" posts with no further info, but I figure as TKL continues to grow the forum posts will increase too. I've certainly noticed an increase since the new betas have been released.

Bottom line, the current format is simple and seems to work ok so certainly no rush. Perhaps if tags were optional (maybe with a few popular ones as suggestions) then Admins could add tags to posts (as relevant and as time allows). That would keep it fairly simple for people posting but allow for Admins to make reading of the forums potentially more useful (and orderly) for others. What do you think?

Post new comment