[CentOS-devel] Talk about existing forums

M. Milanuk

memilanuk at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 17:54:22 UTC 2009

On 12/14/2009 3:15 AM, Karanbir Singh wrote:
> On 12/12/2009 03:29 AM, M. Milanuk wrote:
>> Any updates or summary of what was covered?
> Yes, I will post those later today - been out of the loop for the last 3
> days ( and offline! )
>> Monte (a very frustated forum user)
> Do tell, why so ?

Hmmm... well there are a few things.  Generally speaking, I spend a bit 
(probably too much) time on various online forums for this (computers + 
Linux) and other hobbies, and I am a moderator on one of those.  My 
point is that while I don't spend a lot of time inside the back-end of 
forums, I use them enough that I believe I have a reasonable set of 
expectations for how a forum should behave and present itself to the 
user.  Whatever it is that CentOS is using for the forum software 
doesn't meet those expectations, in my opinion.

First off... appearance.  I like the clean white background.  The rest 
of it... well, the mauve is a bit on the 'high contrast' side, but 
livable.  The 'View Options' menus with white text on light grey 
background are nearly unreadable - I have to lean forward and squint to 
make them out.  As far as I can tell, there are no options for users to 
apply other skins or themes, and even if they were, the 'default' needs 
to be something a bit more usable.  Most of that is cosmetic, as you can 
tell.  But it is also a 'first impression' sort of thing.

Whats the single biggest thing forum regulars tell new posters? "Use the 
Search, Luke"  What is the single most broken thing on the CentOS 
forums?  Thats right, the Search.

If I go in to the tip-top level of the forums, do I see a 'Search' near 
the top of the *forum*?  No.  There is the site-wide one in that 
header/menu that is still up at the top - and it does allow some basic 
searching of the forums, granted.  But if I want to use the forum 
search, where is it?  Three screens down.  Not exactly where you would 
put it if you expect users to actively utilize it.  If I go into just 
the 'CentOS 5' section, again, where is the Search?  Down at the bottom 
- admittedly not near as far this time, but not top-front-n-center.

Now for the real fun... lets say I try using the Search, and don't quite 
find what I want the first pass.  So I try using the 'Advanced 
Search'... look at the list of Forums on that page, and tell me that 
isn't some kind of joke.  After 'Search all forums' the only consistent 
thing seems to be that there *is* no consistent order in which the 
forums are listed.  If I want to search all the CentOS 5 forums for 
something, I have to hunt and Control-click and scroll and 
Control-Click, etc. etc.  Even if I have a narrow search topic, one that 
should just fit within one forum, and I go to the Advanced Search from 
that forum... most normal forum software would have that forum already 
selected in the Advanced Search interface - here I have to go hunting 
for it.  After about the second time of that nitwittery, users just 
start going 'Search All Forums' as it is at least where it should be - 
at the top.

Now for the next bit of frustration.  Lets say I have a broad seach 
topic, or just one that has a lot of returns.  Like more than one page 
worth.  As an example, just use the Advanced Search, enter 'dnsmasq' as 
the text, select 'Search All Forums', and 'From the Beginning' for time 
period.  You'll get a slug of returns... when you get to the bottom of 
the returns, where it says 'Next >>', take a close look at the date/time 
of the thread immediately above it.  Then click Next.  Don't those 
threads look *awfully* familiar... like the ones you saw on the last 
page?  Don't believe it?  Scroll down and look at the date/time of that 
last thread again... exact same one.  It doesn't seem to matter where 
you search *from*, what you search *on*, or what time period you select, 
if there is more than one page of results, you aren't gonna see more 
than just the first page.  Very handy.

I've been grinding my teeth about this forum for some time.  Honestly, 
it's been one of the biggest barriers to me wanting to use CentOS over 
other distros, as I feel like it lacks in so many basic ways compared to 
the software used by other competing options.  I posted about it in the 
'CentOS.org Website' forum, where it got effectively ignored.  Okay, it 
got 464 'views' but zero response from the management, not even a "Yes 
we're aware of it and working on it".  A few weeks later someone else 
posted another thread about the forum software and theme, and the sole 
response was that a number of things were being looked into.  It might 
be worthwhile for whomever is in charge of the forum layout, 
administration, etc. to maybe keep the general membership appraised of 
whats going on, whats being looked at, etc. *through the forum itself* 
rather than give the impression that it is languishing for lack of care. 
  I'm not saying make it totally democratic - lord only knows what 
rabbit hole that might lead down - but at least give the appearance of 
something being done.

Sorry if I got a bit... carried away there.  Given the recent... issues 
with the control of the site, etc. from what I've read around the 'Net I 
can appreciate that things are probably still in a state of turmoil, so 
I'd rather things get done 'right' than 'right now' - but a little 
feedback to the users would be nice.



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