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New Site Feedback, Issues and Plan Forward
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Dec 4, 2006, 12:05 AM
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Registered: May 20, 2005
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New Site Feedback, Issues and Plan Forward
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Hi everyone,

It's been three weeks since we launched the new During this time a lot of feedback, questions and issues were raised by our users, both positive and negative. I want to give you more information about how we're handling the issues, what we are doing with the feedback, and what to expect going forward.

Since this post is in the announcements forum you won't be able to reply to it here. Please use the regular forums to share your thoughts and questions and continue to share your feedback. While it's impossible for us to actively participate in every conversation, we do plan on sharing more information and engaging more in conversation with you, especially about the "hot topics" that we have identified below.

Some say we have not "engaged" with users around their feedback, and that we have not done much to address their complaints, especially around lost functionality from the old site. I understand that you feel this way. We've been spread extremely thin, and we made a conscious choice to first focus on issues and bugs in the existing functionality, ensuring what we have today is working properly for all users. Take a peek at the Bugs & Errors forum, and you'll see that we've been busy. Unfortunately not everything is visible to everyone, so let me list the bigger things that I can think of:
  • Fixed various performance problems in first few days which came as a result of the higher than normal site traffic. We're continuing to monitor this daily.

  • Made a lot of progress using rewrite rules to enable most historical links in the forums to work again

  • Incorrect photo mappings (to wrong routes) resolved

  • Fixed issues where imported PMs had missing body text

  • Fixed forum polls functionality

  • Fixed the issues with the daily front page photos (too few were rotating)

  • Fixed a slew of issues with the editor interfaces used for reviewing and approving content submissions, specifically for the routes section. These changes are only visible to the editors of course.

  • Video comment system fixed

Although we focused primarily on existing functionality, we also made various changes based on your feedback:
  • Added the ability for you to delete your own photos or videos

  • Changed the forum quote format to indicate the user being quoted

  • Brought back the trip reports forum

  • Adding featured gear reviews to front page and gear landing page

  • And a bunch of smaller and/or less obvious things.

Additionally we also spent a lot of time resolving individual user's issues. We attempted to help anyone that brought a problem to us as best as we can, whether it was with their account, registration problems, access to their old e-mails, changing their data, PMs etc.

We feel we've made good progress, and the site has been running well for most users. The number of individual issues I've received from the forums, e-mail and PM has also decreased the past few days. Unfortunately there is still a long list of issues currently demanding our attention. The following are the most important ones currently in progress:
  • Video upload issues

  • Forum spell checker crashes IE

  • Article photo submission problems (embedding photos in articles requires very manual process)

  • Videos and articles rating display

  • Routes only at section level validation

  • Forum search results display

Finally, we also kept a record of user feedback and suggestions. There are literally hundreds of items. Out of these, we recognize the following as the "hot list", and we are actively looking at them as the highest priorities. In each case below I'll give a quick status. We'll share more info in the regular forums:
  • Inline forum images We are looking at alternatives and investigating options to bring this back. Unfortunately it is not as simple as "turning it back on". The main issues are the display/branding concerns we have, and the performance and bandwidth issue. Bandwidth in particular is a huge problem for us. Things like photos and videos require lots of it and we're currently hovering close to our limits. To get more requires more money. Nevertheless, we're actively engaged with Gossamer Threads (our technology partner) to find a solution for this, and we'll also get your thoughts on this.

  • Partners & Friends lists This is in progress.

  • Additional photo sort and filtering options This is in progress.

  • Enabling users to create new sections or areas in the routes database directly We're looking at the options for making the process of adding areas and sections easier and quicker. At the moment the user fills out a form that must be manually copied to the database by editors. The software we're using has not been designed to support the desired functionality, so we'll need to make custom changes to it.

  • My Topics (consolidated view of the threads you're participating in and watching We have not started to look at this.

  • Ordering of routes in a section We have not started to look at this.

  • Suppressing of ads for supporting partners We have not started to work on this.

As we make progress we'll keep you informed about the bigger things, but we don't anticipate publishing a detail "development plan" as some of you requested. Things constantly change, and we don't believe it's a good idea to tie ourselves to such a detailed public plan. In this regard we are no different than most free websites out there.

More importantly, we really don't want to be setting expectations that we cannot meet. Since we're using software applications with certain standard features and functionality, sometimes seemingly small changes require us to have to open the hood and poke around deep inside. All these changes require money and time, and we do not have a limitless supply of that.

Finally, let me give everyone a sense for how things work "behind the scenes" as far as technical work on is concerned. In addition to Willem (who is also managing and me (who has a full-time job in the IT consulting industry), we have access to the equivalent of 50% of a "real" programmer at Gossamer Threads, our technology partner. Yup, this team built the new site and is currently supporting it and working on enhancements.

We're not a big-budget organization with a large development team. Yet we believe we have the right technical foundation, and we are committed to keep evolving the site. We welcome your feedback, recognizing that is nothing without its users, and we'll continue to work very hard to respond and improve things over time.


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