Communication from eplaya technical team to user community

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Communication from eplaya technical team to user community

Postby precipitate » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:08 pm

Someone over on the alt.playa was asking for eplaya feedback. I gave it,
then realized that it's really much, much more efficient to keep eplaya
feedback over here, on the eplaya, where the tech team has the best
opportunity to read it.

So, here's what I posted over there:

> so may i respectfully pose the following question:

> what changes you would make to the eplaya, right now, if you could. i
> guess less from a conceptual/philisophical angle and more from a
> feature, interface, overall experience angle. it's software... they're
> listening... whay not tell them straight up exactly what to tweak.

< snip >

As for feedback, I think we've given ample, specific feedback in the
Feedback section on the old eplaya as to what can be done technically to
improve it. I'm not seeing anything new coming out at all, either here or
on the 3playa. That's not because we're hell-bent on complaining about
the eplaya, it's that (I feel that) we have given concrete, clear
suggestions over there. And anyone over there is welcome to come over
here and join this discussion as well.

The social engineering aspect is more difficult than the technical one, and
that's what's been discussed in those threads in General Discussion, what
was partially discussed at the eplaya summit, and what we've been
focusing on here and on the 3playa.

I think many of us are willing to help out the tech team in determining
what's working and what isn't when they do finally get to implement
some changes.

The only suggestion I'll make (and I've made it elsewhere, though maybe
not in this much detail) is that it would be nice for the tech team to
communicate a little better with the general user community*. What does
that mean? Well, if it were me, it'd mean:

1. One single area on the eplaya where technical issues and community
standards are discussed. If a thread gets started elsewhere, move it into
the proper place.

2. One place (not a discussion area) where the overall plan, including
planned changes, are posted. This includes meeting minutes from the
tech team meetings, etc.

3. A response to every bug or feature request, even if it's just, "Thanks,
that has been put on the list for consideration."

4. A final response to bugs or feature requests when a determination has
been made - fixed, implemented, not implemented.

But, you know, I'm *not* a volunteer, so salt to taste.

* Yeah, I know they're busy and I know documenting stuff is a pain in the
ass. But it goes a long way towards greasing relations with the user
community if they don't feel decisions are being made arbitrarily and in
a vacuum.
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Re: Communication from eplaya technical team to user communi

Postby technopatra » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:25 pm

precipitate wrote:
* Yeah, I know they're busy and I know documenting stuff is a pain in the
ass. But it goes a long way towards greasing relations with the user
community if they don't feel decisions are being made arbitrarily and in
a vacuum.


I agree, and here's a start:

http://pages.sbcglobal.net/digicastipv7 ... update.pdf

This is a report I wrote after the eplaya summit meeting, that will, I hope, provide the missing background, as well as outline our approach and plans going forward. I had both the eplayans and the org in mind when I was writing this, and hope that it will start getting us on the same page.
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Postby III » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:44 pm

nice job tp - that's exactly what i'm looking for. kudos for both doing a nice job on that, and responding positively to sometimes harshly phrased community feedback. your efforts alone give me some hope that this forum will turn into something that will make almost everyone satisfied, if not happy.

i'm willing to help out also - i've got some php skills, but don't know how effective i can be from a distance. i'd love to be a part of the qa/testing effort, though.
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Postby technopatra » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:51 pm

That's high praise coming from you, III, thanks.

I would love to have you test, and if you want to, investigate phpbb for mods that you'd recommend. IMO, your feedback has been pretty spot-on. (tho I am still waffling on plonking, but the majority of users seem to want it.)
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Postby III » Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:57 pm

i waffle on the plonking thing as well. there needs to be *some* way for people to create safe space for themselves, whether new or old, but it seems that plonking is the most brute force and least elegant possibility.

i'll look around for phpbb mods, but i'll point out now that i'm much more a code monkey than an admin - i can write stuff to do what i want all day long, but as soon as i need to start managing a package that i don't know the internals of i get lost and befuddled an invariably screw something up. it took me a year and a half to get my redhat box to the point where it couldn't update anything at all anymore, but i managed it. i'm hoping this mac is more forgiving of idiot admins...
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Postby precipitate » Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:13 pm

Technopatra, thanks. I haven't had a chance to read all of the report yet,
but will do so soon.

I thought it might be worth mentioning that y'all are doing a *much,
much* better job of communicating with the users than you were just
after rollout, and I posted this here more as a reminder than as
chastisement for your current methods.

Keep up the good work.
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Postby DE FACTO » Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:26 pm

OOOh heyyy this is gonna be good.

Hope you guys put your results with php and mods on a thread. I'll be watching.
even though...........
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:06 pm

As I've mentioned elsewhere, it's possible to modify the look to a certain extent by making the browser use default font & color settings, or a different style sheet on your own machine or elsewhere.

But if someone can explain briefly how "mods" are enabled, and if it can somehow be done on one's own machine via HTML, scripts or whatever, without turning it into a stand-alone server, I'd appreciate it.
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:17 pm

Another thing about mods -- if it's possible to apply one's own mods, it could be similar to the control users have with Usenet access, either via text-based apps, bare-bones newsreaders, feature-rich newsreaders, AOL-type custom apps, Google-type web interfaces, or other archive/digest apps.
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Postby III » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:32 pm

>But if someone can explain briefly how "mods" are enabled

mods seem to be like patches: they are extensions to the code built by third parties. they are installed by the administrators and provide additional functionality to the interface.

i'm not sure they allow for changes to the db (which is what i think doing proper subscriptions would take - it looks like the last read stuff is kept as part of the session data, and not in the db.)

it seems that most mods need to be rewritten everytime there is a new version release of phpbb.

and i haven't found any that do what i like. if i wanted an email everytime something new happened, i'd join a mailing list, right?
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Postby precipitate » Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:38 am

> i'm not sure they allow for changes to the db

They do. You're responsible for ensuring compatibility with other mods.
That's how the suggested subscription mod keeps track of your current
threads and your personal plonk list. But ....

> it seems that most mods need to be rewritten everytime there is a new
> version release of phpbb.

Ding ding ding. Or, at least, it's quite likely they do. And database changes
need to be tracked for conflicts with the base software.
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FIX REPORT 10.30.03

Postby technopatra » Thu Oct 30, 2003 6:20 pm

the mods discussion is interesting, and i'll make sure Spanky reads it and responds, but perhaps it's better as its own thread?

back on topic...

Britton & I went over the user requests after last night's web team meeting, and categorized them so that we can put the right people on them.

FIX REPORT – 10.30.03

QUICK FIXES - done locally and waiting to push live (thanks Britton!!)
1. Burning Man logo - changed to link back to www.burningman.com.
2. Admin/sysop help mailto - added in the footer for all pages.
3. Remove unnecessary graphics - a second skin, devoid of most graphic elements, has been completed and will be staged for testing.
4. Post subject line - font size has been increased.
5. Upper right hand login - corrected to properly handle cookies.
6. Search feature default - changed so the default criteria is "Search for all terms" rather than "Search for any terms or use query as entered".

IA/UI – need to be reviewed to fit into overall IA and interaction design – Jamison & Haunani leading that effort
1. Folder structure - review the current folder structure and find ways of reducing the number of topics.
2. Additional profile link - Make the user’s name at left of post clickable to their profile
3. Add a “worker” section for volunteers and others to discuss things specific to teams and the event.

MODIFICATIONS – mods (third party software designed to work with phpbb) need to be reviewed and tested before implementation – Britton & Spanky leading this effort
1. Plonking – we decided to first implement other features to enhance better interaction before employing plonking, however we will research plonking mods so it can be at the ready if/when the community decides they still want it.
2. Subscription – allow users to sub or unsub from threads/folders, so that any sub’d folder thread is highlighted, or so unsub’d ones are hidden from view
3. Sort thread options
a. Instead of having to do it for all threads, I wish I had the option to set all threads for my login to view newest first. That way I can go in, read the updates and know exactly where I'm at. Right now I can do that, but I have to set it for each thread which can be a bit of a hassle.
b. it would be cool if we could change the sort order to alphabetical or by date the topic was posted so we would have alternative ways to scroll through the topics.
4. Navigation pagination
a. If you're navigating through something that has many pages (such as the member list), there's no way short of directly manipulating the URL to jump to something in the middle of the list. You get: “Goto page Previous 1, 2, 3 ... 20, 21, 22 ... 26, 27, 28 Next”
b. Can we have the option to display more than the current max number of threads/post per page? I hate havin to click through pages...would much rather scroll.
5. Thread display options - it would be really great to have a "mark all read" button on every page that would basically mark every unread message read./ i much prefer the "see posts i haven't read yet" feature, which does all that, plus doesn't require you to read everything before you log out.
6. Spellchecker on posting page.

CONTENT – documentation and/or static content to add to the eplaya - Jamison, Melissa, Force, Edub, Haunani, PJ
1. Introductory/ Newbie Documentation
a. How about an eplaya primer that introduces the Tips&Tricks forums, because those are the most easily quantifiable?
b. Customize FAQ to help people who are brand new-, or are used to the old bbs.
2. Static Content
a. Could we add some messaging on the login and home pages, to set a better tone at the outset? You know, encourage people to adopt only one account, be friendly, etc etc...a condensed, more conversational version of the community guidelines for folks to see right off the bat.

UNCATEGORIZED –needs a little research to define what type of solution can be found
1. Screen running off the page - they happen when there is an image posted that is wider than the current window, or when there is an unbroken string of characters longer than the window is wide that causes the entire table to be resized so as to require horizontal scrolling
2. even though i have html enabled, some things, like the paragraph tag, seem to be filtered out. is there a reason for this?
3. Implementation of usergroups - tabled for now. We need to remove the "usergroups" link form the main nav. It may. in the future, be desirable to enable usergroups to nurture smaller, more sovereign discussion areas, but we want to wait until we have done more work on the current implementation.
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Postby III » Thu Oct 30, 2003 6:46 pm

good list!

i have an addendum: uncategorized #2 was my question, and precipitate found a satisfactory answer from the phpbb site. it has to do with security holes in just allowing raw html of any sort to be included in text messages, so they are carefully filtered to minimize the threat...
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Postby technopatra » Thu Oct 30, 2003 7:22 pm

III wrote:good list!

i have an addendum: uncategorized #2 was my question, and precipitate found a satisfactory answer from the phpbb site. it has to do with security holes in just allowing raw html of any sort to be included in text messages, so they are carefully filtered to minimize the threat...


Gotcha. Britton did bring that up, I must've missed it in my notes.

We will not hack this phpbb constraint to allow all html tags.

And again, this list is not exhaustive, just what we need to look at first, so keep 'em coming if you got 'em.
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Some changes pushed live

Postby technopatra » Mon Nov 03, 2003 11:40 am

hi y'all!

Just letting you know that we have pushed the following changes live, thanks to Spanky and Britton:

in the view topic page:
- increased size/bold of topic text
- added line break to separate from timestamp

Search
- re-ordered checkboxes
- switched default selected state of checkbox

Upper right hand login form
- fixed login form bug
— added php tag to drop in missing sid values

Ubiquitous admin link
- added admin (Need help?) link

Name consistency
- removed hyphen from "e-playa"

Optimized the flame header graphic as a first step to improving performance time
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Postby III » Mon Nov 03, 2003 12:55 pm

>added admin (Need help?) link

it took me a while to find this (had no idea where to look), and when i did, the close tag is broken.

the changes are good.

and tp - i really do appreciate this feedback. i know it might seem superfluous from your side, but it's rather comforting from here, in that it helps me not feel like i'm just subject to random and whimsical changes.

thanks guys!
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Postby III » Mon Nov 03, 2003 2:53 pm

>fixed login form bug

i'm still experiencing this.

(btw - since i've got recent experience with this on the 3playa - these are not meant as condemnations, or attacks. they're just bug reports.)

(looking at the generated html - the top right corner form is missing two hidden inputs present in the larger form. there are also minor variations in how the forms are processed, but those shouldn't matter so much. i suspect that it's the <input type="hidden" name="sid" value="xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" /> that's causing the problem.
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fixes getting fixed

Postby technopatra » Mon Nov 03, 2003 4:05 pm

Doh! yeah I just heard from the techie that a couple are still wonky. He's working on them now.

My bad for not QAing before announcing.

syk - we are in the process of setting up a staging area, so we can actaully view & test before going live with changes, like, you know, professionals. We thought these would be fast & easy enough to just go ahead & fix locally then push live. Ah well.
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Re: fixes getting fixed

Postby Flux » Tue Nov 04, 2003 6:27 pm

technopatra wrote:We thought these would be fast & easy enough to just go ahead & fix locally then push live.

Ah, yes, famous last words indeed! If I had a dollar for every time I thought, "That was a simple fix, I don't need to test it," I could build an art car for next year.
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Re: fixes getting fixed

Postby technopatra » Wed Nov 05, 2003 3:25 pm

Flux wrote:
technopatra wrote:We thought these would be fast & easy enough to just go ahead & fix locally then push live.

Ah, yes, famous last words indeed! If I had a dollar for every time I thought, "That was a simple fix, I don't need to test it," I could build an art car for next year.


haha, yeah, unfortunately the success rate on little fixes is, imo, about 5:1 - just enough to make you think that you probably will be ok.

i
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Postby Booker » Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:48 am

OK, I found this. I'm slow but I get there.

Good list. Looks like a lotta work. One thing I see missing:

Under MODIFICATIONS (4 Navigation pagination), I expected to see something about the inability of the software to show the user the last post read in a thread. That was maybe the biggest issue for many people (http://eplaya.burningman.com/viewtopic.php?t=2250) so I hope it gets some play.

What would be a good way to go about prioritizing the issues in terms of user desirability and tech challenge of making each one happen? Then work could focus on the high priorities for the best use of limited volunteer time.
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Postby technopatra » Thu Nov 13, 2003 11:17 am

Booker wrote:OK, I found this. I'm slow but I get there.

Good list. Looks like a lotta work. One thing I see missing:

Under MODIFICATIONS (4 Navigation pagination), I expected to see something about the inability of the software to show the user the last post read in a thread. That was maybe the biggest issue for many people (http://eplaya.burningman.com/viewtopic.php?t=2250) so I hope it gets some play.


I considered that being included in thread display options, but you are right, I didn't spell it out there. It is also a high priority.

Booker wrote:What would be a good way to go about prioritizing the issues in terms of user desirability and tech challenge of making each one happen? Then work could focus on the high priorities for the best use of limited volunteer time.


As this point we're deciding priority based on anecdotal evidence. We don't really have time for additional research, so the squeakiest wheel is getting oil first.

I've been promised that our staging area will be set up by tomorrow (Fri nov 14th), so we should be able to start monkeying with the code shortly thereafter.

I do invite everyone who has time or inclination to looks through the requests in the MODs list (previously posted in the FIX REPORT earlier in this thread) and see what info they can find out about it on phpbb.com.
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Postby technopatra » Thu Nov 13, 2003 1:13 pm

Booker wrote:What would be a good way to go about prioritizing the issues in terms of user desirability and tech challenge of making each one happen? Then work could focus on the high priorities for the best use of limited volunteer time.


As this point we're deciding priority based on anecdotal evidence and UE recommendations. We don't really have time for additional research, so the best I think we can do is balance the squeakiest wheels with best UE practices. I know that sounds loaded, but please remember that no UE feedback was addressed prior to the original launch. We really do have some good UE designers on board and I am confident in their (and my) abilities.

That said, I'm definitely open to further suggestions.

technopatra wrote:I've been promised that our staging area will be set up by tomorrow (Fri nov 14th), so we should be able to start monkeying with the code shortly thereafter.


Ok I realize that didn't answer your question, Booker.

The strategy is to run parallel tracks of discovery and implementation:

-We've got UE helping define the prioritization based on the various feedback threads (both within and without the Feedback section). These will end up being our basic requirements. We need to add some of the team's ideas to the requirements as welll, so we have a cohesive plan to work from, and check back to.

-We have/need more folks investigating the available mods to see what we might be able to plug n play. First they need to find the mod on phpbb, then verify that it meets the requirements, then pass it on to the coders to stage and test, then open the staging environment to the community to test, tweak as necessary, then announce and launch.

-We need to look at the content and IA changes for the two interfaces (the current one and the long-awaited minimalist one that Britton will be testing as son as the staging environment is up) Once those designs are finalized - and by "finalized" I mean that the core page elements and interactions are standardized - we can define instructions for DIY skins.

It's a lot of work. Oh yeah.
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Postby herself » Thu Nov 13, 2003 4:30 pm

> removed hyphen from "e-playa"

Aha!!! Finally my preferred spelling is vindicated! Yay!

hh
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update 11.20.03 - (date corrected)

Postby technopatra » Thu Nov 20, 2003 2:10 pm

STAGING STATUS
Work slowed down here as we've been waiting for our staging area to be set up. There've been delays - the latest estimate is to have it up by this coming Monday, Nov 24. I'm truly sorry about the delay.

SKINS
The first thing on our plate is to test Britton's graphics-free skin. Want to test it ASAP, and make it available to the eplaya.

FOLDER REDESIGN/REDUCTION

-Bob created a usage report that is going to help inform the folder IA redesign/reduction. Thanks Bob!
-Our usability folks are simultaneously working on the web site, on the themecamps/art installations questionnaire (what a nightmare that thing is, sheesh!). I'll nudge the UE folks to work on this as soon as a break in the themcamps project allows, or I'd be happy to have anyone elseinterested join in.
-We will post the proposed IA on the eplaya as soon as it's done, and iterate based on feedback.

MODS
-I'm putting together a spreadsheet to track our mods research & testing status. Will post it when done. We still need help in researching mods, please PM me if you have some time.
-We are reconsidering the plonk mod, and I'm adding it back to the top of hte list of mods to work on.

COMMUNITY GUIDELINES
-III posted a great start to the doc a while back, and Haunani sent out a thoughtful, detailed email on the eft-list to spark the discussion, but neither of them have, to my knowledge, had much response. It looks like we may have had some interested parties drop out.
-To jump start this, I'm going to take III's doc and nani's comments. and just throw together a rough draft for folks to riff on, on the etf-list. Once we have a draft we are all reasonabley happy with, we'll open it up to the eplaya for feedback.

Sorry for the brief update - I'm hoping that things will move a lot quicker, and I'll have more progress to report, next week.
Last edited by technopatra on Mon Nov 24, 2003 12:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby III » Thu Nov 20, 2003 3:40 pm

> nani's comments

i've been meaning to respond to those. i initially had a pretty negative response, and held off to try to wrap my head around it. i'll probably try to do so soon, if for no other reason than to get the ball rolling again.
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update 11.23.03

Postby technopatra » Mon Nov 24, 2003 12:09 am

Update 11.23.03

First thing, I went back and corrected the erroneous date on my previous update. Sorry 'bout that.

STAGING
Staging is up and running! Woohoo! I am playing around with some of the admin options there, and we expect to get Britton's clean skin up and avialable very soon, and will set up another forum for feedback.

MODS
Spanky found a pagination mod, and I went looking for others that have been requested. Several of the changes asked for by the community are not yet available. The ones that are:

-Favorite topics - http://phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=73503
-Number of posts since last visit [index page]- http://phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=137308
-New posts since last visit [viewtopic page] - http://phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=138327
-Printer-friendly topic view - http://phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=141443
-Topics I've started - http://phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=142954

Once Britton's skin is good to go, we'll start moving on the mods.

There are several requests for which I haven't found mods, yet, e.g. plonking. If we want these, we'll have to do them ourselves. Or rather, we'll need your help to do them. Some may have been created already, but not with the phpbb-required template.

We haven't had a formal discussion about it, but my gut instinct is to NOT install any mods that haven't been vetted and approved by the phpbb folks. Our dedication to open source includes giving back to the developer community and sharing our enhancements, and employing mods that aren't actively enhancing the "official" software seems to contradict that.

But feel free to correct me if you think differently.

If you think you might be interested in developing mods, please see the how-to guide at http://www.phpbb.com/kb/article.php?article_id=39 .

Ok that's it for now. Mwah.
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Postby precipitate » Mon Nov 24, 2003 3:25 pm

> There are several requests for which I haven't found mods, yet, e.g. plonking.

The mod originally found by antron does implement plonking; it's called "Friend
and ignore list" in the spec (bold emphasis mine):

Front-office :
Friend and ignore list,
user-customizable member list,
list of the subscribed topics,
online/offline/hidden indicator,
summer time (DST) management (user and admin),
user groups display,
gender (based on gender mod by Niels Chr < ncr@db9.dk >),
gender on rank titles,
birthday date, anniversary whish,
signature preview/editor,
anti-robotic registration, disabling via ACP,
realname, phone/fax numbers,
user information display management by the user and restriction by the admin,
hide picture (avatar, signature, pic in post),
admin management from standard user link,
color for mods, admin and standard user set by the CSS,
private messages management integrated,

In the other thread, you wrote:
>This mod does not seem to actually exist, yet.

As mentioned when antron originally proposed it, it's still beta. Link is
above.

And this brings up another question to which I've not yet had any answer:
what happened to the older feature requests and bug reports? Anything
before late September is just gone.
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Postby technopatra » Tue Nov 25, 2003 1:34 pm

precipitate wrote:>
The mod originally found by antron does implement plonking; it's called "Friend
and ignore list" in the spec (bold emphasis mine):


Thanks - I dunno how I missed Antron's original post.

I'll leave it up to the developers to make a final decision, but it's my preference not to use mods in beta. This one looks great, but it has many moving parts, and there are 23 pages of discussions soliciting tech help on the install. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if we waited until it is submitted and approved by phpbb.

precipitate wrote:And this brings up another question to which I've not yet had any answer:
what happened to the older feature requests and bug reports? Anything
before late September is just gone.


Finally figured this one out - there was a hidden auto-pruning feature in the admin control panel that is set as a default to 14 days sans reply. I've just disabled it for now.

I noted the feature requests as we went along - they were more of the same. Lots of requests for turning off smileys. If you remember seeing or requesting something that wasn't captured in my updates, please let me know - I thought I'd caught everything.

I also believe that the bug reports were handled - I know that Emily caught a bunch of login problems at the outset, and that Spanky picked up a few. I am afraid I don't have a proper bug list, but I do remember reading over the bug postings to make sure that someone had addressed them.
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Postby precipitate » Tue Nov 25, 2003 3:25 pm

> it's my preference not to use mods in beta.

In general, I agree, and it was one of my original comments about this
mod. There may be times to make exceptions, but you can't know that
without doing a thorough evaluation. If this mod fulfills several of the
pending feature requests (which I *think* it does, but am not totally
sure), then it's probably worth spending time to evaluate. 23 pages of
install questions could mean it's buggy as hell, or it could just mean that
a lot of people are installing it and have questions because it fulfills a lot
of their needs. In any case, I'm sure the developers will figure out
whether it's appropriate.

> I thought I'd caught everything.

I think you did. It wasn't that, it was that I remembered saying things that
I wanted to say again, and couldn't just point to them. No biggie. I'm
pretty sure nothing fell through the cracks. It just seemed weird that stuff
was disappearing.
precipitate
 
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