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Do you like the current interface?

David Ford | | Jun 29, 2006 09:29 PM

Dear Chowhound Team (and kind fellow members of the Chowhound community),

This post is a follow-up to my post of a few days ago where I attempted to build a case for a return to the older style Chowhound interface. The title of that post is "Technical interface considerations (long)", and it can be found at the following URL:

Although my previous post was authored with the Chowhound Team primarily in mind, I would like to now open the discussion to any of my fellow chowhounds who would like to join in. I believe this to be an issue of utmost importance which needs to be fully explored NOW; while there still may be time to change it.

If this item is still on the table, then I would like to offer another installation of what I hope is being received as clear thinking on the subject. Otherwise, kindly inform me that this issue has been closed and I will post no further concerning it.

First, let's take a look at the current state of the Chowhound interface.

The new interface is hierarchial, yes. But not in a relevant way as it was in the old interface. The benefit of a hierarchial layout is that it provides the user a means to "follow" the various conversations that are taking place within any given thread. This benefit is gained through allowing the user to click their way through the thread at their own speed -- one post at a time -- until all information in that thread has been digested to the user's satisfaction.

This benefit is totally lost in the new interface where all the posts in a given thread are opened and ready to be read at once -- from top to bottom. In doing this, the hierarchial tree -- present as it may be -- is rendered unusable. When shown a list of items (or posts) on a page, human nature is to read them one after the other, in sequential order until finished. The hierarchial tree is not a "normal" example of sequential order; top to bottom is! So, when presented with a list of posts (even though a hierarchial structure is present *in* that list), our nature is to read that list from top to bottom. In doing this, we lose the context of each post in the list. And the benefit of the hierarchial system is not gained. Yes, one could go back after reading the list and make the effort to "re-assemble" the various conversations and responses *in* that thread -- by using the (included) hierarchial interface. But why would they? The list of information (posts) has already been skimmed for relevant substance. And all relevant content has been digested, from the user's standpoint. Most will simply click onto the next thread and continue skimming.

But will they have received all the value that was contained in that thread?

No, they will have not. Because inherent in the drone-like "skimming" process (as the user is encouraged to do in the case of an expanded thread view -- as is present in the new interface), is the temptation to ignore the relationships between and identities contained within each post in a given thread. The skimming process does not need to know the origin of a post or the history behind it; only the post is relevant to the skimmer.

And that is what this new interface is destined to turn us into; skimmers. And the value of the Chowhound resource will diminish. And the quality of the user base will wane.

Because we will cease to be a community. Our identities will be lost amid a sea of posts; posts that we compose but are no longer given credit for.

The old interface made us gleaners; searchers; treasure-hunters -- Chowhounds! We could see the whole set of conversations in front of us; unexpanded and waiting to be clicked on and discovered. We could see who was responsible for each individual post *before* we began to digest it. In this way, the vital link between subject and author remained intact; and we were a community!

I could go on, but I am curious what others' feelings are on the subject.

Fellow chowhounds? Chowhound Team?


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