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Technical interface considerations (long)


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Technical interface considerations (long)

David Ford | Jun 28, 2006 11:53 PM

(was First long thread without trees -- Help!)

Dear Chowhound Team,

I'm not sure how many posts you have received about this, but I just finished having a very emotional experience over on my home (Los Angeles Area) board.

I am still reeling from it.

First, my experience:

I guess since I have been hanging out at Site Talk -- and participating in the community effort to help you guys build a better Chowhound -- I had lost touch with a common element of the day-to-day Chowhound experience;

The Long Thread.

Well, I just encountered my first long thread since the launch of Chowhound 2.0 last Friday. And I have got to say that all I could do was back out and run straight over here (Site Talk) to post this concerning it. I mean to say I could not even BEGIN to follow who was responding to who (let alone begin to digest the substance of their responses). All I saw was a static list of responses to the OP. It was like a big blur. No relationships -- only responses. Page after page of lifeless, soulless data. All text and no context. And that is not right.

With the old (hierarchial tree) interface, navigating long threads was a breeze. All I had to do was find the position of the first (unopened) response to the original post (OP), drill down each response (and sub-response) to that response, and then move on to the next (OP or otherwise) response where I would happily (and without effort) repeat the process. No matter how complex the thread, the software gave me the tools to chew (no pun intended) through each response in an elegant (and efficient) manner in which the context of each post was visually preserved.

But speed and efficiency were not the main issue. Although I personally developed a facility with the interface which enabled me to become quick and efficient at processing several large threads in a short amount of time, let me be clear:

The *real* issue was that the DEPTH of the thread was able to be digested. THIS is where the old interface really shined. Yes, the new system may be quicker at processing the raw information contained in each evolving thread, but it comes with a price:

The context is lost! The relationships are fragmented.

It is a question of breadth vs. depth. And I submit to you that to achieve greater efficiency at processing breadth at the sacrifice of depth is a bad direction. Both are important. And a balance must be struck. For this, the old interface wins. The hierarchial tree based system of displaying threads and posts was an elegant solution to a complex problem. It offered a far better balance than does the current hybrid system.

This is a HUGE issue. And I hope it is getting the feedback it deserves. I say that only because it is something that really, REALLY needs to be implemented. Without it, the interface will simply not be capable of delivering the users the ability to navigate a thread while retaining the precious context of each individual post.

Bear in mind that I speak primarily of long threads, or even moderately sized threads. But not short threads, of which the bulk of the boards are comprised. Short threads are easily handled by the current (new) interface. There are not many relationships; just a quick "Q&A" style of interaction.

But that's not where the action is!

The value of Chowhound is in its rich, diverse, passionate and opinionated community. This value is realized when the Chowhound user is given the tools to digest a long and complex thread with multiple levels of sub-posts *while retaining* the context of each post and understanding the relationships at work in that discussion. To digest a thread completely is to understand the subtle interplay between users of diverse backgrounds and differing opinions. Only when these relationships are spotlighted does the evolution of a thread maintain its integrity.

The focus should be on the *relatioships* between the posters. Only then will the true value of their responses be realized!

Thanks for listening,


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