Improving PC Review


Ian

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Firstly, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone that commented in the recent feedback thread or dropped me a message with their thoughts. Over the coming month we’re going to be implanting lots of changes to PC Review with the aim of improving the community spirit, encouraging debate and attracting new members to join the forums. It’s not too late to give more feedback, so let us know if you have more ideas.

Here’s a summary of the changes we’re going to make, or the things we’d like to try and encourage:

Encouraging Participation:

We’ve had problems retaining new members on the forums, which is one of the most important things we’d like to improve. The first thing we can do to help this is to give new members a warm welcome to the site and do our best to help with their query if possible. After speaking to new members and reading the feedback thread, one of the problems with new members continuing to participate is that it feels like there is an existing clique on the forums which is hard to break in to. Of course it’s fantastic that we’ve got a close knit community, but it has been consistently mentioned as a reason that new members find it hard to feel part of the forums.

To address this, we’re going to remove the VIP membership feature and trial removing the post count. This should equalise all members in the eyes of new posters and will hopefully make it feel like we’re not an inner circle, but a wider community with shared interests. In its place, we’re working on a badge system that can show areas of knowledge, long standing participation, crunching team member, helpfulness etc… - but in a less overt way. The coding for this will take a while, so it’s something to add later in the year.

In addition, we are considering introducing a competition – watch this space!

Re-arranging the Forums:

The current forum layout has been stagnant for many years, with some sections getting very little use – while other sections overlap significantly. We’re still in debate about the final layout, but we’ll start making gradual changes very soon to simplify the forum structure so that it’s easier to post in the correct place. This will also mean we can give more prominence to other forum areas that are lower down the list at the moment (i.e. Linux and Mobile).

As an example, a technical support question relating to Excel could be posted in any one of 4 sections at the moment.

Some of the changes that we’ll be making soon will combine all of the Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 forums in to a single Windows area, as often a question isn’t OS specific – but also we can “tag” threads with the OS in question anyway. We’ll be adding a Microsoft Office section to cater for the large number of Office support questions we get, with a similar tagging system to mark threads as Excel/Access/Word/etc… Normally I would avoid the tagging system for things like this, but in this instance it will keep the forum layout very simple but retain the category data we need.

At the same time, we’ll reduce the number of “sticky” threads in some forums (and create a single resource sticky) – some areas like the Photography section have a full page scroll of “sticky” content before getting to new threads.

Debate and Discussion:

We’ve deliberately avoided controversial topics to prevent arguments on the forum, as we’re primarily a tech site after all. However, a healthy general discussion section is important to make the forums a place to visit regularly, rather than just for technical help.

As such, it may be interesting to see more topical debates and current affairs discussion – as long as we avoid particularly troublesome topics (religion and extreme politics being topics that are extremely difficult to keep civil on the internet!). We’re still thinking on how to encourage this, but it’s safe to say that more discussion of this type would be great to see.

Furthermore, we will post some brief forum rules and regulations to define what kind of behaviour is not acceptable. This will be common sense stuff to most people, but it is worth setting out so that arguments concerning divisive topics are minimised.

News and Articles:

We’ve already started to implement a change in the way we post news. Rather than posting short links and quotes from news snippets we get sent from other sites, we’re posting more discursive topics and roundups of reviews. We’ll be sure to include news snippets relating to tech in general, high-end hardware plus plenty of more wallet friendly hardware that may be of interest.

We’re also aiming for more regular reviews/articles authored on PCR, so I’ll start working on getting hold of some hardware that will of interest to review, or start writing non-hardware articles that will be of interest.
 
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V_R

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All sounds excellent to me too, I do like the idea of combining the Windows sections - think that's the way to go given that the older ones - XP and Vista - should be pretty much defunct now.

A competition?! How exciting! :dance:
Though I never win anything.... :(
 

Ian

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I've started on some of the changes already, but the forum re-jig may take until the end of today, as I'm still having a think about the layout :).
 

Ian

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The layout changes are almost done (I've got a couple more to add in a month or so), but the tagging system still needs some work - so if you see things working a little less than ideal in the Windows or Office forums, don't worry :). I'm hoping to have the tagging coding complete by tomorrow.
 
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Taffycat

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Liking the tags a lot too. They make it so much easier to spot-the-category. :thumb:
 
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