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This would make it SO much easier to see which threads are active....This is such a basic UI flaw, and coming frmo Joel, that's pretty ironic.

Thursday, March 7, 2002

He did something similar. The URL changes (something like ?responses=7) for each response. This way you can see which ones have turned colors (red or purple or whatever your browser is set to) and which ones are now blue.

Mildly annoying if I'm switching between browsers, but it does the job. It's no DejaNews, but I like it.

I think this is some out-of-the-box discussion list he uses. Since this isn't a core competency, I don't expect him to spend much time configuring it.

Mark W
Thursday, March 7, 2002

> I think this is some out-of-the-box discussion list he uses. Since this isn't a core competency, I don't expect him to spend much time configuring it.

He said he (Fog Creek people) wrote it, that it's good enough for /him/ now and that he doesn't want to enhance it further.

You could consider paying him to develop it further...

Christopher Wells
Thursday, March 7, 2002

Oh. He rolled his own. This is nice discussion software, I wonder if they'd consider selling it... (I'm not a buyer, but idle curiosity got me).

This guy's looks suspiciously familiar:

In fact his whole site looks suspiciously familiar, not to mention he links to JoelOnSoftware at some point.

Mark W
Thursday, March 7, 2002

Since Rik used CityDesk for his site (look at the HTML source),  it's not that surprising...

Jeff Pleimling
Thursday, March 7, 2002

I find that, as a "real" forum goes, this software suffers from some of the same types of oversimplifications as FogBugz.  I'm all for usability and elegant design, but these apps appear to be designed for ease of implementation, not ease of use in the real world. 

For instance, in the forum, you can't edit your own posts.  You can't receive email notification when someone replies to your threads.  You can't view only new threads, or only new messages.  You can't insert HTML, you can't bold or italicize text, or make it clear that a chunk of your text is code.  I can't put this list of items into a bulleted list.

Similarly (in my mind), FogBuz displays all its data only in "paragraph" formats.  Filtering information (like "what bugs are assigned to Bob?") is sticky between invocations (annoying if I'm not Bob).  It's a web app instead of a real application.  There's other missing features that I can't think of off the top of my head, but like the forum features above, their absence reflects either a naively simple design, or software that is targetted at users who aren't me (or who have never used competing software).  My company bought FogBugz and we're trying to make it work, but I've definitely spent some time trying to decide if we should take up Joel on his money-back guarantee.

I haven't tried CityDesk so I don't know how usable it is, but I found it interesting to see such designs from this source (i.e. Joel!). 

Back to the forums.  I wonder if this forum would be better served by full-on forum software, such as phpBB, which is a great open source forum (  They're due to release v2 soon, and it looks quite nice. (

Scott Evans
Thursday, March 7, 2002

I don't agree with you at all:  Sure, this isn't Scoop or Slash - and it's not ment to be.

Can't edit your own posts - that would require a user account and a login to know who was authorized to edit what posts, and I for one wouldn't care to create yet another account somewhere just for the ~1 post a month here. Too much work -- and as a usability person, Joel knows that reducing steps makes successful task completion that much more likely

Email when someone replies to your thread - again we have the user account issue, but also the problem that this is a non-threaded (by design) discussion board.  So when does the email get sent? What if someone was replying to your reply, and another person posted first?

And HTML in the post can be good, but then you have to figure out what HTML to allow. I've seen some boards where people do very annoying things in their posts with HTML, and it's.... annoying.

Add all this to the fact that the discussion board here is not the main focus of Joel's site, and that he has stated that he doesn't want to spend time implementing "features" that aren't needed.  I'd call this a very usable, clean discussion board that fits the needs it was designed for.

Philip Rieck
Thursday, March 7, 2002

I agree. This discussion forum works for what it's needed for. If it were any more complex, if I had to sign in, etc. I probably wouldn't be half as likely to post here as often as I do (which may be a good thing, depending on whether or not you like what I have to say).

The feature rich packages are already out there, and they're great. When you run a site like SlashDot you need something complex to handle the traffic in a way that makes it still readable. You might also want to encourage a complex sign in process not for e-mail notification and all that, but to make it more difficult to post annoying anonymous things. (I'm not speaking of slashdot in particular here, but of large message boards in general). If I were ABC and wanted a message board, I would know that anything on the board is a reflection of the company, so I would create a complex sign in process with various legal acceptances, giving up of social security numbers and first born children, etc.

If, however, I owned a semi-irregular magazine style website and wanted to create a discussion forum for it. Or wanted to create a support board for one of the software packages I had.. This fits the bill quite nicely.

Also, I like the ASCII feel of the posts. It allows me to post source code withotu worrying about it getting corrupted. Though I wish it would keep spaces as in <pre> tags so I could create ASCII charts with more ease, but I'm willing to live with what it does.

Mark W
Thursday, March 7, 2002

Agree with Philip. People make all these suggestions matter-of-factly which is ironic given that they are poor. And the original poster's suggestion is poor as well. Most discussion boards sort *topics* with most recent at top but the posts are sorted with oldest at top (e.g., slashdot, UBB, etc.).

Note to all the people who want to learn to program and make money from their work: there's a big opportunity to develop a basic, low-cost, flexible discussion board software. Hint: make it look and work very similarly to UBB.

Thursday, March 7, 2002

I've always been attached to the forums which Joel formerly used.  I liked them because they are so straight forward.  Most forums seem to have a lot of cute and features that, to me, are just in the way of the text.

Greenspun has two features that would be great on this forum though:  "Email alerts" and "Recent posts" I think the alerts could consume an unpredictable amount of bandwidth though.

I like this forum just fine as it is.  I presume that over time the the fog dudes will be able to organize the knowledge base for us.  I suspect the best questions and the coolest tricks haven't been thought of yet.

Thursday, March 7, 2002

pb wrote:
"Agree with Philip. People make all these suggestions matter-of-factly which is ironic given that they are poor."

I only spoke "matter of factly" because saying "IMO" before everything is redundant.  Of course it's just an opinion!  As is the question of whether or not my suggestions are "poor".

"Note to all the people who want to learn to program and make money from their work: there's a big opportunity to develop a basic, low-cost, flexible discussion board software. Hint: make it look and work very similarly to UBB. "

I don't think any such "big opportunity" exists.  There's a *lot* of quality forum apps out there for free.  (phpBB, which I mentioned above, is one of them.)  Many are as basic as you configure them to be, and many are quite flexible.

One thing I *do* agree with: "make it work like UBB".  That's a known interface that people recognize when they see it, and obviously it's been proven to work.  Another reason to migrate this forum to a UBB-like app... :)

Scott Evans
Thursday, March 7, 2002

i e-mailed joel directly about this question 2 weeks ago-and he said most of the things you're complaining about were planned (the newest responded posts going to the top).  i recall reading also that he slapped this board together in an evening-so of course there won't be that many features.

i agree with joel that threading tends to lead toward fragmentation-as does quoting.  this forum is good for what it's about-it puts content front and center-rather than 10,000 sidebars and their myriad side-conversations. 

of course-all the major discussion forum software has stuff like threading, authorized login, etc. etc.  but these add ins take a lot of extra time-while many of the users (the majority) don't really use/benefit from the features all that much.  look at how many people post as anonymous cowards on slashdot.

i've been thinking about this a lot because i'm doing a demonstration project using multiple environments (ASP, mod_perl, PHP and JSP/Servlets) to write up a message board with the same specs.  i have added stuff like threading-but only because EVERYONE uses it.  i'm only using it of course to test dev. time and stuff so it doesn't matter-but in the read world, if you write a message board or rework someone's code-you'll have to deal with threading & logins....

but anyhow-my main point is that as someone would say-it's not not a bug or oversight-it's a feature!  joels wants old topics to disappear, he wants the messages to be tightly linked (no fragmented threading) and stand on their own content (no excessive quoting) and so forth.

razib khan
Thursday, March 7, 2002

I also agree that message threading leads to discussion fragmentation and tangents. I like Joel's message board, but I do have one suggestion:

* I like how messages are sorted chronologically, but I wish the discussion topic page was sorted by most-recently-modified!

Banana Fred
Thursday, March 7, 2002

All I really wish for was a good way to view archives and quickly find information that I need. A better search maybe, but that's basically it. It's no big deal for me to scroll down and look for the "blue threads."

Mark W
Thursday, March 7, 2002

i don't know the schema of joel's db-but it shouldn't be that difficult do some individualized ORDER BY's to sort the back messages.

razib khan
Friday, March 8, 2002

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