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Why the TradeTight Forum is "Way Cool"
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Posted 6/2/2010 3:01 PM (#373)
Subject: Why the TradeTight Forum is "Way Cool"


Posts: 3907
USA: GA, Lawrenceville
Our Club is about COMMUNICATION and INFORMATION and INTERACTIVE DEVELOPMENT. There are basically two big components to that ... the formal Topics covered in the Meetings - disseminated via Videos ... and the Discussion about those Topics and MANY other topics - all taking place on the Forum.

So, the FORUM is a CRITICAL component to the longterm value and success of our Club. As many of you know, I am a very active participant in Nirvana's forums (four of them), so I can see the great potential of this mechanism ... but also clearly see where the needs lie. We have already, and will continue to BUILD on that potential, to create a robust knowledgebase for advanced OT/VT information.

There are several broad aspects to this "step up" need. One is a significantly enhanced ORGANIZATION of the information. Another is improved ways of FINDING AND VIEWING the information. Another is flexibility in being NOTIFIED (via email) about activity in areas you are interested in. Another is opportunities to work with limited groups of Members on SPECIAL PROJECTS, and maintain that communication in the TradeTight forum in whatever degree of privacy seems necessary. Another is CONSOLIDATING CORE INFO about each Room's and Thread's theme and topic to help minimize reading through countless posts in scores of threads.

Here are some of the things we've enhanced, so far ...

Making the screens Readable and Attractive ...

One of the surprisingly difficult and time-consuming tasks in rewriting the Forum's source-code has been reformatting things to "look nice" ... and to be more efficiently organized. ASP is *not friendly* when it comes to this ... and it surprised it. But, the results are very satisfying ... we probably will continue gradually tweaking the appearance and functionality for some time to come. For example ... the original point size of the letters in the posts was TINY ... no more. Another example ... there was a lot of "stuff" visible that due to its arrangement, wasted vertical screen space and forced the user to scroll a lot ... that's been culled and rearranged.

Making it easy to Navigate ...

Another tricky but very valuable thing is the navigation enhancements, which are for the most part complete now. We have a DOZEN major "sections" (plus one for Special Projects), and over 120 organized "rooms" within those sections. Each room has any number of threads. The granularity this provides a robust structure for knowledge accumulation and later retrieval.

Making it easy to Find the Right for things ...

As a result of this high-granularity organization, a full Table of Contents view of the Sections and Rooms, without the thread-detail, creates a table that is much too tall to fit even on the highest-resolution screens ... meaning that the user would have to scroll a lot to find things. We've enhanced that by providing collapsing-tree views, so that you can open up just ONE section to see its rooms, but also (if you want) see all the other section-headers as well. Or open up a COMBO of any sections, with some remaining collapsed. And if you shut down and come back, it remembers your last view-settings.

Making it easy to Jump Back or Elsewhere when viewing a thread ...

Furthermore, as you "drill down" from the main forum view, into a section, then into one of its rooms, then into one of ITS threads, and scroll around in the thread ... there is a navigation bar at the top left, just under the logo, that allows you to "back up" to any intermediate view. This took a LOT of work to implement ... the original code did not provide for all the intermediate steps. You can jump from an level to any intermediate point, with ease ... and you can jump to any OTHER room using the "Jump to Room" dropdown box, at the top center of any thread-view.

Making it easy to Keep Track of what's happening, without Email bloat ...

There's a separate "thumbtacked" thread which describes four very different Email Notification options. Most forums only offer one or at most two. We've improved the "typical" types, and added a couple nifty new ones as well. If you have not done so yet, read up on it and adjust your User Settings to fit your needs. Our goal was to eliminate unwanted email "bloat", yet also provide timely content for threads of interest. Links in the email jump DIRECTLY to the post of interest.

Making it easy to attach graphics so that others can SEE them ...

This can a real hassle in most other forums, if you can figure out how to do it at all. We've made it a no-brainer ... any ".PNG" graphic that is attached to a post will automatically be displayed in the post ... any other graphic format will not display. You can of course download any PNG as well.

Making it comfortable to read threads that have graphics ...

A big problem with any forum that allows graphics to be posted is that if only ONE post in the thread has a "really wide" picture in it, then ALL the posts in that thread become uncomfortably wide and hard to view or read without scrolling back and forth. We've gone to great pains to AUTO-RESIZE the PNG graphics IF they are too wide ... but to leave them as-is otherwise. This is explained on the screen that comes up when you attach the file.

Making it safe to download the attachments ...

We use ESET NOD 32 antivirus checking ot all individual uploaded attachments. So, you can download them with (relative) confidence. Caution ... there's no way for us to check contents of Zipped files ... that's up to you!

Making it easy to learn about other Club Members ...

We've customized the User Profile, adding many database fields that are specific to our club, so that members can really get to know one another. We strongly encourage every member to upload a "real" picture of themselves. We may live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, but we want everyone to be friends and to feel at home.

Making it easy to know where info came from ...

We believe it is important to respect the rights of original authors ... but at the same time, we want to gradually "collect" particularly useful info from other sources, into our organized knowledgebase here. So, we've added three fields to the bottom of the Create/Edit post window, requesting that you identify the original Author, Date, and URL-source (or Title) of anything that you copy in to our forum.

Thread moved by JimDean on 2/12/2016 8:24 PM from TradeTight Introduction > TradeTight Club Organization & Goals > Why the TradeTight Forum is "Way Cool"

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