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garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 10:03 AM
We all know this forum looks better, but it doesn't even have the very basic features of phorum. I hope Bob still has the receipt so he can get a refund on this puppy.

But now we have polls! So, the question remains.... how much does the new forum suck?

kj
12-14-2007, 10:12 AM
What basic features are you speaking of? I like it as I see lots of new features and love cruising through the comments at a much faster speed and actually being able to see who responded to who instead of getting out my ruler and putting it on the screen to see what a comment was in response to.

Plus there's polls!

don't be afraid of your freedom GarbageCowboy.

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 10:52 AM
I don't like how the threading works, the interface is way too cluttered, following whose replied to your posts seems like it will be a full time job... oh, and the most important thing that I didn't mention (which I can now express with bold, red text): THEY FORGOT TO IMPORT ALL THE OLD POSTS.

Seriously, migrating a bulletin board database is not that hard. And if vBulletin for whatever reason was unable to migrate the data, then they shouldn't have used it.

Like I mentioned elsewhere... I post at http://www.battleyourtailoff.com, which is a Minnesota Twins bulletin board run by 1 twenty-something Twins fan who lives in Minnesota. He recently performed a complete overhaul of his bulletin board and he managed to get all the old posts, peoples' post counts, etc. all migrated by the time he did the unveiling. And this is one yahoo running a friggin' bulletin board about the Twins.

They have t-shirts too, and I bet they generate more revenue than bh.tv, with no technical support staff.

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 10:54 AM
GC:

Plans have been announced in at least two places to import the old comments. The vBulletin site offers as a selling point this functionality. Have a little patience.

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 11:04 AM
Well then WTF were they doing all that time that it took them to do this redesign?

Merging the databases seems like a crucial part of migrating to a new bulletin board software... not an afterthought you do after you unveil it. Especially with all the delays and such it's not clear what was taking them so long; that should have been a high priority.

I still don't like it, but if they merge the databases then I will be somewhat assuaged. I reserve the right to use vulgar smilies, however.

http://www.websmileys.com/sm/violent/sterb030.gif

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 11:12 AM
GC:

I agree with you about the merge problem, at first glance. However, when I think about it, the only way I could see it working would be if the old forum was closed. Otherwise, you'd finish the merge operation at a given time, and then you'd still have to deal with any additional comments added after that time.

If it had been up to me, I would have done a dry run or two to see how the merging would work, and then closed the old forum right before merging for real. It might have been that it came down to person-power and time constraints, though, since Bob evidently wanted to launch a completely new site design all at once. It might also have been that there was no clean way to launch the new site in pieces; e.g., trying to get the new video pages to work with the old forum, or vice versa, might have been evaluated as twice the work as just doing it all at once.

I have to say that I'm mostly impressed with the smoothness of the changeover. Seems to me that most bugs and many complaints were addressed within one day. Here's hoping for a smooth import of the old comments.

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 11:32 AM
If it had been up to me, I would have done a dry run or two to see how the merging would work, and then closed the old forum right before merging for real. It might have been that it came down to person-power and time constraints, though, since Bob evidently wanted to launch a completely new site design all at once. It might also have been that there was no clean way to launch the new site in pieces; e.g., trying to get the new video pages to work with the old forum, or vice versa, might have been evaluated as twice the work as just doing it all at once.

Not to keep harping on this point... but Rocketpig (yes, that is his handle) at BYTO (http://www.battleyourtailoff.com) did exactly that. The transition to the new forum was totally smooth and everything worked just fine.

And he's one (1) man. As referred to in the new diavlog... there are "dozens" of people working for bh.tv.

I don't know what bh.tv's motivations and goals are, the fact that Bob is so abstruse about it is sort of bothersome, but the forum redesign seems to have been something of an afterthought. Clearly they are going for the NYTimes/media juggernaut model rather than playing to their base. Can't blame them, but I think the new forum merge has been horrible.

For instance, all the URLs in getting my new password to work were all screwed up... allowing continuity of people being able to login without having to figure out what the real URLs for password reset pages and stuff are seems like a real screw-up. Really, it just seems like the forum stuff was tacked on.

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 12:49 PM
GC:

Ultimately, I agree. The transition to the new forum could have been done better.

thprop
12-14-2007, 01:18 PM
I think the difficulty is in incorporating the messages with the diavlogs. The message boards themselves are relatively easy to do. Some kinks need to be worked out and settings tweaked to make most people happy. The problem comes in when they grab the comments and put them on the page with the diavlogs. That is not as easy as it seems - and they are having some problems with it.

All in all, I think the transition is going well. WE ARE ONLY IN DAY 2!!! Wolfgangus is over the top. GC sounds more like a bitter old man than a recent college grad. Maybe the Ivy League does that to you.

Personally, the limits - and frequent crashes - of the old message board was annoying and I was looking forward to a new system. Given some time and tweaks, I think we will be happy.

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 01:24 PM
thprop:

I think you're right about the biggest problem being the inclusion of the comments on the video pages.

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 04:11 PM
Maybe the Ivy League does that to you.

I don't want to sound like an elitist, but...

I expect perfection out of everyone, in every aspect of their performance, both professional and personal, at all times.

Frankly, the imperfections of this website are massively intolerable to me.

Also, Bob LIVES in Princeton. You'd think he'd get it.

thprop
12-14-2007, 04:47 PM
I expect perfection out of everyone, in every aspect of their performance, both professional and personal, at all times.
You'll get over that soon. And just think, if you grew up a Cub fan, you would never have that expectation. When someone asks me if the glass is half empty or half full, I answer that I am a Cub fan and look at the glass wondering when someone is going to knock it over and make a mess.

I had a brief IT career after college before I hightailed it back to grad school. One of the most important lessons I learned was that grand projects usually become grand messes. I am a big believer in continually making small improvements and upgrades - not only in IT but life in general. You get much better results in the long run.

Wolfgangus and you seem to be the ones who have the most issues with the new web site and message board. I think it will get better over time. Just remember, don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

I should start calling you Grasshopper as I impart such wisdom into your young mind.

Wonderment
12-14-2007, 06:19 PM
The new forum is fantastic, and the old forum was fantastic. That's why I hang out here -- cause I love it. Bob is deserving of all our thanks for this labor of love. He gets nothing for it except the gratification of creating an amazing intellectual space for civil discussion of the deepest puzzles and most compelling issues of human experience.

This is a precious space, far different from the cruel, insensitive, commercialized, vulgar and stupefying garbage dump that's only a click away (i.e., most of the rest of the Internet).

I vote for showing some solidarity, gratitude and appreciation. Don't forget that Santa is coming in just 10 days.

ogieogie
12-14-2007, 06:49 PM
Frankly, the imperfections of this website are massively intolerable to me.


Vigorous second.

I'm refraining from commenting on the new forum until I've finished compiling my exhaustive list of polite but emphatic synonyms for "sucks" and "hate it."

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 07:10 PM
All right, Wonderment. Knock it off. You're not going to get a free T-shirt if you lay it on that thick. ;^)

I'm with you in spirit, though.

Wolfgangus
12-15-2007, 10:56 AM
Ditto, dude.

Also, I have overseen changes bigger than this that went off without a hiccup, the myth that all changes will inevitably create bugs is total bull. Set up a dry run and have a few testers try every function independent of each other. I suspect if any tester created a handle on oldBHTV, and then the programmers did their merge magic and brought up dryBHTV in a few recent browsers, the first thing they would find out is "Hey, I can't do the password change!"

And just like real life, make the testers internet users but not programmers or engineers, and do not let the programmers communicate with the testers. Make them fix it in a way so the testers can follow screen instructions and get the job done smoothly. Anytime a screen says click here, the damn link damn well better go where it is supposed to go, and not give me a 404 page not found.

bjkeefe
12-15-2007, 01:59 PM
Does -asx- stand for A Sockpuppet eXtraordinaire?

Nice job of disguising your wrighting style, though.

;^)

Wolfgangus
12-16-2007, 02:28 AM
I have been a software developer for 34 years, I have led projects writing code for medical devices, MRI, military weapons and government intelligence video and listening devices all of which had to operate correctly or people would die, and guess what? I figured out how to do that without killing people; unlike some of my peers. I would probably put you in their category; careless and proud of it.

Over the years I worked at every level from assembly level grunt coding to project manager of fairly large teams of EEs and programmers. I have worked on military grade and commercial projects for a few dozen companies. There are ways to convert without nearly this much pain, and bugs are NOT inevitable. Why would a supposedly logical IT professional like you even think that? What is it a user can do in thirty seconds that you couldn't possibly think of if you tried? You are just defending your carelessness so you can convince others that your carelessness is unavoidable, which will save you from having to think in the future. "Oh, ALL conversions are like that. Seriously, NOBODY converts without some kind of bugs."

Bullshit. I have converted complex financial systems handling millions of dollars per hour without a single bug. I have converted pharmaceutical systems for hospitals handling potentially lethal prescriptions without a bug. And I have programmed weapons that could get soldiers killed if the code malfunctioned without a bug found in pretty rigorous testing by the Army, Navy, and a few unnamed agencies.

I am no drama queen, I am a professional that expects programmers to think and test and write robust code that works as advertised and is easy to maintain and easy to verify and easy to test, and I get disappointed when I see amateurs hacking away and guessing at solutions and putting code into production that sucks. You, on the other hand, seem to revel in that, which makes me suspect you are in their camp. Well, have a wild and wooly time, kids. When you grow up and grow old, and think about who programmed the reliable devices that are diagnosing your disease or guiding your surgery or just plain keeping you alive, think of me.

TwinSwords
12-16-2007, 01:30 PM
I have been a software developer for 34 years, I have led projects writing code for medical devices, MRI, military weapons and government intelligence video and listening devices all of which had to operate correctly or people would die, and guess what? I figured out how to do that without killing people; unlike some of my peers. I would probably put you in their category; careless and proud of it.

Over the years I worked at every level from assembly level grunt coding to project manager of fairly large teams of EEs and programmers. I have worked on military grade and commercial projects for a few dozen companies. There are ways to convert without nearly this much pain, and bugs are NOT inevitable. Why would a supposedly logical IT professional like you even think that? What is it a user can do in thirty seconds that you couldn't possibly think of if you tried? You are just defending your carelessness so you can convince others that your carelessness is unavoidable, which will save you from having to think in the future. "Oh, ALL conversions are like that. Seriously, NOBODY converts without some kind of bugs."

Bullshit. I have converted complex financial systems handling millions of dollars per hour without a single bug. I have converted pharmaceutical systems for hospitals handling potentially lethal prescriptions without a bug. And I have programmed weapons that could get soldiers killed if the code malfunctioned without a bug found in pretty rigorous testing by the Army, Navy, and a few unnamed agencies.

I am no drama queen, I am a professional that expects programmers to think and test and write robust code that works as advertised and is easy to maintain and easy to verify and easy to test, and I get disappointed when I see amateurs hacking away and guessing at solutions and putting code into production that sucks. You, on the other hand, seem to revel in that, which makes me suspect you are in their camp. Well, have a wild and wooly time, kids. When you grow up and grow old, and think about who programmed the reliable devices that are diagnosing your disease or guiding your surgery or just plain keeping you alive, think of me.

There are a couple of major problems with your dissertation:

First of all, you are confusing features and software that you don't like with "bugs." You just don't like vBulletin. It's not that there is anything wrong with it; it's that you want your warm blanket back. Well, the rest of the world has moved waaaay beyond the limited capabilities of Phorum.

Second of all, you may be a great programmer, but you apparently know nothing about business. It simply doesn't make sense to invest the time and energy into a Bloggingheads.tv redesign as it does military, medical, or financial systems.

If Bob was overseeing a project that managed billions of dollars of accounts for thousands of customers, of course he would have followed a much more rigorous testing regimen.

But we're not transacting millions of dollars; we're transacting your comments. And your comments aren't worth that much of an investment. It won't be the end of the world if you have to wait 2 weeks to see your old comments, or if you have to learn how to use something when you'd rather not.

If you're such a smart guy, why don't you go set up Wolfgangingheads.tv and show us all how it's done right?

In the meantime, you're a guest here.

TwinSwords
12-16-2007, 02:38 PM
Clearly they are going for the NYTimes/media juggernaut model rather than playing to their base.
Their base?

I think you'd be surprised how tiny a percent of users spend any time at all in the comments. It might be 2%, but it's probably a fraction of that.

TwinSwords
12-16-2007, 02:41 PM
Bob and the Tech Folks,

Thank you very much for the upgrade and all of your efforts! The new site looks fantastic. I'm glad to see you have invested in vBulletin. It is a massive improvement over Phorum. vBulletin is the cutting edge; it leads the way in forum software. It is the most widely deployed and successful forum software of all time for a reason. In a year, I predict this forum will be home to some of the most exciting and engaging intellectual discussion on all of the Internets.

Kudos again on a great job.
The new forum is fantastic, and the old forum was fantastic. That's why I hang out here -- cause I love it. Bob is deserving of all our thanks for this labor of love. He gets nothing for it except the gratification of creating an amazing intellectual space for civil discussion of the deepest puzzles and most compelling issues of human experience.

This is a precious space, far different from the cruel, insensitive, commercialized, vulgar and stupefying garbage dump that's only a click away (i.e., most of the rest of the Internet).

I vote for showing some solidarity, gratitude and appreciation. Don't forget that Santa is coming in just 10 days.

Bravo! Bravo! Well said! I concur with all of that.

Glad there are still some people who know how to show a little gratitude and appreciation.

TwinSwords
12-16-2007, 02:43 PM
"Hey, I can't do the password change!"

Were you one of the people who was stumped by the partial URLs contained in the email messages?

garbagecowboy
12-16-2007, 10:51 PM
Their base?

I think you'd be surprised how tiny a percent of users spend any time at all in the comments. It might be 2%, but it's probably a fraction of that.

Fine, call us whatever you want. The core constituency. Whatever.

Trust me, I appreciate what Bob Wright does, I hope he knows that; I wouldn't have spent hours and hours of my life participating in his website if I didn't.

However, I think it is fair to express my dislike for certain parts of the redesign. And I think that some of it has been so problematic that to simply say that it is my personal opinion that vBulletin is not better is simply wrong.

At any rate, Bob is purposefully keeping his motivations obscure. Presumably they correlate highly to that of the C-SPAN money-men who have their own goals. Clearly, the priority is to draw traffic (the NYTimes partnership, the link exchanges, etc.) despite the fact that as of yet there is no part of their "business model" that involves making money (unless they are selling a loooot of mugs). But whatever, good for Bob; go for the gusto; when he is named secretary of Health and Human Services for the Obama Administration all the answers to the mysteries shall be revealed.

Anyways, after having the redesign touted for many moons, I have personally found it to be a loss of functionality, not a gain. For whatever reason, you seem to have an irrational attachment to vBulletin. Maybe it will grow on me, but for right now it does not do the job that phorum was doing as well as phorum did. And the redesign strikes me as having questionable goals.

But Bob can do whatever he wants. You are right, I am just a guest here, and the price of admission was $0.00. The fact, however, that there is no revenue being generated makes me think that Bob has some more abstract goals than simply driving traffic; perhaps the quality of the discourse in the comments section matters to him (as he has proudly mentioned on occasion in the diavlogs). So, for that reason, I feel like it is appropriate to express my $.02 about my feelings about how the redesign affects what are some of the key features of the site that do not relate to driving traffic.

If Bob or his dozens of worker bees listen, well then good. If I am shouted down (by more than 1 person) suggesting that what I am saying (about the main page, about the way the threading works, etc.) is all crap well then so be it. I will have said my piece. Either way it is out of a genuine feeling that the upgrade has kinks that need to be smoothed out, and because I want bloggingheads.tv to be as good as it can be.

Wolfgangus
12-17-2007, 02:04 AM
First of all, you are confusing features and software that you don't like with "bugs." You just don't like vBulletin.

No I am not. The redesign had BUGS, and vBulletin's "features" don't work as a reasonable user would expect them to work, thus they are bugs of the second order. (first order bugs being just code that doesn't do what the system designer intended).

Second, it is you that doesn't understand business, or the science of change. The systems necessary to ensure a smooth transition and accurate implementation in a financial project or a medical project are done; fortunately for us the investment in discovering them was completed at the great expense of other people and we benefit from the advances they made free of charge. As has been demonstrated time and again, doing something right the first time can routinely save up to 30% of development costs and programmer expense, even though it does extend the development time. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't "fast and cheap" or "slow and expensive", in the real world fast is more expensive on every front: It costs more to develop (because of more wasted time and more cross purposes pursued), more to maintain (because of a kludged design, lack of documentation, more bugs due to insufficient testing, and greater sensitivity to change), and it costs more customers, due to a failure to meet expectations, a failure to manage the change experience, and a justifiable loss of confidence in the software and the company engendered by a poor transition experience and often actual bugs. (If you ever spot an arithmetic error in your bank statement, how can you trust any statement they have ever sent you? You can't. Michael Jackson aside, one bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch, girl.)

Simply applying the methodology of actual science and incremental tested results to computer science saves money, saves arguments, saves lives, and ultimately really does save time. The deployment may be slower but the adoption is faster. Users know what is coming and are prepared, both pyschologically and intellectually. If some functionality is going to be lost, nothing defuses the complaints faster than letting people know well ahead of time that it will be lost and what the reason is for this tradeoff being made, and what the necessary work around is to accomplish the same end. In the BHTV case, this would take the form of a prominent link to a page like "Introduction to the New BHTV for Our Faithful Audience", or some such. And it should have been posted a week before the change and mentioned in a Bob/Mickey diavlog. If Bob wanted a positive reaction, we should have at least known as much about the new format as he did before it happened.

Now of course, you will respond that I am just a crybaby, which will go to show you don't understand shit about business. Guess what? The employees of any company aren't paying for their IT systems either, that doesn't mean they should just be grateful for whatever shows up on their screen. And your attitude that any dissent is just fear of change is simply machoistic bullshit that is the fastest way to alienate and lose customers, viewers or employees, as the case may be. A company that fails to serve its customers loses them. We are the customers of BHTV, and one way or another we are going to generate revenue for BHTV or it will die. The "you are a guest here" line shows the depth of your misunderstanding, I am a customer here and part of a group that is critical to the survival of BHTV and Bob is here to serve us. His oft-stated goal is to make money from BHTV, and an audience is the key to that, and alienating the audience is counter-productive.

TwinSwords
12-18-2007, 12:46 AM
Anyways, after having the redesign touted for many moons, I have personally found it to be a loss of functionality, not a gain.
I think it has been a massive gain in functionality, with the loss of a single aspect of Phorum that you enjoyed. I think there are ways to make it better. I bet they're going to find a solution.




For whatever reason, you seem to have an irrational attachment to vBulletin.
I certainly do think it beats Phorum.




Maybe it will grow on me, but for right now it does not do the job that phorum was doing as well as phorum did.
Different products with different design will work differently. Different <> Worse, though Different may = Upsetting for some people.





And the redesign strikes me as having questionable goals.
Care to elaborate? What do you mean by questionable goals? Like, helping the Obama campaign? Helping spread socialism? What exactly are you getting at?




[I] think that Bob [may have] some more abstract goals than simply driving traffic; perhaps the quality of the discourse in the comments section matters to him (as he has proudly mentioned on occasion in the diavlogs).
That doesn't sound like a questionable goal; it sounds like an admirable goal.





So, for that reason, I feel like it is appropriate to express my $.02 about my feelings about how the redesign affects what are some of the key features of the site that do not relate to driving traffic.
Oh, without question. You're absolutely correct. I'm glad you've spoken up. I'm sure the tech people are paying attention.

I'd only suggest you don't have to insult them. Believe it or not, they probably want to make the users of the site happy. I think they are entitled to some respect and appreciation. Don't you?




If Bob or his dozens of worker bees
You've made these kinds of comments often. But you are overstating the case; misrepresenting. Read the about page:

All people—full-time, part-time, and freelance workers—in order of how long they've been working here:

the aforementioned Wright and Dingle; Brian Degenhart; Brenda Talbot; David Killoren; Joan Ahn; Sang Ngo; Milton Lawson; Sian Gibby; Conor Friedersdorf; Pedro Padilla; Jason Durand; Chris Shea; Cristian Rossel; Jacqueline Shire; Marc Tracy; Aryeh Cohen-Wade.







I want bloggingheads.tv to be as good as it can be.
Me, too.


.

garbagecowboy
12-18-2007, 01:49 AM
Twin:

I am not going to get into a point by point rebuttal of everything that was said; I will just address two things-- the most crucial problem with the switch to vBulletin and the questionable direction bh.tv appears to be headed towards.

First of all, as I think you would readily admit, there appears to be a "format war" between those using the linear mode and those using the threaded mode. I maintain that the mandatory use of threading in phorum allowed for a higher level, more in depth, and overall better experience for the commenters. I don't think I can be disabused of this opinion.

vBulletin, I believe, certainly is a powerful enough piece of software to overcome this problem; it may be as simple as having the default mode set to "hybrid" so that everyone at least sees the threading, making it clear for someone who wants to post a general reply that is not germane to the most recent post that they should reply to the top post, not the bottom post, or perhaps shutting off linear mode altogether (and leaving only hybrid and threaded viewing modes as options). So in this sense vBulletin is not worse than forum; it certainly appears more powerful. But it will need to be tweaked before I can say that this has been an upgrade rather than just a problematic unveiling of new software. Perhaps I should have been kinder and gentler in my criticisms, and if I hurt anybody's feelings I apologize for that. At any rate, though, in all seriousness, I would ask the people who run the site to at least let us know that they take this "format war" problem into consideration, and what, if any, response they intend to take with regard to it. If they decide it's fine as is, well then I'll just have to learn to live with it or not post here anymore. I'm just one user.

As to the directions I dont' like bloggingheads.tv going in, I would say that what is the biggest draw to the site for me is that it has been a place where you could get political information and debate at a very high level of discourse. Bob clearly shares this goal too. I believe that, now, though, the main goal may be driving traffic to the site; for instance the NYTimes partnership clearly signals it is going in this direction: building up bh.tv as a public good for the greatest number of people a-la C-SPAN.

The only problem with trying to turn bh.tv into the internet equivalent of C-SPAN is that the people who call into C-SPAN are cranks. I am a bit ill at ease, because my thinking is this: In order to "save" bh.tv we may have to kill it. The things we all love (or at least some of us) about bh.tv-- its homespun feel, its lackadaisical meandering nature and format that allow two well-informed people speak about topics of the day at length, as opposed to in TV sound bites, and for me, the greatest of all, the conversations that these videos provide excellent intellectual fodder for, seem to be at odds with the model of bh.tv as new media juggernaut.

I think that the high quality of the comments had to do with the fact that the commenters were self-selecting. It takes a certain type of person to listen to an hour (let alone many hours over weeks and months) of bh.tv and get deeply involved in the comments section. If Bob is successful at driving in traffic via the NYTimes, I am afraid that the comments section will be just like all the other blogs on the net that have huge comments sections; mere variations on a partisan theme. It is not even the fact that it is the NYTimes that he has chosen to partner with that bothers me; he could have tried for "balance" by getting some of the conservative/libertarian nuggets linked to by Instapundit, or something.

It seems an irresolvable paradox, and maybe Bob can think of some way around it, but these two goals seem to be mutually exclusive: to make bh.tv a huge site that draws in tons of traffic, and to have lively, witty, intelligent, civil conversations grow out of the diavlogs.

Everyone wants fame, and I know that Bob does not want the quality of the comments section to go down, but I'm not sure that in this case they will be. Bob might even not have wanted to partner with the NYTimes, who knows.

At any rate, time will tell. I can't say I blame Bob for wanting to get more recognition, to make more of an impact, etc., which the redesign seems aimed at (to make the site look and feel more corporate and less homespun). But at the same time, I hope that somehow he can figure out how to keep what's good about bloggingheads while still improving it in the sense of making it grow. Usually internet communities police themselves; and so far I would say we should give ourselves all a big pat on the back for the job we've done so far. As lots of new people come in who couldn't give a rat's ass about the bh.tv culture come in and make unintelligent, inflammatory posts (and you can see it happening over the past few months) I'm just afraid the quality will decline.

OK, that's probably about $.07 worth of 2 cents now. I relinquish my soapbox to the chair, and I am going to sleep, perchance to dream.

graz
12-24-2007, 01:11 AM
GC:

I think the ship may have already sailed. Examples abound as clearly indicated by the off-hand comments of various diavloggers about "creating conflict" or clearly identifying which end of the political spectrum they come from before starting the scrum.
Whatever the benefits of the NY Times tie-ins allow, one cost will clearly be the spontaneity, albeit sometimes unpolished, and quirkier aspects of the site in general. And TwinSwords is mistaken that because the numbers of commenters are insignificant, they should simply count their blessings and adapt. That seems like exactly the reality that we will have to accept. Although, Wolfgangus makes a good case for customer as "KING." I was a lurker for quite a while before becoming a commenter. And now I am losing my taste for that part of the bargain (low cost - for sure). I reluctantly post this because your lament struck a chord that needs echoing. C'est la vie BHTV.

TwinSwords
12-24-2007, 01:37 PM
TwinSwords is mistaken that because the numbers of commenters are insignificant, they should simply count their blessings and adapt.
I didn't say they should simply count their blessings and adapt. I said that there should be an awareness by all that the commenters probably don't account for more than 1% or 2% of the total audience.

At the same time, I said the feedback from the commenters was important and (I suspect) valued by the BHTV staff.

My apologies if my previous statements were not clear.



Wolfgangus makes a good case for customer as "KING."
I, too, subscribe the the theory of customer is king. It would be idiotic to run a business without that attitude. The problem is identifying the wishes of the customer. 3 unhappy people are not "the customer."

Besides: I'm not even sure what we are supposed to regard as the problem; this forum does everything the previous forum did, plus a lot more. The strongest argument against it seems to be, "It doesn't look exactly the same as the old software."


.

graz
12-24-2007, 01:53 PM
TwinSwords:

Frankly, I agree with your assessment of the forum in general. I don't have strong leanings towards either phorum or vBulletin. I really meant to emphasize and underscore garbagecowboy's warning about the death of bhtv as we know it. Do you not have concern about the effect of the redesign on the product (diavlogs), separate from the forum? I don't think our comments or requests ever had much effect on the line-ups or pairings anyway. But now, I feel confident that Bob or the powers that be will have even greater masters to answer to or ignore. But, I am grateful that we are able to have these exchanges, regardless of the software.
Peace-out...

graz
12-24-2007, 02:44 PM
garbagecowboy:

Particularly to your fear of bhtv becoming the video/web equivalent of c-span. While I agree that the callers to c-span (Book-tv aside) are generally cranks or ramblers who are either in love with there uninformed opinion or quite comfortable spouting at length without offering any insight or a legitimate thread related to the topic or guest. Well, just like the concerns that arose when video posting of comments briefly became an issue here at bhtv, Brendan's point about the succinctness and limits of written replies, suggests that your concerns may be short-lived or will not come to pass.
But, greater popularity and pressure from the "corporate masters" will have clear downsides. We are already seeing this trend reflected in the on air editing and referencing to applying the principles of the mandate, eg: lets find disagreement or create conflict, lets watch the clock, lets tailor the comments to fit the NY Times soundbite format, etc...
And as for the changing tenor of the comments page, yes maybe the charm is gone, but as befits this season, there is hope that the likes of you and many other interesting contributors (no they are not all created equal) will continue to participate and make this new forum, in whatever software configuration, a continued pleasure and challenge.

rigger
12-25-2007, 10:46 AM
Treating the customer right produces one outcome:brand loyalty. Creating an open market with multiple choices creates lower prices. Have you flown coach class anywhere in the US lately? The airlines, thanks to open markets and internet shopping, have completely dropped the concept of customer satisfaction from their radar. One airline trumpets any customer satisfaction rating over 20%. Lets not let the website design industry get a hold of this model, or we are all toast!

Wolfgangus
12-27-2007, 02:11 PM
Treating the customer right produces one outcome:brand loyalty.

I think this is wrong on two counts; first that brand loyalty is not necessarily produced, and second, treating the customer right produces a lot of other things, not just one thing.

Brand loyalty is primarily valuable if the brand can relieve pricing pressure; i.e. if the loyalty causes people to pay more for your product than at least one competitor's product. Coke and Pepsi have valuable brand loyalty which allow them to charge more per liter for their product than for store-brand generics. Notice that the loyalty they enjoy does not allow them to charge more than each other, necessarily; just more than the generics. Loyalty can have a minor value in ensuring a market share as well.

The difficulty in business is finding an equilibrium of four competing pressures that produces a profit. These four pressures are
(1) Satisfying the customers,
(2) Satisfying the suppliers,
(3) Satisfying the workers,
(4) Satisfying the investors.

It is relatively easy to make money if you can screw any one of them indefinitely; but they all kick back eventually and ruin the business. Walmart used to be in the business of satisfying customers, but after the death of Sam Walton (1992) when that failed to deliver the growth demanded by investors, took to screwing their suppliers and workers. That worked for three or four years (up to about 2000), but you can only take it so far, and Walmart has been sideways/declining since then.

Walmart's no-questions-asked return policy and low prices were examples of treating the customer right, but built zero brand loyalty. They cater to the low-price crowd and if Target offers the same thing for less, they will buy at Target without a twinge of guilt. Ditto for Walmart groceries. That is not just conjecture; it is proven by sale after sale when a local Target or grocery undercuts Walmart on some product. There is essentially zero brand loyalty at Walmart; i.e. very few people buy at Walmart because they think Walmart offers the "best" of something besides price (even their once-stellar return policy is being tarnished of late).

The biggest benefit that comes from treating customers right is not brand loyalty, per se, but reputation and, consequently, referrals. A roofer or plumber, for example, does not need a lot of brand loyalty, because it is quite likely his product will be purchased only once by the same customer, maybe twice. But if he treats his customer well (by answering the phone, providing free estimates, showing up on time, helping deal with any insurance issues, getting the job done fast and right with no surprises and getting the cleanup done perfectly, at prices comparable to his competitors, with financing, etc.) he builds a reputation, gets referrals, and grows his business.

The reputation is more important than any repeat business. When I was contracting, I first developed a reputation as a "go-to" guy for projects under time pressure; just as a grunt programmer/math guy, I could get a very lot done in a very short time. Later I translated this into the same thing for project management, rescuing projects that were circling the drain by radically changing the way the team worked and communicated. Although repeat business was welcome, the more important thing (for me) was reputation; when a client is thinking they are going to lose a multi-million dollar contract or throw away millions in product development, my rates and methods start to look attractive if I can point at instances where they delivered results.

The problem with failing to treat the customer experience as paramount is you build either a bad rep or no rep, so every sale is another slog. You spend too much on marketing, you can't raise your prices (as I could raise my rates with practically every new job), and when inflation inevitably pushes your suppliers to raise their prices you can't pass the buck to your customer, because that would make the marketing even harder. Which forces you into the internal struggle of cost-cutting by screwing the workers and/or the investors, and the "investors" may just be you, or you and your family.

I guess I am writing because I don't want to leave the naive impression that the customer is always right come fire, flood or whirlwind. There is an equilibrium to find, and it is one friggin' difficult balancing act. There is a study that says a customer will repeat a bad experience about 20 times more often than they will repeat a good experience, which suggests that to build a good strong reputation, you need to make sure that 99% or more of your customers have, on balance, an overall positive experience. That isn't always the lowest price or fastest service, and doesn't mean you need to accomodate every perverted request they make. In fact, we can take the competition into account: It just needs to be a more positive experience than your competitors, since their negative word of mouth works against them at about the same rate as yours works against you.

But if a business cannot produce a superior customer experience in some dimension (price, service, quality or social cachet) while at the same time giving good returns to investors, fair profits to suppliers and a fair shake to employees, we might as well invest in something else because the internal mechanics will eventually cause so much friction that the profit will never be more than mediocre.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 02:16 PM
Wolf:

There is a study that says a customer will repeat a bad experience about 20 times more often than they will repeat a good experience ...

I don't understand what you mean by this. Surely you don't mean a customer willingly returns to a crappy store twenty times, on purpose, before boycotting it forever. Could you elaborate, please?

Good essay overall.

garbagecowboy
12-27-2007, 02:33 PM
I think he means that a customer who has a bad experience is 20 times more likely to talk about their bad experience to somebody else than somebody who has a good experience is to talk their good experience to somebody else.

I.e. people like to bitch about what a horrible experience they had at some store much more than they like to talk about what a great experience they had at some store.

Correct me if I'm wrong, Wolf, but I think this is what he meant.

It makes sense to me; there has to be something really outstanding and new about some business before I'm likely to pass it on to a friend, but if you have a bad experience dealing with some business you are quite likely to vent your frustration. For instance, I can't even recall offhand the last time I went out of my way to recommend a business to a friend, but I remember vividly complaining to several people about what a hassle it was to get my phone and internet hooked up with Time Warner, since it was a such a huge pain in the ass and waste of time.

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 02:42 PM
GC:

Ah, "repeat" as a synonym for "tell others." That clears everything up. Thanks.

Wolf -- I apologize for my momentary brain lock. Obviously, I've put off making more coffee for too long.

Wolfgangus
12-27-2007, 03:57 PM
For example: Suppose you and a neighbor both get hail damage on your roofs, and you each hire a roofer to repair the damage. Your neighbor's roofer shows up on time, does the job, cleans up and goes home. Your roofer doesn't show up, when you call him he tells you his crew is delayed doing another job and he will have to reschedule, and when he does finally do the job, it leaks in the garage.

Should the topic of roofers come up, you are twenty times as likely to relay your story and name your crappy roofer as your neighbor is to relay his story of his good roofer. This same thing holds true for all sorts of businesses. People that have bad experiences are much, much more likely to take any opportunity to complain about them. Even superlative experiences don't have as good a chance of being relayed to other people; and just "good" experiences (like your neighbor's) tend to evaporate from the mind quickly. Psychologically speaking we have a strong expectation that professionals will be super competent, and this biases our judgement such that any little negative can be blown out of proportion, and little positives are not even noticed. Especially with services or products that are not bought very often, are rather expensive, or which we are buying for the first time.

So, on the contrary, often a single crappy experience leads to not only instantaneous boycott for life, but a lifetime of telling people why your boycott exists. Here is a real-life example: A friend of mine went to a restaurant by his house and was served a plate of food; when the waiter put the plate on the table a cockroach ran out from underneath the plate and across the table, causing his wife to scream. They left and have never returned. That happened twenty years ago, and if anybody ever mentions the place, their story is certain to be told. And a single telling of that story is enough to keep me, my wife, my daughter and her husband (at least) from ever even trying the place; in fact, if I may change my friend's name to "Frank" for a moment, we call it the place "Frank" went.

My daughter is fond of telling the story of a $20 blouse ruined by the dry cleaner closest to her home; to anybody that mentions getting something dry cleaned. They ruined it (some machine apparently wore a hole in it) and refused to make it good; which cost them not only many hundreds of dollars worth of business from her, but probably thousands of dollars worth of business from the people that have heard her story.

A bad experience for a customer grants them a lifetime license to tell the story of this bad experience to others. When I said "repeat" I meant "to tell the tale" to others either already using your service or product or thinking about using your service or product, or in the market for a similar service or product. Both positive and negative experiences get relayed to others; but the stories of the bad experience have twenty times the power; they are more likely to be told in the first place, and more likely to be retold by others. And you can be sure that the injured party will tell the story with you cast as the evil villain, no matter how "reasonable" you think you were.

Wolfgangus
12-27-2007, 04:06 PM
Yes, exactly right. And so much shorter than my post! (I must suffer from the contractor's cliche', if you want to triple your fee, triple the length of your report. Or, as Demotivators puts it: "Contractors: If you are not part of the solution, there is a great deal of money to be made in prolonging the problem.")

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 04:27 PM
Wolf:

Thanks for the detailed reply, and thanks also for the wonderful contractors' mantra in your other reply. I'm definitely swiping that one.

You're right about the "relate" problem. There's a variation on it, too, which is kind of like your cockroach story. Among restaurateurs, there's a piece of wisdom that goes, "No one will ever come just back because you have clean bathrooms, but if you don't have clean bathrooms, no one will ever come back."

bjkeefe
12-27-2007, 04:42 PM
Wolf:

I Googled "demotivators" and I'm glad (http://despair.com/viewall.html) I did.

'Bout time someone parodied those frickin' signs.

Wolfgangus
12-27-2007, 05:36 PM
Hilarious because they are true. True true true.

I like
"Those companies willing to go to the ends of the earth for their people will find they can get them for about 10% of the cost of Americans".
"Not everyone gets to be an astronaut."
"Sometimes the journey of a thousand miles ends very, very badly."
"Just because you are necessary doesn't make you important."
"Failure: When your best just isn't good enough."

Ahh, they're all great. Glad to introduce you to them.

Hoofin
01-08-2008, 10:31 AM
I think the new format tends to result in a lot of text being generated.

If we all imagine ourselves as 18th century men of letters (or women as the case may be), I suppose it's worth having the respondent's entire message repeated. So that we don't have to scroll back to the top.

I just remember the old forum (when I visited it) as one that tended to emphasize brevity and main points. This format might create text-as-punishment, if you actually try to read everything that gets posted.

Maybe I am too stunned by all the historical stuff going on back home to put in the time, though.

Hoofin
01-08-2008, 10:39 AM
Oh, and plus, I think the font is too small, and the individual lines go on for much to long on the screen. It feels a bit unnatural, like I'm reading an old-style legal contract.

Maybe a smilie would help.