We’ve introduced a number of new features in the last two months based on two high level goals of improving discussion dynamics and helping users find and engage with high quality content relevant to their interests. Highlights include:
- Reactions on comments
- Improved search and the ability to sort search results
- A page to find posts you’ve saved, read, and voted on
- A feature that nudges post authors to consider running criticism past the people being criticized
- The “quick takes” section on the Frontpage
- And more!
Reactions on comments
We’re launching a set of icon reactions with the goals of giving users a richer way to participate in discussions and an easier way to give positive feedback. We outlined our goals for this feature in detail here, and appreciate everyone who gave feedback on our design questions. We decided to launch a trimmed down set of reactions at the comment level and merge the experience with agree/disagree voting. For now this will only be applied to new posts, but we may update old posts to use the new reactions voting system in the future. Here’s what the new experience looks like:
A few notes:
- You can no longer strong agree or disagree.
- Agree/disagree reactions (and regular upvoting/downvoting) continue to be anonymous, while other reactions will be non-anonymous.
- We’re starting out with this feature at the comment level, and plan to consider expanding it to the post level after we see how it goes. (We may also roll back reactions depending on how this test goes.)
Better tools for finding that post you’ve been looking for
See your saved posts, read history, and vote history
We’ve updated the saved & read page (formerly known as bookmarks) to show your saved posts, read history, and your vote history.
Updated search, including sorting options
We’ve updated the search functionality to include the ability to sort by relevance, karma, and date. We also changed the entire backend infrastructure that powers search, so please let us know if you see surprising results!
Nudging users to share criticism
We’ve developed the opinion that criticism is often more productive when shared with the people being criticized before it is published, and that some people who publish criticism would have run it past people if they’d thought of it. We were worried that heavy-handed interventions might deter useful critical writing, so have implemented small nudge on the draft page; a “tip” about this that appears on drafts of criticism and shares a link that might be useful. This is powered by a model that identifies posts as “criticism.”
Updates to post pages
We’ve made a number of changes to post pages, and are still experimenting.
Recommendations on posts
As mentioned here, we’re experimenting with better ways to help readers find high quality posts relevant to their interests. Authors often tell us they feel disappointed when their posts get visibility for just a few days on the Frontpage and then drop off into oblivion, after tens or hundreds of hours of work. We’ve been experimenting with recommendations on post pages first, and may also consider personalized recommendations on the Frontpage. Our first experiments with recommendations at the bottom of post pages were promising, but we realized most users don’t get to the bottom of pages, and are experimenting with showing them on the right side of post pages. We plan to monitor both user feedback and click rates to decide how to proceed.
Updated post header
We updated the headers of post pages to create more space for post titles and separate information and icons from post tags, and add a more familiar way to share posts.
Reading completion bar and table of contents
We’ve added a teal reading completion bar at the top of post pages that tracks your progress along the length of the post body (but not comments), and made it possible to hide the table of contents. The text column is also now centered on the page (similar to most news and blog sites) instead of being shifted to the right.
New Frontpage sections
We’re experimenting with a few different sections on the Frontpage, and have some bigger experiments coming soon. We’ve rolled out the quick takes section (formerly known as shortform) to all users. See more in our announcement here.
We’re also experimenting with a section that highlights popular comments, which are currently hard to find without clicking into most popular posts. We’re rolling this out to beta users first to collect feedback
- We streamlined the top navigation bar to take up less space, particularly on mobile, and cleaned up the navigation dropdown behind the user icon.
- You can now explicitly set the social preview text for your post (this is the text that shows up when you share a post on social media).
- Coming soon
- We’re experimenting with a new sidebar for the Frontpage which will show users particularly useful resources and types of posts (opportunities, events near them, unread saved posts).
- We’re working on an improved stats dashboard for authors to help them track the impact of the hard work they put into their posts much better than our current post analytics page.
- We’re planning to conduct a light impact evaluation and a supporting user survey to help ground our understanding of the Forum’s impact.
Your feedback is welcome
As always, we welcome feedback on all of these changes - you can comment here or contact us another way. Thanks for your continued support!
Did you know anyone can sign up to be a beta user by going to account settings > site customizations and checking the box for “Opt into experimental features”?