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roddy

Forums Re-org, simplification, and purge.

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roddy

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

We currently have 47 publicly-viewable forums and subforums. Feel free to check my maths. We might see 3,000 posts in a busy month. That means a little over two posts on average per forum per day. That's not very many. I'd like to see fewer, more active forums and cut out some unnecessary over-specialization (which was my fault in the first place). Make the site look a bit less overwhelming for new visitors, make it look busier, make it easier to figure out where a post should go.

 

One other thing I'm going to do before I make any actual changes is to dump all however-many topic titles we have (20k last time I counted I think) into a text file and try to do some analysis on what people actually post about. Even just a list of common keywords might help suggest a structure. 

 

This is a first draft of what I might do. I'm very open to suggestions, protests and outright rebellion. All forum titles are hastily thought up. From the top:

 

Names, Tattoos and Quick Translations

I'm happy with this as it is. People who enjoy that stuff know where to find it, those who don't can ignore it. I'm in two minds about its position at the top. Yes, this is a newbie-magnet and it prevents tattoo questions being posted in the wrong place. But also it's not the most relevant to new members. 

 

Learning Chinese

Proposed structure would be 

* General Study Questions - How to get better at listening, where should I start, what's the best way to fix my tones. 

* Resource Recommendations and Requests - need a specific textbook, app, website? Got one you want to recommend?

* HSK Exam and Others. No change here

* Actual Chinese - place to post samples of your Chinese (audio, written homework) or ask about something you've come across and can't understand. Would include Chinese corner content (I'd dearly love to have an active Chinese corner, but I don't think it'll happen without a committed and talented native or advanced speaker taking the lead)

* Non-Mandarin Chinese

* Classical Chinese  - no change in these two. Not sure they're the most active, but clear niches

 

Under this we'd lose Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing, Grammar, Vocab, Chinese Characters, Textbooks. Topics would end up in General, Resources or Actual Chinese (rubbish name). 

Should we have a separate mobile / app study forum? It's such a massive thing now.

I also like the idea of a newbie-friendly forum where the daft repetitive questions are encouraged. We were all daft and repetitive once. 

 

University and School Study

Proposed structure would be

* Studying in China - includes CSC (half a mind to give this a subforum), 'where to study', 'recommend a school'. 

* Universities in China - Am happy with this. I like having one topic per university. 

* Studying outside of China 

 

Living in China

* Life and Work Issues - should these be split? Where can I buy..., how do I get from A to B, what's the job market like for nuclear engineers, how do I deal with my landlord? NB All 10 city-specific forums would be folded into this. 

* Visa Issues - Happy with this, but there's an argument to be made for having study visas in studying in China, work visas in...etc...

* Chinese Computing and Electronics

* Teaching - Think this stays as is. 

 

Culture

There are 8 subforums here, room to consolidate but not sure how. The News forum isn't very active but takes the heat out of other parts. TV and Film can get merged. 

 

Extras

Classifieds - generally this gets used by people who aren't regular members. I'd either like to change that, or kill it - regulars can post their flatmate ads and second-hand books in the relevant forum, non-regulars should become regulars. 

Other Cultures and Languages - scope for more activity here, I think, I bet we're all avid book readers, TV watchers and music listeners. Also important as it's where the Chinese native speakers (and everyone else) can ask their English questions. 

General Non-China Related Discussion - perhaps overlaps too much with the above. Merge? I sometimes use this as kind of a dump for stuff which I don't want in the 'core' bits, but don't regard as delete-worthy. 

Announcements, Help, Suggestions - currently we have Announcements and Help, merge those two. 

 

The Adsotrans and ZDT forums get deleted or merged - will try and contact the relevant project owners beforehand.

 

That brings it down to... 18 + whatever culture ends up at. Your thoughts?

 

Also:

 

We've been running since 2003 and I've deleted virtually nothing in that time. There's no point in having content nobody ever looks at - we have language exchange requests from 2005, unanswered requests for reading recommendations from 2003, flat wanted ads from 2014. Much of this is useless. I'd like to do some weeding out - probably this will involve looking at how often something gets viewed over a certain period and archiving off anything that's not getting looked at, or looked at so rarely it's just search engine indexers and the lost and lonely. Stuff would be getting removed from public view rather than deleted permanently, nothing would get deleted permanently without me or someone else taking a look at it, and your favourites would be safe .

 

Blogs have never taken off. We haven't had a new post since November. I'm in two minds here - I half want to just call it quits, archive (not delete) the content and remove the links from public view. It makes the site look unused. The other half thinks I could do something pretty cool on here with the content from my old site, Signese

 

 

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li3wei1
Should we have a separate mobile / app study forum? It's such a massive thing now.

 

No. Just as you don't have separate forums for textbooks, classes, podcasts, etc. It's integrated into people's study plans, and often very integrated, i.e. people chopping audio files into flashcards which they use on their phones. Also the boundary between phones and PCs is getting blurrier.

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Lu

General, Resources or Actual Chinese => so basically, 'How to study', 'What to study out of', and 'What we study'?

I agree that 'Actual Chinese' is not a good name, it's unclear and confusing. Perhaps 'Understanding Chinese'? No, that's not very good either.

Also I'm not sure the proposed reshuffling for this part of the site is the best. For me, the current set-up is working, but then I tend to like to keep things as they are. To just 抛砖引玉: Perhaps consider 'Speaking, listening, tones', 'Reading, writing, vocab, grammar, characters', and 'Resources/Textbooks & how to study'? With better category names of course. You end up with fewer forums, the various topics logically put together (in my opinion), and pretty clear differences between the various forums (again, in my opinion).

 

University and school study: that plan looks good to me. Although I never use the separate uni topics, from what I see of them they work well to connect people who went to certain universities and people who want to go there.

 

Living in China: if you want fewer forums, I wouldn't split life & work issues. They're not that different anyway and often interact. Same for visa issues.

For Chinese computing and electronics, I wonder if there would be a case for putting that somewhere under Learning Chinese? Under Resources perhaps? Or is that stretching it too much?

And why not keep the city subforums? Knowledge for cities is usually so specific that someone in, say, Wuhan, would never even bother with an 'all cities' subforum if most of what is posted is on Beijing, while if there is a subforum for Wuhan that same person would probably be delighted to answer any question posted there.

 

Chinese Culture: A radical consolidation would be:

() Culture & Society

() History

() News

 

Extras: I agree that 'Classifieds' can probably go, seems to me that anything that goes in there can find its place somewhere else.

Merging 'Other Cultures...' and 'Non-Chinese...' sounds like a good idea. I don't agree more activity there is needed, it's good to have a place where people can hang out if they want to discuss non-Chinese things, but this is a Chinese forum so that should not be the part of the site that needs to be promoted.

Merging Announcements etc also sounds like a good idea.

 

I hope all this is of some use. Just thinking out loud, mainly.

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querido

About blogs here:

 

When I post in chinese-forums I generate content for others; in a blog here I had hoped to be free to maintain something like a journal without regard to whether or not it would be interesting or useful to anyone, without the intent to start a thread nor with the constraints of contributing to someone else's. I received feedback at that time (which I did not understand) with regard to what a blog here was expected or desired to look like, and it did not appear to be what I wanted.

 

At another forum they have a subforum "Language Learning Log". Each thread is a journal or diary where one can chat about what they're doing without hogging a main forum or subforum; if I were to start a thread in, let's say, Non-Mandarin Chinese, in which to post such stuff, I would worry about bumping that to the top every time, perhaps annoyingly, so I never did that either. Edit: Could just continually edit a single post I guess. 

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abcdefg

I use this website and this forum in 4 main ways:

 

1. Sometimes I just browse through casually and at random in spare time, seeing what's new and interesting and responding occasionally when it seems appropriate. I do this when taking a break from some other more demanding project.

2. Other times I start new threads when I think there might be something to contribute that would be of interest to at least some of the members. Since they are sometimes bulky, I write those posts off-line, edit them, and then paste them in. The software for doing that here is real good, including the ability to add photos.

3. Frequently I open the "Forums" category index page and see if there are questions about something I might be able to help with. For example, I usually check the Kunming section to see if someone needs city-specific information. I usually do the same with "food and drink."

4. And I also I come here from time to time to search for intelligent discussion of a China-related topic about which I'm curious. The way the search function here is linked to Google makes it much more useful than most forums.

 

I actually think the current organization works pretty well. I seldom read the blogs, and I seldom read the classified ads. Purging old content that is "dead wood" makes good sense to me.

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Shelley

I think it is probably a good idea to clean things out now and again. Put it all the old stuff in one place, don't throw it away, but de-emphasise it.

 

I wanted to start a blog because I found myself typing the same advice over and over, with my blog I can give some basic info in the reply and point the person to my blog for the finer details.

 

I will be adding to it as of Jan 18 as I start the second part of the edx course then.

 

As for "Actual Chinese" a better name might be "Practising Chinese" for posting samples of speaking, writing etc.

 

Classifieds was always a weird one because you couldn't reply and newbies can't PM so it was hard to make contact. I don't think there is much of that stuff going on anyway. Maybe it should be "Members Small Ads" if they can't be bothered to sign up and go through moderation, they are probably not that keen to advertise.

 

Should we have a separate mobile / app study forum? It's such a massive thing now.

 

Not sure what this would consist of, do you mean somewhere to discuss/share chinese learning apps, if so I don't see why it couldn't be a sub-forum of chinese computing. It is very popular.

 

If you mean a different forum that runs on mobiles I don't think that is a very good idea at all.

 

I would like to see some more dedicated forums/topics for actual studying. A place for people using a particular textbook, or other learning material to share and work together on the lessons.

 

Well that's my two cents.

 

 

 

 

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edelweis

Maybe I'm in an extra grumpy mood, but I don't see the point of all this reorganizing.

 

Especially I don't see the point of putting all these in a single forum: Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing, Grammar, Vocab, Chinese Characters, Textbooks.

It's all sorted out, why mix it up?

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roddy

They wouldn't be, they'd be going into General Study Questions, Resource Recommendation and Requests, or the Actual Chinese Help with Chinese(?) forum, depending on what kind of question they are. 

 

The point is to cut down a bit on the number of forums we have, which seems excessive to me. I'm very open to suggestions here though, as it's tricky and I probably don't use the forum in the way the average member does. 

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li3wei1

I just hit 'new', and I've unsubscribed to certain forums (or only subscribed to some, I forget), so I get everything else all mixed up. So which forum it's in doesn't matter, unless I want to start a new thread, or find something that hasn't updated since I last looked at it, so it doesn't appear in the 'new' view.

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abcdefg
The point is to cut down a bit on the number of forums we have, which seems excessive to me.

 

As a regular user, I don't think it's excessive or cumbersome. I suppose it might seem so to a first-time poster.

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character

I think the changes to Learning Chinese would be a good improvement.  Sometimes it has been hard to figure out the current structure (why are graded readers in Reading and Writing Skills instead of Resources for Studying Chinese, for example).  I agree Actual Chinese could use a clearer name, perhaps Post Your Chinese Samples and QuestionsHSK Exam and Others might be clearer to Americans as Exams (HSK, etc.) or HSK and Other Exams.
 

Culture
There are 8 subforums here, room to consolidate but not sure how. The News forum isn't very active but takes the heat out of other parts. TV and Film can get merged.

 
Perhaps a News forum and a unified Culture forum?

 

 

Thanks for continuing to work on the forums!

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edelweis

ok, so the threads in Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing, Grammar, Vocab, Chinese Characters, Textbooks would go in three forums, not one. But that means that the "Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing, Grammar, Vocab, Chinese Characters" threads get all mixed up in "General study" and "Actual Chinese". And you're asking people to distinguish "General study" from "Actual Chinese" which is less intuitive than the explicit skill names. I'm a dumb person, I won't be able to find old threads, I won't know where to post new ones.

 

Regarding the purge: with search engines, the more threads the better. Perhaps you could just lock the useless ones. Unless you prefer to have less traffic?

 

I second Querido's idea of an area for daily progress logs. They don't need to appear in the global "new posts" page. We can go to the subforum directly (private or public forum? I like public forums because I don't log in to CF when I'm at work but I browse it all day long sometimes. And I'm used to the "Daily Check-in" threads at NoS. They also have monthly challenges etc. Very motivational when you use it regularly.)

 

Edit: I forgot to mention, I'm still using my "read random thread" button regularly, I would love to have an official one on the forum itself. Because updating my list of threads is a hassle so I don't do it.

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character

 

[T]hat means that the "Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing, Grammar, Vocab, Chinese Characters" threads get all mixed up in "General study" and "Actual Chinese". And you're asking people to distinguish "General study" from "Actual Chinese" which is less intuitive than the explicit skill names.

If Roddy finds that there aren't many specific questions about content in study materials, perhaps that could go into General Study.  If there are, I am now thinking it would be clearer to go to three: General Study, Your Chinese, and slightly expand the remit of Names, Tattoos and Quick Translations to include specific questions about content you don't understand. 

 

Fortunately the forum allows forum descriptions, which can clarify the use of each forum.

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anonymoose

Rather than blogs, maybe you could have a pictures sub-forum. It would be interesting to see more pictures people had taken from all over China.

 

As for the classifieds, I don't know why one cannot reply to the posts. Sometimes one would like to ask follow-up questions. Some of the classifieds would be good starting points for discussions themselves.

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mikelove

At the risk of adding further complexity, maybe a "new product / service announcements" forum? (perhaps one which was buried faster from the 'all new posts' feed, or didn't show up on it at all / showed up in it only as an off-by-default option?) It feels like PR stuff ought to be isolated a bit, so that people who aren't interested in it can avoid it - I for one am reluctant to announce new Pleco products on here because I don't want to seem like I'm spamming everyone (particularly not with a Pleco ad already perched at the top left corner of the site). And I know that product announcements from brand new members are a bit of an awkward problem at the moment (encouraging new stuff versus avoiding spam) that a dedicated forum might help with.

 

Re the mobile / app subforum idea, I kind of have to agree with @li3wei1 that it's all part of the same continuum now - would be a bit like having separate forums for print and electronic dictionaries :-)

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Mouseneb

I accidentally downvoted anonymoose's post re: photos and classifieds when I meant to upvote it instead. Apologies!

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rayne

Would it be possible to make posts editable and be able to be deleted in the future? And an easier way to quote other users?

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imron
Would it be possible to make posts editable and be able to be deleted in the future

Posts are already editable, deletes are not because it can be (and was) abused by people, and we'd rather encourage people to think *before* they post rather than after.

 

Quoting was also likewise turned off so that people need to be selective in their quotes otherwise threads just turn in to walls of quotes.  If you do a search, there are a couple of threads discussing the reason why this was done(on mobile so not providing the links at the moment).

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roddy

Ok, to sum up...

 

There's no interest in a separate forum for apps. 

 

Uncertainty and reluctance on changing the arrangement of Learning Chinese. I agree this is tricky. They should have sent a librarian. I'm actually in a library, maybe I'll go read up on the Dewey Decimal System. 

 

Edelweis and Querido both seem to like the idea of a daily language learning log thing. That's doable, anyone else?

 

Why can't people reply on classifieds - same reason you don't get public replies on Gumtree or Craiglist. That's not what they're there for. We might miss out on the odd potential discussion, but also we don't need to listen to someone ask how big the fridge is or negotiate a contract. I think this would make more sense if the section was busier, which it isn't. 

 

The idea of a pictures subforum - there's actually a gallery plugin for the software which would be fairly easy to set up (I assume). If there's much interest we can do that. 

 

Section for new products / services. Yeah, I should have had that included. I *do* want to encourage *quality* posting by people running businesses. I realise everyone's definition of *quality* probably varies. 

 

"One other thing I'm going to do before I make any actual changes is to dump all however-many topic titles we have (20k last time I counted I think) into a text file and try to do some analysis on what people actually post about. Even just a list of common keywords might help suggest a structure. "

Almost 40k topics in the database. Surprisingly small number of them titled 'help' or 'hello'. Need to go through them somehow. 

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roddy

We have about 35,000 topics. I've split of the most recent 10% of those with the intention of going through them and scribbling down general topic types in an attempt to produce some kind of clearer category structure. 

 

I managed to do 700 in an hour, and it's getting faster as I go on. 1.4% of topics involve the word 'tattoo', 6% the word 'translation'. 

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