Possible future changes to chrons

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
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#1
Just a heads up that the developers of the forum software expect to release a major upgrade by the end of the year, taking them from Xenforo 1.5 to 2.0.

While there will be some improvements to functionality, any upgrade *will* mean losing the existing styles and having to create one or more new ones.

Because some degree of change will be inevitable, I'm toying with the idea of making additional ones to chrons - and would like to use this thread to get some feedback on initial thoughts:


1. Portal Homepage

The problem with having a frontend before is that it effectively ran separate to the forums - there was no easy way to integrate both sections.

However, there's the possibility of running featured threads on the chrons homepage - effectively mimicking the appearance a blog - but using forum discussions directly.

This would have no effect on the normal operation of the forums, which would still be found as normal at sffchronicles.com/forum/.

The big advantage is that - being normal threads - people would be able to post as normal to any such featured discussions.

These featured discussions may or may not include:

- existing chron discussions, reviews, and interviews posted in the forums
- content specifically written to be featured by me
- content specifically written by other members with the aim of it being featured
- reposted blog content from member blogs, with permission and attribution
- featured writer promotions - which could include cover reveals/promotions/opening chapter, etc

The aim would be to create a feature-rich homepage of articles, opinion pieces, reviews, samples, etc, to appeal to new members.

This is especially by ensuring that it is regularly updated, thus encouraging an increasing number of people to visit more regularly - ie, daily on both counts.


2. Layout changes

One frustration I have is that forum software is not very personalized - if I go on Facebook or Twitter I find the layout is designed to focus on my contributions and interests.

Therefore I'm considering buying a new template that will not simply allow me to make a new style, but also allow me to move some things around - specifically, move the column on the homepage to the left and feature it on all pages, but make the content inside it more personalized.

When used on the homepage I can possibly include useful stats, either displayed directly or as links - all intended to entice casual visitors to explore chrons more.

I know some members won't like this, but I'll ensure it can either be removed by them, or else have a second style option that doesn't include it.

Note that I expect to have to tinker with any new template changes for a while, not least to adjust to feedback.


3. Paid membership

Another idea I'm considering is adding a paid membership option, specifically but not exclusively aimed at our writers.

This would offer the ability to include signatures in posts - I'm thinking specifically about book cover images with links to Amazon/own website or wherever. This would mean that other members and casual visitors would be able to more easily find member book titles.

I would also expect to provide a private board for our published authors to discuss author/writing/industry issues away from prying eyes - I'm aware there's a lot authors do not or cannot talk about in public.

There's a possibility that featured author promotions on any new portal homepage would come from this group. However, I'm planning to keep any promo content there limited and only of the best quality, as I don't want our members and visitors to feel spammed.

There may be other ways to support paid members, such as a main link to any existing paid member promotions, or simply a directory of anything members have published. I can explore these more later.

An additional point here - the aim of any paid service would not be to turn a profit, but to simply allow chrons to pay for running itself, as well as account for future growth. Oh, and get back to giving away books for 300 word challenge winners. :)

My initial thoughts are of a charge or around £/$14.95 a year.

Ordinary members shouldn't miss out if they didn't want to pay for this option - and if anyone found the signatures intrusive, I would think there'll be an option to turn them off.


4. Minor changes

There are other minor changes I've considered implementing - now the Press Releases section is pretty much spam free and of genuine interest to many members, I should look to rename that and give it more prominence. I have no plans to restrict that to paid members, if we went that route.

Another minor change I'm considering is moving to feature the tagging system more, instead of setting up boards which might otherwise see little activity. This is especially applicable to the author boards, many of which are not all that active - yet other authors that are discussed here have none. However, first I'll need to find a way to make the tags more prominent.

I'm also open to any other suggestions. :)


Anyway, just some initial thoughts on how I want to shake up chrons a little - hopefully for the better. However, I'm in no rush to make any kind of change - not least because I could actually make them now for XF 1.5, but it might be better to wait and see what XF 2.0 offers.

If you have any comments, feedback, feel free to post them below.
 

HanaBi

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#2
Very briefly for the moment, but I would be inclined not to make any tweaks or changes to the existing schema 1.5, purely to avoid any conflict/compatibility issues with 2.0.

I have dealt with similar upgrades with WordPress & InVision IPBoard forum software for one or two clients; one of which made minor changes prior to a significant upgrade, didn't perform a backup, and lost nearly all of his changes when the upgrade was fully implemented.

Not saying it would happen here, but you just never know.

And I don't mind paying a yearly subscription either, if it means helping pay for bandwidth, licensing and/or hosting of Chrons :)
 

The Judge

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#3
A few thoughts off the top of my head.

Firstly, I'd also be happy to pay an annual fee to help support Chrons.

I'm not a published author, and don't expect to be any time soon, but I'd feel a bit miffed to say the least if a newbie whose writing skills are, shall we say, limited but who self-publishes his own work can access a forum -- which might be of great help and interest to me -- but I can't. Could we have a gatekeeper system instead, so invited members can access it, not simply those who are published?

I really don't like the signatures one finds on other sites, since it feels as though everyone is shouting "LOOK AT ME!!" all the while, and it often seems the signatures are longer than the posts. I'd definitely want a way of hiding them, or of only seeing new ones once.

The tagging system would need some tweaking -- apart from the "missing" names when quoting posts by someone who is tagged, there's some oddness about spacing so the typed version is eg Fred Bloggs, but the tagged version appears as Fred Bloggs ,


Something that we had under the old system was the ability to mark individual threads as read which I found really helpful when using the New Posts feature when there might be 3 or 4 pages of new stuff -- I could quickly discount threads I didn't want to read and concentrate on what was left. I've never worked out how to do that since the move. Is it still available? If not, it would be good to have it under the new system. (If it is still an option, it would be good if someone talked me through how to do it now!)
 

dannymcg

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#4
Too technical for me to follow...

* A pay only 'elite' section?

*Run adverts and pay to have access without them?

Think it's going to be a wait and see thing like Brexit (apology for political comment)
 

The Big Peat

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#5
The logical answer to overlong signatures is to set a line limit. Say, no more than 2 or 3.

I strongly support The Judge's comment on the possible author's forum but would defer to a majority opinion of the authors here if they felt it was a really good idea to limit it to published authors only.
 

Mouse

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#7
So, would the author's forum only be accessible to published authors who've paid? Because I'm on a super tight budget (I have spreadsheets and everything) and literally couldn't afford that.
 

The Judge

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#8
Re the signatures, in case I've misinterpreted, I wouldn't mind so much something simple along the lines of:

The Judge
Author of A Yellow Sky at Noon
where the title of the book is a link off-site or something, though even that would get very old very quickly. The ones that get my goat are the plethora of quotes and meant-to-be-humorous thoughts on the one hand, and the thumbnails of the novels taking up lots of space on the other.
 

HoopyFrood

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#10
Yeah, I browse almost exclusively on mobile. But mobile platforms tend to be more lightweight, so you'd expect that it would have an option of not loading signatures.
 

Montero

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#11
I find Facebook layout really annoying. The amount of space for comments and being able to see the comments, is really small. Forums layout as it is now makes it much easier to follow a discussion and contribute.
Regarding contributing - Absolute Write gives people who contribute a "benefactor member" banner. Don't know if there is any other benefit.
I can see the logic of giving something extra to people who pay. I've seen writers with websites where you get a little bit for free, and if you become a contributor you get access to free stories, or more free stories.

Is there some other benefit that could be given for contributing money?
Trying to think what - um - extra super search facility - um.

Other thought - Absolute Write sells books advert space at the top of the page - thumbnail cover size. I've spotted several authors I want to read via that.

Signatures - providing they are kept small, not a problem for me. In fact I've enjoyed some where people have a really good quote.

Edited to add - OK, I missed the point the first time around on the writing area - you are talking a new pro area, not charging for the existing one so removed a couple of sentences.

Um. Pro only area. How many would want to use it? Couldn't they get the same effect by a private conversation using the existing software?
 
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Phyrebrat

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#13
Yes, I'd pay (I'll pay yours Mouse :love: )

No I don't like signatures.

unless they're: pH

:sneaky:

I'd also really appreciate a one-per-day limit on profile statuses. Often the same person has a wall of status updates which knocks off those at-a-glance from others.
 

Brian G Turner

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#15
I would be inclined not to make any tweaks or changes to the existing schema 1.5, purely to avoid any conflict/compatibility issues with 2.0.
Indeed, I'd prefer to see what happens with XF2, first. While the functionality I need is already available for XF 1.5, it's likely to appear sooner rather than later in XF 2.0. Additionally, there would be no need to bring about all of the changes at once - I suspect that would invite a bad headache. :).

I strongly support The Judge's comment on the possible author's forum but would defer to a majority opinion of the authors here if they felt it was a really good idea to limit it to published authors only.
My apologies to everyone who has said they might subscribe simply to support chrons - I didn't mean to suggest you would be excluded from such a private area for not being an author, simply that I would expect it to appeal most to our authors.

Forums layout as it is now makes it much easier to follow a discussion and contribute
The forum layout wouldn't change radically - there'd just be a left-hand column with personalized links, but with the template I'm looking at a member can simply click it away so that the normal full-width layout returns.

Is there some other benefit that could be given for contributing money?
Trying to think what - um - extra super search facility - um.
This is actually a very good point - most addons for Xenforo have an upfront cost, and some have a renewal fee cost. If we had paid memberships I'd be able to invest in more of these for the forums to improve functionality. This includes an Enhanced Search feature which would be far superior to what we have at present.

I really don't like the signatures one finds on other sites
Neither do I, so there will need to be limitations. I'm presuming most chrons writers would want to showcase their book covers in their signature, similar to what can be seen on the AbsoluteWrite forums.

For text, the number of lines and font sizes would have to be limited. While I plan to ensure members can hide signatures from view if they want to, I don't want members to feel compelled to have to do so - that would kind of defeat the point of signatures in the first place.

The tagging system would need some tweaking
It does - I've not given it my full attention at the moment as there's still quite a lot to do with what we have already. I'll need to sort that out first. I imagine any such move would be incremental, because there's going to be a lot of work involved.

Something that we had under the old system was the ability to mark individual threads as read
There may be such a feature already available. I'll take a look at some point to see if it's a paid-for mod or not.

would the author's forum only be accessible to published authors who've paid?
If we had a paid membership, existing boards would all remain accessible - I would just envisage a new private area for paid members only.

I'd also really appreciate a one-per-day limit on profile statuses.
I think we've had that when someone hasn't realized they can reply to an existing Profile Post. I think one of the staff usually has a quiet word with them about that so it doesn't happen again. :)

However, if anyone sees something on chrons they're not keen on, you are all welcome to PM me with any concerns, big or small. I'm never too busy when it comes to anything chrons. :)
 

Amelia Faulkner

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#16
I run a XF1.5.X board, so I feel your pain. The idea of upgrading to 2.0 makes me poop myself, especially with all our add-ons.

I'd be more than happy to support Chrons financially in whatever means you decide on. XF licenses ain't cheap, and nor is good hosting.
 

tinkerdan

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#17
I don't have a problem with paying a fee that minimal. However I'm not sure what could be offered to those that pay that might give them some exclusivity along with their donations. A sandbox forum for a few might sound appealing; however I'm not sure what would be discussed that couldn't happen elsewhere and at the very least in the Writing Group.

There are some things I can think of that don't get discussed that should because they are in writing but they all fall in those areas that cause the most concern and can't be discussed without digressing into feuds. Such as religion, politics, misogyny and misandry.
 

millymollymo

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#19
I get the need for updates and such, working behind the scenes of a few as I do.
Another idea I'm considering is adding a paid membership option, specifically but not exclusively aimed at our writers.
'Ware the idea of writers/contributors/readers having money. Consider instead the advantages your forum brings to those who are not the 1%
This in itself is a USP. Would your proposal create A: a lot of work for yourself implementing, researching, and as a result moderating a hefty change. B: A dividing line between your members? C: A drop in regular members who can not subscribe to an area they currently have access to.

Food for thought, nothing more.
 

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