Ask Unclutterer: Improving the Unclutterer Forum

Reader Erin submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

A few weeks ago, we released the new Unclutterer Forum. Although the system is powerful and has a lot of new cool features, it isn’t doing everything we would like. We at Unclutterer know what we would like to change — but what about the rest of you?

Dear Erin, Wow! You took the words right out of my mouth! What a great question.

Seriously, though, we really do want your help. We want to know what we need to change to make the Unclutterer Forum everything you desire in a Forum. This is a list of the things we are already planning to send to our techs to have them try to improve:

  • Disable being able to post as “guest.” Or, rather, to leave a comment you should have to create and be logged into an account.
  • Expand the Challenges section to show a list of the different challenges directly on the Home page of the Forum. Then, when click on the specific challenge, it will take the user to a month-by-month listing of the discussions of each challenge.
  • Fix the New Topics listing so that it operates similar to the old Forum. Have the discussion topic appear instead of individual posts. Also, have all new discussions listed, not just those new since the last time the user logged in.
  • Have the Active Topics and the New Topics be the same, so users have two ways to find the most recent discussion activity.
  • Reinstate the RSS that allows users to subscribe by email to new topics that have been started, not just specific discussion threads.
  • Add moderators, which we have already done. There are now four moderators for the Unclutterer Forum.

Forum users and those who are interested in joining the Forum community, what do you think about the list above? Is it accurate? Does anything need to be changed before we send it off to our techs? Does anything need to be added?

Please share your thoughts with us. We really do want to make the Unclutterer Forum a fun and exiting place for everyone to gather and discuss their adventures in uncluttering.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

50 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Improving the Unclutterer Forum”

  1. posted by Craig on

    Disable posting as a guest? What’s wrong with being able to post as a guest? Creating yet another online account seems antithetical to uncluttering.

  2. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Craig — It’s not so much about having to create an account. Rather, people who want to post as themselves (because they have been participating for a long time) can accidentally post as guest if they didn’t realize they weren’t logged in. Then, they don’t understand why their comments aren’t showing up in their list of comments on their profile page.

  3. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Craig — Also, we can’t block guest spammers. We can block spammers who create accounts, however, so not being able to log in as guest helps to keep spam off the Forum.

  4. posted by Sky on

    I’ll be honest with you, I loved the unclutterer forum and checked it every day. I don’t like the new one at all.
    I miss it the way it was.

  5. posted by Pat Hennesey on

    I’m with Sky. I lurked, I didn’t feel a need to comment, but I loved visiting and benefited from everyone’s insights. I have given it up.

  6. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Sky and @Pat — Your complaints are noted, however complaining doesn’t help us improve our current Forum. We spent thousands of dollars on the new system because of the constant flood of complaints about the old system and it was just an awful administrative nightmare. So if you would like to see the new Forum improved so that you will want to use it — please offer up suggestions for how you would like it to be improved.

  7. posted by Anne on

    I say this as someone who lurked occasionally and was thinking of signing up just as the forum went down during the transition to the new system (I’ve been very busy recently so haven’t got round to it yet): I think the main thing people want is for the home/landing page to be a simple list of topics with most recent replies, regardless of what section they belong to, and for this home page to be available to everyone, regardless of whether they are logged in or not, and without having to click on anything to get there. Basically, recreate the old forum experience as best you can, with all the anti-spam/extra-feature improvements that the new system brings. The various sections should be collapsed by default underneath the list of active topics, for anyone who wants to explore further.

    Having said that, I can’t believe how disloyal all the regular posters have been, abandoning the new forum after just a few days and not giving it a chance, considering you provided this free venue for them to come together in the first place. However, I’m sure that over time, with a few improvements, the forum will be back to full health.

  8. posted by Alice F. on

    Erin, as a website editor by trade, I have been through similar upgrades that fixed some problems but created other frustrations, so I feel for you. It’s not always so easy to “make it like it was” when you have a new system … every system has its limitations.

    It sounds like you’re on the right track with your list. My main frustrations with the new forum have been 1) trying to figure out which discussions have new posts and 2) having to click deeper down to get to the challenge discussions.

    Best of luck, and thanks to you and your team for trying to make the forum a useful resource for everyone.

  9. posted by April @ Getting Rid of Age Sports on

    Hey I like the new forum, it’s much more user-friendly. Sorry to hear to had to spend thousands to tweak it. I love your site.

  10. posted by Looby on

    Basically- exactly what Anne said, especially about the landing page.

    Visually I find the forums a little grating- I can’t tell if it is the colours or the fact that the page is split to have additional boxes on the right hand side but I find it really busy and hard to read. I also frequent the Simple Living Forums which are also vBulletin and find their main page much easier to negotiate.

    I am also sad that so many forum regulars have stopped so quickly after the change, hoping that they start again soon- I got so much from the postings there.

  11. posted by Ella on

    Erin, thank you for inviting feedback on the new forum. Here’s my main problem there: I still find that reading and posting on the new forum is excruciatingly slow. I do not have this problem on any other site or forum, so I know the problem isn’t me, it isn’t my browser, it isn’t my connection, it isn’t my computer. I emphasize all these things because I have earnestly tried everything on my end to improve my experience on the new forum. There are numerous other posters expressing the same frustrations over the past several weeks.

    At the risk of being brutally frank, I feel that the new forum meets the definition of clutter… if members don’t love it, if members don’t use it, it’s clutter.

    As for me, I WANT to use it and love it. And I’m still posting occasionally on one little thread that’s been a journal of sorts for me all along, and I want to keep it up. But I have to say it again, the effort it takes to post there is exasperating and I hate it!

    I’m 100 percent with Sky and Pat. The old forum was the very essence of uncluttered simplicity. What a shame to have lost it… but MUST it be lost? Why can’t it be resurrected? The only real problem there was spam spam spam, and no action taken in setting up moderators. Now you have moderators on the new forum and plenty of bells and whistles. Yet members are no longer posting. They voted with their feet.

    In the past month since the new forum was launched, I myself tried two other forums, both of which are private. At first it seemed that privacy would be a wonderful thing, but it soon became evident that privacy allowed a flood of personal posts that overwhelmed me, along with a extreme number of off-topic posts. It took way too much time to wade through it all. In other words: clutter. I have quit both of those forums.

    Oh how I wish we had our old forum back, with the addition of spam moderators. As for the new forum, does the reasoning “but we spent good money on it” really matter if the forum isn’t serving its purpose?

  12. posted by Loryn on

    I’ve always been a lurker, not a poster, but I miss the feature that Anne mentioned. I want to be able to see the most recent posts all in one place. Right now there are way too many sub forums to sift through.

  13. posted by Cari on

    I agree with everything Ella said. I used to read on the old forum and I was particularly inspired by Ella. Now she hardly posts at all and some of the others I enjoyed following do not post. I agree that no matter how much money you spent, if nobody likes the result, you haven’t accomplished anything.

  14. posted by Another Deb on

    As I poke around on the new forum, I feel frustrated at how little I can discern from what appears on my screen. My monitor is not small, yet there are only three forum topics visible and three current posts on the right side. I’m usually a supporter of white space but in this case it means scrolling and scrolling. Then I have to poke around to see postings that look interesting. I’d rather not have the postings featured on the right side as a partial quote. It’s nice to see threads with the name of who began them and who has commented last, plus the number of comments. I am probably not using the forums correctly, but this one makes me feel like I’ve NEVER used one.

  15. posted by Sky on

    Erin, I did offer a solution. Put the forum back like it was.
    I agree with what Ella said too.

  16. posted by CEDuke on

    I want an easily accessed page that displays all of the most recently posted in topics in order. Not just the ones since my last login.

  17. posted by Rosa on

    I feel the same as everyone else – most recent activity more visible, and like Ella I have a really hard time using the new forum at all, my posts disappear as I am submitting them and opening things to read is really slow.

    Is it possible it’s incompatible with some common Firefox plugin? I don’t have this slowness anywhere else, but I used to have a similar problem on php boards because of my anti-popup plugin.

    The layout looks a lot better than when it was brand new, which is great, though I have to admit the early responses to complaints about the new system, and comments about “disloyalty” now, are pretty offputting.

  18. posted by Ella on

    Rosa, I don’t think it’s a browser issue. I’ve accessed the forum via Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer, all with the same poor results.

    And like you, I have that problem of disappearing posts, so I often just give up and log off. I dare say that other members also give up in frustration. In fact, judging from recent forum activity, it looks like I am the only member who has posted anything at all within the past 3 days.

  19. posted by klutzgrrl on

    Disloyal? Forum members effectively provide free ‘user generated content’. Websites are not providing a service out of the goodness of their heart: this is a business like any other. There were radical changes that resulted in very poor user experience – why should people persist?

    I’m stunned that the forum cost thousands. The interface is terrible. Seems the developer ‘saw you coming’ as the saying goes.

    I’m sure once it’s fixed, a new forum community will develop. Lurkers might like to consider joining and contributing. Part of a forum is communication, and that doesn’t happen without people engaging. Lurking is just using, not contributing.

  20. posted by klutzgrrl on

    to address what needs improving, I think part of the problem is that the new forum amplifies the ‘book’ structure that I think many of use didn’t really use. For ease of use, there needs to be less ‘nesting’ of topics, and a structure that is more related to how people actually post (eg, rooms or issues, not days of the week).

  21. posted by CEDuke on

    This has been nagging at my mind since my earlier reply. I will also be brutally frank…and I apologize for the way this will come across.

    I disliked the way the entire switch happened from day one. It would have been nice, and respectful of the active community on the forum, to put of a general announcement either on the main blog or in a VERY noticeable place on the forum saying something to the tune of:

    “Hey guys, we’re upgrading and we’re going to be down starting date X. We expect to be up and running by date Y, and we’ll keep you posted!”

    Instead, there was ONE mention inside a thread somewhere that a new format was coming, but no information about downtime. During the downtime, almost zero information was provided. YES UC is providing a free service that the members use, but showing such a blatant lack of respect to the posting community here was a slap in the face.

    Once the new forum was FINALLY back, any complaints that were acknowledged AT ALL got terse, defensive-sounding replies without really addressing the problems.

    Between the disinterest/snippiness aimed at the forum members and the clunkiness of the new format…I gave up. Why would anyone want to stay where they aren’t respected? I find the above comment about ‘disloyalty’ infuriating. Many of us waited out the downtime and returned and struggled with the new board for awhile before giving up.

    For me, the disrespect was a MUCH bigger turn-off than a clunky new format.

  22. posted by Jackthetiger on

    I think others have indicated all of the reasons that the forum has failed over recent months. The disorganised structure and limited ease of use.

    I heartily agree with Klutzgirl’s response to those claiming that leaving the forum was disloyal. I simply do not have time to spend on a forum that does not work efficiently. The regular users have every right to make this choice. I do note that there are several old members who have commented on this issue, so clearly they have not gone. Maybe they no longer wish to provide entertainment for those who never contribute. I suggest that the lurkers share their ideas or offer a word of support to those who are struggling to improve their lives.

    And now to see if this comment will post…

  23. posted by Djk on

    Loyalty? That’s rich. I am pretty darn sure that the regular posters on the forum represented a good chunk of revenue. Also, it was interesting to see how discussions which arose on the forum would shortly thereafter show up as articles on the main site. I think that’s absolutely ok, but we provide not only numbers for revenue but also inspiration for the writers? And, why should it be my task to feel any loyalty to a forum? Any forum? Especially in light of the:
    A) ignored offers to moderate–for free–from some of the regulars
    B) utter lack of communication to the forum members/lurkers about time frame and progress of the changes. This was unacceptable.
    C) references to the flood of complaints and the thousands spent–so? Which flood of complaints? They must have been privately sent to the site administrators, because the only complaints I read on the old forum were about the quantity of spam AND OFFERS TO HELP by being allowed to moderate–FOR FREE, and questions about how to tag it in the best way to make it easiest for the administrators to find.
    D) even when I try to check in and participate on the new forum, most of the time I can’t anyway. I get error messages. It is not my equipment or server. I read forums on my phone during my commute and coffee breaks. Was there no thought about design for smartphones/tablets? Surely we agree they are not a passing fad, and we need to consider that user experience too?

  24. posted by Anne on

    I just want to follow up on my comment about disloyalty. The reason I said that was because of how suddenly the regular users went from saying things like, “Thanks so much, Erin, for all your hard work. The new forum looks great but will take some getting used to…” to simply abandoning the place after a couple of days and a handful of posts. It makes all the earlier praise and gratitude look phoney. Of course, no one is obliged to stay with the forum, and I totally agree that the current forum is not very user-friendly and the admins too slow to respond, but I think a common fault among unclutterers (myself included) is that we get so comfortable with “getting rid” that sometimes we lack patience and persistence and let go too quickly, and I think this is a good example. Also, (and I apologize in advance if I am mistaken about this since I have only gleaned this from a few cryptic posts) it looks like someone set up a new, private forum, piggybacking off this one, and PM’d everyone asking them to move. I think that’s a bit sneaky, and you should have been more honest about that. Just my opinion.

    As for the criticisms of “lurkers” (horrible word, that), for me and I’m sure for many others, lurking is an important step on the way to becoming a member, in order to get a feel for the forum, the typical discussions and the regular members, before getting involved myself. I first visited the forum in January and was going to sign up when I found the site was down (just my luck, I thought). I was surprised to see everyone had disappeared when I finally checked back. At the moment I’m caring for a sick family member so internet time is limited, but I’m not even sure if it’s worth signing up anymore now that everyone’s gone. I’ll come back in a few weeks and hope that things have changed for the better. I have lots of uncluttering projects planned.

  25. posted by britannia on

    I too am one of those who was a regular poster and who now never posts. The Forum was a big part of my life and extremely helpful in getting me uncluttered and keeping me that way. I would have liked to keep on BUT I couldn’t. As I said in an e-mail to Erin (never acknowledged) it took me three tries to get reregistered and then the site refused to acknowledged my e-mail address! So I never bothered anymore.
    I would like the old list of topics back, so I can immediately zero-in on the ones I want to read. And yes I like to go back an re-read some entries. And yes I may be away for a few days and have to go back several days to catch up. And what exactly were the many complaints about the old webpage? I never saw them. I had no complainants (except about the spammers but every forum has them).

  26. posted by Swede on

    Anne – As you haven’t contributed anything to the forum I find your critique both harsh and uncalled for.

    No one has created a forum to “piggyback off this one” so you can give up your conspiracy theories. However -members are free to join whatever forum they want. We – the members WERE the forum. If we can’t use the current one due to error messages – who are you to say where we can or can’t go? We, the mebers, were a tight knit group and if we wish to send private messages here it’s none of yours or anyones business. Hence the word PRIVATE.

    When it comes to thanking Erin – of course we are greatful for the time and work she put in on improving the forum. Nothing false in that. I (and many others) pointed out several things we didn’t like/wasn’t working… and nothing happened. I would be surprised if anything happened even after this blog post.

  27. posted by Pat on

    Erin asked for comments on improvements as opposed to just general complaining. When I dittoed Sky I thought I was – keep the moderators and manage the spam better, but have the interface go back to the original format. I actually found some of the spam pretty funny, and since everyone boycotted adding comments the spam moved down the list pretty fast. I didn’t find it a big issue. The same thing happens on other blogs, not a big deal. Isn’t part of mental decluttering learning not to be a perfectionist, and not wasting time and energy fretting over little things?
    I will be retiring this summer, and really getting going on getting the house ship-shape. I had planned to actually join at that time. However this was one of several blogs I read regularly, and none of the others require me to register, I just pop in and out and comment as desired. And when the website was down for renovation (and yes, I thought it was gone since I never saw any notice) I did keep checking back in hopes that it would be back.
    So, my concerns now:
    First, welcome unregistered visitors. We may or may not eventually join, but we read, we visit ads, we add to your visitor count. If a topic speaks strongly to us we will join, but otherwise managing accounts is a “timesuck” (http://www.geekculture.com/joy...../1831.html) in a busy life.
    Second, the great appeal of the previous format was being able to see all the ongoing discussions. The organized topics were there if a visitor wanted to search for a specific topic, but they were not the main focus. Now they are prominent, but the active discussions are not visible. ATAD and FATAD were sources of inspiration for me, and I can’t find them. I am sure they are in there somewhere, but where? Some of the more personal discussions were not directly relevant to me, but as a teacher I gained insights that sometimes enabled me to help my students who had similar issues – like my perfectionist student this year who is always needing extensions. Others were extremely relevant to me. If the discussions are not visible, I am not going to see them.
    Sorry this was quite long, but if you want feedback I will give you feedback – teachers get into bad habits that way ;-)

  28. posted by Anonymous 1 on

    Prior to the change in the forum, I was a regular reader of, and poster on, the Unclutterer main page AND forum. Now I read, and might post on, the main page, but I do not read or post on the forum.

    Simply put, and surprisingly, the forum is cluttered, confusing, and slow. I recognize that you and others expended a lot of time, money, and effort on the updated forum. While I appreciate those efforts, the results are, to be blunt, weak.

    In addition, I suspect your team began creating ill will when the old forum was taken down. Neither the old forum web page nor Unclutterer’s main page provided any useful information about when the new forum would be ready. Your team took the forum down for about two weeks (if I recollect correctly) with barely a peep.

    Then, I suspect more ill will was created once the new site was up and running. Posters pointed out problems with the new site, and your team did not care enough to fix them. In fact, most of the problems that were pointed out early on still appear to exist today.

    Then, regular posters (who provided the content and made up the community and personality of the forum) stopped posting. Without them, there may be a page called “Forum” and some links to click on, but there is, really, no forum. There is at most a ghost of a formerly vibrant forum.

    Good luck in fixing the forum. It may be a case of too little too late.

  29. posted by candy on

    The most user-friendly forum I know of is called “Home”. It’s a fan forum for Depeche Mode fans.

    It has two search features that I particularly appreciate:
    – Show unread posts since last visit
    – Show all unread posts

    This requires being logged in, but that’s not a problem for me.

    The Home forum has several sub-forums (8 in all) but no “sub-sub-forums” such as we see in this new Unclutterer forum. I can’t honestly see why we have these “sub-sub-forums”, they make the forum far to messy and cluttered, in my opinion. The forum changed platforms some time ago, and I think that they cleaned up the forum structure a bit to make it correspond to the way it was actually used, not to some structure that someone thought was the correct one. This is one of the things I really don’t understand about the UC forum, why do you keep a structure of sub-forums and sub-sub-forums that quite obviously noone understands/uses/wants? Just look at the number of topics/date of the topics in each sub-(sub-)forum and you get the picture…

    The Home forum also has a searchable list of forum members and some other nice features. On the new UC forum it is as far as I can see not possible to search the posts that were imported from the old forum.

    The Home forum is set up using Simple Machines® Forum (SMF) software, and I can’t imagine that there’s a huge cost for this since this forum is not in any way commercial.

    So, my wish list to make the new UC forum a good, functioning forum would be:
    – Give us back the old forum in read-only format as per the date when you closed it, put a link to it somewhere in the new forum, and give the new UC forum a fresh, uncluttered start.
    – Clean up the forum structure, re-think, kill all your old darlings, out with the old and in with the new etc etc – basically, start with a very simple structure and then elaborate on it when the need arises.
    – Make sure that the two search functions “show unread posts since last visit” and “show all unread posts” are available. And that you can go to the first unread post in a thread with a simple click (that actually works fine now, when you find a thread with unread posts, so that’s good).
    – Make sure that you inform before, during and after the changes!! This is something that was handled very badly when migrating to this new forum.
    – And of course, last but not least, find a platform that is stable and fast, noone wants to have a forum which is slow and unreliable.

    I really wanted this forum to function, but as it is right now, I can’t use it and that is why I don’t use it. Your argument about spending a lot of money on this forum is completely invalid, it’s unfortunately a sunk cost.

    I appreciate that you are now trying to communicate with us to get our input. It is sadly rather clear to me that you yourself are not an experienced forum user, that you don’t know how forum users think and that you can use all the help you can get to fix this. I hope you succeed, but as the previous comment says: it may be a case of too little too late.

  30. posted by sleepykitten on

    Anne – while I appreciate your coming back to clarify the “disloyalty” comment, and I do have some sympathy about the “lurker” issue, I still disagree with you. I hope you return and read this.

    1) When the forum was down for so long, I seriously considered jumping ship and looking for another forum during that downtime. But I waited it out, due to loyalty to both the site and the other posters, who I consider close friends.

    2) I did thank Erin when the new forum appeared – and I don’t think it phony at all to thank someone for their efforts. I DO appreciate that Erin spent time and money on the new forum and I feel sad that it didn’t turn out the way she anticipated. Further, have you ever bought a shirt and thought, “This is going to work as a basic everyday shirt.” And then later you realize that it just feels/fits funny and it bothers you when you put it on? And then you unclutter it? Just because you think/hope it will work for you, doesn’t mean that you don’t reserve the right to change your mind if it isn’t working.

    3) I also spent quite a bit of time (out of loyalty, again!) trying to learn to use the new forum AND I tried to answer other peoples’ questions. There were lots of questions about viewing new posts, which I often posted answers to as best I could. There was a questions about how to increase the text/font size – I spent time googling the vbulletin help files and gave the best answer I could to that user. I may have only been posting for a couple days – but I spent a LOT of time on those days on vbulletin help forums, the unclutterer forum specifically, etc.

    4) About the lurking – you make a really good point about lurking being a first step. It was for me, too, and I get that. I think what makes me a prickly – and I hope you can understand why I might feel that way – is to be criticized for not posting, or for posting less often, by people who have never posted at all. I haven’t closed my account on the new forum – I’ve decided to lurk for a while. If it is OK for you to lurk without criticism, it should be OK for me to lurk without criticism, too. If you choose to question my posting frequency, then I sort of feel like I can question you right back – even thought I know the situations aren’t identical.

    5) In terms of actual feedback – I do miss having a home page with the most active thread on top. The workaround of the “view new posts” button only works when I am logged in. Further, possibly due to time zone wonkiness, it sometimes seems to be out of order or to miss posts. I often get error messages when searching or posting. Sometimes those error messages result in my losing the post I typed – the “back” button doesn’t get me to a place where I can salvage the post. Sometimes I’m just told the server is too busy and to check back later. These technical problems are pretty big deals to me, so much so that at this point, I have found another forum. I would be willing/interested in being a member in both, because I think they might have slightly different user groups/purposes, but I don’t view unclutterer as my “home” anymore. I actually think that’s OK, though – there seem to be a lot of lurkers and I think it is quite possible that if the technical glitches were fixed, some of those individuals might very well prefer the new format/design (which I am not very fond of, but I can see that some people might like) and re-boot the community.

  31. posted by candy on

    Oh, I forgot – the PM function is very good, please keep it. The lack of a PM function was just about the only thing, really, that I didn’t like with the old forum. That and the spam, which I understand was quite difficult to keep away in the old forum and which unfortunately seems to be almost equally difficult to keep away in the new forum.

  32. posted by Prof.Clutter on

    I’ll second sleepykitten and a few others above.
    I don’t have much to offer now except (genuine) gratitude to Erin, admin team, and the posters. I was a relatively new member, joining around Thanksgiving when I was very stuck, so I have reason to say “thank you” for getting me unstuck.
    I was on the old forums through one period of uncertainty, and I’m off the forums during a current restructuring and upheaval of work & home. I don’t feel a need to clarify or defend that choice–as, for instance, I don’t have to tell anyone else in the campus library or computer labs or coffee shops why I am or am not dropping in at regular times. Sometimes, I have a morning and afternoon routine in “my” chair on a certain floor of the library, 30-40 hours a week; sometimes I go for weeks or months without stopping. As long as my writing is done, my supervisors don’t care where or how. (If I didn’t show up to a classroom or meetings, that would be another matter entirely, and I’d lose my job.) Does that comparison make sense?
    I simply haven’t taken the time to sign in to the forum much lately, but this blog shows up in my RSS feed–I’d like to think I’m still part of the community, perhaps in absentia for a time. Here’s to freedom to lurk–or not!

  33. posted by ninakk on

    I’m afraid I’m not very patient with frequent errors, slow-loading pages, and the sort. It is unfortunate that the user interface isn’t fully functional in the technical sense. I have no idea how to fix the technical problems.

    The current folder tree is much too difficult to navigate easily. I second/third/? the comment that suggests to get rid of sub-sub-forums entirely and also encourage the administration to look at which areas are actually active. My impression is that the book categories don’t work, because there is too much overlap with the other categories. Either choose to market the book through the forum (choose all forums according to its structure) or do away with it entirely (leave a single forum for it)?

    Communication is key. I was very bothered by the sudden disappearing of the forum and thought the regular posters would have deserved a notification well in advance, in a manner described by ceduke above.

    I never was truly bothered by the lack of a PM feature, but the frequent spam led to me posting negative feedback about it in the old forum quite a few times. My impression always was that spam was the major cause of frustration for the active members, not the lack of the other bells and whistles, which are of course a nice addition. Several members offered to clean up for free, but the offer wasn’t accepted for over a year. It is unfortunate if lots of money has been put into something that could have been solved by accepting moderators right away, but again, I have no idea of how the technical part, the backend works.

    I’m quite surprised to see this post over a month after the new forum was launched. It seems to have happened a bit in the wrong order, don’t you think? So to suggest something “real”, keep talking with the members, perhaps show a forum presence not only in purely technical matters? To me it feels odd that the administration never was interested in stopping by a very vibrant community that also showed appreciation on more than one occasion, not just complaints.

    Members might not always like what they hear, but it is still vital to keep the discussion going. Some may even disappear entirely, because they can’t/don’t want to handle a reply, but the majority is able to agree to disagree. They also understand the need to compromise, which of course goes both ways, to ensure that as many as possible are satisfied.

    As for the comments on loyalty, or rather lack thereof, above; Anne, I’ll take your criticism to heart only after I’ve seen your contributions to support other members through their laughter and tears. It is a fact that there are lurkers, but please, if you only take without giving anything, maybe show some humility? Your current attitude won’t make many warm up to your struggles, no matter how hard they may be.

  34. posted by luxcat on

    others have pretty much covered it, as did the main article/question.

    I would like to stay involved with this forum to some degree if it didn’t take so much time and thought to navigate it.

    cleaning up the folder tree and streamlining the visual interface in general would be helpful.

    I understand that the site and forum need to support the book, but perhaps that part of if could be a single tab of “using the book to unclutter” rather than endless lists of how the book itself is organized, it would be cleaner looking

    take out the ancient hoarders threads, unless A and E is paying you to host them, would be great

    fix challenges and tech tabs to show sub topics

    add an “organizing the office” sub topic under “work”

    add a “other living areas” sub topic under living spaces, to compliment the specific subtopics like kitchen, bed room and closets

  35. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    Great suggestions coming in from everyone! Thank you!! Keep them coming!!

  36. posted by CF on

    I have been a regular visitor to Unclutterer for several months now, and I started reading the forum when I wanted to get more serious about my own uncluttering habits. Although I was not an “active” member of the forum, I had signed up right before the switch, and was looking forward to joining in the conversation. I have tried to log in to the new forum with my username and password from the previous forum, but it won’t work so I haven’t actually been able to use the new forum yet.

    For me, as a visitor wanting to become a contributing member, this is what I would like:

    1) Help for how to use/navigate the forum. It would be nice for it to include steps to make the switch for people who were already signed up under the old forum (this may be addressed somewhere and I just haven’t found it, although I have looked for it). Maybe a FAQ topic/link that is easy to find from the main page that covers basic forum “use” questions could help.

    2) For the main page of the forum to be simplified. I am not opposed to the way the main page is arranged, with topic headings and fewer actual threads per topic appearing on the main page. For someone new, this can be good because you can find the topic you are interested in. However, I do find there are too many topics / sub-topics, and I get overwhelmed – there is too much on the page for me to take in.

    3) For there to be a very simple way to view only the threads with the most current activity. I don’t necessarily want the new topics or even the activity since last logging on, just a simple list of threads with the top one being the one most recently commented on. One possibility – I read another blog/forum site that also recently switched to vbulletin for the forums. On this site, the admins added a tab on the sections bar for “Old Style Forums.” A click on this tab gives you a simple list of threads ordered by most recent posting activity. [I don’t really know if sections bar is the correct term. I am referring to the bar across the page that currently has tabs for Forums, Blogs, Groups, & Main Unclutterer Site.]

    4) For the forum to be easy to access in a technical sense. It appears that at least some of the users are experiencing difficulty with loading times, etc. I think this would be a barrier to me using the forum if it were to happen to me.

    Thanks for working on the forums! I hope that this can help bring some life back to the forums. As I said before, I was looking forward to joining the conversation and still want to!

  37. posted by Pkilmain on

    After not knowing the forum was going down, and having not timeline as to when it would be up (finally tracked down UC on Facebook – who knew?) then to be confronted with the fact that my old login wouldn’t work, making numerous tries at a new password, only to find that much of the time I got error messages, “server too busy” messages, and had posts disappear, about 3 weeks had passed. My frustration was too much to post regularly – basically I’d moved on to other forums much easier to navigate. Whenever I come back here, and I do several times a week, I still get “server too busy” many times, and I cannot find the topies I’m interested in. I still read this main page fairly regularly, but the forum continues to be a constant frustration.

  38. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I returned to full-time study around the time that the forum went down. By the time I finish (not before end August) I’ll probably have forgotten my password and need a new one, but no matter; I’ll worry about that then. So I’m sorry that I can’t offer much in the way of suggestions for improvements.

    I think that we all have seasons in life where we can devote time to some activities and not others and then it switches. I know that before the middle of last year (?) I hadn’t posted on, nor read any of the fora for about a year for various RL reasons and activities, even though I was still reading the main site topics via Google Reader.

    My suggestion is for those who currently lurk, and have the time to, to come out into the open and get posting. If there are a lot of you who do so, you’ll probably find you create a renewed, vibrant, posting community – most people I’ve met through this site are fairly generous with their time, support and advice. You can then encourage others with how to use the new structure, whatever it may be when others drop in; after all, from the names I see above, it seems like there are still some ‘old’ faces reading the site if not currently posting on as regular a basis as they used to.

    The good thing about the PM feature is that it allows us to do things like massage someone to say, “Hey, I’m in your city next week – would you like to meet?” or “Are you still alive?” if a regular hasn’t posted for a while, without giving our e-mail addresses to spammers. (Thank you for that, admins.) But on that note I shall refer you back to my first paragraph and say that I’ll be out of posting action for several months yet. :-)

  39. posted by whyawhelk on

    I can’t believe you’ve waited so long to ask this question, and that you’ve waited until AFTER installing a new forum interface before you started actually communicating with the USERS of that interface.

    I’ve told you one of the main problems, I told you over a month ago, the Challenges section, the busiest section of the forum (atad fatad etc) doesn’t have a subforum. Therefore, you can’t see if there’s been any activity there when you visit the front page. Also, as has been pointed out in the questions section several times, NOBODY CAN START A NEW TOPIC IN CHALLENGES, it is technically not possible for us to create the usually so busy monthly/weekly/daily challenge threads. Which brings me back to the first problem, we’ve told you this already, and nobody acknowledges or reacts to or acts on what we tell you. And that, not the technical problems, is why I have left for other pastures. Best of luck.

  40. posted by customic on

    I’m a regular reader of Unclutterer blog but, to be honest, I keep forgetting that there IS actually a forum as well! Maybe it should be more convenient to access it, e.g. by adding a link at the end of each post encouraging readers to take part in discussions. Maybe it should be somehow integrated with the comments… I don’t know, these are just my suggestions.

    Anyway, I took a look at the forum and can’t see what everybody is complaining about. It’s neatly organised and work smoothly for me. I’d like to register there, will there be a possibility of logging in using a Facebook account? I hate remembering all the logins and passwords…

  41. posted by Erin at Unclutterer on

    @whyawhelk — I’ve been sick since January and am only now getting back to normal work hours. We did take note of your complaints then, but on my trips back and forth to the hospital, I wasn’t able to do much about them. Healing was my number one priority. You may have noticed my small presence on the site this year. My team has done a great job in my absence, though. I’m very proud of them. Now that I’m feeling better, and can work with our tech team, I wanted to jump back into work and get things moving on improving the Forum. I’m eager and excited to see them improve, too.

  42. posted by klutzgrrl on

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, Erin. I hope you’re on the mend. The team has done a great job, there’s been some terrific posts lately. I’ve often been amazed that you’re still here after so many years, maintaining and building the site, keeping it strong when so many bloggers lose interest and drift away.

    I think change can always bring problems. The website I’ve worked with for years has gone through many changes, and each time, there are some problems, and there’s always something we don’t like. It’s unfortunate that fixing a negative can sometimes mean losing a positive. But over time, we adjust.

    Some people are never going to like a change. Websites are like places – it’s like your favorite cafe or pub has had a makeover – you’ll always miss the old one for some uncertain reason, and the new one just doesn’t feel right, but reminds you enough of the old place to constantly remind you of the misfit.

  43. posted by MixinItaly on

    Dear all,
    Frankly, the new forum is CLUTTERED. The old one was simple, east to pop around, read, input, etc. The new one I have been avoiding because I don’t easily see what I’ve read, the new topics, and many things. It’s like that cluttered corner in the kitchen that I avoid.
    Please, bring back the simple and approachable one! After all, that is what this great blog is about, no?

  44. posted by Another Deb on

    Sorry you have been having health issues, Erin. Thanks for letting us know that you are on the road to wellness. Thank you for working to improve the site and I echo what klutzgrrl has voiced so sweetly. Jeez, and I thought I was getting some nasty grief for seating chart changes! :-)

  45. posted by JustGail on

    Sorry you’ve been having health issues, Erin.

    Now as to suggestions. I haven’t redone my account yet, so all comments will be from a vistor/lurker standpoint.
    1. Challenges and Technology categories – there’s nothing to indicate anything exists under them. We’ll not discuss how long it took for me to think to click on the headers.
    2. Living spaces category – it seems to me that bathrooms, basements and garages are left out. If I have a basement question – what’s the best spot? It’s often not really a living space, it’s more a storage space, at least most of it is.
    3. the book category – it seems confusing. Do I recall correctly that it’s laid out to follow the book? If so, perhaps a blurb to that effect above the days of the week section might clarify. Otherwise it seems sort of random how the sub-subcategories are arranged. What’s the difference in the kitchen/bathroom/living spaces categories?

    I didn’t spend a lot of time in the forums side before, so the first time I saw any upgrade/change notice was here on the blog. I’m just going to say that people will most likely be more accepting if it’s made clear well in advance and through as many channels as possible that changes are coming. And WHY. I won’t go so far as to say everyone will love the changes, or even like them, but at least they’ll be prepared for it to be not like before. And then they can make the decision to stay or go based on the changes, not on feeling blindsided.

  46. posted by rocket_scientist on

    @Erin: Get well soon.

    Suggestions:
    1. the forum needs to have the really old stuff removed. Threads that have been inactive for years should be deleted.

    2. Don’t ignore the comments you get. Someone took time and trouble to post them. The comments should be answered. You can delegate. If you simply have no resources to respond to the last month’s worth of comments, then post a notice to that effect on the website.

    3. Patience is a virtue. A new forum community will form when the website is easy to use and cleaned up (and if the main page is consistently interesting). It may take a year. If necessary, reach out to some new (or old) registrants and ask them to post on particular issues to seed the discussion.

    4. Think about how you will deal with future downtime on the forum and post a message when you anticipate taking the site down. A week’s notice is adequate for scheduled maintenance.

    5. Treat the registered users who post regularly (and those who don’t) with respect. They bring you business. Walk in their moccasins for a while. Remember that the value of the time they have dedicated to the site over the last couple of years far exceeds the “thousands” of dollars you have spent on redoing the forum. If you want them back, you have to make an effort. You had about 80 regular posters, IIRC. Having one of your staff, even a high school student, spend five minutes to send each a personal email might be worth the money to you. “Hi, X. I apologize for the hiccups of the startup of the new website. The site is now up and running smoothly. We hope you will post again soon.” And make sure their userids and passwords work again first!

  47. posted by ninakk on

    I’m sorry you’ve been ill, Erin, but to me it feels like you are sending two contradictory messages; 1. this is a business (promoting a book, thousands of dollars spent on upgrade, tech team), 2. this is not a business (because of illness things have not run as smoothly as usual).

    If you have been absent at times, why not have your staff communiate in your place? They have managed to blog frequently, but have not cared to keep to community updated. And the tech staff didn’t bother informing registered users that they will have to get a new password for logging in after the not-informed downtime. That is the main issue here; complete lack of communication.

  48. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @ninakk — I should have been clearer. We actually farmed out the transition work because our tech team wasn’t well versed enough in how to preserve the content on the old system and map it to the new system. Instead of paying them for hours of learning, in addition to the work, we had professional forum folks set up the new forum and do the transferring of data. The problem came in that when the outsourced forum folks would send me messages to say things like, “we are taking down the old forum” or such, I wouldn’t be available to take their calls. No phones in an MRI machine, for example. Plus, I was in so much pain for weeks at a time that I didn’t even care. Since I was the main point of contact, it all got bungled. But, like I said, I’m back at work full time now and ardently working to improve the forum situation. My teams at Unclutterer and Dancing Mammoth did an amazing job in my absence and when I was working at odd hours. And, our internal tech team is doing an awesome job at figuring out how to make all the changes to the forum that people have suggested above. The fact that there was regular content on the main site and that the new forum was even launched still pretty much blows my mind.

  49. posted by purpleBee on

    I’ve noticed that other forums, for many diverse topics, that I’ve visited over the years have had one technical thing in common … the more layers of sub-folders the slower the forum.

    I suspect it may be to do with the amount of data that has to be sorted through when people log in or screens change or someone else posts. So the software collates the data in layer 1 and 1&2 and 1&2&3 and 1&2&3&4 for all forums and then loads … or crashes for lack of memory

  50. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    Thank you so much, everyone, for your insightful comments!! We really do appreciate all of them. We’re now closing comments to this post and starting a thread over on the Forum for future communication regarding the changes. Be sure to check the Forum Administration section on the Forums for more on this subject. Thanks again!!

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