Open letter to Taunton’s Forum Users
I have been reading, with growing consternation, the posts related to the switch from mZinga to Drupal based forums. They have ranged from grudging acceptance to mild mourning to xenophobic howls of rage. I am used to this. My career started in moderating message boards and chats at AOL’s Digital City more than 13 years ago. I remember the switch from AOL-style message boards to HTML, so I knew there would be pain in any change. Many complaints, however, have been couched in language so hurtful to the people who build Taunton’s popular and award-winning sites that I feel I need to address the issues.
- The original forum was better; this new site looks like it was made by one-handed monkeys using COBOL; bring back my frames: We understand that changing a system you are used to using every day for a number of years can and will be upsetting. It’s akin to someone rearranging your furniture and painting your walls at home while you’re out at work. That said, the long-process the small group of talented people at Taunton Interactive (tech and editorial) went through to launch the new forums with as many features as we could preserve and all of the years worth of your posting data intact, without more than a day’s worth of downtime, was monumental. Is the new forum everything you hoped and dreamed for? No, and us neither. Drupal is, however, an easily updated framework that can be changed directly by the online producers (want comments in reverse chronological order? Change length before pagination? We can do that.) on a regular basis to make it a more perfect experience for everyone involved. We will also be making changes so that you can set your own themes and preferences to view the forums. It is, in my opinion, much better than what we had, and with years of minor and major improvements to come.
- You are greedy, it’s all about the money OR you’re killing a goldmine: Yes, it is (in part) about money. It was costing us tens of thousands of dollars to host the free mZinga forums. They were run at an almost complete loss. They were invisible to Google and the rest of our sites and had few ads. So, in a time of drastic financial upset in the publishing world we had three choices: make a cut (person or project), remove the forums, or find a way to keep the forums while drastically lowering costs. We think the forums represent a vibrant community feature and went with #3.
- You didn’t listen enough/much/at all to our suggestions or complaints: We went through a very deliberate process with a Forums Task Force made up of web producers (Matt, Gina, Robyn, Kate & Vicky) who solicited feedback before we launched into the process. Some things could be done at launch, some afterward, and some could not/would not be done at all. We did read all of the feedback, assigned priorities to changes and will be listening for constructive criticism to improve the forums on a regular basis.
- Taunton hates us; we hate Taunton; let’s take our ball and go home: What can I say to this? Taunton is a very ethical company with decades of producing the highest-quality content and communities for enthusiasts. We take our role in each community, and the members of those communities, very seriously. No decision is made lightly and never for venial reasons. If any of you feel so strongly that Taunton no longer represents the best way to interact with others about building, gardening, woodworking, sewing and cooking and want to form your own groups or forums on other sites, we wish you well. For those who would like to change what’s here for the better, we are always open to constructive criticism and offers of help. Personal and off-topic attacks, however, will be removed.
Thank you for your time and patience. Remember, there are real people (with real names) working long hours behind all of our content you see online. The person you talk to from Taunton in a discussion about formatting your post may have just finished a video shoot from a job site or may be working on a how-to article on planting shrubs. We are a small, but dedicated crew who will strive to give you our best and use the latest in technology to do so. We look forward to growing with you as Taunton Interactive continues to expand online and beyond.
VP, Taunton Interactive