The Design of Software (CLOSED)

A public forum for discussing the design of software, from the user interface to the code architecture. Now closed.

The "Design of Software" discussion group has been merged with the main Joel on Software discussion group.

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Categorisation instead of splitting the forums

Splitting one discussion forum into several branches is a regression technique, when the discussion themes intercept with each other, as it is in Joel's Forums.

First, the poster has to decide, which forum he wants to post to, and sometimes the decision cannot be so easy.

Second, switching to another forum to view it - it takes time, and the readers are usually busy enough. So they will most frequently visit only one forum, which would result in the death of other forums, because noone will be visiting them. No one visits - no one wants to post new messages.

The modern solution is to assign category (or categories) to each topic and display the category name along with the topic's subject in the list of topics' page.

Then,the visitor can still visit only one forum, be he could decide for himself, which categories are interested for him.
Andrei Sedelnikov Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
I second the idea. The only thing is, category seperation should be distinctly visible.
Krish Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004

Number of threads in the new fora as of 2004-09-06 15:11 (GMT +1), listed by order of appearance in left hand menu bar:

Joel on Softare: over 100 (I think...)
Business of Softare: 14
Design of Software: 9
Human Side of Software: 5

So, did Joel order the new fora by an analysis of popularity of the themes in the old JoS threads, or does the order determine the popularity of the fora (so that the bottom of the list, because it is clicked on last, is used least)?
Freddie boy
Monday, September 06, 2004
Indeed. Splitting the forums was not the best decision. Categories would be perfect, also with basic filtering options (checkboxes for categories, updated on the fly).
Monday, September 06, 2004
Oh yeah, you should copy that post to the "Joel on Software" forum, so it gets read. ;-)
Monday, September 06, 2004

Totally agree.  I was just thinking the exact same thing after coming from Gmail to the forum.

I wonder if Joel's idea is that the more thoughtful posters will end having deep conversations in the dark corners while the rabel all hang around by the doors trying to be seen.
Ged Byrne Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
Stephen Jones Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
Static analyses are useful, but in a dynamic system with emergent properties, just let the code run for a while.

I think it's better for the moment. The question is whether there is enough of a stream that wants to have slow, better conversation on design of software, over time. (Likely a tactical problem; removing obstacles.) I visit a number of such streams and they add up. For business of software, it is hard to think it won't be successful as-is, because of the host's influence.

Asymmetry is good.

.net questions seems to have succeeded, as opposed to the NYC and Delphi forums. Which seems to demonstrate something -- people don't come here to talk about NYC or Delphi; that made those two groups very exclusive and there was no advertising on NYC/Delphi hangouts to visit them. The current divisions between business/design/fluffy subjects seems more natural.
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
Something Awful has this kind of categorization. Not that I recommend a carbon copy, but some icons in different colours for each category should be apparent enough.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Don't you mean SlashDot?
Monday, September 06, 2004
I still think the split should be along less arbitrary lines, such as "Hosts." Something like this:

As I said before, why split the menu unless you have a guest chef? Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
Well, success could probably be defined as a strong signal/noise ratio on BoS, and having reasonable tech-oriented entertainment occur on JoS. It's not clear that DoS or HoS has to do particularly well. Is failure of a particular forum unacceptable? And really, what does failure mean if different places can take on different properties?

But "design of software" may be a misnomer -- do people still design software, or just refactor it nowadays? (Please don't answer that certain synchronous systems need to be designed, it's a HaHaOnlySerious comment.)

I know this is navel gazing, but I'm just looking at this as any other software; it doesn't matter to me where I discuss it. I have no need for Fogcreek to do This or That.
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
I think that categorization, the way it's explained here, is not highly usable.

The average person understands x ∈ S1 and y ∈ S2, but they think that x ∈ S1 → NOT x ∈ S2.
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Monday, September 06, 2004
>The average person understands x ∈ S1 and y ∈ S2,
>but they think that x ∈ S1 → NOT x ∈ S2.

In this form how you wrote it above, even me myself have spended two minutes, to understand, what you mean. :)

But in reality, multiple categorisation is pretty essential to human beings, and the most natural example is the movies' classification: there are some genres (action, comedy, love story ... etc. etc.) and a particular movie usually belongs to many of them simultaneously, i.e. you can have "action with elements of a comedy" or even "patriotica science fiction love story".

But in case of your forum, Joel, the things can be even easier, because categories can simply be mutually-exclusive. The main issue is that all topics would stay on one page with the category names beside them.
Andrei Sedelnikov Send private email
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Part of the problem is that the "main" forum still exists. As  the site currently is set up it's like a debating society with one big main debating chamber and a few side rooms.  Most people will not use the side rooms.
a cynic writes... Send private email
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
It really is very simple to set up Joel. When people make a new post they choose on of the four existing forum labels.

When you log on to the forum main page you choose which forums you want to follow. So if you want to you just choose one forum, or you can choose to see all four mixed, with the posts having a small icon beside to tell you which is which.
Stephen Jones Send private email
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
At least a couple times I have seen the exact same post copied to more than one forum.

To me this suggests something is wrong with the current setup. 

I also find it bothersome to hit five different forums to see if anything interesting is being discussed.

I like the idea of having labels, myself, but an "everything" bucket would work pretty well too.  Well, maybe the last 3 forums shouldn't be in the everything bucket . . . I'll just cast my pretend vote for the idea of labels and letting the user choose his own filter.
Matt Conrad Send private email
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The problem Joel was trying to fix was traffic. He wants to split the traffic. Categories will not fix this.

Joel's approach may not work because we're here for the content to begin with. In this context, only JoS forum makes sense and keeps attracting people.

What may fix this is renaming forums to:
Joel on Software
Joel on Business
Joel on Design
Joel on Social Interfaces

... and of course provide the supporting content - ie articles targeted on Business, Design, etc
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
> The problem Joel was trying to fix was traffic.

It was not physical traffic, but

>> Things wind up scrolling off right away and
>> discussion has to be fast and furious or you
>> lose it.

But that thing is a direct result of another wrong decision - not allowing topics to "pop-up". As Joel stated this decison, he wanted to give chances to all authors and all topics, and not only popular ones.

As you can see in reality this feature only increases the number of new topics appearing, because since noone wants his message to be disappeared, so they simply start a new topic instead of writing into an existing one.

Unfortunately, Joel seems to be strong in his beliefs, so I suppose this thing will never change.

And back to categorisation: it _can_ reduce the traffic, if the forum software provide the possibility to select, which categories to view only.
Andrei Sedelnikov Send private email
Thursday, September 09, 2004
When are we going to start to see "SOrry for cross posting this, but I didn't get an answer in the other group". And meta conversations about which group is the best one to post a particular question. That kind of thing makes me crazy.

Now, add in the ability to filter by categories and it will be worse by an order of magnitude.
Miles Archer
Thursday, September 09, 2004

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