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Community and Q&A

Forum features update

Daniel Morrison | Posted in General Questions on

The mission of GBA has always been to help people solve problems, and GBA participants in the forums and blogs are doing a fantastic job of this. Thank you for this. The comments on blogs and forum posts are truly valuable contributions.

As a testament to how valuable they are, four months ago we asked Scott Gibson to convert discussion threads into weekly articles. These articles have been very popular with readers over the last few months. In fact, they generate even more comments, which continues to further the conversation. These articles are compelling because they are about real people, with real problems, and there is really good advice handed out.

For these reasons, we have decided that the forums are a sensible place for us to focus some of our (extremely) limited resources for site improvements. As many of you know, we rolled out a few new features a couple of weeks ago. We’re glad you like the photo-upload and editing features, and we’re glad that (some of) you like the comment-rating feature.

These new features serve many useful purposes; the first two help people better describe problems and solutions, the third helps readers make choices about which comments to dig in to and which ones to skip.

To give new or casual visitors a sense of who they were reading, we added a feature that was bundled with the comment-rating tool, a cumulative rating for forum participants. This feature was less well-received than the others.

As stated in the original post, this is a collaborative effort; as such, we asked for your input. Thank you for all of the constructive (and colorful!) feedback on our new features. Paraphrasing some of your comments:

  • Bold text draws the eye away from the question/answer
  • ‘Like?’ is unclear
  • I hate ‘Like?’
  • The post rating is useful, the community rating is not.
  • Change the like/dislike rating system to agree/disagree.
  • The box is evil, it must go

We have been weighing options for improving the new features based on your feedback, and have settled on the following three changes:
1. We’re changing the word ‘Like?’ to ‘Helpful?’ — If you find a comment (or post) helpful, give it a (+). If you find it counter-productive, give it a (-). If you find it benign, leave it blank.
2. We’re putting the words and numbers in a normal typeface (rather than bold) to reduce the visual weight on the page.
3. We’re removing the ‘community rating’ associated with people’s names.

These changes should be live by the end of the week. As always, we’re eager to hear your comments.

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  1. homedesign | | #1

    Thank You Dan,
    The New Attachment posting features and the editing feature Are extremely useful.
    They are very "Helpful"

  2. j chesnut | | #2

    I think GBAs response to the feedback is appropriate and well reasoned.
    Thanks again for your efforts to continue the great knowledge exchange facilitated by this website.

  3. Riversong | | #3

    Call me a cynic if you like, but there's no reason to believe that the rating system won't be abused by the same people in the same way as it obviously has been thus far. Eliminating the "community rating" is certainly appropriate; but regardless of the terminology of THE BOX, it's far more likely to be a popularity contest than an accurate measure of the quality of the responses. And, if that's the case, then it will undermine rather than serve the goals of this forum, of GBA and of Taunton Press.

    P.S. I think you're being disingenuous about the feedback. I don't recall very much, if any, clear support for THE BOX, but there was an overwhelming chorus of opposition to it. So much for your claim of this being a collaborative process. It's an imposition by you on the rest of us, and it remains so.

  4. wjrobinson | | #4

    Robert, one hell of a small choir... more like a screaming solo. Most smarter than I stay clear of your wrath. You do not have any support from anyone for the level of respect you show those that cross you. None. Even GBA itself.

    Why not try to be polite for a day, then hell, shoot for a week. You might like it. Probably not.

    I am truly amazed at the way you post tirades here and have anyone left respecting you.


  5. Riversong | | #5


    I have the respect of the people that matter and I respect those who demonstrate a commitment to truth, integrity and the universal laws of Nature.

    I do not want or need the respect of the deliberately ignorant, the morally compromised, the emotionally unstable, or the intellectually moronic. Nor will I show them any respect. Respect must be earned.

    Have a great holiday.

  6. user-659915 | | #6

    Thanks Dan for a thoughtful and diligent response to the extensive commentary on these issues. I fully support the direction you're headed. Scott's 'executive summaries' are a terrific addition to the site, please keep 'em coming.

  7. T7sX5ebany | | #7

    I believe that Robert is dead right. As long as the box remains then acerbic, technically-sound information will be dissed because the manner of its presentation upsets people's sensibilities. It's the content that matters. Period.

    For those who are enjoying holidays at present I hope you continue to enjoy them. For those whose year will be changing number soon, I hope the next one is better than this one has been. For all you Pastafarians out there my use of the term holiday does not indicate any disrespect for your beliefs.

  8. Riversong | | #8

    I fully agree with Timmy - we should fire Dan and put the Flying Spaghetti Monster (the intelligent designer of the universe) in charge of this website. The FSM never made a box for anything, and teaches that we should all get out of our boxes and use our noodles.

    Pastafarians rise up and prove that you've got meat balls!

  9. 2tePuaao2B | | #9

    As I recall, the reason that the rating system ever came about was to control the behavior of certain members. I was told that some members were contacting the site boss and threatening to quit if other members were not kicked off, blocked or banned from the site.
    Since those members that were targeted happen to make some of the most useful contributions to the site, kicking them off was not an option.
    A passifier was created ( personal rating box) in an effort of some sort to appease the threatening complainers. I still can't figure out the logic behind that. Those being "coddled to" by the box took full advantage of the opportunity by using it as the attack tool that it turned out to be. We all saw that first hand~ to say that this did not happen would be a lie.
    If the rating box had been implemented with true intent to improve the site for everyone, fairly and equally, then much more thought would have been invested into the system design. If the care and time necessary to develope a personal rating tool had been invested ahead of time, I have to believe that the rating box would never have come to the site.
    Now however, since the rating box was put into "damaging action" and failed miserably, save a little face mode comes into play. The creation of another judgemental action tool, which is essentially
    the same, with flaws, is imposed. Weak effort again.
    I guess if I didn't know the truth about the original intent of this situation, the rub would be less. I have made the effort (outside of this site) to try to understand the logic associated with the creation of something that seems to promote personal attack.
    The true improvements to this site are those without question. Thank You
    "Guinea pig" so called improvements should be tested in a different arena.
    Based on the last 2 week experiment I would have to say that Robert has been bullied unfairly. The honesty that he extends is refreshing. I can clearly see why some shout OUCH when he speaks.
    The intent of this post is to be truthful if not helpful. With all due respect.

  10. Riversong | | #10

    Ironic, isn't it, that those who complained about the "tone" of my often sharp but always honest and well-founded critiques, claiming I was attacking people rather than ideas, were given a tool whereby they could anonymously attack me as person rather than have to challenge my ideas.

    The resulting behavior was precisely the kind of hypocrisy which I often named and confronted, but it was now secretive as well as malicious. The only thing this experiment in behavior control has demonstrated is that (at least some of) those who complained about feeling attacked had no scruples about attacking another as long as they could do so in secret.

    Exactly how does encouraging such behavior promote GREEN?

  11. 2tePuaao2B | | #11

    The - is currently the weak link to this silly experiment. If something is helpful and you want to say so, SAY IT like you mean it. If something is not helpful to you, it may be to someone else, so don't say anything. Trying to influence the way that newcomers, or those not familiar with this site
    choose to navigate is inaccurately manipulative.
    Do this don't do that. Can't you read the sign??

  12. homedesign | | #12

    Doctor Holladay & Doctor Riversong
    Thank you

  13. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #13

    So evidently you are hoping that an apple a day keeps the two doctors away? ☺

    Merry Christmas, John.

  14. HomeBuilder1975 | | #14

    There's only one Doctor on this forum, and his name is Martin.

  15. user-757117 | | #15

    I'm going to watch that movie today. I still have it on VHS.

  16. homedesign | | #16

    He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans!

  17. wjrobinson | | #17

    Who's afraid of the big scarey foam wolf? LOL

    Merry Christmas all... it's a blast to post with Robert and the desciples... and I second the vote that Martin in one hell of source of useful practical building knowledge.

    aj (not wearing my tinfoil bonnet)

    Peace out!

  18. Riversong | | #18

    There's only one Doctor on this forum

    And the medical profession is the number one cause of death in the US, according to a recent meta-study.

    We need fewer doctors and more healers.

  19. Allan Edwards | | #19

    Any other builders out there attending the NAHB national convention next month in Orlando? Marin, are you attending?

  20. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #20

    Nope, I won't be there. Allan, report back to us about what you see and hear.

  21. Riversong | | #21

    an apple a day keeps the two doctors away?

    Few people realize the meaning of that common saying. The six seeds contained in the typical apple, if eaten every day, contain enough laetrile to prevent cancer for a lifetime. This is one of the deliberately squashed secrets of the chemical pharmaceutical industry (laetrile was banned in the US because research at Memorial Sloan Kettering showed it to be too effective): that simple natural substances can keep us healthy.

    Similarly, even GBA and most of the "green" building movement maintains the myth that petrochemicals are good for you, and natural materials are problematic. This, like the myth of allopathic medicine, is an inversion of truth.

    Watch This

  22. homedesign | | #22

    Getting back to the new features.
    I don't undertstand the maximum upload rules.
    Is there a monthly limit per member? or a lifetime limit?

  23. Riversong | | #23


    It's a lifetime limit. Once you hit 2 Mbytes, you die.

  24. MICHAEL CHANDLER | | #24

    I'm planning to be at IBS and will likely be keeping an eye on the forum from the road. My good friend Ed Nickles and I are signed up to take the two day advanced green project management class before the show and I will be at the EVHA awards and NAHB designee reception and will likely be lurking at whatever presence GBA and Fine Homebuilding have on the floor (Will there be a booth?) I'll also be at the twenty club receptions.

  25. Daniel Morrison | | #25

    I expect to be there, Allen. I'll be at the Fine Homebuilding booth during the day.
    John, there was a 2mb limit set as a default. We lifted to substantially, but I can't remember the number off hand. Have you tried embedding an image from a flickr gallery?

  26. homedesign | | #26

    I don't think I am out of space yet.
    I will start using smaller file size

    I know how to post a link to flickr
    but not how to "embed"
    how do I "embed" a link?

  27. Allan Edwards | | #27

    Michael and Dan, I'll try to come by the Fine Hiomebuilding booth and meet both of you. By the way, I've been attending the NAHB show since 1980, I've probably only missed 3-4 over the years. I've learned a lot over the years about various topics, especially in the management and operational areas, probably the best thing I've ever done as a builder. I would encourage all home builders to attend.

  28. florakimkimya | | #28

    Merry Christmas all... Thank You Dan, new attachment posting features is very useful and helpful

  29. user-757117 | | #29

    I find that the de-bolding of the "Helpful? BOX" and elimination of the "Community Rating" has made those new features much less distracting.

  30. Riversong | | #30

    And much less prone to abuse.

    Ironic, isn't it, that a modification designed to diminish abusive behavior ended up encouraging it?

    It's a lot like the myriad unintended consequences of "green" building - and for the same reason: using the latest gimmick and failing to think through the ramifications.

  31. 2tePuaao2B | | #31

    An improvement to something that was not needed in the first place. Much easier to ignore.
    The other added features are appreciated ! Thanks again

  32. Riversong | | #32

    One of the most important features that is needed here (besides the obvious one of requiring real names and email addresses) is an "unsubscribe" option for Original Posters (OPs).

    We've recently seen how disruptive and abusive people can hi-jack a thread to the point of forcing the OP to give up in disgust. And, even after that point, people - with both constructive and destructive intent - continued the thread long after the OP said "enough".

    Anyone who starts a thread by Asking a Question continues to get email notification of every new post to their thread and there's no way to turn that off. So, intentionally or unwittingly, people (including GBA advisors) keep a thread alive long after the OP either got their answer or gave up in disgust.

    So one of two changes are necessary to remedy this situation. Either an OP must have the ability to opt out or unsubscribe to their own thread or have the ability to close their own thread when they feel that either their query has been sufficiently answered or they just don't want to be bothered anymore.

    The latter option would also prevent threads from digressing endlessly and eventually becoming abusive and also prevent 6-month old "dead" threads from being revived by someone who Googled a subject and didn't bother to look at the question date or didn't care.

    There should also be some clear notice to users (near the "Answer" box) to inform people that if they want notification of answers to their questions they will need to start a new thread with "Ask a Question" rather than jump onto someone else's thread and thereby burden the OP with notifications to someone else's issue.

  33. homedesign | | #33

    I recently noticed that a glitch in the post numbering has been corrected.
    I always keep mine set for "newest to oldest"
    If a series of comments went beyond one page.... the post numbering became meaningless.

    As far as I can tell ... it is now possible to refer to a post by it's post number

  34. Riversong | | #34

    Yup, I noticed that change too. But now when the numbering reaches three digits, it overlaps the beginning of the text. Yet another example of unintended consequences (or poor design).

  35. Riversong | | #35


    X marks the spot.

    Is that some kind of bracing or did they leave their extension chords on the sheathing?

  36. Daniel Morrison | | #36

    Where did you get that photo, John?

  37. Daniel Morrison | | #37

    Well Heck. That's a great 'What's Wrong With This Picture?' picture.

    Have you investigated further?
    What is telegraphing through?
    Want to post it as a separate forum post and talk about it?

  38. homedesign | | #38

    I took it myself a few years ago in Dallas.

    I think it is bracing

    I will try to get by there and see if it was ever fixed

  39. homedesign | | #39

    the post numbering is useful

    unintended consequences....
    warning....... imperfections in substrate may "telegraph" thru fiber cement sidng

  40. WilliamLi | | #40

    Daniel, I've been running afoul of the spam filter recently. Can you tell us something about what it's twigging off of?
    For example, "cleaning of carpets" is ok but "carpet xxx cleaning" (xxx inserted for this post otherwise the spam filter gets it) is not ok. ???

  41. user-757117 | | #41

    Daniel, I would also like to know what sets off the spam filter...
    Seems like sometimes it doesn't like the html tags that are listed below...
    Or maybe it's just the content of the post?

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