posted by 华金 on June 1, 2012 | 4 comments
I have a couple of suggestions that I think would improve the forum:

1) Divide the forum into sections:

For instance, there could be a section for user complaints, a section for general questions about Chinese characters, one for grammar, perhaps even a section about Chinese culture/history. There could also be one for recommendations, where users could recommend books, textbooks, movies, etc to each other. These are just off the top of my head, but I'm sure other useful sections could be introduced too. How about a section where users are only allowed to post in Chinese? Advanced users would benefit from that, and it would be a great advert for the site.

2) Arrange by most recent posts:

In other words, when a reply is posted on a thread, that thread would be instantly bumped to the top of forum. That assures that useful threads don't get buried under a pile as new threads pop up, being inevitably forgotten. Also, it keeps people discussing things that are relevant, whereas the threads that become irrelevant get naturally pushed to the back.

I think this is particularly useful when, for example, a thread is started with a very specific question in mind (e.g. what's the pronunciation of "X" character, or "what does this sentence mean", etc).

Also, having a section for "General questions about Mandarin" or something like that would condense all of these threads into one, making sure that people can have direct access to more threads which they might find helpful, but wouldn't necessarily have looked for without seeing it first.

For instance, I was working my way back through the pages of the forum and found a thread on Chengyu that I found very useful. But without doing that, it simply would've got buried in the back, and in a couple of years time, no one would even know of that thread.

I really think the site would improve a lot from user-generated content/discussion, and I believe these adjustments would both facilitate and encourage users to become more engaged in discussions that would help each other. At the moment, the content generated in the site is mostly produced by the staff and consumed individually by members. On the other hand, I think the site should encourage members to generate content by themselves and for each other.

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trevelyan on June 2, 2012 | reply
OK... I've just updated the forums to sort by most recent posts, which means active discussions will now float to the top. I've been meaning to revisit the design and make other changes too, so if anyone has any pet peeves please add them to this thread.

That said, I'm not sure it makes sense to divide the forum into sections... yet. It's a good idea long-term (especially with a Chinese/English thread) but right now almost all of our traffic comes through word-of-mouth or people who find us on iTunes, so the only really effective way we have of bringing people's attention here is through the comment box on the front page. And until we have a critical mass of people who are posting threads and starting discussions it is probably best to concentrate the discussion so there is only a single place to check for recent activity.

Thinking about it, one change we *could* implement would be adding a sidebar on pages like this one -- so that people visiting any discussion page get their attention called to other popular threads. We could potentially call attention to the forum on other pages as well, like News in Chinese. My sense is that navigation is better than it used to be, but it is really still quite weak when it comes to non-lesson features.

Either way -- please fire away with suggestions. What features should we be adding or taking away?
华金 on June 3, 2012 | reply
Thanks for implementing the change! I see where you're coming from about the sections having to wait until more people sign up. I guess we're gonna have to go Jehovah's Witness style and go from door to door! I've already converted a few people to Popites (haha, can't believe no one's coined that before!), and at least one of them is going to upgrade to the premium account! :)
pefferie on June 2, 2012 | reply
I agree that Popup Chinese right now simply doesn't have enough content to split into categories. However, some threads turn out to be very rich and without a classification system they would get lost. I remember when I came to Beijing, there had been a thread about places to visit just a few weeks before that, but I was unable to find it. I am not sure how to deal with this, but suggestions would be - implement a near-perfect search (not realistic) and add a feature to categorize threads. This way, we can still use a general feed, but could also find things more easily.
zjv5002 on June 2, 2012 | reply
A forum space dedicated to a joint administrator/user-built corpus could be huge. As far as I'm concerned, the site's only disadvantage compared to Chinese Pod is, since Chinese Pod method seems to be picking a topic, finding 20 relevant vocab words, and hitting record, they've got a ton of lessons that, while dry and unlistenable when you don't need the vocabulary set they cover, are essential when you do have that need.Most of the time, I'm not listening to an episode about loan applications, but *in the event* I need to go to the bank for a loan or whatever, Chinese Pod is my best friend.

If there was a space on the site for user generated notes, vocabulary, and even grammar (we could do better than All Set's grammar wiki) it would be step towards making the site more comprehensive. Also, I would never log off.