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OmniNerds! We need your help. Yes, you. Please reply to this news post and tell us where you’d like to see the site go in the near future. Tell us what’s awful. Tell us what’s great. Tell us what’s missing. Tell us everything!!! Comment anonymously if you’d like and be ultra-harsh, for once we won’t make fun of your anonymity. The bottom line is that we’d much rather have user feedback than moderator/admin input to direct the site. So please, we beg of you, tell it like it is … except for making fun of Will, that’s a given. We all look forward to your responses!

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i’ll take you up on the anonymous offer :)

is it just me or are the long comment threads (50+) super hard to follow? i find that if i’m not checking the site hourly, it’s really hard to read the comments i haven’t yet read. i don’t know if it’d be hard to implement, but it’d be nice if comments could be marked as read by a user. is this feasible? i think it’d be a great addition to the system which is otherwise fairly user friendly.

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Onerd Markup by starm_

I just want to say that I love OmniNerd Markup. Don’t change that concept, it’s way better than anything else i’ve seen out there, IMO better than graphical interfaces. Ah maybe you could allow footnotes or references in comments like in the articles, i wanted to use that once.

Ah.. I just noticed a bug, when I tried to preview this comment the first time I forgot to put a title and it complained about it, this isn’t the bug. The bug is that it added backslashes after each apostrophes in my message like so:

Ah.. I just noticed a bug, when I tried to preview this comment the first time I forgot to put a title and it complained about it, this isn’t the bug. The bug is that it added backslashes after each apostrophes in my message like so:"I just want to say that I love OmniNerd Markup. Don\‘t change that concept, it\’s way better than anything else i\‘ve seen out there. As for criticism, I\’ll have to think about it…"

Ah.. I just noticed a bug, when I tried to preview this comment the first time I forgot to put a title and it complained about it, this isn’t the bug. The bug is that it added backslashes after each apostrophes in my message like so:"I just want to say that I love OmniNerd Markup. Don\‘t change that concept, it\’s way better than anything else i\‘ve seen out there. As for criticism, I\’ll have to think about it…"I had to remove them by hand.

I think I may be talking about the same thing as another anonymous poster here, but when the threads get long, sometimes it’s tough to see who a particular message is responding to. If there is a nested thread under a post, and then another reply or replies to the parent thread it’s tough to see which one they are replying to with the child threads separating them. I don’t know if I articulated that well enough for you to get it, and I wish I could draw a picture to show you what I mean.

For example, if you back out of this link one step to here and look at the "Bitter truth" thread, who is Brandon replying to in that post (without knowing the context or clicking on parent?) It would be nice if the threads were marked a little more distinctly to show the connections.

Other than that, I am extremely pleased with the site. The site structure is solid and facilitates good quality conversations because of the way the moderation is done. No rush to first post to get noticed, and the ability to moderate all of the posts means that you avoid the trap of modding up people who are already modded up or simply seemed smart because they blasted out their first blush perceptions without reading the reference material, putting thought into it, or just making stuff up.

The ability to look at the latest comments regardless of how old the article they are attached to is means that people can put real thought into a topic and come back as updates occur or after they have come up with some really fantastic insight, brilliant observation, or given it some real thought. They can do so and have their observation noticed and this and the aforementioned moderation advantages mean ever increasing quality of content. I’m very impressed with the lack of trolls and flamebait material on this site, and even more impressed with the quality of writing, well reasoned opinions and general courtesy displayed here. I also really like the article format, which encourages users here to actually do some serious research or experiments to advance knowledge in the selected topic area—just like a real research paper in academia!

On a purely non-technical note, I would qualify these comments by saying that some of this is possible because we don’t have X,000,000 users with billions of posts to moderate, but the methods used here—if they can be scaled up—will continue to encourage quality posts over mass. The danger for OmniNerd would be that its popularity could become its own demise if we attract too many users without accommodating this. On the other hand, it would be great to selectively "recruit" people with demonstrated good behavior or with good writing skills or juicy qualifications that would add value to the discussions here. I guess the danger of this idea though is if just bring in people we agree with. Dissenting points of view make for interesting discussion too, and discussing things with people you disagree with can help sharpen rhetorical skills and help you refine your ideas and beliefs.

Have you given any thought to making the monthly OmniNerd email available to users in an archive section? That would be a valuable content addition.

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Love this site! by stopgap

I found this site following a link to the hybrid car economy analysis from Slashdot. The quality of discussion more than anything kept me reading. Sure, comments feel a bit cumbersome as pointed earlier, but that’s no biggie. What I really like about the site is a mix of headlines from other sources mixed with original content like, for example, the hybrid analysis and Brandon’s oils. (Uhm, I guess, all those are known as "articles"; so, two thumbs up for the articles!)

Wiki-type markup is great, BTW!

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Books! BOOKS! by romanizzo

An interactive booklist of recommended Omninerd reading. It could be organized by NerdRank, i.e. recommend the fledgling nerds read book A and the NR8 read book B and then eventually you work up to the books that I saw Will reading at school.
Books could be organized in terms of relevance, topic, level of nerdiness, and overall goodness, as voted by Omninerds. You know, interactive. Of course, at the top of the list would be Green Eggs and Ham and somewhere near the bottom would be Huntington or some other smart guy. I can’t think of a good book to even put there as an example, because I have no list to work from. I’m in the Army – I need a list!

The biggest thing for me is also the viewability of the comments when they go abnormally long. Also, I think the filter feature that gets rid of certain posts is under-utilized and ready to be replaced with a well-coded collapsable viewing pane. It wouldn’t even have to be in AJAX, you could just use CSS to hide a comment and all of its sub-comments. Just a simple [+] in the title bar of a comment would allow that comment and all below it to be collapsed, and these settings would be saved in a cookie based on the comment ID, requiring not only almost no space in the DB for the site, but rather minimal crossing of the river Codeytus.

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"draft an article" by Anonymous

i’ve only ever played with the draft system once. it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very user friendly. i think it’s a good idea, but is going to need a lot more work to be really useful

Another idea would be to have a display of who is currently online and viewing the site. It wouldn’t have much value to the site itself, but more to the users.

As a friend of Brandon, I am often hounded as to why I don’t contribute more to the site. Time. Need more of it. But I have discussed with him how the site lacks a certain balance in opinions. On the whole I would say that most of the discourse is intelligent, or at least more so than other sites. There is little flaming and few anonymous posts. However, I would say that there is a definite niche in which most of the opinions on this site reside, that being (for lack of a better measure stick) conservative. I know that the administrators address this question frequently: how do we attract more people or bring more sides to many of the issues discussed? So I would like to start a post that would address ideas in which O-nerd can diversify and have more robust (not contentious) discussions.

Perhaps, from articles and news posts, certain topics could be chosen (let’s give the god one a rest for a while!) and a debate forum could be initiated in which those who choose to participate choose a side and comments are posted as pro/con. The object being to have a matched battle (again not contentious). Perhaps once a week a topic is posted and then discourse is continued…in the end, the sides are evaluated and scored. One could use NR to motivate people to post on both sides of the column. Or sides could be assigned….I don’t know just an idea. Again, others would have to see this as something cool to make it worth while. And these topics don’t have to be serious either…example: "Defend the concept that Batman is better than Superman!" A little mix could be fun.

As starm_ well knows before he registered, it can be hard to follow which anonymous poster is which in a long involved thread. Maybe there can be a non-registered name log-on type thing for those who are following a prticular thread but aren’t inclined to register right away.

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Development Team? by markmcb

I’m throwing this out as an idea for anyone (even the other admins who I’ve not discussed this with). Internally, I maintain 3 email lists:

  • List of arbitrators, moderators, and admins. I rarely mail this list, but when I do it’s usually related to scoring. Accounts for maybe 1% of my OmniNerd outbox.
  • List of moderators and admins. This list gets mostly development ideas and we also discuss the flow of the site and try to ensure that our additions are meeting the intended needs. This is about 40% of my OmniNerd outbox.
  • List of admins (i.e., willwaddell and Brandon). This list gets endless traffic from me about any and everything, and we also hold weekly (usually) voice-chat meetings to discuss the top 5 or so big issues with the site.

… all of that said, here’s my idea. It’d be sort of a "1.5" in the list above. Would anyone out there who’s not a moderator, but might have some level of interest be willing to participate in some sort of "Development Team" email list? Instead of just bouncing ideas off the 5 existing admin/mods, we could use the forum to get more ideas on a consistent basis. In addition, if a user helps out a lot, this would be an excellent way for the admins to select new moderators as we will definitely need them as the site grows.

Now that I think about it, the above paragraph is exactly how I found Brandon. Way back in the dark ages of OmniNerd (before user accounts even!), Brandon would send me all sorts of feedback via email and really helped with the design you see before you today. It made it an easy decision for me to make him a moderator and then an admin. I think a similar approach might be the best way to go about our development.

I’m anxious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

How about having two ratings on posts… One is the mod rating, which is an unbiased, experienced, disinterested third party like our current mods, and a second indepedant rating issued by the readers. I realize this might be a real pain in the butt and serve little purpose in the near term, but as we scale up, it might be beneficial.

The idea here is that every LOGGED IN AND REGISTERED viewer can give their assessment of the post once and only once just like the mods can. As the feedback is gleaned, the server averages it and gives the average feedback from the O-Nerd community at large.

I can already predict one strike against this idea—that it would be hostile to dissenting viewpoints and could lead to group-think and popularity contests (see /. Karma-whore phenomenon). I’m guessing it would be a fair amount of work and add complexity with debatable benefits. Just trying to think of ways to handle the coming tide of new users!

Some of you will notice that your NerdRank dropped seemingly without cause. I made some tweaks to Nerd Equation that should make NerdRank a little more useful. All of you casual observers will be affected the most. You’ll find that your midrange 5s and 6s have become 2s, 3s, and 4s. This is mostly due to me going away from a normal distribution and using more of a Chi-Squared distribution. The nerdier OmniNerds out there probably won’t notice a shift in rank. Those that were in the 6-8 range may notice a point drop, but nothing drastic. All of this is much easier to visualize if you goto the NerdRank page and look at the new graph.

If you’ve got complaints, let me know … and then get to work! There’s a lot of things that factor into the Nerd Equation that I won’t discuss, but I will tell you that the fastest way to the top is with articles.

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Customize by jmarkdavison

Customize your O-Nerd…
Here is what I would like to see when I go to my favorites and click on "Omninerd":
A page with the most current politics, religion, and current events posts. Nowhere to be seen: posts dealing with philosophy or computing, or other stuff I don’t like.
A customizable front page would allow users to track their favorite topics longer by eliminating those they’re not interested in. Ditto for most recent articles- if I don’t care about tech-whiz stuff I could set up my filters to show me only what I want to see.
Something along the lines of the way My Yahoo! works. Not sure how code-possible it is, but if Yahoo can do it Mark McB can. He has a NR of 10, after all.

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OmniNerd Inbox by tomtolman

What about the ability to send private messages to other users via OmniNerd. I run another forum where this works well. Sometimes you want to send a message to another user that really isn’t fit for the public discussion. You could send a message to their OmniNerd inbox. In additional, if you have the option turned on, the user would receive an email that they have an OmniNerd message waiting. If not, they would notice it the next time they logged in via an alert on the main page.

I think it’s instructive to learn from the problems and mistakes of others lest I make the same mistakes. In this light, I recommend reading this "gripe ":http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/10/1440240 from one of the Slashdot founders/admins about complaints he was getting from readers. I’m sure many of you have already read it. In case you haven’t, and you care about the future of this site, it’s worth a read to see what problems are being brought up so we can think how to avoid them before they occur here. Read the user comments too.

I wish more sites had more self-examination all neatly packaged for us to learn from like this.

Ok, how about this: the ability to attribute a post to more than one news article. Maybe this isn’t necessary, and you can do what I did here and double-post under both news articles (which itself may be redundant if people are using the recent posts feature). Anyway, what if some insightful comment applied to more than one news article, like earlier today I posted a comment under Will’s article on Saudi Arabia providing financial support for the Hamas Palestinian Government (External Trouble or Internal Pacification. It was also relevant to our discussion of China’s incredible projected growth and future (2050: Year of the Red Behemoth.

Or how about this: the ability to revive old news articles by having the ability to do updates or somehow link closely related articles so the threads and articles are together. For example, the aformentioned article External Trouble or Internal Pacification is pretty much an update on the earlier article Palestine Bankrupt. Likewise, a lot of our Iran news articles are really about the same thing with some updates. I know this issue could be solved without recoding by simply putting a link to the earlier story, and maybe merging the new and the old together would end up with a nightmarish spaghetti mess of threads, but I think having the old news article and the new updated material in serial would be useful to get the full context of the situation.

It would also promote a little more of what I am talking about below (which was posted under another news topic but I thought it was more relevant here. I accept my fate if I am downrated here for redundancy or there for off-topic). This just goes to show that something we talk about under one news article may be relevant under another and might get passed by with people who skip over certain articles they think they aren’t interested in.

That’s one thing I like about this site. It encourages people to think things through and there is no rush to post early. I could go back to a topic posted a year ago and have a relevant and insightful observation about it and people would still see my comment and read it. I also think it promotes a deeper level of thinking on the topics rather than shooting from the hip or a lot of bickering back and forth. It also promotes doing some research and finding source material to link to, quote, and seek. You can go out and do some heavy reading, experiments, listen to some podcasts, talk to some people and mull things over and generally develop your idea or response more fully.

It also gives you a chance to take a deep breath and think about what you are going to say so you can avoid injecting too much emotion into your posts and to get yourself into trouble saying things you don’t mean.

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Poll Submissions by markmcb

We’ve added the ability to submit polls to the site. You’ll find poll submission links in the left-hand "Interact" menu, and also in the header of every poll on the site. So if you’ve been dissatisfied with what the moderators have been coming up with for polls, give the new submission system a whirl. As always, if you notice anything weird or buggy, let me know either in this thread or via email.

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Open thread. by starm_

Once in a while I stumble upon news article or blog posts that are nerd worthy (ex. this) but I have no where to post links to them here. I think Omninerd could use a periodic automatic open thread where we can post such links. The frequency could be set aproximately so that there’s always one such thread on the front page.

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Printability by scubasteve

I’m not sure of the copyright implications, but what about adding a printable view for the articles?

We were heading to NYC this last weekend and I wanted to educate myself with Will’s ‘Concise History of Islam’ while on the plane. When I tried to print it, it cut off the right side. I easily resolved it by copying and pasting it into a word document, but it may be a neat feature for those that want to read the articles on the go.

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