This ranty-whiny post was inspired by a recent conversation a few members had with a site moderator, in which I had characteristically rushed in – like the proverbial bull in the China shop – complaining about site issues, and was very nicely, politely and roundly admonished. It had struck me at that time that I should substantiate my claims with evidence, and organize the issues in a manner as can serve as a checklist – no, call it a bucket list, with all implications thereof.
And this post was born – FWIW – highlighting a few issues.
Site Design distractions and profile grief!
- URL network.nature.com/blogs – The Blogs tab. On clicking it, one reaches a page that is badly designed, with terrible (non-)utlization of screen real estate, and singularly uninformative. There is also no way for user customization. On the right-hand side of the reading area, there is a gaping hole, which could easily be populated with boxes such as ‘Featured Posts’ or ‘Recent comments’ – boxes that are there, but currently languishing way down, so that only way to see them (without having to click another button/link) is to scroll, scroll, scroll down.
- If some tenacious soul does scroll down, amongst all the boxes, what does one find? Something called ‘Questions’, dating back to 4 months earlier at today’s reading. Why? No one else dared or bothered to ask any other question in these four months? Does this section even have a relevance if it keeps serving ancient information?
- I would like to be able see at a glance blogs that I have been commenting on, not just what is ‘most popular’ or ‘most recent’ and so forth.
- It would be nice to be able to get to my own blog from the blogs page without any complicated, convoluted steps – currently impossible.
- If clicking on my name (which is a hyperlink) at the top of the NN page is going to bring me to my profile only, what is the point of having another link called ‘Your Profile’ to its right side?
- In my profile synopsis, strange problems that I had pointed out L-O-N-G back still remain. Of all my publications, one JI paper has mysteriously missing the volume, page and year info, and one JAC paper lists an invalid DOI link with – wait for this – the PMID number written, but no pubmed link. I have ascertained that the pertinent information is correctly written when I see them in the Edit mode, but they will not display properly. How difficult can this be to correct?
- I have tried this in three browsers, but have never seen any Orange Button that allows me to get to the blogger dashboard (despite Lou’s ‘fixes’). So long I have been following – as a workaround – the link that Matt provided me with at the very beginning, but the non-inclusion/non-appearance of the dashboard button is baffling and counter-intuitive, to say the least. And others have complained about this, too. Nothing happened.
[update: IF the system recognizes me as logged in, then I do get to see the Orange Button ‘Write New Entry’ on the sidebar for the blog-posts now, and it works :)]
- URL: blogs.nature.com – Why does the front page have O-L-D stuff (from Aug and July!!) displayed, like, forever?
Intractable Login Issues. Sigh!
- Bob O’Hara once advised Richard Grant to ‘befriend’ himself on NN as a solution to his login issues. Apparently, it was possible at the time – not any more. But I am constantly reminded of this curious and funny scenario when the NN right-side box proclaims that <my name> (not to mention, that ugly mug) has commented on such-and-such blog after my last comment – EVEN when I am logged in. For some reason, NN has this persistent inability to recognize current and past logins by the same user. Who woulda thunk.
- Another unresolved problem that still bugs me every time is that even if I am logged into Nature Network, clicking on my blog link (or typing the URL in) will still get me to a page that requires me to sign in – again. I have earlier even provided screenshots of this when I pointed this out. To no avail.
- Strangely, the front page of the NB recognizes me as logged in, but the moment I go to ANY damn blog, I have to sign in to comment. What gives?
- Just now, despite being logged in on Nature Network AND a member of the NN Bloggers private group, I was denied access to the discussion board of the group.
Clicking on the ‘View Discussion Board’ link brought me to a page which shows me as not logged in, and asks me to log in.
- When I re-log in, it just returns me to the main NN page. AAAARRRRGGHHHHH!!! Can the login page be configured to return the user to the same page prior to the login action? This is not super-duper high tech, I am sure. Lots of websites do this easily.
- I guess, I should be glad that I can still sign in. My friend, Ian Brooks, has not been so lucky. Despite a communication from Lou with assurances three weeks ago, nothing has been done to resolve his login issues, and he still can’t log in to his blog or to comment on posts. RPG had commented upon this in March highlighting a similar problem, and even then – per Lou’s response – their IT had fixed some of the logins. Why ‘some’? Why not all? Why are such login issues continuing, even for old bloggers?
- Jacqueline Floyd asked a question about RSS widgets and related features in July, 2010. We all would have wanted to know. There was no response.
- Cath, Jenny and Grrl made a complaint about missing comments in July 2010. Beyond “Will let you know”, there was no solution posted.
- In late July, Lou communicated that they have brought in an MT4 expert and that the team was pushing out batches of fixes on a fortnightly basis. A lot of discussion was generated in that thread, with many of us chiming in, talking about the attack of the spambots, lack of trackbacks, login for commenting (which turns off a lot of readers and would-be commenters, lack of site stats, and so forth. Then… silence. Does anyone have a clue whether any of the suggestions were considered?
- Matt responded to Richard’s complaint about inability to comment from iPhone or iPad, saying that it was not an overnight solution. Absolutely. But that was in the middle of September!
- In the beginning of October, Jacqueline Floyd made a very pertinent comment about the design of the NN home page, about how the “Recent Nature Network Posts” box creates a terrible impression to visitors and prevents truly recent posts from receiving timely traffic. No comments on that thereafter.
- Have we yet heard from the consultants about the Comment Previewing feature that Mike Fowler asked about the 4th instant?
To my knowledge (which is admittedly meager), this is by no means an exhaustive list of the current, unresolved issues. I didn’t have time to go through all the discussion threads. If anyone else has similar, or other issues, please jot them down in the comments.
I must acknowledge that since the sainted MT4 migration, quite a few improvements (inline image attachment function, faster page load, noticeably less spam, among many others) have been made in response to the bloggers’ questions, and have been communicated to us by Lou, bless her, as well as Matt and a few others from time to time. I thank the moderator team for their hard work and patience with all my heart.
But mods, please ask yourselves honestly: is this the right pace? Would you have been happy with the progress, had you been in our place?
Most importantly, even after this, will there be improvements? At this juncture, IDK.
I just want to acknowledge that I read this post earlier this morning and am writing you a more detailed response. However. I am juggling that between various tech meetings, so there may be a bit of a delay; you are not being ignored or forgotten about.
No worries, Lou. I got your message earlier.
I probably should have put my comment preview requests in the correct place: the "What’s Next Forum":http://network.nature.com/groups/whats-next/forum/topics (Tell us what new features you want next on Nature Network). I could advise you to post a link there to this post, Kausik 😉 Maybe you’ll see some appropriate action a little earlier.
But then, today is the first time my NN frontpage has updated in 3 days. That’s right, 72 hours. Same old "recent posts" since the 8th of November until today. Has nobody actually posted a new blog since then? (checks "recent posts"…, thinks "this place is populated by interwebz loving geeks…")
Well, yes. Of course they’ve posted. And for some reason my network.nature.com/blogs page didn’t register this in the last 4320 minutes. Refreshing didn’t resolve. Coffee sacrifices to my keyboard did no better. And now, instead of procrastinating reading those blogs, I’ve actually managed to do some work in the last 3 days. Damn you, Nature Network! I shall certainly be submitting it to Science instead now.
LOL! Mike, all the best!
But srsly, I would first give Lou the benefit of doubt, and wait for her to get back with answers/suggestions etc. The ’What’s Next’ forum sounds nice, but to me – these issues are not ‘next’, but ‘now’, or more precisely, should have been ‘yesterday’ – if you know what I mean! 🙂
Mike and everyone,
The problem that you were all seeing since Monday evening was a failure of the MT information on blogs and blog comments to feed into the NN side of the site – so all the posts and comments were still live, and accessible directly, but not appearing on the front page or blogs homepage.
The issue has now been resolved and I really apologise that it occurred – this was a result of another, seemingly-unrelated-to-NN, IT incident that took place – hence the delay in working out what had happened.
Kausik and all – I will get back to you with a thorough response to all your points, but as you can imagine, it’s taking some time to put together all the relevant details.
Thanks once again, Lou, for giving this the due consideration.
Lou, if it means I actually get some work done once in a while, I think you could start to schedule the ‘pauses’ in service more regularly 🙂
Especially if it results in Science papers…
Thanks for this post, Kausik – you’ve said what I might have said, had I not lost the will to live.
Is this the reaction to the Twitter joke trial? If yes, I commiserate. If no, “huh?”
I think Jenny is referring to how draining fighting NN is…
The obvious solution is not to fight it, but embrace it. Tightly. And let someone else put on the handcuffs, and read it its rights.
[/Too much NCIS and Law & Order: SVU]
P.S. Sorry, very US-centric in-joke!
… A-N-N-N-D I am suddenly back with the "Welcome back: $userData.firstName" thingy instead of my username in NN.
Kausik and everyone – sorry for the delay in writing you a full response. I am going to attempt to reply in instalments as you’ve provided quite a long list!
Site design etc
1. Thanks for the feedback about the blogs homepage – revamping this page and the related project of integrating and improving on some of the features from the blogs.nature.com page are on the list for the next round of improvements for blogs in general at NPG. However, as I’m sure everyone would agree, it’s important that we get the basic functionalities sorted first and then we can move onto our more ambitious ideas. If anyone would like to have an input into this next stage, please do sign up for one of the focus groups we’re running on blogs where you can find out more about our plans.
2. Just to clarify, the featured questions box that you are referring to is on the main Nature Network homepage and to respond quite simply; it has not been updated. All the featured content you see on the homepage is manually chosen, usually by myself, or the community managers, Matt and Jo. Following feedback on the Q&A events that I organised over the summer, combined with the pressing blogs issues, we’ve decided to focus on the blogs for the time being rather than spread our resources more thinly. The Q&A section itself is still up and running and anyone can take part here
3. There are a few ways you can see at a glance which blogs you’ve been commenting on: the first is to look at the “your recent comments” box at the top right of the homepage. That shows when other users comment on threads that you’ve commented on. To see an expanded version of this, you can go to your snapshot (people
-> snapshot –> select the “your replies” tab) which will show activity on anything you’ve participated in on NN. You can also get to this page by clicking the “view all your recent comments” link under the “your recent comments” box on the homepage.
4. It is slightly problematic to introduce a login to your blog directly from the blogs homepage as MT would need to be able to distinguish who was clicking the link. We are looking into better options for logging in to your blogs in general but for now the best things I can recommend are either accessing it directly from your blog’s own page or bookmarking the admin screen for MT and going directly to that whenever you want to create a post or moderate your comments.
5. Good question! No idea 🙂
6. These issues were logged when you reported them. We’ve since worked out the cause of the problem and I’ve got in touch with our developers to find out when this will be visible on the live site.
7. I’m sorry that this still isn’t working for you. We have extensively tested the fixes that I described to you so if you’re still having problems, please let me call you (and anyone else who this is still troubling) to walk you through exactly how to fix it. It really shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
8. Because I haven’t updated it – sorry. Some of these admin issues will be resolved with the imminent arrival of our new editorial assistant, but in the meantime, the truth is that I’m focusing the majority of my energy on resolving the outstanding issues and communicating with everyone on NN, not on manually updating some of these boxes. Apologies if this looks unacceptable.
Ok, I’ll leave the first installment here, wait for comments and then update you with the second…
Quick update re: #6: this is now fixed in your profile, Kausik and a more global fix preventing the problem recurring elsewhere on the site will be live in a couple of weeks.
Hey Kausik, less of the ‘old’ bloggers, please.
Many thanks for the detailed reply to some of the issues I raised. Let me address a few points in your reply here.
Even now, for some of the blogs I have commented on, the ‘Recent Comment’ box is showing weird, timeline-insensitive listings of the commentors who commented after me. For example, on the "Status Upgrade" blog, Ewan Smith was the very first commentor, and didn’t comment thereafter. Yet, this is what I get to see in that box.
which, I am sure you’d agree, makes no sense… This may be a glitch of the platform software, but the list goes on.
Hoping to hear from you on the Login issues, and thanks again.
Well, I am not the one with ‘aspirations’… [snicker!]
In response to the conversation on Site Design
1. Points noted, thanks.
2. The featured items on the NN homepage are regularly updated, please don’t exaggerate any problems. The only item on the homepage that is not updated is the featured questions section for reasons that I explained above.
Your observation about the “recent comments” box showing comments in a non-chronological order is something that we knew about and we’re already working on. The problem has come about because of the way we now receive comment notifications from MT about activity on the blogs and so is an integration issue between NN and MT. This wasn’t originally a problem, it’s something new due to some changes that have been made.
3. I’m not sure we’re referring to the same thing here. In your original question you stated “I would like to be able to see at a glance the blogs that I have been commenting on” – this is what either your snapshot or the truncated updates in the “your comments” box currently provide. Have I misunderstood?
4. The direct link to the MT admin screen is what the magic orange button does 🙂 There was no assumption that you’d have to bookmark the link.
5. No further comments needed
6. We’re taking a look at the error with your 2nd publication – the profiles on NN merely pull-in the info from PubMed and as it is correctly listed there, it may be an error with the data in the import itself.
7. I’m not sure what you mean by “as long as I am logged in” – the point with the orange button is that it will not appear unless you are logged in to the site. It is only meant for bloggers to see as a means of accessing their blog…
8. No further comments needed
I hope that helps to clarify a few things. I’ll now attempt to address the login issues you raised.
Installment 2 – login issues
1. We know about this bug from the first time you reported it and it’s something that’s being worked on – we’re going to re-work that whole “your recent comments” box to get rid of the bugs.
2. NN and MT are two totally separate platforms. We have synced up everyone’s user names and passwords between the two, but unfortunately when you move from the front part of NN (homepage, blogs homepage, groups, forums, Q&A, workbench) onto any of the individual blog pages, you will need to sign in again – there’s no getting round this, I’m afraid. However, you should now find that you only need to login once across all of the blogs – not everytime you go to a different one.
3. This is the same situation as above – if you sign in here: http://blogs.nature.com/ then you’re not automatically signed in to MT as well. Sorry 🙁
4. That sounds extremely frustrating. One issue that causes this may be that if you were logged in e.g. to your blog on another tab in your browser and then logged off from that, it may then have automatically logged you out elsewhere on the site too. We have been looking into all these horribly niggly issues but it’s very difficult to reproduce exactly what has happened so if you do encounter a problem, the most helpful thing is to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) the precise details (time it happened so we can check our log files, browser, whether you had other tabs with NN/blogs in them open etc).
5. Agreed. This request has already been noted from previous suggestions.
6. I hadn’t forgotten about Ian and it seems we have finally resolved the problem with his login. This issue was as a result of the username details being changed in MT which then messes up the synching between NN and MT.
Oh wow. I’d completely forgotten that I’d asked for an obvious link to "Your blog" in the tabs. This would have been at least last year, if not when I was still in Australia. (Strictly speaking that was indeed last year, but you know what I mean. Seems longer.)