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Upgrade Update: Forum Organization

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Thank you to all the members who provided feedback in the last entry where I discussed general thoughts on the site categorization. To recap, we are upgrading the site software in the near future and have been reviewing the current GameDev.net content categorization, which has been bascially the same since 1999.

Your feedback helped us identify areas for improvement, so I have an update on our latest thoughts and would appreciate more discussion from the community. Focusing on the forums first, we're considering the following structure:


  • Audio

    • Music and Sound

    • Business

      • Career Development (currently: Games Industry Job Advice)
      • Production and Management
      • Business, Marketing, and Law (currently: Business and Law)

      • Community

        • GDNet Lounge
        • Coding Horrors
        • GDNet CSI
        • Your Announcements
        • Indie Showcase
        • Hobby Project Classifieds

        • Game Design

          • Game Design
          • Writing for Games
          • UX for Games (if needed)

          • Programming

            • AI
            • Game Programming
            • General Programming
            • Graphics Programming
            • Math & Physics
            • Networking and Multiplayer

            • Visual Arts

              • 2D and 3D Art


                The most dramatic change is probably the Graphics forum(s), but the same solution we'll use there will be applicable to every other forum. Since all Graphics related discussion would go into one forum, we'd organize through predefined Prefixes that are specific to the Forum. For instance, if you have a post about DirectX, then a "DX11" or "DX12" prefix might be used. If you have a general graphics question or discussion, then you might not use a prefix. Or maybe you want to discuss a research paper and use the prefix "Research" or "R&D".

                These prefixes will be predefined and selectable when creating a post. And as I mentioned, every other forum would have prefixes available to select in order to narrow down the topic to something more specific.

                The nice thing about using prefixes is that they are searchable and can be used as filters on the backend, so we can create a "Vulkan Hub" to show you all things related to Vulkan.

                Tags will also be available, and we're considering making them predefined as well. However, tags would be a little more topic specific in definition. For instance, we're considering tags for things like "Mobile", "Unity", "Unreal", "Lumberyard", "Cocos", "HTML5", "Android", "iOS", etc. Things that can span multiple categories but may be too specific for its own forum.

                Between the categories, prefixes, and tags, GameDev.net should become completely searchable, filterable, and in theory all members should be able to easily find content on any combination of topics.

                Should we combine any other forums? Any that are missing or should be added? Any other thoughts on these changes under consideration? Please let us know in the comments below.

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I'd like to see Game Programming and General Programming combined into Programming, I'm not really sure the divide is useful. I'm also not really sure 'Indie Showcase' is useful as-is as a forum; it was originally intended as a backend for an Indie DB style showcase which was unfortunately never completed, and as a forum it's sort of just another Your Announcements with a more tightly defined purpose. I'd like to see a proper showcase of some sort again, but I'm not convinced the existing forum provides any real value.

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I'd like to see Game Programming and General Programming combined into Programming

 I can get behind this change.

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General Programming is really related to generalist stuff (data structures, allocator, threading, ...) while Game Programming really means stuff related to gameplay.

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I think those things could just go together and be filtered by prefix or tag like Kevin was describing for graphics though, assuming that functionality works well in the update.

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My biggest thoughts are about the tagging. Who does the tagging? Some individuals produce good tags, but most have issues today. Too many tags, too few tags, and irrelevant tags are commonplace both on this board already and on other sites that use tags. I'm also a little concerned about having fewer buckets and relying on the tagging will mean everyone sifts through more content they aren't interested in:

* If I'm excluding topics but an overzealous person tags too many fields, I may miss it.
* If I'm including topics but a topic has insufficient tags, I may miss it.
* If I'm not filtering at all then I may see too many posts that don't interest me.


I don't see "For Beginners" on the list. That's been a safe place for people to ask questions with the special rules in place that tend to make the area of the site somewhat different, but in a good way. The strict rules about answering the question directly and avoiding too-technical discussion tend to be helpful, and knowing you're in that part of the site makes difference in how many people respond.


I have mixed feelings of the mixing of Mobile with everything else. It's already difficult enough for some posts, they're naturally a combination of For Beginners, the specific API or tool chain, Mobile, Graphics, and General Programming all wrapped into one convoluted posts. Others are focused on topics that are quite specific to mobile devices. We are in a world where much more development is focused on mobile devices, and the devices are more similar to mainstream devices than older MIDP style apps or the console libraries with custom compilers for custom chips, but they still remain different beasts. While the devices are more powerful than ever there is still a rather different mindset required for the limited resources, the different environment, and the cross-compiling and remote-debugging nature of the work. Some posts will benefit, but others will suffer.


There are many other difficulties regarding filtering instead of using buckets, but the essence is that unless there is an enormous effort placed in keeping all the content properly tagged and indexed and labeled, filtering systems tend to break down to uselessness in short order.

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Didn't even notice mobile wasn't on the list, but now that you mention it neither is our relatively new VR/AR forum - I like that that currently has a specific home, and I think a couple of the interesting discussions have been just because their was a specific forum; it's pretty quiet though!

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Re: Tagging

These would not be free-form tags. These would be pre-defined tags that can be selected when posting. Members can request new tags, but they cannot add new tags when submitting a post. Worst case scenario is someone forgets to select a tag, but the content will still fit because of the general categories. Moderators can always add a tag if needed. Same applies to prefixes.

I'm not a fan of free-form tags, really believe they are one of the worst content organization tools, and our database is a great example of how terrible of an idea they are for communities: we have nearly 100 variations of the tag "Android" due to misspelling, capitalization, and other weird differences across member inputs. These things can be managed, but tag moderation is a burden. Free-form also makes it nearly impossible to offer improved filtering and content categorization because of these variations.

For Beginners will stick around. I didn't intend to exclude it.

Things like Mobile, VR, and AR are very special case. Each of these have platform-specific topics that may span multiple disciplines, but 90% of it is common to other platforms. Perhaps a solution is to create a Platforms category with Mobile, VR, and AR subforums. I'm concerned about low traffic though.

Another idea is a "Special Topics" category for the topics that have enough of an audience that they warrant their own forum but don't necessarily fit into another category.

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With both the Audio and Visual Arts topics having only a single forum listed in each, maybe merge them as "Audio and Visual Arts" or something?

Would perhaps a "Code Review" type forum be of interest? That is, a designated place for people to post code just for the purpose of having it peer reviewed.

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With both the Audio and Visual Arts topics having only a single forum listed in each, maybe merge them as "Audio and Visual Arts" or something?

Would perhaps a "Code Review" type forum be of interest? That is, a designated place for people to post code just for the purpose of having it peer reviewed.

 

There have been requests for us to split Visual Arts into 2D and 3D forums, so probably better to keep it split from Audio as a category. Audio can have Music and Sound FX as a forum I think.

A Code Review forum is an interesting idea..

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General Programming is really related to generalist stuff (data structures, allocator, threading, ...) while Game Programming really means stuff related to gameplay.

In practice, both forums contain mostly highly technical requests for help, which gain very little from distinguishing what sort of project gave rise to them and should be classified with tags instead, and ideas/discussions about how to do X, with X very often a general topic that is not clearly restricted to game programming or non-game programming.

I second merging the two forums into "Programming", or replacing them with "Computer Science and Software Engineering" vs. "Programming Help"

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I never felt the split between Game and General added much value. Another vote here to combine.

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A Code Review forum is an interesting idea..

After a bit more thought, maybe reviewing more than just code. E.g. "Critique/review my work" -- with tags being Code, 3D models, animations, etc.

 

Also, highlighting text here to just quote a part of the comment doesn't work :( The pop-up thing appears, but clicking "Quote" does nothing.

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I'm not sure I see value in a "code review" forum; why not simply make posts asking for code review in the appropriate forum (programming, or FB)? That is basically what we do now and I don't see any particular problem with it.

I don't think creating a dedicated forum will cause people to stop doing that and all post there, instead. That means we'll either have to play rules-lawyer, and move any post asking for code review (which may be complicated because they might not actually be asking for it, but might get it anyway, then what?), which is annoying for users and moderators both. Or we don't do that, and the forum immediately ends up being a vestigial lump.

I don't think it's worth creating.

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I am also in favor of merging general and game programming. I don't think the difference there is strong enough to warrant the cognitive friction in deciding where to post.

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General Programming is really related to generalist stuff (data structures, allocator, threading, ...) while Game Programming really means stuff related to gameplay.

 

Honestly, I thought General Programming meant anything non-game-related. In any case, do users really struggle on which forum to post in?

A Code Review Forum is not a bad idea. (ie. good == !bad) Have all those types of questions in one place. But I can also see choosing "Code Review" from the dropdown and putting the appropriate tags as well. Whichever is easier and/or intuitive for the users.

@Khawk - Will there be a forum or section for tutorials? Like in the old old (old?) forum.

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@Khawk - Will there be a forum or section for tutorials? Like in the old old (old?) forum.

Can you give me an example? We've had a few different types of tutorial forums in the past.

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@Alpheus

Oh the Interactive Tutorials? Yes, we'll have a place for that.. TBD whether it will be a forum or better.. I'll have more on that in the future.

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Regarding review forum -- I'm inclined to agree with Josh's comments. Might Alpheus' suggestion might work better, then? "Review request" or something as a selectable tag/prefix?

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Let's take a step back and look at the goals. What would be the purpose of a review forum? Could it be used for more than code? What is the desired result for people who use it, both as a developer being reviewed and as a reviewer?

I have my own assumptions, but I'm just one perspective. :) The answers to these questions may lead to other ways to implement this interaction that are better than a forum - or the answers will tell us that a forum is the best implementation.

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Warning: I am crazy (and have the papers to prove it), but... How about a more "organic" approach? Whenever I try to design anything top-down, it always ends up going wrong or being used in completely different ways than intended, anyway. Have very, very few subforums, and every now and then, let people discuss (in a forum for that purpose) what kind of new forum (singular) should be added, complete with links to the kinds of talks that they think need their own place. Not only will it help focus on needs instead of possibilities, but it will engage people and make them feel part of the process. Unless it ends in a complete Lord of the Flies, it might make for an interesting structure.

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How about a more "organic" approach? 

That's sort of the plan, at least from an organization standpoint. We have a problem now of too many forums, and our software does not have an easy way to address that.

With new software, we'll be able to add 2 layers of horizontal organization (prefixes and tags) to the vertical organization of forums and sub-forums.

Two completely non-organizational reasons we can't go full flat is because 1) we have 18 years of data to properly preserve and organize, and 2) we'd lose a lot of SEO benefits. So at some level the data needs to be organized. The goal here is to minimize the number of forums as much as possible without crossover of truly vertical topics.

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[quote name="Khawk" timestamp="1491246212"][quote name="Lactose" timestamp="1491241623"] With both the Audio and Visual Arts topics having only a single forum listed in each, maybe merge them as "Audio and Visual Arts" or something? [/quote]   There have been requests for us to split Visual Arts into 2D and 3D forums, so probably better to keep it split from Audio as a category. Audio can have Music and Sound FX as a forum I think.[/quote] Do you really need 2D and 3D as independent forums if you have tags and prefixes? I'd rather just have shader effects, textures, sprites, and 3D models as tags than try to figure out where various hacks fit (ex. billboard an effect into a 3D scene) I don't love the idea of menus with only two entries, and both audio and visual have that issue. Game design also feels light on entries, and has itself as an entry (always feels odd). But I feel like UX being there is an obvious headache waiting to happen, so assume that won't exist, leaving only the self-entry and one other.

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With both the Audio and Visual Arts topics having only a single forum listed in each, maybe merge them as "Audio and Visual Arts" or something?

 
There have been requests for us to split Visual Arts into 2D and 3D forums, so probably better to keep it split from Audio as a category. Audio can have Music and Sound FX as a forum I think.

 


Do you really need 2D and 3D as independent forums if you have tags and prefixes? I'd rather just have shader effects, textures, sprites, and 3D models as tags than try to figure out where various hacks fit (ex. billboard an effect into a 3D scene)

I don't love the idea of menus with only two entries, and both audio and visual have that issue. Game design also feels light on entries, and has itself as an entry (always feels odd). But I feel like UX being there is an obvious headache waiting to happen, so assume that won't exist, leaving only the self-entry and one other.

 

It's a valid question. 2D/3D has been requested before. It might be something we evolve into as the community grows.

Same with the others - if the content isn't there then it won't exist until (and if) it's needed.

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I'm strongly in favor of keeping the VR/AR forum separate. If you just create a "platform" forum, then you could easily argue that "PC" is a platform, "Steam" is a platform, "Console" is a platform, "XBox" is a platform, etc. The net would be cast too wide and you'd catch too many fish, and the signal to noise ratio would make it less user friendly. The VR/AR forum may be small right now and the amount of activity is somewhat low, but it's also a very new industry and it will grow over time. VR/AR needs a home, and giving it its own forum is a way to be future proofing. VR/AR is more than just another platform, it's a new medium, unlike the marginal differences between console and PC gaming. I'd keep the existing forum and revisit this in 5 years to reassess things.

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