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Finally a decent analysis of everything that's wrong with threaded discussion systems. For anyone planning on creating one of these, one suggestion: Slashdot is the ultimate antipattern for usable discussion systems. Without NoScript and an ability to switch back to their original non-Javascripty format, it's quite possibly the most excruciatingly painful way of presenting a discussion that I've ever encountered. So when you build a new system, take a look at what Slashdot does and then make sure you never do anything like that.
Toggle Commented Dec 14, 2012 on Web Discussions: Flat by Design at Coding Horror
@Keppla: >do you have any suggestions on how to improve the exeprience? Sure. To fix it, you need to look at what the intent of all these hurdles are. I'd say with about 99.9% probability it's to prevent blog spam. Unfortunately the way it's implemented it's also going to exclude most users who aren't hardcore geeks from making any comments. The way to make it relatively painless is to do what most other sites do to counter blog spam, use a captcha (Recaptcha is nice), or simple heuristics to whitelist most posters (MSDN does this, they use some sort of Javascript probing to determine whether you're a human posting from a web browser or a roboposter, roboposters by their very nature can't perform enough browser emulation to circumvent any but the simplest checks). By all means keep the existing stuff, but at least don't lock out anyone who isn't capable of, or prepared to, jump the proxied-auth hurdles. As a general response to authentication, is hard to beat.
@Keppla: >It seems you have a slight missconception what openid is. >There is no one definitve provider you have to navigate through. And this is a major part of the problem. Unless you know in advance that exists (which I didn't until about 30 seconds ago, thanks for the info!), you end up having to Google for a provider and trying a whole string of them to find one that actually lets you do what you want. Another part of the problem is that unless you know exactly how OpenID works and what to expect, you're in for a truly hellish experience as you try and guess, from a bunch of incomplete, erroneous, and often simply absent, documentation, what it is you're supposed to be doing. I treated it as a learning exercise and was really trying to make it work, but the closest analogy I have to the resulting experience was that of bringing up an X.25 link in the 1990s. In other words it was one of the most painful IT experiences I've ever had, and if I hadn't been consciously treating it as a learning exercise I'd have given up long before I managed to post about it here. I wonder how many other users have simply given up when faced with the effort required to post a message here, and to other sites that use proxied sign-on mechanisms?
Rant: To post the above comment, I had to sign in using TypePad. I don't have a TypePad account, so I tried to register one. Clicking past the commercial accounts that they desperately want to sell you, I got to the free-account registration page. To sign up for that you need a Facebook account. I don't have a Facebook account, and never will. Another option is OpenID, but I don't have an OpenID account and the last time I tried to navigate through that kafkaesque nightmare it took me two hours. OK, so I'll try Wordpress, where I maintain a throwaway account for sites that make me jump through these third-party sign-on hoops. Oh, that's been suspended without explanation, and the procedure for getting it reset is opaque to say the least. OK, I'll sign up for a new Wordpress account. Except that I can't because my email address is already associated with my previous suspended account. OK, so I'll add a "+blah" modifier to my email address and try signing up again. Except that the mail system here doesn't know about that and bounces the confirmation email. So I'll sign up for a throwaway Gmail account and use that to get the for Wordpress, because I know Gmail handles the "+whatever" correctly. Using my new Gmail account I can sign up for the Wordpress account that I need to post a comment to Coding Horror. When I try that, I get a terse one-line error message "You do not own that identity". YOU'VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME! I'm now about half an hour into trying to post a message to Coding Horror, and the "Horror" part of the name is really starting to sink in. What else can I try here? How about Livejournal? Finally, after more dicking around with email confirmation and captchas and whatnot, I can post a comment. Jeff, ever considered doing a post about the utter, total braindamage and suckage of proxied authentication systems? There's no way that any non-geek user could (or would have the OCD) to get past something like this.
@Dave Reid: That's what I found as well when looking at Tomato distros a while back, it's reasonably decent stuff but all of it seems to be abandonware or near-abandonware, lots of updates until a certain point and then nothing apart from plaintive queries from users for solutions for problems they're having. There are actually some vendors out there who are pretty good with updating firmware. At one end of the scale is Linksys (a.k.a.Cisco), whose firmware is a legacy product the minute the hardware ships, and at the other end are the likes of Draytek, who actively update their firmware for years and years, and who have a high-quality product (unfortunately you also pay a bit of a premium for it).
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Jun 18, 2012