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#1 focus more on the PROBLEMS. literally half of the screen is basically "who's online" until you have clicked inside a question. It would be much nicer to give each problem more screen real estate. This would make it easier to browse through and see which ones we can help with or would be interested to learn. Basically give each question more room both horizontally and vertically. More importantly though, let the formulas show up!
#2 Private study groups. Does this exist already? It would be super radical if you were allowed to create a study group for you and your friends. It would be nice to have a place where we could have more than one question open at a time and work together with only our questions appearing.
#3 Some sort of zen mode where we can hide the flashy chat stuff at the bottom
#1: I think that may be one of those things where not everyone can be pleased at the same time. #2: There was recently a discussion on this, and the bottom line is that moderating those groups is very difficult and time consuming. #3: This has been brought up before and I am in favor of this idea. Thanks for the suggestions!
for #2, I belong to another forum that I have been a member on for about 10 years and we have private groups allowed. The rule is if something is found against the rules, the group gets deleted. The group creator can appoint leaders to self moderate the group by deleting inappropriate posts and kicking out people who frequently do that. If it's a really bad post you can notify a site moderator about it (the moderators can see the deleted post still). The self policing works really well.
Unfortunately, there are those people that make a group for 2-4 people, and instead of using it as a study group, they use it as their own personal chatroom where they discuss a variety of topics. Many topics are not appropriate for this website. In all honesty, most users of this website come here to get help with their math/physics/chemistry/biology homework, and the goal of the website is to help them with that, and not socialization. In fact, Open Study used to have a policy where people could create their own groups. This led to a very slow site, and too many inappropriate activities in these private groups.
hmm that's a shame. To be honest with you, it seems that this is what is happening to the chat function. If this is not going to change then I have another idea as the site grows. I know that when any forum gets large, it's effectiveness for prolonged discussion decreases because the threads move down the page much to quickly. This is kind of a balance because if you make to many categories then people will not look at all of them and topics will go unnoticed. Just for me, when I click on "math" I see mostly highschool and freshman calculus. Of course it is advantageous to have all this in one place, since people who are taking advanced calculus will be able to help those people. It really does suck though when you are trying to study more advanced material. I think a cool solution would be to have subcategories if that makes any sense. So if you clicked "math" you would still come to a page where you can see all math questions in one list. But then if you wanted to study for example differential equations you could filter it so that only the DE questions would appear. This is not so bad in math but is REALLY needed in physics. Like there should be a page for intro physics but then also a page for thermodynamics, electricity, quantum physics etc... In short I mean I could be like "I want to study physics", so I click physics, then I could scroll through and see all the physics questions, but then I could click a "filter" button and choose "quantum mechanics" and then all the other ones would go away. I think this would help everyone especially because we can only see the first few lines of a question. So if someone is studying high school chemistry and sees a question about an "ideal gas" they could click on it and get really confused because it's actually from a third year thermodynamics course. If the question had a label with "advanced thermodynamics" or something, they would not have to bother clicking it. It would just give us a better idea the questions difficulty.
That's another great idea that's been mentioned before, and I think it is possible to implement this policy in a way so that it's beneficial to the website.
We're cooking up some stuff that will probably help with categorization. It's still in the ideation stage though, so it's probably several weeks out minimum. It will probably come with a fairly radical rethinking of the site layout, as well. Lastly, there's definitely space for chat hiding. We've been thinking about the best way to implement that. You say to focus more on the problems. There are plenty of sites that focus on questions (Yahoo! Answers) or problems (math.stackexchange). The fact that there is a stronger focus on people as well as content is one of the things that has always distinguished OpenStudy. You're not just studying knowledge, you are studying it with others. We consider this a core part of the studying experience here. Studying can not only be interesting, it can be fun and social. There just has to be a place that realizes those are all possible together.
Oh I completely agree that the focus on people and teamwork is one of the best reasons why this website is going to be very successful. With cramster gone, this is by far the best studying website on the internet. I was never suggesting that you should try and make this site more like yahoo answers! What I mean is that when you open a subject there is literally more space dedicated to the online users than the questions, and really there is not enough space for. It just seems like a big waste of space. I mean facebook is literally built to interact/socialize with other people and on that website I can see who is online in much smaller and more effective list. I just think that list could be shrunken to at least half the size without negatively affecting anything (actually probably would make it easier to see who is online) and that space could be used to give much bigger previews of the questions. Maybe this is just a hard problem to figure out because right now the friends list is the same width as the question area and it might be hard to figure out how to make the width of the columns change in a natural way when you go into the questions. Actually the more I think about it I realize how hard it would be to plan a good layout! So I guess at this point I am pretty much complaining with no good suggestions!
I WILL IMPLEMENT CHAT HIDING IF WE CAN ACTUALLY CALL THE FEATURE ZEN MODE. o.o That is all.
On a more serious note, there a handful of things that we need to do that are relatively low-impact, like chat hiding. There are a handful of moderator tools that need some improvement. I think that a hack night should happen at the OpenStudy offices sometime in the near future. Of course, that would be after we finish the olympic sprint to iron out all the details in this server upgrade we've been working on this week. :)
Believe me, you don't want to stay in the office very long after the AC turns off around 7 :p richyw—it's definitely a tough problem. We've experimented with some solutions on the profile page, but right now we're actually pretty satisfied with the split. The narrower space for the questions tends to be a boon rather than a disadvantage, as it's easier to read text when lines are not very long, and the space in the right pane helps lines stay relatively short. Also keep in mind that our motivation behind the current design was essentially to emphasize the real-time nature of the site: a view of what everyone is doing right now and a view of questions coming in in real time are intentionally the two central elements. I do get wanting a bit more space for the content, but except for drawings I actually think we're at a pretty ideal width here on the right. Regardless, we'll shop your idea around the office and see if anyone agrees and what ideas we might come up with related to it. Thanks for the feedback!