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Making The Sift more user friendly

I think the Sift needs to be a lot more user friendly, and have more documentation and help files. It is very difficult to find your way through the Sift - you have to browse the sift for quite a while and try to absorb how things are done - it is very confusing for a new user, and we do want more new users in here.

Here I list several points where I think the Sift could do with a bit of improvement, as well as suggestions as to how that could be done. Please chime in with your own solutions to the various issues, even if you should think my points and suggestions are way off target.


What To Post
The Sift needs a What To Post page - a separate page or a longer intro to the FAQ. A page that states what to post in more detail than the short "Members submit videos from the best video hosts from around the Net to be voted on by other Sifters with only the best being "sifted" up to the front page." in the FAQ.
I'd love to get a better, more inviting explanation, like:
Have you seen a really funny, surprising, scary, interesting, cute or in any other way extra good quality video? Post and share it here - Videosift is the best video aggregator on the Web, where we share, discuss, promote and interact with the best videos out there on the web. Post it here, and share it with the large community of Video-interested users. And - you are guaranteed to find more very good videos here already!
(Mind you - we only share videos others have made - if you "self link", by posting a video you have made, have posted or have interests in, you risk the ban hammer - read the posting guidelines before posting. The sift is NOT for promoting your own videos - it is for sharing videos others have made.)

..Or something. A more inviting, including, text, that entices you to get in here and post. And, of course, that repeats the self-link caveat.


What The Sift Is and How Do I Use It
We then need a follow up where the FAQ (or a separate page) should have a good list of what there to do on the Sift - about the various chat, talk and features of the Sift. Explaining What the Sift is The Sift seems to think that users should just have grok what this is all about - it would be nice to get a better explanation. The Sift Lounge, the Sift Talk forum, the Top Fifteen list, the Beggar's Canyon, etc. Not only what they are, but what they are for.
There should be better explanations as to how you use and browse Videosift - not only that "you can click to sort by hotness or newness, and you can click the channels", but more explanatory, like use cases:
Try clicking on the various channels to see videos posted to that channel - if you're into music you can click the Music channel to get more music sifts - go on and explore! Use the "hotness" when you have opened the channel link to get videos that have gotten a lot of votes, or use "newness" to have a look at the new sifts.
When browsing sifts you like, have a look at the Related Posts list to see other related videos, click the tags under the video title to see more sifts tagged with the same tags or have a look at other sifts from the same user in the More Posts By list. If the sifted video is in a play list, have a look at the play list to see other interesting videos the Sift users have linked together.
Enter the Sift Lounge to chat with online sifters about anything and everything, or read interesting posts in the Sift Talk forum.
The top fifteen list is always full of interesting, current videos (accessible from the front page), while the top fifteen list in each channel shows a top fifteen list interesting videos relevant to that channel. Having a look through the top fifteen list is always recommended, but also have a look at these:
Unsifted upcoming videos - submitted videos that neither yet are sifted to the front page nor moved to the sifter's personal queue.
Beggar's Canyon - videos where the submitter begs for a bit more attention - have a look at them!
..And the other sortings under the "Videos" menu item.


..et cetera. Do add your own tips!


How Do I Post
But - what the Sift needs the most (at least in this humble sifter's opinion) is a How Do I Post page. A simple, user friendly page that tells you how to post from various sites (at least the most important ones), and how to fill out the various fields. This could (and very well should) be the main posting page, but there should be help texts for all the input fields, telling you how to fill them out.

There should also be some hints as to how to search for existing dupes, to enter and validate the embed, to search using the search field, try searching for keywords related to the sift etc.

The main posting page could show help text like:
Video Embed Code: Here you post the embed link to the video you need to sift. For some popular sites, like Vimeo, YouTube (..) just the link to the video is enough, but for the others you need the embed HTML, like (..). Here there should be a bit technical text as to how to format the HTML - either shown in-line or a link to a separate page

Video Title: Use a short, nice title - could be the video title or another snappy, interesting description.

Tags: Enter metatags for the video. This helps other sifters to find other relevant videos with the same tags - for example add the actor names name for a movie clip, add names of persons or companies involved, band names for music or other descriptive text that might help you find similar videos.

Thumbnail: Short description as to how to locate a thumbnail and the size for uploaded files.

Summary: Write a short summary of the video, it could be an enticing text to read before deciding to watch the video, a context of the video or other relevant text. Be sure to mention the source of any quoted text - if you post text you found somewhere - mention where you found the text.

Channels: This is place where there is a big room for improvement in usability. The channels should all have a short description as to what should (and for many channels also what should not) be posted in the channel, and that text should be mouseover on the channels in the list. For example, the "Woohoo" channel should have a text "For The Simpsons, Futurama and similar cartoons - not for videos that make you go 'Woohoo'.", the "Kids" channel should have "This is a channel for videos FOR kids, not necessarily for videos just ABOUT kids.", "Music" should have "Music-related" and similar.
There could also be a link to the channels themselves, opening in a new window, so that you easily can get to the channel in question and read more about it. Or - something to click to show the entire channel description.



Star Powers and Sift Concepts more detailed
The various star powers should have more detailed explanation - more readable and with examples as to how to, when to and when not to use them.
The Star Powers page needs a cleanup - the footnotes are just confusing (and footnote 5 is wrong and should be deleted). Powers costing star points should have the cost written next to them.

There should be a better dictionary/FAQ of Sift Concepts and what they mean - discarded, sifted, killed, dupe, top 15, star point, star rating etc. On various pages there should be many links to the FAQ/Dictionary to explain the terms in more detail. What exactly is the difference between killed and discarded, what happens when you use promote vs quality etc.

There should be an extra list of invocations any members can perform on their own posts:
Invocations any member can perform on their own posts:
- *kill - kill and thus permanently discard your own video (For example, the words "kill" and "discard" in this sentence should link to the definitions of kill and discard in the dictionary/FAQ) - the video can no longer be sifted or brought back to any queue.
- *beg [1 PP] - send one of your own personal queued videos to Beggar's Canyon - use this to get some more attention for your own videos.
- *notdead - reset your own functional video accidentally flagged dead
- *promote [costs 2 PP when used on your own videos] - use *promote (either link to the dictionary or the text like "see Gold-100 below") on a post of your own. You need to earn or buy extra power points to be able to perform this action, unless you are a charter member, as the normal maximum is 1 Power Point per user.
- *discard - discard your own post - use if you do not longer want to sift the post.
- *dupeof=http://... - register your own video as a duplicate of another earlier video - will discard your post and add your post as a backup to the other post.

..And thus we can get rid of the footnotes and get a more explanatory text, like:
** Gold Star Member (100 Stars)
- All abilities of Silver Star
(..)
*promote [1 PP for other sifts] - float a post at the top of the corresponding listing; renew queue time for pqueued/discarded videos (with links to the Dictionary/FAQ for "pqueued" and "discarded", and a short text as to when to use *promote:) - use this to get much more attention for the video for the next hours/day/correct timespan.


And - I think that's enough usability ranting from me today. What do you other sifters think?

Intermittent JavaScript Problems

One of the things that's been very bothersome on the Sift since our move to the Varo CMS platform has been the "JavaScript lag" that delays your interaction with the page for a few seconds after you already see everything waiting for you to touch it.

The sole blame for this lies with SiftBot. I'm just kidding Sifty! Please don't strike me down with great vengeance and furious anger or lay your vengeance upon me!
In reality, it's the result of terribly poor design on my part. I've already started making some changes that will seriously speed up (and hopefully get rid of it altogether) that lag.

The fixes are coming in stages. While a new change is being implemented there might be a thing or two that seems not to work on the page. Not to worry. If you simply do a hard reload (hold ctrl+shift and reload) you should be on your way in a matter of minutes.

So you can see how great it's going to be, do a hard reload now, view the front page, and notice that all the video thumbnail "show video" links appear immediately. (Before this fix, they would only appear after the load delay.)

Sift Was Hacked

Apologies for the downtime. We were hacked this weekend and wanted to make sure we got all of the malicious code out. I will be posting some updates as I learn more about the exploit, and will hopefully get you guys some information about how to patch your machines.


For those who are curious the exploit in question was mpack.


It's also worth noting that this exploit only targeted users with unpatched machines so as always it is prudent to keep your machine up to date.


Update: After some reviews of our logs and data we tracked the incident to approximately 6:30 pm EST Monday night. We took the site off line around 10 am EST so the exploit was live for around 16 hours. We've contacted the abuse email for the IP in question, but chances are that it was just a compromised PC. I'd like to personally apologize for this lapse in security, and let you guys know that we are taking measures to reduce our liability in the future.


Welcome to VideoSift 3.0

This is the brand new VideoSift platform. There are so many new goodies that I'm not sure where to start. -but let's begin with the wide angle.

VideoSift has migrated off of the honorable open source Pligg Content Management System. We're now on a completely new platform, built from scratch to be just for VideoSift. The software was wrought completely from the blood and guts of our resident code ninja, Rommel (Lucky) Santor - and it's called VaroCMS. (Ask Lucky about the name).

We're also on a brand new server. Without going into too much detail, I want to mention that the whole platform is built for performance. We've removed almost all images from the layout, and static content like thumbnails, scripts and style sheets are stored on a Content Delivery Network (CDN). So no matter where you are in the world, you'll be downloading the heavy stuff quickly from a server near you.

We've also replaced the video listings with thumbnails instead of the actual embeds. This helps us in a couple of ways. It whacks off about 400K from a front-page load (10 embeds). It also lets you close a video window and move on to the next one. If you are a regular Sifter, you know what I'm talking about: You're watching something- get bored and move to the next video down, but the previous video is still downloading, even though you don't want it to. That's fixed.

Finally, comment threads now expand dynamically under video posts- so you can check out the discussion without having to interrupt a playing video.

Channels

Member created Collectives have been merged with Channels. If you were a Collective Manager, you are now a Channel Manager.

Channels have been made into real sub-communities with individual "Talk" areas and queues.

We're sorry that we were not able to migrate your Collective CSS styles to the new VideoSift - but- now channel managers can change almost everything about a channel's UI. Go crazy.

Comments

I mentioned that comments expand under video posts. The other big change is the "applaud" system for comments. Five applauds of a great comment gives the commenter a star point. Alternatively, five "inappropriate" votes will make the comment disappear from view.

I know there's some trepidation about this feature in our community - but I think it will be a change for the good. I expect it will be used much more to reward all of the time people put into crafting good comments around here. We don't want the "inappropriate" button to be used for vendettas, grudges or even when you disagree with a comment. It's really for the gross stuff - use your judgement and err on the side leniency.

The recent comments page also now tracks comments in other places like profiles, Channel Talks and Playlists.

Invocations

This is my favorite feature on VideoSift- because it grew organically out of the community. I love how Sifters work invocations into comments to make a kind of meta speech. Now, videos can be assigned to channels by invoking the short title (sub-domain) of the channel. *WTF, this is going to fun, *woohoo, lets *rocknroll.

There are also a lot more admin invocations that are available depending on your star level. The complete list is here.

The Dead Pool

Bronze Stars and above have access to a special area called "The Dead Pool" It's more of a hospital really, but the name stuck. When a video is marked *dead, the original poster is notified by email, and they have 48 hours to find an alternate source for the embed. If it's not fixed in that time, it goes to the The Dead Pool.

In the Dead Pool, the video code can be swapped out by any privileged Sifter and returned to the live site. The fixer receives a star point for fixing the video, but the original poster keeps ownership of the video.

Thanks

Thanks go first to the man of the hour. Lucky's had very little sleep, so be nice to him. Every line of code from VideoSift 3.0 has sprung fully formed from his forehead - and that takes a lot out of someone. I don't know how we got a coder of L's calibre working for VideoSift, but we appreciate him greatly.

Thanks next to the alpha and beta testers who ran the code through its paces. That was invaluable, and shines a nice light on what the shared brainpower of a community can do.

Lastly, thanks go to Ricardo Galli, and Pligg, the creators of the CMS that we are leaving. In my un-media-savvy attempt at getting some publicity for VideoSift 3.0, I did some damage to Pligg that I didn't intend. I regret that. We are very grateful for having a platform like Pligg for the last 18 months.

Should Main Sift Talk Posts be VideoSift Related Content?

  (24 votes)
  (18 votes)

A total of 42 votes have been cast on this poll.


In the sidebar it says "Sift Talk is a discussion area for our members. Feel free to post and respond to issues about VideoSift, our community, or online videos in the news." In the past, we have moved discussions that don't meet this criteria to appropriate channel talks. This takes a bit of policing and can cause some butt hurting.

5 Things You Hate About Videosift

Inspired by Jeff's recent post, I thought we should include the flip side. Here's the 5 things I hate most about Videosift (again, in no particular order):

1. popularity trumping quality
2. software bugs (as rare as they are)
3. mob rule
4. the lapse of intelligent commentary
5. sifting while drunk

Step up and air your grievances! Nah, actually maybe we can figure out the things that annoy the hell out of everyone and fix them.

[edit] See my comment in the other post for reference if some of those items see out of line.

Siftquisition of feature Siftquisition

  (36 votes)
  (27 votes)
  (18 votes)

A total of 81 votes have been cast on this poll.


The Siftquisition has been a featured part of our community for some time now, and I believe it is time to throw it out in the cold again. I am tired of having the "Call Siftquisition" link glaring in my face every time I visit Sift Talk. It goes contrary to what my experience of this community is, as mostly harmonic and loving, and I believe just having the option there makes us a colder and harder society.

That was my personal reasons for wanting it gone. Here are some more pragmatic:

The Siftquisition is essentially a feature bloat. I don't see why we need two different polling features. The same purpose could easily be served by shackling (I refuse to call it hobbiting) the alleged offender and starting a regular poll. This would also remove the dubious fact that Siftbot carries out the sentence. I am of the conviction that banning is such a serious business that it should require a final human intervention by an admin, and not be carried out automatically. Otherwise it is a feature that just screams out for abuse. Abuse may not be a big issue in our still quite transparent community, but you never know how it might look a year of five from now.

I understand the admins' reasons for handing some responsibility over to the community, but this is a case where a benevolent dictatorship is desperately needed, IMHO. If it makes you feel better, think of it as a ceremonious role to carry out the sentence decided by the community in a poll. The admins will then also be a final floodbarrier against abuse. If you are afraid of the workload, you might consider giving a small number of members (crowns?) the ability to act as final arbiters.

Final thought:
The FAQ says: "The Siftquisition has been an informal part of VideoSift almost since its inception. The Siftquisition feature formalizes this cultural ceremony into an important aspect of administering our community."

There are a lot of unwritten traditions that are just as embedded in VideoSift as the Siftquisition, but that haven't been given their own feature. It is my opinion that some cultural baggage is more worthy of chiseling in stone than other, and the Siftquisition is not one of them.

Private chat in the sift lounge?

  (9 votes)
  (19 votes)

A total of 28 votes have been cast on this poll.


Talking in the Sift Lounge is great, I like to frequent there when I can. But when there are 9 of us it get's crowded as all get out. "When everything is amplified, we hear nothing," John Stewart...

So why not allow members to post messages that only appear for one member at a time? This would stop the, "I want to continue a specific conversation with a member...and I want to stay on Sift Chat. But, I can't do it without interrupting everyone can I?"

If anyone has ever played Evony--you know what I am talking about. You just put in their names (Or right-click them) with certain symbols (I suck at computer lingo) and it sends the message to that one person.


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