posted by Adam S on Wed 6th Jul 2005 06:30 UTC
IconToday, after several weeks of testing, we are pleased to present OSNews version 3.0. This document will serve as the definitive guide to using the new site, detailing the new features and perks.

OSNews version 3 has a lot of new features (and the occasional easter egg) aimed at making reading OSNews a more fun and pleasurable experience by improving the signal to noise ratio. While the experience may change, one thing has most certainly not: the commitment to full cross-platform compatibility. We've done our best to test everywhere possible, but for the first few weeks, we may still find rendering bugs on obscure browsers or operating systems, so please stick with us while we sort them out, and don't hesitate to report any rendering bugs you may encounter.

We've been asked several times through the beta why we didn't implement existing solutions (such as Slash, phpNuke, or Scoop) and/or why our site isn't written in XHTML/CSS. The answer is simple - our code is VERY carefully written to work in all browsers, regardless of the quality of their HTML parsers. Our site works nearly everywhere without bias, and many (maybe even *most*) older or more obscure browsers do not "gracefully degrade" XHTML + CSS. This applies to why we have a print-friendly link rather than a print media style in our CSS.

User Accounts
First off, you'll notice a login box on the left hand side of the page. Below it is a link to register for an account with OSNews. We will not use your information for anything other than this account, and we may send the occasional announcement your way (if so permitted) about site maintenance or new features. When you activate your account, you'll want to visit your preferences page and enter your user info.

It's important to note that it's still possible to use this site and have a complete experience as an anonymous user without ever registering. In fact, at this time, mobile users are restricted to anonymous use. Nevertheless, it's important to note that user accounts have the ability to ignore all anonymous comments, so if you fail to register, the likelihood of your comment being seen is reduced. There are many reasons to register, if only to argue with a little more credibility as you build up your reputation.

Please note that mobile and text mode browsers will only get served the site as "anonymous", you won't be able to login or create an account using these browsers because of screen limitations and/or browser limitations (some of them don't support cookies well for example).

Your comments are now linked directly to your user account, which you can find here if you are logged in. Each user account stores information about you which you can share with other users. We believe this information will help create a more trusted, cohesive community. In the future, you may be able to create ties to other accounts to more easily find your friends' comments.

In addition, each comment has a "score." The score of a comment always starts at 0, and can range from -5 to +5, depending on user votes. The better your comment, the more likely it is to be voted up.

We'll address this right now: You cannot reward or report comments from the OSNews staff. This is to prevent abuse. This is one of those situations where a small group of troublemakers has already irretrievably ruined it for everyone. Please do not grouse about it, it's not going to change. Because the ability to control content is now in the hands of the OSNews community, this should not be a problem.

Comment Votes
You'll also notice, once you login, that you've been awarded "comment votes." Comment votes serve two purposes, they let you promote particularly worthwhile comments and demote blatant trolls and/or offensive comments. This much should be clear: you should not be "reporting" posts with which you simply disagree. The "Report" vote is for inappropriate or offensive comments, not for voting down opinions that don't match your own. We have an administrative review of votes, and if we subjectively determine your votes are unfair, your votes will be either adjusted or removed altogether, and in some extreme cases, your account may be deactivated.

The normal user is granted 5 votes over the course of any 24 hour period, and you will get your votes back as the 24 hours transpire. Over any 24 hour span, you will be able to use your votes. If you use a vote, it will be replenished after 24 hours, regardless of what time of day you voted. Occasionally you may find your votes have increased, this is either because an administrator felt your comments or votes were especially high quality, or more likely because you are trusted.

Score Threshold
Because each comment has a score, you can now, in your preferences, specify a threshold for your viewing. If you like to read the entire conversation and get into the nitty gritty, you may choose to browse at a lower number, such as -2. If, however, you want just the meat of things, you may choose to browse at +3 and only see the comments that others enjoyed. In any case, be aware that the higher your threshold, the more likely it is that there wil be "gaps" in the conversation for you.

"Trust" is an invisible system which measures all sorts of your participation: the number of comments, the number of comments voted up, the number voted down, the number of comments you voted up and down, your ratings on stories, etc. By calculating this number, we can determine the "value" of an account. Trusted users may occasionally find new perks - such as additional votes or several other little tricks - available to them. Your trust is not public; the algorithm that calculates it changes periodically anyway. However, in a few months, quality participants may find new features available to them.

There are three features on the site which require javascript, none of which break the experience if disabled. When on the prefs page, a javascript will help "suggest" an obfuscated email address; when registering, some AJAX will check the availability of your username, and of course, the classic comment preview requres scripting to work properly. Planned features in future version of OSNews will optionally incorporate javascript for registered users.

Announcing... the OSNews Digest
One feature we hope to roll out shortly is the "OSNews Digest," a method by which you can signup to receive a periodic email that includes headlines and snippets from our articles so you never miss a beat. The digest will be available shortly, once we evaluate user comments and site performance regarding OSNews version 3.

One major change of the new system is that memberships are now account-based. While this does mean you must have an account to enjoy the benefit of the fast loading pages, it also means that it's tied directly to your account and not dependent on a single cookie. You won't have to remember some generic username and password combination and strange URL anymore. Your own username and password will always give you access to your members-only view. We haven't publicized the membership program very well, so if you need more information, read about it here.

Lastly, have fun!
The goal of the new system is to remove the ability of trolls and jerks to ruin the quality of the forums here at OSNews. We believe this system provides a vehicle to restore the sanity and preserve the quality. Your feedback is welcome!

Major Features:

  • 1. user account registration
  • 2. secure activation scheme
  • 3. custom user pages
  • 4. user preferences: comments per page, score threshold
  • 5. new comment system (including scores)
  • 6. submission system that recognizes user accounts
  • 7. new moderation system
  • 8. new permissions system
  • 9. "trust" system to measure account quality
  • 10. filtering system for comments by quality or by registered vs. anonymous
  • 11. "ban" admin function to ban by username or subnet for security
  • 12. story rating system
  • 13. reply system for comments
  • 14. flat thread comment view for better conversion tracking
  • 15. admin - account stastistics page
  • 16. custom timezones
  • 17. comment preview javascript now parses UBB

I want to take a second to thank the incomparable Eugenia Loli-Queru, whose attention to detail made this project a 100 hour one instead of a 20 hour one. Because of her unending bug hunts, we're convinced that this new site is compatible with virtually all browsers, functions near-perfectly on mobile devices, and is 100% backward compatible with OSNews, version 2.
I'd also like to thank the many users who contributed great feedback on the beta site, as well as the nearly 200 who completed a survey.

written by Adam Scheinberg, modified 2005-07-05

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