Let's Make Robots!

Nudging newbies in the right direction

As this site continues to grow and get more popular, the prevalence of "incorrect" postings (non-useful subject lines like "Help me", posting questions or ideas as Robots, asking questions in the shoutbox, etc) has increased to the point where more of our members are concerned about it. On the whole, the vast majority of our users seem to have a good grasp of what should go where, but it would be beneficial to everyone to nudge those few others in the right direction -- they'd be more likely to get their questions answered, other people with the same question can find the answer easier, and we don't have to wonder which of the many "help" threads just got replied to.

In a previous discussion on possible solutions, 1468 (Zanthess) made a great suggestion -- rather than restricting membership, why don't we just ask new users to complete a short, 5-10 question quiz about the site's policies and best practices before letting them join? As the idea was discussed, several users asked if that might be excessive -- forcing people to take a quiz when they join could turn away potential users who give up on what they perceive as a "snooty" site that's making them jump through hoops just to join. Those are valid points.

So we're implementing a slightly modified version (also suggested by Zanthess). We're still fine-tuning how we want to implement it, but the basic plan is that, rather than making people take the quiz when first signing up, we'll allow them to create their account and browse the site as usual. They can also post comments and replies without restriction. It's only when they first try to create a new posting, such as a forum thread or a robot, that we'll step in and say, "Hi there, we ask all new members to take this short quiz on the site's best practices before creating their first posting."

Having them review the FAQ and Best Practices at that point,  just before they make their first entry, will ensure that the information is fresh in their minds, and it'll help to cement that information by actually using it right after completing the quiz. Also, by this point they'll hopefully feel more involved and accepted by the site, so the perception will be less like, "this site I've never heard of wants ME to take a test?"

This will take two or three weeks to implement, because real-life work is hectic right now, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads-up to let you know what's on the way, and let you offer any input you have. And in the meantime, go easy on the newbies who post in the wrong place. Let's try to nudge people in the right direction, rather than shove them. Nobody trusts Shover Robots. :)

Dan

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Again, not foolproof ideas, as there will always be some way around it...

Perhaps a simple cookie on the Best Practices page. When a user submits a post the engine checks the cookie to verify they've actually read Best Practices. If not it can hold their post and redirect to Best Practices. After they've read it and click a "Yes, I agree" button, it'll submit their post. Naturally the cookie would have to have a fairly long life. This is kind of an intrusive way of doing things.

An alternative would be something requiring them to read Best Practices before being allowed to create a user account. Again, a "Yes, I agree" type of thing, similar to accepting a Terms of Service. Possibly checking for a (previously mentioned) cookie set by the Best Practices page.

I signed up some time ago and am just now getting back into things. I see the new user page is now requiring Admin approval (not a bad thing) due to spam. Have you considered implementing something like ReCaptcha to cut down on spam? Another thing that could be added is Akismet, a per-comment spam filter. I don't know a lot about Drupal, but I imagine there should be modules for both of these somewhere.

While I don't have much Drupal knowledge I've a reasonably decent grasp of PHP. As such, I too would like to offer my help, if you feel you could use it.

BTW, how much do you pay for this site, with the current bandwith and disk space, TheCowGod?

I'm currently paying $155/mo for the dedicated server that hosts LMR. I'm hosting a few other things on the same server like my own smaller site, but LMR is definitely the large majority of the bandwidth consumed. I haven't gotten my web server log analyzing software running on this server yet, so I don't have hard numbers on GB/month for LMR, but the web server log file for the letsmakerobots.com domain is about 2 GB/month, so it's a good bit of traffic :)

Dan

Are you paying $155 per month (that you could have spent on robot parts)? and in addition you're doing all the webmaster duties as well (time that could have been spent building robots)??

OMG, I feel bad now.

Can I help out in any way?

Hehe, yeah, it is sort of ironic that I spend so much of my free time working on stuff like LMR that I have little time left to make actual robots :) I guess LMR is my big ethereal robot, and rather than soldering up circuit boards for it, I develop code. So don't feel bad -- by contributing to the site, you're helping me build my robot :) You are an end effector.

Thanks for the offer of help. I believe we're doing alright for now, but I'll let you know if we need anything. And of course any of the other admins can feel free to say so if they've got something they think you can help with :)

Dan

heheh.

Beautiful analogy Dan. End effectors... Assistant builders... Which are we now? Both? Very metafysical! Thank you for this mystical experience in my web browser every day.

When will LMR get a decent robot page? (Don't forget video!) Or would that be in violation of best practises?

As a seperate issue on the same subject, when I looked through FAQ recently, there was a question about plenty of pictures and the suggestion of using an online photo album.

Over time I have posted a lot of pictures and diagrams, especially with my walkthroughs which often do need a lot of pictures to explain everything. Occasionally I've even uploaded larger images linked to a small image when detail is required.

Is this a problem? Do I need to create an external account?

I do compress my images to some degree while trying not to loose to much detail but is it enough? I usually try and make a 500x500 image take less than 100Kb and a large detailed image less than 1Mb

If this is an issue then perhaps we need some guidelines in this area.

For the moment, the server has plenty of disk space and bandwidth, so there's currently no file size limit. Obviously, don't use LMR as your dumping ground to host all the big files you want to link to from other sites etc, but if it's a photo or file you're including in a posting, feel free. The file sizes you described are just fine. With that said, of course, the more large files you can host elsewhere, the better -- Flickr and Photobucket have a lot more bandwidth than I do :)

Dan

Odd, I really hope there isn't a limit on pics, your posts have some of the greatest detail that really adds clarity to what you're trying to explain. I've seen web guidelines that talk about having 50k image size, but that may have been more in dial up days, though some may still have limited access. I guess if you had to, Flickr seems to be used some, but I don't know if people use it as simply a photo album, or if pics can be embedded from there.

It's a good idea but we need to improve things like best practices and FAQ's first. I commented to one newbie that he should not include a spam link in his post but when I re-read best practices & FAQ I could not find any mention of spamming /advertising because it was only mentioned in the instructions for posting a forum.

We need to get all our requirements / request into one easy to find location. If it took me a bit of search to find this information which I knew was there somewhere then how can I expect a newbie to find and read it?