AuthorTopic: Pixelation 2.0  (Read 2659 times)

Offline Indigo

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Pixelation 2.0

on: August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm
In the Community Updates thread, I mentioned that we've been considering new software for Pixelation.  We heavily investigated a few options, some of which were quite a radical departure from a forum in terms of format, including Mastodon.  After great feedback and further reflection, it's clear the current format is largely working for us and instead of looking to radically change it, we should look for ways to refine it - codifying some of the ways we operate into built-in features,  removing a bunch of things that aren't necessary for us, and perhaps adding a few new features that would embrace what pixelation is.  Unfortunately, there is no great out-of-the-box software that suits our needs, so I've decided to start writing something from scratch.  This is no small task, and there's currently no timeline for how long it will take, but I think it will be worth it in the end. In the meanwhile, I figured I'd start this discussion so you can help shape what it becomes.

Here's the design philosophy we've been working towards:
  • Minimal Friction
    In addition to making pixelation a better place for current users, we also want to be drawing in new artists. This means we should reduce the friction and anxiety by joining a new community.  It should be easy to register, and easy to jump in and participate.
  • Easy Sharing
    It should be easy to share content on pixelation on social media with built-in share options to help draw in new users.
  • Immediate Content
    We are a community about art, yet it takes several clicks to even see any - diving in an out of threads to find what's interesting to you. We can do better. It should take zero clicks before you start seeing content.  Not only does this simplify things a lot, it also makes it a much more exciting website to browse for new visitors.
  • Mobile Friendly
    Today's modern era is mobile.  Browsing on mobile should be as pleasant as browsing on a PC
  • Long-Form Posting
    The ability to write long, rich-text, posts have been a staple of what makes pixelation valuable as a platform for knowledge and critique.  We plan to keep it that way.  No character limits, full BBCode (or equivalent) support.
  • First-Class Images
    This is where traditional forum software fails us. Images should be a first-class feature of the forum, providing thumbnails, gallery views, and featured banners all automatically.
  • Searchability
    Pixelation has always been a great repository for knowledge, and it should be easy to search for that content.  Tags have been working well for us and will be built in as well as easy linking to a pixel-wiki for common principles.
  • User Appreciation
    Part of finding good content will be aided by a Karma system.  Users will be able to like posts/replies that showcase good feedback, information, etc.  This should also encourage better quality critique.  Featuring a thread will be a built-in feature as well.  Moderators will be able to mark a thread as featured just as easily as stickying a thread.  Featured threads will automatically be shown in the forum's banner on the front page, and you can sort threads by featured to get a quick overview of notable content.
  • Moderation Tools
    We should keep good tools to moderate content to keep the quality high and not devolve into an off-topic mess
  • Personalized Content
    You should be able to follow the content you care about to keep up with new updates.  The home view will be a feed of content that you specifically follow.  You can follow threads, or specific users to see all their posts (follower/followed stats will not be surfaced).
    In addition to the public boards, each user will also have a private "portfolio" board that only they can post to (but others can reply).  This would be an extension of a user profile and is where you'd post finished works to act as a gallery/portfolio, or where you can post things like sketch journals or dev-logs - basically anything that doesn't need to be broadcast to the forum at large.  When you follow a user, you also see this content.
    You can decide how to view the forum content; as a feed of latest posts, traditional thread listings, or as a thumbnail gallery.  Clicking on each of these will take you directly to a traditional thread with linear-comments just like you're used to.
    There will also be 3 color themes available; light, dark, and classic pixelation purple
  • Collaboration Tools
    Stretch goal: a lightweight image editor for quick critique without ever needed to leave the site.  Quickly make red-lines or color adjustments in your reply post
  • Extensibility
    Stretch goal: A platform for apps that are sandboxed to a thread.  This would be used for internal activities.  Much like writing a chatbot for something like discord, users can interact with the app through posting a comment.  A great example for this would be the Hexquisite collab - imagine a built-in thread app for this activity, where claiming and submitting tiles is done automatically

With all that said, I welcome any feedback and ideas.  Here is a non-functional prototype design to get a feel for what we've been working on:

Demo: https://artboard.netlify.com/

Screenshot (click to view full size):
« Last Edit: August 27, 2018, 09:21:26 pm by Indigo »

Offline eishiya

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #1 on: August 28, 2018, 01:44:19 am
The design philosophy sounds great. Of course, the hard part is implementing it D:

The demo looks nice, but there's one bit I don't like: the Twitter-esque side bar. It makes the page feel cramped. I also dislike the numbers focus is creates, those things should not be at the forefront. I think that stuff should be available by clicking on one's avatar in the top navbar.
I realize it also doubles as the forum/section list, but I don't think that belongs there either. I like having the list easily available, but I don't think it should be in a sidebar. Maybe it should instead be something like a tab bar where the home/notifications/messages links currently are? The home link should be at the top next to the logo, and the notifications, messages, and "my portfolio" could be next to the small avatar at the top. The last remaining item, "New Post", should be in the nav bar (the forum list and search bar). All of the bars can turn into dropdowns on smaller screens.

Things I particularly like:
The three different views, they're all nice for different moods.
Non-animated Pixelation logo. I have the current one ad-blocked because the animation is distracting. A vector logo for Pixelation is rather ironic, though :'D
Sidebar aside, it's rather clutter-free, there's very little redundant information.
The portfolio idea. Whatever it is exactly, it sounds neat!

Questions:
How are the images representing each thread going to be chosen? Is it the latest image, or the first? Does the user get to choose? Are 3rd party embeds going to be used, or will the feature be limited to attachments?
Will there be any incentive to use the karma system

Feature requests:
It would be nice for threads in the thread list (at least in the critique sections) to include the date of the latest reply by the OP right up front. I'd say that's more important than when the thread started, even.
Discourse has a feature where it'll automatically copy embedded offsite images to the server, so that old threads don't get broken if the offsite images are deleted. I'd love to have that for Pixelation. So many of the old threads have broken images ):
It would be nice if attached images were treated the same as offsite images in terms of being placeable anywhere within the post. Discourse also has this, I think.
Attachments by copy+pasting image data straight into the post would be lovely <3 Imgur lets you do that, but it'd be great to bypass using imgur entirely.
[IMG] tags that either parse or at least detect incorrect Imgur URLs and get the correct URL automatically, or at least warn the user that they're trying to embed a non-image.
A less Javascript-heavy basic UI than the demo. JS is necessary for things like the magic embeds I requested here, but I'd like to see JS used only where it's necessary, like the current version. Navigating the site, making posts, etc should not require JS to be enabled.

Not really a feature request, but an idea of sorts: How about implementing ActivityPub? It would make Pixelation posts more easily shareable on Mastodon and other ActivityPub-using services, without requiring Pixelation to actually be based on any of those services. I'd love to be able to follow e.g. @Indigo@pixelation.org on Mastodon and gets updates whenever you post :]

Offline 0xDB

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #2 on: August 28, 2018, 11:33:11 am
Just brainstorming some thoughts here...
  • Minimal Friction
    In addition to making pixelation a better place for current users, we also want to be drawing in new artists. This means we should reduce the friction and anxiety by joining a new community.  It should be easy to register, and easy to jump in and participate.
Suggestion to support sign in with twitter (and/or google+/etc.): https://developer.twitter.com/en/docs/twitter-for-websites/log-in-with-twitter/login-in-with-twitter .

  • Easy Sharing
    It should be easy to share content on pixelation on social media with built-in share options to help draw in new users.
Tweet buttons next to images would be nice for that but they should not just tweet the image but rather link to the post they're in.

  • Immediate Content
    We are a community about art, yet it takes several clicks to even see any - diving in an out of threads to find what's interesting to you. We can do better. It should take zero clicks before you start seeing content.  Not only does this simplify things a lot, it also makes it a much more exciting website to browse for new visitors.
For the lowpoly 3D section it would also be nice to have an embedded model viewer so that users don't need to upload huge GIF files. That is of course only if lowpoly is still wanted on the new platform and not getting axed in favor of focusing only on 2D pixel art.

  • Mobile Friendly
    Today's modern era is mobile.  Browsing on mobile should be as pleasant as browsing on a PC
For that purpose please don't forget to add zoom in and out buttons next to images which scale by nearest-neighbor filtering (aka "crisp pixels") or even a button to scale to the maximum possible integral multiple supported on the screen being used.

  • Long-Form Posting
    The ability to write long, rich-text, posts have been a staple of what makes pixelation valuable as a platform for knowledge and critique.  We plan to keep it that way.  No character limits, full BBCode (or equivalent) support.
Mediawiki style markup would be cool with an easy way to link to existing articles/posts/threads or to embed existing images, also to easily create new articles upon clicking a red link (a link that was created but without linking to any existing content yet). The ability to write long texts with markup language like in a wiki would be ideal for creating well structured write-ups of art concepts or descriptions of tools (specifically got wiki-fying the glossary and resources threads in mind here).

  • First-Class Images
    This is where traditional forum software fails us. Images should be a first-class feature of the forum, providing thumbnails, gallery views, and featured banners all automatically.
And they should be stored on a reliable image host(perhaps even on multiple independent hosts simultaneously to have backups), managed by the backend to prevent information loss as threads age.

  • Searchability
    Pixelation has always been a great repository for knowledge, and it should be easy to search for that content.  Tags have been working well for us and will be built in as well as easy linking to a pixel-wiki for common principles.
Cool.

  • User Appreciation
    Part of finding good content will be aided by a Karma system.  Users will be able to like posts/replies that showcase good feedback, information, etc.  This should also encourage better quality critique.  Featuring a thread will be a built-in feature as well.  Moderators will be able to mark a thread as featured just as easily as stickying a thread.  Featured threads will automatically be shown in the forum's banner on the front page, and you can sort threads by featured to get a quick overview of notable content.
A feature to create a PDF from a thread (with all images embedded) would be nice to have as well to save local backups of threads for offline reading, I presume this could be done entirely on the client side (e.g. by using http://pdfkit.org/ ). A browsable archive of chronologically sorted featured threads would also be useful. Or a monthly newsletter delivering links to top threads or even the ability to create a simple magazine-like PDF from any given month that compiles all the top threads for that month.

  • Moderation Tools
    We should keep good tools to moderate content to keep the quality high and not devolve into an off-topic mess
A quick one-click(ok maybe two-click to prevent accidental reporting) report feature would be good as well with the ability to choose common report reasons (e.g. spam) from a list.

  • Personalized Content
    You should be able to follow the content you care about to keep up with new updates.  The home view will be a feed of content that you specifically follow.  You can follow threads, or specific users to see all their posts (follower/followed stats will not be surfaced).
    In addition to the public boards, each user will also have a private "portfolio" board that only they can post to (but others can reply).  This would be an extension of a user profile and is where you'd post finished works to act as a gallery/portfolio, or where you can post things like sketch journals or dev-logs - basically anything that doesn't need to be broadcast to the forum at large.  When you follow a user, you also see this content.
    You can decide how to view the forum content; as a feed of latest posts, traditional thread listings, or as a thumbnail gallery.  Clicking on each of these will take you directly to a traditional thread with linear-comments just like you're used to.
    There will also be 3 color themes available; light, dark, and classic pixelation purple
An "unread replies" view would also be useful without having to actively "follow" any threads one has posted to.

Offline Cure

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #3 on: August 29, 2018, 12:04:05 am
Excited for this. No real feedback, this isn't a topic I've given much thought to, but I like your goals and the direction it's taking. Seems much more accessible, and the pixel-wiki is increasingly necessary for newbie engagement as pixel jargon accumulates (and because the jargon has always been a criticism). The portfolio also seems like a necessary step, a good way of having a personal, curated gallery without the competitive edge that the PJ common-gallery entails. Onward and upward.

Offline Jeremy

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #4 on: August 29, 2018, 11:38:23 am
I really like the middle view here  :)


Your prototype synthesises forums and contemporary discussion platforms really well I've never liked the way e.g. Reddit handles threading, and Twitter's ever-evolving algorithm for ordering replies is a nightmare. To me, a real advantage of forums is how 'dumb' they are they don't try to guess what I want to see first, and things are in the obvious place the next time I look for them.

Couple of other thoughts:
  • I'm not sure how I feel about karma systems. The system Pixelation has now (and the profile karma score you have in the mockup) works well to show "this is a person who makes good posts", but I feel like visible scores on individual posts can have perverse outcomes (i.e. people crafting their posts to maximise their karma, rather than make the most valuable contribution). IDK???
  • I know of mobile forum apps that automatically upload pictures to imgur when you select them from your image library could something like this work here?
  • One advantage Pixelation has had over PJ is avatar size it'd be a shame to lose that extra real estate ;)

Offline Indigo

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #5 on: August 29, 2018, 09:24:28 pm
@eishiya
Quote
The demo looks nice, but there's one bit I don't like: the Twitter-esque side bar. It makes the page feel cramped. I also dislike the numbers focus is creates, those things should not be at the forefront.
I can see the argument for removing the stats, though I personally don't see those particular stats as problematic as something like followers or whatever.   Will think more on this.

as for the sidebar in general, I think that has to stay.  It needs to support an arbitrary amount of boards, and vertical lists are perfect for that.  Horizontal lists are problematic for responsive design and force you into situations where you need to hide important information behind dropdowns.  I've been thinking about removing the sidebar once you dive into a thread though - which might be a good compromise.

Quote
How are the images representing each thread going to be chosen? Is it the latest image, or the first? Does the user get to choose? Are 3rd party embeds going to be used, or will the feature be limited to attachments?
How to handle images is the most complicated thing to solve.  There are several options and each has different tradeoffs:

- first-class images attached to the bottom (or maybe top depending on the design) to the forum post
This is the cleanest from a design standpoint.  The data is separate from the post's content and can easily be extracted for use elsewhere in the forum.  How those images are presented on various screen resolutions or platforms is easily controlled.  Settings can easily be made for boards to require images, no images, or optional images.  On the down-side, you can't inline the images into your response.

- arbitrary inline images uploaded and embedded into the post content
This gives the user the most flexibility on how to present their images, it also makes it a very cumbersome process, tech-wise, to give them the first-class treatment for the rest of the forum.  Not impossible, but difficult.  It also makes it more opaque to the user - informing the user about image requirements for different boards would be a difficult problem, and it isn't clear about which images become the thumbnail or feature banners.  Assuming a thumbnail is automatically chosen (from let's say the first image for example), users would then have to reformat their response such that the correct thumbnail gets used even if that wasn't the optimal order to show them in the response.  We can write something up to explain all this, but it will never be as clear as having an image upload box.

- Half and half; first class image attachments and inline uploaded images
We can treat them as two separate upload systems.  Inline images can never become thumbs.  This solves some of the design complexities, allowing us to easily extract the images, and easily set image requirements, but it also potentially creates more confusion about when it's appropriate to use each kind of upload.  I'd imagine a lot of people uploading inline and then getting frustrated it's not showing up in the galleries and things like that

- Half and half; first class image attachments, and allow for inline external links if needed
This is my current thinking.  Only one upload system, images attached to the post, but allow for external linking via BBCode or something similar.  What I like about this is it encourages using the embedded system which provides the best user experience overall.  You don't have two systems competing with each other.  Yes, it remains a pain to do inline images (as much as it is currently), but honestly, I'm not 100% convinced inline is as necessary as it seems for critique.  It should be fairly easy to refer to an image by labeling it or whatever and it works just as well.  I think it just takes adapting to.  But regardless the inline option will still be there.  It might also be possible to rehost externally linked images automatically for preservation.

if you have examples where sites have solved this problem well, please link me.

Quote
Will there be any incentive to use the karma system
No, besides being a good member.  The idea is that Karma will serve as an efficient way to sort threads to find the best content.  Each thread gets its own karma score based on how much Karma was given to people throughout the thread.  It'd also be a great way of quickly Identifying people who are great contributors and give great feedback on the forums.  Giving a karma point is like saying "thank you."  It might end up being called something different to help reflect that.

Quote
It would be nice for threads in the thread list (at least in the critique sections) to include the date of the latest reply by the OP right up front. I'd say that's more important than when the thread started, even
that's interesting.  I don't think I've seen any forum do this - the most common thing is to show the date of the last reply, which I was also planning to support.  Will think about your idea more.

Quote
Discourse has a feature where it'll automatically copy embedded offsite images to the server, so that old threads don't get broken if the offsite images are deleted. I'd love to have that for Pixelation. So many of the old threads have broken images
Yup, probably a good thing to support.

Quote
A less Javascript-heavy basic UI than the demo. JS is necessary for things like the magic embeds I requested here, but I'd like to see JS used only where it's necessary, like the current version. Navigating the site, making posts, etc should not require JS to be enabled.
The tech stack I've chosen requires javascript.  Can't get around it.  This is the way the modern web is moving and it's less likely these days for people to disable JS.  that said, I am looking into server-side rendering, where a static page is served up first before it gets saturated with JS - instead of building the site entirely on the client with JS.  This would help for the few that choose to not enable JS.

Quote
Not really a feature request, but an idea of sorts: How about implementing ActivityPub?
Neat Idea, I'll look into it.

=======

@0xDB
Quote
Suggestion to support sign in with twitter (and/or google+/etc.)
social signup is a good idea.  Will probably do that (in addition to email)

Quote
Tweet buttons next to images would be nice for that but they should not just tweet the image but rather link to the post they're in
Good idea, but will probably put a share button in a dropdown of the forum post rather than the image itself

Quote
For the lowpoly 3D section it would also be nice to have an embedded model viewer so that users don't need to upload huge GIF files. That is of course only if lowpoly is still wanted on the new platform and not getting axed in favor of focusing only on 2D pixel art
going to focus on images first, though other viewers are a great stretch goal.  We are going to get rid of the low poly section, and instead allow people to post it straight in general, probably with a "low-spec" tag or something similar

Quote
For that purpose please don't forget to add zoom in and out buttons next to images which scale by nearest-neighbor filtering
For sure!

Quote
Mediawiki style markup would be cool
Great ideas.  Not quite sure how we're handling the wiki yet; whether it's external or built in.

Quote
A feature to create a PDF from a thread (with all images embedded) would be nice to have as well to save local backups of threads for offline reading
Interesting idea.  Is offline reading something you do a lot?

Quote
A quick one-click(ok maybe two-click to prevent accidental reporting) report feature would be good as well with the ability to choose common report reasons (e.g. spam) from a list.
sure thing

=======

@Cure
Thanks a ton for the support :)

=======

@Jeremy
Quote
I'm not sure how I feel about karma systems. The system Pixelation has now (and the profile karma score you have in the mockup) works well to show "this is a person who makes good posts", but I feel like visible scores on individual posts can have perverse outcomes (i.e. people crafting their posts to maximise their karma, rather than make the most valuable contribution). IDK???
Yeah it's a good point and we should think more on it, but a counter point is I don't think it's been a problem in the past so far.  Not to mention if it encourages people to behave in ways that rewards karma - assuming that karma as rewarded in the intended fashion - isn't that a win?

Quote
One advantage Pixelation has had over PJ is avatar size
I played heavily with different avatar sizes and arrived at the size I did because it was the largest I can make it without needing to be rescaled for different contexts (usually).  Any larger, then there are many view where you'd need it smaller.  Basically I was optimizing for pixel perfect resolution retention rather than scale.

Offline Rydin

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #6 on: August 29, 2018, 09:28:28 pm
Less is more. There should be restrictions just like there is in our art.

4 board restriction.
Too many sub-boards are convoluted and it divides focused attention.
Same if there's too many features.

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." -Bruce Lee
If we focus on doing one thing really well, we avoid being superfluous and people will love and respect it.

Something like this:
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #7 on: August 29, 2018, 09:51:20 pm
Definitely agree that less boards is more!  Which is exactly why we are reducing our boards from 12 to 5 (General, Activities, Critique, Projects, and Job Offers), and removing all child boards.  Archives and feature chests are no longer needed with the built in featured and tagging systems

Offline eishiya

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #8 on: August 29, 2018, 10:18:19 pm
I've been thinking about removing the sidebar once you dive into a thread though - which might be a good compromise.
This sounds good to me!
Another compromise would be to make it collapsible, and and to have the collapsed setting persist across pages. If the UI uses JS anyway, there's very little overhead to using Local Storage for stuff like this.

Quote
arbitrary inline images uploaded and embedded into the post content
This is the ideal, in my opinion. I think the automatic thumbnail should grab the first inline image in the most recent post by OP that includes images (excluding quotes - quoted images should still be considered "attached" to the original post). For efficiency, the thumbnail could be a URL stored with each thread, and it would get updated every time there's a new post, getting changed if needed. In addition, a "change thread thumbnail" button should be provided to allow selecting any of the images in the thread (including ones by other people - honor system! and good for features). Clicking the button would open a browser of thumbnail versions of all the images posted in the thread for the user to select, and it should also provide an "Automatic" option to return to the default thumbnails.

For the non-critique sections, the preview image should just be the most recent poster's avatar by default, but the OP should be able to click the "change thread thumbnail" button and select an image posted in the thread, the same as in the critique boards. Naturally, moderators should be able to change any thread's thumbnail.

The strength of this system is that it would reduce the need to deal with 3rd party image hosts and broken images. The question then is, should off-site embeds be allowed at all? The easiest answer is "no". There are some situations where it might be useful, but I think it would be fine to disallow it. After all, most other sites that feature uploading images don't also let you hotlink them xP

If you're not sure what I mean, I can provide pseudocode for the logic.

Quote
Giving a karma point is like saying "thank you."  It might end up being called something different to help reflect that.
AO3 has "kudos". Calling it that or even just "thanks!" would be good. It might also cut down on responses to critique that are just "thanks, I'll implement this later!" that people post just to be polite.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2018, 10:33:14 pm by eishiya »

Offline 0xDB

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Re: Pixelation 2.0

Reply #9 on: August 30, 2018, 07:17:17 pm
Quote from: 0xDB
A feature to create a PDF from a thread (with all images embedded) would be nice to have as well to save local backups of threads for offline reading
Interesting idea.  Is offline reading something you do a lot?
Not at the moment but I like the feeling of safety that comes with having local backups of stuff for times without internet access. The feature to create a PDF might not be necessary though as long as there will be a way to display all posts in a thread simultaneously without having to advance through pages(of n posts per page) or through some automatic load-more-posts-as-you-scroll mechanism. In that case a browsers builtin SavePage mechanism could be used to save a thread.