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Pixelation 2.0

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Indigo:
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):

eishiya:
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 :]

0xDB:
Just brainstorming some thoughts here...

--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End quote ---
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 .


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End 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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End 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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* Mobile Friendly
Today's modern era is mobile.  Browsing on mobile should be as pleasant as browsing on a PC

--- End quote ---
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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End quote ---
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).


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End quote ---
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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End quote ---
Cool.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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.

--- End 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, 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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* Moderation Tools
We should keep good tools to moderate content to keep the quality high and not devolve into an off-topic mess
--- End 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.


--- Quote from: Indigo on August 27, 2018, 07:24:38 pm ---
* 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

--- End quote ---
An "unread replies" view would also be useful without having to actively "follow" any threads one has posted to.

Cure:
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.

Jeremy:
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 ;)

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