Thoughts about Forums Tool

Adam Marshall adam.marshall at oucs.ox.ac.uk
Thu Oct 18 12:08:46 UTC 2007



| -----Original Message-----
| From: Daphne Ogle [mailto:daphne at media.berkeley.edu]
| Sent: 17 October 2007 23:35
| To: Diana L Perpich
| Cc: Sakai UI; fluid-work at fluidproject.org
| Subject: Re: Thoughts about Forums Tool
| 
| It does make me cringe a bit that we allow user's to create
| unwieldily navigation for their sites.  But I think the root of the
| problem is less about us letting them create multiples and more about
| whether that is the right solution.  Why did the instructor need that
| many web content tools.  Perhaps the current tool isn't supporting
| their needs well.
| 
| When I read Clay's comment I think, "perhaps tools aren't the best
| way to structure out navigation".  Of course, this is nothing new --
| many have said it before (you and I probably had this conversation,
| eh Diana :) ).  Thinking about changing it seems overwhelming at this
| point but perhaps its time to give this some real attention.   If not
| tools, then what?

If all tools were addressable by URL then an option would be to use (say)
the wiki (or an HTML page) to handle navigation in the main iFrame. I know
Cambridge do this. This is also how we handle things in Bodington so we'd be
keen to replicate this feature. Look at
http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/human/english/ - it's perhaps not the best
designed example but you should get the general idea. This is slightly less
insane: http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/human/english/it/ or perhaps
http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/asuc/oucs/tools4teach/tutorials/. The last two
link could be spruced up by the judicious use of images!

The LHS nav menu could be a 'shortcut menu' there would be one entry per
tool BUT for tools like the forum / poll / web content with 'multiple parts'
there would be a mechanism of opening / closing the tool content. (I'm not
explaining myself well here am I?) Viz:

 Polls [+]
 Forums [+]
 WebContent [+]
 News [+]

If one clicks on the [+] next to forums, then one sees:

 Polls [+]
 Forums [-]
  Forum 1
  Forum 2
  Forum 3
 WebContent [+]
 News [+]

Clicking on [+] next to News:

Polls [+]
 Forums [-]
  Forum 1
  Forum 2
  Forum 3
 WebContent [+]
 News [-]
  Sakai News
  BBC News
  Old News

Clearly the [-] closes up the list

Not THAT would be good.



| 
| Some people in Fluid and Sakai have been thinking about this question
| a bit.  In fact, there may be a WG forming soon that will focus on
| the problem spaces of file management and navigation (2 areas that
| have risen to the top form the UX Walkthroughs we've been doing).
| One of the first steps will be to do some contextual inquiry with
| users to understand how they work with content in their sites -- why
| do they want it in there, how do they get in, what are they doing
| with it once it's in, etc.  The result should be a much better
| understanding of this space which should lead to a better
| understanding of how navigation structures can best support users
| work.  I'm curious if there are people in the community that could
| help with some of the research, analysis and design?   If you're
| interested and have the time to get involved in a project like this,
| let me know.  I'm in the midst of thinking through what a plan for
| this would look like and how we get the greatest user coverage with
| limited time and resources.

I think we are interested in getting involved.

Adam M

| 
| -Daphne
| 
| On Oct 17, 2007, at 12:27 PM, Diana L Perpich wrote:
| 
| > Indeed, there are several useful tools that can structure
| > themselves in that way...
| >
| > For example, we've always allowed the site owner to create as many
| > Web Content and News sections as their little hearts desire.  I've
| > seen absolutely sites with a dizzying number of Web Content links.
| > One site, no joke, had 30... and of course until recently there
| > wasn't a very good way to re-order them, so they didn't even have
| > *organization* going for them!
| >
| > So what kind of policy or pedagogy might inform a decision to
| > restrict the number of left-nav links to Forums, or Chat, but not
| > Web Content or News sections?
| >
| > As training and support staff, I looked at the 30-Web-Contents site
| > in horror not because the system allowed them to create thirty web
| > content sections, but because we had failed to inform/teach them
| > that discretion is the greater part of valor, that less can be
| > more, and that the wiki would have gotten them nine-tenths of what
| > they wanted without all that confusion.
| >
| > More thoughts on ways to combat left-nav sprawl.
| >
| > -- a prompt on the Edit Tools confirmation page, some kind of a tip
| > recommending that they consider limiting their left nav bar to 10
| > (or whatever) of fewer for ease of use.
| >
| > -- more boldly, a limit to the number of left-nav items a site can
| > have (or show) at any given time.
| >
| > -- a reassessment of the value of Help as a left-nav item in every
| > site.  What about moving this out of the site-specific navigation?
| > Might it live comfortably as a link in the banner?  It seems often
| > to live at the upper-right corner of complex sites I visit.  Often
| > beside search.
| >
| > -- a thought to whether Site Info must be a left-nav item visible
| > to all.  For our students, all they see there is the most basic
| > site info, little that is regularly useful to them.  Could Site
| > Info be hidden by default from all but those who have site.edit
| > permissions?  The site owner could choose to unhide it if class/
| > project protocol deemed it useful.
| >
| > -- in the Workspace particularly (physician, heal thyself) a
| > reassessment of tools like Preferences and Account.  Do they need
| > to be separate left-nav items?  Could they be combined in multi-
| > tool page or reworked to present as a single tool?  Someone posted
| > recently about combining Memberships and Browse Sites and maybe
| > even Worksite Setup.
| >
| > -- more guidance.  Too often folks turn on more tools than they
| > actually use.  Email archive is a common tool that I see, more
| > often than I'd like to admit, turned on at course sites with not a
| > single message posted half way into the term.  Announcements is
| > another-- lots of instructors that turn on announcements and then
| > post 10 or fewer the whole term.  Train people to turn off or hide
| > tools when they aren't being used.  Train people on alternatives
| > (announcement content on the wiki page, if they're also using the
| > wiki).
| >
| > -- muti-tool pages.  While this may well merely move the confusion
| > out of the nav bar and onto the main page, there are also strong
| > cases for bringing this option out of the sole province of system
| > admins.  Some infrequent Announcements users would just as soon use
| > the half-width frame on the Home page to post announcements.  If it
| > were easy to replace Recent Announcements with Announcements on the
| > Home page, thus eliminating a left-nav link, that could reduce what
| > appears now to be redundancy.  Schedule can behave similarly.  I've
| > tweaked handful of sites so that the Schedule tool appears on the
| > Home page instead of occupying its own left-nav space.  A trim view
| > of Resources could show up on the Home page, or beside a trim
| > Schedule.
| >
| > I notice that my bullet points are getting progressively longer,
| > and that's a good sign to close.
| >
| >
| > . diana lee perpich . use-lab .  digital media commons .
| >
| >
| > On Oct 17, 2007, at 12:25 PM, Clay Fenlason wrote:
| >
| >> 2007/10/16, Diana L Perpich <dperpich at umich.edu>:
| >>>
| >>> 1-- RE Clay's comment:
| >>>
| >>> Between Web Content, RSS feeds, Resources Viewer (in development)
| >>> and
| >>> other potential areas
| >>> like this one, that tool navigation menu itself becomes rather
| >>> unwieldy.
| >>>
| >>> I think the nav bar only becomes unwieldy when people wield the
| >>> tools
| >>> willy-nilly.  A site with just three tools (maybe we should call
| >>> them
| >>> pages, since a page can have multiple tools.  Better yet, call them
| >>> sections, since "Pages" don't do justice to the multiple pages
| >>> within
| >>> any given "Tool").  Anyway, a site with
| >>>
| >>> Home
| >>> Forum 1
| >>> Forum 2
| >>> Resources
| >>>
| >>> on the left isn't unwieldy at all.  It's actually quite
| >>> straightforward.
| >>
| >> Right, but that example is rather begging the question.  If there are
| >> several useful tools that structure themselves in this way, we are
| >> creating a situation where instructors are tacitly encouraged to
| >> produce sprawl - and it's what we are in fact starting to see.  We
| >> shouldn't design around only the most spare and Spartan of site
| >> mantainers, and there's currently some tension between best practices
| >> of creating multiple such pages and a minimalist structure for site
| >> navigation.
| >>
| >> ~Clay
| >
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| 
| Daphne Ogle
| Senior Interaction Designer
| University of California, Berkeley
| Educational Technology Services
| daphne at media.berkeley.edu
| cell (510)847-0308
| 
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