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You are here: Home 2005 Vol.37 No.1, March 2005 Facilitating Discussion Within the SIGCHI Bulletin Website
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Facilitating Discussion Within the SIGCHI Bulletin Website

Facilitating Discussion Within the SIGCHI Bulletin Website

Facilitating Discussion Within the SIGCHI Bulletin Website

If someone posts a comment on the CHI Bulletin forums but no one reads it, does it make an impact? That’s the question I asked myself when I browsed the (at that time) new CHI Bulletin web site. Initially, I was impressed with the site’s slick, modern look and I think it is an excellent replacement for the paper bulletin. However, the discussion forum is a huge disappointment.

I immediately encountered a number of frustrations. The “Discuss” link for each article doesn’t include any hint about whether there are any messages to read. The “Forum” page isn’t a forum where I expect to see freeform discussion topics. Instead it is a listing of every article on the site, and the links take the user to the article’s discussion. Again, there are no message counts to help me decide to follow a link. Finally, in my random search of the forum, I found a total of one message posting. The forums are a ghost town.

Any design critique has to examine the motivation and requirements for the feature under review. That the design includes forums at all tells me that someone hopes to promote discussion on the site. It’s not clear if the goal is to simply provide a discussion outlet for individual articles or something more. The use of the term “Forum” suggests the designers hope to engage the SIGCHI community on a variety of topics beyond the articles.

No matter what the primary goal is, our site can leverage existing discussion models. Want to focus on comments related to specific articles? You just have to look at how the ubiquitous blog implements comments. Want to foster discussion on a wide range of topics and build community? The bulletin board model works for that.

So, which is it? Do SIGCHI members need another discussion group in addition to numerous other groups and email lists hosted by SIGCHI and other organizations? Is the Bulletin site the place for it? Or, do the Bulletin’s readers just want a simple way to comment on an article?

I suggest the site focus on the articles and make some changes to facilitate comments. First, in the article summary show the number of messages in the “Discuss” link. Second, in the full article page, display all the messages below the article and provide a form at the bottom of the page so readers can quickly add their own comment. Make it easy to comment, and people just might.

Click on Discuss and voice your opinion. You might even find some other opinions.


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