New Layout for fanfare - make it the default? September 19, 2023 1:34 PM   Subscribe

This is a test page that was created for Fanfare that I think would be way better at fostering conversations and getting people chatting. You can see active conversations and jump in if they interest you, and start a new one if there's a show/movie/game you like that's been posted but isn't getting any attention. Can it be the default? Hopefully an extremely simple change, and the old style could be kept as a fallback.
posted by Sebmojo to Feature Requests at 1:34 PM (46 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Definitely worth talking about. It may be worth just noting for the record that while this layout looks decent in the modern theme, it's a little broken in Classic currently. Here's the thread where it was getting talked about in 2019, to refresh people's memory or point them to a thread they may not have seen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:02 PM on September 19, 2023

Yes, please! This solves all the reasons I never use Fanfare.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 3:42 PM on September 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

Not a big fanfare user, but this looks like a good idea.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:01 PM on September 19, 2023

I clicked on it and actually got sucked into a thread and posted, so I guess it worked. The fonts did look a bit wonky on classic.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:08 PM on September 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm not a big user of FanFare, but this definitely looks like an improvement. It takes away some of the pure chronological look that doesn't work well currently.
posted by dg at 5:10 PM on September 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

The Book section has some layout issues in modern dark mode. There is a show floating in between the two columns and the New Posts are all from September of 2021.
posted by soelo at 7:01 PM on September 19, 2023

I like it!
posted by janell at 9:04 PM on September 19, 2023

It's immediately more engaging at a glance. Good work, a really positive direction to improve the subsite. It means that active discussions aren't pushed off the front page by new posts.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:56 PM on September 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

I think it looks terrible honestly, without more info about how a thread is being engaged with like number of comments or date posted or something about what im looking at other than the title I'm not going to click on it.
posted by mosswinter at 1:10 AM on September 20, 2023 [6 favorites]

I've said this before and it never gets any traction so maybe I'm alone in this, but: there is a Recent Comments view to fanfare that is almost perfect. It is not very discoverable, especially on mobile. It's not even accessible if you're not logged in. Making it the default view would take close to zero dev time. Addressing the one thing that stops it from being perfect - i.e. letting new posts with zero comments also show up - should take a very small amount is additional time. Making it display thumbnails of shoes like the current default night take a bit longer, but (a) should not take much and (b) I do not think thumbnails are a useful enough feature to hold up making this change. (I don't even see thumbnails without scrolling down on desktop, and easy, way down on mobile.)

tl;dr Recent Comments view should be default, it's a super cheap and easy fix.
posted by trig at 2:34 AM on September 20, 2023 [12 favorites]

(also: it's 5 weeks since the last site update thread, the previous thread is closed, and this is not a great answer to the responsiveness concerns raised in the last one and roughly a zillion times previously.)
posted by trig at 2:40 AM on September 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

...this has not been a good day for me and autocorrect. Sorry :-(
posted by trig at 2:45 AM on September 20, 2023

Well, I, for one, found the idea of thumbnails of shoes amusing... and in fact sort of appealing.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:11 AM on September 20, 2023

No strong feelings either way but think you should go for it and see how it goes.

I do think an entirely different approach is needed for books, the current best chick lit vs War and Peace, how to balance the revisiting great books will need for years vs a flash in the pan two comment splash.
posted by sammyo at 3:14 AM on September 20, 2023

Well, I, for one, found the idea of thumbnails of shoes amusing... and in fact sort of appealing.

I mean it's definitely one approach to monetization!
posted by trig at 3:54 AM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

I do think an entirely different approach is needed for books, the current best chick lit vs War and Peace, how to balance the revisiting great books will need for years vs a flash in the pan two comment splash.

As someone who likes both kinds of books (and who would point out that Anna Karenina has quite a lot of chick lit-like descriptions - and if memory serves, Tolstoy consulted fashion magazines to create those, gasp! The horror!), I think we can apply the same standard of books as we do to film. But genre tags would be fine.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:35 AM on September 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

I like this a lot more than the current default. I am sure there are ways to further improve it, but for me this would be a much more engaging interface.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:31 AM on September 20, 2023

As someone who has never really clicked with fanfare, that page looks like a big improvement in terms of being able to see what's going on that I might be interested in at any given time on the subsite! I completely missed the 2019 test of this, I think.

As someone who reads metas, that 2019 thread is actually pretty depressing on multiple levels and I can't really see how this attempt would go any better.
posted by advil at 6:41 AM on September 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yes please. I like information-heavy displays. The default Fanfare display shows four things, which to me makes it unusable. The revised page shows 32.

I looked at the "Recent Comments" view— it shows 5 items. The problem in both cases is those descriptions. If you're looking for what people are actively discussing, you want titles, not plot descriptions. In this modern world of today, you could have the descriptions appear in popups.
posted by zompist at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2023

This almost completely breaks FanFare for me.

Upon initial view of the proposed change, my brain immediately wanted to close the page and move on. It looks like a site map. It looks like getting anything useful out of the links would require WORK on my part. No thanks. I am here for leisure, not work.

No summaries for anything? Looking at the Movies tab, I only recognize one of the film titles. Having read the summaries, several I am actually interested in seeing or hearing other's comments about. (Shout out to Dirty Old Town for the obscure movies and great summaries and everything else he does for FanFare.)

Speaking of comments.... comment count is not listed? Currently, if I read a movie summary (which I can do with zero clicks) and think I might be interested, I can see if there is a good conversation going on by seeing the comment count (still zero clicks). With this new version.... I can't.

When I originally say this almost completely breaks FanFare for me, the only way I could see using it now is when I know something will have a lot of activity. I can search for Barbie, Dr. Who, etc.

Looking at it from a new user's standpoint, I would see what essentially looks like a static page and just be turned off.

To zompist's point about pop-ups, having the summary in something you could see when you hover would do a lot to address my issues, although I do not know how well that would work for mobile users or people with screen readers.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 8:00 AM on September 20, 2023 [11 favorites]

it's 5 weeks since the last site update thread, the previous thread is closed

We do updates every four weeks except this past one because we thought we had to accommodate some travel which didn't wind up happening. Update coming out later today.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:42 AM on September 20, 2023

I looked at the "Recent Comments" view— it shows 5 items

What do you mean? Like on a screen before you have to start scrolling?

(On mobile, with a largeish font size, I see 1 post on the Recent Comments view before I start to scroll, versus 5 listings on the test layout. But I think it's a matter of personal preference: I bounce off of plain lists of titles - reading lists to find the items I'm interested in feels like work and my brain's too tired to process it. And I don't know what half the things in the list even are. Whereas if there are actual descriptions with each title I'll read them and be engaged, or skip them easily because now I know what I'm skipping.)
posted by trig at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

Since you ask-- I'm on a desktop, and five titles (and descriptions) are what I see. It's very much a matter of personal preference, but I don't want to scroll down a bunch of times to see what's new, especially since the number of things that might interest me is much lower than on the main page or Ask.

If popups are hard to implement, then a preference to hide or show descriptions would help.

Also FWIW, adding a number of comments to the test page would also be helpful.
posted by zompist at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

The test page idea of presenting both recent posts and recent comments in some relatively compact front-page arrangement is appealing, but (to me!) the layout itself very much is not. I concur with the criticisms made by a non mouse, a cow herd; it also just looks very... hinky, as well as feeling static and cluttered.

Modern layout sugar would make it more appealing, certainly -- descriptions available on rollover, easy customization of the order in which you see the different media displayed, etc -- but I get the impression that there is not a lot of spare developer time available to implement such a version. In the state it's in as previewed on the test page, I would personally vote no. (But whatever! I habitually interact with FanFare via the Recent Comments page and would continue to do so as long as it remained available.)
posted by redfoxtail at 9:57 AM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

If popups are hard to implement, then a preference to hide or show descriptions would help.
There is a preference to hide descriptions, it's at the top of the page:

"Each post contains a brief plot summary. You can turn them off if you're worried about spoilers. Just click this: Hide Post Descriptions."
posted by expialidocious at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2023

It looks like a site map.

Nailed it.

Imagine the front page where the posts only had their titles for reference, no description, and the enjoyability, as well as usability, for the blue main drops quite a bit. This is kind of doing that, but even worse, since it relies on the user already knowing to an extent what the posts are about. Don't know the movie? You'll just have to blindly click through and find out. Want to comment on a specific episode, but afraid of being spoiled by clicking through onto an episode that comes after? Well, throw the dice and find out!

I'm a bit snarky here, but one of the nice things about Fanfare are the descriptions, from the episode number to the summarizing text. You get a lot more useful information before you engage.

The proposed design here adopts more of a organization priority over information relaying utility, which also runs counter to how the entire rest of MeFi works. In a perfect world, you take this organizing principle and some how sidebar it. It looks like a map, treat it like a map for people who may not check Fanfare everyday to see what new posts are up. This really is the crux of the matter, though, isn't it? Frequent users know what's being posted and non-frequent don't. The latter need help seeing what's going on, and let's do that, but not at harming the experience of the former.

My recommendation? Move Fanfare Talk and My Fanfare to just one line links under the categories, then move this map of posts under it in a column form. Alternatively, and who knows if it's really easy to do, you can always turn the categories into more than just links, but to drop down menu with said information on recent posts (30 days? 14 Days?). Then people can quickly go to the category they're interested in, see what topics are there and click through.
posted by Atreides at 11:09 AM on September 20, 2023 [6 favorites]

I like it but it highlights when a show or movie has a broken poster image so that would need to be noticed and fixed.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:23 AM on September 20, 2023

Yes please!
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:06 PM on September 20, 2023

Viewing on mobile. The text comes out bigger than on here for some reason and goes right to the right page edge.

Not having the episode number or name reduces usefulness. Eg currently says
Star Trek Strange New Worlds twice without distinction.

Some posters still not appearing.
posted by biffa at 12:22 PM on September 20, 2023

(I do appreciate the people pointing out the issues with this change...they have good points about it not being as much of a draw)
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:25 PM on September 20, 2023

Am I imagining that, at one point in the past, there was (or is) a setting that allows users to set Watercooler as their default landing page for Fanfare? I think a setting like that—maybe with a link similar to show/hide descriptions to drive it on the main page—gets us 90% of the way there for folks that like the view

At any rate, there’s a lot about the Watercooler view that I like—but I think it needs more work before it’s ready to become the default landing page for everyone. For starters, I’d like to see books on there, probably with the same “classic / new” division that exists for TV (is that driven off first watch / rewatch tags?). I’m also a big user of the “My Fanfare” view, which I think we’d need to incorporate into the Watercooler view before we make it the default.
posted by thecaddy at 1:15 PM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

I use FF all the time, but on a desktop. I'm in favor of improving the experience, and love the idea of having it score movies/tv/books for easy recommendation reference.
I'm also in favor of a site revision that brings in more users.
As far as this new page view is concerned, I must fall into the "classic view" category, because it looks just terrible to me. I can see where it's going, but it's not happening with my preference settings on a computer monitor.
I'm guessing the plan would be to have an option to revert to the old look for those who want to. Once the bugs are worked out, if the pluses outweigh the minuses I say go for it.

One pony I'd like in Fanfare would a be a page of "Fanfare (or MeFi) Recommends!" that curates the can't miss media that get pointed to time and again across the site. Not sure how it would look, but I get the best recs for music, tv, books and film from our favorite hivemind and FF seems like a great place to go to get it in a hurry.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:51 PM on September 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

Honestly, on my old iPad (which is where I go to MeFi the most) that layout is a hot mess. It’s just lists with no descriptive text at all. I think I would use Fanfare far, far less if this was the UI awaiting me.

And the sidebar search field still doesn’t work as a search field. It works as a text-entry field with no search function.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 PM on September 20, 2023

I really like it! I've been wanting to use FanFare more, and I think this will make it much easier for me to do so.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:32 PM on September 20, 2023

Now on tablet, the text is too small, apart from the special events.
posted by biffa at 5:10 PM on September 20, 2023

I would say no, lets keep it the way it is. I used to hate Fanfare until I discovered the Recent Comments tab. As long as I click on Recent Comments, I can find everything I want.
posted by silverstatue at 7:10 PM on September 20, 2023

I like the browsability of the classic look.
Reading the description is how I find new things to perhaps watch later.
If I see this new list of titles I am not reading any further.
There is no appeal in having to click on link after link.
posted by calgirl at 9:54 PM on September 20, 2023 [1 favorite]

I find both versions really hard to use. The main challenge is finding media that I'm either already watching or that I might want to watch, with interesting discussion. In the current Fanfare version the descriptions tend to be unhelpful for this purpose - they're often a mid season episode summary for something I've never heard of - and then in the new version, there's no description at all, complete mystery meat.

It would be really helpful to know roughly what genre each thing is, what it's about, why I might want to watch it. And even more helpful - what service it's on, so I can filter out all the things I can't even watch. If I was able to actually find new interesting media this way, I'd probably be contributing to discussions.
posted by quacks like a duck at 2:57 AM on September 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

+1 that the new design is site-mappy and reduces the seduction value and usefulness of the current Fanfare front page. The short blurbs expose me to lots of new movies and shows, and comment counts are useful for me.*

My recommendation for an ideal default page would be the current Recent Comments on the left 2/3rds of the screen + the home page's right-hand organizational "tiles" (i.e., Find a...[search bar], Categories, FanFare Talk, Recently Posted, etc.) on their regular right hand side. This gives the usefulness and benefits of recency, short blurbs, and comment count, with the added widgets and navigation to the more common "next places." Even better, this would put another nail in the coffin of Watercooler, which is already redundant to and less useful than Recent Comments, IMO.

Some benefits also could come from simple re-naming.
- What are Special Events? I still have no idea. My hope was that they were group watches. Maybe they're cinema showings of concerts? Maybe they're MT3K? I dunno, many seem to be different things than each other (a stadium tour, a world cup final, a season of wrestling matches), and I don't know why I'd click there instead of elsewhere. If these are things to watch, I'd expect useful details like how/when to watch. Does fanfare now include sporting and music events? Anyway, Special Events is pretty muddy, therefore doesn't get my clicks.

- Clubs. I have ignored this tab until poking around today. I don't think of group watches as a club. Totally not what I was expecting there, but I have been interested in group watches. Let's call it what it is. Group Watch or Watch Party.

So the FanFare nav bar would become: Recent Comments (default) - Recent Posts - Watch - Talk - My FanFare

*Note: more comments isn't necessarily better in my opinion. There are reasons I gravitate to low or high. For instance, a low comment number means I can get in early on something that fascinates me; and I often use high-comment threads to vet something for family or for my long-term time commitment. For this reason I would avoid a default FanFare page organized by number of comments.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:20 AM on September 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Looking at it now on desktop, there is a lot of dead space, which seems like a waste given the absence of descriptions for the shows. Absence of episode details still an issue. I can see the Fanfare Talk and My Fanfare down the side here, which is useful, to some degree since that does show episode information. My concern is that i will miss stuff on regular episode timelines so My Fanfare will get less useful over time.

The posters/covers are still giving some problems, but its less relevant since the icons are too small to get any detail from.
posted by biffa at 5:48 AM on September 21, 2023

I disagree that it's better, at least as it currently stands. it looks very much like the test layout that it was, i.e. it's juggling some good UI/UX ideas but the execution is a mess. I know discussion of this already happened previously but, just for some most-obvious examples,
  • the sidebar takes up way too much space for the multi-column layout, so the whole thing feels cramped and uglier than it needs to
  • the "recently posted" link is redundant with the "new posts" column right there -- at the least it should be at the bottom of that column
  • there need to be placeholder images/text for missing posters or blank columns (like the podcast "current conversations")
etc. anyway I assume most/all of that is already known, since again the point of the page was as a test of potential layout changes. it's a half-baked demo of some decent ideas for FanFare navigability. I would really hope a lot more care and polish could be put into it, both at fundamental-coding and surface-styling levels, before it becomes anything seen by default.
posted by Kybard at 6:15 AM on September 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

One thing that might be cool is an option to collapse episodes of a show, or to display only the latest episode, on the recent posts view.
posted by expialidocious at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Can we amalgamate this (for me) attractive and usable redesign with Trig's recent comments stream?
posted by einekleine at 6:07 AM on September 22, 2023

Late to the party, but definitely like that layout or similar. Sometimes it can be a chore to hunt down the newest comments or content (even I don't intend to comment, I like to read y'all's perspectives). I also like the separation of media too.
posted by Kitteh at 5:06 PM on September 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

The discussion link on the fanfare page is broken and takes users to the OLD conversation from 2019.
posted by grog at 7:44 AM on September 25, 2023

In the original discussion of the test layout, I put forth an alternative that I still think has merit. It keeps much that is familiar and surfaces activity:
• mock-up image
• related comment
posted by D.Billy at 4:16 AM on September 27, 2023

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