Developing the idea

Developing the idea

I've been consistently working on the site since my last post, though none of the changes have gone live yet and probably wont for a week or so.

I started with the best of intentions. Add caching to the site using Windows Azure Appfabric Caching. As I started to gut the pages to add in caching, I lamented that I didn't spend much of the initial flurry of activity on writing unit tests, which would have made me feel more comfortable about the changes I was making.

So I spent a few days writing unit tests and refactoring my controllers to be more testable, removing dependencies on the http context and refactoring for a bit more structured and elegant code.

Once that was in place I implemented the caching, which was pretty straightforward except for one thing. Since the configuration section used was a collection of datacacheclients, I thought it would be neat to get windows server appfabric caching and swap between them depending on whether I was doing a dev build or a release build. The cache client had the same name and were in an assembly of the same name, so I thought it would be straight forward. But it turns out the Azure assembly is version and the Windows server is version and are completely incompatible.

When I gave up, I had to deal a slew of errors, because apparently azure only likes it if you name your datacacheclient "default".

Anyway, once I got the configuration squared away, implementing caching was pretty straightforward.

At the same time, I starting looking for help with the design of the site. I pursued a couple of leads, but couldn't find anyone I was comfortable with, so I decided to try to do it myself. (famous last words...)

So I think I have a nicer layout, which I plan on rolling out, but as I thought about usability and my original vision of "once found" as a research tool, I started working on major changes to the site.

First decision I made was for no more polls. I'm ripping them out. Most topics they didn't make sense, and the few people I got to try the site were entering answers that should have been comments. Comments will be prominent, with links in the sidebar. 

I want to turn this into a research tool. When this is ready, I'll launch OnceFound, which will allow for research any topic, with each question site a more specific version of the site. With this in mind, here is how I picture people using it.

  • For each topic, users will be able to drag and drop the links and comments in any order they please. The relative rankings each users give will calculate a "score" which could then be used to guess where links appear in the shared rankings. As new links are ranked, they could appear where we think a user would rank that link if they vote like other users. They can also remove a link or comment from their personal view and switch to the shared view.
  • For each topic, users can maintain a personal log that is not shared with other users.
  • Pages will show usernames of other users "researching" the topic ordered by their activity level on the topic. Will implement a user messaging feature.

Basically I see each topic page as a research hub, which I want to enable multiple people to combine resources.

Here's a very preliminary screenshot to give you an idea of the basic future layout (content areas are not styled yet).

This will be a lot of work and not all of that may make it into the first iteration. Will provide updates as more work gets done.

Moving on to the next idea

The Purpose

The Purpose