Hi, everyone! I've got some very exciting news to share with you from our Community Director, Jessica. This message will be shared with all of our boards so that everyone has access to it.
Please note that this post I am making is marked as read-only because we want everyone to post their questions and comments in one place, so I am also providing you with a link to Jessica's original thread where you can post a reply there. We're doing this to make sure everyone's comments are in one place so we don't miss anyone's feedback.
I wanted to let you know about a project that is happening at iVillage, and how it affects our beloved message boards.
The short-but-sweet: We’re bringing the message boards in-house! Within the next couple of days, the boards you see will no longer be hosted by Lithium.
The decision was made for a simple reason: iVillage wants more control over the message board experience we offer you. It’s also a BIG sign of how important the message boards are to iVillage– it’s a very real commitment to growing the community, and it’s a solid vote of confidence in our ability to do it!
For the past 8 months, the entire iVillage tech team has been hard at work migrating off of Lithium and rebuilding the message boards on our own Content Management System (Drupal). This is mainly a technical project for us – moving the data off of Lithium and onto our platform – but it’s NOT an overhaul or a redesign. In fact, our goal has been to impact your experience on the boards as little as possible. You’ll see that we cleaned up the design here and there (no more huge, empty ad spaces in the middle of your threads!), but I think you’ll find that many of the features you have today will still be there after the migration.
Having said that, because we are building the boards on a completely different platform, we have run into limitations. Fortunately, we found solutions and workarounds to most of them, but there are a few features that we won’t have right away. Check out the lists below for the full story on
> Improvements you’ll see immediately
> Temporary changes. These items already have project tickets created for them and priorities assigned. In the coming weeks, we’ll start creating deadlines for getting things re-built.
> Known bugs. These are small fixes that we know we need to make, but we didn’t want them to hold up the project. These also have tickets created for them and priorities assigned.
> Permanent changes, due to redundancy or very low usage
> New Administrator & Moderator Tools
To me, one of the biggest benefits of bringing this project in-house is that we have total control of our community. So, I hope you’re as excited about this development as I and the Moderators and the Community Leaders are! I’d personally like to thank the Moderators and Admins for their invaluable input, and to the Community Leaders for their knowledge and enthusiasm (and patience!) as this project moves into Phase 2.
(As an aside, just to give you an idea how big the data migration piece is, we're dealing with 214GB of data. That's equal to 2000 hours of non-stop streaming video...or 107,000 songs on an ipod...or 21.4 million emails. Amazing! Also amazing: having our tech team right down the hall!)
In the big picture, this data migration is the right thing to do – not just for our message boards, but for iVillage as a whole. And YOU are one of the reasons we decided to make this transition!
Message Board Changes
> We tidied up the design, created a new search results page, and created a new user profile & preferences page.
> We now have control over the right rail!
> Removed: Ads inside the threads
> You’ll have a new WYSIWYG, even on the Signature creation field!
> A new mobile experience is being built
After we're live on our own platform, I can promise that we'll have some things that need reworking (design tweaks) or added (see below) or even removed. For example, the Drupal platform has some message board features that we don’t want to delete until we fully understand how it may impact the whole system. So for now, some extra functionality will appear here and there.
As you click around the boards, if you see something that doesn’t work correctly, please let us know! I can compare your request with my list of known bugs, and let you know either a) “Yep, we already know about it.” or b) “Thanks! That’s a new one; we’ll add it to the list.”
As you can see, most of these are smaller projects by themselves. In favor of getting the basic message board experience up and running, we’ve moved these items to “Next in Line” and have assigned priorities to them.
Search. For the next several weeks, you’ll only see a simplified, global search. The ability to do an advanced search will be the first of our Phase 2 projects. Based on your feedback, we’re removing the ability to search for other users, though!
Auto-drafts of your posts. The platform we’re moving to (Drupal) doesn’t offer this for message boards, so we’ll have to build it from scratch.
Macros. Like auto-drafts, the platform we’re moving to doesn’t support this, so we’re building them from scratch. Copy and save all of your macro code, but note that some of that might be accounted for in the new WYSIWYG!
RSS Feeds. Not many of you used these, but we still want to offer them. So we’ll rebuild these after some of the larger items are finished.
Tagging. We’re disabling it for now. When we turn it back on, you’ll have a huge set of tags to choose from when tagging your posts. This makes it easy for us to match message board conversations with relevant editorial pieces (articles, galleries, videos), and will help new members discover conversations.
Newsletters. We’re reprogramming this right-rail module to give you more relevant options. Once that’s done, you’ll see different versions across the boards.
And there are several smaller features that Drupal 7 doesn’t offer, which we’ll also build back in, for example:
> The “Next Thread” and “Previous Thread” links at the top of a thread
> Customizing the appearance of user names
> Adding a spellchecker to the WYSIWYG
> Marking threads as “New” or “Read”
> The user preference default setting choices for when to consider your thread “read”
These are items that were either not used by many members, or were redundant.
Chat. Sorry, but we’re disabling it. To rebuild the Chat feature is a huge project by itself, but it is a low priority compared to other features like Search or Tagging. I know some of you used it recently, but according to our research, most didn’t.
Comments on Images. It’s not offered by Drupal, and I don’t think it’s worth rebuilding it from scratch. Despite the great number of images you upload, less than 1% have ever received any comments in User Profile Page Image Tool that Lithium provided.
Board, Thread, and Post Options. There were some redundant functions in there that we’re removing (ex: having a “float” option in the post options drop down, when it doesn’t actually float your single post). This was the perfect time to remove extraneous functionality from several of the dropdowns.
Emoticons. We’ll only have 1 type of smiley – the good ol’ yellow one.
About Post Counts
It’s painful to admit, but they’re going to change. This is what we know: Lithium exported X-amount of data to us. We put ALL of that data into our system (Drupal), and when Drupal counted the posts, it came up with a different number. In some boards or threads, the numbers are close. In other cases, it’s not. One thing we discovered: Lithium counts hidden/archived threads toward a post count. Drupal doesn’t. Post counts are something that we’ll have to continue to investigate and optimize, but we didn’t want it to stop the migration.
Administrator and Moderator Tools
On top of this, ALL of the tools the Admins and Mods will use to run the boards are brand new to us. We’ll have some training sessions soon, and will get up to speed as quickly as possible. But please be patient if it takes us a little bit longer to help you with something. We’ll be on a pretty steep learning curve for a few weeks, but we promise to do everything we can to answer your questions and keep things running smoothly!
Once we’re completely on Drupal, we’ll all be on the lookout for your questions. So, fire away. Please reply to this message  to post your questions here, and we’ll get the conversation started!