all me a conspiracy theorist but I grew up on the internet and its my opinion that the new mises.org navigation system as well as the new community as well as the disrepair of this old community are entirely intentional. The new navigation of the main website is a brilliant way to shut off anyone trying to find media on mises.org, it wasn't always like that. And since these forum problems can be noticed by a 5 year old and fixed by a high schooler I feel its reasonable to conclude that they remain unfixed intentionally.
I'm curious to hear more on this. Of course it was no secret the "new community" was overridden with problems from day 1. I don't think it was ever even made clear why that project got started in the first place (at least in the way it did). If you check those links you'll see there was plenty of discussion about it, and virtually no response from the powers that be (not unlike the sudden blog shift...which, if you'll notice, after only 3 days that thread was locked without notice, and then graveyarded so it wouldn't even show up in search results. We are left to only wonder why.)
As far as the issues you mention with this forum, they are ridiculous, and it is laughable that an organization this size, and more importantly, with a community this size, has one of the worst platforms still working on the web. (Well, two, if you count the "new community". Anyone been by there lately?)
As far as "fixing" these issues, in the Institute's defense, I'm not completely sure a lot of these can be "fixed". From what I gather, Telligent is a pretty terrible platform, and there's no easy way to correct a lot of these problems, short of going into the bowels and manually coding in the changes. (Which, on the other hand, may not be that big of a task for some things, but it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of tech personnel to go around. However, one would think if the whole point of the Institute is to publicize these ideas and bring more people to our side of the fence, one would think having a decent online community would be kind of high on the priority list.)
I'm curious to hear more of this theory that it's intentional. What would be the purpose in intentionally having a sub-par site?
I'm also curious to hear any other thoughts on this issue.
I think it's far more likely that the people running the site/Mises Institute just aren't as tech savvy (or as young) as the users of the forum. They are probably more interested in the publishing of Austrian/Libertarian literature and the lectures/events than the forums. And with all the social networking going around, they probably thought that it would be a good idea to jump on that bandwagon.
gotlucky:I think it's far more likely that the people running the site/Mises Institute just aren't as tech savvy (or as young) as the users of the forum. They are probably more interested in the publishing of Austrian/Libertarian literature and the lectures/events than the forums. And with all the social networking going around, they probably thought that it would be a good idea to jump on that bandwagon.
Not a chance. There's no way you could maintain a website like this without knowing something. Plus, we already know the main people in development:
David Veksler does this for a living.
It sounds as though this is BK Marcus' main gig.
C. Blake Barber appears to do this for a living as well. (And it looks as though he spent a decent amount of time trying to improve the new community)
These are not old geezers who just don't know anything about this "Internet" thing. There are at least some professional developers on staff.
Its easy to forget that the forums and even the website are not the main focus of the LvMI. The institute publishes tons of books, puts on tons of events, and runs an online academy - all things which will always take precedent over the forums. From the point of view of people who actually work at LvMI, there are other pressing issues like payroll and day to day tasks, paying the bills to keep the electricity on, etc. This is a non-profit entity, and we have no idea what their books look like. Maybe it makes more financial sense for them to invest the time and resources into the academy or ASC.
I have a feeling that the mass majority of donations to the LVMI do not come from the guys hanging out in the forums trying to figure out whether its ok to rape someone who stole your bicycle. As long as there are bills to be paid, the insititute is absolutely going to focus on the events which bring in donations.
So yeah, its intenttional, but for totally justifiable reasons.
they said we would have an unfair fun advantage
I was looking here to see who worked at the Mises Institute. I only saw BK Marcus listed on staff out of the 3 you listed. I wonder who calls the shots - how much creative control does BK Marcus have towards developing the forums/site? Or is he given project objectives and can work within certain parameters?
gotlucky:I was looking here to see who worked at the Mises Institute. I only saw BK Marcus listed on staff out of the 3 you listed.
Then you didn't look hard enough.
Look again and tell me who's the Mises.org Technical Lead/Architect with the "webmaster" email address. (And also tell me who was your very first friend when you signed up on this forum).
Okay, so there are 2. My mistake. But how much creative control are they allowed by their bosses?
Depends on how you would define "creative control". Can they just turn the site into whatever they want? Obviously not. Can they make it so that the quote function of the forum works? I don't exactly see how Rockwell would have a problem with that.
But either way, I don't see how that's relevant. In just the context of the site (the community section in particular) not being "up to par", your defense was essentially "well, maybe they just don't know any better because they're just old geezers interested in printing books and aren't as tech savvy as us young whippersnappers who hang out on forums."
I will grant there did seem to be a decent amount of "ooo that sounds cool...lets do that", without a whole lot of concern for the actual userbase (as I mentioned here), and there were definitely a number of displays of the kind of technical ignorance you're talking about (mostly from one specific individual) some of which I went into here and here.
However, this in no way means that the Institute simply lacks the technical understanding or skill to address these issues. It has been brought up multiple times that labor resources may be a large contributing factor, and I'm aware of this. But again, that's largely irrelevant to the points raised here, namely (1) the notion that the neglect is purposeful (which I'm still curious to hear more from Hashem on), and (2) even if resources are limited, meaning certain things would necessarily take time and can't be done right away, etc., it by no means necessarily follows that the userbase should be completely left in the dark, with virtually zero communication from the powers that be (be it in the form of a simple request for suggestions for improvement every now and then, or at the very least a response when questions and issues are raised.) Anything other than complete silence and followed shortly after by censorship.
When I sent in my donations I always specified "To improve Internet services". I am not exactly what you call technically inclined (it took me years to discover Skype and even then almost a year to discover you can send SMS to people) but I believe the Net is the best divulgation tool available. Last year, due to the colossal blunder of the New Community I decided to withold any donation (which instead I sent to LRC, mostly because they host Thomas Sowell and Fred Reed) until they decided what to do with their online community and made my displeasure known. If they don't want to support an online community, I am fine with that. There are plenty of young, technological types who can use WordPress or whatever to make an online community without any links to the Institute, which in turn can continue to host free ebooks, Rothbard videos etc, all good stuff.
Personally I believe the community started out as a joke of sorts or a minor service and quickly overtook the Institute. They weren't aware of how much people are starved for alternatives to Disney-Communism and Keynesian mumbo-jumbo (as proven by Ron Paul: I confess I am surprised by his success). The Community became a rallying point for people from India, Spain, Thailand, Germany, South Africa, Brazil... And at that point the Institute didn't know what to with it. They tried to "fix it" and it went as we all know. It was an half-hearted attempt given by the fact the Institute has no idea how to channel this popularity.
Those are some pretty strong conjectures. I don't think I would go as far to say the community "overtook the Institute" and that it "didn't know what to do with" all that interest, but then again, you were here a long time before I was, so I can't really speak to what the site and community were like when the latter got started.
The lack of neglect is old news now, but still something to bring up. Current forum had problems, tried to put a new, better forum in it's place that turned out into a clusterfuck (I never figured it out), and still none of the problems on either were fixed.
Regardless if the forum is a non-profit, non-production part of the LvMI, it's where people who are interested in econ/libertarianism go to. The forum serves as a more direct means for discussion. You'd think that your means of communication would be in the best shape possible as far as "customer relations" goes (when I checked who's online there were 10 members and 1,195 guests.)
I don't know why the idea of fixing it eventually fell out the minds of whoever, but maybe they see it as, "Well, you've put up with it for this long and don't have anywhere else to go, so yeah..." Luckily some users do stick around in spite of a decaying user interface and surprisingly this forum attracts more users. If anything, they should delete the old forum and direct all traffic to here - whatever resources went into that was a waste, and it does not seem to reflect any suggestions of what the new forum should have been like.
If need be we might as pull our resources together and find a possible way to update the forum by our own means, if LvMI would allow (maybe we should appropriate the forum.)
Seeing how the forum is the only affiliation of LvMI/LRC I actively engage on I wouldn't be hesitant to donate to upgrade on the forum on our terms.
There was actually an older forum before this one. My impression through both changes is that a friend of someone at LvMI who knows a little web programming said "Hey, I can improve your website" and whoever makes these kinds of decisions at LvMI said (without sufficient probing) "Great! Do it!" What we got is this home-brew interface and the brokenness we've all come to endure.
What I have suggested from the beginning is that LvMI simply choose from one of the dozens of existing forum software rather than trying to reinvent the wheel - after all, they are not a web programming company. The best forum software I've ever interacted with is vBulletin but I understand there are some (fairly modest) license fees. If even those modest license fees are a problem, there are dozens of free, open source forums software packages that could be deployed.
I'd willingly transition to a new forum - the number one thing I desire is that the interface is reliable (doesn't eat my posts) and improves the usability in obvious ways (quoting, for example). I think my expectations are representative.
the mass majority of donations to the LVMI do not come from the guys hanging out in the forums
If they were using 3rd-party forum software instead of paying someone to hick-rig their own custom forum software, they could focus on doing things like putting a PayPal donate button on the pages that are served. They could also consider putting in some advertisements to generate revenue. The advertisement-serving companies handle all the technical details so this would have zero development costs. There must be thousands of clicks per day on this forum - I alone contribute more than a hundred clicks a day.
What would be the purpose in intentionally having a sub-par site
Not much reason at all, so need need to speculate
"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann
"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence" - GLS Shackle
I've sort of already come to the conclusion, so I guess I just have to unravel the reasoning in my head. Let's see if I can recall how I came to this conclusion...
A) Forums are easy. It's just that simple. It doesn't take a brilliant genius with tons of resources. At this point in internet history, anyone with a few bucks and even less brains can open up a flawlessly operating, standard ass forum. One of the first forums I ever used was run and maintained by two guys with almost no forum knowledge or funding (they were always asking for help and donations).
B) Mises.org cannot possibly be unaware of how easy forums are, or the fact that their forums are in disrepair. According to Clayton this is their 3rd attempt.
C) Mises.org has plenty of resources (money and manpower) to achieve flawless forums and to at least revert to the old website navigation.
D) Therefore, the disrepair is intentional. At best, they are aware of A, B, and C and have simply neglected to do anything, intentionally. At worst, they knew the effects that would result and just did it on purpose.
In an interview with Stefan Molyneux, Jeff Tucker said the website has some of the most brilliant web developers. They know what they're doing. There is no excuse.
The idea that the forums are some obscure underground place that nobody at Mises.org cares about is a plain fallacy. This is their 3rd attempt at rejecting universally recognized forum options in favor of some crummy BS. And the old website navigation, imperfect as it was, was infinitely more usable for the purposes which Mises.org mainly exists (in my opinion): access to media content. Again, you don't just develop a website and not know that, but you definitely don't be some professional with an already-functioning website and think that abomination was an improvement. It was intentional.
I think it's far more likely that the people running the site/Mises Institute just aren't as tech savvy
Simply untrue. This is their 3rd attempt at building custom forums instead of choosing universally aknowledged, established forum options.
Its easy to forget that the forums and even the website are not the main focus of the LvMI.
I would say that in the first place, that is untrue because they have devoted resources into building 3 entire forum systems. But its also irrelevant because a functioning forum doesn't require "main focus" from a pretty big institution. They are forums for petes sake. There are plenty of well established, flawlessly functioning options.
So yeah, its intenttional, but for totally justifiable reasons.
Intentional, yes. There is no justification for lame forums from 2 guys with maybe 15 regular users. There is definitely no justification for a massively important institution with plenty of resources on their 3rd attempt.
But how much creative control are they allowed by their bosses?
Enough to ruin the anarchist hub of the internet instead of simply having a decent website. Enough, clearly, to turn Mises.org from a site with decent navigation and decent forums into what it is today.
"Well, you've put up with it for this long and don't have anywhere else to go, so yeah..."
Precisely. They are in the absolute position of calling the shots. So they won't just obliterate the forums, they'll just allow them to be ever shittier.
My impression through both changes is that a friend of someone at LvMI who knows a little web programming said "Hey, I can improve your website" and whoever makes these kinds of decisions at LvMI said (without sufficient probing) "Great! Do it!" What we got is this home-brew interface and the brokenness we've all come to endure.
And whether you're right or wrong, clearly it was never an accident.
I just don't find any reason for ex post facto rationalizations of things people did on purpose. This is a professional website with plenty of resources, there is no excuse. I see it as objectively, empirically, obviously intentional.
To me its not important to figure out the whos and the whys. Its enough to know that a high schooler could see the mess and fathom several solutions. Its enough to know that things worked before, and now they don't. Its enough to know that things could very easily be different, and yet they aren't. Its enough to know that the input of the entire user base was never even requested, and has not been considered.
What's the big change in site navigation you're talking about?
Jeff Tucker said the website has some of the most brilliant web developers
Oh come on, it's Jeff Tucker, he says those kinds of hyperbolically polite things all the time.
I agree that it's at least intentional neglect but I think the dichotomy is not between "old geezers who don't get it" and "young nerds who do" but, rather, between people who are enthusiasts for Internet forums and (most) people who are not. The people who are not enthusiasts for Internet forums just generally don't "get it"... you write some stuff, push the "Post" button and it appears later, what is all the griping and hand-wringing about? So what if it doesn't always work, as long as it's 90%, why keep screaming about the 10%? These are people who have never had the experience of spending an hour typing a 1,000 word post and clicking the "Post" button only to have the entire thing vanish into thin air.
Clayton:I agree that it's at least intentional neglect but I think the dichotomy is not between "old geezers who don't get it" and "young nerds who do" but, rather, between people who are enthusiasts for Internet forums and (most) people who are not. The people who are not enthusiasts for Internet forums just generally don't "get it"... you write some stuff, push the "Post" button and it appears later, what is all the griping and hand-wringing about? So what if it doesn't always work, as long as it's 90%, why keep screaming about the 10%? These are people who have never had the experience of spending an hour typing a 1,000 word post and clicking the "Post" button only to have the entire thing vanish into thin air.
Which is why the crux of my whole beef with the whole thing is not that they don't "get it" but that they don't seem to care about the userbase itself. That's perfectly fine if they don't "get it" and don't care about forums. They care about spreading the ideas and getting more people to our philosophy, right? That's essentially what the slogan at the top of every page on the site says. I would have to assume that's essentially Rockwell's entire purpose in founding the thing. What else is it for if not that?
And my whole point is, if that's the purpose, why in the world would you not only neglect the "community" part of the online presence of the Institute to a point of sub-par functionality, but to a point of almost complete ignorance of feedback from the very community they're trying to foster? (And of course, as I mentioned in the OP, when it's not being ignored, it's being censored.)
That's what really bothers me. It's as if the powers that be are just too busy to be bothered with the actual concerns of the community. So much so that actually responding to a request or a notice about issue with the site is just too much to ask, and they'll get around to it if they feel like it, and if they don't, meh.
I think this is a definite side effect of the people in charge largely not being interested in the online universe themselves. Sure they recognized the need for it, and the reach it could provide, which is why the Institute had a website even before most people were dial-up with AOL. Jeff Tucker talks about it all the time in his lectures and interviews about technology. And you can see how excited he gets about this kind of thing and the possibilities and potential of it all. He likes that it's there, but he doesn't really participate in it himself, so in that sense gotlucky is right, he was (or at least appeared to be) the main driving force behind all this kind of "developement", but doesn't really fully "get it" (as evidenced here and here).
And again, that's fine. They don't have to "get it". I would just think that in the interest of spreading the ideas and expanding the LvMI community (and of course the larger Austro-libertarian community) they would be interested in listening to and responding to the userbase, instead of just operating from more of a centralized top-down manner of "whatever I think is best, is best, and I don't really care what anyone else says. They're wrong. I'm not going to bother myself with something that doesn't really interest me."
Like this response from David Veksler: A thread on the forum had been hijacked by a spammer, and when a request was made to fix it so that it was again visible and open to new posts on the forum, his response was:
I see it here: [URL]
But I don't like Paulspam nor do I approve of people wasting money on politics, so I am not going to spend too much time worrying about it.
I think that pretty much sums up the attitude.
John James:What's the big change in site navigation you're talking about?
It was a major change with minor changes since—like how modern PC game developers will release a buggy beta product developed for a different platform, and then "fix" only the things that are absolutely critically necessary. I learned about mises.org some time in 2007 or 2008. I really don't know the exact time it happened, I know it was in or after 2010, surely everyone here will know what I'm talking about, but mostly the way things are listed changed. That had the effect a buggy transition, ridiculous load times when you aren't on a decent connection, and now it takes forever to download several things at least recently text didn't even show up properly a lot of the time (a problem with the old layout as well, but that was offset by the fact that everything about it was better IMO).
For example, if you wanted to download The Ethics of Liberty in the old layout, you would navigate to the audiobook and see a 50 item list (if it was 50 chapters long) of links to mp3s. You would just right click and save each one, or if you have a simple downloadhelper addon you can choose to download all the, say, mp3s on that page, or even all except A, B, C. Now, you navigate to the audiobook (which may take really long because something about the new layout—I don't know enough about java or whatever the hell it is that is making it so slow and ugly—seems to have either really poor coding or be made only for people with decent connections, which anyone knows is a terrible principle to develop on), and see a list of maybe 20 items, with huge thumbnails next to each one that kinda serve no more purpose than a simple elegant button would, and you have to navigate individually to a separate page for each item, whereupon you wait for that page to load AND the audio to start loading automatically, before you can finally right click something to save the audio—then you go back and wait for the list to load again before you can move on to the next item. It could be objected that you can open each item in a new tab to eliminate the need to reload the list; my answer would be there is no need for the redundancy, especially since the old way was faster and (in my opinion better looking and) didn't have the redundancy.
Basically, the "new navigation system" is the html5 or java or whatever the crap they are coding onto the page that makes it load slow, look ugly, and stupidly hard to download multiple media files within a group. The new filters (authors, category, subject, and the box they are in is an example of the type of flash or html or whatever that loads slow and is buggy and looks ugly) can't be stacked or combined or whatever the word would be, and it doesn't even show what you select anyways.
I guess there's probably a bunch of things that would take some of me navigating around the site but I've become so turned off to (from?) it and I'm tired right now.
Okay, you're right about the need to open each individual page. That sucks. I never really went that route, so I wasn't aware of how cumbersome it became. I get all the audiobooks from the Mises section on iTunes U. Yeah, you need iTunes (or some kind of effective client), but it's a hell of a lot easier than downloading manually.
One of the things I think would be a nice addition would be to actually have a link to the audiobook from the resource page. So for example, I went to the main site and pretended like I was new and just browsing. I clicked on the literature section, then used the search feature in that section, which, it appears has now been fixed (did not work before). So Ethics of Liberty came up and I clicked, and was taken to the resources page, which is now called the "document" page which includes links to all the incarnations of the text...except for the audiobook. If I was a newbie, I wouldn't even know an audiobook was available. I never understood why such a link wasn't included.
I suppose it largely had to do with the book being in the form of several different files, and there was no way to have just a single download link for the whole book. But still, that's no reason to not have some kind of notice that the audio exists and is available for download on the site. This is part of the reason I did all the work I did in gathering and presenting the links relevant to each book on the Mises Wiki. Obviously there's not yet a wiki page for each book in the online library, but I was able to create quite a few. (Keep in mind there are sub-categories within that one containing more titles).
Which, the Mises Wiki brings up another example. That thing is almost entirely the result of basically three people...none of whom are employed or in any way officially associated with the institute. Virtually every single one of the more than 1000 articles was created and expanded by less than 5 people. Almost every template, which provides a great deal of behind the scenes backbone functionality of the wiki, was created solely by me. I'm not looking for praise here, I'm just pointing out that if a small handful of community members had not taken it upon themselves to build something there and volunteer their hours to improve it, it would almost certainly look a lot like the "new community".
And we were doing it with virtually no assistance from any of the development team. Anytime an issue arose or we came across something that needed to be changed or corrected, or found an extention that would improve the functionality of the wiki, it would sometimes literally take months before we even got a response from a site admin who had permissions to make those kind of background changes. Months.
And this persists to this day. Of course, as usual, when project started, Tucker was all about it. It was the next big thing, it was awesome and the potential was limitless. It got brought online, and then was essentially immediately abandoned. Even Dick Clark seemed to almost disappear right away, and never seemed to make any real contribution to the project (at least not a visible one, anyway).
I would like to know why. The only thing I can figure is the team of "brilliant web developers" consists of less than 5 people, all of whom likely have other gigs and aren't as concerned with all of this as one might think they would be. And I'm not saying they aren't doing anything, because it's obvious Veksler always has a Mises project of some kind in the works, and BK seems to be doing behind the scenes work a decent amount of time. But the impression I get is that they have a few overall directives and maybe every now and then get a request from the leadership or have a meeting about trying to implement something new, and they try to do some work on that, but are pretty much left to handle everything how and when they can...and if there's a problem with or a request made about something they don't really participate in or care much about, it just for the most part gets ignored (which, again was literally admitted in quote above.)
austrianforum.com was the first bulletin board service for AE, btw. There was the same complaining about the creation of this BB compared to that as there is about the "new" (Facebook driven) one.
Are you sure the resources/document page didn't used to list the audiobook? I know that that page uses the old template I was referring to, so I know there used to be versions of pages like that for each audiobook that listed all the chapters, but I'm not 100% positive that specifically the resources/document page used to list the audiobook even though I feel like it did. Then again, maybe I learned to navigated to the audiobooks section specifically because it did, in fact, never list them on the resources page.
hashem:Are you sure the resources/document page didn't used to list the audiobook?
Positive. At least as of late 2010. Like I said, I created almost every book article on the Mises Wiki. I made it a point to include all relevant links, and you'll notice even ones created a year ago needed a separate "audiobook" link.
I'm pretty sure I can even find a screen shot of the previous resources page layout.
Is anyone else getting this error lately:
It's been happening a lot to me today.
Yeah that happens. Sometimes more often than others. I have to assume it has to do with work going on behind the scenes.