TopAnswers Meta
Jon EricsonCC BY-SA 4.0
Jack Douglas reached out to me via email to get my impression of TopAnswers. I replied to him via email, but it occurs to me this might be useful for a broader audience.

I know TopAnswers is a work in progress and I haven't looked at your roadmap yet. So I might tell you something that is going to be fixed or has a reason that is not yet clear to the casual observer. 

Login feels odd. I like the idea of having a key that you can save in a password manager rather than email/password or third party credentials. But it's something I've never seen before and feels tenuous. If I lose my key, I lose my account with no way to recover. I created an account and didn't save my key the first time. Thankfully I didn't do anything with the account, so it wasn't a big deal. If this is the longterm design, make sure people save their key before doing anything they might want to recover. (As in block they from doing anything until they acknowledge they have saved the key.)

I love the chat window rather than comments. It's something we'd talked about forever, but never been able to get any traction. One idea was to make it something like Wikipedia's talk pages. The permanent sidebar chat room actually emphasizes comments/chat compared to comments after the posts. Maybe hiding the chat page until the user purposely reveals it? It's a balance between discoverability and distraction.

Chat feels cramped in the sidebar too. With a narrow window, chat needs a lot of scrolling to read. (Jack pointed out it is possible to resize, but the line you need to grab is pretty easy to miss.) It's also hard to get an idea of when chat items occurred in relation to the questions and answers. There's no anchor for "2 hours later". The transcript view is easier to use in those respects. It also isn't clear to me when a reply is to another chat message and when it's to a post.

The overall design seems, um, tabular. I find it hard to read the posts and I think it's got something to do with the harsh horizontal lines. I'm not sure why the author of the question is flush left and the author of answers is flush right. It would probably help to have someone with a strong design sense go over the layout. Not urgent, but this is the overwhelming impression and will make it harder to engage with visitors who don't know the project.

The three-column editor is confusing. It doesn't help that the question is jammed into a narrow column. Having the question on the page is a great idea, but it would be better for it to have the space it needs at the top of the page. We tried the side-by-side preview on Documentation and it was not well-liked. For a better implementation, consider

Is there a way to scroll code boxes when the are too narrow? All I could do was make my window larger.

I like the lack of votes on questions. The lack of downvotes is interesting and I'm curious if it will work. No closing (that I can see) is a bold choice too. I assume the idea is to not add this sort of thing in immediately in hopes of solving the inevitable problems in a different way. Seems to be the same idea with the lack of reputation and privileges. I'm not sure how well the site will stick with people, but it doesn't seem too hard to add that sort of thing in later.

I like the ability to import content from SE. I was looking for a way to import all my content at once, however. The licensing options are understandable given history, but they sure will be confusing to someone who just wants a database answer or post a question.

Tags are underdeveloped at the moment. I was expecting a way to find all the questions in a tag when I clicked on one. I suppose there is value in collecting the data for now. 

Anyway, those are my impressions right now. As a proof of concept, I like what I see. It's encouraging that Google is already picking up some of your answers and that there is activity on the meta site. 
Skillmon replying to Jack Douglas
on a Thinkpad you normally can do this with the trackpad, but it's driver dependent (not sure about Windows, on Linux with my trackpad I can't, but with the track point it should work.
Jon Ericson replying to Jack Douglas
Correct. It's an option we often considered for SE and never got internal traction on. Closest was dear, departed Documentation.
Jon Ericson replying to Jack Douglas
Ah. I have it set to the "Automatically . . ." option. But the problem really is (as @Skillmon points out) I needed to load all the lines of code before I could see the scroll bar.
Jack Douglas replying to Jon Ericson
which option, 'Blog'?
Jack Douglas replying to Skillmon
That's true but I don't really know what the solution would be, and it is a bit of an edge case. @Jon and I are actually lucky as we can scroll with the trackpad with 2 fingers on MacOS. Not sure if that is a feature of any Windows trackpads?
Jack Douglas replying to Jon Ericson
have you got 'Show scroll bars' set to something other than 'Always' (the default) in the 'General' pane of MacOS preferences?  
![Screenshot 2020-02-14 at 17.15.20.png](/image?hash=f47f12d42a6bea383450d7290ddb9b9e00bc9c69fbfd1ef1897e8f11d8a8f9cb)
Skillmon replying to David
It has a wider coverage than SE has on questions.
Andriy M replying to Jon Ericson
All fair points. It may particularly matter how this site is different from SE specifically, given that that's where the majority of users have come (and may still for some time be coming) from. Comparisons are inevitable, and the amount of oddness/unfamiliarity navigating this site may be the deciding factor for many
Skillmon replying to Jack Douglas
scrolling horizontally is only available if one scrolled vertically to the bottom of the code box. This is somewhat problematic if the first line of a 200+ lines block is very long.
Jon Ericson replying to Andriy M
I updated the title to reflect that these are first impressions. For better or worse, people tend to get used to things fairly quickly. For people invested in a project, that can mean they start to see the site as very natural and easy to understand. But most new users are not going to be invested and will bounce off if they don't get it fairly quickly. Some of the choices are likely right for this project, but it's hard for new users to see it right away.
Jon Ericson
Ooooh. I didn't see that option. Nice. (And I'm sorry I missed it.)
Jon Ericson
Probably because I'm not used to notifications working they way they do here, I wasn't sure what that box was all about. 
Jon Ericson replying to Jack Douglas
Yes. That helps. Now that I have some notifications, I have some questions . . . 
Jon Ericson replying to Jack Douglas
I'm on Chrome on a MacBook. I don't see a horizontal scroll bar at all, which was surprising.
Andriy M replying to Jack Douglas
You mean the messages were there but I couldn't see them because they were covered by the message preview pane or something? As opposed to being automatically scrolled into view as both the message edit field and the preview pane grew in size? My message does seem taller than all the previous messages combined, including the gaps between them too, so it's definitely a possibility.
maybe 6 of one/half a dozen of the other :-) 
PeterVandivier replying to Jack Douglas
idk, the counterpoint i'd considered is if something like @AndriyM's chat message warranted going up as a full "`answer`" response
(I do love that chat has a \[fairly?\] full Md set!)
@Jon Great to see your thoughts here! The two I most resonate with are these:  
- "It also isn't clear to me when a reply is to another chat message and when it's to a post."  
- "Tags [are underdeveloped]( at the moment."
Jack Douglas replying to PeterVandivier
I wondered about that too, shall I change it?
Jack Douglas replying to Andriy M
looks great to me, and if chat doesn't update while you are typing, that's a bug. Is it possible chat just didn't *scroll* while you were typing?
Andriy M
So I wrote it thinking I was going to be the first to comment, but it took me too long, and now it'll probably look a bit pretentious
Andriy M
Interesting, turns out when you are in the middle of writing a chat message, the chat doesn't update. I didn't see the comments by Jack and Peter until I submitted mine
Andriy M
This an invaluable feedback from someone whose past experience as a Community Manager has afforded him the ability to view things from the perspective of someone with a different viewpoint or of a different level of technical understanding. I must add that I myself may not necessarily view all the mentioned points in the same light as Jon represents, but it may well be my personal limited ability to look at things from a different perspective, and I accept that. Still, what I feel needs clarification is the fact that downvotes, privileges and reputation are all lacking here in a different way from one another. Downvotes are lacking in such a way that they are absent completely. Privileges, on the other hand, do exist but I know of only two (importing questions, and cleanup 'crew' membership), so it seems fair to call them lacking. As for reputation, though, I wouldn't say it's lacking at all here. Your reputation on a given site is the sum of all the stars your posts on that site have received. But I understand how the rep may seem lacking, because so far you can only see it in a tooltip when you hover over a user icon. Nevertheless, it does exist and, moreover, has at least one effect too: the more stars you've got, the more stars you can give on a single post (which I guess could also be considered kind of a privilege too).
Jack Douglas
re "Is there a way to scroll code boxes when the are too narrow?", what platform are you on? scrolling works on those we test on…
s/b a `blog` post? changing post types isn't supported, right?
Jack Douglas
Did you get the new notification about saving your key btw?
Jack Douglas
@Jon Thanks a bunch for posting this here :)