BrainShare social networking

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I am going to BrainShare this year!

It has been interesting to watch the social networking thingy related to BrainShare over the years.

Two years ago, and for many years before that, the primary social group for BrainShare was This was an NNTP (you remember Usenet?) group hosted on the same servers that host the Novell Support Forums. BrainShare 2006 saw an increase in a certain kind of anti-Novell traffic that was already fairly common in the lead up to BrainShare 2005. The denizens of the group tend to be old time Novell hands, and as you can imagine they were pretty upset about Novell's plans for NetWare. A few very vocal people managed to raise enough of a stink that there wasn't a lot going on in the group for 2006. Unsurprisingly, was removed from the NNTP servers around May 2006 (though the google-groups version of it is still around, see the link).

Last year Novell came up with BrainShare Connect as the social networking thingy. It had forums, blogs, and various other things to try and get attendees hooked up with each other and interacting. It got a reasonable amount of traffic, but many folks who had been regulars of the NNTP group were not there. I checked in every few days to see if anything new was up. For 2006 and 2005 I had checked the NNTP group daily, since there really was that much going on.

This year BrainShare Connect is back, but... they didn't do it right. The same outsourced firm is handling it, but even though it has Web 2.0 stamped all over it the interface is markedly worse than last year. There are no blogs. There are no polls. The interest finders are... weak and obfuscated. The forums are implemented on PhpBB, but done wrong. As an example of the wrong, take a look at this screen shot of me Replying to a thread:

Reply pop-over obscuring everything

What am I replying to? I can't tell. That window can't be moved or resized. I better hope my memory is good. I don't know if this is a new PhpBB feature, a new version came out a while ago, or some customized mod from WingateWeb. Whatever it is, it isn't a good thing. The ability to see what you're replying to greatly eases the flow of conversation.

And the logout screen is particularly interesting, too.

The logout window with weird buttons

What ever happened to "Cancel/OK"? Hasn't that been a de facto standard since, like, the Mac Classic came out 24 years ago? Proceed? I think that's the first time I've ever seen that particular word in that particular spot in an application developed by professionals.

The NNTP group had plenty going for it, but it was spoiled by a few vociferous critics. In the last few months Novell has released a brand new HTTP interface for the support forums that is worlds better than what was there before. Novell could bring this function back in-house if they really wanted to, and I'd support that decision. That said, I do understand why they need/want WingateWeb to handle that function. I just wish they did it better.

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I can;t beleive how things have changed from 20-30 years ago. Everything is done online now from banking to meeting new people. If it wasn't for the need for actual human interaction our society would never leave their homes!