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Nerd Paradise

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The Forum > Announcements > What exactly is a Paradise?
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NP has been around for almost 11 years. The first version had frames, animated GIFs (both in the navigation menu and as the background), a scrolling marquee, and a background MIDI all on the front page. I've watched the internet change quite a bit during that time and to a lesser degree, I've seen NP also change. The focus has more or less always stayed the same: teach people stuff. Maybe noble-sounding on paper, but also a bit naive in the landscape of the modern internet.

In the grand scheme of things, I have relatively weak Google power these days. Sure, I'm on page 2 of the Google results for Rubik's Cube Solution, but that's pretty much the only thing I have to my name after working on this for nearly 11 years. In order to gain a ranking, I need credibility enough for people to link to me. In order to do that, I need lots of people reading. To get lots of people reading, I need lots of content. To get lots of content, I need to either write a lot, or get tons of other people to write a little bit. In order to get tons of people to write a little bit, I need tons of people reading. And to get tons of people reading...(you see where this is going).

The model of content generation of NP is like a pendulum that keeps swinging back and forth. NP1 through 3 was closed. NP4 was open. NP5 was closed. NP6 and onwards was open. I'd say the most success I've had was during NP3 and NP5. The open systems failed for different reasons. But ultimately, I now believe it comes down to this: getting people to write a tutorial-oriented article is no longer a valid working model for a website. All other sort of content has no direction because I didn't specifically guide or encourage any other content.

In fact, there are probably only 4 or 5 websites on the internet that pull off writing technical information and tutorials and meet the minimum quality bar that I would desire for NP. Two notable ones are Wikiversity and WikiHow. Both of those websites have absolutely no personality, which is one thing I love about NP when people do happen to be present. Any specific topic NP could hope to be The Ultimate Source on is far toppled by sites that are specific to that field.

Perhaps I was too focused on the goal of forcing the content in the direction I envisioned back when scrolling marquees were acceptable on professional webpages, that I lost focus on what made NP great in the days of NP3 and 5. Even though content generation was closed off, it was still slightly open to a handful of people. Mostly just me, eofpi, Omni, and a few guest appearances by 1NPH1N1TY and a few others. In NP5 I made a commitment to post every day. I put this commitment over my goal of focusing on teaching skills or writing tutorials, so half of the time (and by "half", I mean 92% of the time) I would post something ridiculous or just too silly to be taken seriously. Clouded by my initial goal, I personally felt like I had deteriorated NP for the sake of posting and it felt dirty. With no real negative symptoms, I tried to cure NP by making NP6 and that's when it all started to go to hell. And as you can guess, my posting rate went from every day to 8% of that. People stopped reading. During this time, Google became the ultimate source of people asking questions that begin with "How-do-I..." and my market share was pulled out from under me. The Rubik's Cube solution and now a few random articles that get massive hits for a brief period of time from StumbleUpon are the only things keeping NP alive.

So I give up. I give up on keeping NP dead for the sake of making it perfect according to my 1999 goal. Any site that tries to provide wide-scope technical information is almost certainly doomed to fail without some sort of magic infrastructure or massive starting off point. There are about a dozen sites that do this, and about a billion sites in existence. Probability of success is, well...do the math.

I will close off posts by other people. (Hooray! No more gatorhost.com spam!) But for those few of you who have been loyally using the blog feature on NP these days, don't panic just yet. I will close off NP to posts by random people in the sense that NP3 and 5 were closed off. I will return to the small staff model of content production. Personally, I need to feel more empowered to handle NP's fate than kindly ask strangers on the internet to write random stuff for me and expect it to just take off. I will not decline posts from regular NP'ers if their writing meets the quality bar. I or one of the admins will proudly post it for you.

I also own a dead blog at blakeohare.com which I've always wanted to revive for people that wander over there. But I always felt silly writing something on blakeohare.com where only a few people would read it when I could post it on NP where a few dozen more would. But there is something unique about nerdparadise.com and blakeohare.com. They are hosted on the same server! This presents an opportunity to link both blogs to the same database. I will not only be keeping NP up to date, but also be keeping my own website fresh by filtering out just my posts and presenting them there also. I will kill two birds with one stone.

From now on, I'll just start posting whatever comes to mind. I'll try to post every day. I'll even set up the same queue system I had back in NP5 so that I can get a few things in there and not worry for a few days. Sure they won't be massive posts, but they'll be something. Basically whatever went through my mind that day of interest. Yes, this will turn into a basic blog. But hopefully this same mind that brought you the giant origami monkey attack, the Boloney[sic] Cannon, Xe Treats, and Proper Technique for Closing a Rectractable Window Blind still has it in it.

Hopefully I won't be doing this alone. I'll try to encourage others to join in but only if they feel inspired to do so and to do so regularly. Readers follow blogs because they enjoy the reputation that the writer carries with them. With a closed and somewhat small staff that posts regularly, the personality is more distinct and you get that hanging-out-with-4-friends-from-the-same-dorm sort of feeling that makes people come back.

There is one perk I will offer to anyone who posts on NP regularly. I will offer them a website (including a domain) setup similarly to blakeohare.com in that it will have their posts filtered out and shown as their own personalized site/blog along with any other stuff that they want to post on it such as a resume or whatnot.

My Goal from NP6 onward was 1) Quality, 2) Quantity, 3) Regularness. My Goal should actually be 1) Regularness, 2) Quality, 3) Quantity.

Contests will come back. And commentaries. And random silliness that passes through my head. Reviews for movies, video games, etc. These things are easy as compared to writing a decent end-to-end PHP tutorial. NP just isn't the right medium for presenting technical information on 2010's internet. As far as programming tutorials and reference goes, I will be working on another site this fall that will specialize specifically in that. It will be optimized for this type of information way better than generalized NP could ever be. In fact, while designing this new programming website, I toyed with the idea of just adding it as a feature to NP instead of creating a new site. The answer I arrived at was 'no' which lead me down this thought path of why I couldn't. That, and also realizing there is an ongoing contest that Cosman recently created. These are the types of things that NP can do and does well when it attempts to. And now it will.

This would be one of the more drastic rewrites of NP. Please let me know what you guys think before I start up the bulldozer.
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I do think that the technical information goal is lofty, but also still kind of a good goal, because sure, you can find the information elsewhere, but if I have to choose between a better tutorial that's dry and a somewhat worse one with personality, I'll probably choose the latter, because I can actually read it. (Assuming it still teaches enough for me to learn what I need.)

But you are right that limiting it to just that is bad. I've wanted to post more things than I have thus far, which annoys me, but doesn't surprise me, because we are all eternally lazy.

I think that it might be good to, if we ever get more than a couple dozen tutorial-ish posts, have some sort of "Learning corner" for them to gain a little recognition, and maybe help motivate more production of them.

That's all that I can think of, at least for right now.
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Your speech does not feel eloquent, but it does feel extremely clear and well thought out. To be perfectly honest, the reason I stopped posting blogs was because I felt like I was doing them wrong. Other people posted useful things, things that taught things to other people. All I posted was... lame comics and random drivel.
It felt imposing. The same type of imposing that keeps people from posting in the knowledge base. I mean, even the two things I asked just ended up with a link for an answer there.
But, of course, that has already been discussed.

I believe that the direction you are attempting to head will be a good one. It does lead me to one more question. What is the quality standard you seek for posting?
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Your speech does not feel eloquent, but it does feel extremely clear and well thought out. To be perfectly honest, the reason I stopped posting blogs was because I felt like I was doing them wrong. Other people posted useful things, things that taught things to other people. All I posted was... lame comics and random drivel.

I liked that stuff...
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Cosman246 said:
Your speech does not feel eloquent, but it does feel extremely clear and well thought out. To be perfectly honest, the reason I stopped posting blogs was because I felt like I was doing them wrong. Other people posted useful things, things that taught things to other people. All I posted was... lame comics and random drivel.

I liked that stuff...


Comics and drivel are two cornerstones of the internet.
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HK-47 said:
Cosman246 said:
Your speech does not feel eloquent, but it does feel extremely clear and well thought out. To be perfectly honest, the reason I stopped posting blogs was because I felt like I was doing them wrong. Other people posted useful things, things that taught things to other people. All I posted was... lame comics and random drivel.

I liked that stuff...


Comics and drivel are two cornerstones of the internet.


I never knew anyone cared enough to actually like the stuff I wrote. Thank you, you guys. I'll make efforts to think of new mind-droppings to post.
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Okay. So, I'm usually disappointed with websites' user content generation systems, and am always slightly annoyed. Because of this, I will usually post one or two things before never visiting it again. I have a basic user content generation template that I've thought about a lot. In the most dramatic cases, I actually start designing a website that mimics the aforementioned disappointing one, only with my preferred template. However, I realize, disheartened, that it's no use and I have better things to do.

Usually, the problem is with ease of use. Some sites, its incredibly easy to get your post up and published. More often that not, it seems like there's nobody sitting at the webmaster's computer. Simply put, your post will just sit there.

Anyways, I'm not making any sense, am I? What I should be saying is, the user-driven content should be easy for anyone to submit posts, easy to get good content published, and should get feedback for bad content. So, for a quicky api, you could have an articles tab. In the articles tab, the user can see all their draft articles, pending articles, and published articles. Admins can see all the articles, give suggestions (automated, if needed), approve, ignore, make changes, etc... Ignoring articles should be avoided, simply because users content needs feedback. I hate it when content just sits like a potato. The api should be developed enough that users don't just post random stuff that will never make it (like the current blogs).

Well, never mind. Its your site, do what you want with it. Just keep in mind, if you want user-driven content, make it easy-hard.
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Du' Deman said:
So, for a quicky api, you could have an articles tab. In the articles tab, the user can see all their draft articles, pending articles, and published articles. Admins can see all the articles, give suggestions (automated, if needed), approve, ignore, make changes, etc... Ignoring articles should be avoided, simply because users content needs feedback. I hate it when content just sits like a potato. The api should be developed enough that users don't just post random stuff that will never make it (like the current blogs)


I like this idea.
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I believe I may have misstated my previous post. Basically, that was a general framework I've put into practice that works effectively, but may not be practical for every use-case. So- do what you want, but I recommend keeping the same principles in mind.
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I guess I'm a little behind; I only came back to the site a few weeks ago, but if the quality of user-generated-content is an issue, it could be qualified by a proof of knowledge (like only being able to post if you have a high enough score in a related nerdity test?)

The nerdity test is what originally drew me to the web site, and what ultimately drew me back. Since I actually know stuff now, I find that I could enjoy posting and asking questions and participating in the activity of the web site.

I don't think isolating the website from mainstream internet users is the formula for a living breathing community, but I agree that we don't want NerdBook.com.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.
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(like only being able to post if you have a high enough score in a related nerdity test?)


Aside from the fact that the tests appear to be suspended for now, even in a no cheating circumstance they do not really test how practical a person's knowledge is on a subject and more on the specialized trivia they happen to know from somewhere or another.
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Aside from the fact that the tests appear to be suspended for now, even in a no cheating circumstance they do not really test how practical a person's knowledge is on a subject and more on the specialized trivia they happen to know from somewhere or another.


True, but even in a cheating scenario, you have to know something; even if it is just Google-fu.

Also, it would not have to be the tests--it could be a submission to prove knowledge (like a link to a blog you wrote showing you know your thing) and get the ability to post--what I'm thinking of is that you send a request to be able to post to the people who can already post and they can ok you based on your submission. Just another option I guess.

(p.s. several people have told me the quizzes do not work, what do you mean? Can you not take the tests?)
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(p.s. several people have told me the quizzes do not work, what do you mean? Can you not take the tests?)

They used to be on the top bar. As you can see, they are no longer there. While you can still access them from the front page, they have disappeared from where most people can see them, so they (and I, not too long ago) thought they were gone.
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Welcome to my gigantic post on what I think NP should be like.
Let me begin by introducing myself. I have been coming to this site since it was written solely by Blake, formerly Xe, formerly Webmaster. So for the rest of this post, I am directly addressing you, Blake. We first talked via AIM after my first visit to the site many years ago. I visited you when you were still at Georgia Tech, you've stayed at my house, you've met my parakeet, you had an interview with Microsoft a few feet away from where I'm sitting now. All of that happened because of the history of this website. Now I have a lot to say about its future.

I think the one big problem with the site is that it feels very sterile. That's the best way I can describe it. Even though it's supposed to be based on user-generated content, something (I can't quite explain what) gives the impression that when you step into NP you're stepping into somebody else's territory. I feel like a large part of it is the typical nerdy misanthropy when new members join.
In my opinion, the website should be geared more towards the more fun articles. Any website can teach you a programming language or math rules. It was always the goofier stuff that stood out, things like Xe treats and the stop motion videos you made. And frankly, somebody is more likely to share (Digg, Tweet, Facebook post, whatever) an article that makes them laugh than a long-winded article about Fermat's last theorem. So in concept, I think that the goal of NP should be to get somebody to laugh at an article about Fermat's last theorem.
The first thing I would do is simplify. You've had a bunch of good ideas over the years. Many worked, many didn't. However, I think a lot of the site can be packaged together rather than just being many disembodied, half-built ideas. The learning graph, knowledge base, snippets, blogs, "Pulse" (whatever that was), nerdiverse (whatever that was), contests, and probably several other things could be consolidated into the forum. The forum is by far the most popular part of the site, and the primary reason why most people probably make an account. Somebody is much more likely to start a forum thread than make a blog article. Right now an article exists as an individual page with content and a comments section, existing like a blog post without much room for 'discussion'. I doubt it would be far too much work to dump the preexisting articles into an updated forum. The format would be pretty much the same, but by being in the forum it feels more comfortable to discuss the topic at hand. Popular forum threads can then be exported as content. This could either be done by mods, or you could make a basic karma system. (Allow people to anonymously vote a post up or down. Enough votes up makes a post an eligible for the main page [at mod's approval], enough votes down throws up a red flag. That way the users both write the content and choose the content, making a main page article something to be proud of.)
Let me just put this more clearly. Instead of somebody making a blog post about the Collatz conjecture, they just start a topic in the forum. People respond, changing it from a lecture to a conversation. Popular/interesting/funny/well-written posts and threads get voted up then linked to directly from the main page. A bit like a cross between Something Awful, Digg and Slashdot with a touch of YTMND.
If you look at other successful community-based websites, you will see that they are built around a forum architecture, especially the sites you find yourself returning to every day, several times a day. By consolidating a lot of the site into the forum, you will draw more people, more activity, and more content all at once. Also, it will free up a lot of the clutter. If I was visiting the site for the first time I would initially be confused at the plethora of main-page links, several of them leading to dead ends or even more confusion. Simplify. Let me repeat that. Simplify. Make things simple and self-explanatory. If I was a first time NerdParadisian, I wouldn't know the difference between the Learning Graph, the Knowledge Base, the Nerdiverse, and Pulse. To be completely sincere, I've been frequenting NP for about eight years now, and I have no idea what most of the site is for. Also, all of the construction dead ends look sloppy. You're an adult now. We all are (well, except eofpi). You have a job and an apartment, and priorities far above this site. I fully support you building and tinkering with new parts of the site, but why not leave them offline until they're complete?
Wow. I wrote a lot more than I expected. And now it's late. I guess I should conclude my post. As you said, you've been working on NP for almost half of your life now. The website is older now, the internet is older now, and you are older now. I have also seen the site evolve, though from afar. But you also built Two Cans and String just a couple years ago, and somehow that sprung to life with almost no encouragement. Why? Because it thrives on simplicity and community activity. Take what you've learned from that and apply it to Nerd Paradise. It deserves it.

Oh yeah. One more thing. Can we have the option to view dates and times in normal format? Please? Just add a radio button to my profile page and I'll be happy.


tl;dr People come here for the forum. Concentrate on that.
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<nag>Get done already. And brush your teeth!</nag>
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BTW, maybe you should do something about y10k. Just thinking ahead.
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I thought this was just a place where intelligent people could communicate with other intelligent people.
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Maybe, but I think intelligent people who run the site where intelligent people can talk with intelligent people would intelligently store their intelligent data with a time stamp. This would stop the reseting of the intelligent design of time to result if the site where intelligent people can talk with intelligent people shuts down. Quite intelligent, if you ask me.
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Blake said:
Using the KB

It's not just about adding more content, but also lowering the "fear bar" of being a first poster. If you have a question, go ahead and hit the KB up before Google.
From the past. I have put up a bunch of questions in the KB, and so far none of them have been answered. On the other hand, if I post a question in the forum, it is answered by the next day. I might as well use Google or the forum.
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One question, how does limiting blog posts to admins help the minute amount of content?
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Maybe it'll encourage people to stay? Or perhaps he's thinking for when the site gets large, it'll keep crap from being posted?
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Never said:
Or perhaps he's thinking for when the site gets large, it'll keep crap from being posted?

A winner is you!
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When do you think that a site representing a small portion of what is almost the lowest social class to get big?
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I don't see how the people here are the lowest social class. In any case, just because a forum caters to a more specific user base does not necessarily effect a lack of popularity or growth. It's not a set date or length of time that will determine its size, though - it's a combination of people hearing about it, if it's advertised at all (or is referenced in a high-traffic place), and other such things. You'd have a tough time saying "in x months, NerdParadise will be large."
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