Wednesday, April 14, 2010

restyling the reader feedback

Recently at Wikinews we've been trying to give a more inviting look to the reader feedback extension. This extension adds a little box at the bottom inviting readers to rate the article. Many people felt that it could do with a little more snaz. The extension makes the form as a bunch of boring old html <select>'s:

Some people wanted something more like the typical rating systems you find on websites now a days (youtube and newstrust were two prominent examples given of what people were looking for). So we tried experimenting with some custom javascript to give it a new look. First we experimented with unicode stars / (considering the 9 billion different type of stars in unicode, its amazing how few have filled in and non-filled in variants). Then we moved to different star images:

Eventually we choose to use red stars. On hovering it gives users help text to describe the rating they are giving (you know for the stupid people who think one star means excellent). Here's the final result:

You'll also notice in the images a "Comment on this article" box as well. This was the only part of this that was a little ugly (since this is now straying into stuff that should be done at the php level) It still doesn't handle captcha's for anons who include links that well. (it redirects them to an edit page for the moment, eventually it will just prompt people to answer the captcha, when I get around to doing that. for the moment the fallback is ok, as not to many people [read no one as of yet other then me during testing] post links).

However if our comment pages are any indication, this feature seems to be quite widely used. There is some non-sense posted, but there is also some nice comments posted via the form. Whats really surprising is people commenting on our older articles [1]. Often at Wikinews we assume articles have a shelf life of at most a week, and after that almost no one reads them. That appears not to be the case. We were considering having a comment form on the Main Page, but weren't sure where we'd want the comments to go. (Talk:Main Page, Opinions:Main Page, Wikinews:Water cooler/assistence, Wikinews:Geust book, etc - none of them really seem to fit) so currently there is only the rating part on the Main Page.

With the adoption of liquid threads, our comment pages have really been taking off. I think the special:newmessages notification on the top right corner, brings commenter back to the comment page to respond to new comments. For example [[Comments:Large Hadron Collider reaches milestone]] has while not the most intelligent of conversations, still quite the conversation going. Before it used to be somebody posts something, then forgets, now they have a reminder that they have new messages, and thus respond to those who reply to them, and so on.

After a couple of days, it really does appear that these changes made a difference. Here is the graph of how people rated the Main Page over the last month. The green/blue line is how they rated us (in reliability), and the red line is how many people rated on a 1:6 scale. Notice how the number of raters per day increased almost 10 times!



  1. This looks great! Maybe the JavaScript can be folded back into the ReaderFeedback extension, so all users of the extension can profit from the improved layout.

  2. Yes I agree, that'd be a good idea if people are interested.

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