In order to help Graphic Design.SE grow, I would like to get to know all of you, hear your thoughts about the site and how you think we can improve it. Meta discussions have proven more than beneficial; you've all been really great about responding to my ideas and providing great insight. But we have a chat room and I think that free-wheeling and informal format will help us devise and discuss a great variety of things to do.

I'm also the novice-iest of graphic design novices and I will probably have some (dreaded) Photoshop questions. You've been forewarned.

So I think the best thing to do is for me to have "office hours" in the chat. I will keep the Graphic Design chat open daily, while I am here at StackHQ. Please drop by and say hello! Let's make this chat active!

I will be in the chat next week on September 10th to 14th from 2PM UTC (10AM EDT) to 9PM UTC (5PM EDT). If you get in the chat and I'm not there, Ping me and I will get there ASAP.

UPDATE: Some really good things were discussed today, in what seemed to be the first active chat in a while. Fun! Please read, as some fun ideas for GD.SE were discussed. As well as chocolate, inexplicably.

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Like the idea but unfortunately chat simply takes up too much time for me. It's much easier to do drive-bys on a web site than to be distracted by chat. Honest truth is, I'm working most of the time I visit and am merely waiting for some processes to finish or sitting on hold with a client. :) –  Scott Sep 6 '12 at 12:30
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About the contest, I think design books would be better prizes to attract Graphics Designers. I find it sad that most questions on this site are related to using specific tools, and offering one of these tools does not seem like the best means to redirect the conversation towards design topics. –  Eric Bréchemier Sep 7 '12 at 8:59
    
What Scott said, plus, chat doesn't really work if you're not West of the Atlantic. Please do chat away, but it'd be nice to see conclusions and/or emerging consensus also summarised somewhere like here that's easy for the rest of us to follow. –  user568458 Sep 7 '12 at 12:12
    
Re. prizes, I agree CS6 as a prize would appeal massively more to students/grads/juniors than to the middleweight/seniors we need (unless we could get a "Free Adobe CS upgrade, use whenever" coupon...?). For them, I'm thinking cool non-essentials they might not get around to buying. Ideas: a) Wacom Cintiq 22HD (drool... not 24HD, international shipping could bankrupt SE!) b) Credit (?) with a print firm, so folk can freely do things like make big prints of personal work, experiment with crazy inks/materials... c) Credit/big voucher from a major font shop d) Good-spec Windows 8-Wacom slate PC –  user568458 Sep 7 '12 at 12:26
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3 Answers

Chat really needs a critical mass of users-who-like-chat, I suppose.

I'm possibly a generation (or two) out of phase, but I don't find chat useful or enjoyable. In theory, chat has the immediacy of a group conversation. It doesn't work that way in practice. I don't enjoy multiple overlapping and interleaved conversations, side-tracks and irrelevancies, any more than I would enjoy having to listen in on every conversation on a bus while trying to talk to a friend.

As @user568458 points out, scheduling so everyone can participate is next to impossible; our most contributive members are spread over at least three continents, so I don't have much enthusiasm for what would end up being a fairly localized chat. My own schedule depends on work load and deadlines. Some of my clients are entertainment industry, and are quite liable to hand me schedule-annihilating rush jobs "due on press tomorrow" without warning. Needless to say, I don't work a "9-to-5" schedule.

For all these reasons, chat has never appealed to me, even for a "topic of the week."

The lack of a PM facility on the site, which I would find useful, has always seemed a major omission. More than once, people have resorted to emailing me directly because they couldn't PM. (Yes, I know there's such a thing as a private chat -- but that has to be scheduled and is quite awkward to set up.)

I work with people in all parts of the world and often use Skype's IM/chat if I want to have a more immediately conversation than email, but in that case each conversation is clearly separated and can be saved as itself without spending a half hour extracting it from a sea of irrelevance. Several simultaneous conversations are easy to manage in that setting and don't all have to be in real time.

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I posted what I thought would be a quick thought (turned into an essay...) on chat to try it out, noticing that it wasn't unusual for posts to be days apart. I hadn't reckoned on the 2px spacing between paragraphs... it's unreadable, so in the name of readability and good typesetting I'm posting it here...


Just to drop down a quick thought - a crucial element of this puzzle that doesn't feature enough is the issue of content curation and ways of finding content. Click around http://stackexchange.com/sites looking for patterns in what's succeeding, what's surviving and what's stagnating. Obviously, proximity to programmer/geek culture is a big factor - look past that.

Another big factor seems to be the scale between sites like Stackoverflow, where problems have google-friendly hooks that people run into head first and then look for info on specifically - error messages, version numbers, function names, etc, and sites like us, History, etc, where there is great interesting content is often in questions people don't realise they should have asked until they see the answers.

(check out the History site by the way - fascinating brilliant stuff, but they're even more stuck struggling to reach out to their constituent community than we are)

There are essentially two views in SE. There's the latest questions feed, for people looking to help and create content, where stuff needing answers is pushed to people who want to help. And there's the view for people looking to consume content - which is google (which serves sites at the SO end fine, for those questions that fit the format). There isn't really any way to follow premium content and be surprised by it, other than wading through everything sorted by recency to get to it.

For us, the problem is exacebated further because a lot of our great content is surprising answers to dull-looking questions people wouldn't think to ask or give time to (until a newbie does for them) because they don't realise they're not doing something the best way. There's no clue in a list page that there's a great 5+ answer lurking in that answered, dull looking 1 vote question about something you do every day where you think your way is perfect.

What we need is some kind of 'Great content' view that is a face of the site that people can follow and get fed the best stuff - and hopefully from this, they'll get hooked and get involved. We've got just enough of a trickle of great content (=great questions + surprisingly great answers to meh questions) to fuel this sustainably, if it can be presented right.

It could be something high-tech like a page, feed, blog, digest or block down the side of the latest questions page highlighting only recent questions where question or answer have 4+ votes. Or it could be something low tech, like a 'Featured' tag that only certain high-rep people can apply a few times a week (then we show friends and colleagues the 'Featured' tag page) or a regular 'Question(s) of the day/week/month' or "Things we've learned this week" in meta or something.

It's USP in the world of things designers can follow would be the accountability, many voices, openness. For things in your specific niche, it's appeal is obvious, for things in other fields (if successful) it's an interesting low-effort insight into what's going on.

To summarise the issue: programmers (and techies, sysadmins, cooks, gamers...) come to find archive content by googling error messages (and logs, ingredients, levels...). Designers (and academics, enthusiasts...) in general discover content by following reliable sources. We've got good content, we need to give it to people in a way they can follow. The latest questions list page is, rightly, designed uncompromisingly for people who want to answer questions and for getting questions answered, not this.

It's not just us who this is an issue for - we just happen to be a site that has clear potential but is also towards the harsh end of this particular sliding scale. Loads of middling sites (engineering, religions, languages, sites like Android/Apple that have more pros but even crazier pro to drive-by ratios...) are somewhere in the middle on this scale, and even some topic areas in the high end sites are affected (best practices in SO, surprising advanced features in SU...). Get it right here, and loads of StackExchange sites will benefit.

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Just noticed that SuperUser.com has something of an attempt at a solution to this problem - a "Question of the week" blog which is actually a weekly hand-curated written list of 42 (FORTY TWO!!!) good questions... 42!!!! We don't need nearly that many. Just 3 (THREE!!) good questions a week, with question title, and a snippet and/or image from the best answer, would be enough to get something worth following - and we could pad out on slow weeks with old stuff from the vaults. In fact I'd suggest 1-2 old great questions per post anyway. –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 20:29
    
Ah, turns out Question of the Week is normally just one question, and that was a one-off. I'd say 3-4, mixing new and old, is probably ideal so most people will get stuff directly relevant to them (as well as stuff that's good pub knowledge) most weeks. Assuming we don't come up with a better idea for a view. –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 20:32
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I think that having a place to highlight and collect good questions and answers is a smart idea. That would essentially act as the Greatest Hits of this site and would be something that we could promote and show to introduce people to the site. It would have to be a blog, though. There's no chance of getting something new built into the site in any quick fashion. –  Brett White Sep 10 '12 at 20:37
    
Holy hell, loads of SE sites have blogs! stackexchange.com/blogs I literally browsed a load of SE sites like 2 weeks ago looking for evidence of things like blogs that they had, including several of the ones that do have blogs, and I couldn't find anything... –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 20:41
    
From a workflow point of view, I could see it working if there are official/unofficial ambassadors for topic areas and these guys nominate questions to fill slots, driven by what content is out there. For example, based on the current/recent range of content we could have 2 slots for Adobe CS techniques, 1 for open source and/or other non-mainstream/emergent tech, 1 for typography and/or a review/comment on the best new font discovered through "What's this font?" questions, 1 for design/art principles and 1 optional other slot. If we kept it up, I'd subscribe the hell out of that. –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 20:49
    
(and where a slot couldn't be filled with good enough new content one week, we'd lift something from the archive) –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 20:57
    
It would be worth having something like a "Featured" tag as well, which means "We could blog this some day", would be a good idea. In-the-know regular users could add it to interesting stuff, old and new, that they find, and it would make the highlighting process more democratic and less work for a small number of people. And I'd love to be able to click a tag like that and simply browse high-quality content, old and new alike! –  user568458 Sep 10 '12 at 21:13
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I think it's a good idea to give some life to the chat. It's usually hours or even days between visits and responses. I would however consider first thinking about what the chat would be good for, apart from frequent members discussing how to improve GD.

I mentioned how I believe the chat is not completely accessible for new users, because of the rep needed to participate and because they are just not particularly encouraged, so to say. But of course, there is no clear directions on what the chat should / could be used / be good for, so giving it more publicity without any clear goals would be useless. We have a goal these days: Talk about improving the site. But part of that discussion could be how to improve the chat (ughh).

What should the chat be used for? Can we somehow generate some content around it, give it a specific purpose? I think maybe... a question of the week, or a quiz. Any ideas?

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