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Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa!

02.13.2008
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Any of you who has visited the Javalobby homepage in the past couple of weeks has probably gotten a shock, and my first order of business is to take the responsibility for one of our least graceful design transitions ever. It was basically a case study in how NOT to do things, so I hope you’ll accept my sincere apology for the disruptive nature of this sudden switch. Matt and I both know that nobody welcomes change to a “familiar favorite” like Javalobby even when the changes are managed well, but what we did was basically to yank the rug out from under you without warning. There are a thousand ways we could have done better, and we apologize for upsetting a community that we care for very deeply.

Rants, raves, feedback, therapy? Say it here.

So, what did we do, and why did we do it?

Well, for starters, we migrated to a new infrastructure based on Drupal, an incredibly powerful, open source CMS platform. Moving to Drupal was a difficult choice that has been a long time in the making, but I’m convinced that it was the right choice. The highly extensible, node-oriented architecture of Drupal combined with its intriguing api hooks and its buzzing community of contributors made this framework a compelling choice. It wasn’t even a question of whether to use PHP or Java, the choice was Drupal, itself. Mark my words, the Drupal platform has a brilliant future.

Drupal lets us power a network of connected communities, each targeted to a different segment of the developer world, with user-generated content like news, announcement, editorials, book reviews, quick tips, feature articles, videos, podcasts and more. Imagine a family of sites similar to Javalobby but covering Ruby, Eclipse, Groovy, PHP, Ajax, CSS, SQL and so on. Now connect those sites to a social bookmarking service that helps tens of thousands of developers locate fresh, interesting links every single day. There, you just got the idea of the DZone Network.

Well, if Drupal is so good, then what did we do so poorly?

The answer is pretty simple. We transitioned to the new system before we were ready to, and we did it completely without warning. I won’t bore you with a lot of details, but Matt and I simply felt that we had to flip the switch because we were stuck between the old and the new in a way that wasn’t healthy for either of them. Flipping that switch before we were ready meant that some of the fundamentals weren’t in place yet, but we’re still working double overtime to put them there. We’re making steady progress.

For those who are worried or upset that the portal qualities you enjoyed at the old Javalobby are missing in the new system, please be confident that they will be back soon and better than before. In a recent survey more than 70% of over 1200 respondents told us they prefer the zone homepages to be more like a portal than a blog. We’re listening, and we hear you loud and clear! You’ll like this when we’re done. I like it already!

What’s the deal with these new forums that nobody uses yet?

Ahh, I’m glad somebody asked that question! Another significant change is that have launched a new site specifically for forums at http://forums.dzone.com. Since the old Javalobby had a pretty strong connection to forums anyway, why did we feel this separate site was necessary? The answer is simple. We want to create an appropriate place within the DZone Network for you to engage in friendly discussion, get help from others and talk about any topic that might reasonably be relevant to your life as a developer.

While it is true that we have always had lots of discussion at Javalobby, it isn’t the case that our discussions have been particularly open-minded, friendly or welcoming, especially to the newcomer trying to get help with a problem. Many of you have privately told me that it was intimidating even to post anything in the old Javalobby discussions, for fear that someone would verbally bite your head off in a reply. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but it makes me feel ashamed! I want this community to be truly friendly, and I believe it is just as easy to default into kindness as it is to default into nastiness.

In the new DZone forums we’re taking our cue from the visionary folks at JavaRanch, and our simple forum rule is now “be nice!” For many long years, in a libertarian spirit of openness, we have tolerated far too much reprehensible conduct in the public discussions. The desired end result was always a thriving, free and excellent venue for discussion of important issues, but too often it just became a public whinge-fest, generating a lot more heat than light. We felt it was time to press the reset button, and we did. From now on, if someone is a jerk in the forums, then they will get a couple of warnings and then the boot pretty quickly.

I hope you’ll be adventurous enough to jump in and help us kickstart these new forums. Help make them a place where you enjoy positive dialogue, sharing ideas, making friends, helping others and getting help when you need it. The layout is simple, there’s someplace for virtually every developer-related topic, and you have my personal guarantee that we’ll do everything we can to keep the bullies out and keep these new forums friendly. What are you waiting for?

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