Thread thumbnails

quad damage
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pior quad damage
Hello all - and especially moderators.

This topic has been brought up in the past but since I noticed a recent thread collecting bug reports I thought now might be a good time to bring it up again.

Thread thumbnails would make the viewing experience in the 3d/2d Art Showcase subforums a lot better. I personally cannot think of any valid reason not to enable them.

Here is a mockup done on today's content : 



Is such a design tweak possible, even temporarily ?

If yes, the argument of making the viewing experience "fair" by hiding both polished and rough art behind a wall of sterile thread titles doesn't hold at all - it hurts traffic for both. As a matter of fact I am convinced that thumbnails showing unfinished pieces in obvious need for critique and help would generate traffic since people willing to help would want to click them. And of course, great pieces would attract traffic too, since even in thumbnail form one can tell that something looks great.

Let the heated discussion begin ! :D

Replies

  • Fuiosg
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    Fuiosg polycounter lvl 5
    I agree. To me, making thread contents harder to view is shoddy design; you should always encourage a better browsing experience.
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni interpolator
    Yesssss please.
  • R3D
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    R3D polycounter lvl 7
    PLEASE UPDATE THE LAYOUT. SO MUCH DEAD SPACE.

    Yes I know there's the custom theme for it, but have that as the default, not something extra we need to add.
  • maxivz
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    maxivz polycounter lvl 7
    This looks like a great idea, I would love to see it in!
    Also, I'll have to second Ken with his request 
  • MissMaddyTaylor
  • STRIKER
  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 7
    But dont we have what is essentially the same functionality in the thumbnail icon on the right?
    I like the thumbnail idea but I feel like the magnifying glass thing scratches the itch while keeping the forums clean aesthetically.
  • Daew
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    Daew polycounter lvl 4
    yes please,
    I think it shows where it hurts the most when trying to look at competition threads. Clicking a whole page worth of threads to see whats in it, is a pain. using the magnifying glass was a better experience but still they took a while to load. 
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Hobo : indeed, the magnifying glass works, but wouldn't thumbnails be even better ... and much, much faster ?

    I personally don't see the point of having sterile,  "clean" text-only pages - I don't think people come here to marvel at the layout of a text-only forum, or to play Monkey Island pixel hunting with the magnifying glass :D Even Reddit has thumbnail previews.

    After all we keep insisting that portfolios should always reduce the amount of clicks standing in the way of images, so why are we not following the same logic here ?

    And of course, enabling such a feature doesn't have to be a definite thing - if it ends up being a negative, we can always roll back. But considering that the system is pretty much in place already behind the scenes (as shown by the magnifying glass) I think that at least trying it out for a bit couldn't hurt ...
  • Fuiosg
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    Fuiosg polycounter lvl 5
    Does the highlight thing even work on tablets? Not sure it does.
  • kanga
  • Eric Chadwick
    Great suggestion Pior. I'll add this to our wishlist.

    We're moving things mightily behind the scenes, and making some changes. So you should see some bug fixes in the short term, followed by forum upgrade ideas like this one, and the other ones. Dead space, yep we hear you.

    One thing about the thumbs. The current system with the magnifying glass does not make thumbnails... it loads the first image from the thread in its entirety and merely changes the width/height display numbers in HTML/CSS/whatever to scale it into a thumb-like size. So that system would be terrible for persistent thumbnails, because people upload big images. So all those thumbs would mean several MBs of loading time.

    Instead the server should create a small thumbnail image. And if you change the first image in your thread it should be smart enough to create a new thumb. 

    Anyhow my thoughts.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Glad to hear it Eric !

    And yeah, I have been wondering about the full size images potentially being used for thumbnails. On one hand they do load pretty damn fast when using the magnifying glass, making me think that they could be very well be used as thumbs in this day and age ; but on the other hand the whole thing could fall appart if a user goes crazy with a 5mb png, not only affecting his/her own thread but also the whole page if such images where to be used as thumbs. Tricky !
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    Thread thumbnails is a sure-fire way to ensure threads with low quality artwork, or artwork produced by those beginning or learning how to model for games, gets entirely overlooked. Granted there probably isn't more click-throughs now, without thumbnails, but using thumbnails will not do anything but help those with high level of skill and talent and hurt those without it.

    IMO there should be exploration in ideas that can allow both levels of skills get attention in the community, and not an idea that'll separate them further. E.g. if you want thumbnails, continue the train of thought and think of ways to engage users to go in to threads with very early skillsets and help those who need it.

    2 cents.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Hi there @Adam ! Glad to hear more on the topic.

    Thread thumbnails is a sure-fire way to ensure threads with low quality artwork, or artwork produced by those beginning or learning how to model for games, gets entirely overlooked


    So, I have been wondering about that and I have to say I don't really understand this reasoning. Why would thumbnails showing rough artwork be a bad thing ?

    Does that mean that the current system is designed to "trick" viewers into clicking sterile thread titles, to spread traffic evenly ? Regardless of the intention I don't think this is doing anyone any favor - great art and rough art alike.

    If someone doesn't want to give constructive criticism to begin with, this person is not going to give it just because they landed on rough art after clicking a random thread title. Such a viewer will just back away from the thread and not post anything. Yet on the other end of the spectrum of viewers, you may have someone who is, say, an expert in modular level design and very willing to share knowledge. If this person spots a thumbnail showing amateurish level design work, I am convinced that this person will actually want to click the thread in order to give helpful critiques.

    And besides that, the current sterile look of the showcase forum doesn't generate visual interest at all (sorry to be blunt here, but that's an obvious !). Colorful thumbnails showing a wide range of skills and various types of work (environments, characters, props ...) would allow viewers to instantly identify which threads are matching with their interest.

    Lastly, skill level varying from one artist to another is only natural ! There's nothing wrong with that, and I'd personally rather have a vibrant community proudly showcasing both great art and rough art, rather than hiding both behind a wall of text ... and only pushing a select few in the banner rotation.

    Anyways, I suppose this could be argued back and forth forever. My point is more about that fact that rather than hoping to design a perfect solution, it might be worth giving this a try just to see how things go (even by scaling down the first image of a thread). I think it's worth trying, even temporarily in order to see how it feels and to collect metrics.
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    No, the intention is not to trick people to click through. If that was the intention there'd be no image preview available at all (there is, the magnifying glass). In addition to what I wrote in my previous replying, I think its worth saying that I am all for thread previewing - I just feel that thumbnails in a discussion forum do more harm than good. Visually I feel there is more presidence for that looking cluttered and ugly than there is for it being pleasing and useful. There's nuances between forums and galleries that I think are important for either to be aware of.

    With aaaaaall of that said, there's image previewing already on the website, so my feeling is its a matter of accessibility to that feature and not whether the feature has a place on Polycount or not. If "thumbnails" is the solution for accessibility, then cool. I just personally feel there might be more elegant solutions that do not add noise and have always felt that about thumbnails. 
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    An example of what I mean of making thread previewing accessible without adding noise:

    In this scenario I have mouse-overed the "Mech Arm" thread and am presented with a thick bar. Clicking that bar drops an image down from the thread title, pushing the other threads down with it.

    Similar to the magnifying glass, where you're opting in to preview threads, while being more accessible and introducing less noise to the (discussion) forums. Perhaps a "Gallery" view" of a forum could be interesting, too, where all preview images are shown in a gallery that you can browse through.



  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    Side thought: If Thumbnails happen, they could likely be set up as a feature a user can enable or disable for themselves. Everybody wins.
  • Spoon
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    Spoon polycounter lvl 5
    <All pior posts>
    I agree!! :D
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    In this scenario I have mouse-overed the "Mech Arm" thread and am presented with a thick bar. Clicking that bar drops an image down from the thread title, pushing the other threads down with it.

    Well, the way I am seeing this is as follows. Imagine having to do that for each and every image of a portfolio. Wouldn't that go against the core idea of making the art as accessible as possible to the viewer ?

    I do understand the appeal of features like the magnifying glass preview and the big clickable bar for discussions forums indeed, like GD ("Check out this picture of the  new Spiderman costume, it has goofy eyes lol !"), but for pimping subforums I don't think it would contribute much to making them more vibrant at a glance, which really is what I am getting at here. Let's have colors ! Robots ! Monsters !! Everywhere !

    I hope this makes sense ...
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    My opinion of what makes a forum "vibrant" differs from yours. (Thumbnails add noise, not broad strokes of color).

    But! This is just my opinion and if the community wants thumbs then it should be, at least, tried out if possible. Just give me the option to disable them on my end. ;)
  • Bek
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    Bek polycounter lvl 5
    adam said:
    Side thought: If Thumbnails happen, they could likely be set up as a feature a user can enable or disable for themselves. Everybody wins.
    +1, I'm on the fence about thumbnails but if they're optional I see no harm in trying. Currently I don't use the preview icon because it's easier to just MMB the thread title (bigger target...). Even if always-on thumbnails don't happen I'd still like to see the current version (or Adam's suggestion) using the proper thumbnail system you mention Eric — linking to the source image is just too slow. Actually, it's more the inconsistency than the slowness itself that makes using the preview annoying.
  • EarthQuake
    +1 to everything Pior has said. Bring on the thumbnails.

    I understand Adam's position, but I don't really agree with it. This is what usually happens to me when I browse the art boards:

    I totally forget that the magnifying glass thing exists and do not use it. Even when I remember, it's annoying to do it with every thread just to get an idea of what's in the thread. I would have the same problem with clicking to expand an image between thread titles, that's just a different implementation of the magnification system, which seems like it would be equally as clunky.

    The amount of content on the art boards is overwhelming. The thread titles don't give me a clear idea of what is in a thread. Magnifying or clicking on each thread is making the user work to see content. Don't make me work, make the content accessible, just as Pior says, you wouldn't make someone work harder to see your work on a porfolio, why do it here? Polycount is both a gallery space and a discussion board, not one or the other, so i don't see the need to draw a line the sand there.

    The end result is not that I give equal visits to all threads, but rather that I get overwhelmed and do not click on anything, and switch tech talk where text descriptions tend to be sufficient, or to another tab and browse a different website instead, which is basically the worst possible outcome. Outside of WAYWO, I spend very little time browsing the art boards these days, which is a real shame, but I don't think I'm the only one.
  • Bryan Cavett
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    Bryan Cavett polycounter lvl 13
    adam said:
    My opinion of what makes a forum "vibrant" differs from yours. (Thumbnails add noise, not broad strokes of color).

    But! This is just my opinion and if the community wants thumbs then it should be, at least, tried out if possible. Just give me the option to disable them on my end. ;)

    I personally think Pior's thumbnail idea is far less noisy than the signature thumbnails that are being displayed currently.  I would much rather see names here and art thumbnails on the other side.

  • m4dcow
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    m4dcow polycounter lvl 7

    Before talk of thumbs lets get small things like last posted on threads instead of author, that functionality is there at the forum root so I doubt it would be that hard to implement at thread level.

    Pet peeve is the "New" button instead of highlighting unread threads in green (when there is more than 1 new reply, the button changes width and shifts the title when you mouse over).

    Something a bit more involved would be an improvement of the notification system, thread multiple notifications from the same thread into 1 notification, option to ignore/exclude high traffic threads like WAYWO.

    With the new forum design, I was already worried about the increased vertical whitespace limiting the amount of threads you can see at a time, there were promises of tweaks later on, but I suspect that was just placating folks in the hopes that they would just get used to it. With these thread thumbnails, its a slippery slope to larger thumbnails and then god forbid one of those noisy magazine layouts like zbrushcentral.

  • Daew
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    Daew polycounter lvl 4
    Personally, i would rather have thumbnails than the other things.

    Kind of stopped visiting the showcase forums. Thinking about it, its because the current system is kind of like a kinder surprise. I read a thread title, hope its something that lies in my interest. check it out via clicking it or magnifying glass. Sometimes it's does lie within my interests and sometimes it doesn't. That 50/50 chance is not a really fun gamble. And it says something when people visiting an art forum don't visit the art section. 

    Of course though, having the option to turn it on/off is always the best :)
  • RN
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    RN polycounter lvl 4
    Unrelated suggestion: display a warning at the top of the first post when vieweing a thread where no one has posted for more than X days (a month?). That is, a "this thread is old" warning.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    And it says something when people visiting an art forum don't visit the art section.

    I am a bit ashamed for admitting it, but this is definitely my case too. I think it only stresses the fact that the current text-only presentation, while appropriate for discussions really isn't so great for art showcase and critiques. As you put it, dozens if not hundreds of "mystery threads" are just not doing it for me, and as a consequence I just don't check them at all - not even WAYWO.

    Heck, the last one I actually visited was just a lucky strike - I only visited it because the subforum list showed it as last posted, like here - meaning that I basically checked ONE thread out of 60 (since there are roughly 30 per page in both 2d and 3d). A lucky strike indeed.



    Real talk : for some reason I even stopped posting my own stuff here completely, and I rather post it on Tumblr, FB or specialized venues (Steam Workshop) because at least the images POP for viewers to see there. The only thing people need to do in order to see art now is to "Check their Tumblr"/"Check their FB"/"Check Artstation", and bam - great art is right there within a few scrolls.

    Here, not at all - it's like everything is behind a grey wall. Of course this was fine in the early days when it was a niche forum, but in the current day and age it feels very off somehow, especially compared to the vibrancy of a place like Artstation. Now of course PC is here for different reasons (critiques more than showcase) but I think it's clear that AS is the definite place to discover talent now, not PC.

    The forum being broken down into so many subsections is probably also an issue. This is all done for good reasons of course, and there is no point in even thinking of reverting that ; but it is clear that content was faster to discover when it only involved PnP, Tech Talk and GD. Another factor is also probably the fact that this new layout is definitely slower than most other forums out there. It's a subtle psychological thing, but the mere fact that this reply box is slow to type in just doesn't make me want to type in it. Reddit for instance is much more snappy to browse than here. I also understand the reasoning behind the fonts being so big and everything being oversized, but in practice it just doesn't work. It was a very cool idea, definitely worth trying, but it is clunky and wastes space. But I digress.

    At the end of the day and considering the current situation, I cannot help but fantasize about imagery becoming front and center again thanks to thumbnails. And regarding a slippery slope of layout noise : agreed, ultimately it should definitely be done carefully. But at least it is easy to roll back if it gets out of control, and I think one error would be to overthink such features to "perfection" instead of just trying them out to see what sticks.

  • Visum
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    Visum polycounter lvl 3
    Anything will make it better. Current layout is really rally form over function and definitely not content friendly.
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 13
    IMO this is not a new problem to polycount. Even with the new forum, those things have relatively remained the same.  Just throwing that out there so I know its understood. The switch to Vanilla was so that, one day, we could bring new features to the site (like thumbs). Hopefully the fellas behind the scenes can find the means to do so.

    EDIT: "It's a subtle psychological thing, but the mere fact that this reply box is slow to type in just doesn't make me want to type in it. "

    Wait, what? Slow to type in? I am typing 105 words a minute in here...?
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Regarding the slowdowns : I do have quite a few addons running, therefore I will investigate further by selectively disabling addons first. I'll report what I find in the bugs thread :)
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz greentooth
    I'm all for it. I almost never visit single user threads in P&P (mostly just haunt the low spec and hand painted stickies), but certainly would if had a better way to tell what was in them.
    I'm going be totally frank, because you all deserve it. I can't say wishlist items will happen fast. Vanilla (our forum host) has been really slow with fixes. We're very aware of all the problems and honestly it's really been pissing us off.
    iirc you're paying them quite a bit too? This transition really should have gone smoother...
  • Eric Chadwick
    These are all great suggestions. We really appreciate the feedback and ideas. Keep them coming!

    We do have to be realistic about the rate of change. It's easy to Photoshop something up (and these are great!) but it does take development time to get those working in practice and not screwing up other parts of the site.

    Anyone who's tried reskinning a site will know it's all the bugs and details that take 90% of the work. 10% inspiration etc. 

    However as Adam will tell you, a big part of the reasoning behind moving from ubb to vanilla has been to allow us to edit things and add new features more easily.

    So, we will see.
  • STRIKER
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    STRIKER polycounter lvl 8
    Any update on this Eric? will you guys have a time frame when you'll look into this? really want this feature, as me and maddy been feeling the same as Pior :/
  • Eric Chadwick
    Well, we're working on bug fixes first. Things are being actively worked on.

    On the side, we're also working on tightening up the wide margins, since this should be easy to implement. We're being careful though, would rather not screw things up inadvertently.

    Thumbs in list view will probably come later. We apologize for being vague on this. It's hard to commit to the rollout order of bugfixes and wishlist items, as they depend on moving parts of the software architecture and developer commitments.
  • Magihat
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    Magihat interpolator
    You should start a kickstarter and hire a team to make the rollouts faster and make a snazzy cinematic for the updates @Eric Chadwick - you could call it V3 ;)
  • Eric Chadwick
    lol. We aren't being paid for this. Maybe if Polycount wins the lottery or something. Until then, labor of love (and any spare time) .
  • Steve Schulze
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    Steve Schulze polycounter lvl 13
    On that point, have you considered a Polycount Patreon? That seems like something that should garner plenty of money to add new bits and pieces and keep the site rolling along, even if folks are just throwing in a buck here and there.
  • Jonas Ronnegard
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    Jonas Ronnegard Polycount Sponsor
    just saw this thread now, and the thumbnail idea would really be great, I have totally stopped watching the actual art threads and only check the general forum but this would probably make me return.

    I think the argument that people would only enter threads with the nicest art work is quite the opposite, at least for me, If I want to look at awesome art fast, I would just go to artstation, at polycount it would be the opposite, I would enter the threads that seems to need the most help and wips, the finished cool stuff I would probably already have seen at artstation, so I would save time and not look at them.
  • Dudestein
    +1 for thumbnails and anything else that makes the site a nicer user experience. I have heard directly from multiple highly skilled veteran artists that they either reduced visits drastically or completely stopped coming to Polycount after the website changed. I don't think it's simply a case of "It's different from what I'm used to, so I reject it!" Most of them have legitimate problems with the new site. I think we owe it to them and the rest of the community to identify and fix the things that are currently keeping them away. That's easy for me to say though; I don't do any of the site layout stuff, I just move wayward threads to where they should be and delete the occasional duplicate thread :)
  • Eric Chadwick
    Well I spent a good chunk of this weekend working on a tighter layout. So at least that's coming soon. I think the compacted list view is close to being ready, but we still have some work to do on the thread view.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Thanks a ton for the dedication Eric - between this and the CSGO contest moderation you are active on all fronts !

    The following might be more suited for the bug report thread, but since you just mentioned layout edits I thought I'd mention it as I am not sure if this is a known issue (no idea how to not embed this ...):



    I think this and the very unorthodox reply box (slow typing, no bbcode, odd drag and drop system) are two issues that instantly jump at people browsing the forum. Overall there seems to be a lot of special layout effects enabled, creating issues/slowdowns. The Autodesk forums suffer from similar problems, while other more simple forums seem much snappier for some reason.

    Sorry for the slight detail. I hope this helps !

    Back on topic: I think Jonas put it very nicely, this is my sentiment as well. And I can confirm what Dustin mentioned too regarding long time users admittedly not checking the forum anymore, I heard it as well. Personally I don't mind change at all, but there are definitely challenges still to be addressed. In short, how to make art/WIP content front and center, as opposed to something to dig up.
  • Stinger88
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    Stinger88 greentooth
    may have been mentioned somewhere but i'm too lazy to read atm.

    Can the names on the right be the name of the latest poster's rather than the thread creator? It doesn't really serve any purpose showing the author so prominently, especially on threads that have been around for ages. Or can we have both in some way, Author and latest poster. Cheers.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Yeah "latest poster" is in our wishlist. We should make a wishlist thread. We track them already via an external system, along with our bugs. But I think it would help to share this with the site somehow, maybe like we do with the Bugs thread.

    Oh and thanks for the video Pior. I'll look into this.
  • STRIKER
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    STRIKER polycounter lvl 8
    On that point, have you considered a Polycount Patreon? That seems like something that should garner plenty of money to add new bits and pieces and keep the site rolling along, even if folks are just throwing in a buck here and there.
    Im all for this! a donate button to polycount for site maintenance would come in handy for any extra help or etc. But thanks Eric for staying ontop of this. 
  • Bedrock
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    Bedrock polycounter lvl 4
    Want to give a +1 to the idea that if we had thumbs providing crit would be a lot easier. Personally I like to give pointers regarding composition, layout and lighting but I don't know squat about weapons, characters or vehicles. I also like to browse the stylized stuff. Since the thread titles are pretty vague usually I just middle mouse click open a bunch of tabs and sweep through them... well I used to anyway. 

    Thumbnails solve all of that, well for me anyway.

     <3  Oh god I misread the month and the year nothing to see here!  <3 
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