Post your tips in the Windows Secrets Lounge

Brian livingston By Brian Livingston

Beginning this week, all articles appearing in Windows Secrets have their own threads in the WS Lounge, where you can submit any additional information you have.

You’re not restricted to commenting on columns, though — we have a whole lotta other forums where you can post anything you discover about Microsoft Windows.

Commenting has tripled in the discussion board

Last month, I e-mailed all 400,000 WS subscribers an announcement that the Lounge was open as a place to post helpful Windows tips.

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I explained that the discussion board had been started in 1995 by Woody Leonhard (who’s now a WS senior editor). Unfortunately, the resource — originally known as Woody’s Lounge — was underutilized.

Posts of new information in the discussion board declined by more than half from 2003 to 2009. This drop in Lounge activity occurred despite the fact that Internet usage almost tripled, according to figures from Internet World Stats.

Worst of all, the Lounge was hosted on one underpowered server after another, each with the bad habit of going down for hours or days at a time. Over the years, the Lounge was configured to block search engines and minimize traffic. This made the board’s 700,000 posts — many of them extremely valuable — unfindable and unavailable to Windows users worldwide.

We’ve changed that by upgrading to a vastly more powerful server cluster (as I explained in a recent post). We opened the site to Google and other search engines. And we e-mailed between Dec. 3 and 16 a gradual stream of announcements to all WS subscribers. This has resulted in approximately tripling the amount of new information that’s being submitted every week. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Posts per week in the Windows Secrets Lounge. We began notifying subscribers on Dec. 3, 2009, after which weekly activity exploded.

Lounge posts per week

This tripling of new posts doesn’t yet reflect that fact that every WS article now links to a Lounge comment thread, starting today (more on that in a minute). If you have additional info, please reply to any column within its thread.

But this is far from the only fun you can have. The Lounge supports almost three dozen specialized forums where you can share your knowledge with the global Windows user community.

Which subjects are attracting the most activity?

Prior to 2009, the old Woody’s Lounge largely generated new posts about Microsoft Office components: Excel, Access, Word, and so forth. This was partly due to the emphasis placed on these applications by Woody’s 1990s-vintage newsletter called Woody’s Office Watch.

Working with Woody and other Loungers, we’ve expanded the board’s focus by adding new forums and renaming old ones. In the past few weeks, users have shown how excited they are about many apps, not just Microsoft’s. Loungers also have a lot to say about the latest operating systems, open-source browsers, and everything else under the sun.

The software platform underlying the Lounge, IP.Board 3.0, doesn’t make it easy to chart the number of new posts per forum. But it does display the number of page views for each forum. This allows a rough approximation of our users’ interests. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Our 20 most-popular forums in December 2009, sorted by page views. Click any forum name to see the newest posts on that subject.

Forum
Views    
Graph (■ ≈ 2,000)
Windows 7
30,307    
■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■
Read This First
20,782    
■■■■■■■■■■
Scuttlebutt
12,137    
■■■■■■
Feedback to Admins
11,362    
■■■■■■
Windows XP
9,229    
■■■■■
Spreadsheets
8,587    
■■■■
Security & Backups
6,596    
■■■
Test Area
6,281    
■■■
Databases
6,013    
■■■
Word Processing
5,648    
■■■
Other Applications
5,226    
■■■
General Windows
3,965    
■■
Non-Outlook E-mail
3,802    
■■
Networking
3,527    
■■
Hardware
3,366    

Microsoft Outlook
3,240    

Windows Vista
3,229    

Third-Party Browsers
2,629    

Internet Explorer
2,213    

Puzzles
2,105    



The bottom line on all of the above numbers:
  • Windows 7 rocks. Interest in Microsoft’s newest operating system has made Win7 our most popular subject by far. Three times more people visited the Windows 7 forum than checked out good ol’ Windows XP. The forum for the unloved Vista OS attracted barely one-tenth as many visitors as Win7.

  • Microsoft apps no longer rule the roost. Our three most-visited application forums are Spreadsheets, Databases, and Word Processing (in that order). Those generic titles, of course, represent applications by all vendors. In other cases, we’ve created separate MS and non-MS forums. The numbers reveal that Loungers are venturing far beyond Redmond software. For example, many people viewed the Microsoft Outlook area, but even more visited the Non-Outlook E-mail forum. Internet Explorer was a popular area, too, but Third-Party Browsers enjoyed a slight edge.

  • The board is hardly “all work and no play.” Just as newsletter subscribers rave about our humorous Wacky Web Week column, our third-most-visited Lounge forum is Scuttlebutt — a work-safe collection of jokes and time-wasters. Other popular but none-too-serious areas are Puzzles, Read This First, and the Test Area (where you can try posting for the first time).
Show what you know in our comment threads

As I said above, each WS column now ends with a link to its very own comment thread. If you have inside information to add, please post a comment. But do read and follow the Lounge rules. Use only work-safe language, don’t flame other Lounge members, and refrain from self-linking or advertising in a post. (You can link to your blog as much as like in your profile. When signed in, click Settings, Profile, About Me.)

We’re looking for quality, not quantity, so avoid posting short chaff, whether it’s a rave (“You’re right!”) or a rant (“You stink!”). Show what you know. If you truly have new details to share, we want your input.

Make sure you’re registered. To get all the benefits of the Lounge — including the ability to post, receive notifications of replies, customize browser views, and exchange private messages — take a moment to register for free:

Register as a Lounge user for free

My thanks to the Lounge’s 20,000 original members and the 31,000 WS subscribers who’ve newly registered, whether you’ve made dozens of posts or you’ve just observed from the sidelines so far. Get involved. The best is yet to come. See ya there!

Have more info on this subject? Post your tip in the WS Columns forum.

Brian Livingston is editorial director of WindowsSecrets.com and co-author of Windows Vista Secrets and 10 other books.
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