Now you can vote for your favorite Lounge posts

Brian livingston By Brian Livingston

Our online forum, the Windows Secrets Lounge, is a great warehouse of computer knowledge — but sometimes it’s a bit hard to find the single best page you need out of the 125,000 discussion threads our members have contributed.

That’s why our developers are launching this week a significant improvement to the Lounge — a way to cast votes for the posts you consider the most useful and, in so doing, help others find them.

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We’re always trying to make Lounge threads as findable as possible. WS technical editor Tracey Capen reported last week that Google has now indexed as many as 170,000 Lounge pages. (For many years, the old site had banned search engines entirely.) And our own Advanced Search form gives you even-better targeting than Google: you can look for posts in particular topics (forums), by specific members, by date range, or by any combination of these.

But we wanted to add a way that you — and all Lounge members — could indicate with the single click of a mouse those posts you’ve found most helpful.

Did a post help you? Give it a thumbs-up!

Starting today, any Lounge member who is signed in can click a button at the bottom of any post and give it one thumbs-up point. The total number of points the post has received from all members is displayed on the right side of the button {in curly braces}, as shown in Figure 1. (The score is visible whether you’re signed in or not.)

Thumbs-up button Figure 1 shows how the button looks before and after you click it.

The upper half shows the button before you’ve voted for a post. Initially, the button text reads Give 1 thumbs-up point and shows the number of points a post has already received (in this case, zero). If you hover your mouse over the button, a tooltip explains Vote for this post.

The lower half shows the button after you’ve clicked it. The text changes to read Thumbs-up points, and the count immediately updates to reflect your vote. The tooltip now says Number of votes for this post rather than Vote for this post (because you’ve already voted).

There are just a few little rules to remember about voting on Lounge posts:
  • You can vote only if you’re signed in. (If you’re not yet a member, registration is free.)

  • You can vote on a post only once.

  • We don’t allow negative points or taking back votes.

  • You can’t vote on your own posts.
Thumbs-up points on profile page Figure 2 shows how Lounge members’ thumbs-up scores appear on their profile pages. The score represents each Lounger’s total points for posts submitted in the past 99 days. (If you’re signed in to the Lounge, you can see a member’s profile page by clicking the member’s name in any post.)

Over the next few weeks, Lounge administrators and moderators will carefully read the last three months’ posts by members who’ve received more than a couple of thumbs-up votes. Loungers who’ve made the best contributions to the knowledge of all Windows users will be promoted to the status of VIP (Very Informed Person). VIP badgeholders can participate in private discussion forums and communicate directly with the leaders of the Lounge.

The next step in our development of the Lounge will be to let you quickly find posts with lots of thumbs-up points. For example, a few months from now you might be able to sort a forum, bringing to the top those threads containing high-scoring posts. Or you could use our search engine to find posts with more than N points.

Like the voting buttons, profile-page point totals come with their own caveats:
  • We have no plans to create a “Top 10″ list or any publicly visible list of Loungers who have the most points. My friends, this ain’t no video game. Every Lounger whose posts have more than a few votes will be considered for promotion to VIP status.

  • VIP status is always voluntary. No members will ever be promoted against their wishes.

  • As in other discussion boards, it’s considered bad form in the Lounge to ask other members to vote for your posts. The point system is a way to help all Loungers find useful posts; it’s not a contest with bragging rights.

  • The officers of the Lounge can see who voted for whom, so cheaters won’t get far trying to organize reciprocal voting circles, fake accounts, or anything like that. Let’s keep it fun, simple, and — most important — useful, OK?
I would never claim that a thumbs-up button is revolutionary. For years, thousands of other Web sites and discussion forums have had their own thumbs-up buttons, Yes/No clickers, and the like.

But I think this feature will eventually make the Lounge an even more useful place to share Windows expertise than it is today. To help us get the voting system off to a good start, I hope you’ll visit the Lounge right now, go to your favorite forum (whether Windows XP or Word Processing or whatever), and vote for the most-useful post in each thread.

Joe kwon I’d like to thank our development team, which dug deeply into the Lounge’s underlying database software to figure out how to make the new voting system practical. Joe Kwon (left), our technology manager, led the research. Program director Tony Johnston and Web developer Damian Wadley also contributed valuable coding expertise. I’ve previously bragged about these guys on April 15, 2010, July 30, 2009, July 24, 2008, and in other articles you can find via our search engine.

If you’ve discovered some trick of Windows or a Windows application, show what you know! The Lounge is a place where you can start a new thread and reveal to the world that amazing undocumented feature you found, the handy workaround you invented, or what-have-you. You’ll find that people in the Lounge are friendly and inviting, whether you’re a beginner or an old hand.

Use our free registration form or, if you’re already registered, sign in to the Lounge today. Thanks!

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 11 books in the Windows Secrets series.
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