As some of you read this and glance around wondering where the familiar staples of the site you used to know are, I want to reach out to you. Ask the important questions. Where is the wholly unnecessary digital clock that adorned the top center of the page? What happened to the diaries? What's with the new layout and colors? What happened to the sidebar stuff? Who am I? Why am I here? The answers to these and many other logical questions pertaining to the site change are explained right here in this post by Trei Brundrett, the SBN 2.0 project manager who crafted the platform change you are seeing the fruits of.
But the details that cannot be resolved by Trei's post are the ones that I feel obligated to answer for. This post isn't simply about regurgitating what Trei had to say in a slightly different wording. It is about putting the change in the context of the entrenched community that our site has developed over the last three years and explaining how these wider changes specifically affect us. But in deference to the much more useful flurry of posts that appear below, I'm going to go ahead and reserve my remarks for after the jump.
Before we begin, I want to apologize for the hoop-jumping that you had to go through merely to get to where you were a day ago. To re-establish your identity here, you did have to "claim" your old account via the network transition process. Hopefully this wasn't a great inconvenience to a lot of you, and I think the benefits of the new system are well worth it.
In any case, most of the account changes were made with the intent of allowing you to develop an "identity" on SBN. Whether you choose to extend that identity beyond this particular site is entirely up to you, but the model for a lot of this site's changes was the growing trends on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. One of the good things about the change is that these updates did not occur at the expense of the previous identity you had built up prior to the change. All of your old comments and diaries FanPosts have been archived in their entirety, and hopefully in an easier and more user-friendly format. This is especially important in communities like ours, where the site has existed for over three years.
Another key change is the partition of the Diaries into FanPosts and FanShots. To be succinct about things, FanPosts would take the place of those diaries that are fairly lengthy and include a large amount of contents. FanShots are for those diary posts that you formerly complained about because they didn't meet the 300 character minimum limit. This is where you would post that link and a quote that you don't really want to spend too much time on, but you want to note. It would also be where you'd post video clips and other multimedia stuff. SBN was very big on emphasizing that and transitioning it more easily into the new platform.
Another change that goes along with the FanPosts/Shots is the interface upon which you write. The change was made to ensure that the most HTML-ignorant poster could articulate their thoughts in more than just plain text. The option to use the HTML editor still exists, as you see on the toolbar, but the default text editor is now WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The new text editor is exactly what it sounds like, although you (and I both) will need to get used to inserting stuff from the toolbar. In the long-run, however, the new interface should be far easier. Also, AutoSave! arrives for those who have had their long, unsaved content lost one too many times before.
The aesthetics is obviously another key change, and that is probably far more objectionable. The new layout will take some getting used to, and it is optimized for maximum ad exposure. Hey, how do you think this stuff is being bankrolled? The main column is somewhat smaller than it formerly was, and the sidebars are of unequal sizes. Because of these changes in site design, I will be incorporating things in from the old site over time. New features overlap with some of my old sidebar boxes in a lot of areas, and I'll have to fully evaluate how I want to do things taking that into account. So rest assured, most of the old sidebar stuff will return. I just don't know when or in what form due to the changes. But I will try to do some stuff before the season starts on Monday.
There are some other new features as well, mainly the addition of more hard information to the site's domain. You can now access stats, schedules, and news stories on the Rays and other professional sports teams from SBN without going elsewhere. There is also a bunch of miscellaneous user features that have been modified or created, but Trei explains them in better detail and they aren't really that important.
So that's pretty much the lowdown on the new site. There are certainly some aspects of the change that I'm not a fan of, so please feel free to express any concerns you may have with the new look and features. Trei and the tech team have already put their contact info out front and center, and you also may contact me or any other staff member should you want to address things with us. Our e-mails are at the bottom of the page now in the staff box, and can be accessed by clicking on the mail icon.The enhanced comment threads are also ready to receive your vitriol and/or praise in a public forum. I'm sure the SBN folks would appreciate some feedback.
In summation however, the changes are only window dressing for the true substance of what drives this site, and that's the users. The changes mean only as much as the community collectively makes of them. I am looking forward to working with the new platform myself, and although it will take some getting used to, I'm confident that it will enhance the user experience in the long run. Consider it a gift for the new season from SBN.