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Conversational Threads

Open letter to Taunton’s Forum Users

JasonRevzon | Posted in General Discussion on

I have been reading, with growing consternation, the posts related to the switch from mZinga to Drupal based forums. They have ranged from grudging acceptance to mild mourning to xenophobic howls of rage. I am used to this. My career started in moderating message boards and chats at AOL’s Digital City more than 13 years ago. I remember the switch from AOL-style message boards to HTML, so I knew there would be pain in any change. Many complaints, however, have been couched in language so hurtful to the people who build Taunton’s popular and award-winning sites that I feel I need to address the issues.

  • The original forum was better; this new site looks like it was made by one-handed monkeys using COBOL; bring back my frames: We understand that changing a system you are used to using every day for a number of years can and will be upsetting. It’s akin to someone rearranging your furniture and painting your walls at home while you’re out at work. That said, the long-process the small group of talented people at Taunton Interactive (tech and editorial) went through to launch the new forums with as many features as we could preserve and all of the years worth of your posting data intact, without more than a day’s worth of downtime, was monumental. Is the new forum everything you hoped and dreamed for? No, and us neither. Drupal is, however, an easily updated framework that can be changed directly by the online producers (want comments in reverse chronological order? Change length before pagination? We can do that.) on a regular basis to make it a more perfect experience for everyone involved. We will also be making changes so that you can set your own themes and preferences to view the forums. It is, in my opinion, much better than what we had, and with years of minor and major improvements to come.
  • You are greedy, it’s all about the money OR you’re killing a goldmine: Yes, it is (in part) about money. It was costing us tens of thousands of dollars to host the free mZinga forums. They were run at an almost complete loss. They were invisible to Google and the rest of our sites and had few ads. So, in a time of drastic financial upset in the publishing world we had three choices: make a cut (person or project), remove the forums, or find a way to keep the forums while drastically lowering costs. We think the forums represent a vibrant community feature and went with #3.
  • You didn’t listen enough/much/at all to our suggestions or complaints: We went through a very deliberate process with a Forums Task Force made up of web producers (Matt, Gina, Robyn, Kate & Vicky) who solicited feedback before we launched into the process. Some things could be done at launch, some afterward, and some could not/would not be done at all. We did read all of the feedback, assigned priorities to changes and will be listening for constructive criticism to improve the forums on a regular basis.
  • Taunton hates us; we hate Taunton; let’s take our ball and go home: What can I say to this? Taunton is a very ethical company with decades of producing the highest-quality content and communities for enthusiasts. We take our role in each community, and the members of those communities, very seriously. No decision is made lightly and never for venial reasons. If any of you feel so strongly that Taunton no longer represents the best way to interact with others about building, gardening, woodworking, sewing and cooking and want to form your own groups or forums on other sites, we wish you well. For those who would like to change what’s here for the better, we are always open to constructive criticism and offers of help. Personal and off-topic attacks, however, will be removed.

Thank you for your time and patience. Remember, there are real people (with real names) working long hours behind all of our content you see online. The person you talk to from Taunton in a discussion about formatting your post may have just finished a video shoot from a job site or may be working on a how-to article on planting shrubs. We are a small, but dedicated crew who will strive to give you our best and use the latest in technology to do so. We look forward to growing with you as Taunton Interactive continues to expand online and beyond. Jason Revzon VP, Taunton Interactive


  1. byf | | #1

    I am neither angry nor vindictive about Gatherings switch to the new format; however, I won't be visiting the site much simply because I find it too cumbersome to use.

  2. Sancin | | #2

    My gosh - I just figured something out that is a little sneaky. When reviewing responses, it isn't that someone responded "1hr 17 min and 3 sec" it is the last time THE MEMBER RESPONDED member responded to ANYTHING on the forum. Very confusing if one is trying to find a thread. And explains why there aren't many new messages! Some of the recent topics are 2 years old - cut off date for archives? Frankly I am not interested in everything and really liked the headings in the old forum. I never looked at the knitting yet now it is in frequent topic, recently responded and recent topics - all to be visited and quickly leave.

    I do understand change must occur and I usually don't mind it - but this is a little strange. When computer assisted learning, 25 odd years ago, came out I was keen to have some programs developed for nursing students - unfortunately I quickly found out that it was rare that ANY nurse knew all the nuts and bolts of computer programming. But most disturbing of all is that, not only did the programmers not know the content desired (which, after all we had taken 10+ years to learn), the programmers didn't know the language/vocabulary, and seemed unable to learn it (different planets and mind sets, you know). And I don't think much has changed over the last 20 yrs between programmers and users. More pretty pictures and diagrams on screen but not much 'meat' for the reader, even trying to find the meat.

    So, Jason, it is not that someone painted our room and moved our furniture, it's that someone moved our printed sewing instructions and transcribed them into Greek! And it taking a too long time to reinterpret it. And I don't think we are speaking the same languages or using the same interpreters. While I appreciate you, Jason, responding to messages here you didn't seem to understand we don't understand or even care what program Threads is using, we want to be able to access sewing information easier.We'd rather be sewing than tapping and wheeling all over a forum.

    1. woodruff | | #5

      Sancin hit the nail on the head with this comment:

      "So, Jason, it is not that someone painted our room and moved our furniture, it's that someone moved our printed sewing instructions and transcribed them into Greek! And it taking a too long time to reinterpret it. And I don't think we are speaking the same languages or using the same interpreters. While I appreciate you, Jason, responding to messages here you didn't seem to understand we don't understand or even care what program Threads is using, we want to be able to access sewing information easier.We'd rather be sewing than tapping and wheeling all over a forum."

      In a discussion forum for ordinary citizens (as on any website involving customer use), there should be no learning curve. None. If the owner of the website really wishes to invite use, he will knock himself out to make the site incredibly user-friendly.

      Mr. Revzon's message to the users of this forum illustrates precisely his attitude towards those customers: "We do it our way. Get used to it."

  3. meg | | #3

    Thank you for addressing us. I'm sure you've noted that a disproportionate amount of new traffic on the forum is devoted to the new format topic. I fall into this category: I stop in most mornings, check out what may have changed via these related topics, and usually leave directly. There's no link to Cooks Talk so if I'm in the mood I'll find my link to CT, log in, and do the same thing over there.

    My passions are sewing and cooking and I used to like to read about it here. Not many of us are posting and reading, there are _very few_ new threads or replies short of commenting on this new format. I sincerely hope that user-friendly changes will happen soon. Otherwise, I fear, there won't be a need for the forum at all and you'll save bundles of money from the collapse.

    1. User avater
      VictoriaNorth | | #8

      We have added a link to Cooks Talk in the upper left side module and are working hard to make some real changes to the forum in the coming weeks. I will add updates documenting these changes in the upper right module as they are made. Some changes will be easy, while others will take more time and testing. We are listening to your feedback and will try to increase usability as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience. I will let you know as soon as I have any updates from our tech department.

  4. Ckbklady | | #4

    Hello Mr. Revzon,

    I absolutely understand your frustration and hope everyone who wants to stay at this forum can adjust to the changes. I'm one of the least tech-savvy folks alive, but I'm slowly figuring it out. I'm motivated to stay in touch with the great people I've met here and to keep learning from them.

    My husband and I like to call ourselves a Taunton family - he subscribes to Fine Woodworking and I subscribe to Threads and buy Fine Cooking on the newsstand. I love Threads so much that I just spent a year (successfully) searching for Issue #14 to complete my collection. For me, it will always be first and foremost about the quality of the magazine and of Taunton Press overall, which is the pinnacle of the how-to magazine publishers, in my opinion. The forum has been a nice add-on, but I get that it's a perk for us users. That we have never had to pay for it has always amazed me. I can see that you need to raise its profile to capture revenue. I sure don't want Taunton to give me a freebie that costs Threads its life!

    Like the content changes Threads went through in the last couple of years, this new forum is a work in progress. I think that's just fine and wish you well with it. I for one wouldn't want to leave it just because it looks different. In a couple of months it'll be ordinary to us all.


  5. Sancin | | #6

    Jason - is it possible to have a function that indicates new messages since we/I, specifically, last visited? Many other forums have this function - see Artisan's Square, a high quality sewing forum. On this Taunton's Form today under recent topics, the first post is for free patterns - yet it was new several years ago and not useful, much less interesting. How do you decide what you put in recent topics? I have to open it only to find I have read it several times/daily to find out that it is indeed not new - that the newness is the last person who read - browsed to it.

    Now, in reviewing the topic list I do see it much improved with the indication that there is new message or none.

    I think part of the problem may be that Threads wants to draw more people to the forum and find it via Google. Fair enough for gazers, but not very useful for regular users. Perhaps the problem is the log in function. To a visitor (and there are not doubt many) every thing is new, yet to 'working/active users there are less and less topics and replies because of complex change.

    1. amapola | | #7

      I just want you to make it more user friendly. Right now my brain is a hodge podge of information trying to find the ways I was used to enjoy reading the wonderful information shared by many in this forum. Please speak our language and not a programer's professional language. If you don't change you will find less members to the forum. Good luck to you,

    2. KharminJ | | #9

      Happy Sunday, Sancin!

      Vicky (I think) pointed out on Saturday that the (1 new) note in the Recent Topics list now takes you directly to the new post. Yay!

      I agree that "Recently viewed (by anyone)" rather than "Recently replied to" function of the Recent Topics list is annoying and clunky - and the "Recent Replies" heading isn't even close to accurate yet - it appears to have been last updated about 2 weeks ago. The times posted are wayyyy off. If that were working correctly, it might be the answer to this problem.

      Glad you're hanging in there with me - I'm sure Gatherings can be the wonderful place it once was, again!

      BB ~ Kharmin

      1. User avater
        VictoriaNorth | | #10

        The recent replies issue is a seriously one, and it is highest on the list of things to fix this week. We know it isn't nearly correct. I have also been using the new item navigation to get around and it seems to be much easier.

        Thanks for hanging in there with me. Compared to some of the other Taunton forums, you have all really tried to be constructive with your criticism. I really appreciate you trying to help me get through this and make Gatherings better. I will keep you updated as bugs are fixed and changes are made.

  6. Teaf5 | | #11

    Complaints about the loss of user-friendly features are not personal attacks; they are valuable input into the design process. If you sense any anger, it is most likely the users' frustrations about losing what was a very effective mode of communication for a program that is very difficult and counter-intuitive even for those of us who are very computer savvy. Most of us hope that, with feedback, you may be able to achieve your goals of saving money without sacrificing the quality of the online community we have enjoyed so much.

  7. sewelegant | | #12

    It's good to let the users
    It's good to let the users know "real people" are behind the forums. The users are "real people" too and if it is about the money, then be up front and tell us you just cannot afford to go on providing the service as we knew it... tell us that before you try to tell us the new format will be much more friendly, etc. etc. because it's not and you apparently know it is not. You want us to be patient and work with you. I am willing to accept that we can't go back, but I have to confess I am having a very difficult time trying to navigate the new system and when I find nothing new to interest me I do not come back for several days. But, I am not giving up! I just have to learn one thing at a time. It really is a whole new ballgame. And, sorry, I am not computer savvy enough to offer any constructive criticism. I get the same hang ups on other forums I have tried to enjoy but couldn't figure out how to use. I still have a problem with my next step... posting this comment. Why in the world would "save" be the logical word to use?

  8. thumbsx10 | | #13

    Is there a tutorial somewhere I can peruse to answer my questions on navigating this site?

  9. Tracy48 | | #14

    This isn't exactly one of
    This isn't exactly one of those "take my ball and go home" comments, although you might take it as such, Jason. I am finding this new format very hard to navigate, although I've tried several times. I'm finding that I just don't peruse it the way I used to, mostly because I don't find the information I need/want. (I'm still stumbling across topics, rather than searching for and finding them.) It doesn't seem to be as easy to navigate/intuitive as the former version, so I don't spend much time on it, I'm sorry to say. Perhaps I'll check back in a few months to see how the upgrade is progressing.


  10. Ceeayche | | #15

    Jason, Vicky
    I'm a devoted
    Jason, Vicky

    I'm a devoted Gatherings user. I have read most of the comments and found most of them bourn out of frustration-- yes some of them could have been phrased more elegantly! Which is actually a compliment to Taunton: you've created a passionate community here at Gatherings.

    Understanding the economics of what you're trying to do, I'll give you this, the ads are handled in a less obtrusive manner than the banner ads of old.

    Again, I'll suggest that you might want to publish some zippy brief tutorials; maybe one a week, that takes an old feature and explains how it now works and what the new feature improves. As long as you have a group of folk who are invested in helping you "make it work," you might as well tap into that resource.

    One of the frustrations from my part is that it's not clear where to click to get help figuring out the new format. I'm not leaving, mind you, just have to think more about navigating rather than just the pure joy of wandering through the postings. And the red, is just not attractive.

    Together maybe we can make it better!

    BTW, my office is around the corner from the AOL Ashburn campus on Loudoun County Parkway.

    1. User avater
      VictoriaNorth | | #16

      When we return from the holidays on Tuesday, I will be putting together some tutorials on how to post and we will continue to add them as new features are developed.

      Jason has added an update on some of the features, which are either in the works or have already rolled out.


  11. beo | | #17

    Dear Jason; I feel that someone has taken away my ability to communicate, learn and enjoy.

  12. Ocrafty1 | | #18

    I just came back to this site after several months of absence. What a shock! I read all of the comments members have made concerning the "upgrade" and felt that I must comment.

    Jason, my son is in IT and most of his friends work in the industry, so I'm used to hearing disparaging comments about those of us who aren't in the industry and don't know about all of the wonderful new things that you are now able to do. One of my best friends, who is IT director at a major university, notices the glazed look in my eyes when she starts to speak about the details of her job.

    My first reaction to this post was that you are an arrogant young man who is talking down to us and giving us a lecture. I am furious! I (and I'm sure many other members) understand your frustration at our frustration about the changes that have been made. We liked this site the way it was; we'd been using it for years and had it all figured out. Suddenly, here comes this 'new kid', and he's really messed things up for us.

    PLEASE DO NOT TALK DOWN TO US!!!! The tone you used in this post is superior and insulting. Many of us are old enough to be your mother/grandmother and although we do not have the computer expertise that you do, we do know a lot, and ARE able to learn...that is one of the reasons why we come to this site.

    We are intelligent people who have been loyal to "Threads" and "Gatherings." Many of the postings here are definitely out of frustration. We can't get to where we want to go without jumping through 3 hoops,while rubbing our left hand on top of our heads, patting our tummies with the other, and singing 'Kum Bye Yah"....which leaves us with no hands to type and click.

    We understand that there had to be a change, but making those changes without telling us specifically how to get the same results is not cohesive for anyone. Tutorials are essential.

    We've always considered this OUR site, although we KNOW that it belongs to Taunton. However, this comment, is WAY out of line! "If any of you feel so strongly that Taunton no longer represents the best way to interact with others about building, gardening, woodworking, sewing and cooking and want to form your own groups or forums on other sites, we wish you well."

    What a slap in the face! It is another example of your condescending attitude. We are customers of "Threads" magazine. We love the magazine and have always loved working with the people who run this forum. They have been CARING, knowledgable FRIENDS who were always trying to find the best way to help us. They did not act like they were 'computer gods' who could treat us like bad children! What ever happened to the axiom: The customer is always right? If it weren't for US,the extremely loyal purchasers of "Threads" there wouldn't be a 'Threads' magazine. How many magazines do you know of where readers search for years to find the one missing issue from their collection; or where readers search for complete collections when they have just discovered the magazine? This is a very unique community that you have just become a member of!

    Don't get me wrong; I do realize that there had to be a change. If we need to have a paid subscription to this site; so be it. I'm sure most of us would be happy to pay a fee to have access to the wonderful people and information that is here.

    We don't speak in computer speak. We speak in sewing terms, and in a caring, friendly language that most people call being polite and respectful. To be completely honest, I don't care about what program or 'framework' you have changed to. Its all greek to me. Talk to me about couture techniques, horsehair braid, or petersham. I'll bet you'd say, "huh?".

    What I DO care about is being treated like an intelligent human being, and being treated with respect. Your attitude toward we 'users' is attrocious! Our job is to be patient while you do YOUR job...working out the bugs and making this site the same joy to use that we are used to.

    I apologize to any of my fellow users and other Gatherings team members if I have offended them. But I am terribly offended by the tone of this post.

    I am patiently awaiting the 'tweeks'. I'm sure this forum will continue to be the wonderful community it has always been....as long as EVERYONE is respectful.

    1. User avater
      VKStitcher | | #19

      My thoughts exactly, you expressed it well Ocrafty1. I too am waiting (somewhat) patiently for the site to return to the friendly community that it once was.


    2. woodruff | | #20

      My first impression when I first read and responded to Mr. Revzon's post some time ago was that the author was young, arrogant, and tactless. Re-reading Mr. Revzon's message now, I find my impression unchanged. When I was a child, my elders described this kind of tone as "snotty." The turn of phrase, though crude, is still apt.

    3. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #21

      Thank you for expressing so eloquently what I have been feeling about the new change in format. I don't care either how the thing works. I miss my friends, and the lively community that has disappeared. I am trying hard to adapt, but find myself lurking rather than corresponding. I miss my daily chats with friends... Cathy

      1. sewluving | | #23

        Cathy, glad to see you haven't given up yet either. I too have been lurking. OldCrafty has said exactly what I feel but didn't put into words.

        Heather in Calgary

      2. Crazy K | | #28

        Well, Cathy, there is always Facebook! I miss Gatherings, too.......well, the way it was. I come on here now and am totally lost.....I don't see all the good-natured commaraderie that was and all the wonderful information. It's just not the same........I guess I am one of the 'mourners'.......oh well, progress......sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I, too, am glad that it was pointed out that we are 'people'.......intelligent and caring......but perhaps not the most computer savvy people on the planet!

        Thanks to those who so aptly put words to the loss we all feel.


  13. Tatsy | | #22

    Darn, I bet you didn't sleep
    Darn, I bet you didn't sleep on this snarky message before you sent it out. What makes you think it will attract users or make them accept the changes more easily? Three of my sons work in IT and we taught them all better than speaking rudely to customers.

  14. jjgg | | #24

    Way to go Crafty. I think if I could figure this site out I might be back, but I don't even know if I'm responding to the correct message here. I too have peeked back in to Gatherings once or twice but have not logged on. The site seems to have become useless to me, our community is gone. and yes, I do miss it. I have wondered about their statistics - how the new site has been used. I used to read it with a morning cup of coffee, now, I just browse other sewing forums, but miss all my friends here.

    I'll probably peek in again from time to time, but it's so confusing to figure out what I've read, how to find stuff etc. I'm sure I won't be signing in again.

    So, signing off for good...


    1. Ocrafty1 | | #25

      Boy, did I open a hornet's
      Boy, did I open a hornet's nest,or what?! I hate to be 'spoken to' the way Jason spoke to us. His attitude really ticked me off. I tend to get a little wordy, but I'm glad that I was able to put into words what others were wanting to say. My son was afraid I'd be blocked from the site...but I guess they're letting me stay. :)

      Judy, and the rest of you...

      Its not that hard to get around; just a little different. If you click on General Discussion...it will take you to the place where (I think) most of us used to go. I really hope the 'gang' will be patient.

      It IS really hard to get all of the bugs worked out on a new system, and it does take time. I truly think that if we are patient we'll have easier access to the info we want. Internet Technology changes on a daily basis. Some of the stuff that made 'our' site work before, doesn't 'talk' to the stuff that is running the Internet now; so they HAD to change the system...at least that's the way my son explained it to me.

      I really hope everyone will keep trying to get where they want to here...I'm going to. This site is way too special for us to leave. I missed talking to everyone while I was 'away.' There are so many wonderful people who come here. We all need the encouragement and giggles we get here...that we can't get anywhere else.


      1. ljb2115 | | #26

        I, too am nonplussed concerning the attitude of the Threads IT staff. What was wrong with the former format??? I am a member of the Stitcher's Guild forum and find it easy to navigate; there is a wealth of information on this site, and the members are a great group. Don't look for many posts from me, as the above-mentioned site is far more user friendly.

      2. User avater
        JunkQueen | | #27

        Thank you so much for your clear and succient remarks to Jason. Your post enunciated exactly my thoughts that I could not get on paper. My first reaction to Jason's tirade took me back to the playground when we pre-pubescent girls would get in a tiff: "So THERE, he said, as he put his hands on his hips, flipped his head, and stamped his foot!" Hence I chose to say nothing. This is my first post on 2 or 3 months. Might I add that I headed a computer section of one of 37 plants in a multinational corporation and coordinated with our home office and with the other facilities. More recently I built and maintained a website for the Alumni Association for my public high school. It's not as if I am completely ignorant about computers.

        I plan to keep the faith for a a while longer, and I am one of those who searched for and completed my collection of Threads Magazine..........

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