The 100K Update and joins able2know

On 2010/02/17 able2know reached 100,000 members and jespah got the party started with a tour through able2know history. But due to some time constraints it ended up also being a busy day for changes around able2know so I’ll let the 100K festivities continue there and talk about another big change that happened the same day:

We also ended up merging one of our other forums, into able2know right after we reached 100K (we wanted to hit that milestone pre-merger) so please welcome the new folk from the Motorola Droid Forum and make them feel at home here on a2k!

We know that context changes can be rough, but we’ll do our best to accommodate you all!

Topic listing and tag listing changes

A couple of big changes have been made to the main grids (the pages that list topics) that you use to browse the site. The first one I personally had thought was going to be very controversial, but after several days of it being live if anyone has noticed it they haven’t mentioned it: The topics per page display has been reduced, making for smaller more manageable pages (the old grids were huge).

The second main change is that user tags are now displayed on most grids. By making the access to the tags more prevalent we hope to emphasize the organizational nature of the tags, and with the tags being placed on their own topic listing pages the graffiti tags don’t just appear on someone else’s thread but on one’s own a2k property as well.

As usual, while we don’t expect this to solve everyone’s problems with how people use tags we think it is a step towards emphasizing the intended use case of the tag feature and hopefully by doing so we’ll change the ratio of useful tags to graffiti tags and improve the community culture a bit.

And as you may have noticed, our development activity with able2know has picked up a lot. There are much bigger changes to come in the near future. 😉

2010/02/10 – Our host, WiredTree, is having network difficulties is offline right now (2010/02/10 20:30 UTC) due to a network issue with our hosts at WiredTree. Their support site is also down and their phone lines busy but they’ve tweeted that:

“There is a network issue effecting some network segments. It is being worked on now. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

As soon as their network issue is resolved able2know should be back online.

WiredTree updates:

“Update: Not network issue, power issue in 427 S LaSalle which caused a large portion of our racks to lose power momentarily.”

“Waiting on update from facilities manager and explanation from CoreSite as to why. Onsite team bringing things back online as fast as we can”

2010/02/10 21:12 UTC “Power has been restored, a large portion is back online. However, some servers will need to filesystem check which takes time.”

And as of 21:21 UTC we are back online.

A2K has moved to Chicago.

We have changed servers again and this time we didn’t just upgrade, we moved to a new datacenter. We are no longer located out of Dallas, Texas and are now hosted in the heart of Chicago. We will also be moving some parts of the site (css, images, JavaScript) to locations around the world so that they load more quickly.

More importantly our server specs have now become much more impressive going from (this may be just for the geeks here):

  • CPU: dual dual-core 1.8 GHz
  • RAM: 8GB
  • CPU: dual quad-core 2.33 GHz
  • RAM: 18GB
We also got faster dedicated discs for the databases that should provide faster I/O. For the non-geeks in the crowd the simplified version is that we more than doubled the hardware power in this move and have already begun to see faster pageloads, no more crashing etc.

Small usability tweak to direct replies

We’ve made a small tweak to how direct replies to a post are displayed. Previously it would display something like:

Re: Username (Post# 123456)

The problem with this is that we were seeing members use the post# link when trying to link to a specific post, mistaking the link to the post’s parent for the post itself.

We’d considered changing this format to @replies in the past, which some users might be familiar with from twitter, but we backed off because it’s a bit uglier and many of our users weren’t familiar with that convention. However now that more and more sites are using this we’ve switched to displaying the link to a post’s parent as an @reply. This should also help a bit with another usability issue, of using the last post to reply to the thread by making it a bit clearer that direct replies to a post are addressed to a specific user.

So now you will see this displayed like this:


This can make your post awkward if you are in the habit of starting your post with “username,” as it will then be repeated twice, so we figured we’d give you a quick heads up about the change.

Private Messages

As announced on the forums, we have launched a bare-bones version of private messaging in addition to a number of other updates to our system back end (caching for the geeks who care) in addition to some visual updates (header colors, font sizes).

Private messages are now threaded conversations, with the newest messages at the top. By default you will receive an email notification if you receive a message while logged out, and a on-site notification if you are logged in but you can change your preferences to not send you any email notification of messages.

We will be working on improvements to the feature, including the ability to save friends to a contact list, and we are by no means finished working on it but given the feedback we’ve received we have released them sooner rather than later as many a2kers have indicated that they were sorely missed.

As always, if you see anything wrong or have any suggestions feel free to let us know through the helpdesk. Right now we have plans including: allowing you to restrict who can send you messages and allowing you to delete messages but if you have other suggestions send them our way.

Dev Updates,, YouTube, and Flickr on your profile

We’ve been busy recently, and haven’t posted an update on what we’ve done recently, so here are some releases that have been out for a while, but haven’t been announced:

Music, Video and Photos on your profile

Now you can provide your, YouTube, or Flickr userids to put music, videos or photos on your profile. For an example of what this looks like see my profile, where I use all three. For more information or if you have any problems there is a topic about these updates here: Photos, Music and Video on your profile

Posting Bugs

There were some bugs we hunted down that were causing a few users a day to see an exception (an error) message when posting. We have fixed what we believe to be the sources of those bugs, and there haven’t been any since. But if you run into any exception messages when posting please save the message and the url and contact us at the help desk to let us know.

Preferences System Overhaul

We needed to overhaul our preferences system, in order to move on to private messaging, so the entire system was reworked in a way that will make it easier to build on and less prone to errors and bugs.

Markup Cleanup

Our HTML had gotten pretty messy, and some pages had over 500 validation errors (we are markup snobs and use strict XHTML) and a general cleanup was performed that brought the underlying code to a much cleaner state. We aren’t finished, and there are still some non-critical validation errors in our markup, but it’s far from the tag soup that it was just weeks ago.

What’s Next

We have also been working on Private Messaging and Friends, our two next features on our list of priorities. Work on this will be done together with smaller bugfixes and the release of some features we’ve had nearly finished for a while. There are two of us, and initially only Nick can work on Private Messaging so if you see us release small fixes and features please don’t think we aren’t working on Private Messages, or that we can be made to go faster if more requests for Private Messages are made. We know that many of you want them ASAP and so do we, as we have our “coming out of BETA” launch planned when we are able to release that feature.

Email updates and RSS feeds

We’ve been testing email updates and RSS feeds on able2know for a while now, and tonight the features are being opened up for everyone so here’s a quick explanation on them both.

Email Updates

On any topic page, near the tags, you will find a link to “Get email updates”. Clicking the link will subscribe you to the topic (and change the link to “Stop email updates” which does what it says when clicked) and you will receive an email if the topic receives a reply when you are logged out. When starting a topic, you’ll have a checkbox that allows you to subscribe to the topic as well.

Email updates are sent with a link to the new post, and no further updates are sent to you until you log back in. That way, you won’t go away to find a flood of emails if the thread gets busy. Email updates also come with a simple link to unsubscribe with one click as well as another link to a page where you can manage all your topic subscriptions.

RSS Feeds

RSS is a way to read lot of sites in one place. For a quick primer see this thread about RSS that I posted a while ago. Able2know now has RSS feeds for every topic grid we display. So you can get a general feed of, say, the popular topics or you can get a specific feed for a particular tag, or even for topics you have tagged a particular tag.

Each page listing topics has an RSS feed icon (see here: ) that takes you to the feed for that particular page. This way you can do things like subscribe to your “My Posts” page and get RSS updates when replies are made to topics you’ve posted in or syndicate a specific tag’s topics on your blog or site.

If you have any questions or you’d like to give feedback about these new features please see this thread I created for this purpose:

New BBCode for mp3 files

We made a quick mp3 BBCode that will display a small mp3 player and allow you to listen to a linked mp3. To post an mp3 file, just wrap the url to the mp3 file in “mp3” bbcode. Like this:


For an example of what it displays see here:

Jump to specific page in long threads

On the old software we received a lot of requests for a way to jump to specific pages in long threads, and this weekend we built a quick feature to do this that was released tonight. Now if you see the ellipses (…) on a long topic, you can click them and you’ll see an alert (IE users will have an annoying nag about allowing scripted windows) allowing you to input a page number and go right to it.

We are only displaying it in this subtle way, and only on long threads where the pagination truncates to avoid clutter and confusion on the pagination interface, but we may make it more prominent in the future.

If you want to test it out, try this huge thread about Obama.