The dashboard feed is a mix of research notes, comments, questions, and events. The display can be limited to a subset of these using a dropdown menu, but the default that new visitors see is the whole mix. The information content there is usually diluted, and the feed looks busy and confusing. To put your best foot forward, I would make the default just research notes. They are usually about a real activity that somebody has done and they usually have nice lead images, so they represent the most active and creative things the community is doing and they look good in the feed.
This will hide the other things (questions, comments, events), so finding and navigating to them has to be made easier. Currently, it takes four mouse clicks to switch from notes to questions using the obscure dropdown menu. It is easy to reduce that to one click by making a tabbed menu bar at the top of the feed with five tabs:
These can be obvious enough that everyone will immediately know that they can see other things by clicking there.
- Research notes. These do not include questions or events. They also do not include research notes generated from Spectral Workbench or MapKnitter because those never have any effort put into them and are not interesting to anybody.
- Comments. These should include comments on questions as well as research notes (only comments on research notes are currently included).
- Questions. Currently the thumbnail for each question does not indicate if any answers have been posted unless an answer has been accepted. That should change. Also, comments can be posted on a question or on an answer, and both types should be included in the count of comments in the thumbnail (I don’t know if it is now or not).
- Events. This should include announcements of events, updates about upcoming events, and reports from in-session and completed events. These are currently mixed in with research notes, but deserve their own category.
- Other. The lazy research notes from SpectralWorkbench and MapKnitter can go here, or those can be discontinued. Newsletters can go here, unless they want their own tab. The “Other” tab could lead to a page with several sub sections or the tab could operate a dropdown menu with “Newsletters,” “Announcements,” and “Other stuff we don’t want anywhere else.” Or newsletters, announcements, and other non-research notes could be mixed chronologically as they are now.
A possible result of highlighting the legitimate research notes as the creative, project-based heart of Public Lab activity is that new visitors will see at a glance the types of things people are working on and how they report their progress. Many might be encouraged to strive to get their own work in that feed.