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New Topic Icons

from the your-call-is-important-to-us dept.
Are the new textual topic icons an improvement or an eyesore? Read More for the reasons behind them, and voice your opinion in the new Poll. We've gotten some feedback, mostly positive, regarding the replacement of Nanodot's old clip-art icons with text icons showing the topic names. (At the same time, we fixed some topics that had spaces in their topic IDs, which caused links to break on some browsers [<cough>Netscape].) Our reasons for doing this were:

  • Many of the topics on Nanodot are somewhat abstract and therefore hard to represent graphically, particularly when relying (as I have been) on clip-art. (I defy you to find a good image for "Nanoscale Bulk Technology" in an off-the-shelf clip art package. :-) Conversely, it was often hard for people to figure out the topic based on the image I picked, and some browsers [<cough>Netscape] don't display the <ALT> text when the mouse rolls over the icon (and let's not start a debate about Javascript!). The new icons, whatever their other merits, are quite clear about what they represent.
  • The new icons are also much easier to create, and enable me to add new topics when requested with a much shorter response time than previously. Creating one of the old graphic icons required me to:
    1. Think of a way to graphically represent the topic, no matter how tenuous the rationale.
    2. Pore over my available clip-art for an image like that. (If no such image found, go to Step 1.)
    3. Colorize the monochrome image (usually)
    4. Make any changes needed to make the image fit the topic.
    5. Save and upload the icon.

    The new textual icons eliminate Steps 1-4 with "Type the topic name". (Yes, I'm lazy. Laziness, along with Hubris and Impatience, is one of the three Cardinal Virtues of a Perl programmer.)

  • Having a greatly reduced color scheme, the icons can have a smaller file size and download faster.

However, some users have spoken up in favor of the old graphic icons, saying that they made the home page easier to scan visually and that the site looks less interesting with the text icons. (I worked pretty hard on the old graphic icons, so this gave me a warm fuzzy.)

The obvious compromise — adding text to the graphic icons — has most of the drawbacks of the old graphic icons, including the most important one: they take longer to create, and so they delay the creation of new topics for the site.

But Nanodot exists for the users, so I have run the question up the proverbial flagpole and am standing by to count salutes.

Dave

11 Responses to “New Topic Icons”

  1. Saige Says:

    I like the old ones

    The new ones make me want to… *YAWN*. I realize that the graphics from before had pretty tenuous links to the topic at times, but they added some color, some variation, to the visual aspect.

  2. GregEderer Says:

    New icons not fun

    Well, gosh. I really did admire your former topic icons. Frankly, I was a little jealous of them :)

    I think that the old icons emphasized what a lot of fun science and engineering can be, and I liked that. Just my $.02.

  3. brian_dunbar Says:

    New Icons are Fine

    I have no problem with the new icons – and I think you'll find that in ANY group you'll ALWAYS find a certain percentage opposed to any change, no matter what it involves. I'm running into this while trying to help our current office relocate to a new (larger) space.

    FWIW – the old 'GI' icon always made me cringe a bit. Yes, it identified quickly and easily the topic, but to my vetern's eye the cartoon GI looked like a WWII/Korean War soldier, and badly out of step, given the web site.

  4. BigJohn Says:

    It is not the change itself i have a problem with

    I would like to point out that if you want to use text to represent the topics you should use *text* instead of images. That way they can be scaled or translated more easily. It may be that the slashcode is not flexible enough to use something other than an icon, but if it is you should definately use actual text (you can do some layout and font tricks to make it look nice as well).

  5. vik Says:

    Too bland

    While the old icons didn't say much to the uninitiated, the new icons are exceedingly boring.

    I'd suggest the old icons with tiny captions for the hard of thinking. But hey, who's listening?

    Vik :v)

  6. redbird Says:

    User submitted icons

    We could do this the slashdot way: if someone wants a topic, they have to supply the icon. I realize that this would mean that the images would no longer have a common style, but at least it would get some fun icons to look at out (and maybe they could be replaced over time with better looking ones). Or, have some textual and some graphic icons for topics, though that would probably look bad.

  7. Adam Burke Says:

    Mix and match

    The medical guy icon is still being used in the same space as the title images. On my screen he looks like something out of the end of 2001 or a demonstration of a bouncing human :) . At least pick one or the other (I say images … a picture is worth a thousand words, mayhaps?).

  8. Adam Burke Says:

    Re:Mix and match

    Hmmm, it appears it was simply a cache problem. I'm still an images man though.

  9. MarkGubrud Says:

    Let's get serious

    The old icons were goofy-looking. That has certain virtues; one should keep a healthy sense of humor, but hopefully we aren't just kidding here. This is serious stuff, and we need to be discussing it in a serious way. The text icons are more conducive to that. However, nanodot still needs to undergo much more evolution before it can be called a forum for serious discussion. There needs to be a way of actually getting somewhere. There is a tension between the goal of building up readership by providing an endless stream of novel, easy-to-digest topics, and the goal of setting in motion a process of scholarship, critical thought, and discussion in pursuit of consensus. What we have right now is just a graffiti board pumped up with news items about press releases. I wouldn't be here if I thought it was a complete waste of time, but maybe I just haven't yet reached that conclusion.

  10. Adam Burke Says:

    Starting point

    I think Nanodot makes an excellent starting point, but isn't able to follow on very well: it has a short attention span. I suspect a mechanism for promoting discussions to a more involved level is necessary. The permanent link thing might work; but guys, the arms control discussion has been archived! You can't post to it anymore! I think something even more involved is necessary.

  11. JosephSterlynne Says:

    Slash Light Mode

    The Slash engine has a "light", or (almost) text-only, mode. View http://www.nanodot.org/index.pl?light=1 instead of the base address or select this mode in your user preferences. It's clear, faster, and there are no silly icons.

    By the way, I've noticed that Nanodot's light mode retains the Slashdot logo (due, I assume, to a bit of code missed by the local management). This is also true at Transdot.

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