Today we celebrate our biggest project launch since last summer's site redesign. For the first time in at least five years, we've completed a major upgrade of our online forum for reader comments and discussion. Welcome to the new Fray! Please click here try it out.
For too long we let our community of talented reader-commentators fester on bug-ridden and outmoded message boards. They were cluttered, slow, and nearly impossible to navigate. As we pointed out two months ago, the fact that you could find any lively debate at all in that Web-0.5 application said more about the quality of our Fraysters than it did about the resources we gave them.
Now, with the support of Cisco, we've finally given the Fray the wholesale renovation it deserved. We've updated the software, remodeled the interface, and fixed the long-standing bugs that kept new users from joining the conversation. And we've made the new system more flexible and much easier to navigate.
We started the project to fix the Fray back in April, with an open call for suggestions. We wanted to hear from the veterans, who'd spent so much time on the site despite its problems. And we wanted to hear from the folks who had thought of the Fray only with fear or indifference. You were happy to oblige: In just a few weeks, we received almost 900 e-mails suggesting ways to improve the site; 2,451 readers responded to our online polls; more than a thousand comments were posted to the "Fix the Fray" message board.
It wouldn't be the Fray if everyone agreed on the right course of action. There were those who wanted a complete overhaul: Some asked for a social networking site, with personal profiles, pictures, and a system for private messages. Others wanted to ditch the chit-chat and gear the boards exclusively toward comments on Slate articles. And then there were the Fray die-hards who wanted to preserve—at all costs—the old-school "charm" of the original.
We've tried to address as many of your suggestions as we could with the new Fray. First and foremost, we've made it much easier to respond to specific Slate articles. In the old days, we lumped together comments on all articles that happened to be in the same department. If you wanted to read the reactions to the latest "Culturebox," for example, you'd be stuck reading posts about every "Culturebox" piece we've ever published, not to mention off-topic personal asides from other Fraysters.
As of today, casual readers can click from an article page to see only those posts directly related to that article. But you don't have to browse the Fray that way. If you come into the message boards directly (and not through an article page), you'll see every post, whether or not it's a comment on an article. And if you'd rather focus on your own discussions, you can set a filter to shut the article comments out of your personal view.