Admin Update on New Features, and The Name of That Thread

TimWilson

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I'm way overdue to update you all on changes around here, so I'm going to focus on just the some of the things we've pulled from the Site Suggestions forum and elsewhere around the site over the last two weeks. These are links to the discussions of these features:

  • UU VIP board back (Of course you have to be a UU VIP to see it, but hey, after over two years astray, it's back.)
  • Polls
  • Multi Quote
  • Add "OP" designation when original poster also posts later in thread
  • Floating top menu
  • Clean up top menus, now including direct links to UU resources (a user request from August 2008! Sorry to be 14 and a half years late on this one! 🤣
  • We're starting on a bunch of cleanup work on the themes, as well as merging some features found in one theme, but not another. Some people had requested a wider range of reactions than just thumbs up -- for now, those are available in the Default theme, discussed here.
  • Members can now reply to unlocked threads in the Site Announcement board. Not a huge deal, but I'm thinking of this as more the "outbound communication" board, and yeah, there are times that we're looking for a conversation. We're still looking for you to start "inbound communication" in the Site Suggestions board, so keep 'em coming!
  • Updated favicon, which is the logo in the tab. The definition of a small feature, only 32px by 32px, and I wasn't even going to include it on this list, but changing it from the default for vBulletin (our site's previous platform) to the actual logo for Ukulele Underground is just nicer, and I was delighted that people noticed almost immediately.
  • Also not the biggest deal, but I raised the auto save Draft function from 24 hours to 48. I can't say that the Draft function is very fully fleshed out, and asking XenForo to do that is currently the #1 request among the devs who are members of the XF home forum. In the meantime, if we can make anything better, we will!
  • Last but not at all least, massive improvements to our AdSense settings. I started by turning off a bunch of categories: dating, cosmetic surgery, "Get rich quick" -- yes, there's an actual AdSense category called "Get rich quick" -- another category called "Sensationalism"...you get the idea. Some of those are fine in principle, but in practice, the ads were not nice. You're already seeing a higher quality group of ads, and I'll tell you the rest of the story in a bit.

All by itself, that's a goodly amount of some longstanding (and some VERY longstanding!) member requests in just our first couple of weeks on the case.

Behind the scenes, @Arcy has also just cracked a major bug that was standing in the way of a bunch of other updates, so look for another set of announcements soon!

Now, for those who are interested, I wanted to tell the story of the thread formerly named Ukulele (P-word for Adult Content): post your uke pics here.


MY CONVERSATION WITH GOOGLE, AND WHY THE NAME OF THAT THREAD IS CHANGED
Sooooooo, I was wondering, how on earth did our ads wind up being so foul? I've mentioned that the previous forum I managed had a lot of traffic (2.5 million monthly unique visitors at its peak), and we had a very active Google account manager with whom I became pals. I gave him a call and asked if he could take a quick look at UU to help me out.

"Your most active keyword is ukulele and its variants" he told me. "Number two is guitars."

Okay, so far so good.

"Number three is [p-word for adult content]."

WHAT? How is that possible?

"If you're an adult content site, congratulations! You've convinced Google that you're an adult content site. The most viewed thread in your site has it in the name, as do many of the posts on that thread. It's also your most active single thread, so every time a new post in that thread goes up, you're telling Google AGAIN that this is a site interested in seeing adult content."

So I asked the next obvious questions: will we continue to be attracting "adult" ads, and is this affecting our search rankings?

"I can answer the second question first, because the answer is absolutely yes. If someone has turned on 'SafeSearch', we're going to deprioritize your results. You're not like reddit, which has adult content very clearly behind a wall that you have to opt into. Your site appears to have it in the core section of the community, so our crawlers will keep coming to the conclusion that that's what you're about. And even for somebody who has enabled NSFW search, we're still going to deprioritize your results, because you don't have any 18+ blockers in place. If you're an adult site, you're doing it the wrong way."

Face palm again. "Okay, give me the bad news for ads, "I said.

"For ads, you can block any of them that you don't want, but if they meet our standard for not being too explicit in language or imagery, they're still in the system. Advertisers are using OUR data to find you, and you look to Google like a site with a lot of interest in adult content, so any ads that skew more adult are going to be coming straight at you."

Like gentlemen's club ads in the business category?, I asked. "Exactly like that. Those ads are clearly aimed at businessmen, and the frequency of what appears to be adult-content discussions at your website is telling Google that those businessmen are more likely to be in your community than others."

Ugh. So a 2008-vintage joke has outworn its humor, at least in Google's eyes. We need to fix that, NOW, in order to get back to the kind of business we want to be conducting, protecting our ability to be placed as highly as we deserve in search results, and to attract ads that reflect our broadest-possible community character.

I'll note again that this should not be implied as a judgement on the use of the p-word, or indeed on that thing itself. This is only about SEO and advertising. Even if one of you billionaires backed up the money truck to UU's door such that we could turn off ads, we still need search results to bring us traffic, and even more important, new members. The only solution is to lose that word from the heart of our most popular thread.

As a starting place, I'm going with "Post your uke pics here!", ie, exactly what it was, other than the first two words.

I'm also going to add that p-word to the site's asterisk filter, allowing it to appear as "p***" to go with its old pals the F bomb and the S word -- which I doubt most people have noticed, since most of us don't use that kind of language here, even if we do use it elsewhere.

The question remains: for our one of our longest-running, and definitely most-viewed, as well as the topmost pinned thread in our most popular board -- what do we call it? I mentioned the placeholder up above, but I wonder if we can do better?

I'll note that some that have been kicked around among the mod team include Uke Showcase, Uke Parade, All Ukes Weird and Wonderful, and Ukulele *Bazinga*! But we think it should be up to you.

The floor is now open for nominations! If you see a name you like in one of the replies that I hope will follow below, please like it (rather than create a new post with a +1 -- those are impossible to track). Once we get a handful of nominees, we can open a poll and be good to go.


WHAT'S NEXT?
You tell us! You can divine some of what we're working on by looking at the Site Suggestions board. That's playing a BIG role in guiding our next steps. Anything recent there, you can assume it's under development, but as you saw from my 2008 request finally filled earlier this month, we're trying to get to as many as we possibly can.

I've mentioned elsewhere that we're working toward a new ad module. We need to be able to say "yes" to some ads in addition to telling AdSense no when we have to. This new ad module will also be what allows us to return to an ad-free experience for UU VIPs. We're working on some foundation back-end stuff to enable that, so the steps are underway.

You'll also be seeing some look and feel tweaks soon, along with more options to customize your UU experience to be what you YOU want it to be. We're all about "choose your own adventure" here, and we can't wait to experience that adventure with you!

On behalf of @ploverwing and @Arcy, as well as @anaka and the rest of them UU team, thank you for all your support of our efforts, and please keep those suggestions coming!

Best,
Tim
Mod
 
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That’s a pretty impressive list of improvements! Huge thanks to you all, your hard work really is making a difference. The link between the dodgy ads and the “P” thread is amazing, who’d have thought that one thread would be so influential! I guess it’s perfectly logical if you’re not a human being. I’ve been noticing a massive difference in the kind of ads I’ve been seeing and I can’t tell you how much more pleasant it’s made browsing the forums for me, so an extra big thank you for that (I even clicked on one the other day, I couldn’t help myself.. it had such a tempting picture of a guitar 😂)
 
I guess it’s perfectly logical if you’re not a human being.

That's it exactly. Machine learning is only as smart as machines. 🤣

It's why I'm so excired to move to a human-curated ad experience later this year. We all buy stuff, or want to learn something new, so ads that are more aligned with our actual interests will naturally be more appealing than whatever pops up from the fastest bid for our rawest demography.

Thanks for the kind words on the rest of the work, too! This is the sharpest team I've ever worked with, and we're having a lot of fun with it too!
 
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Thanks for all the time, energy, and talent from the UU team. 👏
 
Tim and all, great work, I love it, love it, love it. I was one of the complainers of the P word thread title, so very glad to see that change. How about, Uke Gallery - Post your ukulele images here.
 
I'm way overdue to update you all on changes around here, so I'm going to focus on just the some of the things we've pulled from the Site Suggestions forum and elsewhere around the site over the last two weeks. These are links to the discussions of these features:

  • UU VIP board back (Of course you have to be a UU VIP to see it, but hey, after over two years astray, it's back.)
  • Polls
  • Multi Quote
  • Add "OP" designation when original poster also posts later in thread
  • Floating top menu
  • Clean up top menus, now including direct links to UU resources (a user request from August 2008! Sorry to be 14 and a half years late on this one! 🤣
  • We're starting on a bunch of cleanup work on the themes, as well as merging some features found in one theme, but not another. Some people had requested a wider range of reactions than just thumbs up -- for now, those are available in the Default theme, discussed here.
  • Members can now reply to unlocked threads in the Site Announcement board. Not a huge deal, but I'm thinking of this as more the "outbound communication" board, and yeah, there are times that we're looking for a conversation. We're still looking for you to start "inbound communication" in the Site Suggestions board, so keep 'em coming!
  • Updated favicon, which is the logo in the tab. The definition of a small feature, only 32px by 32px, and I wasn't even going to include it on this list, but changing it from the default for vBulletin (our site's previous platform) to the actual logo for Ukulele Underground is just nicer, and I was delighted that people noticed almost immediately.
  • Also not the biggest deal, but I raised the auto save Draft function from 24 hours to 48. I can't say that the Draft function is very fully fleshed out, and asking XenForo to do that is currently the #1 request among the devs who are members of the XF home forum. In the meantime, if we can make anything better, we will!
  • Last but not at all least, massive improvements to our AdSense settings. I started by turning off a bunch of categories: dating, cosmetic surgery, "Get rich quick" -- yes, there's an actual AdSense category called "Get rich quick" -- another category called "Sensationalism"...you get the idea. Some of those are fine in principle, but in practice, the ads were not nice. You're already seeing a higher quality group of ads, and I'll tell you the rest of the story in a bit.

All by itself, that's a goodly amount of some longstanding (and some VERY longstanding!) member requests in just our first couple of weeks on the case.

Behind the scenes, @Arcy has also just cracked a major bug that was standing in the way of a bunch of other updates, so look for another set of announcements soon!

Now, for those who are interested, I wanted to tell the story of the thread formerly named Ukulele (P-word for Adult Content): post your uke pics here.


MY CONVERSATION WITH GOOGLE, AND WHY THE NAME OF THAT THREAD IS CHANGED
Sooooooo, I was wondering, how on earth did our ads wind up being so foul? I've mentioned that the previous forum I managed had a lot of traffic (2.5 million monthly unique visitors at its peak), and we had a very active Google account manager with whom I became pals. I gave him a call and asked if he could take a quick look at UU to help me out.

"Your most active keyword is ukulele and its variants" he told me. "Number two is guitars."

Okay, so far so good.

"Number three is [p-word for adult content]."

WHAT? How is that possible?

"If you're an adult content site, congratulations! You've convinced Google that you're an adult content site. The most viewed thread in your site has it in the name, as do many of the posts on that thread. It's also your most active single thread, so every time a new post in that thread goes up, you're telling Google AGAIN that this is a site interested in seeing adult content."

So I asked the next obvious questions: will we continue to be attracting "adult" ads, and is this affecting our search rankings?

"I can answer the second question first, because the answer is absolutely yes. If someone has turned on 'SafeSearch', we're going to deprioritize your results. You're not like reddit, which has adult content very clearly behind a wall that you have to opt into. Your site appears to have it in the core section of the community, so our crawlers will keep coming to the conclusion that that's what you're about. And even for somebody who has enabled NSFW search, we're still going to deprioritize your results, because you don't have any 18+ blockers in place. If you're an adult site, you're doing it the wrong way."

Face palm again. "Okay, give me the bad news for ads, "I said.

"For ads, you can block any of them that you don't want, but if they meet our standard for not being too explicit in language or imagery, they're still in the system. Advertisers are using OUR data to find you, and you look to Google like a site with a lot of interest in adult content, so any ads that skew more adult are going to be coming straight at you."

Like gentlemen's club ads in the business category?, I asked. "Exactly like that. Those ads are clearly aimed at businessmen, and the frequency of what appears to be adult-content discussions at your website is telling Google that those businessmen are more likely to be in your community than others."

Ugh. So a 2008-vintage joke has outworn its humor, at least in Google's eyes. We need to fix that, NOW, in order to get back to the kind of business we want to be conducting, protecting our ability to be placed as highly as we deserve in search results, and to attract ads that reflect our broadest-possible community character.

I'll note again that this should not be implied as a judgement on the use of the p-word, or indeed on that thing itself. This is only about SEO and advertising. Even if one of you billionaires backed up the money truck to UU's door such that we could turn off ads, we still need search results to bring us traffic, and even more important, new members. The only solution is to lose that word from the heart of our most popular thread.

As a starting place, I'm going with "Post your uke pics here!", ie, exactly what it was, other than the first two words.

I'm also going to add that p-word to the site's asterisk filter, allowing it to appear as "p***" to go with its old pals the F bomb and the S word -- which I doubt most people have noticed, since most of us don't use that kind of language here, even if we do use it elsewhere.

The question remains: for our one of our longest-running, and definitely most-viewed, as well as the topmost pinned thread in our most popular board -- what do we call it? I mentioned the placeholder up above, but I wonder if we can do better?

I'll note that some that have been kicked around among the mod team include Uke Showcase, Uke Parade, All Ukes Weird and Wonderful, and Ukulele *Bazinga*! But we think it should be up to you.

The floor is now open for nominations! If you see a name you like in one of the replies that I hope will follow below, please like it (rather than create a new post with a +1 -- those are impossible to track). Once we get a handful of nominees, we can open a poll and be good to go.


WHAT'S NEXT?
You tell us! You can divine some of what we're working on by looking at the Site Suggestions board. That's playing a BIG role in guiding our next steps. Anything recent there, you can assume it's under development, but as you saw from my 2008 request finally filled earlier this month, we're trying to get to as many as we possibly can.

I've mentioned elsewhere that we're working toward a new ad module. We need to be able to say "yes" to some ads in addition to telling AdSense no when we have to. This new ad module will also be what allows us to return to an ad-free experience for UU VIPs. We're working on some foundation back-end stuff to enable that, so the steps are underway.

You'll also be seeing some look and feel tweaks soon, along with more options to customize your UU experience to be what you YOU want it to be. We're all about "choose your own adventure" here, and we can't wait to experience that adventure with you!

On behalf of @ploverwing and @Arcy, as well as @anaka and the rest of them UU team, thank you for all your support of our efforts, and please keep those suggestions coming!

Best,
Tim
Mod
❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
 
mod squad

Hey! That's catchy! Might need to use that! 🤣 As Linc would say, "Solid!" (I never missed an episode, and my parents eventually forbade my using that word. LOL And while they were very devout, they weren't so sure about me shouting Linc's "Keep the faith!" with a raised fist either. 🤣 )
 
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I’ve been noticing a massive difference in the kind of ads I’ve been seeing and I can’t tell you how much more pleasant it’s made browsing the forums for me, so an extra big thank you for that (I even clicked on one the other day, I couldn’t help myself.. it had such a tempting picture of a guitar 😂)
That is the best response ever. We're so pleased that a) your experience has vastly improved and b) you were even able to support the UU forum just that little bit extra with a click through for one of the ads, because it was an appropriate ad and you wanted to! Huzzah!
 
What is the best way to support this forum?
That is an excellent question! The UU VIP is an annual membership that allows a few extra perks (I'm personally - ironically - not 100% sure what all those are). It's a pretty reasonable price, $45 US / year, or $5 US / month, and it's a definite chunk of cash towards the UU forum platform (I don't know what it costs to host, but it's not free). The other, as Tim has mentioned, is actually clicking through a few ads now and then, which a) programs Google AdSense to recognize the right kind of ads for us, and b) sends a little income towards the site. That's a little more random, because it's not a definite amount per month or per year per person like the UU VIP membership is, but it still makes a difference.

@TimWilson and @Arcy any other ways to monetarily support the UU forum to keep it up & running?
 
Your content can be more useful than anything else to most social media platforms including UU. Your content is UU. You do not need to give anyone money, your creative content is more than enough to attract views and advertising sales to UU.

Bill, I love this! What a great point!

I don't want to discourage likes, and indeed want to expand the range of reactions available for folks who are so inclined, but makng posts (whether starting threads or replying) is a HUGE way to add value to the site.

It doesn't even need to be words! We have one whole thread that's just pictures of ukes! 🤣 And another for pictures of pets, since expanded to include visiting birds, raccoons, and more. Another for travel photos. Don't see one for you? Start one!

Nor for that matter do I want to explicitly discourage contributions from people who can spare a few dollars a month. Ads alone aren't enough, and neither are UU VIP memberships. For now, it's taking both...

...but if you don't have extra dough, you don't. (I did, but now I don't. Life happens!) Making posts really is priceless, though. If you're here, you belong here. Add whatever energy you can, and we'll be grateful for it!


The UU VIP is an annual membership that allows a few extra perks (I'm personally - ironically - not 100% sure what all those are).

The biggie that I'm aware of is the promise of no ads. Used to be true, will be again, but for now, and really the main thing always, is that it's making a contribution toward keeping the forums on the air.

I'm certainly happy for any of the elders to correct me, or fill me in on other perks, including ones like no ads that may have gotten lost in the transition to the new platform.
 
How’s about we change that thread name to:
“Family Photos: Show off your Uke collection here!”
Or perhaps:
”Uke Pride: Post your Uke photos here!”

Thanks for all you do, Mod Squad!

Scooter
 
I like thread titles that simply say what the thread is about. Life today is already puzzling enough, without adding more cloudiness due to unclear thread titles on the UU Forum. So I think Tim’s “Post your uke pics here!” is the perfect title for the thread where we want people to post their uke pics. :)
 
Great to hear about the updates! I agree on the name change of that particular popular thread. I'm not the most PC person usually but I didn't think the previous name for the thread really encompassed the vibe of the community here so I definitely approve.

I was going to suggest 'Ukulele Gentleman's special interest' for the name of the thread but I would prefer non-gendered terms on the name. So best to go with some of the previous suggestions. :)
 
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