The State of the Site

The State of the Site

As you may be aware already, our User Experience Administrator, svetius posted a write up on the current State of the Site. This is basically a summary of concerns, ideas, developments, and future actions to be taken to ensure that the site keeps growing while maintaining its integrity and basic ideals. The whole administration team (admins and moderators) is well aware of the fact that there are many things wrong with the site as it is today. We have heard everything from praises to harsh critics, and all the way down to Armageddon type predictions that the site is headed straight to hell (well, maybe not but certainly headed in the wrong direction). We would like to let our members know (new and experienced alike), that we are working towards making drastic changes (some more drastic than others) that will ensure that we can remain as the #1 mobile device developer community in the planet. Without further ado (just in case you did miss it yesterday), here is “the State of the Site”.

Dear XDA Member,

We constantly read all of your praises, complaints, and criticisms of XDA in the forums, in emails, in PMs, etc. It’s difficult to respond to all of them directly, but as the final decision-makers on what happens here, we wanted to spend some time communicating our goals for XDA and our stance on certain issues. Call it our “State of the Site” address. We also want to point out the tremendous progress made over the past year in many different areas. Please excuse the long letter, but we wanted to be sure to cover everything.

We often point this out, but it’s worth repeating: XDA does not have a single full-time employee. Even the owners have other jobs to support their day-to-day lives. The site has significant expenses but gets by on ad revenue and donations. Really, it’s thanks to our 100+ moderator team, the work of the portal and forum admins, and of course, the hundreds of developers, that XDA is able to be a beacon of sharing and development in the quickly growing mobile device space. If we had to pay all the amazing people that donated their time to serve XDA, the site could not exist. As a community, we are indebted to all of them.

Our goal is (and always will be) to foster the environment most conducive to ground-breaking development on mobile devices. The developers here root unrootable devices, hack unhackable devices; they do things with our mobile devices about which the OEMs couldn’t even dream. WP7 on your HD2, anyone? Or about how Honeycomb on your Nook Color? In the end, the site and its users provide vast flexibility to mobile device users, both expert and amateur. That’s what XDA is about. In the future we want to work to make the information here more accessible. New users often post things that are redundant because they legitimately can’t find what they’re looking for, even after searching. We want to find ways to fix that. For example: we are working on dramatically improving the search function within forums by making forum-specific Google searches available.

Changes are slow here because it’s never as simple as just flipping a switch. This site is so large (now serving almost 10 million unique visitors every month) that in order to implement a new policy or roll out new features, we must gain support of admins, moderators, and users. Then we must test the new policy or feature, get feedback, and decide from there. XDA is like a small country. When we change something, we do it right, and we do it gradually. We’re not afraid of making mistakes and will be the first to admit that we’re not perfect. But we make decisions to promote XDA as the best place on the planet to both benefit from development and to share development.

We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 12 months—most of this since the new admin team was put in place:

  • Site speed increased dramatically. Major site errors and downtime now occur very infrequently.
  • Complete redesign to bring the site into the 21st century. Added Compact and Tablet view.
  • New Portal with a News Team that brings forth the best content from the forums.
  • Android app rolled out (premium ad-free version coming soon; WP7 app in development).
  • Added non-HTC devices.
  • Added tablets.
  • Added presence on social media (Twitter and Facebook).
  • New two-tier moderator system with Senior Moderators that mentor Forum-Specific Mods.
  • “Thanks” button to help celebrate the most helpful members of the site.
  • Fixed most carrier and flag issues.
  • Rolled out to satisfy XDA users with iOS devices.
  • Retired old devices to a “legacy device” page to keep forum index streamlined.
  • And more

Taken collectively, we think these improvements to XDA have made it a better place for development.

Next issue: adding new device forums on XDA. You might wonder how we make the decision on what devices command their own forums here. We don’t want to unnecessarily clutter the site with unpopular devices, so we do our best to make sure there is a real demand (from both users and developers) before adding a forum. When enough people post in the “About” forum asking for a new device, we’re likely to add it. If we don’t, it’s because we’re not yet convinced there will be an active development community. Sometimes we make mistakes (adding forums too late or adding unpopular devices), but XDA would be a mess if we added every forum ever requested. It’s a difficult (impossible) balancing act to keep everyone happy. Again, we do our best.

Finally, I want to reflect on a recent change made to the site. In an attempt to protect keep development forums from junk posts, we’re disallowing new members (those with fewer than 10 posts) from posting in these areas. Early indications are that this measure has helped, but there is still work to be done. Some developers are frustrated, and so are valuable members of the site. We’re assembling a new team, dubbed the Developer Committee, which will work to develop an submission form so that anyone that considers themselves a Developer on XDA can apply. Developers that get accepted (which should be most contributors to the site; the goal is NOT to make this an exclusive club) will gain special privileges that we have yet to determine. For example, Developers might be able to moderate their own posts, use a special tag to designate whether a ROM only works for certain carriers, or have a private forum to communicate directly with admins and mods.

This letter has gotten entirely too long, but hopefully it helps shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes here. My PM box is ALWAYS open should you want to chat or make a suggestion. We’re planning an XDA event (open to all members) in New York City in 2011, so maybe you can make those suggestions in-person. Stay tuned.

Please leaves us your feedback in the comments section below. We want to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

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