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I am making an idea management system using Ruby on Rails and Twitter Bootstrap. This is a static mockup I have created.

Mockup

Here is how the system is supposed to work

Flowchart

The comments will be managed by Disqus to prevent spam and to assist with moderation. If the idea receives spam comments, they will be disabled for that particular idea. Comments will be limited after there has been an official response, and will eventually be disabled.

From a user perspective, is this a good system, or is it time to go back to the drawing board?

Edit: This is a feedback system for a school so that's why I mentioned all the comment moderation

Edit 2: Here is a new mockup Mockup

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A few thoughts

  1. I think it's a bit arbitrary to decide that after X people have said something about an idea that the admin should respond. Not all comments are created equal.
  2. The system of throttling down comments also doesn't particularly make sense. In what way will they be limited after a response is posted?
  3. The most important takeaway is to just let people comment as they will and the admin can disable comments manually. Rather than trying to corral people's behavior, give them an open-ended tool.

As far as the visual layout, the two-column layout for ideas isn't ideal. Use a single column of ideas taking up 3/5 of the X-space and the remaining 2/5 can be metadata about the idea like number of comments, if there's an official response, tags, etc.

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1  
Thanks for your response! In hindsight I agree with you about the X comments model. The point of the comments was to gauge the interest in a particular topic, so admins could prioritize. This could probably be done better than how I've explained above. The limiting of comments after an admin response is for after the problem has been resolved (ie. management have implemented the change). In terms of the commenting system, this is for a school that i go to (I probably should have mentioned this before) so that's why I mentioned the comment moderation. –  davblayn Mar 23 '13 at 8:51
    
Also, thanks for the visual pointers, I'll send through an updated mockup –  davblayn Mar 23 '13 at 8:56
    
I recommend that you build in a notification system that the user can configure (but it has presets for dummies) for threshold whereby the admin can see if a topic is blowing up. It can be in terms of total comments or comment rate. –  JClaussFTW Mar 23 '13 at 9:09
    
I've uploaded a new mockup –  davblayn Mar 23 '13 at 10:17
1  
Thanks for all the pointers, it's given me some much needed perspective on the concept of the application –  davblayn Mar 24 '13 at 1:06
  • I don't like the idea of “limiting” (?) the comments after there has been a response. Let alone disabling them.
  • I hate the idea of waiting for a certain number of comments before putting a response. If I post a very good idea, and nobody comments, because my idea is brilliant by itself, and does not need any more word, then noone would respond ? That would be stupid. And, by the way, popularity ≠ quality.
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My limiting, I meant that comments were on an 'approval only' basis, however in hindsight the need for a system like this is small. Also, I agree with you about the comment threshold, I think I'll remove this feature when I start development –  davblayn Mar 24 '13 at 1:08

Something we do in the interface where we invite people to provide ideas for our product is to, before the field for them to explain their solution, have a field for the user to describe the problem they are trying to solve. Then, their solution becomes a jumping off point for other users to iterate on different possible solutions by posting further comment, as well as upvote and add feedback to other solutions.

Also asking the user to actually describe the problem helps you to know the purpose behind the solution they provide so that you can also iterate design concepts to maybe solve the real problem in a way that is best for your entire user base.

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It sounds like an exciting project. I'm familiar with this class of tools and have just a few thoughts.

Some of your initial instincts are likely spot on. The number of "views" or comments, or for that matter votes, bookmarks, alerts, follows, etc. are all measures of "activity" which implies interest, which implies the value of the idea versus other ideas. The better idea management systems have an algorithm measuring activity as well as votes to determine idea "promotion". Limiting the number of comments is also reasonable in this sense: Challenges should have finite periods of time; a beginning and an end.

Which brings up the notion of Challenges. A general idea box has the tendency to engender incremental innovation (doing things better). Most organizations are also hoping for breakthrough innovations (doing things differently) and that is almost always the result of a call to action of some sort ("Help us design the school of the future!").

There are tons of attributes that could make this better, but I understand you're working within a finite environment (there's a reason those systems cost so much money, they have 25 developers workings a dozen years adding features). But one of the most important is acknowledging contributions. You don't have to give away iPods or T-Shirts or cars to get people to contribute, but if you acknowledge their contribution they'll keep coming back. So a tote board of highest contributors, an email ("thank you for your idea", "someone commented on your idea", "Your idea has been promoted; selected") will keep folks coming back.

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