What the hell happened with DN?

4 years ago from Martin Bavio, User Interface Person

  • Aaron D, 4 years ago

    What happened? Andrew Wilkinson happened. Much like Dribbble, his acquisition of Designer News quickly turned DN from a well-curated culture of design thought leadership and discussion into a monetized popularity contest.

    24 points
    • Martin BavioMartin Bavio, 4 years ago

      Would be nice to have Andrew's version in here, but I'm not even sure he'll even notice this post, unfortunately.

      Dribbble always was a popularity contest, right?

      12 points
      • Andrew WilkinsonAndrew Wilkinson, 4 years ago

        @Martin - Thanks for the nudge.

        Guys: I am so sorry you feel that DN has devolved. My/our version of events would be that we acquired it, rebuilt it from the ground up, redesigned it, made a ton of feature improvements, but then got a little sidetracked with the Dribbble acquisition and haven't had a chance to do more with DN.

        I would really like to see what we can do to improve DN and am all ears if any of you have any ideas, want to push some initiatives, etc. Also open to having community members help build/improve the site (paid of course) and adding more mods.

        Please feel free to reply here, tweet at me (@awilkinson) or email me (andrew@metalab.co).

        Sorry you guys feel we blew it. That sucks.

        38 points
        • No NameNo Name, 4 years ago

          Hi Andrew!

          Thanks for taking the time to address the concerns within the community. I have a few thoughts I'd like to share—of which, others will hopefully reply and iterate. Here we go...

          1. Downvoting

          The lack of downvoting, as others have mentioned, doesn't provide any means of letting the community self-regulate. With the current up-vote only system, the only way to get low-value posts off the front page is to wait until they decay out. This—I would assume—creates a negative feedback loop with users who want good content: they come, there's nothing good, they can't easily help get rid of the bad content, they leave feeling hopeless. This breaks the habit of coming back over time and erodes the "quality users" that the community originally built around. It's a downward spiral.

          Solution — Add a downvote button and sort the front page based on volume of postive upvotes with a slight decay over time function. Posts with a "-X" voting are automatically deleted or archived. There's a lot of opinions in design, so let's say something around -25, with nothing below -5 being on the homepage.

          2. Posting Rights

          In an effort to cut down on bots/spam while keeping the community open, the posting rights should be more strict. Currently, you only need to have an account active for ~1 weeks time before you're allowed to post (if I'm remembering correctly).

          Solution — Prevent users with <50 karma make new topics/posts. To earn karma, users can comment on thread and have their comments upvoted there to reach the threshold. I would hope this stimulates quality engagement as well.

          3. Discovery

          This may be more of a fault of the community, but I'd be willing to argue a very small fraction of the community is actively digging through the "New" page and upvoting content so that it will reach the homepage. God bless those people, but this siloing of discovery can't be good for content curation. It's also probably why it only takes ~5 upvotes to get near the top of the homepage. Simply not enough people are digging through the new stuff!

          Solution — To be honest, I'm really not sure how to solve this. Perhaps make the "Popular/New" difference more prominent and forward? Half the time, you barely even notice those tabs. Hoping others will have more feedback here.

          That in mind, there's some other things that I'm just kind of confused about:

          1. DN Podcast – It hasn't been added to in over a year. Could it be spun up again? Could it be archived in a less prominent place on the site if not?

          2. Color Awards – This is a super fun and enganging element of DN that I fell in love with. Unfortunately, the prospect isn't huge. For new users (who won't get the beta colors, etc.), you pretty much can only earn these colors via karma benchmarks. Then—when you do—they are pretty much just greys. Maybe more colors/means of earning them?

          3. Post Badges – These are helpful, but I think they could be more specific or have a broader variety? Looking at the homepage right now, it's more or less a sea of "SHOW DN"; what's the point if there's not really any differentiation?

          Ok—so that's a lot to unpack, but those are the three biggest issue I see personally. I'm sure others have more ideas on how to polish these solutions, too, so hopefully we can get this community back on track together! :) Thanks again for listening!

          44 points
          • Gabriel AnghelGabriel Anghel, 4 years ago

            I think your suggestions are really good, will love to see them implemented. I did think DN was a good platform at first but over time it became very hard to see good content here ,I personally found a good facebook group that does what DN did a while back. Frankly i think it's a shame. DN should be more community focused, with good content.

            1 point
          • Lee HordLee Hord, 4 years ago

            Some really good ideas there Arix. I have a thought about Post Badges too. I think they should work more like filters. I too get frustrated by the number of SHOW DN posts on the homepage. I do occasionally look at them, but only when they have a significant number of upvotes or comments.

            If I could turn off certain badges that I'm not interested in, that would certainly go a long way to seeing just the content I care about.

            1 point
          • Sean LesterSean Lester, 4 years ago

            These are good and necessary improvements that need to have already been implemented before activity tanked. Say you get these improvements — most of them are around restricting content... but part of the reason for poor front page content isn't JUST that you can't downvote it off (though I agree this is a legitimate problem) but also the lack of high-quality content to take its place. SOMETHING has to be on the front page, and with so few engaged designers with something valuable to share, that means the spammers and content marketers have an easy job of it.

            What I'm getting at is, these ideas are good but will they revitalize the community? Something has to be done to bring back the people who have given up on this place.

            I also am not a fan of the "be nice or else" moderation — though I understand why some may disagree. The conflict and controversy creates activity and discussion. It isn't a surprise to me that enforcing a "be nice" atmosphere leads to low activity... particularly in a community that so loathes the Dribbble style of vacuous compliment comments. We should of course have some standards for behavior as any community should, but we should also aim to be tolerant of critical or dissenting attitudes and discussion — even if the spirit of those discussions may become sometimes mean.

            0 points
          • Account deleted 4 years ago

            Downvotes. For years, I've been repeating myself to have downvotes and I always get flamed even accused to being a 'redditor' lol.

            That's why we need downvotes. If ppl doesn't like something, they shouldn't be forced to take their 'happy pills'.


            0 points
        • Martin BavioMartin Bavio, 4 years ago


          In my opinion, it's not a technology problem, as there's no need to create new features to fix it. The kind of content is what needs to change.

          When Kelly and Allan were around taking care of that, I feel like they worried more about the quality of the content, not only by applying moderation but also by leading the community with efforts to have better content (AMAs, giveaways, etc). Feel to me like they really cared about the content in here. And so the community cared.

          Don't get me wrong, most of the improvements that Arix suggested are great and probably could help the site, but the real change that I'd like to see in here is for you and those 30 people that you mentioned to contribute in here as if you really care about the quality and outcome of your baby. I know you adopted it, but it's still your baby.

          2 points
    • A Paul, 4 years ago

      Andrew Wilkinson craves power and control. He loves that he controls these sites and has the power to do nothing with them.

      6 points
      • Davin M., 4 years ago

        A "Published by Andrew Wilkinson" tagline was put in the footer immediately after DN was bought.

        2 points
      • Andrew WilkinsonAndrew Wilkinson, 4 years ago

        And worst of all, the servers we use to run DN are powered by the tears of designers! Muahhahhahahhahahaha

        Seriously though, I would love to understand why you think I'm Mr. Burns reincarnate. We have grown Dribbble from a team of 10 to 30+ people, the majority of whom are focused on building new features and growing the community. Definitely not doing nothing—we are pushing full steam ahead and are all ears to hear any feedback you guys have.

        22 points
        • Nelson TarucNelson Taruc, 4 years ago

          Andrew, FWIW I really like the state of DN today. Is the content always awesome? No, but the content upvoting gives me a look into what other designers are endorsing. More importantly, I'm always free to choose what I want to read and ignore. It's a great site to get the pulse of other designers and see what everyone's talking about (i.e. this thread).

          Anyway, I think it's cool that a lot of passionate designers have strong opinions about DN (it would be much worse for you if no one cared any more). I respect you for responding to a few of them.

          Thanks for keeping DN running!

          2 points
        • Ken Em, 4 years ago

          If DN is awesome and there is a such a big staff, why is it so difficult to fix things like the dingus that used to alert someone when a link has already been posted? Judging by the duplication of content and from member comments, it's seems like that has been broken for a long time. Also, why does it often take days to remove spam? A mod had commented a while back that they don't have control over that and it's up to the devs to remove spam. That seems crazy. That's part of a mod's responsibility.

          2 points
        • Sean LesterSean Lester, 4 years ago

          Yeah, I think the blame on you is a bit misplaced — the community quality was already declining before your acquisition, and with Layer Vault tapping out it seems much more to me like you saved this place as an investment in the design community as a whole, or maybe a statement about your commitment to it.

          Obviously, there is more that could be done to keep DN alive / revitalize it, but what is a community for if not taking grassroots ownership over its own fate and character.

          The Tiny Boards site is kind of damning. It's like "We buy job boards, look at our job boards... Job board, job board, job board... news site? :)"

          I get that from a business perspective this may be a job board with a content marketing play, but that only works if it isn't transparent and your commitment to the content marketing part (the community itself) is serious.

          0 points
          • Andrew WilkinsonAndrew Wilkinson, 4 years ago

            Totally hear you on the Tiny Boards site. We don’t view DN as a job board, but the job board there is one of the job boards we own, so the team there decided to list it. DN is still listed on the core Tiny site—we view it as an individual company :-)

            0 points
        • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, 4 years ago

          I was just about to take your side on this before you reminded us you also own dribbble. I respect MetaLab and like the work you guys do, but the communities you run are, in their current state and in my humble opinion, more harmful to our industry than they are beneficial.

          About dribbble

          You may have tripled dribbble's team size, but how exactly has that translated into benefits for the designer community? Aside from that time you gated off some features behind a paywall, there weren't any substantial change since Tiny took over. When dribbble first started, it was minor site intended for people to publish small snippets of their work and cool design experiments they thought of, so its structure of one 300x400 image + some text made sense. Today however it has evolved into the second largest community for designers and in my opinion (and primarily because of the way it is structured and the sort of content it encourages) it has helped create the wrong idea about design in the eyes of both designers starting out and clients/bosses/colleagues. I for one have chosen to no longer take part - it's not like I got anything out of dribbble anyway.

          I've said it a million times and I'll say it again, what we need is a community built to support healthy conversations around how we each solve problems in our organisations. Not a 300x400 shot of a nike shoe, but a ton of details about what the goal of a project was, who the intended audience is, what the process was and what options were tested, how well the design performed, and then ways to incentives the community to join in and discuss the merits of the design, possible alternatives, etc. That way designers just starting out will have a much easier time learning (and learning the right things), and people outside the industry will do less assuming all we do is make pretty shit in PS all day.

          About DN

          I think DN is equally poorly designed for how big it has become today. Its structure may have served it well back when it was invite only, but now that everyone is welcome, it needs to change. See my comment below about it, or any of the previous conversations on the topic. Or this.

          So what I'd be curios to know, is how do you understand Tiny's role in the design community and what specific plans do you have for the future?

          5 points
          • Shawn Adrian, 4 years ago

            I still love Dribbble and most of the designers I know still love it and use it as intended... for sharing and viewing fragments of lovely visual work as inspiration. I like your idea about a community for deeper conversations, but maybe it's not Dribbble. How about using DN that way?

            0 points
    • Nikhil VootkurNikhil Vootkur, 4 years ago

      I think dribbble turned into that way before the Tiny acquisition

      2 points
    • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, 4 years ago

      And what's more, he somehow managed to single-handedly accomplish this evil goal without even changing the site itself in any meaningful way! Just goes to show how nefarious he really is…

      14 points