/ Money, Technology, Which? Membership

Welcome to the new Which? Conversation

Fireworks

Welcome to the new Which? Conversation website. Read on to hear about some of the site’s new features.

Following feedback from our community, we’ve been hard at work redeveloping Which? Convo. I’m very pleased to unveil it today, and I’d love to hear any feedback you have. Here’s a brief round up of some of the new features, but I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.

Finding conversations you’re interested in

There are now nine Which? Convo topics – find them at the top of the site or on our homepage. So if you want to chat about slow broadband speeds, head on over to Technology. Peeved about supermarket special offers? Shopping’s where you need to be.

Within each topic you’ll find communities of people interested in the same stuff, so watch out for car enthusiasts in Motoring or financial experts in Money.

Your own profile

Everyone now has their own profile, not just authors!

Sign in with your existing Which? Convo credentials, then have a look at your profile to find a list of all the comments you’ve made. If there have been any replies to your comments, you’ll be notified of them here too. You can even @mention people in your comments – try @patrick and I’ll be alerted!

You can add some information about yourself, including any hobbies and interests. This will help others with similar interests find you in our new Community Members search page. And if you find someone you like, you can add them as a friend – this means you can more easily see what they’ve been talking about by filtering by ‘My friends’ on our Recent Activity page.

Recent activity

What’s the Recent Activity page? Well we heard you loud and clear that you were fed up with only being able to see just nine of the latest comments on our homepage. So rather than just increasing the number of comments you could see by a small amount, we thought we’d let you access all the comments that have ever been made in the past five years. That’s what the Recent Activity page is for – you can filter by comments, Convos, what your friends are saying, and more. If you want to come back to one of those comments so you can reply later, add it as a ‘favourite’ then you can filter by just your favourites too.

Got an idea for a convo?

You can now share your ideas for new conversations in our Ideas lounge. And if you’re not feeling inspired, why not vote for the ideas others have shared?

We’ll regularly check out your ideas and will be interested to see how popular they are with the community. We’ll let you know whether we’ve picked one of your ideas and may be in touch to ask if you’d like to write it!

Much, much more

You now have the chance to edit your comments for 15 minutes after you posted them, meaning you can now say goodbye to those peskey pesky typos. If you feel so inclined, you can sign in with your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account – that makes registration all the quicker and will use your name and photo from your chosen account.

There are all sorts of other new things that I’ll leave you to discover, but in short welcome to the new Which? Convo! I know it’ll take some time to get used to, but I hope you like it. Of course, as with any new site launch there will be things we need to fix, so if you spot anything, please just add a comment here and I’ll look into it. Finally, a big thanks to all those who were involved in testing the website – we couldn’t have done it without you.

If you need any help finding your way around the new Which? Conversation, we have a Help Getting Started guide as well as a Frequently Asked Questions guide.

If you would like to discuss the closure of Which.net, you can do so in this dedicated discussion area.

Comments

In no browser can I now report a comment under ‘other’, and give a reason, but I can – apparently in this topic. In the Brexit debate (which shouldn’t be about leaving, anyway) I have tried to do it but in all the bowsers no submit button appears when I try to report the comment.

Let me explain. It works in here. It may well work elsewhere. It doesn’t, however, work in some other topics, and shows the box, but the submit button – or where the button should be, is off the screen and it can’t be scrolled. Nothing I can do brings it back.

The cache is never a problem, although it’s the most fingered suspect, but if it works on some topics and not on others there’s an underlying issue.

It doesn’t help that I’ve just come off Thornton’s, where I tried to place an order for my wife’s birthday, but although everything went through as it ought, apparently the website lost the order, so I’ve had to give it manually, over the ‘phone.

This website was performing very well, until a recent update, and since then things have been going wrong. It’s not as if it’s programmed in Malboge, but sometimes it seems as though it has been.

Unfortunately the ‘Your ideas’ section is not working properly. Clicking on ‘Read more’ takes me to the top of the page. The other problems we were experiencing a few weeks ago seem to have disappeared.

It’s now working again. Thanks to whoever kicked it in the right place.

The intermittent issue which manifests itself only in The Lobby continues to be a nuisance. For completeness, it happens when clicking on one of the links in “All Recent Activity” and, in my case, anyway, is when I direct the comment to appear in a new window.

Although we are only on the fourteenth page I am convinced it is a consequence of the volume, with over 3,000 comments here so far many of them quite lengthy. For whatever reason the software or servers cannot handle the number of posts and provide quick and easy access on demand.

The Lobby opened in September 2015. Why don’t we just ask Which? to detach the first two years and park them somewhere else? Very little [if anything] continues for longer than a year in here.

Did you not read my post John , I know it was short but Which has already emailed me agreeing with my findings , against some opposition, that that is exactly what they are going to do -as the server cant cope –add another server and another Lobby , more info to come in the future.

Yes, I seem to recollect it, Duncan, but I can no longer find it. It looks like Which? are doing the right thing in response to the many comments.

I can’t understand why there was some initial resistance as it was fairly obvious to a number of us that there was a capacity problem. They could detach the first two years of The Lobby immediately and normal service would then be resumed. Installing a new server and joining everything together could take some time and will cost money, but it is necessary.

There will need to be a closing announcement on The Lobby Part One and an opening announcement on The Lobby Part Two in order to guide readers to continuing topics but other than that The Lobby must be the simplest Conversation to divide.

There are other Conversations on the same or similar subjects where it would be a good idea to amalgamate them but I expect that would be an editorial nightmare. Good cross-referencing is the answer there.

John-They have hinted they might do as you say, make similar types of technical information /advice in its own grouping.

Would you care to copy the email into here, Duncan?

Why Ian ? it was personal and I dont ask for any of the personal emails you or other regulars get from Which and DONT speak of . Do you honestly think I am lying Ian ? Considering Which could pull me up about it ? Many times you speak of intercommunication between you and Which never divulging the email on Which convo and hoisting a “members only ” sign . I dont question any of that .

The reason I asked, Duncan, is that a major change such as the one which you claim Which? has divulged only to you is something that surely we should all be informed about. I was curious to see the precise wording, that’s all.

As far as I’m aware Which? does not send out personal emails to do with major changes to W?Cs as any changes will affect all contributors.

I must admit I cannot see the harm in copying and pasting the technically relevant text from the e-mail into a comment here. The felicitations can remain private.

Look just go on saying “its gossip ” that will make everybody happy. I have never been part of any Quorum here when its something vital ,always on the fringes. Dont believe me I can live with that.

Duncan, perhaps you could ask Alex to put the email here.

Morning all, we’re currently looking at the best way to deal with the issues of The Lobby and opening a Lobby 2.0 is being considered.

Of course, as soon as we know more on this we will be updating you all. I was thanking Duncan for keeping an eye out and reporting the issues which we are aware of due to the large number of comments in The Lobby.

@awhittle. thanks Alex.

I was interested (and had some time free between video edits and renders) to see how comments were distributed on a brand new and seemingly unrelated-to-anything-else topic, so I looked at the slime topic.

In just two days (17th – 18 July) it had racked up 41 comments by 1100 today. These were from five commentators: in the lead was Wave, with 11, closely followed by Malcolm and Duncan with 9 each, then Derek with 6 and finally John with 5.

It’s never been made clear what the idea behind W?Cs was, but I suspect the main agenda is to bring more people into the Which? arena. I say that because the (for me, mistaken) argument is often put forward that newcomers might well be ‘put off’ by the ‘wrong type’ of posts.

But I suspect that very, very few who visit ever return, and certainly almost none returns on a regular basis.

The email exciter shots that run from time to time about contentious issues, such as Brexit, do attract a lot of visitors but the retention rate (I suspect) is close to zero. Okay – this is a common issue for online media but I’d be interested to know how the hit rate for the W?Cs site as a whole translates into new subscriptions. After all, WFS needs more money to squander.

I’ve been with W? a while, and witnessed a gradual deterioration in the way the members are treated; it’s not new, and if I had to put a date on it I’d say it was round about 2000 that things seriously began to decline.

But it was – once – a fine organisation with huge potential. Somewhere – along the way – the aspirations of its founder have succumbed to the corporate desire for gold, I suspect, and decisions are now being taken on the basis of short term gain, the email betrayal being the latest example of that.

We don’t know why PV-S has thrown in the towel but the smart money is on finance – or some unpleasant financial news for the future. But that he has could be good for the organisation. It’s a chance to choose someone who believes in what Which? once stood for: not the consideration of lofty debates and projects but in reviewing products themselves in detail and by so doing empowering the consumer to make the right choices in their day to day lives.

Which? has been trying to do to much for some time, and the drift away fro the very consumer base that enabled its rise to prominence is worrying. With the choices available everywhere, now, never has a Which? that is truly Independent and tests its own purchases been more necessary. Let’s hope those choosing and appointing PV-S’s successor bear that in mind.

If I may be provocative I think the fact that many topics are swamped by the clique of regulars and often taken well off-topic discourages input from visitors. At its worst a newcomer makes a comment that is relevant to the topic and then two or three regulars use this as the basis to have a discussion that may not be relevant and if it is will leave the original poster out of their depth. Thankfully we do have some long-term contributors who appear occasionally but have lost quite a lot of people who I believe had something useful to say.

Given the amount of criticism that Which? receives from us collectively I suspect Which? Convo is seen as useful but an embarrassment at times. I suspect that Which? will become more of a campaigning organisation over consumer issues, but it needs to do more to achieve its goals if taking problems to the relevant organisations is unsuccessful in achieving a solution. Given the choice of spending money on testing toasters or tackling product safety I know which would be my priority.

I would be very happy if Which? had no connection with sales of products or commercial services but that seems unlikely to happen.

Maybe the slime Convo will bring in some comments from those who have bought the stuff.

A visitor in the Lobby just posted a question asking about Washing powder. Trying to be helpful I decided to see how easy it was to find topics about washing powders.

It doesn’t help that the latest search box is only inside each topic, and not at the top of the recent activity listings, as well – the obvious place, if you think about it. That notwithstanding my search on “washing powder” returned only five results, the most recent being five years ago.

I’m sure Adam’s well aware of this, but I wonder if authors routinely submit their scripts for meta tagging? I’m thinking specifically of the titles of the topics, as one issue can be that searches for ‘washing powder’ return topics on detergents, which is okay, as the naming isn’t precise, anyway. But perhaps the titles need more careful consideration.

Nothing about this is particularly easy, and it’s all time consuming – that I appreciate. But meta tagging is the only easy way for someone finding something trough the search engines.

And we possibly do need some more up to date topics on washing clothes…

The issue regarding posting seems to be getting more confused. Sometimes it takes logging in for every comment; other times, it appears as though we’re logged in, but then it wont permit editing. Other times, it tells you a comment can’t be edited (despite it only just having been posted) but then it allows the edit, anyway.

And now, although I’m logged in, this comment box isn’t showing any name or submit button. And after a page refresh I now have to log in – again.

The log in issue has not been solved. It has, in fact, reverted to an earlier manifestation of the problem – the intermittent logging out.

It happens like this: despite the menu bar showing that you are logged in, when you’ve created some input in the relevant box, no ‘Post Comment” or “Submit” buttons appear, nor does the user name or icon.

This can usually be resolved through a refresh, but it can also become rather more stubborn and take several refreshes. Once it’s sorted it’s usually okay for the rest of the day. This problem seems to occur first thing in the morning.

Agreed. It also happens late at night . . . and the thumbs remain inactive, hence my need to post a response.

I was able to log in and post automatically in Yandex as I was “recognised ” but since I changed a few security boxes in the initial set up cutting out some automatic tracking by Yandex I now have to log in but as the login is saved it only takes two clicks , otherwise I dont have any problems . Are your browsers fully open ?

The website seems to be behaving itself at present but the link to the old Lobby in the introduction to the current Lobby often shows the page without any comments.

Thanks for flagging this @wavechange, I’ll get on the case!

It’s working here. It might be that it is timing out because it is trying to load so many comments which is why we opened a new lobby. There is a problem with searching comments in it though which is being investigated.

Ignore that – down here as well now. I shall investigate!

Thanks both. I edited my post to try to make it make more sense.

Working through the night, we’ve added a couple of fixes and features, including:

– Author identifiers – when the person who wrote the article makes or replies to a comment, their avatar will be surrounded by a blue ring. This should hopefully make their comments a bit easier to spot.
– Password strength meters has now been fixed. This was causing some issues with new users not being able to register with a ‘strong’ password.
– Replies to Ideas now appear in the ‘Recent Activity’ feed.
– Fixed some blurriness with how avatars are being displayed.

We’re still also working on the issue with mentions – this appears to work in some Convos but not others (the Lobby being the most inconsistent).

Thanks for letting us know, Jon.

Hey all,

Just to update you on the issues being experienced in the old lobby and with @mentions working inconsistently: we suspect these are down to server load being caused by the weighty number of comments in play in both of these spaces

We’re working on a couple of fixes, including a monthly off-topic lobby concept to spread the comment load on the server, and some back-end fixes for overall speed improvements that are long overdue. Hoping that we’ll be able to test these out in the next week or so, once we’ve ensured they make sense, and we won’t lose any of the comments from either of the two Lobbies or from other convos.

Thanks for your patience, and if you notice any other bugs or things that might need attention, do give me a shout!

This page is not easy to find unless you have saved the location or it has been recently mentioned. Any chance of a link from the front page?

I have discovered that you can’t search for anything in any comment on the convos.

You can only get results from convo titles or introductions.

As a test:

abracdacacbra

p.s. spelt wrong on purpose

Carneades says:
15 April 2019

A pet annoyance of mine, that.

A pet annoyance of mine, that. There are a lot of comments, but it ought to be possible to search the database.

You’re right, they should be searchable. I was trying to find the list of air-fryers I posted some time ago.

Thanks Jon, close enough. The list of ‘brand names’ I was after is in part 2.
https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/the-lobby-2/#comment-1554262

Why can’t we search convo comments?

It’s one of the limits of the current platform setup, unfortunately – site search covers topics, but doesn’t go into the comments beneath. It is on the list of improvements though!

In the mean time, you can always use a search engine to search within the site (that’s how I found your air fryers)

Very strange, I couldn’t find it before.

Also I tested abracdacacbra. Google says no results found.

Hmmm 🤔

To do what Jon suggests, use the Google Advanced Search: https://www.google.com/advanced_search It’s very effective for finding information, especially if you can remember a search string used in a post.

Thanks for the link wavechange. I already use some of those search aids like quotes and the minus sign but forget there is page dedicated to an advanced search.

Did you find abracdacacbra ? I still can’t find it with the advanced search.

I’m afraid not, but Google searches don’t find everything. I don’t remember this being a problem when I used to teach information retrieval.

You mention that the Convo search facility only looks at titles and introductions. I remember discovering this with the original website, so I tried to remember phrases to use as search strings to find a Convo and then trawled through the comments to find what I was looking for. It was easy when most Convos had few comments. 🙂

If information might be useful in future it’s worth bookmarking it. Sometimes I wish I had remembered…

Here is an example of a post that is out of sequence: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/printer-software-update-third-party-printer-ink/#comment-1552921 It looks like a reply to the recent post above.

This seems to happen when a post has been deleted.

I may have discovered a tiny issue with ‘flood’ topics. Because the page that opens is always the current one it might be possible that newcomers are assuming that page is the first one in the topic.

It works in the same way for everyone – newcomer or regular – so many may well be missing relevant comments early on in a topic, which may well address Malcolm’s oft-made observation that people ask the same questions repeatedly. If the only indicator that there are other pages is the small line of numbers at the bottom then it seems there’s a problem.

In the smart shopping topic the number of ‘thumbs’ in the first couple of posts on the second page were significantly higher than those on the first page. Just a thought, anyway.

I have always thought it would be better to land on page 1 of topics.

In a flood, very often the first page can hold the more intelligent comments that people can also find the most helpful.

Being taken to the first page might encourage people to read through posts and interact with them more rather than just asking the same question again at the bottom of the last page.

We can certainly look at how to make it clearer that there are other pages – I’ll have a chat with Jon and George about what could be done.

We are also looking at the welcome journey to encourage supporters to see Convo as more than a place to comment on the one convo they have landed on.

Too many people come here leave a comment and are gone with no record of themselves they can refer back to as they don’t log in and create a history for themselves.

Many people ask questions, but how do they find any answers when they are not logged in?

People even go to the trouble of uploading avatars without logging in. Maybe they don’t realise they are not logged in.

Until they log in to post and create a history, they won’t be a real part of the Convos and see somewhere they belong to.

It has been said before, but you really don’t need anything complicated. They already have to give an email address to post, so all that is needed is a password, quite simple really.

These are all the sorts of things we are looking at. One of the issues is that people register for an account but never verify it. We are looking into the reasons behind this before implementing any changes.

I suspect the problem I identified with the flood topic (at the outset of this particular thread) is epitomised perfectly in the recent topic by Anabel on APPs.

On the second page of comments the first has attracted 40 Ts up, despite only being posted at around 2000 hrs last night. What makes this even odder is that the comment isn’t a comment as such, but merely a question and – furthermore – one which was answered in excruciating detail by the pasted comments on the first page.

That most are not aware of the first page (and certainly not reading it) is amply demonstrated by the same questions being asked at least three times on the second page, each of which was answered on the first page.

This does seem to provide ample confirmation – if any were needed – that many people aren’t aware of or don’t realise there is a first (or earlier) page. This of course makes answering questions a Herculean task, even if those who drop in to post the odd rant bother returning to read the responses.

I’ve long wondered about why W? employs the push-flood topic practice. There are, it seems to me, numerous dangers about having a flood topic, in which it does seem the only purpose is to encourage people to rave about pet loathings of and perceived failings in organisations. It also makes me wonder if any criteria for failure were considered prior to the introduction of such a technique.

I’ve thought about possible advantages but the current system seems to have precious few, whereas a properly structured forum could, at least, not only offer a semblance of coherence to the often rambling diatribes but also harness the volunteers among the regulars who would be prepared to participate. Which?’s renowned antipathy towards using volunteers in almost any way is well known (something else which defies belief) but when the largest and most successful tech company in the world relies heavily on volunteers in its community support forum it does beg the question of why a comparative minnow in fiscal terms doesn’t at least consider doing the same.

Finally, if anything were to provide ample evidence about the utter uselessness of thumbs then perhaps this example does, and rather neatly.

I wonder who manipulates the thumbs up? In a number of Convos when a large number of people are contacted by Which? to send in their comments, lots of thumbs up suddenly appear. My suspicious mind is still suspicious.

What is the purpose of these mass invitations? They invariably produce comments that are anti something, but with little considered argument and apparent lack of understanding of the facts.What do Which? then do with all the responses? Hopefully not treat them as a valid barometer of opinion.

I have long hoped that when Which? introduce an important topic they put a balanced, informative and unbiased case together so when it is discussed it is done on a sound basis. When they, for example, neglect to ask those that might inform them about the reasons for the complexity and timescales of banking reforms, but simply complain about the “delay”, I wonder at their agenda. When they complain about the loss of ATMs, but do not tell us the facts about where many of the losses occur, for example multiple sites, about alternative sources of cash, about proposals made to greatly increase the sources of access – as was done in the “Access to cash” report in March, I again have to wonder about their objectivity and lack of a constructive approach.

Convos should be entertaining, all-inclusive and enjoyable. But they – many – should also be educational and have a purpose in understanding and, hopefully, advancing the resolution of important issues. They should also encourage diligent contributors to provide input that is used to help Which? with its work. We’ve often asked Which? to use its willing Member base constructively. I wonder whether Amanda will recognise this and see the benefit to Which? of being a true Consumers Association, with constructive support from its Members?

One thing that concerns me about these mass debates is that there appears to be an LCD approach; the topics often seem to be presented more like political proposals than disinterested observations. I was a bit worried when I saw in the latest W? mag a snippet asking for help: “Have you ever bought a product online and been offered a free gift or incentive for writing a positive review about it?”

Now, I do a lot of reviewing for Amazon and am approached all the time by Chinese companies asking me to do reviews in exchange for a free product. In quite a few years I’ve never been asked to modify a review but then I always ask at the outset for the company to send me the item or provide a voucher up front so they can’t influence my review. The Which? request will only attract those who feel aggrieved in some manner, and won’t garner a spread of opinion – something I’d have thought we needed in this instance.

In the ten help requests (p49, June) three were ‘slanted’ but none quite as sharply as the Amazon review request. Obviously, garnering information from those who feel let down is important – even vital – but this slanted approach, the ‘stories need an angle’ belief – is, I suspect unduly colouring the headers to many topics.

The other somewhat obvious issue is that so many topics appear to duplicate one another. And that’s a whole other bed of nails.

Not certain whether I’m experiencing an intermittent issue but the number of times the alert regarding the “JSON parse: unexpected character at line 1 column 1 of the JSON data” is popping up seems to be increasing.

Yesterday, it became so persistent it wouldn’t allow me to post one of the morning quips.

Ian, I’ve seen that occasionally, but not in recent days.

Most of my posts are from assorted Linux PC’s, with a few from Android and even a very few from Windoze, but I’m not currently using any Apple devices or browsers.

Yes; I’ve been attempting to identify the unique conditions that trigger it. It does seem to be related to pasting.

Which post was the one that was causing the persistent error @carneades? Where was the text taken from that you were pasting in?

We’re (still) trying to track what is causing this ourselves – it happens often when posts begin with a certain character, but the pasting-in of text is something that we haven’t seen yet. I wonder if it’s to do with some of the formatting being carried in (this can often happen when pasting in from Word or other RTF editors).

Yesss…it does seem (in my case, at least) to be directly attributable to copy ‘n paste. It also seems to be independent of any specific source. Mostly, it happens when I’m copying the morning humour and the jokes come from numerous sources – some are maintained in a list of my own.

The specific comment I attempted to post without success has now appeared three times…

https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/the-lobby-2/#comment-1566235

That comment was rejected three times, so I gave up, but it’s now appeared.

When I was working I drafted material in Word, saved it in plain text and copied/pasted into a VLE – a web-based system used in teaching. Invariably it was necessary to do some work on the text because saving in plain text retained some hidden characters.

DerekP says:
20 May 2019

If you save a document as a plain text file on a Mac, there are should be many ways to display or detect hidden characters.

In the terminal shell, the command “cat -v filename” lists the content of “filename” and uses two character combinations of “^” and another character to print each non-printing character. For example, the carriage returns in DOS text files will print as “^M” at the end of each line.

MacOS (and other Unix and Linux OSes) use a single line feed character to terminate each line of text, but DOS and Windows use two characters: a carriage return followed by a linefeed.

Thanks Derek. It’s a few years ago, but that sounds familiar. It made me wary of doing copy/paste from Word onto websites and other software.

The above test was me from another computer using a completely fictitious email address made up of a jumble of letters and numbers at a valid email provider.

Other sites check you enter a valid email address before proceeding, so why doesn’t Which? do this check?

It does make it rather obvious why posters don’t verify their email addresses.