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User Journal

Journal Journal: Best practice or inspiration for presenting forms and tabular data?

Amazon is bursting with books and Google is bursting with pages on how to make attractive pages using images. But what about those of us who live and breathe textual tabular data? Do our web pages and reports need to be deadly dull? Most of IT is still focused on data (as opposed to charts, graphs, pictures, and video). Whether by using easier-to-read colors, fonts, backgrounds, headers or footers, who can refer to a web-site or book that sets the standard for presenting numbers and letters beautifully?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Allowing \. members to bid $ for additional features? 1

Dear Commander Taco,

Thank you for Slash Dot and your years of service to the community.

I probably check in with the site more than 250 times a year and depend on it for clues about topics the technical press has missed (or which I overlook even though they are there).

The purpose for this letter is to present a suggestion for an additional path toward developing features for Slash Dot while also generating some additional revenue.

Several of my clients over the years have been small and medium software companies where the ideas for new features were endless and the programming resources always too limited.

In one, we would develop a cost estimate to develop a particular new feature and then mark it up 30% to account for both cost-overruns and a bonus pool for the programmers. We would then post a "Shared Dutch Auction." Under this scenario, each customer would bid the amount they were willing to pay for a feature. Customers who really wanted a feature badly might bid a quarter or half the cost. Many other customers might submit bids of a couple percent of the cost. (In that situation, 2% was the minimum bid.)

At any point where the bids covered the development cost, we charged credit cards for little customers and started sending invoices to the big ones. As soon as we escrowed the development cost, the programming race was on. (Coming in under the estimate triggered bonus distribution. Blowing the cost estimates meant we ate the loss. Theoretically, failure to deliver a feature meant giving back the money â" we never needed to.)

Under this approach, we knew that the features being developed were truly important to the customer base. (At least enough for payment.) The decision to which project to work on was easy. While at any time we took bids for many features, we only worked on one-at-a-time. The first task to be fully funded was the next project to be attempted.

I know the current path for Slash Dot improvement is through Source Forge. But as I work 70+ hours per week and also volunteer as a geek for the neighborhood recreation association, all I can offer Slash Dot at this point is a small donation here and there.

If my small donations were for features I wanted instead of "early reading," I might be tempted to make them, and make them more frequently. (Big point. Really big point. Yes, I am not kidding.)

I guess I could end the letter here, but while I'm at it, I'll list one of the many features I wish for that may or may not be important enough for your personal attention.

While I read a great many Slash Dot posts, I am hesitant in my replies. I develop every response in Word, check my spelling and grammar, and then usually wait one to four hours. I then re-read and re-edit most responses before posting via cut-and-paste. That is where the aggravation begins.

Even after all these years, (and with a comfort with HTML tags), my formatting is different enough from what I want to see that I spend too much time messing with tags (paragraph, break, list, ec.) and other spacing until my text is suitable for the reader.

While I don't mind carefully thinking about my post content, this fighting over formatting has always been annoying. (Annoying enough to think about how to incent Slash Dot to fund an add-in that would accept and interpret either MS Word cut-and-paste or RTF file importing.) (OK. Now you know. AN old fart with Attention Deficit Disorder and the /. editing skills of a moron. But we count too.)

For my part, I bid $50 toward such a feature. Not a princely sum. But allow a few hundred (or a few thousand) people to contribute to features THEY want to see and Slash Dot might benefit in becoming a better service. Once someone actually gets what they pay for, the reward might incent some to become repeat contributors in "virtuous cycles" of improvement.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Leon Roomberg

Slash Dot ID: managerialslime (739286). Karma = Excellent

Reader since 1998. Posting since at least 2004. (Sometimes it takes me a while before I have something useful to contribute.)

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