IxDA Community Discussion SiteThe Interaction Design Association has hosted an e-mail listserv since 2003. What began as a low-volume discussion list has quickly grown into a community of 4500 with over 40 messages a day. The downside of that popularity is that an increasing torrent of e-mail tends to overwhelm new members.
The ProblemBesides questions of volume, e-mail also fragments discussion list conversations as posts from multiple threads mingle with each other and with other e-mail. Discussions are ephemeral and exist for only as long as people care to talk. E-mail threads quickly fade into obscurity, which means that the same types of questions tend to get asked again and again as new members join the discussion list.
My SolutionAfter a year of struggling with an increasingly unmanageable list I finally decided to do something about it. My concept was to design a browsable web-based interface that could integrate with e-mail and stitch the conversations back together into coherent threads. I created a basic prototype of my idea and proposed it to the IxDA board. They embraced the potential and invited me to expand it into an official IxDA website.
I designed and coded three iterations of the website, all revolving around a central discussion list reader. It was important to continue to support e-mail but I also envisioned new ways to interact with the list through RSS, designing several low-volume alternatives that could filter content.
This design opened the discussion list to member participation by reframing the e-mail archives as a blog with in-thread commenting. It also helped bring new members into the IxDA by exposing the archives to incoming traffic from search engines.
A small team of IxDA volunteers worked with me on several iterations of the website. The final visual design was developed by Luke Woods.
The IxDA discussion website served the community for three years before finally being replaced in 2010.