New Features on IFDB

This is a summary of recent additions and changes to the site. The list isn't comprehensive - we report only the more visible and significant changes, so you might notice some minor changes from time to time that aren't reported here.

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14 January 2009

Accessibility improvements: We've made a few small changes to improve accessibility for sight-impaired users. In particular, some of the input controls that were formerly operable only via the mouse can now be accessed with the keyboard. Some of the changes are automatic, but a few require alternative versions of the controls, which you'll have to specifically select through your profile preferences. To do this, go to the Edit Profile page, scroll down to the Display Preferences section, and check the box labeled "Use accessible controls". (Currently, the only control that varies according to the accessibility setting is the "Star" control for entering game ratings. In accessible mode, this uses an ordinary drop-down list rather than the roll-over star image that's used by default.)

12 December 2008

Site News via RSS: The IFDB Site News page is now available as an RSS feed. This makes it easier to keep up-to-date on IFDB's new features, especially if you don't regularly follow (where I also announce most updates).

9 December 2008

Deliberate cross-recommendations: You can now enter your own recommendations for other games that people who liked a given game might also enjoy. IFDB has always had a simple "collaborative filtering" system that generates recommendations of the form "If you liked X, you might also like Y". These automatic recommendations are based on correlations in user-by-user ratings: if a given user rates both X and Y highly, the system makes a guess that the two games might appeal to similar tastes. These statistical recommendations have obvious weaknesses, though, in that they can't tell whether the games actually have a similar appeal, or are both just generally of high quality (in the rater's opinion). A new feature aims to improve the quality of cross-recommendations by letting members enter their own suggestions directly. You can now explicitly recommend one or more games to people who like a given game. To add a suggestion, click the "Suggest similar games" link in the "Have you played this game" box (it's also shown in the "If you liked..." section, if there is one) and follow the instructions.

User-entered recommendations are displayed in the If you liked... section where the ratings-based correlations are shown, but they're given higher priority because they're actual user-to-user recommendations rather than just automated guesses.

8 December 2008

Review discussion: You can now comment on member reviews. A new "Add a comment" button appears below each review, alongside the Helpfulness voting controls and other options. Once a review has comments, a "View comments" link will appear as well, allowing you to see what other people have said about the review. You can also reply to specific comment.

You can edit and delete your own comments, using links that appear next to the comment on the review page. In addition, the author of a review is the designated moderator for the discussion of her own review, so she has the option of deleting any comments.

The personal updates page (click "Your Page" in the navigation controls at the top of every page) has a new section showing the latest comments in your "subscribed discussions." This includes comments posted to your own reviews, plus comments posted to any other reviews that you also commented on. (The idea is that you'd probably be interested in subsequent discussion of any review that you commented on.) This section shows the latest updates, and it includes a link to the full history; on the full history page, you'll also find an RSS feed for these updates.

5 December 2008

Flagging reviews with spoilers: Most IFDB members do a great job of using the <SPOILER> feature to hide any game secrets they mention in their reviews. Every so often, though, someone forgets or isn't aware of the importance of doing this. To help with this, IFDB now lets you "flag" reviews that contain unconcealed spoilers. When you encounter such a review, you can use the new "Flag Spoilers" command - this is in the new More Options drop-down menu just below each review. Once a review has been flagged, IFDB will immediately conceal the entire contents of the review behind a "click to show" shield, to warn other members about the spoilers. The author of the review will see these flag notices on the Edit Review page, and will have a chance to correct the problem and delete the flags.

Friends and enemies: "Nixonian" might have been recently retired from the dictionary, but the spirit of the infamous Enemies List lives on in IFDB's new User Filters feature. You can now identify people whose reviews you especially appreciate or dislike by "promoting" or "demoting" them. When you promote someone, IFDB will show you (and only you) that person's review first when you view a game listing; when you demote someone, IFDB will push their review down to the end of the list. Promotions and demotions are sort of super-Helpfulness votes, but they only affect what you see (and only when you're logged in). You should still use Helpfulness votes as well, to help guide other users to the best reviews. The controls for promoting and demoting are part of the new More Options drop-down menu shown below each review.

Plonking: If you really don't like someone's reviewing style, you can go one step further than demoting them: you can "plonk" them. Plonking someone hides the victim's reviews from your sight - IFDB will simply omit their reviews when you look at game listings. Flagging only affects what you see (and only when you're logged in); it doesn't actually delete the user's reviews or hide them from other users, so you don't have to wrestle with any moral qualms about engaging in censorship. The plonking button is part of the same More Options menu that has the flagging, promotion, and demotion buttons.

External reviews redux: Last year, IFDB added the ability to link to game reviews on other IF-related sites, such as SPAG. Users requested this feature because it makes IFDB game listings more complete and generally makes for a more connected and integrated community of IF sites. However, it's come to our attention that some users come to IFDB primarily for its member reviews, and find the off-site links distracting. IFDB now offers a customization option to control if, when, and how you see the off-site reviews. On your Edit Profile page, in the Display Preferences section, you'll find a new Off-Site Reviews option. You can move the external reviews below the Member Reviews section, you can collapse them to mere links, and you can hide them entirely. Or you can keep the default, which leaves everything as it was, with the off-siters listed among the other Editorial Reviews. (Baf's Guide and From The Author reviews are still special, though: they'll still appear in the Editorial Reviews section at the top, regardless of your off-site review setting.)

10 October 2008

Polls: One of the original IFDB features was the Recommended List, which lets you publish lists of your favorite games, to help other people with similar interests find games they'd enjoy. IFDB has a new feature that lets you turn the tables. The new Poll feature lets you ask everyone else to offer suggestions for games you'd enjoy. You just describe what you're looking for, and then other members can vote for games that they think match your criteria.

22 June 2008

Style sheet graphics: The style sheet system now lets you customize most of the graphics on the site, including things like the "star" icons and the various form buttons. You can upload these sorts of graphics to IFDB and then refer to them from your style sheets.

10 June 2008

Style sheets: You can now create and share style sheets to customize the way IFDB looks. You can select a style sheet in your profile so that IFDB has your custom look every time you log in.

Rating-less reviews: You can now write a review without providing a "star" rating. This lets you share your thoughts on a game even if you don't want to affect its overall rating score (for example, because you haven't played enough of the game to feel you can assign a fair rating, or because you're reviewing an out-of-date version).

13 April 2008

Random lists: It's sometimes fun to browse through the database randomly, on the off chance of stumbling upon a really interesting game that you'd never have thought to look for. There are a couple of new tools for doing this. First, the regular Search page now has a "Random Order" option in the sorting controls - this lets you get a random sampling of games matching any search criteria. Second, for a really quick and effortless peek at some random lists, there's a new button on the IFDB home page for "10 Random Games", which gives you just that. And when you get to the 10 Random Games page, you'll see more links for more random lists - 10 random high-rated games, 10 random unrated games, and several others.

New rating analysis tools: The Search page now lets you search and order results by the Standard Deviation of the member ratings for games. (Standard Deviation is a statistical measure that basically tells you how closely grouped the ratings are. A low deviation means that all the ratings for a game are tightly clustered near its average rating, which implies that people largely agree. A high deviation means that the ratings are all over the place, implying that opinions on the game are more polarized.) The Search Help explains how to use this feature. The search results also now show the number of ratings for each game whenever the search terms include the "#ratings" (number of ratings) or "ratingdev" (rating standard deviation) criteria.

27 November 2007

Spoiler markups: In reviews, the new <SPOILER> tag lets you mark portions of the text as spoilers. When the text is displayed, the spoilers will be hidden and replaced with a button saying "Spoilers - click to view." Readers can reveal the hidden text clicking the button.

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