Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I could use your help with a design

So I actually convinced my foundation that getting public feedback on designs is a good idea.

It's not an earth-shattering feature. It's just some functionality to help one registered member of a site send their email address to another registered member.

See, families of kids with learning and attention problems face more than just educational and emotional or social challenges. They are often in conflict with schools, sometimes with spouses and sometimes defending their children from law enforcement or child protective services. Any of these can lead to court, but even before then, parents are very very concerned that their lives will be *too* exposed. Over 2/3rds of our registered members have chosen to *not* display their email on their public profile. 'Nuff said.

So given that parents generally know each other only by their screen names, how can I help them make a better contact so they can have private conversations with other parents?

Before you even ask, private messaging is not one of our options.

The main reason we aren't opening up PM is that we don't want to host all those messages. Harassment, illegal behavior and all sorts of problems can occur via PM and to avoid having our time sucked up by hearsay arguments, we should keep a record of every PM and *that* opens us up to a lot of responsibility that our small shop just can't handle.

Another reason is that I am blissfully free trying to pump up our site traffic. My goals are measured in lives affected so I don't have to inflate traffic. If two people meet and go off into email to work out problems, great stuff.

So the challenge is to limit the interaction, give control over the personal information and the interactions to the members and minimize the ability to break it for nefarious purposes. Here's where my community minded friends come in.

I would really appreciate it if you could take some time to look at the design I am working on and offer your insight and feedback. Have I plugged the holes? Are there more elegant ways of handling this? Take a look at my Parent to Parent Email Exchange Design.

You can comment here, email me or join our parents in the discussion where they are offering their views something to be built for their needs.

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