Call for beta testers!

College Confidential is an amazing community that has been let down by the forum software it runs on. As a part of the company that operates the site, it’s my job help our developers solve technical problems that keep this from being an enjoyable experience for you all. Lately we’ve had moderate success implementing features like the forum index and missteps such as [the chat bot] Consistently the key to launching useful features is to listen to the needs of people who regularly use the site.

Several people have suggested people in the community could help us test features. I think that’s a great idea! So today I’m excited to tell you about our new beta test program. We have been working on a feature that we’d like to get input from the community on. If you are interested in providing feedback (and getting a sneak peek!), please consider signing up for a time slot on my calendar:

It will require joining me on a Zoom call for no more than an hour. I’ll share a link to a test site and see if you have any problems accomplishing sample tasks. (This is a test of the software, not of you! This isn’t a test you can fail.) In addition to having an early look at what we are planning, you’ll also be able to help us avoid problems when we launch the feature for everyone.

If you have any questions about the beta test program, feel free to comment below or PM me.

I’m hoping you have had a good response to this. I need to see how my week shakes out, but will try to sign up for a slot. I have complained enough that if you are seeking input I think I need to put my money (or at least time) where my mouth is and offer input if you are seeking it.

Seriously, I want to extend a very serious thank you for doing this. It is appreciated.

Copy what dadof4kids said.

Surprised there hasn’t been a bigger response since so many users have complained about the lack of beta testing.

How would we know the response since the directions were to sign up with the link? I signed up to help the day I saw this posted and it looks like there have been lots of views. Hopefully that’s a better indication of the response.

Oh, OK, that’s good to know. That will be my future questions to people who complain - did you volunteer to be a beta tester when you had the opportunity?

I have 6 beta testers as of this morning. That’s a pretty good response for the immediate future. I might need more in the weeks ahead. I’ll let you all know!

Thank you. I personally do not want to spend an hour on a zoom call, but do want to convey my overarching point: you have GOT to figure out a way for people to talk about issues they want to talk about.

I understand moderation may be difficult, but you’ve got to solve that on the moderation end of things, not by forbidding discussion.

Please, please, go study other thriving online communities and see how they do it! You do not have to reinvent the wheel. I again point to the Chronicle of the Horse as a forum that does this well. 95% of the forum is devoted to horse-related topics, but they do have an “Off Topic” forum, and there, 95% of the threads are about COVID. Because that is the single biggest crisis we all will face in our lifetimes. So, unsurprisingly, it is what people want to talk about.

Now, they have rules about civility, and politics too. You need to really look at how they are able to permit civil discussion on the biggest issue of the day. I am certain the Chronicle is not the only forum to have figured out how to do this.

To me, this is the central, and overriding, issue facing CC. It is potentially an existential one, ultimately threatening the site’s existence. I love the community and people on CC, and want you to suceed, but I am also concerned for the site’s survival.

cinamon1212 is spot on. I am very disappointed that there is now an apparent tease of a power play by a moderator as to whether or not the covid science thread will be reopened. I learned so much there about tests, vaccines, contact tracing, transmission, etc. Why would you stifle discussion about these issues?

What is it that you really want from parent posters, other than acting as free advisors and experts to your true target audience, which is college applicants? If that is what you expect and is all that you will support, then at least be honest and come right out with it.

And I’m still waiting for the new and exciting features of Parent Cafe which were mentioned weeks ago. ?

I’ve had some experience moderating difficult topics. I am a moderator on [Biblical Hermeneutics—Stack Exchange](, a site about scholarly study of the Bible. And I was a community manager at Stack Exchange, which includes over 170 communities discussing every topic from physics to parenting. (You’d be surprised how much drama there is a on a physics site!) I’m confident we can have the sort of site where people can have civil conversations about a wide variety of topics.

It’s said that it’s a poor carpenter who blames their tools. That may be, but there are fundamental flaws with the moderator tools on College Confidential. To take a simple example, users can’t be banned for a limited period of time from using the site. There are warnings, which expire and if a user gets enough of them they are [url=<a href=“”>]“jailed”[/url], but that’s fairly mild consequence. So moderators are in the difficult position of either issuing toothless warnings or banning someone permanently. There’s very little nuance to the choices.

Fortunately, we can change the tools to make them work better. Your moderators have done an excellent job within the limitations of the system, but we can make things better for them. That will allow us to host more controversial topics in the future. I’m doing these beta tests so that the changes we make will disrupt people using the site as little as possible. We want this to be an enjoyable place for everyone, but to do that, we need to make a few changes.

As I see it, parents are here for two reasons:

  1. They have an interest in the college admissions process.
  2. They've met wonderful people here on CC.

One way to look at it is the first reason is like a front door that invites people into the house. The second is the party going on in the house that keeps people around. There are several obvious business reasons to prioritize bringing in new people. And considering there is a fresh group of students coming to the site every year, we definitely want the front door looking its best. People come because of the great advice that you, the parents who have been around, provide.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to let you all enjoy each others’ company! In this analogy, the house is more like a mansion with many rooms and things to do outside too. There’s even room for people who no longer are interested in college admissions, but just want to spend time with their friends. This is what CC has been for many people over the years and it’s one of the reasons I’m so optimistic about the future.

I have a friend on Facebook. She’s amazing and we get along just fine when we talk in person. But for whatever reason, she’s outspoken about politics on Facebook and it rubs me the wrong way. Not because I disagree with her opinions (though we do disagree on a few thing), but because she phrases things in a combative way. As we hurtle toward the election, I’ve had to mute her. When I look at the reported posts on the coronavirus threads over the spring and summer, I see a lot of people feeling the way I do on Facebook.

For whatever reason, there were a lot of snarky, rude and uncaring comments in those threads. Maybe it’s hyperbolic, but it felt at times like brawls were breaking out left and right. There were literally thousands of reported posts on the various COVID threads. It’s clear a lot of people were not having fun. And that’s why I shut down the most contentious discussions and asked that discussion be focused on the impact of the pandemic on college admissions.

I’ve heard from many people that these threads were valuable sources of information. Some people have told me that the discussions were the only reason they still visit CC. And if that were the only factor, I would, of course, be excited to continue the threads. Unfortunately, we’re not ready to moderate the threads if they continue they way they did in the past. (I mentioned in another reply that we are working to improve our tools to make moderation easier.)

So what I expect from parents is that they treat other people with respect on the site. I hope that they will share their wisdom with other parents and with students. I’m excited that they are building lifelong friendships. (And I’ve talked with parents who really have!) CC can be attractive because of the way people treat each in addition to the helpful information people can find here.

I don’t recall what I said. (Weeks have been like months lately!) I suspect I was referring to the features we’re testing now, but they aren’t specifically for the Parent Cafe. (Though I suspect it will be one of the bigger beneficiaries.)

"There were literally thousands of reported posts on the various COVID threads. It’s clear a lot of people were not having fun. And that’s why I shut down the most contentious discussions… "

If people are not having “fun” on a thread, then stop reading it! The Parent Cafe is for adults. Just like you “muted” your friend on FB, it’s even easier here not to read a thread that you don’t like.

I agree with the comments that not being able to discuss the most pressing current issues of time, covid and politics, is a big negative for CC.

@CCadmin_Jon , great! So you are taking steps to solve the problem on the moderation end of things, which is what I agree needs to happen.

Just be a little careful though, the post above once again seems to be blaming the CC community for the threads not “working”. Again, I point out the fact that many other forums, with similar rules regarding civility and a lack of politics, seem to be able to allow these sorts of conversations. I would argue that the issue is not with the audience – your posters are, generally, among the best educated and most intelligent on the internet! They are not, actually, especially prone to snarkiness, or rudeness compared to other audiences.

I’ll stop beating this dead horse, but my main point is: you have GOT to figure out how to allow people to discuss the topics of the day, especially topics that are the biggest anyone has encountered in literally 100 years! It is a failing of the site that the admins have not been able to figure out a way forward.


I would be interested in seeing traffic analytics for CC…is that data publicly available? Was there a decrease in visits/posts after the monthly covid threads were closed?

Now with the closing of the Inside Medicine Covid thread, there are no threads about covid…as Cinnamon1212 says it’s the biggest crisis of our lifetimes, now…there’s no way to talk about it on CC.

Hopefully some of the planned changes will allow posters to discuss important topics on CC, in addition to college admissions topics.

The other main issue is how to get more high schoolers on CC. They have gone to other sites, as I’m sure you know, and consequently it seems the traffic from students (or their parents) looking for college admissions assistance has decreased.

@Mwfan1921 the Inside Medicine thread was reopened this morning.

It all goes back to your (perceived) problem with megathreads, doesn’t it?

How long will the beta testing changes take to be implemented? With CC’s history of implementing requested changes, I am not optimistic.

Oh, and btw, if you want CC to be a welcoming place, better check some of the non-moderation posts by moderators. I don’t think it’s very welcoming to tell a poster that they have just asked one of the stupidest questions seen in a topic, do you? I think that if a non-mod had posted that, they might be chastised by a mod if the mod got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning.

I can share a few things I’ve observed:

  1. Discussions about COVID/coranavirus peaked in March and has been falling off ever since. It seems that many people had questions about the virus when it first hit the news. People still have many questions, but they have been tapering off. There's no distinct line showing when those topics were closed.
  2. The three biggest threads in terms of traffic are:

The first two are still open, but I closed the third. Other threads have half as much traffic or less.

  1. Even in March, just 3% of CC traffic was related to the virus. The majority of traffic to the site remains threads related to college admissions like this one: (I should point out we featured the top coronavirus thread for a good long time, which tends to have a large effect on how many people see it.)
  2. I don't have precise statistics, but far more than 3% of the flags raised on CC in 2020 have been related to COVID threads.
  3. Traffic in 2020 has dropped across the board. There are many factors here, but we believe that one of the biggest is that the site has become less attractive to new users because it's slow to load, has many advertisements and looks outdated. To wrestle this thread back to the original topic, fixing these problems is exactly why we are running this round of beta tests. (I'd love to tell you more. Sign up for a slot if you want to see what I'm taking about!)

This is correct. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been doing things like webinars, an AMA with Jeff Selingo, Student of the Week and Parent AMAs. (And also, see point 5 above.) I’ve already spoken to two people who volunteered to do beta testing and both made the point that CC has so much to offer students. I personally think it’s a unique resource on the internet. We just need to help the next generation of students find it.

Fair. This particular change is going to take a little while to get right. And taking the time to beta test adds some overhead that we think will be hugely beneficial in the long run.

I would respectfully argue that the Covid threads have tapered because the most active threads were closed and those remaining are too heavily moderated.

And all three of most trafficked treads ARE about Covid.

Other sites that I frequent have actively been talking about Covid all along. It’s tough when the most important news items of the time can’t be openly discussed here.

Looking forward to helping fix some of the problems Joe!

  1. As @momofsenior1 states, you shut down threads so of course things tapered off. Those threads were HOT with activity.
  2. You are misstating things here. The second 2 threads were shut down despite their popularity. You closed both of them and, in doing so, lost many posters forever.
  3. Don't forget the crappy redesign which has made it difficult to find content as a newbie.