A note going into this post: I’m definitely biased because I LOVE this change and am excited about it- this is just an opinion post, of course, and of course you’re welcome to disagree with me! I just wanted to voice some frustrations. It feels like this type of outrage happens any time a website makes any sort of change, and it gets very tiresome.

What’s that sound? That’s… Oh, no. A website has changed something!! Hurry, let’s gather the pitchforks and riot! We can check out what actually changed later. What’s important right now is that we get as angry as possible.

-The entire internet, probably

Websites are changing all the time, always trying to create a better user experience.  Sometimes this comes in the form of small, barely noticeable tweaks, like Tumblr changing their post icons a while back. Sometimes, it’s a layout change that’s meant to put more focus on certain features, or to simply look better (Facebook does this occasionally and is greeted with mass outrage every time). What this shows, time and time again, is that people are really opposed to change in general. It doesn’t usually matter what the change is. That’s not usually important. It’s the fact that it’s different, and different means getting used to new things and adjusting to them.

That’s not to say all change is good, or that change should always be accepted without question. But changes shouldn’t be rejected simply because they’re different. Not without, at least, taking time to evaluate the change.

This post is about deviantART’s brand new activity feed feature, recently released to beta testers.  It’s basically an endless scrolling feed of updates from the people you watch, something that’s pretty standard for social networking sites. And deviantART is a networking site. It pretty much always has been.

I’m crediting the fact that I’m starting to be more active on dA again- something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time- to this feature exclusively. More on that later.

Predictably, and almost immediately, users started chiming in with how dA is “selling out,” how it’s “corrupt,” “becoming Facebook,” and “ruined,” and how “all of the users are going to leave because it’s so terrible that it is literally ruining the entire universe and everything we hold dear on this good earth.” (Okay, that last one may have been slightly paraphrased.) In case I wasn’t clear enough earlier, it’s okay to not like things. It’s okay to critique things.

Don’t get me wrong, this release definitely has plenty of flaws that the staff needs to sort out.  It’s kind of clunky and some aspects are downright ugly, it doesn’t function as smoothly as it could, and overall it really needs some fine tuning. Which the staff intends to do. That’s the whole point of opening it up to beta testers before the entire site. If you’re providing constructive feedback, awesome. Good job, you’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to do as beta testers. deviantART listens to its users and values feedback more than just about any large website that comes to mind.

If you’re upset about the fact that the new feature even exists- why? It is totally optional.

If you don’t want to see the activity feed when you go to your home page, set it to the browse tab. It looks (almost) exactly the same as it used to, and you never have to look at the feed if you don’t want to. As far as I’ve been able to tell, it remembers your selection. If you set it to browse, it will be on browse next time you view your home page.

If you don’t want it to show up on your profile, you can hide that, too.


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“But wait,” you may say, “I still want to use the old message center!”

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It’s still there. If they end up removing it, I’ll probably agree that there’s a problem, and I’ll gladly join you in asking them to bring it back. (And in a related story, I just realized my message center is still set to “splinter” mode because I never got used to the new message bar from a previous update. I do appreciate that dA takes its users’ feedback into consideration at all and makes some controversial changes optional.)

But look. Complaining about how deviantART is becoming Facebook, or that it’s selling out? This is not helpful. This is not constructive. And, above all, so what? I’ve seen complaints that dA is trying to turn into a social networking site. It already was one. It just happens to be one that caters to artists, and it has introduced a feature that has made browsing art more accessible and pleasant (to some- again, if you don’t like the feature, don’t use it). Honestly, this addition was long overdue. Status updates seem a bit unnecessary when we already have journals, but I’m okay with them. They’re nice for little announcements or a hello to watchers; truth be told, I don’t remember to update my journal very often.

As for why I personally like it- it’s made browsing artwork a lot less stressful for me. The image above shows my message center with some fairly low numbers. But before I emptied it earlier this week, I was sitting on about 8000 unviewed deviations and maybe 900 watch/journal notifications. Those numbers were really overwhelming, and built up really quickly (which is in part my own fault, for watching so many people). So I ignored it. I let it build up because I didn’t like going through so many pages. It was tedious. It wasn’t fun. While I sometimes looked at a few deviations here and there, I totally ignored journals and other updates from the people I watch.

Using the new activity feed, sure, I might miss some stuff. But I was missing almost everything anyway. In the past week I’ve been commenting on tons of uploads, posting on journals, being involved in the community in a way I haven’t been in years. It’s all the same information that is in my message center, but it’s presented in a way that makes it easier to browse through. It allows me to leave comments, view deviations and journals, all without leaving the page. This is much easier, and it’s an experience that’s familiar for frequent users of social networking sites.

It’s okay to not like it. But be constructive in your feedback. Give it a chance. And if you try it and hate it, don’t use it.

If you’re taking a strong moral stance about it being added at all and won’t tolerate its existence, consider finding a different art community.

 

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