Hopefully I have my thoughts together now (warning, this may be a lengthy post).
My observations of the old versus new boards, are as follows.
In the new board things are broken down into catagories too much, thereby requiring the user to click through too many menus/sub-menus. Posts and replies cannot be viewed at a glance, the user MUST pull up the original post which in turn lists ALL of the replies. It appears to be MUCH more user friendly to have the ability to GLANCE at titles, both in the original post and subsequent responses, in the new board the only title is associated with the original post. I have no opposition to being a REGISTERED user, however I feel that this should be optional and not mandatory. Individuals may only come to this site once or twice and the registration process is a hassle. Additionally, there are individuals that occasionally prefer to post under an alias, whether it be for sound reasons (i.e., SPAM, fear, etc), or just for having a little fun (i.e., Martha in., Deputy Dog., etc), this should remain an option if the intent of the individual is honorable.
Regarding the "old board". Although there are apparently numerous problems with the software the format is superior for the individual user. Having a staggered (stairstep) layout for original posts and responses make following a topic very easy at a glance. Also the fact that each post has it's own title makes it easier to pick and choose which posts the individual user wants to view, plus leaves room for creativity on the part of people responding to posts and having a little fun with the titles.
Having seen various boards around the web, I presume that both the old and new boards are "canned software" leaving minimal room for modifications. So I understand that making either the old or new board function differently is problably next to impossible. However since Sears and *** **** are creating a NEW website, maybe there is the hope that on the new website a custom message board could be designed that would fullfill both the purposes of the existing old and new. I'm going to presume that the existing "old" board simply uses 2-3 index tags (i.e., msg number, and response to number, date/time, or something along those lines), while the "new" board is probably more of a database application whereby posts are catagorized by more criteria (i.e., HVAC, MISC). What I would envision in a "custom" board would be a mixture of both where you would have additional database fields. For example, lets assume that the two existing boards had keys like follows:
Old board - Date,Time,MSGID,ReplyToID,Title...
New board - Category,Date,Time,OrigPostID...
A custom board could be designed with a key similar to: Date,Time,MSGID,ReplyToID,Title,OrigPostID,Category...
This could result in a SINGLE board that prior to entering the user would have the OPTION of checking a box if they wanted a categorized listing, if the user left the box unchecked then they would be presented a listing based on date,time, etc. For examples:
Unchecked box - Original post - Posted by - Date/Time - Category Response post - Posted by - Date/Time Response to Response post - Posted by - Date/Time Response post 2 - Posted by - Date/Time
Check box - Category One (i.e., HVAC) Title - Posted by - Date/Time Response one Response two ... Category Two (i.e., MISC) Title - Posted by - Date/Time Response one Response two
By having the software trigger off one or the other this would result in a board or boards that could share the information in different formats. This should allow individuals that are comfortable with one format or the other to co-exist within the same database.
Please note that I've spoken in generalities here, and that hopefully I have been able to relay the idea in general. This kind of message board would also lend itself to other possiblities as far as running reports based on certain keys that could be used to facilitate responses quicker into the FAQ section of the new website.
One thing that I forgot to mention above is that the "original poster" of any message would have to catergorize the original post, but subsequent replies would automatically be keyed to that category.
Finally, in the event that any of this is taken to heart, I would ask for one additional thing be allowed from the "old board". That is keep the posts open to HTML tags. As everyone knows, I like to use them alot in my posts, as do some others.