Great feedback, thanks guys. As Ron noted, I'm a gearhead and have been an avid user of OPT products for years, so I'm happy to offer some help where I can.
This is definitely a huge change, but please give it a chance... I think you'll come to love it (I may have an ever so slight bias. :))
If you click "unread content" and then click the condensed tab on the right side, I think you'll find this more to your liking.
Activity streams are very powerful. You can use the pre-defined streams by clicking Activity -> My Activity Streams (as as a point of interest, if there's something specific you're looking for, we can create a custom stream on your behalf. Further, you can create your own custom stream here - select your options, save it and it will show in the aforementioned list. In fact, you can set that as your default stream so anytime you click activity, it automatically goes there. For example, you can create a stream to read all OPT employee responses in one central location. You can create one to only show you certain forums such as ONR. You can have a stream that shows you all topics you've participated in, also filtered by various factors. Once you get streams setup the way you like, it's really difficult to go back to the old "view new content" found on other forums.
Our designers made a couple of changes over the weekend. Do you find it easier to read now?
Please see above. You can simply default to "unread content" and adjust the filters on the top of the page, or create your own streams to display exactly how you'd like.
Those should have carried over. I'll get a tech to take a look.
That would be nice! I hesitate to call them participation trophies, but essentially, they do in fact recognize participation in a community. In the next major release of our software due in a few months, those can be tied to actions. For example, OPT could have a VIP forum exclusive to active contributors and create an action that would handle promotion of that automatically. They could also be used for contests, as noted.
I increased the size of post content slightly - hopefully that helps.