I'm a software developer / technical forum administrator for the past 10 years. I've worked on many hundreds of forums, and have gained some insight on some key problems (or opportunities) for community growth. I feel this is an area that is very under-serviced, if you compare it with the greater software industry. We're operating blind, so my new product company Forum Intent is going to be releasing some products that specialize in developing Community Intelligence. Rather than chase around porting the typical blog, downloads, widgets, tweaks, etc. I'm going to venture out a bit further and try and better the forum industry. This is the first of many products.
Recommendations - a recommendations engine to identify and notify users of interesting content.
Why do I need this?
Forums are notorious for having a poor signal to noise ratio. Lot's of fluff, some amazing content, but nobody has the patience to spend all day to find it. The larger the forum, the more this hurts. How much time do we waste navigating through endless lists of threads. We know what sort of things we're interested in, but it's still hard to find.
Everyone has individual tastes of what they want to talk about, and with whom. Popular threads, or even featured threads are not always relevant.
I know me, personally, I know which specific members pique my interest in a thread. I know which ones I like interacting with. I know which topics I always have something to say about. Combine this with a little bit of popularity, and suddenly relevant content is more obvious.
Help them find it
Respect their time and encourage more activity by suggesting threads that you know they'd be interested in. They can then focus their time on creating content, rather than sifting through it. This has two large benefits: members will post more, because they're in threads they care about, and secondly, they'll enjoy using your site.
How does it work?
The plugin continuously analyzes your member activity for patterns and builds profiles on what users are interested in seeing. With this information, it can automatically highlight those threads, show them in a widget, or directly notify the user. It works on confidence, so you can control how relevant content has to be in order for the system to take certain actions.
Unlike other ambitious products, I'm footing the bill for developing this. Infact, it is nearly done. I hope to release it within a few weeks for both XenForo and vBulletin 3.8 shortly after. The price is still undetermined. It will depend on the amount of interest shown in the product.
The more interest I gather, the more time I can spend improving the actual recommendations engine.We can do a lot of amazing analysis the more we spend on it. Think how much behavioral data is sitting in your forum that you can use to serve them better content.
Let me know what you guys think. I'm really excited about this one. Once you're done that, we both know we're going back to the new posts button to endlessly search through content with the hopes of finding our next good discussion