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How do you feel about Off-Topic forums?

#1
Seems most forums nowadays have an Off-Topic or Random Chat forum. Do you think this is essential to the success of a forum? I guess it increases activity, but it's also distracting from the standard content on the forum. I'm debating whether to add one to my new site or not. What do you think?
 

CyclingTribe

Well-known member
#3
Personally I see it as an essential component to building a community. An area where your community members can get to know each other on a more personal level, outside of the core topic of the site.

Let's face it, after a couple of years of chatting about widgets it's quite nice to chat about pets, kids, work life, holidays, post funny videos, etc. (y)
 

Hyperion

Active member
#4
An off-topic forum attached at the end of the forum listing does not need to be seen as a distraction. People are still going to your forum for its topic of focus, but an off-topic forum provides further opportunities for members to connect with each other without having to focus on the main topic all the time.

Relatedly, even if you go to church or an art exhibit, there is still a lounge area where people digress into other matters, while eventually returning to the main topic, going back to the pews or moving on to more paintings.

I see it as breathing room; a poet, say, might break a line where he anticipates its performer to take a deep breath.

Finally, there is an excerpt I have often quoted when talking about this topic, though while I am at it I would like to quote the commentary I added to it ("The destruction of mom-and-pop communities"):

Take my forum as an example. It has been open for just under 4 months and so far it appears, statistically at least to be doing quite well, albeit the activity is mostly confined to the throw away posts and threads, rather than the main purpose of the site which is computer help. However, if I didn't have the throw away topics etc, then I would have what amounts to a pretty static and possibly even a dead forum and no one wants to join a forum that doesn't have an active community. I guess it's a bit of a catch22 in that respect.
Right.

I see a lot of activity in the off-topic section as a good sign, so long as the majority of the members are posting to be part of a community, rather than simply to gain access to a resource (e.g., free advertising or downloads). Along those lines, I am reminded of a webmaster who, logged in at an administrator resource forum as "Anonymous," submitted a post in a topic titled "How do once popular forums fail?" In that post, anyways, he mentioned trying to "refocus" his "site's original purpose," but ruining forum activity with a plan that included the highly unpopular closing of the off-topic sections.

That said, I am also reminded of an article at SEO Refugee titled "10 Tips for Promoting Your Forum," which included the following tip:

Allow Off Topic Discussion - Even workaholics don’t talk shop 24/7. Your forum members are no different. Creating a space for your members to blow off steam, tell jokes, and talk about their other interests will allow them to create friendships and unwind. Think of this as a team building exercise. The more your members interact with each other, the more likely they’ll be to visit on a regular basis. They’ll also be more willing to help spread the word about your forum or help improve the community. If nothing else, you’ll gain a few friends in the process. Now who doesn’t want more friends?
 

steven s

Well-known member
#5
Seems most forums nowadays have an Off-Topic or Random Chat forum. Do you think this is essential to the success of a forum? I guess it increases activity, but it's also distracting from the standard content on the forum. I'm debating whether to add one to my new site or not. What do you think?
It reply depends on the moderators or members who self moderate..
Off topic needs to have clear rules and those rules need to be enforced.
Certain O/T topics probably should have their own forum.
O/T is going to happen unless the forum rules are followed.
 

craigiri

Well-known member
#9
I think it is needed. In most forums, two are needed - off-topic and political.

But any that can avoid the politics one....like XF...should!
 
#12
I also feel like an off topic area serves as a good gauge for sections your site might be missing. If you deal with a primary subject and a lot of off topic posts are being made about a specific item of said topic, but don't actually fit into a section, it's an easy way to notice it's missing.
 

Gabby

Well-known member
#13
It's generated over a third of the posts here. This either means the software is really good, we have no life or are just a bunch of blowhards. LOL I'm one and three. LOL