Managing a multi-topic / multi-subject forum and "keeping it together"?

I'm sure I'm not alone in being responsible for a forum that caters for more than one topic or subject.

I thought I'd see if could get some tips and advice (and maybe share some if I can offer any) on how to "keep it together" within a community that attracts people with quite unique interests, while still catering for members' own specific needs.

My own forum I'm talking about is Speak EV, which is a general electric vehicle / electric car forum. It's young and growing steadily, and already we attract owners of vehicles from GM, VW, BMW, Nissan, Tesla... the list goes on. While it's worked surprisingly well for the main I'd love to be able to tailor the forum better for each specific user/forum/group while still keeping the forum and community united as one.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I could approach this, or how they've done something similar on their own forum(s) when it comes to distinct AND shared interests on one larger community?

My forum link is


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I had the same issues on my one forum and am now using @Snog Social Groups. I set my ones up as forum Social Groups, check them out here Category Social Groups . Select the General interest Group to get a better idea of how those are working. With this setup your members then have control to what they want to see and what they don't want to see. They can also create their own groups within any of the categories provided


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I tried the social groups thing to do this on vBulletin and the reality was, unless you have a really huge number of people, the social groups themselves often become ghost towns or, at best, a tiny number of members just posting among themselves. That was my experience, anyway.

There has been a lot of shifting of forums in our community over the years - we've expanded to various splinter interests, we've contracted to generalize things... it's a balance, I guess. I think we're at a pretty good place now - large categories are represented individually, hopefully without segmenting them so far down that the individual forums don't appear abandoned.

For specific niches within categories, we often have a large or long-running thread. Otherwise, we have a generally off-topic forum which gets all kinds of discussion, and a handful of non-site-related forums, some of which were popular enough splinter forums that we never contracted them back into larger topics when we consolidated, and some of which generated enough threads in other forums that it was worth breaking out onto a side category.

Without a volume of traffic like Reddit, it's hard to cater to every sub-interest, so I think it helps to curb those into some "official" interests, and maybe have a general off topic forum as a catch-all.

Just my $0.02!


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Groups on VB never worked for me either because they were isolated from the forum itself. Using this add on with fourum groups those forms react as any other forum would to those that have joined them. The add on itself can be setup as group discussion the same setup as VB has. You also have the option of group galleries but this was not for us as we already have a gallery.

I tried all sorts of options to isolate those off topic forum areas that some members did not want to see. So far from an admin side and member side this was by far the best deal.
So far all I've managed to do is to offer an option to ignore forums. Off-topic is an easy one to just exclude, on a previous (big) vBulletin you had to opt-in to off-topic as it just got so busy and noisy it was putting people off.

With the way things are shaping up I can see people leaving to go to specific forums, when obviously I'd rather people felt more at home together. With the particular niche of electric vehicles (like any kind of vehicle I guess) there are loyalties and a bit of tribe-like behaviour, but there is also a very wide cross-section of multiple vehicle owners, those interested in multiple "brands"/manes and shared interests such as infrastructure and technology.

I've added a user profile field so people can show what EVs they own and I've allowed the option to ignore, but I'd really like to somehow be able for people to "shape their experience" without having to think much about it. For example if I own a BMW i (or have a stronger interest in it) that should have some kind of priority.

Recent activity and "new posts" really seem to be where people get confused, as they see all kinds and often accidentally cross-post their General Motors experience in a Tesla discussion (for example). This was something I was thinking of:

@DaveM it's interesting what you say about that groups add-on. I've looked at groups and such and had the same fears expressed by @Ridemonkey in that they'd just add more complexity and end up ghost towns or under-used. I'll have to check out that specific mod and see if it can help.

It seems like a tricky balancing act, keeping people together but at the same time allowing them to be somewhat "isolated" or at least have a more targeted or personalised experience. I'm sure it's worth it in the long run, but it's proving tricky already!


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Well before installing this add on I was running a system to opt out of these types of forum areas. It worked to a point but new members would join and see loads of threads that they felt were off topic for them and not know about the opt out process and then just leave. Even the older members sort of forgot about it and would complain.

As I said with this groups add on it is so configurable that you have a number of options how to set it up on your forum. Now if you looks at my photography forum in forum view you see them like this

As you can see in the Photography groups we still have photography related groups but some members have no interest in those subjects at all. Some of them generate a good few new post that would otherwise show up in your New Post Search.

I am sure if you register on @Snogs site you also able to play with the front end of creating your own groups so this could give a feel to what the members would experience.

If I just take your one forum area Manufacturer Specific Forums these could all be groups and even setup as they are now and the member just subscribes to the groups they have interest in. As their interest may change so they could just change their group preferences to match that
Thanks @DaveM that helps illustrate it. I don't think the mod is particularly well described perhaps?

On our forum most people come to the forum and hit "new posts". How does the groups add-on affect this behaviour?

Would adding it require me to "to anything" to the current forum nodes and set up, or does it just add "opt-ins". As in, when people join I assume they wouldn't be a member of any group? Or could I opt them in to all groups and they can just "opt out" as they see fit?

I guess I'm worried it's a potential "barrier to entry" while at the same time appears to better look after those already on the forum with specific interests?