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The future of forums (vs social media)

Discussion in 'General XenForo Discussion and Feedback' started by drastic, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. drastic

    drastic Well-Known Member

    The common look of forums is majorly outdated, doesn't invite social shares, and needs a major overhaul with more attention and integration of media and ease of use.

    I hope XF2 is more focused on content rich, easier to use, and shareable content like a blog (first post looks better) while having streamlined discussions under it like a forum usually does.

    Look at the most popular social sites and how easy it is to post something, then compare that to the nightmare of surfing a forum. For the common user who spends more time on social media, why would they want to login, then click forums, then click on a node, then finally post something? They can post something on their own social media page in one click. This next generation coming up barely knows what a forum is and they'll be damned if they need to take 2-3 extra steps to post something. That's not what this crybaby millennial era was raised to do. We gotta hand them everything.

    How can we make forums faster and easier to surf, while also making them look better and be more shareable? Social shares is important, but sharing a forum conversation isn't something I ever see on the many Facebook and twitter accounts I see. I literally don't think I've ever seen any of the thousands of users on any accounts share a forum post. They've shared tons of other sites though. How can we compete with those sites? They have great looking content and 900 comments under each piece. That could be our sites with tons of comments for each post. But what's preventing us from achieving that? Well, forums are ugly. No way around that. Sure there's nice styles, but the way the forum is presented, which often leaves a blank space in the center of ones screen, just needs to be rethought.

    What about an option to get rid of nodes? Why not have one single node that's completely organized by prefixes only, with most popular content rising to the front, boring content pushed to the back, while letting the community dictate what content is best. List your prefixes in a navigation or sidebar and its already faster to navigate than a node list.

    There's a lot of ways XF2 can be amazing, but if it simply looks like a forum and acts like a forum - then what's the point?

    I hope XF 2 kills the concept of a forum and adapts the concept of a content rich, shareable, easy to use social network - something new and fresh that users will enjoy. Think outside the box and create something that hasn't been done before. Build a hybrid that's content rich and easy to use. It's already a rock solid option, but it needs a few tweaks and adjustments to meet the needs of the lazy people we cater to. You know, those people called surfers...ugh. Back in the day they would register for 100 forums like it's their job, but now its all social media and apps. We need to adapt to social trends on the web.

    In all honesty, why does anyone chat on a forum when there's a Facebook group for just about everything and you don't have to go anywhere else when you're logged in. It's just too easy to do that now. I'm really struggling to get any of my Facebook people (12,000 of them) to register for my site. They will visit the link, then comment on it on Facebook. They won't even register to comment on the site. Holy ****, talk about lazy or not getting the point of why the forum is there. I had to buy posts on some crappy service just to show the users that YES you can chat on the site. But no, they digress and remain on Facebook because it's easier. They'll share and like content from the site too, they just won't sign up. Too hard for them, I guess.

    How can we take some social concepts and create something better?

    Can XF2 be the system that finally makes a Facebook killer?
    RvG, Diana, FeelingPeckish and 24 others like this.
  2. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

    I think that having the "Forum-Nodes" in a new "Left-Sidebar" (very similar to the "Left-Sidebar" in the RM) and showing the "Latest Posts" immediately at the Homepage, would help a lot in this regard.
    It would make the navigation-process a lot easier and will show "New Content" immediately.

  3. Kerby

    Kerby Active Member

    I see, you mean something like this newer very simple and light open source forum software Flarum does. I think such a new approach mixed with good old things could be helpful to appeal to casual forum users. I think this is already possible with xenforo by custom styling.
    Divvens likes this.
  4. sami simo

    sami simo Well-Known Member

    I don't like this forum software, doesn't look serious to me, but I must admit its lot easier to navigate with Flarum than any other forum software.
    Divvens and drastic like this.
  5. Crazy-Achmet

    Crazy-Achmet Active Member

    Ever tried to read (or even to find) such a good post on facebook? ;)

    Don't get me wrong, i also think that we need something much easier to use but Forums are Forums and Social Networks are Social Networks. Both exist for a good reason and both have there pros and cons.
  6. Kerby

    Kerby Active Member

    I think this discussion forum vs social media is old but important. the future is both, Social Network and Forum on the same platform. The base is the same: user generated content in discussions format. the interface is different.

    XF started with profile pages with profile posts, conversations, alerts and user following in this direction. In XF 1.5 implemented thread tags. For Social Groups it exists an addon, but I believe this will be also some days in core xf. Facebook like Realtime Chat and conversations would be also one of the next points that already an addon exists.

    Im sure xf devs are looking to compete against big Social Networks to save market share. The next step with xf 2.0 I think is to build an easy to extend and customize social platform. In my eyes that is the best decision they could make. With less ressorces its possible to make a big potential. I look forward for this happening :)
    Divvens and drastic like this.
  7. feldon30

    feldon30 Well-Known Member

    Social Media is such a terrible platform for topical discussion. Just try searching Facebook -- it just doesn't work. Facebook doesn't even have Bold or Bullet list features. Every time I think to publish something on Facebook or Twitter, I think ok I am going to have to severely compromise what I'm posting just to fit in the prehistoric limitations of these platforms.

    Unfortunately Facebook is easy, ubiquitous, and everyone's on it. :(
  8. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    That's the key, Facebook is a single, centralized platform for the entire (western) world whereas forums are small, individual islands in a vast ocean, each with their own microcosm and more often than not relatively narrow focus. They only look similar on the surface, but there are many fundamental differences that probably make it unrealistic to expect that any kind of bridging of the gap could happen without a serious paradigm shift in the concept of forums. Which is unlikely in existing forum software for a variety of reasons.
  9. James

    James Well-Known Member

    I doubt XF are looking to compete with social networks and I don't think individual forums should try either.. It won't work.

    You need to find a way to coexist with social networks, pushing your brand and forum on it as much as possible to try and get the traffic from the social network to your forum. Why do you think big companies are pushing support etc via social networks? Because there's huge audience potential!
    Diana, worrorfight and Divvens like this.
  10. drastic

    drastic Well-Known Member

    I think you guys may have missed the bigger picture...

    XF doesn't have to compete with anyone. They develop software and we create the idea and connections with people. The problem is, with my experience and the last year of testing things out, is that almost no one wants to sign up to forums and participate. I think there's too many steps required just to comment on something, especially when all their friends aren't already on it. It's hard as hell to get something to catch on.

    You do know that with certain addons, that some social sites and an XF site can operate in nearly identical ways? I'm one step away from having my site function as a mix between StumbleUpon and Tumblr. Just because it's "forum" software doesn't mean it can't be manipulated and operated in different ways. There's an article addon that makes your site look like a blog if styled properly.

    You mentioned one good thing - a shift in the concept of forums. Why does XF have to continue with forums? Why can't XF2 be something that's not a forum, but instead the next big CMS that's years beyond WordPress in terms of cool features and better addons? It's really not that far off. A content rich system with plenty abilities for user interaction would work wonders. XF1.5 could go on for years and still be solid.

    Times changes. Formats change. Adapt or get left behind. I spent the last year trying to push people to my forum. They don't care for it. They browse and browse and won't sign up. If I don't post something each day, then it goes days without any posts. I somehow have 12k followers on FaceBook who will comment and share random pics or vids that are posted to Facebook, but the moment I post a link to something on the site - barely any traffic clicks through. Even worse - they share the damn link without going! I don't understand why, but whatever...thanks for the share and 0 visits to website!

    I think there's huge potential in creating a site that creates some sort of hybrid forum, blog, network - just don't know the best way to do it.

    I'm in a group for bloggers on FB. They do a weekly share of links and there's some people who don't even have a website. They have ONLY a Facebook page and they post blog articles on that.

    There's another guy who runs a gaming group with 20k members, a lot of really active ones, and I asked him if he wanted me to build a forum for him - free of charge. I'd run the forum, he'd run the group, we'd split any income down the middle and it would be awesome. The idiot said he has no intention of ever making a website. 20,000 potential customers for something and guy has no vision whatsoever to break away from Facebook - not even if he made money.

    I don't know what's wrong with people and their addiction to the social network, but the best way to pull them off it is to create one that's better and that's been really damn hard so far!!
    Diana, Robert F Schmitz and rafass like this.
  11. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Social networks are content agnostic and in the case of Facebook for example, closely linked with friends and family.
    Yes there are pages and groups which are related to a specific subject, but they are incidental and supplementary to the main purpose of the site.

    Forums for the most part are focussed on a specific subject, and the forum you are a member of may not be one that your friends or family are interested in.
    Indeed, it's highly likely that all of your friends and family have their own favourite subjects and therefore forums (if they participate in them).

    They serve very different audiences and purposes.

    For general chit chat amongst friends, posting memes, stupid jokes, throwaway comments, etc., Facebook et al are great.

    For discussing a specific subject in depth, having rich content, tabulated data, custom developed apps and functions, etc. and being able to refer back to a post you made a year ago, or even a month ago, and kick-starting the discussion again, forums have Facebook beat every time.
    Steve8383, BassMan, Jeanette and 13 others like this.
  12. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

    I think the focus-point here should not be about comparing "Forums" vs. "Facebook".

    But rather:

    How to make the "User-interface" of "Forums" as / simple / easy-to-use / intuitive / appealing / as possible ?

    XenForo is great, but it still can be made "greater".

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  13. feldon30

    feldon30 Well-Known Member

    • Everyone's heard of it.
    • You're already signed up.
    • That's where all your friends are.
    • Your grandmother can use it.
    Your forum:
    • No matter how awesome it is, it has the 4 strikes above against it before you start.
    Whatever Forum Software company can figure out a way for their customer's public forums to share login credentials, yet maintain security, and allow per-site user moderation, banning, content management, etc. will win the forum race. If I can signup once and have access to all public XenForo sites, then that would bring XenForo a critical mass that Facebook currently enjoys despite being technologically deficient in every possible way. Facebook is an extremely poor content platform and yet people use it for that. Sort of like how your boss tries to use Microsoft Word for everything including graphic design and photo retouching. It's broken crap, but it's broken crap he understands.

    Unfortunately, everyone who has tried to do a "forum of forums" supercommunity has done it wrong. Proboards and EZBoard failed because it was hobbled software and the forum was hosted meaning it was their rules and you didn't own your data. Quora is trying, but it's off-putting for a number of reasons and there's not enough autonomy.

    Reddit would have looked dated and primitive in 1997 but its popularity shows that Critical Mass of People > all the whizbang tools in the world. I mean I just look at Reddit and throw up a little in my mouth yet millions use this piece of crap because that's where everyone else is and its dead easy to use. Twitter you can't edit posts and Facebook can't even boldface text and they both have a billion users. It's great that vBulletin and XenForo and IPB are technologically powerful, but that's not winning or keeping eyeballs anymore.
  14. drastic

    drastic Well-Known Member

    I agree that forums have them beat in terms of serving information, but what's to say that the next version of XF can't combine some of the simplistic elements of social media, mostly the ease of use - then also include a way to make the first forum post look more like a blog article.

    Easy to use, looks great, but still very in depth and searchable for the people who actually know how to use forums.

    I've really struggled with my sites, so I'm looking for outside the box ways to reel people in and keep them on for longer than a browse.
    Robert F Schmitz likes this.
  15. drastic

    drastic Well-Known Member

    Great post!!
  16. drastic

    drastic Well-Known Member

    Anyone want to team up? This running of forums on my own SUCKS.

    Need more good ideas in the mix.
  17. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    Of course I know that you can find mods to change forums into a bunch of different things... the point is, they're mods and by default used only by a small subset of the overall forum user base. No actual forum software developer has taken the risk yet to come up with a forum that would be significantly different concept-wise than all the other forum software. Or at least none that I've heard of.

    As for why that's the case -- the obvious answer is high risk of failure in addition to a number of possible others like continuity, user base expectations or even the devs' own unwillingness to stray from the tried and true concept of forums. Every radically new concept has a very high risk of failure. There's a virtual graveyard of brilliant new concepts and ideas that have been introduced on the web over the years that simply haven't taken off for one reason or another. First and foremost likely being not having a huge financial backing that would allow them to operate at a loss for years, like in the case of Twitter.
  18. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

    Mentioned this some 3 years ago....


    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
    drastic and feldon30 like this.
  19. feldon30

    feldon30 Well-Known Member

    It'll still be a thousand little islands.
  20. teletubbi

    teletubbi Well-Known Member

    Belive me. Not everyone. :D

    Not every Forum is open to public. So sharing to the whole Internet is not the main goal.

    Don't look at this from your point of view. Look from your member sight.
    It all depends of the structure of your member.

    I agree if mostly younger member at a forum all this things might be true. They grow up with this fastfood Internet.
    But if you have another member structure they will stick with what they know.

    Even a change from VB or any other software to Xenforo are confusing them.

    This member also use Facebook but they prefer for real information the more structured look of a forum.

    The question about how a forum should look like or work can not answered in general. It always depends on the content and the users you have.
    Crazy-Achmet likes this.

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