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Time for a rant

Discussion in 'Forum Management' started by ibaker, Sep 14, 2016.

  1. ibaker

    ibaker Well-Known Member

    I have been in the business of providing a forum for the aviation community for many many years now. I started with my own developed html with a Jet backend thinking I would get 50 users. It grew so I got MegaBB, and then another one which died. Moved on to vBulletin through several versions and finally with Xenforo since its first release.

    Like many others I have seen many things come and go.

    In recent years we have the whole Social media thing that has threatened the existence of Forums and now many of the forum sites I once knew have closed down and just provide links to their Social Media existence.

    When comparing Social Media to Forums the difference is there however the convenience of Social Media and world wide acceptance is what has impacted forums. Sure Social Media doesn't have many of the benefits of a strictly forum only site but with busy lifestyles and the way that Social Media has become a way of life with family and friends whilst at the same time tuning in to specific subject matter, which was the heart of forums, all on the same platform.

    My opinion is that Forums have to change from being a Forum site to discuss a subject to being a complete overwhelming Resource on that specific subject. In other words Forum sites need and must depend heavily on all the different addons to build their site up to being a complete resource, sure with discussions but also Photos, Videos, Classifieds, Events, News, Documents, subject resources, tutorials, lookup lists, even a shop etc etc etc. Once you have created a full, overwhelming complete single repository of every single piece of information and tools on a specific subject would you have any chance of competing against the likes of Social Media.

    I tried an experiment a while back by creating a Forum ONLY site on a side subject to my main site. It was somewhat well used. I then fully integrated it with Facebook with forum posts going to Facebook etc. After a while the forums died to almost no new posts however the Facebook Page for that site was growing stronger and stronger. Today that forum only site no longer exists but the Facebook page is stronger than ever with new posts being continually added all day every day.

    If I look at my main site, it has grown and continues to grow because it is NOT just a Forum site, it has many different addons all providing a greater dimension for the user than Social Media can provide. The one thing the users say it has compared to the various Social Media groups on the same subject is that my site is a complete resource for them, a one stop shop, it has everything!

    Now for this to happen we come to the question of Addons. There are really only two main Forum Software choices out there now if one was going for the big names. If XF is to remain one of them they need to, no they must, look at protecting their market by helping to protect their customers. Addons here at XF are dying at a rapid pace and I just don't mean new addons. Many existing addons are not supported, buggy, developers are fleecing customers then disappearing etc etc etc. If we as site owners are to create incredible resources for our users based on the foundations of XF and compete against Social Media then something needs to be done.

    I am rebuilding my site and as an example I need an Event Calendar. One addon that has been around for ages is not supported, buggy however that developer has released a paid version which is full of comments made that it is very buggy and basically non-existent support. So I looked for another one and found the only other addon that does the same and low and behold, that developer seems to not be around as well. Classifieds is another example so to was all the addons from that developer called Michael who took your money at vBulletin and then shot through only to come here and do the same.

    Naturally there is a handful of responsible and very professional addon developers but as I said, a handful.

    If we are to build our sites into complete resources for our users then something needs to be done before XF is ruined and more and more Forum sites fade away into oblivion, threatening the existence or the need for such entities as XF.

    Here is a quick thought, all addons submitted to XF that have a $ cost do so with XF holding the code in escrow and if the developer stops supporting the Addon, the code can be given to another developer to support and derived income from...just a thought!!!
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
    Goodfella, StarArmy, Glockie and 4 others like this.
  2. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    So the forum is dead and the Facebook page is doing well ?? Heh.
    Yet, I bet the Facebook page is just useless chatter and there is no meaningful content or organization !

    Anyway, your ideas about Content being the key for Online Communities to succeed vs Social Media is bang on.
    But there is no indication Xenforo has any interest in your idea. IPB4 is just IPB3 just slightly updated. XF2 has been described as a feature neutral rewrite of XF1. vB5 is an unfixable failure. To me, XF is just smart to continue the cannibalization of vB and the general rest of the forum market .... and if the interest is there in 4 years or so ... try to improve forums once everyone is running Xenforo. Xenforo LTD has described Xenforo 1 as "just a forum". XF 2 is a re-write ... so it will be just a forum too. XF 2.0 will not be the community software you desire, it will be a forum. Pages of threaded discussion that get disorganized, unreadable and lose value over time.

    You might be best looking into Wordpress + WPforo (the new forum addon). Sadly, I dont think the threaded discussion actually integrates into WP Pages which is disappointing. Maybe it will in the future.

    My advice to you is to trust your instincts, you know the way forward for your vision of a community. But don't expect your needs to be met anytime soon from Xenforo. Another thing to keep in mind, Google will continue to downrank forum content lower and lower as time goes on .... so now might be your best time to move to a more serious information framework. Wait to see what XF 2.0 reveals (like the new editor). And if you can wait again for 2.1 ... maybe a few of your needs might be realized.

    Not going to happen. Has been suggested before.
    FYI, IPB does that. And you pay IPB for addons, not the individual coders ... which makes so much more sense.

    At this stage the prolonged period of time for the release of XF 2.0 is not going to help the addon disinterest from addon makers.

    FWIW, Xenforo has the best addon coders of any forum that is for sure.

    Apparently XF2 is supposed to help addon makers get their job done better.
    la2k16 likes this.
  3. ibaker

    ibaker Well-Known Member

    Actually I was surprised, it is full of people making decent comments and adding value. Certainly a lot of pictures being posted on their creating conversations. It could well be just that the subject type is one that entices a certain type of user that may refrain from creating useless chatter. We are talking aviation pilots here and the average age of them is a lot higher than the norm
  4. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    But the sum total of the FaceBook (?Group) is not a Resource.
    It is random discussion.
  5. ibaker

    ibaker Well-Known Member

    Correct, which is why I said:
    Digital Doctor likes this.
  6. la2k16

    la2k16 Member

    Would you mind going more in-depth with this part of your response?
    Glockie likes this.
  7. Glockie

    Glockie Well-Known Member

    Interesting post @ibaker and makes for serious thinking - food for thought my friend.

    This is part of the battle. As you know, my site is pretty much a niche and has been heavily modded, with loads of custom add-ons as well as some add-ons which are readily available here.
    What we have done is thought about not only what our members/clientèle need, but also what they need on the site without realising it - but which makes the whole user experience a much better time all round.
    Not for me on a site owner and technical level, obviously as it doesn't come cheap and is harder to manage - but I love what I do, and when I see the rewards of our members loving the site and what we have, then it makes it all worthwhile.

    Competing against Social Media? Never.. they're global giants. The best I hope for is to be my competitions - competition, where they are catching up with us and all that.

    Some of the developers here are outstanding to work with and really know their stuff....
    However, one thing I and others have seen a lot of recently, is developers upping sticks and walking.
    I will say, some of the replies in threads and stick that some have had to put up with, has definitely contributed to this. Some of the posts and threads have been a bit OTT towards the devs.
    Some complaints etc of course are duly warranted - because of lack of support, or updates, bugs and so on.

    But more & more add-ons are being taken over and/or becoming unmaintained. There is a handful of solid and trustworthy developers around now, and usually they are bottlenecked with work - meaning delays of weeks sometimes months, before you have the chance of any work.

    Agreed this certainly won't help as it's creating an almost state of stalemate.

    Question is, what can be done to help sites using XF, to survive?

    Yes I too would love to hear a bit more in depth about this, if that is possible please @Digital Doctor
    la2k16 likes this.
  8. Kintaro

    Kintaro Well-Known Member

    I think this is a mistake, you exported content from your forum to a FB group... IMHO you have to do the contrary
    example: share articles/content to a FB page. Give people something to do on the forum that in FB is not possible and share this info on FB.
  9. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    I totally agree with everything you said @ibaker .

    I am hoping for 2.0 and 2.x to get things hot again. As it is described from XF, 2.0 will be very developer-friendly. I just hope that the new architecture will make an explosion and we can see the next level.
    Other than that, so far it doesn't look very good for forums in general.
    Glockie likes this.
  10. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    And how did that happen? Our sites are older but didn't get the traction many social media sites got. Or Reddit forums. Or Stackexchange communities. They just have better functionality. Just as the next thing will have better functionality than ours.

    But I digress.

    @ibaker has a point. There are some really good developers here, but its a handful. Hopefully after XF2 a much better pool of developers can be attracted.
    Glockie likes this.
  11. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    Has horrible performance results. YUK.

    Facebook is not a forum killer... and if it did kill some forums, the people running them shouldn't have been running them.

    What you're saying about sites needing to be complete niche dominant websites, that has never really changed. Anyone who ran just a forum, if they weren't doing this with other components, then they really had little chance for longevity to begin with.

    Create a business site a few years back, and if you hadn't updated it and change your approach to meet todays mobile demands, then people would likely blame the market for their business failing... not their inability to please the user base.

    Everything, regardless of the type of website you run, is always about the end user. As user demands change, you MUST change with them. If you don't, you get left behind / close down.

    Every person mid 25's and under I ask, they barely go near Facebook, let alone use a FB group. They hate them with a passion. It is the middle age group that use FB the most, typically staying connected with family and close friends. The FB trend has been and gone.

    The problem with forums, is that they can give users too much choice. That is where forums fail. They fail the simplicity test for the user.

    Forums need to be complex at the administration / moderation level. They need to be super easy at the user level. From registration through to posting, people should not have to work things out. Big clear buttons, less is more, it provides the least distraction from getting posting in the fastest time.

    I would like to see XF2.0 do just this, simplify the user side, expand the admin side and focus on the behind performance. A website today MUST be super fast, super responsive, super simple, yet capable to effectively manage from spam and such with full suite tools available by default to thwart everything the spam world throws at a site.
    dvsDave, Glockie, Dakis and 4 others like this.
  12. Crucible

    Crucible New Member

    Wise post right here.

    So many xenforo examples I see are overly cluttered and tailor to an already saturated interest.

    And google chrome is a perfect example. Before it came along browsers were obtrusive and cluttered. Chrome came in and made a super sleek simple browser that striped out all the clunk and was very responsive, add to that it used very light and soft colors. Now it is the market leader (although android helped) and other browsers ended up copying them.

    I think more people need to ^^ develop their forum websites around this mentality.
  13. RobinHood

    RobinHood Well-Known Member

    I agree with much of what you say apart from this, as it's very dependent on your niche. Many university students use private groups on a daily basis, they're so easy to create and their mobile app is good.

    What facebook groups are great for is sharing of photos and video, with discussion surround that.

    Easy upload for the submitter, easy discover for the consumer (scroll till you see something that looks interesting).

    Media discover and engagement on forums leaves a lot to be desired. But photos and video are a large part of what users want to initially share these days, not necessarily large written posts. Or they use a photo to illustrate their point or compliment a description to then spark discussion around it.

    The facebook groups algorithm knows exactly what it's doing and it really facilitates immediate engagement and feedback with every post.

    It tracks whose posts I stop scrolling to read, which ones I'm liking, which ones I'm commenting on. It can then use that info to decide who and what I'm interested it and it will send me unsolicited push notifications when people who it thinks I'm interested in post content, or even interact with content other people have posted.

    Through this system they're able to immediately notify a group of users that it knows will be interested in the post seconds after it was created, without it feeling like spam to those users (because they are interested in what that person just shared, their algorithm is good), and often within seconds or even a minute there will be a flurry of likes and replies.

    As a content creator (thread creator) it's very difficult to get that satisfaction of immediate feedback and engagement on forums. It just doesn't exist. You have to wait for users to log on, browse, find your thread, open it.

    Where the groups then fall down again is adding longevity to these posts and formatting for long form discussion. They fall away into the ether of the news feed within a day or two and it's hard to have any sustained discussion, that's where the forum format takes over. But without that initial flurry of activity on a forum, there's much fewer supplementary posts engage with when new users find the thread as time goes on.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2016
  14. Crucible

    Crucible New Member

    this is true to an extend, but I think it's fair to say facebook was a lot more relevant say 4-5 years ago.

    That doesn't mean it still isnt popular, just I personally know many many people who stopped using it years ago, it's not the major social media juggernaut it once was.
  15. RobinHood

    RobinHood Well-Known Member

    It is. They've tripled the number daily active users in that time and it's still growing. That's over a billion daily active users. Those closing their accounts or not using it anymore are the minority.

    I'd agree that the use of Facebook for sharing stuff on your timeline to your friends is slightly less relevant to many people. And it may seem to even less relevance to some of us because we're interested in tech, we've followed it, grown bored of it. But it's bigger than ever.

    Timeline sharing I'm not interested in anymore. But Groups, combined with their decent Groups mobile app, easy photo and video upload, selective algorithmic notifications to other users to drive immediate engagement is a great experience for many. It's popular in many verticals, works very well and is absolutely cannibalising and stealing content that could otherwise be posted to forums.

    It's so easy to use and the users are already there, whether it's through Facebook, messenger, groups, instagram, so many will stick with the groups. It's very difficult to tear them away from that without great unique content on your site, a decent userbase and consistent activity to keep them returning regularly. The user experience and features of most forums just aren't on a par with it for photo and video sharing and discussion, particularly for new media content discovery and engagement.
    Glockie and Alfa1 like this.
  16. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    You misunderstood. It isn't/wasn't a forum killer, because people have been running them, but because the audience moved to Facebook. And Facebook should be understood as a synonym, a synonym for "social media", which means Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. Now also in addition to that reddit and stackexchange took the places of forums.

    The problem is, XF as in core is not suited for niche stuff. Obviously everybody wants to run a forum with other components, but out of the box XF is just a forum. The best one out there, but nevertheless exactly only a forum.

    Mainly what you say is true, but I don't agree that this is the reason why forums fail.

    To be honest, I don't agree with you at all.
    XF has already a good performance, the admin side is already good, and the user side is not the hardest to use (although it could be more simple, like getting rid of profile posts or trophies, app for phones etc.).
    So it is super fast, super responsive, okayish simple and is capable of managing spam.

    I think what all you want is already there. That is why I consider XF as the best forum software. Cause in its core it has everything you need at a good level.

    The threadowner said it, I say it once more. Forums in general (not only XF) must make the next step and leave the status of just being a platform for discussion. This is the main problem. Because of the overwhelming mass of users social media has, forums can never be as good as them. You can have the best software and codings, people go with the stream, a.k.a mainstream. Your family members won't share their pics on a forum nobody knows, they will be on Facebook or Twitter.
    The gamers won't visit forums to seek for a solution. They go to reddit and get help there.

    Forums must become a good information-provider. A place for resources. A user must find a reason to use your site. Nobody will stay on our site for chatting, posting. Those days are over. That you can do with Google groups or whatever other social platform. They need other value what they can not find anywhere else. And sadly XF is lacking in that matter. It needs more official addons or internally coded stuff to expand the core functions.

    Hope xf 2.x will cure our problems.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2016
  17. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    I honestly believe the only way forward for forums... is live threads. The person who wrote their piece, can then see that someone is live responding to them, and thus they know they have a response coming soon, and will feel far more engaged to communicate via forums IMHO.
    For the mobile world we're turning into, no... it doesn't. XF is made to add-on to... and even standard XF isn't close to optimal for the mobile web.

    XF needs to have an output system that combines ALL JS and CSS into a single file AND that system needs to incorporate ALL additional styles and add-ons a user adds. It needs to be compressed, minified, and output as a single file. People get all jumpy about this... they say it can't be done, causes issues, blah blah blah... but it can be done, is being done (especially in wordpress) and works flawlessly. Options for control of how this works is the key. When a single piece of JS doesn't play nice, then you want to be able to singularly pull that and load it by itself OR input it direct into the page (depending on size) for inline loading where it can be minified and compressed with the page.

    Lazy loading needs to be default in XF. A mobile page doesn't need to be waiting for images not seen for 5 minutes of reading, to be awaiting loading just to start the page.

    On images... images need to be compressed and scaled automatically to suit key system settings, so if someone uploads a mobile phone full size picture, it scales it, compresses it, and loads the optimal viewing size image only dependent upon device type used. Mobiles should only be downloading a scaled version of an image for the devices capability... not a CSS scaled version, which still means downloading far more data into a page than need be.

    Yes, XF is good, BUT, since its inception the world has gone more mobile every year. Stats are progressively shifting each year to more mobile than desktop viewing. The best we have for mobile viewing is wi-fi, but the standard is 4G, and that means everything needs to be optimal for mobile downloading and viewing.

    This is the way things are now, this is absolutely how any site who wants to compete for market share in the next few years needs to be. If you can't do it from a desktop style, the system needs to cater automatic mobile detection where a pure mobile style is delivered, where everything is automatically scaled and literally removed, so the minimal features are delivered for maximum performance to mobile users.

    On average, any page that takes over 2 seconds to load, you lose 10% of your user audience just due to slow loading content.

    Software performance is everything now, and only becoming more fundamental. IMHO, wordpress is leading the way in this area, along with some key developers. Acknowledged, this is not WP, nor does it have its development following... but if one is rebuilding the software from the ground up already, these are essential to success today.

    Joomla took a huge dive due to its outdated, slow, underlying foundation of code and lack of performance. They shifted primarily to wordpress... and newcomers like Ghost have a steady influx due to meeting and ticking all these performance boxes for simplicity and speed, out of the box.
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  18. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    Good to know that you remind us after your initial post, that you were talking about the mobile world...
    Cause in your initial post you didn't mention anything about that, hence why my response didn't talk about the mobile world either.
    Now all what you said is irrelevant to my post.

    Anyway, what you say about the mobile world is probably true. I don't own a smartphone and can't comment on that matter. In my opinion it is a no-go that XF can't provide a mobile app, but other than that I can't say anything about the performance of XF. But for the desktop users, the quality is good. That is why I said earlier that I don't agree with you, cause I thought you were talking about desktop experience.
  19. Anthony Parsons

    Anthony Parsons Well-Known Member

    Xenforo on a desktop is not all that good out of the box with performance... does that make it better? Mobile is just worse... desktop is still not close to optimal. Actually, far from it. If you want to use a clear example, I will use Xenforo itself. Now this starts at the server... factoring that in, yet the issues here are not just server based, but software output.

    Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.13.37 pm.png

    Lazy load the default XF images, avatars, the whole shebang... issue fixed with a base64 swap. JS, single file does not need deferring and will rate a 100% awesome for loading when in a single file. The CSS, which isn't shown, but you can see if you run the test yourself, 3 requests instead of one. There is no reason as to why CSS is not loaded in a single file. A single file vs several, the order of output is the same as precedence... that which is loaded next takes priority. One file... huge performance difference for desktop and mobile.

    I've had to manually optimise mine, which uses Ui.X, which is far bulky than XF standard... and I got it performing better, and I have 50+ add-ons running and loading wayyyy more than XF default, all of which I had to manually do the above things I've stated to get it at this level... vs... XF out of the box needs to perform far better as a default software where the www is headed and especially how Google decipher performance now. If you ignore Google as a software developer, then you ignore your user base. People want out of the box search rankings when they input their content.

    Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.16.56 pm.png

    XF needs to be combining themes and add-ons correctly into a single output. The software out of the box has a long way to go to meeting user demands and expectations of today's world wide web, let alone where it is headed with user performance needs.
    Bonsai Coder and Mouth like this.
  20. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    @Anthony Parsons I can't find those threads, but I remember reading threads about XF's performance. What I remember is that there was a thread where people shared their pagespeed numbers and all had 80+ scores, if I remember correctly. And there were like high class comparisons (could be from eva2000) how good actually XF performs (better than any other forum software). I just can't find those threads. Not sure if I read them here or elsewhere, but I remember definitely those ones.

    I don't want to argue with you about the performance, as I am not in a position to comment on those as I don't know much about those things. But as I said, I remember people talking about this and showing with numbers/stats how good XF performs.

    About the stuff what XF could do better, I don't know. People with knowledge should discuss it. I can't say much about those server-side stuff and project those numbers to our current internet world. I was more talking about the architecture, what I think is doing good or bad.
    Glockie likes this.

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