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Why forums exist

Discussion in 'Forum Management' started by sbj, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    The only reason why forums exist is that forums contain information. You can't contain information with Twitter or Facebook or any kind of other media.
    Only Wikipedia can compete with forums. BUT Wikipedia is not interactive.
    So if Xenforo wants to succeed more, it must be an excellent information supplier and container. This is what Xenforo 2.0 should focus on. From start on you have the advantage of being interactive, what hugely lacks is the information supplying.

    For example the sidebars are in a ridiculous way not used. I can't understand this. You just have a "who is online widget", and nothing useful by default. Even if you think that profile posts widget, etc. are useful, still the whole sidebar is not filled. Look on every forum you visit. 1/3 of a sidebar is filled, 2/3 is blank.
    You must make use of this blank space. My dream would be to have 2 sidebars, one left and one right. So while you post messages, on your right and left side everything is live running. So even while you provide information with your own message, at the same time you get information from the sidebars. Other information than the thread content. I don't know, maybe I want to read some news? Maybe some younger guys want to watch twitch while posting? I know it from my younger brother that they live practically with twitch. You must make a use out of this.

    So, I was talking about information supplying. But what about containing? Can someone tell me how a typical forum contains information?
    I tell you: Mainpage->forum>thread->post
    That's it. This is simple and effective and should stay like that BUT it needs enhancements.
    Don't forget, the better a library is archived well, then easier you will find the book you are looking for. But that doesn't end there. A book itself has an index. So I can find very quick and easily the information I need.
    And this must be improved on forums. The information containing must be better. It can't be that this thread has 32 pages and I haven't read 31 pages of that. All the previous made messages have no value for me. I don't know how but there must be an indexing/categorizing/tagging, so valuable information is found.

    And then, how about threads? How are they helpful for containing information? Let's see the thread list of each forum. What kind of information do I see? The only information for me is the title, that's all. And, if applied, a prefix. It is like in a forest. Lots of trees. But there are no kind of categorizing for me. Some kind of a menu system is needed. Something like a "similar threads" system. So older threads get recognized, so information from older times which still have value are used.
    Everyone ignores threads for example, when they see that this thread was from 2 years ago. I bump it and hope for help/clarification/discussion, but people are not interested. So the thread rests in peace. There must be a way of recycling old information/threads. They must be integrated.

    Besides the "futuristic" traits, here are some wishes of me.
    I hope that existing add-ons will function also for Xenforo 2.0.
    I really hope to see an advanced calendary system. It is a shame that this kind of interaction was not made by default. And still we have no alternative yet as a custom add-on.
    The sidebar must be used.
    If I preview my own message, I also want to see the last messages of the thread, so I can refresh my memory while I post something.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
    CallieJo, Pavle123, Joe Blow and 2 others like this.
  2. dutchbb

    dutchbb Well-Known Member

    Forums only exist for information? Our forum has at least 40% activity because of fun & discussion, we're obviously not alone. Cramming the sidebar full of info or adding a second one (cluttering the pages) is really personal taste. Too much info/text can easily be overwhelming to visitors and they may even start to ignore it. The default package should be simple. The templates and add-ons serve the option for customization.
  3. Davyc

    Davyc Well-Known Member

    @sbj I agree with some of what you say, especially the parts regarding information containment. This is why I would like to see more people push for smarter use of the pages feature so that information can be contained, indexed, categorised and easily found. How many people will go to page 2 or 3 of a list of threads in a forum? If you can get users onto page 1 that in itself is an achievement - so much information is lost as threads drop off page one; so many interesting topics never reach their full potential because they're no longer in view. All that effort relegated almost into oblivion.

    A better pages system that can be categorised and indexed would keep that information at hand; Waindigo's Library add-on kind of fulfils some of what is needed, but it lacks category structuring, commenting and rating. Showcase is a top piece of kit, but it was never really intended to be a CMS/Article system - I know Bob has something else coming soon that may fill that gap, we'll have to wait and see.

    Sidebar issues I can empathise with; that horrible white space that appears as you scroll down pages is wasted; a solution would be a floating sidebar that moves down the page as you scroll, so as not to overload it - sometimes too much information can have negative connotations.

    The other thing that is needed is a method of 'pushing' information to users - we can't depend on them finding what they want, or what we would like them to engage with; it needs to be fed to them, offered on a plate to goad them into some kind of interaction. An automated email (which they can subscribe to or un-subscribe from) that could feed them new discussions based on their likes and interests would be amazing, but how feasible that could be is another matter.

    And of course, any forum should be fun and interesting and it's up to the contributors to see that the information they provide follows that edict.
    CallieJo and sbj like this.
  4. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    I didn't say forums exist for information. I said forums still exist because they contain information. You must understand the difference.

    Forums which rely on fun and chit chat will die sooner or later. If you want to succeed, you must provide information. Without providing information, no forum can exist anymore BECAUSE twitter and facebook is around.

    The default page should also give us the chance to apply it to our tastes. But sadly, I can't disable trophy system, I can't remove profile posts, I can't make a full of use of my sidebar by default.
  5. dutchbb

    dutchbb Well-Known Member

    I would call it content but I get your point. I agree that having the options to customize is a good thing.
    sbj likes this.
  6. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    Yeah, this is exactly what I say and I agree with you.
    I honestly have no idea how to enhance the pages system. This is something where you need brilliant ideas or it won't work.

    No floating sidebar. A complete use of the sidebar. Overload? No problem. Some genius invented the "X" button, which closes a window if you don't want to see it.
    So if some users think it is more harm than good, no problem, let them allow to close all the widgets they don't want to see. But give me as an admin the power of full use of the sidebar with lots of widgets.

    And this is exactly again one thing I tried to explain. Thanks. My English is not so good to describe it well what I mean. Yes, "pushing" is what we need. Very good description, perfect. But I don't agree with the subscribing thing. This is not a good feature in my opinion.
    Davyc likes this.
  7. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    My thoughts exactly. I'm not sure why a roadmap or proposed roadmap is not released. As it is, it's just a guessing game among users. I suppose there's some kind of logic behind this approach. I'd at least like to know what that logic is.
  8. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    This is actually a very good point that would help to prevent a lot of folks from starting forums that are not information based and are doomed as a result.
    sbj likes this.
  9. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    There hundreds of off-topic or "just for fun" forums out there that are very successful, so having an information-based forum is by no means the only recipe for success.
  10. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    And that's exactly the problem.

    Show me an "off topic" or "just for fun" forum that's been erected in the past year and has not gone belly up.
    sbj likes this.
  11. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    That really goes for most forums of any kind erected lately and is not limited to off-topic forums only. Only a handful will attract any worthwhile traffic, while others will linger and/or eventually die off. That's always been the case, it only gets harder for new forums with each passing year since there is more competition for the same users.
  12. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    I am the first to tell people that starting a forum today is a fool's game, a mostly sad and ridiculous waste of time and energy that will, in all likelihood, result in nothing other than less money in your pocket and another cross through the list of "things I might want to do with my life." However, if there's a way for a forum started today to have any kind of chance at survival, it has to be with a forum that offers the internet public the opportunity to gain information or find a sense of community that is somehow unique or that existing forums have somehow failed to deliver. Are there any niches out there that have not been covered yet by a plethora of forums? I don't know. But if there is one, somewhere, that's the opportunity to start a forum that is not a complete and utter waste of life for the would-be forum admin.

    Don't get me wrong, now: I see xenforo as being useful and sensible in a number of ways...forums for established businesses, etc. It's the best of the breed. But to start another offtopic.com? Nah. Not today. Not only is there offtopic.com and countless act-alikes, but there's also facebook and twitter for the gazillions out there that want to log on after a swig or two, post some nonsense, and see how many other idiots respond with "likes" or comments. That's called ephemera. It used to be the domain of internet forums because there was nothing else. Now there is: facebook and twitter.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
    Pavle123, AndyB, sbj and 1 other person like this.
  13. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    I'm sure plenty of people out there would feel the same about starting, say, another poetry forum... :D Pretty much every niche is being covered by dozens if not hundreds of forums out there.

    But it's never just about the topic. The people involved are often far more important. You can make any forum grow to at least moderate success if you can band together a core group of dedicated regulars that will drive it forward. Especially if the number of posts is your main (or only) criteria for success.
  14. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    And I would agree. I didn't start poetrycircle yesterday, though. It was in 2005. I wouldn't bother today.

    That's true. But people want other people. There's the rub. Getting the critical mass is what it's all about. Unless you have a secret way to get a critical mass, don't waste your time trying to do it the old-fashioned way: building it and hoping they will come.
  15. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    And I disagree on this point. The core group will get discouraged and leave after a while if they're the only ones who are around to post. It's much more complicated and involved than that. Much.

    The only reason I am bothering to respond to you is that I feel you are doing the internet public a disservice by suggesting that developing and growing a forum today is easier than it in fact is.
  16. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    That's why I said "moderate". You certainly need much more if you want to go beyond that. If there's no influx of new members, you can make the best forum in the world and it won't mean much.
  17. jauburn

    jauburn Well-Known Member

    And that's another good reason to do it. Perhaps the best.
  18. sbj

    sbj Well-Known Member

    I agree with all the things jauburn has said and you said pretty much every niche is covered. Well, in my opinion, this is not true. If you want to start a community thats default language is English, then you have pretty much no chance at all. But if you are talking about other languages, then are still plenty of possibilities.

    There is nothing wrong with you. Why? Because you know that this a hobby and you treat it like that.
    But the mass of the people here try to squeeze money out of this.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
  19. Gladius

    Gladius Well-Known Member

    Yes, non-English communities are actually something I wanted to bring up too - there's definitely much more room there still. As for the hobby vs. business aspect of running a forum, if you run a very successful hobby forum it's only natural to want to turn it into a business at least to the point that you can quit your day job and focus solely on your forum.
  20. Davyc

    Davyc Well-Known Member

    Everyone who starts to develop a website based around forum software is generally all fired up with the expectation that it's going to be the next best thing. The reality is somewhat different, as has been pointed out by OP, and that reality for many people has the effect of taking the wind out of their sails to the point where they either abandon their site or just let it die slowly; hence the numerous little islands that are slowing sinking that are scattered throughout the Internet.

    Whichever route you decide to drive along, hobby or business (or both), you need the right tools to get the job done satisfactorily. To me XF is the right tool, it just needs to be sharpened every now and then and to adapt to the way the masses use the Internet.

    It's understandable in this dog-eat-dog commercial driven world for people to want to keep secrets and ideas under their hats; but sooner or later if others want to utilise those secret ideas, they will. The point of a proposed list of features, ideas or hush hush secrets is to ensure that what is being proposed is actually what people want. To spend month after month slogging away at a computer code and then going 'hey here it is' and people start slamming it - well, that's another slippery slope.

    Microsoft (often a dirty word) has wakened up to this idea of getting users onboard with their forthcoming Windows 10; proposing features, getting feedback and honing it towards satisfying their users. It appears to be working from the current barrage of IT press articles singing their praises; a far cry from the debacle of Windows 8.

    So if their are ideas on the table for XF2 - let's hear about them.
    Pavle123 and jauburn like this.

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