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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

    
Forums rubbish? social networks rubbish?, or is it me?
community technology discussion
MozartsHat




msg:3915807
 2:53 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I was being a little flamboyant with the Subject text for this thread. But I am in all seriousness unhappy enough with general forum software and pointlessness of many social networks sites to start developing my own community format.

A few examples;
Forums
Great for information gathering, but they suffer from there own success. The bigger the forum the more people meaning more posts. I have seen threads that are 120+ pages long, how ever are you supposed to find information in a thread that long.

If you make a post and it drops off the first page (which can quickly happen in a large forum), then its probably never going to get answered.

Social Networks (I don't just mean facebook!)
There are also some good examples of social networks, but many don't seem to be focused. LinkedIn is a reasonable example of a good network. But generally they have little focus at producing anything, yet have good communication features.

I think it would be unfair to not say that forums often have a good social aspect to them, if you really start digging down down there isn't a great deal of difference (functionality wise) between what most would consider a social network and a forum. I think the main difference is how the content is delivered.

Both forums and networks I do use a lot, I just think in most cases they aren't really suited for the job

I'm would be interested to hear your opinions.

And like-minded individuals feel the same as me, and would be like to help contribute ideas to a new community format, I would be pleased hear from you.

 

rogerd




msg:3915928
 6:08 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld, MozartsHat!

You've hit on a couple of key forum issues, ultra-long threads and unanswered posts that vanish into oblivion.

A well-moderated forum can avoid these issues. It's rare that a super-long thread is staying on topic, and, even if it is, a mod can close it as it begins to age and start a new one with a renewed focus.

Likewise, a moderator for an individual topic should ideally watch for orphan posts and either answer them or at least bump them with a plea for member input.

Few forums offer that level of moderation, of course, but those that do will thrive.

Baruch Menachem




msg:3915948
 7:16 pm on May 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Nice thing about this place I have noticed is that the mods do split off interesting discursive posts to their own thread. It is pretty much the job of the mod rather than the software to police the threads.

vordmeister




msg:3916371
 10:56 am on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Organising information is one of the problems with forums. I've only found ways that involve work by admin and moderators. The library system used on this site is an example.

An advantage of forums is they can be a mix of technical and social subjects, and the social interaction can be a reason for many to stay on. Possibly the lack of social interaction is the reason it can be difficult to populate organised technical information (ie in a wiki).

The other reason is a forum often generates it's information in a question and answer format which would be unsuited to a more organised format - ie would this thread fit in a more organised format.

A format that make information more findable would be a great improvement on a forum. How to do it any other way than manually?

Samizdata




msg:3916396
 12:16 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Forums tend to have a Search built in (as WebmasterWorld does), making information retrieval easy enough - a lot of people seem to overlook this fact and post questions that have already been answered several times.

Longer threads in forums tend to feature discussion and contrasting opinions, providing more of the social aspect and less of the straight factual information.

So a good forum (such as WebmasterWorld) is a wonderful thing, but their use by some companies is often a substitute for a proper user support section or "knowledge base".

Social networking sites are another matter, and exist only for marketing purposes.

...

MozartsHat




msg:3916418
 1:09 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

I dont really see this a a problem with forums, as I think soc. nets have a problem too. I spent time investigating features of forums and SN's, and found both could be made to give roughly the same functionality.

And forums defiantly are places that people use as a social place. So the question is why is that there is a more generic software that takes the best of both and tries to fix problems any other problems with the suitability.

I kept my list short, but could have easily kept going.

One of my main gripes with Community (forum/SN's) sites is that they have thousands of motivated highly knowledgeable users but in the end, mostly software on the sites only allows it to be used as a talking shop. ideas that are brought up are drop off the page into Oblivion.

Which is a shame , and a waste.
One site of the few site that does do a reasonable job at this is sourceforge but of course its not really a an information base community as such, I dont even think it makes a good job doing what its supposed to do, but then again criticising is very easy, creating is hard.

Fortunately I'm stubborn (or stupid?) enough to actually do something about it. I have been working for nearly a year now on some "idea" enhancement software, but thats not the point of the thread, even if I could talk about it that is.

But after I have finished this development then I will be looking at developing the community software, which will address some/all of my the issues I have.

rogerd, I agree that good moderation can contribute to better forums, but at best your working around the limitations of the software.

Baruch, I agree with your comment, but if the purpose of the forum is to be an information source for a particular subject. The do you believe that the software is best suited for that?

If you take vordmeister comment about the wiki, I think many forums would benefit from some type of wiki based
integration/software (or whatever).
And/or some type of auto-populated faq generated from posts.

Some other sites, have started using notification on thread posts to say if it answered the initial post question. This is moving some way to how it should be, but I would describe it more as "papering over the cracks" not really tackling issue from from its root cause.

vordmeister, generally speaking forums don't have a feedback process allowing information to be wiki'ed (for want of a better term). besides the ability to search the forum for previous answers to the question you are looking for.

"How to do it any other way than manually?"

this would be a very difficult question to answer in a short post.

If you are stuck in the mindset seeing communities like this should just be structured as a forum, then the answer to your question will be as I have explained above, where other sites are adding "did this post answer your question?" Yes/ no options.

I am of the opinion that like any software development, you need to look at user requirements, why do people come to the site or more accurately what is the purpose of the community and does the software model adequately fulfil that purpose.

So I would have the ability to have more static resources as well as some type of feed back process, so the same questions arnt constantly raised. Also structure of forums/subforums. If i have a question about a database structure for the security model of my new software. its very likely that I will have to choose where I put it, either in the security section or the database section.

This reduces the chances of getting my post answered. A system that works around subscribing to sections would work better maybe(along with some type of relevancy rank), then anyone that subscribed to database or security would get to see the post. I'm not saying I have thought about this in detail, as I mentioned I am working on something else, also I dont pretend to have all the answers.

the fist step in the process should be issue analysis, its not a good idea to come up with solutions until you have finished a full review.

keep the comments coming ;-)

MozartsHat




msg:3916436
 1:46 pm on May 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Social networking sites are another matter, and exist only for marketing purposes."

So if i started a "new business start ups site" I would have to choose between either a social network model or Forum and the 2 could never be the same.

If you take a look at simple Machines Forum site have a browse through the addons that are available, if you use the right addons then you can bring in much of the useful functionality of a social network site.

Does that mean that the forum then becomes a marketing tool, or is it just better suited for communication/community.

Try not "just" to see forums as ones like this, they are used for a wide variety of applications.

I was a member of a mature gaming forum for over 25's it has a very very active membership. very much a friendly community but also a groups of members would organise comprehensive wiki sites, faq's etc.

This site wouldn't survive without a forum, but is very much a thriving community.

Part of point is that people think of social networks and forums as being 2 distinct things. so they develop a site that is either a social network or forum. But in the end the either model starts to take on the attributes of the other model.

social nets often have small forums, and as its been said before forums do have a social element them.

The fact is the edges are blurred, both models share commonality, to some degree. maybe sites like this do rely less on social interaction, many other forums rely on it a lot more.

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