|Death of a Salesman (Forum)|
Ever experience forum death? Stillborn forum? Suicide? Forumcide?
Did you ever launch a forum only to watch it die a prompt or slow, agonizing death?
What killed it? What could you have done? What would you have done differently?
Have you ever watched a forum 'get killed off'? What happened? Was the forum's death avoidable? What was done wrong that contributed to the death?
What are the signs and symptoms of forum illness or disease?
Could be a million things but lets assume it doesnt have to do with loosing big links that delivered traffic and just on the users not posting. Once a forum loses moderation it tends to head this way as it gets overrun with spam and non-sense flame posts.
Bored, could be. Or just moving on. For me forums are a place where I learn and once Ive learned all I need to learn I move on. So I may be one of your #1 posters, highest post count but thats because I came what I needed to do and left. :P
Have seen one slow death, and had one slow death (ongoing at this point, actually.
Watched a well-loved Delphi CRPG forum die by slow degrees due to a variety of factors: the board originator went on to other games (the MMORPG versions, which 99% of the members had no interest in); the only moderator (moi, as it happens) was unable to be there 24 hours per day so a lot of dreck happened when her back was turned, deleted later but left a "bad taste" as those things do; said moderator was unable to convince any of the very long-time members to co-moderate to mitigate the problem; Delphi changed the rules by restricting the "fun stuff" that members liked to pay-by-month fora, and members were unwilling to pay several dollars per month. The combination of the above was slow poison. It took about a year all told, and it's been gone about 2 years now. It was a very busy forum for couple of years, with several hundred members (about 30% of whom were extremely active).
The current slow death is on a forum I've run for several years - also regarding CRPGs. Here again there's a variety of situations which are contributing, not least the fact that CRPGs are not exactly "hot science" right now. Another problem here is that out of currently active members (about 25), 24 of them are over 30 - and most are a LOT over 30, so my attempt to add some impetus by beginning a section on console games (with a younger, though not teener, mod who owns ONE OF EVERYTHING and plays nothing but console games) failed dismally, because they're all like me I guess - I want games for the machine on which I spend my time, not for another piece of tech to sit around....
As well, various of the really active people have had some serious family stuff this year, and two of the MOST active lost long time corp-America jobs a year ago and are still in the position of making what they can from home while looking but not finding. While we don't have the "not enough mods" problem on this board so we don't have the dreck-spreading syndrome, what we do have is a couple of long-time members (founders, if you want to call them that) who routinely vote "no" on any new blood (this is a "by invitation only" forum), even thought it's been pointed out to everyone that unless we HAVE some new members, the board WILL die.
So I'm just sitting and waiting on that one.... I feel that it's rather beyond resuscitation at this point....
I've seen forums decline when there's a lot of hostility present. You wouldn't go to a bar or a coffee shop where people got in your face as soon as you said something, and you probably wouldn't enjoy a forum like that either. It's even worse when the mods are hostile; I stopped frequenting one forum for that reason, as did many others.
Ok, new here, but have a decent size forum. Here's the things I've seen kill forums.
#1 People do not welcome new members! This is my biggest pet peeve and this will ultimately kill any board. People always come and go on forums, but if newbies aren't welcomed there is nobody to replace them.
#2 Overmoderation, too many rules to try and follow. People can deal with some rules, but not a zillion rules.
#3 Nobody's posting. Even if you are posting to yourself it is better than seeing no posts.
Ok, those are the top things I've seen kill a board.
Vandals can damage a forum. I'd include blatant spammers, porn posters, harrassers, deliberate junk posters, etc. in that category. If the forum mods aren't on top of things, an environment can head south very quickly and members simply won't return.
|#2 Overmoderation, too many rules to try and follow. People can deal with some rules, but not a zillion rules. |
The flip side of that...
#2A Undermoderation, not enough rules to follow. It takes a special kind of person to work within the guidelines of a WebmasterWorld or similar community.
I had to chuckle at #3...
But it works. You have to set the tone and create an atmosphere.
I also think that constant, but discrete moderation is best. It's too easy for the moderator to overwhelm the users with his/her presence.
Most forums probably never get off the ground, and can't really "die". One challenge that I've seen in forums that have experienced major growth is fragmentation of interests and membership.
In the early months (or years) of a forum, it's often possible for members to keep track of most of the discussions and participate in many of them. The forum owners/admins may be able to actually read a large percentage of the posts.
Once the forum reaches much higher levels of activity, though, several things change. First, topics must be further subdivided or new topics created to help organize the greater number of threads. Members who previously were involved across the board tend to focus on a smaller number of topics that interest them, and no one individual can read all the posts. What had been a close-knit group and a fairly personal experience runs the risk of turning into a much more impersonal one. I don't think I've seen a forum actually die from this, but certainly a malaise can develop where long-time members seek out new environments that can offer a more personal touch.
It's almost as hard to keep a good forum running as it is launching it in the first place!
I'll bet most of you thought the same as me when you set up your first forum - "I'll do a bit of work initially and it will run itself - FREE CONTENT / TRAFFIC!" :D
I've got a couple of old forums that haven't lived, let alone died - I simply haven't had the time (or motivation) to develop them and they weren't getting any natural traffic.
Expanding it a bit (someone mentioned MMORPG's), I've seen similarities between online communities such as guilds / clans in online games and discussion forums - you get the same types of people.
Based on that, in my experience, I'd say that a community of any sort really needs a core of dedicated people - not just enthusiasts, but people prepared to stick with the community through thick and thin.
If you are talking about any reasonably sized community, then one person simply can't offer the committment to keep it active enough to attract and retain users (despite good intentions). Even if one person were to dedicate the time needed to maintain the community, he/she still cannot offer the diversity (of opinion) to "feed" the masses.
Certainly one person can make a huge difference and offer an infinite amount of information, but ultimately the average Joe User looks for discussion and multiple opinions.
That said though, no matter the state of your forums, there will always be people prepared to help out to some extent. There are always folks who appreciate your efforts and folks who aren't put off by a stagnating forum and will make an effort to contribute if asked.
Perhaps complacancy is the killer?
I know I've felt at times that my efforts in my communities have gone unappreciated. But in the same respect, perhaps I've not appreciated how willing my community members are to contribute if they were asked? :)
I've been a guild leader in a MMORPG and I run a few unrelated forums of varying success and I certainly see similarities between the both.
Lack of activity, internal disputes, unchecked flames, lack of leadership (admin / moderation), market (or environment) changes, competition, etc etc all can hurt an online community. I'm sure everyone here has seen a forum / community divide over an arguement and one side end up leaving and setting up a competing forum! ;)
Users are such fickle creatures! :P