Cool factor, loss of personality, etc.
When a forum or social network takes off, it can grow very quickly. Not all communities prosper, though. In the social network space, we've seen MySpace and Facebook prosper, but others flame out. In those cases, it seems to be mostly the crowd following the flavor of the month and the network effect kicking in. What used to be cool isn't now; it happens with fashion, and apparently with communities, too. If your friends are all part of one community, it's logical to be part of that community too.
In communities like forums, a huge influx of new members can often change the personality of the site. A sense of intimacy is lost, and the new arrivals may create a lot of noise and reduce the level of the discussion.
Have you experienced (as an owner or member) the decline of a community that had become quite popular, at least in its own space? What caused it, and what would you do to avoid that problem if you had the opportunity?
I've experienced many declines both as a forum user or member and as a forum owner/manager. The key for a successful forum for me, is a constant subject. I.e. a forum for Big Brother will likely die in time or suffer lots of ups and downs. A forum dedicated to a football (soccer) club however, say Newcastle United, my local side, will always remain a fairly successful forum.
Of course, people will come and go as is the case in any walk of community life, whether it be online or offline, but if the demand is there, if you can somehow supply that demand and do it better than most or everyone else, your forum will never die, just hit slow and fast periods.
Take Webmasterworld for example, or Sitepoint. Constant subjects and forum's that meet a demand better than any other (IMO anyway).
Anyway, key to long-term forum health:
1: Constant subject matter.
2: Good people (people are the forum, the subject just brings them together - people make a forum)
3: Sense of community - i.e. relaxed, or fun, or all friendly with one another. The atmosphere of a forum is very important.
4: Rules/admin/moderating - a good admin/mod team is also key, they are the ones that will stop 1,2 and 3 from becoming either redundant or obsolete.
5: Traffic - every forum needs new faces to keep things fresh.
In a nutshell anyway ;)
|In communities like forums, a huge influx of new members can often change the personality of the site. A sense of intimacy is lost, and the new arrivals may create a lot of noise and reduce the level of the discussion. |
I prescreen new members which is pretty effective at ensuring newbies don't come in and wreck the place. I also assign users to "generations", each of which gets its own private board so that people of a similar era can fraternize without the intrusion of others. I'm planning to add something like "groups" with private boards so that users can form their own mini-networks inside of the larger one. These last two things are meant to retain the sense of intimacy.
Interesting ideas... are the "generations" based on join date, or member age?
By join date. It seems to me that people who join up at roughly the same time tend to bond with each other. At most sites the newbies don't tend to get their own private board away from the others. Private boards are usually reserved for trusted or established members/moderators/etc. I think my approach helps them feel valued and let's them bond with others of a similar experience level.
That's a really interesting concept, FD. Kind of like college - the peers one starts classes with tend to be the closest acquaintances and friends through the entire college experience, and perhaps forever.
I am a member of a music forum that is popular with people in the industry. For some reason the site operators won't get rid of the one or two users that are causing a lot of disruption and it is driving people away from the forum.
It is a pity as the reason it is so popular is because of its 'no frills' layout and connection between users. A rival site tried to get more users by bribing them with prizes, but didn't have much success.
Good point, timchuma - sometimes just a few problem members can change the atmosphere in a forum. Most successful forums (though not all) moderate such members to keep the community spirit positive, and expel them if they don't shape up.
I've left forums that had a nasty tone to them.