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Problem - Getting a forum started

Many lurkers - few 'posters'

     
2:13 am on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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My board started im May 06

1'300 posts

146 topics

50ish current members

10 'real members'

Most users ever online was 67
- (are these stats [above] lurkers or bots hitting my site?

I've laid out the ground rules (as best I can) using a Membership Rules page which includes 20 'must obey' rules.

All I get at this time are spam type posts and seem to get posted 100% under my Link Advice forum. Sort of spam I get is: sex sites, med sites etc.

No serious lurkers are contributing, and I can't work out why.

Those that do post (just 10 members) want questions answered that aren't anything to do with my forum's area/expertise/theme. Although I do reply as best I can - so they do get replies.

My rules are just to keep the spammers at bay, and to keep a basic kind of order/reduce sillyness and keep the boards 'nice looking'.

So I don't allow smilies - they look ugly.

No signatures - to prevent adverts and spam.

No html.

I have a 'introduce yourself' forum created to get people posting. But it's not working.

People create silly usernames like 'Woogahumfdamoof' - so they clearly don't care about forum rules. Thus at least 10 minutes a day is spent on deleting these guys. Crazy.

(yes I have read WebmasterWorld threads on this, but the information is a bit general and one question involved creating a Foo/General type forum, which I have reservations about doing)

I feel a general forum to satisfy new posters, may open the floodgates to more spamming.

So my question is - How to get lurkers posting?

2:55 am on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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hi
perhaps try talking to your 10 'real' members - find out why & how they came to your forum in the first place, why they are still there, and why they arent recommending your forum to any of their friends/colleagues. maybe integrate a 'search' function between your main site & your forum - record and track everything, feed-in some tuned responses. a chat facility maybe - lurk on your lurkers. all common sense stuff really - perhaps, with respect, your site/forum isnt really of interest to anyone?
good luck
2:55 pm on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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your site/forum isnt really of interest to anyone?

The site is of massive interest - well, it gets 5000 visitors a month...... The forum is 'young' so I'm finding out what it takes to run one, but it's way too early to think it will be a failure.

It has been suggested on WebmasterWorld, that a certain amount of posts is required to kick-start/ensure success/reach critical mass (figure suggested was 3000 posts) - and think it's inaccurate having reached 1500 myself.

integrate a 'search' function between your main site & your forum

Checked with my web guy, and he says this isn't doable as it will make updating the phpbb board, difficult and the updates won't work. Interweaving current search functions is a no no, and I neither want that or see what advantage that will deliver. My board has it's own search engine anyway, so it would be pointless.

a chat facility
- don't need one, I have the forum to take care of any chats members want.

I have everything covered regarding: search, recommend tools, other content to entice visitors, ample traffic, direct link to the forum.

Your suggestions and advice is wrong concerning my forum, and feel perhaps you shouldn't be giving such advice.

Maybe the traffic visiting just isn't interested in forum discussion - yet. My traffic are proper visitors and not 'tip hunters' - in other words these are professional people, working in a 'profession', degree holders etc - these aren't webmasters who operate scams, 1 page sites, adsense chasers or stuff like that.

But I reckon the spammers are webmasters, just seeking free links and somewhere to drop sales plugs.

perhaps try talking to your 10 'real' members - find out why & how they came to your forum in the first place, why they are still there,

This is doable and I'll try it - thanks.

Can someone else jump in here with some advice please.

Thanks.

[edited by: Helpinghand at 3:00 pm (utc) on May 20, 2007]

5:01 pm on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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First, I fervently second the suggestion to ask your regular posters about the forum, to find out why they are there, as well as why some other people might not be. You want to know what you're doing right so you don't throw out the good things when you're trying to fix the not-so-good ones.

integrate a 'search' function between your main site & your forum

How do you currently refer people from your site to your forum? Links from specific articles to specific threads on the same topics? General notices about the forum with an invitation to visit? If your site is getting good traffic but your forum isn't, you might want to find new ways to encourage site visitors to also check out the forum. To use the forum-only search function that you have now, the visitor has to first go to the forum, which seems to be what's not happening.

If the site and forum are both under the same domain, there are ways to have integrated search for both without messing up anything, although you might have to use a third-party solution and accept some branding. An alternative to an integrated search function would be to have a link to the forum beneath your site search box, saying something like, "If you can't find the information you're looking for here, please visit our forum." (Maybe you've already done that, but just in case.)

But I reckon the spammers are webmasters, just seeking free links and somewhere to drop sales plugs.

Those types of posts are almost always 'bots. What kind of security is used to prevent automated registrations and posts? ('bots also tend to "pick" weird user names.)

Speaking for myself, if I run into a forum with lots of posts like that, I stay a million miles away. If security breaks are allowing so many spam posts, they're also likely to make my stored email address and other contact information vulnerable to harvesters. This might actually be a significant factor in site visitors avoiding the forum. Since phpbb is open source, it's prone to hacking, but there are ways to make it less vulnerable. Some of the threads in this "Community Building" forum discuss that, and the program itself has a good users' forum you can check out.

Your suggestions and advice is wrong concerning my forum, and feel perhaps you shouldn't be giving such advice.

Don't be surprised if you don't get a lot of input here, then. Since we aren't intimately familiar with your site, none of us can be sure that our suggestions are going to apply to it. If they don't, however, they may help someone else who's reading this thread, which is an important purpose of a forum.
6:09 pm on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Someone suggested asking this:

Anyone ever try to flesh this out by starting a thread with the heading Why have you never posted a reply or initiated a thread in this forum?

So I've asked this very question is 8 of my forums. I'll give my members and lurkers time to answer and let you know of the results.

6:16 am on May 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Rules page which includes 20 'must obey' rules.

That's too many, cut it down to the essential ones. Add them as you need them. Don't get heavy handed when people break the ones you have. Upgrade to the newest version of phpbb3, if many of your rules are regarding things such as length of sigantures they are addressed in the ACP.

All I get at this time are spam type posts...

My rules are just to keep the spammers at bay...

No signatures - to prevent adverts and spam....

There's numerous mods that address all of those issues, they have a forum specifically on phpbb.com you can peruse to see what's available. The first I would suggest is the one that asks a question on the registration form, this has eliminated spam registrants from my forum. The second is a mod that disables signatures until the poster hits X amount of posts. Although you may not like the signatures members do, if you want to attract people you have to provide a friendly environment they enjoy.

No html.

Good idea, it's security issue. It's not even available in phpBB3. You may want to consider upgrading, the user control panel is quite extensive such as allowing the member to decide what is and is not displayed such as signatures.

People create silly usernames like 'Woogahumfdamoof' -

Have you ever considered you're deleting legitimate users? Just to add I have had users register and still lurk for weeks before posting.

7:50 pm on May 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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thecoalman and others explained pretty much everything you need. Also, read through this whole forum, if it were in book form, it would be expensive I bet... Take advantage of the free info. :)

The site is of massive interest - well, it gets 5000 visitors a month

This is not *massive* interest, imho it is on the low end of the scale.

Also consider buying adwords for it. I kicked off a forum from scratch with this and had many users posting right away. I am sure it would work to jump start an old one.

Make sure you have some sort of SEO mod to make it SE friendly.

Consider making some long, well formatted, good looking posts, make em sticky, this will help SE too, and give you adwords landing pages. But don't go way overboard.

Try to get links incoming, that are PR 5 or higher. Hard to do I know, but priceless.

Good luck.

[edited by: MThiessen at 7:54 pm (utc) on May 30, 2007]

5:54 pm on May 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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>>Anyone ever try to flesh this out by starting a thread with the heading Why have you never posted a reply or initiated a thread in this forum?

That could draw a few lurkers out, but, depending on the reasons, perhaps not many. After all, you are asking lurkers to post... :)

Here are couple of library threads:
Growing Forum User Participation [webmasterworld.com]
Pulling forum lurkers out of hiding [webmasterworld.com]

6:47 pm on May 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Arn't you being a little too heavy handed?

Smilies are ugly?

Funny names are banned imediatly?

That very harsh in todays world, and meaningless as well.

If you drive people away then sure you will only get question and answer, a community will struggle to survive or be established when you exert such control over them.

People will not take ownership of a board where the admin is too heavy handed. Particually if you are editing or deleting posts.

I tried to join one on laser etching, a similar stance was held by the admin, my nick was deleted overnight (this nick).

Despite WANTING to be a member and contribuing to the board I was left as a disgruntled outsider, and left.

Loosen up, let the board learn its way forward. if people want smilies, let them, if they want "funny nicks" let them, if they want off topic posts (not sales related or spam), give them a forum for them, get them on there and talking first is your primary concern.

9:38 pm on May 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I agree that it's a balancing act - you have to be true to your vision of your ideal community, but you also need to be sure that enough members share that vision.

We don't discuss WebmasterWorld policies in this forum, but I'll use the strict control of links here as an example. It's far more restrictive than almost all other forums, and it really makes some new members mad. They can't understand why they aren't allowed to post a site review request, or link to their cool blog post, etc. Most adapt and realize that in the long run it keeps the forums pleasantly free of promotion. Some just go away mad. My point: you can't please everyone, but be sure enough of your potential audience buys into your policies to build a community.

9:53 pm on May 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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when you're starting out you need more members - pure and simple. so do all you can to attract them. loosen up on all the rules and allow guests to post as well. once the board is filling up and has a load of members, then is the time to start introducing your rules.
because it won't matter if you lose some members at that point... things will already have snowballed. but if you're doing too many rules and losing members at this early stage then it's like trying to build the forum up with one hand tied behind your back.
1:34 am on June 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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when you're starting out you need more members

ahhh, yes this is exactly the problem.

once the board is filling up and has a load of members, then is the time to start introducing your rules.

Ah, thing is I just know in the mean time the spam will just increase to a tough level to manage. I'll spend more time deleting crap, than making posts etc. This is my worry, and the forum isn't big enough to think about bringing in Mods.

because it won't matter if you lose some members at that point... things will already have snowballed.

Will things snowball that fast? I dunno, I'm coming up to 1500 posts, I have news posts too, but only about 10 real members and they aren't posting. I placed a question to find out why folks are joining but not posting, and have no replies (question had been up for 1 week now). Although, I think these new members just want a free link.

The sad thing is it could be a good forum. I can't keep inventing posts for much longer, as I have other projects to run etc. Time is a serious issue for me, and had hoped that the forum would run itself once I got a few good members on board. But it's been up 12 months now. I just don't understand it.

[edited by: Helpinghand at 1:35 am (utc) on June 1, 2007]

3:57 am on June 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Don't worry about the spam, use a CAPTCHA system, and if it does become a problem then appoint moderators.

BTW moderators are a good way of rewarding loyal members, and building a community.

I have been involved forums for many years and never have spammers been a problem, even before captcha it was only 2 or 3 a week.

You really need to loosen up and relax over this forum situation :)

2:32 pm on June 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I am getting my web guy to instal this Mod Troll code, and just hope it stops the spam.

Have also activated smilies and the Signature thing, so they can put urls etc (but this worries me a bit though - it could be abused, but it's better than the thread being full of spam code etc).

One question, I did have it set so Guests can post, but might have disabled this somehow. So how do I set it so Guests can post?

Thanks

11:34 pm on June 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You can set permissions for each forum in ACP under forum permissions, having guest posting on is inviting spam unless you have captcha set up for guest posting. At most I'd suggest leaving one open for guest posting.
4:34 am on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You disabled smileys?
Isn't that a bit like banning Santa Claus?
9:28 am on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I don't know about you, but smilies remind me of something very kiddy, like doodling or painting faces at primary school.

My forum is attached to a business site, so you can understand my reluctance to make them available for use. Pretty faces might be fun like bouncing sheep on a desktop - but detracts from the professional image I have created.

Conflicting, and might give the wrong impression. I've yet to see one of my members use smilies yet, but they aren't posting anyway.

Had another 50 folks join up, some obviously spammers and perhaps some not - no way to know unless they post, and usually the spammers post pretty quickly and make it obvious their intentions. They get deleted fast!

I don't apprecitiate pictures of porn on the forum......

[edited by: Helpinghand at 9:34 am (utc) on June 7, 2007]

3:12 pm on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Actually, I think smilies are important and I wish more community members used them. Since a lot of communication in real life is nonverbal, forum posts lack that context and are more likely to be misinterpreted. This is particularly true when forum members attempt to be funny or sarcastic. Quite often when I remove a rude post, I hear from the OP that he was "just kidding". I'm sure that's often only partly true, but I do see situations where one member was clearly joking around and another member read it wrong and was offended.

Including a ";)" or "j/k" isn't guaranteed to avoid unintended conflicts, but it can help.

4:18 pm on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I think if you use "good" smile icons... it can look just as professional as you want it to be. I personally don't use them since users seem content using the text versions ** =) ;-) etc **

I've seen plenty of bad icons that are animated and choppy... always leads me to think the site is not an authority...

But if you go with clean, not to obtrusive icons, I think you can actually add value to a forum...

8:17 pm on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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My forum is attached to a business site, so you can understand my reluctance to make them available for use... detracts from the professional image I have created.

Conflicting, and might give the wrong impression. I've yet to see one of my members use smilies yet, but they aren't posting anyway.


if they're not using them anyway, then what's the harm in keeping them? it makes your forum seem more feature-rich if you leave them in.
most forums have the option to turn off smilies and signatures in each individual person's user settings anyway. so if people don't want to look at them then they don't have to.

i think you're making the mistake of believing everyone is exactly the same as you -- building a forum that you want, with all your rules, and turning off all the stuff that you personally don't like.
you should be as open as possible. keep it all in. keep as many settings as possible... that is the whole point of having individual settings for each user -- it allows them to fashion the board how they want it to be, rather than how the owner wants. people appreciate it when you let them do all that stuff.

look at your own webmasterworld control panel. we can turn smilies off if we want, set up our own CSS stylesheet and even change the whole skin

10:02 pm on June 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

Ok this is what I have switched on (and am comfortable with):

[forum is a Powered by phpBB]

In General Configuration

General Configuration - None User Admin

But I don't know what does what.

Enable visual confirmation

Allow BBcode is switched to Yes, but don't know what BBcode is

Allow smilies is Yes

Allow Signatures is Yes

Username changes set to No

Word sensor is for swear words I guess?

Please advise

Thanks

5:48 am on June 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

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When you fisrst go into the ACP you should have a long list of links on the left. Under "Forum Admin" should be one labled "Permissions" .

Once you select that you can selecet an individual forum and set the permissions for who can see it, post, reply etc. You have to repeat this process for each forum.

6:02 am on June 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

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1.) Post something interesting which prompts people to reply. Like a breaking news. Generate fear factor or curiosity to know more and you have a winner.

2.) Optimize your forums by researching for keywords that people are searching for to reach forums like yours. Get a paid wordtracker acc.

3.) Conduct interesting/spicy polls

4.) Make registration process as easy as possible and offer some incentives for registering. Like a free ebook. You can also consider giving free stuff to best posters every month.

5.) Approach other similar forums, get a membership and PM members to take a look at your forums and participate there

 

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