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Forum Moderators: rogerd
1. An empty forum.
2. A forum with a bunch of old messages.
Often, I think the second is the worst of the two. If you have old messages and no one has posted in months, or even years in some cases, it does not look good.
Plus, old messages take up space and they also provide new users a bunch of stuff to wade through, sometimes (depending on the forum software) before finding the current stuff.
So, for those of you currently running forums, how often do you purge all those old messages, and after what length of time do you remove them?
I guess it depends on the types of posts they are - are they idle chit chat, or information? Members on my boards often go back two or more years when looking for information on certain subjects, and they also draw search engine referrals for people searching for certain topics.
If space is an issue, purge away ;) Most forum software programs will also allow you to purge specific forums. So you might want to purge the daily chit chat forum, but not the forum that has useful information on whatever your forum is about.
But, I don't think space is the most important issue.
I think the value in a forum is the community. And, the community must be active to have the most value.
Sometimes people do ask questions that have been answered in some ancient message thread. But, isn't it sometimes better to get a more current answer and more current opinions than what is tucked away?
Then the other issue is the matter of who is still active. If three years ago, Bob Smith the Resident Widget Expert had a thread on Proper Care of Widgets but has since disappeared and Johnny Comelately shows up, reads the thread and asks Bob a question, he'll never get an answer. He might not have noticed the age of the thread, and might instead by disappointed that Bob did not answer his question. So, he moves on to another forum...
Now, let's say Bob participated in an insightful thread about Correctly Oiling Your Widgets. Johnny comes along and has to wade through a series of, "No, that's not right," "But my brother says...", "That's not how I do it. I...", "But you missed this step," "That's not necessary," etc. before he finally gets the whole picture.
Instead of having to go through that process, why not, shortly after the thread is complete, approach Bob about writing an article for your site on Correctly Oiling Your Widgets. He's already got the bulk of it written! You cut out all the extraneous matter, and end up with an article that completely explains the issue without wasting your visitor's time.
You save that to a stable URL location, which should give you a better page ranking than a more lengthy and path argumented URL from the forum.
Then, when the time comes, you purge that message thread, but still have that valuable article on your site, which covers everything the thread had.
The article, I imagine, should get better rankings, plus it consumes less bandwidth than a series of messages, makes it easier for the user to see the point, and is something you need not worry about losing should you ever decide to change forum software!
You also have the added bonus of building a wealth of content that looks more valuable than a series of forum messages--an article by "Bob Smith of Those Amazing Widgets" rather than a series of message posts from "thatwidgetguy64".
I know that occasionally I use older versions of software, and I've solved obscure technical problems using three-year old forum posts.
Disk space is cheap, so I don't worry about it. I agree it WOULD be nice to clean out old threads that are mostly drivel, but sorting the wheat from the chaff in 100K old posts is a major task.
There is nothing more annoying than bookmarking a useful thread, only to find it no longer available when you need it 6 months or a year down the line.
From an search engine standpoint, old topics can still generate traffic if properly linked.
There's nothing like an ordinary person expressing frustration, asking a question, or providing an answer in the honest to goodness voice of Joe Surfer. The forum can speak the language of surfers typing things into search engines, and for my money that makes for good fly paper.