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The State Of The Social Web And Where Forums Fit In


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#1 Adrian

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 05:44 AM

Forums used to be a bastion of online social communities. Not the first kind of community. You had newsgroups and others before Forums, in the form we see them now, became big. But for several years now, there have been lots of big forums, huge, diverse communites or people discussing various things in various manners. They've been one of the main forms of community on the web, especially since chat rooms began to decline in popularity.

Now that we have this new raft of social community, from the Diggs/Reddits/Teechmemes, to the Facebook/Myspaces/Bebos, are forums as we know them, under threat?

Kim's been mentioning it a bit recently, wondering how they fit into the new scheme of things, and I see Rand saying he's drifting more to blogs and social bookmarking sites from forums.

And actually, I can see what they mean. So many people now have blogs, especially within the broad web development community, that a lot of people write their musings there, or initiate discussions there. Lots of people are using the Digg/Reddit like sites for finding new links and discussing them, and I think more and more people are starting to use places like Facebook for relatively basic, easily setup communities.

With all this going on, what role does a forum, like this one for instance, have in the evolving social setup?
Do forums need to adapt to the new ways people are connecting and differentiate themselves? Do they needs to pick up on some of the things that other 'web 2.0' social sites are doing? In 3/4 years, are forums likely to have as big a following as they do now? Or will it just be the ones that keep up with the changing ideas of social media and the niche boutiques that keep, or expand, their following?

If you were setting up a new forum now, would the Diggs and Facebook of the world affect how you did it?

#2 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 06:05 AM

Different horses for different courses.

Bloggs often mean that only one person can set the topic... the blogg author, everyone else responds to the topic.
No different than Articles with comments on. Not exactly new either, jsut got a nice new name a while ago and caught the attention of those without the knowledge.

Facebook etc... again, a completely different kettle of fish - more for "interaction" and fun, socialising etc.


Forums are, at least originally, there for discussion, for bouncing around ideas (+keeping track of) thoughts/ideas/opinions... a forum :)


I don't think there is an issue with the different methods - it's the audiences that are the issues.
Social requires interaction... often fun/entertainment... the lighter side of things. Forums ares perceived as for more "Serious" things, or "Specific" things.... not general (as they require more structure/categorisation etc.


Give it time... something new will come out... people will get bored... forums qwill always be around (we just might have to changethe categorsation/association methods though).

#3 cre8pc

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 09:37 AM

I love it when my friends read my mind and ask all my questions for me!!

I definitely think the tide is going out on forums, unless they come up with something innovative. When I realized our threads were being Sphunn and commented on THERE, rather than here, that raised an eyebrow. We like the nod, of course, but it got me wondering.

Do people expect/want to vote and/or Digg/Sphinn/Fetch now?

SEOMoz jumped ahead by making their blog into a mini-forum with social aspects like voting. They developed a community via their blog, which is a high achievement and not common.

I like the ability to express emotions with emoticons, which blogs don't offer.

We're still the only forums, I believe, that took Danny Sullivan's lederhosen experience and turned it into an emoticon

:infinite-banana:

#4 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 11:25 AM

Ugh!

Okay - this is a simple, flat thread forum, right - like ost of the others out there.
Most blogs are also flat - comments are in response to the blogg, not to other comments.

So what is the difference?
The presentation of the main item, and how the categorisation etc. appears.
With a little effort, I'm damn certain you can make this site look jsut like a blogg.
From there, it should also be easy enough to include some links for feeds and bookmarks etc attached to the main/topic start.

Does that make sense?
The data structure is almost identical!!!



The alternative, as I suggested else where, is to get a decent CMS and mod it a little - the better ones have everything you need afully integrated any way (Articles/Ratings/Comments/HitCount/Statistics/Membership+Anonymous/BBcode/WYSIWYG Editors etc.)
The realyl good ones will enable you to extend the performance ofthe existing thigs easily - there are at least 3 I know of with DynamicData or Extensions that let you add extra fields/data/functions within minutes.
Additionally, you can then apply multiple categorisation and taxonomy... so people can find things in all the relevant places rather than jsut one!

Though it wouldn't be fun - export the data from here shouldn't be difficult, as you would havethe relevant ID's for association, you can then import them and attach the additional values.

#5 Adrian

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 12:48 PM

The difference, Autocrat, I think isn't necessarily the technology, or how if functions, it's the way communities are acting.

Things can be a lot more distributed now.
In times gone by Forums could be relatively closed communities. They could be open to everyone to access and join, but generally the discussion stayed in the forum. That's not the case now, as Kim said, you can go to Sphinn now and see people carrying on a discussion there, that started here.
Barry's been doing the wonderful job at SE Roundtable, acting as an editorialised forum aggregator, and gets various comments there. Forums threads could pop up on Digg or Reddit, they could be carried into Twitter or Facebook.

One discussion on a forum could spawn a dozen offshoot discussions on other sites.

And that's the difference, things are happening elsewhere, not within the forum walls.

And does a forum not lose something if some of the knowledge and discussion is happening elsewhere?
We could be asking wonderful questions, having great discussions, yet other people could be coming up with wonderful answers and responses as well, that might never be known to people involved in the initial forum thread.

If you're running a forum and that happens, you might feel a bit hurt, it feels a bit like other people getting credit for your work. But to be honest, why shouldn't people discuss what they like, where they like?

I'm sure forums aren't about to suddenly die out. There's a lot of life left in them, and yes, the blog or social bookmarking style will appeal to some, while forums will appeal to others. But is the forum hayday coming to an end? or already over?
Have they peaked? Are they 'old media', or Web1.0 compared to the newer community sites?

There have been some trendsetters, Threadwatch was arguably ahead of the game in it's style, Nick always said it was neither specifically a blog or a forum, but it had lots of components of both. Barry's SERoundtable broke down a few barriers between various forums of our genre. Kim's mentioned SEOMoz, Sphinn has obviously eaten up a chunk of our particular topic's market since Danny got that going.

They have all (or had, in TW's case) attracted people who either have cut down on forum time, or stopped being forum regulars at all, as well as bringing in people who were never forum followers in the first place.

On the whole, a lot of lines are getting more blurred. I can stay here and talk to Cre8asite regulars, or I can go to Sphinn and talk to Sphinn regulars, who could be regulars of a variety of other forums themselves, possibly discussing Cre8asite threads....
Or I could go to my blog, and post about something that I read here, and if I had some readers, I could have a discussion there about it as well.

#6 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 04:27 PM

Erm.... I may have missed a serious point there... as to me, it's no different than any of us going and menttioning a thread/topic/idea on sites such as sitepoint/webdec/csscreator/daniweb etc.

If you look at any of those, a fair few belong to multiples (I know I do, I saw respree the other day too :infinite-banana:).
It's basicalyl how most folk are on the net in general now - it is not a "single site" kind of place nor crowd.


Blogs are simply article systems.
Some have simple comments on - in which case they follow the same structure as many simple forums.
Others have threaded responses, and follw the same tech as threaded forums/newsgroups etc.


The technology isn't really any different - it is the way they are presented and how people perceive them.
If you want your forum community to be more "up", then you alter how it looks and acts.
People respond to lables - they expect a blogto be more open/personal/one2one - forums are are more communial - articles are informative etc. etc. etc.

Trust me, change the layout of this very site, call it a blog, and new people will come here and treat it exactly like a blog - though it's still our dear little forum!

#7 Ruud

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:24 PM

With all this going on, what role does a forum, like this one for instance, have in the evolving social setup?


By nature, I believe, all social media, including forums, are complementary.

There are no either/or choices between; face-to-face talk, telephone call, email, instant message.

The nature of the message, the availability of others, and the hope, expectation or need that the message results in a conversation, will determine which medium to use when.

Taking a step outside the link-happy moments ("oh look! a rainbow!"), a forum by its very nature has a huge thing going for it: it is meant as a place to talk, discuss, converse.

I could start a conversation on any subject right now. I can't do so on Digg, Reddit or Sphinn. These require me to have something to point to (the URL) to talk about.

Only at a forum can you be the thread starter...

In times gone by Forums could be relatively closed communities. They could be open to everyone to access and join, but generally the discussion stayed in the forum. That's not the case now, as Kim said, you can go to Sphinn now and see people carrying on a discussion there, that started here.


1) The discussions might have stayed in the forum but the resulting knowledge and ideas didn't: knowledge is viral.

2) Basically a pot & kettle situation. Forum discussions touch "outside" ideas and knowledge. Link to out of forum resources. The latest linkbait post from someone is discussed.

Have they peaked? Are they 'old media', or Web1.0 compared to the newer community sites?


My wife is into digital scrapbooking. That whole community is very web-aware. Some use sharing programs, many have blogs. It is in such a knowledge and idea sharing community that you well see the vibrancy of the forum concept, whether online or offline.

A social bookmarking site built on Pligg or so would not help them have their conversation, share their creations, share their knowledge, ask their questions. A forum does.

#8 swainzy

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:01 AM

And that's the difference, things are happening elsewhere, not within the forum walls.

And does a forum not lose something if some of the knowledge and discussion is happening elsewhere?
We could be asking wonderful questions, having great discussions, yet other people could be coming up with wonderful answers and responses as well, that might never be known to people involved in the initial forum thread.
On the whole, a lot of lines are getting more blurred. I can stay here and talk to Cre8asite regulars, or I can go to Sphinn and talk to Sphinn regulars, who could be regulars of a variety of other forums themselves, possibly discussing Cre8asite threads....


Adrian, I am glad you brought this up. I am not out there at other forums or social sites. I visit a few people's blogs from Cre8 but that's it for me and I can sense a change in our forums. That's is why I have asked "Where is Everybody". I have not joined Facebook but have asked a fellow mod how many of us are over there. I am hoping that this has not/will not take away the energy and commitment we have for Cre8.

With so many places now set up to meet on the web, it seems more convenient to do it more or less in one place like a forum. Social sites seem to be diluting the forum format. I mean a blog is a person's point of view/platform but a forum is a community of people who are committed to a theme and in our case, it's helping others. Not sure what the social sites serve. Someone can inform me on that.

#9 projectphp

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 01:04 AM

Forums serve people who want to interact with others on everyone's terms. Blogs are about interacting with others on your own terms. Social media is about finding stuff to avoid work :P

Blogs serve those who are motivated, forums those who like to be involved infrequently. A blog needs a "satrr", who regularly writes. Forums stay alive by weight of numbers. and no one is required to "carry" it.

Which is better, worse orr otherwise is pure perspective. Rand likely gets more out being a blogger than forum member. Whereas someone like me, for whom the word "sporadic" was invented, benefits more from a forum.

Others, with an eye for talent but perhaps either a lack of self confidence or simply no interest in creating, are better suited to social media, where they can point out cool stuff, and develop a reputation based upon a critical eye.

All will survive, but forums are likely to be,m unfortunately, the least profitable in purely monetary terms.

#10 Adrian

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 05:40 AM

I tend to agree that the different forms I've been talking about can generally co-exist on the web. It's just that in the past, there wasn't much for forums to compete with in the way of communities. In the last couple of years that's changed, some people who would've been forum goers, maybe aren't now, or aren't as much.

By evolving a bit, can forums keep hold of some people who like what they see in other types of online community?

Ignore these forums specifically, or the fact I'm an admin here, I'm looking at it generally from the point of view of a forum owner who's been managing to run some popular forums. But maybe recently, the pull of other, non-forum, communities are acting as competition to the ongoing popularity of the forum.

#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 06:35 AM

I think it depends on the people, mostly. I'd say this is the only reason people stay on forums, blogs or elsewhere.

To get members to a forum, you need to put extremely valuable people here and make it clear that any member can get their response.

You said you aren't posting as a Cre8 Admin, but let me still give a Cre8 example.

If you brought Ammon here, so he would be replying to every post, requiring a thoughtful response, and make this known, I am sure this forum would be more readily acquiring members and visitors (that's one of the reasons this forum got its members, so polite, thoughtful and otherwise different from DP). Add a couple of more full time people, so they would discuss the everyday issues in the threads, even among themselves, and we got another reason to stop by.


If we take SEOmoz, as an example, it gets plenty of comments and grows, because it was the intent to build a community and the crew worked on it, hard. They responded to questions, interacted with the community and such. Naturally, a community was built around a very responsive and sometimes entertaining core of the people.


On social sites, people get to randomly interact with other people, see their emotions, interests and share things that interest them. If we make it easy for forum members to share things they like, it'll be a social site, too, regardless of how it's called.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 13 November 2007 - 07:48 AM.


#12 cre8pc

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 08:30 AM

If you brought Ammon here, so he would be replying to every post, requiring a thoughtful response, and make this known, I am sure this forum would be more readily acquiring members and visitors (that's one of the reasons this forum got its members, so polite, thoughtful and otherwise different from DP). Add a couple of more full time people, so they would discuss the everyday issues in the threads, even among themselves, and we got another reason to stop by.


If I may step in here...

Ammon helped launched these forums over 5 years ago, and left not long ago after nearly 10,000 posts. I think it's a mistake to hero-worship anyone at a forums or participate in one because of the perceived power of one individual. He still comes by whenever he can and contributes with the same care and devotion he always did...but he has a right to do more with his life and I'm thrilled he had to courage to follow his heart.

I also realize that many people forget that many forums are staffed by volunteers, with families and jobs. Not sure what you mean by "full time people". I don't demand "full time" volunteer "work" here, so it's not going to come unless someone has nothing else to do...highly unlikely. These forums are not my priority either. If I was earning a living from them, sure. That's not how they're set up.

After 5 years of managing discussions and spam the likes of which most the Community has never seen, moderators and admins get burned out. This is one of the reasons why we encourage the Community to start discussions, help people and welcome new members, as well as many regulars flag spam and alert us of things they dislike in their Community.

This is the part about forums that blogs don't tap into. The responsibility for the success of a forums lies with the Community. Blogs are typically the responsibility of their owner and many have contributors who are paid in some way (company employees, revenue share).

One of the problems we do have here is that our moderators are in top-level positions in their companies or actual owners. They may not have started out that way when they first signed on to be moderators but their exposure here helped their careers. As they have more work demands, we see less of them here. It's a definite issue, but opens the door to the Community to show their stuff.

We pluck talent from the Community because a forums provides a way to get to know people, personalities, skills, and their ability (or not) to communicate well.

#13 A.N.Onym

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 09:34 AM

I am not saying that one will join the forum just to read one man's thoughts. A promise to get a good response from one or few people is what can keep people coming back. Obviously, the forum is comprised of a contribution of all forum members, even those that make one post and leave/stay/lurk.

Likewise, full time may sound too corporate. With more free time, maybe?

At any rate, I wasn't suggesting something to the forums, I was giving an example how a forum can easily acquire value.


As for responsibility, while no one realizes it, everyone is responsible for the site they write for. Forum posters, blog commenters and social site members all help shape the sites they they frequent. In a way, top members may realize the responsibility, because they are contributing the most visible and looked after content, but other than that, people just live and have fun.

#14 bragadocchio

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:14 AM

Now that we have this new raft of social community, from the Diggs/Reddits/Teechmemes, to the Facebook/Myspaces/Bebos, are forums as we know them, under threat?


In many ways, most of these sites aren't about community, or discussion.

Take for instance Digg, which isn't about asking for or sharing ideas or suggestions, requesting constructive criticism, discussing a process or practice, or soliciting alternative viewpoints or perspectives. It's all about being the first to post a link to a web page.

Techmeme isn't a community at all, but rather a collection of links clustering around a topic, which sometimes fails miserably in identifying the post where that topic originates in favor of a more popular source. There's no community involvement at all there.

Facebook started as an online version of a "facebook" which allows people to put names to faces on a campus setting. While it can be very effective as a contact/address application, and provides a lot of ways for people to communicate, it doesn't focus upon discussion the way that a forum can and does.

So many people now have blogs, especially within the broad web development community, that a lot of people write their musings there, or initiate discussions there.


True, but those are often guided by one voice and don't provide the chance for anyone who is a member to initiate a post, or ask questions, or submit a web site for review. The focus isn't community. There's rarely the same chance for an exchange of ideas, or collaborative learning that you find at forums.

If you were setting up a new forum now, would the Diggs and Facebook of the world affect how you did it?


Possibly. I would think that I would want to give people more ability to use and personalize a profile page, but not too much. I would still want the focus to be upon the exchange of ideas within the forum itself.

Social requires interaction... often fun/entertainment... the lighter side of things. Forums ares perceived as for more "Serious" things, or "Specific" things.... not general (as they require more structure/categorisation etc.


I think that's true, but we have some parts of the forum that are aimed at less serious things, like the afterhours forum.

Do people expect/want to vote and/or Digg/Sphinn/Fetch now?


I've seen a few forums add buttons for different social networks, which had me wondering if it is something that we should do. I don't know that we should, but I look at mentions on places like Sphinn or Fetch or Digg a chance for people to come here, and hold more in depth conversations at this place.

#15 bragadocchio

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:56 AM

Okay - this is a simple, flat thread forum, right - like ost of the others out there.
Most blogs are also flat - comments are in response to the blogg, not to other comments.


Right, but it's not too hard to quote a previous post and respond to it like I'm doing now. I don't know that we need indentation, and threadiing to communicate with each other. I'm also not convinced that we need to repurpose the structure of the site to make it more "blog like."

On the whole, a lot of lines are getting more blurred. I can stay here and talk to Cre8asite regulars, or I can go to Sphinn and talk to Sphinn regulars, who could be regulars of a variety of other forums themselves, possibly discussing Cre8asite threads....


There are some differences. For example, how likely is it that someone on Sphinn or Digg or Fetch will find an older topic that is interesting to them, and post some comment or question? If they do, there's little chance that someone will respond, and will reinvigorate that thread. Yet, it's quite possible here.

Many social sites are only about today, and today's news. They aren't meant for serious discussion, or personal conversation, and most of them focus upon stuff found and written about offsite.

Erm.... I may have missed a serious point there... as to me, it's no different than any of us going and menttioning a thread/topic/idea on sites such as sitepoint/webdec/csscreator/daniweb etc


True, but it's not uncommon for someone to come along in a forum thread and discuss topics raised in one of those articles, and provide some others that show different points or perspectives. In a place like Digg, that might be frowned upon because it expands the topic outside of the range of the original post. In a forum, the exploration of ideas is more important.

Taking a step outside the link-happy moments ("oh look! a rainbow!"), a forum by its very nature has a huge thing going for it: it is meant as a place to talk, discuss, converse.

I could start a conversation on any subject right now. I can't do so on Digg, Reddit or Sphinn. These require me to have something to point to (the URL) to talk about.


Agreed completely. We have different forums here, with different focuses, but we aren't bound so tightly to something else found somewhere else. If we wander a little off topic, there's no harm. If we wander a lot off topic, it's the chance to split a post off, and start a new thread and a new discussion.

Not sure what the social sites serve. Someone can inform me on that.


There are a lot of different social sites with different purposes. Some of them are ways to meet new people whom you otherwise wouldn't have met before. Some of them are really bookmarking services that enable you to share sites you find interesting with others, and may help you find people who share some common interests with you.



The responsibility for the success of a forums lies with the Community. Blogs are typically the responsibility of their owner and many have contributors who are paid in some way (company employees, revenue share).


One of the things that I really like about being involved in the forums here is seeing people getting involved and growing.

It's really great to see people join who confess that they don't know much about the Web or design or SEO, and get involved in discussions and learn and grow along with every one else, and become a leader. It's one of the things I enjoy most about being a part of the forums.

I know that I've learned a lot from participating with other people here with different skills and knowledge and experiences.

As for responsibility, while no one realizes it, everyone is responsible for the site they write for. Forum posters, blog commenters and social site members all help shape the sites they they frequent. In a way, top members may realize the responsibility, because they are contributing the most visible and looked after content, but other than that, people just live and have fun.


Participating in a forum should be fun, and it should be a chance to be exposed to ideas that you may not have come across before, or make friends, or share some of your own experiences and ideas. In many ways, the software that we use should both help us do those things, and keep out of the way when we try to have conversations.

#16 bwelford

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:14 PM

I think that's a valuable point you have brought out, Bill. These social communities are basically very different animals. Early in the life of Sphinn, Danny Sullivan was suggesting that it was a Web 2.0 type of forum. In the very early days it had a little of the characteristics of forum. By now my perception is that it is much more like Digg. Most people go to to get visibility. Items that get any serious connected discussion are very much in the minority.

I think a successful forum is one where you can get multiperson connected discussions. That suggests to me that there are two parameters you could measure which will tell you whether a given community is really a forum.

The first measure would be the proportion of items created in the community that have at least one response. The second measure would be the average length (number of responses) of the conversation for typical items.

I believe both of these would be much higher for a community like the Cre8Asite Forums than for a community like Digg or StumbleUpon. I believe that Sphinn would be closer to the Digg end of this dimension.

Each community attracts members who wish to partake in in the activity of that community. If you want to get visibility, then Digg is for you. If you want to get involved in discussions, then the Cre8Asite Forums are for you.

#17 cre8pc

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:19 PM

I know that I've learned a lot from participating with other people here with different skills and knowledge and experiences.


Exactly.

It can be difficult to ask questions because of the fear of looking dumb, but if we all take this approach, and only let the experts speak or answer questions, then we have no way of knowing what the Community wants or needs because many of them may be to intimidated to let us know.

I deplore "Personalities" in both the SEO and Usability industries who can't be bothered with their peers unless those peers are as "hot" as they are. There's been occasions when I don't approach people because I figure I'm a nobody (I did this to Danny Sullivan, in fact, and he wasn't happy to hear I was too intimidated to approach him. Last time I saw him, I went to shake his hand and he would have none of that...and went for a hug. Made my day!)

I've learned that someone as famous as Jakob Nielson is approachable and happy to answer questions. We find these people because of their presence online and use their blogs or forums or social sites to help us gauge things like trust, skill level, approachability...countless things.

Forums, for me, because of the longer discussions, really help in this way. Blogs that encourage comments do too, but it's not the same. My blog has regulars and we have fun, but real discussions on any topic usually take place here, which is why I link to them so often :blink:

#18 bragadocchio

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 12:30 PM

Early in the life of Sphinn, Danny Sullivan was suggesting that it was a Web 2.0 type of forum. In the very early days it had a little of the characteristics of forum. By now my perception is that it is much more like Digg. Most people go to to get visibility. Items that get any serious connected discussion are very much in the minority.


I think you might be right about the evolution of Sphinn.

There are two kinds of posts that you can make at Sphinn - one that links to a site, and another that is a discussion on a topic - yet the interface keeps them together. I wonder what it would be like if the discussion type posts lived outside of the news type posts, so that you had a sphinn news separate from a sphinn talk. Would there be more discussions, and less pointing to sites to give them visibility?

Forums, for me, because of the longer discussions, really help in this way. Blogs that encourage comments do too, but it's not the same.


I really like that anyone can post, and start discussions, and add their own unique perspectives within a forum setting. You don't need to be an expert to have an opinion or a great idea or a fresh perspective or a question or a different point of view.

I really like when people post comments and questions at my blog, but I'd definitely say that the forums provides a much great chance and opportunity for a conversation on a topic, and upon a multitude of topics.

#19 Adrian

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 02:38 PM

OK, there have been a few comments about the format of a blog, and how it's about one person talking to their readers, rather than one person asking a question, or starting a discussion inside a community.

Well, yes, an individual blog is written by one person, or one team. You could look at some places like SE Roundtable where it's even a little broader than that.
But, take a group of blogs as a whole, and any of them can start a discussion, or comment on another one. Often you'll see a storm brew in the blogosphere because one blogger has said something controversial, and dozens of other people respond to it from their own blog.

They aren't threaded in the same way, and aren't as closely tied together, you may well not see all the comments on a particular discussion, you may not want to see them all! But there are various groups of people who use their blog as a soap box to comment on discussions started elsewhere. Or to start their own discussions and see who might pick up on it and read it.
For some people, this might be more suitable. If you have your own blog, it's pretty much upto you what you put on there. If you want to post on a forum, you're having to stick to the house rules, or risk having your post edited/deleted and possibly end up getting yourself banned.
You may not have said anything that you feel is really out of line, but you're at the mercy of the forum mods.

It's also down to 'ownership'. If you post on your blog, you 'own' the post, any traffic it generates goes to your web site, maybe helps with your advertising. If you post on a forum, there isn't that same level of ownership.
Some people are happy with that, and really don't mind. As has been pointed out, a lot of people on forums are likely there precisely because of the way things are fairly linear and grouped together, and all their favourite people are right there and reading anyway.
I wonder quite how big that group is though. Does it constitute 95% of the members of forum communities, and therefore other types of online community are unlikely to take up their time to a point where forums aren't high on their priorty list.
Or is it maybe more like 60-70%, and actually, a decent number of people are more likely to spend their time in other types of online community, however loose that community may be, than the forums they may have frequented previously.

These social communities are basically very different animals.


That's one of my points. However similar the tech may essentially be, the communities function in quite different ways.

I think a successful forum is one where you can get multiperson connected discussions. That suggests to me that there are two parameters you could measure which will tell you whether a given community is really a forum.

The first measure would be the proportion of items created in the community that have at least one response. The second measure would be the average length (number of responses) of the conversation for typical items.

I believe both of these would be much higher for a community like the Cre8Asite Forums than for a community like Digg or StumbleUpon. I believe that Sphinn would be closer to the Digg end of this dimension.


Sorry Barry, but by both those 2 measures, places like Digg and Reddit are going to be miles ahead of a forum like Cre8asite, and I'd reckon, most forums on the web.

There are shed laods of new items posted to those sites every day. I don't follow Digg these days, but I do have the Reddit Programming section popping up in Bloglines, and in just that section there are loads of new stories each day. Quite a number also get several responses. Maybe not on quite the level that somewhere like Digg, or Slashdot does, but there's still a LOT of commenting going on.
There may also be a fair number of Digg/Reddit submissions that don't get responses, but what about all the spam forums get?
If we made as much effort to filter spam as Digg do (i.e. less effort than we already make), we'd have even more spam, which would either be left to rot out front, or we'd delete.

There are some blogs that manage the same. Check out the average Techcrunch or Scoble post, and you'll likely see quite a few responses and trackbacks.

On the same token, there are also a decent number of fairly dead forums out there, with very little posting, and very little replying.

I should say that I don't know what I think of my own questions. My feeling is that things are, and have been, changing/evolving, and I'm thinking out loud about what effect that may, or may not, have on forums like this one.

Certainly joining an active forum gives you an instant audience for whatever you might have to say/ask, whereas setting up a blog doesn't offer you the same resource to tap straight into, and sites like Digg/Reddit are notoriously bad in terms of quality of comments, and you still have to rely on eyeballs seeing your submission before most people will see it.
On the other hand, not all forums are quite as good as say, this one :blink: and the quality of comments/discussion on them can be less than helpful.

#20 bwelford

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 02:53 PM

Adrian, you may be right in your perception of comments on Digg, although I saw it otherwise.

Perhaps you have to take into account the content of the comments as well. So perhaps it's the percentage of items which have greater than say 50 kB of discussion. Would that be a better discriminator between the good Forums and the Diggs of this world?

#21 Adrian

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 03:10 PM

Well, yes, it is common for a lot of comments on places like Digg to be a line or 2, but some go into a lot more detail.

If you were to look at average length of a comment, then yes, I'd expect most forums to outstrip Digg type sites on that metric.

#22 send2paul

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 04:36 PM

Bill said:

One of the things that I really like about being involved in the forums here is seeing people getting involved and growing.

It's really great to see people join who confess that they don't know much about the Web or design or SEO, and get involved in discussions and learn and grow along with every one else, and become a leader. It's one of the things I enjoy most about being a part of the forums.

So, Adrian, getting back to one of your first questions/thoughts at the beginning of this thread: Are forums as we know them, under threat?

Well, if take Bill's words, (which I agree with wholeheartedly as regards the Cre8asite Forums :blink:), then as we know the shape and format of this forum, I would say "No". But as for the shape/format/structure of other forums - that could be a "Yes". And I think Kim said it best in big bold letters (!): The responsibility for the success of a forums lies with the Community. - and this is what sets us, (Cre8asite) apart from the rest of the forum jungle. (I'll use Cre8asite as an example - as it's the only forum I know well!).

The ability to create and maintain a community is down to..... as Kim said - the community. Cre8asite is great example of this. Looking at Bill's words again where we see people "... get involved in discussions and learn and grow along with every one else, and become a leader.." - I wouldn't say, (as we all know), that it's altogether an easy thing to do to encourage folks to post/discuss/chat etc, but I find it here at Cre8asite a much more professional/amiable/pleasurable place to talk and participate in than "other web forums" I could mention.

And I say "other web forums" as opposed to other blogs or social networks etc. I think, perhaps, that one of the things we forget sometimes is the whole internet tradition, from the new user point of view, (who, let's face it, is the bulk of new members to forums like Cre8asite), which may go something like this:

1. Forums are for discussing things with other people who share the same interests
2. Blogs are for kids, (or more recently - American political campaign partys!)
3. Social Networking is MySpace - and is for kids, again :wacko:

Thats it.

Newcomers to usability/web design/SEO etc will go and seek out a forum, because that's where they know to go to find a place with an instant archive of easily accessible material - and a chance to talk to others about "their stuff". And I can safely say that I've never Sphun or Dugg anything in my life :blink: - that's far too advanced for the "first timer" who needs basic help as well.

Of course, (looking at Cre8asite again), the community of people here welcome newcomers. And the newcomer learns... becomes more advanced - and starts asking/discussing about more "technical stuff".

I would say that there'll always be a place for forums. But the better the "community spirit" within the forum, the better chance the forum has of succeeding and growing.

#23 Adrian

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 07:50 PM

Ah good stuff Paul, that balances some of the questions in my head.

Forums that have got the community thing down pretty well might find they are relatively unaffected by these other types of community, because by design, they are about a closer community.

Those forums that aren't so closely knit, and don't have that real community spirit, might find their usual kinds of members are becoming more interested in those other types of online community.

Interesting, and I quite like that.

#24 cre8pc

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 07:58 PM

Okay that did it....(breaks out her tamborine) and starts singing the song by "Sister Sledge"...


(CHORUS:)
We are family
I got all my sisters Moderators with me
We are family
Get up ev'rybody and sing




:rolleyes: ;) :infinite-banana: :infinite-banana:

:woohoo:
:thankyou:

#25 bwelford

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 09:08 PM

.. Good Grief. :rolleyes:

.. that's the nice thing about this Community. We're not all required to sing from the same hymnsheet.

(Sorry about that British humour again. ..)

#26 swainzy

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 09:20 PM

Nice Paul.


Forums that have got the community thing down pretty well might find they are relatively unaffected by these other types of community, because by design, they are about a closer community.

Whew! O.K. I feel better now.


We are family
I got all my sisters Moderators with me
We are family
Get up ev'rybody and sing


Good one Kim!!!! :rolleyes:

#27 send2paul

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:27 AM

Lasses,eh? A few Bacardi Breezers inside of them - and they're up dancing on the tables! :) :infinite-banana:

(Have we got a rule about "No dancing on virtual tables"? :P )

#28 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 05:54 AM

Let them dance :)

Thinking about what ...send2paul... said - it is something that I have noticed in only a few places - that people actually "talk" here, rather than just posting.
There is none of the "look at me" stuff happening, little in the way of personal attacks (personall apologies or clarifications, but no real attacks), and a genuine feeling of "community" that seems lacking in most of the web... without the "clickiness" sometimes found along with it!

It may help that this is a "small" community compared to some ofthe others... but that may simply be that the less desirables don't stay, (most of us any way :infinite-banana:), or would not be comfortable here?


Perception is a key factor here (as it denotes the difference between the "types" of sites).
I wouldn't say the others are "for kids" - but are more "fun / playful / non-work based"... were as the forums are often seen as being "serious / formal" in comparison...
That said, I use a few IRC channels for support etc.... and hae two that I love to use... not only informative and helpfull... but thesense of humour is darn sharp and you can "kick back" and relax a little too ... so it may simple be "social gravity" ?

#29 DianeV

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 08:06 AM

Although I've rarely taken on any work obtained from forum participation, I've had to take a long hiatus from any thoughts of moderating simply because my expanding business and our own projects demanded it.

That said, for me, forums are a place to hang out. Yes, to answer questions, maybe to learn — but really a place to hang out. (I "discovered" cre8 when I was looking for new a new forum to hang out at.)

I don't find that with sites like Facebook (if I wanted to say something, I do it on one of my blogs) and I'm either too busy, too antsy or not interested enough in the format to plunk around to various pages on that type of site. Nor with sites like Sphinn which, although I enjoy and participate there sometimes, I find rather too disjointed to have a conversation — and, as was mentioned, you need to submit something to start a conversation. As to the Diggs and Reddits, I've never felt the urge.

The other thing I look for is coverage. I liked Threadwatch for the coverage and the attitude, although it got pretty heated after a while.

Sphinn has coverage and can be amusing (although the newbie/oldie SEO arguments about who is/should be important got a little intense. But I like the coverage, even though much of the content is posted for link-pop purposes. Same reason I read MarketingVox — quick, compiled coverage.

I don't think forums are going away. I also wonder how long people can spend hours of their days fussing around at social sites.

That said, I don't think we need to turn cre8 into some blog-like thing in order to ... achieve what? We already have a blog.

To me, especially with cre8 forums, while there *may* be coverage of current events — it's about the camaraderie.

One of the great things about cre8 has always been the courtesy and consideration with which people treat each other. Ideas are offered, and discussed or not. One of the difficulties of forums is people who insist that their opinion is the only way, which makes for a combative and unpleasant experience.

Well, a little disjointed, but those are my thoughts.

Edited by DianeV, 15 November 2007 - 08:26 AM.


#30 yannis

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:07 PM

That said, for me, forums are a place to hang out. Yes, to answer questions, maybe to learn but really a place to hang out. (I "discovered" cre8 when I was looking for new a new forum to hang out at.)


For me the 'forums' are the english pub, a place where you go and chat with your friends, have a good conversation. Posting on someone's blog is like being invited to someone's house you more careful in what you say, you don't want to offend the host. Social sites you must be more like a grafitti artist, writing on someone's wall etc!

Oh! well here is an announcement and I will have it here rather than at afterhours. I just got MARRIED! I wouldn't put that on nobody's blog! Personally I feel these forums are my 'community'. Let's keep it up. We all need to put more time here, now that Bill, John and Ammon and Rand are getting busier!

Yannis

#31 iamlost

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:20 PM

Some people really know how to derail a thread. :cheers:

Throw confetti (and whatever else) at yannis on the !!! Yannis Is Married !!! thread.

#32 bwelford

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:31 PM

Thinks ... should I Digg that or StumbleUpon it.

#33 cre8pc

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:44 PM

Well, a little disjointed, but those are my thoughts.


I enjoyed hearing your thoughts Diane. Esp. valuable coming from someone tied to JimWorld and was basically there at the birth of forums :) (Including this one!)

#34 DianeV

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 09:47 AM

Aw, Kim, thanks. But it's not as if I was hanging around the BBSes in the 1980's.

Glad to give input. I do miss you all, which is why I keep hanging out here.

#35 earlpearl

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 11:42 AM

Great topic. As a mod at a different forum, I just commented on this same issue to the admins. I've heard complaints on forums for some time with regard to issues such as "noise" newbies, slowness of the forums, not being cutting edge etc.

The web is a bigger place now than it was and there are many other sources of information.

People who were forum "leaders" for a period of time move on for a host of reasons such as the references to Ammon. Personal/industry blogs have sprouted and the involvement of various people who generate and work these blogs detracts from the time they could spend on forums. That is their right also.

Blogs, social media sites, .....its simply so much bigger now....so much more diverse, and there is cutting edge information being delivered in an amazingly larger world of sources. Frankly, thank goodness for searchengineland and seroundtable reviews; they point me to varied sources for various information ....including this conversation.

Simply, the constant stream of new people have enormously more choices for learning and interacting. The ones that get engaged within a forum are always a small minority of the overall number that might visit, read and don't interact, etc. If the total number of newbies is smaller due to a greater number of choices....and if a greater number of established and experienced "wise pros" have other concerns, and other outlets it is an issue.

In certain regards there are other sets of people that are very interested in usability and seo but it seems they are so disconnected to this forum and other forums, and so distracted by other active social media opportunities that fewer new members join and of that group fewer become very active.

I know I've made efforts to grow topic conversation on local issues at seorefugee....and much of that effort has been via contacting similarly interested people within the large community of seo/usability....but the world that is interested in that subsection within the larger world of seo/usability remains small. Yet I'm aware that there is far greater interest on the topic....I believe it is manifested in other areas that don't touch the world of seo/usability. I believe it requires an effort to reach out better to tangential interested areas that aren't seeing forums such as this....simply because the choices are far greater and more diverse.

just my $.02

Dave

#36 tam

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Posted 16 November 2007 - 12:07 PM

I don't hang out on these new fangled social networking sites. Am I the old generation now in web terms (I'm 24!)?

I just don't really get them, particularly facebook/myspace, what's the benefit to me. Blogs are cool but to me they are more like magazines with real-time feedback from readers. Which in some respects is great; there are the source of lots of useful articles.

Forums are different though. On them the topic starter is the one that's got the question and the repliers are the ones sharing their knowledge. So, you get multiple 'experts' sharing their views (blogs have tried to duplicate this with trackback but it's not as handy to read as a forum topic). A forum gives a much personal response as it is tailored to that one persons issue.

I guess it's like the difference between reading a magazine article and having a letter answered in an advise column. I think that's why forums still have a place, people like that personal touch.

Tam

#37 Wit

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 02:57 AM

I dunno if you people realise that if you ever turned Cre8 into a blog, you'd have to cut the length of your comments down to - say - four lines of text per comment :censor: It'll never happen, heheh

#38 DianeV

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 04:43 AM

I'd agree. The fact that social voting sites are popular now does not immediately mean that people who hang out at forums want them turned into some kind of breathlessly-paced get-in-and-get-out endless list of posts to read and vote on. There's nothing wrong with such sites and plenty that is "right" about them, but they serve an entirely different purpose from forums.

#39 earlpearl

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 11:32 AM

The problem for all but the largest forums is the following as I see it:

Most forums are dominated by a few volume posters. The number of such people are relatively few. Once a few of the volume posters depart or cut back on posting, the smaller forums begin to look quiet, empty and vacant.

It tends to have a multiplicative effect, so that if a couple of people start posting less or depart it tends to multiply with other volume posters. Then secondary posters begin to post less and the activity on the forum begins to drop dramatically. It has the appearance of being very quiet and not a place to learn and contribute.

The dramatic draw of blogs and social media have pulled from the number of new people who would spend more time at forums. That magnifys the impact of quietness.

How to overcome that? Don't know but I think it has affected a lot of forums, not just this one.

#40 send2paul

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 12:30 PM

....I think it has affected a lot of forums, not just this one.

Dave, it is true to a degree what you say about large forums v small forums and "volume posters", but here at Cre8asite we also have another constant category of posters - new members.

New members are always welcome ;) (There advertisement over....lol..... :disco2: )

And some new members turn into volume posters, (and equally, some do not). Many new members are here just to "get what they came for" - help and advice on their particular query, and they usually post two, three, or four times in one thread, (their own usually), and then are gone. But....... there are also new members who stay and are "intermittent", i.e. they don't become volume posters, but they do maintain a reasonable average of posting statistics.....

.... and this brings us back to what the Cre8asite community is all about :( - it isn't about stats, posting levels etc etc. The community is about participation. And that's just a human choice. We like to think that it is a relaxed attitude here that allows folks the cushion of security that no matter what they want to comment on, or ask etc - that they will get the respect and support that the Cre8asite forums are known for. (Putting it bluntly - they'll be no "flaming", backstabbing, or dissing each other around here! :) )

The non-posting trends here, are as they are at any other place - North American holidays, (annual and the occasional day(s)), North American weekdays - excluding early mornings. But the nice and surprising thing here is that new members from around the world are here chipping in, saying hi, starting/continuing discussions whilst North America sleeps. The bulk of membership may be North American, but the range of posters and new members are from around the world - some participating greatly.... and some not as much.

It's a lot easier to identify the posting trends here at Cre8asite, (due to the forum's size), and be able to see and understand how/why new members like it here, as opposed to other "larger forums", (without the unique management style and moderator/admin skills we have here at Cre8asite), where new members get quickly welcomed...... and then get swallowed up by the beast that is the "a web forum"......! ;)



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