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The State Of The Social Web And Where Forums Fit In


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#41 Ron Carnell

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 12:47 PM

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


LOL. I was. :)

The software was obviously a lot different in 1985, when I logged on to my first Commodore 64 BBS, but a less obvious difference was that all the participants were local, usually living within a hundred miles of each other. I eventually met, IRL, many of the people I initially met on-line. Of course, that was also back before we had all these quickie, quirky acronyms like IRL (in real life). I think the tone of the BBS era was often milder in those days, even with little or no moderation, if only because you knew the guy you were getting ready to flame might live only a few blocks from your house. Politeness seems to come easier to some when they can imagine someone knocking on their front door?

There were three or four active C64 BBSes in Southern California back then, but only one that was substantial. I later discovered, when I met some of the people IRL, that my advent onto the boards had been regarded with some suspicion. I had already been writing software for the C64 for the better part of a year and knew pretty much every bit and byte of the 8K operating system by heart, so I made my entrance by answering a lot of questions and asking very few. What I didn't immediately realize was that a lot of the people on the BBS, probably even most, were there to swap pirated software. Everyone apparently thought I was a narc, a ringer sent from Commodore to spy on them. ;)

I was also, like Diane, a part of the original JimWorld forums in the late-Nineties and remained an Admin there until 2005, some few years after Jim's death.

Jim Wilson, I believe, set the tone for most SE forums and many web design forums that have followed through the years. He was a pioneer, in part at least, because a lot of the people who would eventually start their own SE forums grew up, so to speak, in Jim's World. People like Brett Tabke and Doug Heil disagreed vehemently with Jim on how forums should be run, so they would go off and start their own, only to mimic almost everything Jim had already introduced. It's only been in recent years, in my opinion, that a newer generation of forums (like Cre8 and HighRankings) have begun to evolve apart from the original searchengineforums.com. The tone has finally started to change, becoming much less insular. That's a good thing, I think.

Jim was also instrumental, I think, in establishing the look and feel of today's modern forum.

UBB redefined the previously threaded and somewhat myopic forum software of the early- and mid-Nineties. Jim was an early adopter and active promoter of UBB, and Ted O'Neil, the author of UBB, was an SEF member. Ted made a lot of changes to UBB based on Jim's input and, while I'm sure the software would have succeeded without Jim, it probably would never have grown so big so fast. I know I personally switched to UBB in 1998, after starting two previous forums running on threaded software, and my writing forums are still running on a heavily modified 5.x version of UBB today. My newer forums run under vBulletin, though.

UBB was written in Perl and used flat text files as a database. We have long since moved to a PHP and mySQL dominated world, but while the foundation has shifted immensely, every single one of the major forum packages available today look almost EXACTLY the same as UBB looked in 1998. Ted and Jim pretty much invented the linear discussion format and it has changed very little in almost ten years.

(This software, and most others, also offers threaded options, where you can ostensibly reply directly to another reply instead of to the originating post. It's available up there under the "Options" button at the top of each thread, listed in the "Display Modes" section. Most people who accidentally discover it seem to get frustrated and a bit irritated until they can figure out how to switch back. That has included a few of our Moderators, I think. :( )

Understanding the dynamics of on-line communities is something of a passion of mine. I registered communityprime.com a ways back in hopes of exploring that passion further, but never quite seem to find the time. I've even thought about writing a book. This thread, obviously, isn't the place for either. Still, at the risk of overstaying my welcome, I feel compelled to respond to a few comments made earlier.

Just a few, I promise.

Adrian: Things can be a lot more distributed now. In times gone by Forums could be relatively closed communities.


Exactly so, Adrian. And generally, I think, this was by design.

Jim and I discussed this as early as 2001, I think, though I was never able to change his mind about keeping SEF insular. It remained so after Jim's death, as have several other big forums in my opinion. I honestly don't believe that's going to work in the long run, though.

In the writing world, it's called a cross-over. Sort of like when Spider-man met Superman? In my opinion, the only way a forum can survive in today's world will be to acknowledge that there's more inter than net in the word Internet. Like flowers and vegetables, we desperately need cross-pollination to evolve and grow.

I still remember the analogy I used in 2001. How often do you drive twenty miles out into the sticks to eat at a lone restaurant? In contrast, how often do you drive down to restaurant row, where a handful of fast food eateries are intermingled with several family restaurants and maybe one or two more high-end dinner houses? They're not competing, but rather co-supporting each other. Quality will always be important, but choice is paramount.

BTW, I also remember telling the SEF moderators, in the private back room, that if they posted only at SEF, I believed they were short-changing both themselves and the SEF community. I would offer the same advice to everyone at Cre8. There's a very good reason, I think, why society has historically frowned on incest.

In the years I've been involved in on-line communities, this has been the single biggest change I've witnessed. And, in my opinion, we're at only the beginning as boundaries between sites will continue to blur.

Kim: This is the part about forums that blogs don't tap into. The responsibility for the success of a forums lies with the Community.

In my opinion, Kim, that is one of the big myths about on-line communities.

Like most myths, it contains just enough truth to remain deceptive. Yes, no community can long survive without the people that comprise it. And, yes, each Member brings something unique to the community, something that either hurts or helps the whole. That much is truth.

The greater truth, however, is that as long as someone is pulling the strings, deciding which conversations stay, which conversations are challenged, and which conversations are immediately vacuumed into cyber-space, the tone and atmosphere of that community is going to be a reflection of that individual. The greater the control, the more clear the reflection. It may not be the politically correct thing to say, but I'm nonetheless convinced it's true.

It does get complicated, though, which I think is what makes on-line communities so darn fascinating. The complications arise because the person pulling the strings is always influenced by the people who pulled the strings before them. That's why Jim Wilson's influence is still felt, and why Aaron was able to change TW so little after Nick left. It's why when a Founder relinquishes active control, the admins and moderators rarely attempt to set a new course -- and usually fail if they try. Community Momentum is an incredibly powerful force, one that can both create and destroy when allowed to run amok.

DianeV: 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.)


Absolutely, Diane! ;)

I think that is equally true of blogs and all the other social media deviations. Some people hang out in bars, some in bowling alleys, some at the local library. Those places aren't competing with each other so much as providing different needs for different people. Each is necessary to the greater whole.

I'd like to close (is that the sound of raucous applause?) with a few paragraphs I wrote in 2004 (prompted, ironically, by a conversation with Diane) for the JimWorld Gazette. The article, titled Where Everybody Knows Your Name, includes several resource links that I hope are still available and perhaps even valuable. I think the more we can understand this thing called community, the more we will be able to garner from it.


Ray Oldenburg, another one of those Ph.D.s like Google has made so famous, is a sociologist who wrote a book some ten years ago, called The Great Good Place. In it, he writes about the vital importance to society of informal public gathering places, essentially dividing our social life into three "places." Our first place is the home, our second place is work, and the neighborhood bars, bowling alleys, and coffee shops are our collective "third places."

Unfortunately, these third places are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Following World War II, according to Oldenburg, older neighborhoods have often lost their cafes, taverns and corner stores to the ravages of urban renewal and freeway expansion, while newer neighborhoods have developed under single-use zoning restrictions that make these critical third places illegal to even operate.

"Life without community," writes Oldenburg, "Has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community." Later in the book, he writes, "What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably -- a 'place on the corner,' real life alternatives to television, easy escapes from the cabin fever of marriage and family that do not necessitate getting into an automobile."

Gee, sound familiar?

Now, I'm certainly not going to suggest that on-line communities can or should take the place of the real-world ones Oldenburg contends are so vital to a healthy life. I don't expect Sam or Woody to serve me a beer, and I'm going to be real surprised if Cliff and Norm sit down on the stools beside me. Still, the camaraderie and friendliness of a good forum shows some marked similarities to a place like the fictionalized but very real Cheers. Spend a few weeks interacting with your peers, and SEF can quickly become a third place for you, a place "Where everybody knows your name."



#42 Respree

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 01:20 PM

Excellent post, Ron. I admire, appreciate and am envious all the wisdom you bring to these forums.

I've even thought about writing a book.



I will be your first customer. It seems you've already written the first chapter, above. Keep going! :)

Edited by Respree, 17 November 2007 - 01:20 PM.


#43 bwelford

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 01:38 PM

Yes, indeed, Ron. Much food for thought there .. and as Respree said you're well on the way to the book.

:applause:

#44 cre8pc

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 01:55 PM

Ron wrote:

The greater truth, however, is that as long as someone is pulling the strings, deciding which conversations stay, which conversations are challenged, and which conversations are immediately vacuumed into cyber-space, the tone and atmosphere of that community is going to be a reflection of that individual. The greater the control, the more clear the reflection. It may not be the politically correct thing to say, but I'm nonetheless convinced it's true.

It does get complicated, though, which I think is what makes on-line communities so darn fascinating. The complications arise because the person pulling the strings is always influenced by the people who pulled the strings before them. That's why Jim Wilson's influence is still felt, and why Aaron was able to change TW so little after Nick left. It's why when a Founder relinquishes active control, the admins and moderators rarely attempt to set a new course -- and usually fail if they try.


This truly nails what's been on my mind for a long time. I struggle with what happens when I want out. I'm at a point in my life when I'm looking around and seeing other things I'd like to do. There's something I have in mind that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I do now, in fact. It would be starting over and learning something completely new.

With the history we have of what happens when forum owners leave, it doesn't look promising. We have Bill here and Adrian has been with me since the Cre8pc club days, as well as moderators who have given so much time and commitment that I think the Community would be completely fine if I left. Sure, it might change, but that's life. Everything evolves.

When a blog stops, it just stops. Like I miss Kathy Sierra very much. She stopped and the blog stopped. That's different than a forums, because they don't stop unless there's a decision to pack up shop.

If Brett Tabke wanted to stop, what would happen? Part of me secretly hopes he goes first, just so I can see what happens :) (Bad Kimmy!)

Seriously, Ron, you're brilliant and what you wrote is classic and thought provoking.

#45 DianeV

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 03:19 PM

:) SEF was where I snagged Ron as a friend. One day we're going to be in the same place, and I'm going to ply him with coffee and listen to his stories.

Great data, Ron.

#46 swainzy

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 03:19 PM

Nice article Ron "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" and the links at the bottom are informative also.
Gives me a better picture of how to run a forum and the mods jobs.

It's the same for me as you, I am reitired and I come here for the community. Most people do need to meet somewhere and share. After all, humans are herd animals.

#47 send2paul

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 05:24 PM

Great pierce of writing Ron :) But I have a query...

Ron: The greater truth, however, is that as long as someone is pulling the strings, deciding which conversations stay, which conversations are challenged, and which conversations are immediately vacuumed into cyber-space, the tone and atmosphere of that community is going to be a reflection of that individual. The greater the control, the more clear the reflection. It may not be the politically correct thing to say, but I'm nonetheless convinced it's true.

Isn't this what Forum Rules and the role of the moderators and administrators are all about? No one person is actually pulling strings. The rules and regulations of the forum are decided, (perhaps by one individual initially, but then adapted/changed as others have input to them), and the members are requested to adhere to these rules by signing up. Mods & admins, (as part of there roles), ensure that these rules are adhered to. If you're saying that it is then the mod/admin deciding which conversations are immediately vacuumed into cyber-space , they are only acting on the Forum Rules - which the members should be adhering to.

If I've "missed" the whole concept of setting up a web forum, i.e. "It's my forum and I'll say how it goes!" (?), - if that's what you're implying by saying you think that it is one individual controls the tone and atmosphere of a community..... then I've "missed" it ;)

From my experiences here at Cre8asite, I just think there's more "democratic control" than one individual pulling strings.

#48 AbleReach

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Posted 17 November 2007 - 06:03 PM

From my experiences here at Cre8asite, I just think there's more "democratic control" than one individual pulling strings.

We've got that and more - our guiding forces include a big-hearted "Mom" and an atmosphere of supportive consensus-building. Our active community and real and usable information come in on top of that foundation.

I wish I had more time this week to say more! This thread has been a good, good read.

The Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type, and we are here. W00t.

Edited by AbleReach, 17 November 2007 - 06:03 PM.


#49 storyspinner

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 10:29 AM

Forgive my late reply into this thread.... after reading it I'm not sure how much more I can add, because so many great things have been said already!

The one thing I might differ from others in thinking is that Forums and Message Boards are part of social media. In fact, social media's been around much longer than the phrase has been termed. Everyone's heard me say "the term's been coined in the last 2 years, people slapped some rounded edges on their sites and badges and whamo, they are social media site"

Forums and Message boards have been around since the dawn of the internet, I can remember back in 1993 participating on comic message boards and forums, and it flourishing (and some still do) because of the passion of its members.

However there is a startling - very obvious difference - between the "GranDaddy" and it's offspring sites like Digg, Facebook, MySpace, Stumbleupon.

As Ron so elequently pointed out - Forums and Message Boards are about community - without community participation, a Forum or Message Board dies.

99% of "the other" Social Media is about "ME" - it really doesn't need the community to survive. It's all about recognizing "me". Sure it's sharing - but it's sharing "my" stuff, so to speak. And whether or not we admit it or not, we all crave the spotlight in some way shape or form. That's why social media varies so much, it fills gaps, voids and niches for every craving - from photo sharing, to sharing recipes, to writing articles, there's likely a social media outlet for everyone. But contrary to Forum's and Message boards - the other social media outlets appeal a little more to the "Me Me Me Me" society our culture seems to have created.

I know for me, these days it's all about time and where to distribute it, and who's making the loudest noise LOL ya know that old addage - the squeaky wheel gets the grease - my clients these days are my squeaky wheels! You can usually find me researching Social Media sites for them. :)

#50 rcjordan

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 08:04 PM

Everybody through with the kum ba ya's? To my mind, it's telling that I can run through the nicks on this thread and see the same C8 stalwarts who were here a year ago, no, 2 years ago. C8 is a fine family, but I'm betting that the pool of new, substantially contributing members isn't being replenished.

IMO, forums are suffering from the same malady as is often reported about cable tv --too many available channels slice & dice the audience into such small groups that they struggle for a critical mass in market share. Add to that the narcissistic satisfaction of blogs coupled with the distinct advantage of owning your own keystrokes (with the promise of monetization and/or stardust) and it's a wonder that anyone bothers to post in a communal thread.

I agree with those above when they point out the advantages of forums, they have many. That said, I'm rarely getting my information from them anymore with the notable exception of very defined topics, such as when learning to use a new script.

#51 bragadocchio

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 11:21 PM

That said, I'm rarely getting my information from them anymore with the notable exception of very defined topics, such as when learning to use a new script.


I've often found that the value of what I get out of something is usually related to the value that I put into it. :)

A forum isn't your newspaper, nor is it your repository of specialized knowledge.

Instead, it's a chance to talk with people who may have different experiences than you, different educational backgrounds, and different perspectives. If your only expectation is that you can come to a forum and dig through past archives to find how to use a script, then you're ignoring the greatest value of the forum.

#52 send2paul

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 01:44 AM

I'm betting that the pool of new, substantially contributing members isn't being replenished.

I wouldn't bet too much on that :) Cre8asite has a it's "normal" frequency of new members. But, as discussed earlier in this thread, new members aren't always about becoming substantive contributors.

I agree about the "slice of pie" look at things.... but that also depends on what's in the pie, right? :)

#53 Adrian

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 06:04 AM

I'm betting that the pool of new, substantially contributing members isn't being replenished.


That's not a comment I would bet against, Paul.
Actual numbers might be stable, but as with any site that allows people to sign up, there's always the question of spam numbers etc...

If we wanted to work out whether we were getting a similar influx of substantially contributing members as 2 or 3 years ago, it'd take a bit more investigation.

too many available channels slice & dice the audience into such small groups that they struggle for a critical mass in market share.


Could argue that there's that problem with Blogs now as well :) And with the way things are going, Facebook like social networks are going the same way. Everyone and their dog is building some kind of social network for a specific group.

If forums need to go through a phase of consolidation, I wonder quite how that would work.

Instead, it's a chance to talk with people who may have different experiences than you, different educational backgrounds, and different perspectives. If your only expectation is that you can come to a forum and dig through past archives to find how to use a script, then you're ignoring the greatest value of the forum.


As much as I agree with you, Bill, there are a number of people who just want to know how to do stuff, rather than getting involved in the community and all the politics that goes along with it.
Looking at the 'communities' on places like Digg, they go for the quick hits, and trying to show how clever they are in the comments. It's not a supportive community, yet it's very popular. Are there more people after something like that, than the traditional forum?

#54 cre8pc

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 09:14 AM

Instead, it's a chance to talk with people who may have different experiences than you, different educational backgrounds, and different perspectives. If your only expectation is that you can come to a forum and dig through past archives to find how to use a script, then you're ignoring the greatest value of the forum.


I love meeting people who have something to teach me.

My kitchen table has many chairs and I'm happy when someone pulls one up and stays awhile. I'm grateful when they value me enough to share something about themselves with me. Even better is when they value me enough to listen to me, as I've just listened to them. Even better than that is when someone else enters my kitchen, spots the tea, hear's the laughter and banter and thinks they'd like to pull up a chair and join us.

We make plans to do it again and invite a friend, bring some pictures of the family, business cards, and when comfortable as a group, we might ask for advice or help someone who needs help with something.

A site like Sphinn has completely different motives. Everyone there is selling and promoting something, whether it's something of their's or someone else's. If someone comes here and all they want to do is promote something, they don't survive long. That's not what a discussion forums is about.

I think a forums can do and be many things. It's amazing to see what a group of people can produce together. Some of our members came here as unknown's and are now exceedingly successful. They know their support group is here, not Digg or Sphinn or Facebook. When one of our members was hired by Google, we were so proud and happy for him! When another one shared her interview in a local newspaper, we were thrilled!

A forums can do more than just exist and take up space. We changed our tagline here to "Building Better Web Sites Together, For A Better World" because this is our motivation for taking up space. There's a lot of give and take, banter, discussion, sharing, etc. We do it because we care about what we're doing.

At no time is anyone chained to a kitchen chair and not permitted to leave.

We always keep the light on when someone wants to stop back and visit. We'll pick up we last left off, which is what good friends do.

#55 bwelford

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 09:27 AM

The other factor in all this is that the number of people who are connected on the Internet grows exponentially all the time. Different people are looking for different things. The key question is not how many people may have checked something out and moved on. Rather it is whether a particular vehicle has enough people to fulfill its role.

Here at Cre8asite, some may come for particular bits of knowledge and others may come for conversation. The only question is whether there are enough visitors on whatever frequency they come to allow everyone to achieve their objectives in visiting.

#56 rcjordan

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 02:58 PM

Bill, I'm not looking for a male bonding experience when I go to a photo gallery forum to find out whether EXIF data is written to an XML file or database. Your reply, as well as others here, boils down to "well, if nothing else, it's a great water cooler." With that, I heartily agree.

What forums provide is an intuitive (well, some more than others) and relatively quick way to receive/manage/archive multiple users' thoughts that need to be grouped together along a topic line in order to flourish. Blogs and blog comment streams generally fail in that regard, IMO.

>Could argue that there's that problem with Blogs now as well. And with the way things are going, Facebook like social networks are going the same way. Everyone and their dog...

Exactly, everyone and their dog. But that's only part of the decline, the flip side is that the users now have tools to aggregate many diverse sources into their own personal interest stream.

Those here who know my online personae also know that I am a creature born and bred in the forums. If I'm moving away from them...

#57 cre8pc

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:03 PM

Bill, I'm not looking for a male bonding experience when I go to a photo gallery forum to find out whether EXIF data is written to an XML file or database.


Oh come now! Surely you jest! Don't all men go for the male bonding thing over sports, women, techno gadgets and sports again? :rofl:

(She quips, then ducks out to find a "little nip of booze" to slip into his tea...) ;-)

#58 send2paul

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:18 PM

users now have tools to aggregate many diverse sources into their own personal interest stream

... and you'd be right. But earlier in this discussion I said:

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".

New folks to the internet are not users - they're people. And, they're not aggregating anything into their own personal interest stream.... they really do just want to learn and talk about their stuff.

I have absolutely no data or research to back this up, so if someone does have any information which debunks my very basic principle of where newcomers go to find info on their specialist subjects on the net - place step forward now :)

#59 bwelford

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:24 PM

Well it's different strokes for different folks. If you like to watch fires and see all that action, then that's where you may go. If you like to sit calmly by a lake in the forest and hear the loons, then that's where you'll go.

Each locale has its special characteristics and you wouldn't try to make either of them into the other. Choose which you want. Either way there will be kindred spirits.

#60 rcjordan

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:26 PM

>if that's what you're implying by saying you think that it is one individual controls the tone and atmosphere of a community..... then I've "missed" it

It depends. C8 is a good, long-lasting forum and -from my outside perspective- more 'democratic' than some others. OTOH, I've known of forums that literally thrive on the personality projected by the admin. Surprisingly, ruling a forum with a despotic iron hand seems to work extremely well and really appeals to many of the rank-n-file members.

#61 bwelford

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:28 PM

Surprisingly, ruling a forum with a despotic iron hand seems to work extremely well and really appeals to many of the rank-n-file members.


.. as I said, some folk like to watch fires. :)

#62 send2paul

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:34 PM

.... "Reality TV Forum Watching"....lol..... :)

#63 bragadocchio

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:40 PM

Bill, I'm not looking for a male bonding experience when I go to a photo gallery forum to find out whether EXIF data is written to an XML file or database. Your reply, as well as others here, boils down to "well, if nothing else, it's a great water cooler." With that, I heartily agree.


Nope, that's not what I meant, and not what I said. I am pretty much capable of putting my own words in my own mouth, rc. :)

But there's also nothing wrong with using a forum to build relationships and friendships. Kim and I knew each other online for years before we ever met in person. I've managed to meet a lot of people at conferences whom I've had many discussions with online first.

We're talking about the social web, and the place of forums within that realm. You can diligently search through a forums archives, or you could ask the question, and see if someone answers. A conversation doesn't have to mean sitting around a campfire together singing hymnals, or hanging out at a water cooler sharing gossip.

Instead it could be providing support, engaging in collaborative learing, providing constructive criticism on a design or web site, or sharing fresh perspectives.

Consider a forum more a third place than a water cooler, if you want. A forum may not be home or work, but it may be just as important as either of those.

In many ways, it is a chance for people who share common interests to gather together in spite of the possibliity of great differences in geographic distance or time zones.

There may be one or two people in the State of Delaware whom I could hold conversations with about SEO or internet marketing. In a forum setting, I can do that with people from around the world.

What forums provide is an intuitive (well, some more than others) and relatively quick way to receive/manage/archive multiple users' thoughts that need to be grouped together along a topic line in order to flourish. Blogs and blog comment streams generally fail in that regard, IMO.


Isn't that just one side? Aren't you ignoring the interactive nature of a forums with that statement, where you can introduce ideas and topics, ask people their opinions, explore differences in opinions and approaches? Being social doesn't mean passively (receive, manage, archive) digesting what is in front of you.

#64 storyspinner

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 03:55 PM

(She quips, then ducks out to find a "little nip of booze" to slip into his tea...) wink.gif


There's booze in this forum?!?! *runs after Kim*.... you've been holdin' out on me Kim! LOL

Personally I think there's always ebb and flow with all forms of communication on the internet. Heck I remember when PowWow was the "next" great thing and everyone was moving off of AIM.

Communities no matter what kind, thrive on conversation, if there are people there to have the conversations, it creates a stickiness to keep them coming back. Each community's stickiness factor is different, it could be topic, it cold be geography, it could be style, but if the conversation is there, it usually is the draw to keep people involved.

I find it hard to believe after all this time that Forums and Message boards would die out, if anything they will just evolve like the rest of the web does. :)

#65 rcjordan

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 04:01 PM

From Adrian's first post, emphasis mine:
>especially since chat rooms began to decline in popularity

Chat rooms are still out there (I guess). I see no compelling reason forums, while part of the evolution of social, aren't going the way of chat.

A month or so ago, I was reading an article about real estate property valuations being in decline in many, many markets in the US. At the macro level, there was abundant evidence to back this up. The author pointed out that the problem was that at the individual level no homeowner could accept that his home's value was down 7%.

Adrian was just questioning the value of forums in the social marketplace. At the macro level, I think that forums have seen their best days as prime property.

#66 Adrian

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Posted 20 November 2007 - 06:11 PM

Adrian was just questioning the value of forums in the social marketplace. At the macro level, I think that forums have seen their best days as prime property.


Yep, I was talking very generally, about the broad spectrum of forums, not just this place.
I'd like to think this place will continue to do well for the same reasons it's done well so far, but that's the kind of question I was interested in, can we? Can other forums? if so, what is it that insulates good forums from the changes, and what kind of changes might they, and other forums need to make in order to not just survive, but survive well.

I was quite aware that I wasn't around in the old days before forums picked up, good to hear from Ron that things aren't all that different now, just different systems.

I don't personally think forums are going to disappear, in the same way you can still find chat rooms and newsgroups and things easily enough. But on the whole, I'm wondering if they will ever be as popular as they are/were.

#67 send2paul

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 01:05 AM

...in the same way you can still find chat rooms and newsgroups and things easily enough

Apologies Adrian, (and everyone), for banging on about the simplicity of new folks to the internet and the simplest way to satisfy them, i.e. forums..... but... chat rooms and newsgroups just are not visible in search engines when you go searching for the topic of your choice to find info on? It may be just me, but I never knew such things existed, or how to use them, for quite some time?

Anyway, I think I've beaten that point to death enough :D

#68 Adrian

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 06:41 AM

Hmm, how many people, not just new to the internet, find a forum, get involved, and end up get lambasted by the locals?

If you're lucky enough to find a decent forum, great. Otherwise, your first experience can be fairly bad.

Newsgroups are findable via search engines and Google groups specifically.

'Chat rooms', like the kind MSN and Yahoo used to run (I think they may still run some in the US? but they certainly shut down pretty much everything else a few years ago) were little more than chat up areas, so that's a different kettle of fish. The popularity they had wasn't really much related to supportive communities sharing information on a topic.

But IRC style servers/channels are still pretty strong actually. You're unlikely to get someone new to the internet using something like mIRC, but that doesn't mean it's not popular, or only for the hardcore. Freenode is quite a busy server with lots of channels for computing related topics, ranging from various programming languages and operating systems, to web coding and CMS' and beyond.
Various other IRC server have more of a gaming bent, and are also pretty popular.
It's not difficult to see people interested in any of the topics with active channels finding their way into IRC and seeing what it's like.
It's not for everyone, but it works for a good number of people still.

And anyway, how prevelant are forums in the search engines comapred to the likes of Digg or blogs these days?
If you go searching for information on something, you might find some forum threads about something similar, but you're just as likely to find someone who's written a blog post about how to do what you're trying to do.
In fact, I often find that when I click through to forum threads I find the question I'm asking, but either no answer, or responders have asked for additional information that hasn't been given. So I end up with the situation of knowing other people are asking the question, but still not having an answer.

You don't find good forums via search engine listings. They can't get across what the communities like, and how it suits you. What you find from search engines is something that seems to match your search, which could be on any number of forums. There could be a good forum that you skip by because it doesn't have the answer you were after. Instead maybe you'll find the answer on a forum that you couldn't be a part of, because you don't identify/get on with the community.

#69 earlpearl

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 04:47 PM

I'm of a similar perspective as RC. I'm not sure if this is a recent phenomena but over the last month it seems to me that the quantity of posts on cre8 is slow. I've been by here often and noticed little change in posts over the last 72 hours and few members on the site. I've noticed the same in other forums beyond the largest ones.

Discusssions/community/learning opportunities on seo and usability are dramatically more widespread. I first learned about seo on forums and simply find them less active and less filled with knowledgeable people, and consequently not the only source for this type of information on the web. In my observation they have lost some of their value in this regard due to the proliferation of other sources for this type of information and interaction.

I came to cre8 about 2 years ago as part of a large group of primarily ex seo chat people upon the reccomendation of Randfish. He referenced the quality of information, the quality of people, the expertise, etc. I gratefully acknowledge all of that. It just seems to be slower at this point in time with less input from lots of sources than two years ago.

Coincidentally there is a thread at seorefugee running right now discussing the turn of seomoz in which Rand is participating; http://www.seorefuge...read.php?t=8299 . He referenced that seomoz recieves about 12,000 unique visits/weekday now.

That is an enormous number and seomoz is the exception. Regardless that is a lot of traffic that in older days would have spent more time in forums and is now going elsewhere for its information, assistance, community, etc.

Dave

#70 cre8pc

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 06:00 PM

Dave, I appreciate your remarks. They fit with some of my own observations on the ways to get information.

From our perspective, it's not slow here but that's because we take the forums as a whole, which means we see the posts from all the forums, not just the SEO oriented ones, as well as After Hours, Introductions, and the ever present spammers that stop, drop and run.

There's indeed a core group and occasionally a new person joins and immediately is at ease and participates as if they've been here for years. We try to encourage them to keep that up because when we have a need for new moderators, we look from inside our own Community first, rather than outside.

I've noticed a lot of new people at Sphinn, who are trying to "break in" and their writings remind me of some beginners who come here. You can tell they have a lot to learn, and at Sphinn, sometimes they try to sound expert, and they're not. We get that kind of writing here too, and usually we delete it because these people are link dropping and doing self promo. We're not Sphinn and not here to spotlight anyone.

Which makes me wonder about motivation. For forums, you may need help and may make some friends by asking for it, or by offering help. Here, only the regulars seem to be consistent in helping anyone. Someone with an agenda will not stay here, but will find a place like Sphinn a better fit because there, it's all about promotion of your's or someone's thing.

So social media is for a "look at me" mission and forums are "I need help" and "I can help you" mission. They both deliver information and community but you have to decide if the information is credible, no matter which way you get it.

I was surprised that today, of all days, when in the USA there's a huge number of people traveling and taking some downtime, a whole slew of "I need help" questions came pouring into the forums from new people. The responses are slow in coming to them because so many people aren't online.

This is the perfect time for other people to jump in and start helping out, to get the answers to people first before the "know it all's" do it :) I think once someone gives an answer, and it sounds good, nobody else contributes and its a done deal. Sometimes, good discussions start when someone questions the answers given.

It's something I think about...trying to make people feel comfortable enough to contribute. Forums can be intimidating.



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