6 Things Classic Forums should lose to move ahead

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by Gosu, Aug 26, 2017.

  1. Gosu

    Gosu Aspirant

    Today I am going to write a few things that I believe are holding the forum platform behind. This goes for all types of niches. I will compare forums like vbulletin to "forums" like Reddit and Quora and why they are successful. You can obviously disagree, in which case I'd love to see your thoughts. :)

    1. Appealing to the New Audience
    I assume a lot of you are like me, using bulletin boards since the early 2000s with the classic forums. But the web has changed so much over the years and so have the users. The younger crowd has not seen forums of those old days, there are barely many forums out there. Every search result you get is either an answer from a Blog or a Community site like Yahoo Answers, Quora, StackOverflow. I think we might be the old grandpa when it comes to forums. Nothing wrong with being old, but you know when you are old, you look outside and you realize most people you know are DEAD. Our forums are like an old grandpa, we look outside and most of the forum websites you knew have died.

    How do we appeal to the new audience?
    I used to play this one game religiously back in 2014, I was on their forums and interacted with their Youtubers every day. This was a very active community for this small game. A lot of their users had a PlayStation platform so the way they interacted was through Youtube. They had made Youtube like their forums. These were all teenagers / adults ranging from 16 - 24 years old. I got in touch with one of their biggest YouTubers and asked him why he wasn't using the official forums to share his knowledge. His answer almost shocked me, he said

    "I do not know how to use the forums, I find them cluttered and difficult to use. I like twitter."

    After giving it a second thought I realized he has probably never had an interaction on forums and he is not tech savvy, from his perspective that might be not as bad as it seems.

    So why did he choose platforms like twitter and Youtube over classic forums? I believe it is because on these websites they can just signup and they can just start posting immediately.

    2. Notifications
    One of the reasons why anyone makes a post or thread is to get a reaction or help others. But how we know that what you posted has done that? Notifications. Notifications are one of the best things of social media and all forums should have it. Taz already implemented it very well, which is why I like this site.

    3. Quality Reply Algorithms
    Why does anyone use stackoverflow or quora? It's because they promote quality over quantity. Exactly why they rank high in google as well. Quality replies are rewarded and pushed up while the lower quality ones are pushed down. I am in process of working on a proprietory forum project with a similar feature I will hopefully release by the end of this year.

    4. Respect ma Authorita / Abusive Staff

    I see some forums with abusive admins who love to punish users and act like a Nazi to feel like a big boy. I feel these forum owners are just school bullies, no one likes a school bully. When you are an owner of a forum, be nice to your users.

    It all comes down to one single person having to much power and authority to control the website. Sorry for mentioning StackOverflow again, but these websites are owned by corporations they cannot afford to behave in such manner.

    What I'm saying is if you are the owner of a forum, act professional no need to ban the member because you had a fight with your wife earlier.

    5. Reward but don't punish
    Have you ever seen facebook blacklist you because you made a stupid post on the website? I've seen people post literally photos of burned corpses on Facebook and still not banned.

    Have you seen a negative reputation system on these big websites, where if you post something wrong, you get a negative rating on a post. You probably haven't, because we are humans and humans make mistakes. There are a lot of forums which provide negative rating systems which discourage the user from posting and some allow VIP members to negative rep.

    What this does is when a user creates as thread he will either think

    "What if my post is not liked by these people and they start negative repping me? Oh leave it I'll just not post. "

    The internet is different, you have a lot of different kind of people interacting with each other, unlike real life. In real life you mostly only interact with people you know. But on the internet you might be interacting with people with social anxiety issues, abuse victims, bullied victims, handicap, people with a lot of problems in general. I once made a joke about strippers on a forum, and found out, one of the most active person there was an actual stripper and she felt the joke was in bad taste.

    If most of these people had a social life they would not be on a forum. Of course, not everyone has these issues but I would say a lot.

    You need to make sure your system in no way harms these people in a negative way. Which is where it all comes down to point 4. Good admin bad admin. Social media has a lot of cyber bullying cases. But I think forums easily control this if you have a good admin.

    6. Rank Color system
    Forum ranks, in my opinion, are old and should go. Ranks represent different authority. I mean it's ok to specify who is the Administrator or a moderator so members can contact you, but having different colors on names, stars, etc in every part of the website may discourage people from posting.

    It creates an unspoken discrimination feeling for new members, saying hey you aren't worth it unless you are of this rank color (racism pun intended).

    That's about all I think as far as the classic forum system is concerned. People find the forum layout structure difficult to understand, but I think its a great layout and helps to organize topics properly.
    Feel free to post any opinions and thoughts. :)
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  2. Maxxamillion

    Maxxamillion Gaming Geek

    You kinda have ranks on YouTube, twitch and twitter though, with partners, verified people, sponsors etc, which have access to different options on the sites. I don't think a rank system is a problem in my honest opinion.

    But we do need to adapt somehow.
  3. insaneadmin

    insaneadmin Enthusiast

    Good post with some points worth thinking about even if they are mostly common sense.
  4. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

    Of course there is negative reputations or downvotes on popular sites. Quora, StackExchange, Reddit all have downvotes. Even Facebook lets you hide and flag content negatively. Content from such users is made invisible or less visible. Facebook is about the worst example of quality over quantity. Facebook is the king of quantity. If it would have downvotes that would change.
    Quality over quantity implies that a users content quality is rated and that low quality content is discouraged and minimized in visibility.
  5. cheat_master30

    cheat_master30 Moderator

    Interesting thoughts. However, a few criticisms:

    3. Don't see this much on social media. It's certainly the case of Stackoverflow yes, but Twitter is just whatever random crap is newest coming up nearer the top. They did try and 'fix' this with a 'quality filter', but most people prefer to turn it off.

    4. This is not exclusive to forums, and seems to be a problem with a surprisingly large amount of popular social sites. For example, Reddit is filled with subreddits run by power mad nutcases, some of which use bots to ban people who disagree with them on political subjects (by checking if they're posting in a political sub they don't agree with and auto banning as a response).

    It's certainly not a good thing for any site, but unfortunately it hasn't quite killed the likes of Reddit yet.

    5. I've seen plenty of people banned for unfair reasons by large social media sites. Again, Reddit has a huge issue here (it basically popularised the whole upvote/downvote setup), and Twitter arguably has it even worse. There you don't get banned for breaking the rules, you seemingly get banned from breaking the rules while holding different beliefs to the founders.

    As Twitter, Reddit and perhaps YouTube have shown, quite a few large social media sites have exactly these things and seem to be doing at least okay on a traffic level.
  6. Sal Collaziano

    Sal Collaziano Womanizer

    I think forums need connectivity to one another. What makes these large social networks so great is that they're always busy - because they cover every topic imaginable. If our forums were interconnected and my Buick site was connected to somebody's Art site which was connected to somebody's Science site - and the user could easily switch back and forth through "topics" (forums) seamlessly like they were on the same site / in the same social network - THEN - forums would spark back to life.
  7. Anton Chigurh

    Anton Chigurh Ultimate Badass

    So in short, make sure it's essentially anarchy, with nothing even hinting at "authoritarianism?" Forum ranks are "triggers?" Really? Way too touchy-feely.

    I've never banned anyone, any time or anywhere on any of my sites (other than obvious spammers) but that's because the sites have good rules and attract people who post responsibly. Which takes me to my next point:

    But the basic thing really is, there's actually very few of the "new audience" you'd want around. They have very little of quality to add, judging by all the garbage that exists on social media. They typically ARE way too touchy-feely and thin-skinned, and whiners by trade, professional victims, and seldom post anything resembling intelligent thought. The types who would stay around and actually post on forums would be the rare exception to the masses we see out there on SM.

    I don't try to draw people to my sites from SM for that very reason. I don't concern myself over the "new audience" that much, and also never really worried about anyone's scurrilous definition of "moving ahead."
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  8. cheat_master30

    cheat_master30 Moderator

    Exactly. It's the idea behind my decentralised Reddit alternative. A system where you can log in once and access thousands of forums right off the bat, complete with notifications being shared across all of them:


    Unfortunately, I don't know anyone with the skills to make it, nor do I know where to begin here, so the chances of it getting done are slim.
  9. Sal Collaziano

    Sal Collaziano Womanizer

    I imagine it wouldn't be an easy endeavor but I could definitely picture a main Facebook feed - whatever they call it - activity stream - I don't know - whatever that main feed on Facebook is --- it would be forum posts for all the connected forums. Of course, like on Facebook, you'd need to follow (register) pages (forums) for their threads/discussions to appear in your main feed.
  10. Sal Collaziano

    Sal Collaziano Womanizer

    You could reply right in the main feed and others would see your reply and be able to reply to it - right there if they choose. Or, they could visit the discussion outside the main feed in the actual forum if they want to - and participate there...
  11. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

    Very good post. There are some good points here though I don't agree with everything you've said.

    In reverse order:
    Point 6 & 5
    I completely agree. I've always hated ranking and reputation systems. I'd add post count and join date to that too.They promote a false sense of elitism and encourage gaming the site. Every thread and every post should be read and considered on it's own merit, regardless of who wrote it, how popular they are or how long they've been around. I do, however, think xf's "like" system is good because it allows you to quickly identify content that you think is good, even if you might not agree with everything the poster says.

    Point 4
    This is also something I firmly believe: the biggest detriment to today's forums is the people who run them.

    Point 3
    I don't know that we need a gadget for this. We need better forum standards. See Point 4 above.

    Point 2
    We already have that (example: XF's Alert system) I don't want anything outside of the forum. People are already bombarde by nofications, most of which they ignore or turn off.

    Point 1
    I couldn't disagree more with this. I'm not selling soap. I don't need to "attract" a new audience. I want members who come to my forum because they are invested enough in the subject to find it. I'd rather have half a dozen new members who discovered the site after searching through a few dozen others in search of information. I know those members will stick around and contribute to the community.
  12. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Moderator

    You have a few issues with this. The first is security it needs to be protected for all sorts of attacks. Second permissions how do you know what permissions some one has on a site. You will need a plugin that transmit login info to a central database after that you'll need a plugin that access the central database so you can use the login info on other sites. Like i said database security and permissions are the most problematic.
  13. Alex.

    Alex. The Ancient Dragon

    I like minimalist ranks. Text ranks usually require you to look up the requirements for said rank.
  14. Zero Numbers

    Zero Numbers Adherent

    I made thread some time ago that touched on this. It was about the difference between social media and an online forum.

    I don't see how that would spark forums back to life or solve the troubles of the decline in forum activity.
  15. Yappi

    Yappi Enthusiast

    One thing to remember is that on social media, you have to be followed by people before they see your stuff. On forums, everyone follows you until they block you. That is why it is important for Admins to ban people from time to time because they have the ability to reach every member of your forum with one post.

    That is one of the selling points that forums rarely take advantage. From day one, your post has just as much a chance to be seen as the most popular poster on your site. Compare that to the social media stars with millions of followers.
  16. cheat_master30

    cheat_master30 Moderator

    I never said it wasn't a hard problem. It's one of those systems which would need a lot of complicated code written for it, and which probably wouldn't be easily monetised (since the participating sites get the ad revenue).

    But it's probably the best solution there is if you wanted to make forums viable competitors to large social media sites. Or for that matter, to make smaller social media sites viable competitors for larger social media sites.

    That's a good point. Seems like something we should definitely promote, especially in a world where it feels the rich and popular get a better deal on almost every service.
  17. Elliot02

    Elliot02 Aspirant

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