Are forums still relevant nowadays?

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by VICE, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. VICE

    VICE tool

    2,716
    352
    +685
    How many forums have you joined this year? How many have you been active in? I'm not going to say I'm surprised if the answers for both is; none. I used to browse WHT and LET regularly but when I came to the realization that no one is going to beat OVH anytime soon, the reason to visit them become less and less clear for me. Paradoxically, as horrendous as Reddit interface can be - with such design that only its mother can love - I am slowly but surely drawn into it and the reason is so obviously simple; everyone is there.

    Finding the reason to visit a forum nowadays is perhaps a more difficult task than unifying General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
     
  2. Tracy Perry

    Tracy Perry Opinionated ass-hat

    4,490
    412
    +3,026
    Joined 3 within the last 1 1/2 months that involved stuff I'm interested in. Looked at equivalent FaceBook groups and none of them really interested me as finding pertinent data on them is MORE convoluted than on a forum - at least to me.
    I have yet to find any FB group/page that is better at presentation of data/information than a forum is.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Informative! Informative! x 1
    • List
  3. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

    28,260
    1,822
    +5,161
    Personally, I don't believe I've joined any forums this year. Depending on what you consider active (How much you post? How often you visit?) I'd say I'm active on, at most, 5 forums.
    The internet in general and social media including forums are in transition - what we see now is quite different from how things were 10 or twenty years ago. And it's probably safe to assume that things will be very different again in another 10 or twenty years (Will XenForo 3.x kill Facebook?).

    One day they'll be teaching unified General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics in high school.

    I think the biggest mistake we make as forum admins is lumping all forums together in a group (Are forums still relevant?) and all the rest of social media into another group (Will Facebook kill forums?) and pitting them against each other. We think we understand why more people use facebook and less use forums today (Easier registration? Easier to share images?), but isn't it all speculation? Has anyone mined the available data to see *exactly* what's driving the current trends?
     
  4. VICE

    VICE tool

    2,716
    352
    +685
    The one thing that both characterize and unify all these social media together is their primary function as one-stop solution for everyone. That is at least what I felt from my experience on YouTube and Reddit - the only two social media websites I actively used. The super convenience of centralized one-size-fit-all solution is absolutely undeniable.

    I don't need to go anywhere else away from Reddit to find topics that I am interested in whereas decentralize solution like forums are scattered everywhere on the internet, each with its own level of quirks and professionalism depending on the admins running them.

    At a click of mouse, I can find the right Subreddit and post my Epistemological rant - a feat that is impossible to do on TAZ without looking out of place.
     
  5. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Tazmanian

    4,844
    397
    +1,815
    I joined one.
    And it uses Discourse.
    Some cool features, but the same chit chat banter, accomplishing nothing
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Informative! Informative! x 1
    • List
  6. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

    28,260
    1,822
    +5,161
    Perhaps it's something to do with the personalities of forum admins, but it seems that whenever there's a question about user behavior we always look first to the software. Isn't user behavior something hardwired into the users themselves and not the software that powers the venues they visit?
     
  7. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

    734
    367
    +535
    The relevance of anything is always driven by who uses it and in what volume. FB is popular because everyone that everyone knows (almost) uses it, so that's where people will gather. Forums are antiquated in the mindset of today's youth, but that doesn't imply that they have had their day; most trends tend to be circular and what was once popular that isn't now often becomes popular again.

    There is the dumbed down factor to take into consideration too - people are generally inherently lazy and the more they have done for them so they don't have to do it, the more they like it. An example of this is the recent article concerning diet and foods being blamed for obesity, but when the facts are examined we are actually consuming less calories than we did ten years ago, but we are more lazy and don't exercise enough; being stuck in front of screens all day being the spanner in the works.

    It's always about trends and what's cool and what's old hat; people are strange animals and they tend to herd together - like lemmings falling off a cliff, one does it so they all do it. Social Media (in whatever form) has been at the root of the decline in interest in forums, but try telling the herd that forums are more interesting, more substantial and more relevant than the banal crap posted on SM and they will just moo and scuttle off to another part of the field.

    As for me joining and participating in forums, only TAZ and very infrequently over on IPS and XF when the need requires. BTW I don't use FB or any other SM sites - I can't bring myself to be dumbed down lol.

    ;)
     
  8. VICE

    VICE tool

    2,716
    352
    +685
    The data for users behavior are pretty clear though; convenience and short attention span. Think I saw this on Vox, the literal abundance of information available forced these behaviors.
     
  9. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

    28,260
    1,822
    +5,161
    This is the common wisdom - what we speculate to be the reasons. But is this really the case?

    Maybe Facebook is so popular because people have their own Facebook page, and are in a sense the admin of that page. Could it be a "me" thing? An ego thing? A control thing?
     
  10. VICE

    VICE tool

    2,716
    352
    +685
    I've seen this sentiment said by so many forum admins but I seriously doubt its validity. If anything, it sounds too ideological instead of factual. I don't believe people nowadays are more dumb-down than older generations. Case in point; lemmings don't actually commit suicide en masse by falling off a cliff - that's a Hollywood myth. If anything, the "looking for convenience solution" and "short attention span" behaviors are probably the result of over abundance information available in our modern era, making it harder for anyone to allocate times to discern sources of information appropriately i.e. read the news headline but not the content.
     
  11. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

    734
    367
    +535
    There is that factor to consider - the narcissism that oozes from people with the 'me, me, me' trend (first, last and always). But FB is so dumbed down that it encourages people to post crap such as 'this is a photo of me having breakfast' - who cares? The other people on FB do who will go on to 'like' the post or comment with trite replies such as 'your bacon looks lush'.

    It makes my skin crawl to think that people believe these banal posts to be relevant, trendy and cool. Maybe it's my age, but I don't believe that I was that dumb when I was younger - in fact I used forums back then and loved the in-depth conversations on meaty subjects, taking in arguments and counter-arguments and then looking for some middle ground that could shed a little more light on the topics being discussed.

    ;)
     
  12. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

    734
    367
    +535
    Please give a reason why you think this line of thought is invalid? FB is booming, forums are not!

    The short attention span gives credence to the dumbed-down aspect; time is relevant a minute is still a minute, it's the perception of time that has changed; everything nowadays is hurry up, hurry up, no time to waste. It's slowing down and taking the moment and gleaning all you can from it that makes us more perceptive and astute. If everything is glossed over and no attention is paid to detail then the obvious outcome is a decline.

    As for the Lemmings quote, that is a metaphor and should be taken as such, rather than literally.

    ;)
     
  13. VICE

    VICE tool

    2,716
    352
    +685
    Exactly! The abundance of information forced this behavior. There is only so much times you have to process everything. First you have radio, then tv, and then the internet - as humanity progress, the time we have to absorb all available information is becoming lesser and lesser. Doesn't mean we're more dumb-down than before, otherwise you wouldn't see science and technology progress.

    Facebook caters to the need of this era, the old traditional forums doesn't. This era demand a fast paced information-absorption solution and if you can't adapt to the zeitgeist, you'll eventually be left behind.
     
  14. insaneadmin

    insaneadmin Enthusiast

    222
    140
    +197
    Do you think it's an age thing? Youngsters who would have joined forums are now glued to social media and are used to the immediate interactions that come with it. Older users who have grown up with the advent and evolving of them will be more inclined to use and seek them out. Just look at Google Trends and compare a '[topic] facebook' to a '[topic] forum' and see how the former typically trounces the latter.

    Throw YouTube into the mix and grabbing the attention that could be done before is even more difficult.

    Forums still have a place, don't get me wrong on that. But they need to fight for it more these days.
     
  15. Maddox

    Maddox Moderator

    734
    367
    +535
    But we are talking about your average internet user, not scientists, developers, entrepreneurs, etc. And still time is relevant, we have as much time today in a day as we did ten years ago; ten years ago we had TV, Internet, Radio, etc. but we still managed to converse. It's people who decide what's relevant and if they want to dip in and out quickly that's a choice they make. I don't use FB, I have used it, but it's terrible how much time is wasted on trite and banal exchanges; that time could be put to better use and used to discover and explore, but that's too difficult and hey everyone else is doing it so I may as well too. Once again my metaphor about lemmings comes into play.

    Every single day we make choices on how to allocate our time, there is no pressure (other than peer pressure) to hurry along. I would rather spend some time debating this issue with you than go post a picture of me making a sand castle and expecting everyone on FB to go 'ohhh', 'ahhh', like, like - and commenting such as 'oh I built one like that last year when we went to Tenerife' and end up being distraught if no one commented. This is where conversation has been dumbed down.

    OK we live in a different era before the likes of FB arrived on the scene, but people have been spoon fed this ideology that it's OK to look dumb and act dumb because that's the way it is moving people along and the frightening factor is that it is working. Take a closer look at the content on FB, it's meaningless. It has also taken people away from worthwhile study and conversation; a huge proportion of people on FB can't even spell or string a sentence together in a logical fashion. And the language! It's enough to make a dock worker blush. If that's not dumbed down, then I'd like to know what is.

    ;)
     
  16. MarkFL

    MarkFL La Villa Strangiato

    776
    382
    +960
    I think forums have declined in popularity more in relative than absolute terms. Overall, forums are less relevant primarily because the base of users has changed to now include the far less savvy masses squawking out 5 words at a time on their mobile devices. When the internet was primarily made up of people using actual computers who knew how to navigate UIs, and for whom the Herculean task of site registration was no big deal, forums were the perfect venue for discussion.

    For those interested in gaining in-depth knowledge about subjects of interest that may require an environment capable of presenting more than plain text, and discussing these subjects with other like-minded folks, I think forums are still relevant. For the majority, primarily interested in socializing rather than learning and helping others learn, forums have lost their relevance because SM now meets their needs.
     
  17. darnoldy

    darnoldy Curmudgeon

    1,662
    782
    +416
    People are not (generally) only interested in one topic. 30 years ago, CompuServe had a mechanism to allow users to easily find and join a forum on a topic that interested them—and to check for new messages on those forums. Facebook, Reddit, G+, LinkedIn. and Discourse all provide a similar functionality (though not, IMNSHO, as good).

    In theory, a large-enough forum collective could compete well with the established SM sites...but the issues (especially for existing forum owners) are: who owns the content, who gets how much of the revenue, and who gets to exert quality control. In my experience, too many of current forum owners would rather run a stand-alone forum on a subsistence level than surrender any control to someone else, even if that leads to a more-successful forum.
     
  18. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

    28,260
    1,822
    +5,161
    Logistics aside, how do you envision such a "forum collective"?
     
  19. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    5,687
    1,212
    +4,099
    I've only joined one this year but I'm still active on quite a number.

    There's actually very little published data that I can find as far as forums are concerned which I find slightly worrying as it suggests forums are not generally considered important enough to data mine and what little data there is usually sits behind a pay-wall. I think established forums still get as much traffic as they ever did but it seems almost impossible to convert that traffic into meaningful activity.

    I think in the main it's just another way for people to connect and express themselves. While it's not for me I appreciate its power and why it's used so extensively. It allows people, family members, friends etc to connect in a way that's never been possible before. It's often said that the content is frivolous compared to forums but then so are most face to face conversations.

    One thing I keep reading is that young people today have no patience and want everything served on a plate. Well it's true and it's always been true but the problem isn't young people, it's old people holding them back that's the issue. Just because we can't keep up it doesn't mean they have to slow down.


    [EDIT] Reading that back it's a bit of a ramble but I have man-flu as an excuse :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  20. billgtr

    billgtr Aspirant

    35
    13
    +29
    I haven't joined a forum in years but mostly because mine is busy enough to take up most of my time, along with my work, band and other hobbies. I do have almost 30k posts on my own forum though so I do use quite a bit, but that leaves me little time to join others. I do lurk on several other forums though.
     
Verification:
Draft saved Draft deleted