Facebook or Forums?

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by Matt M, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    I'm all for giving users what they need, but this sort of shotgun approach doesn't appeal to me. I don't want to throw things at my forum, hoping that some of the users might use them.

    Most people are like us, they turn off most or all push notifications because there are just too many. And most notifications don't provide the information needed to decide if you should act on them, so they end up just being more noise we can all do without. Why would we want our forums to add to that noise?

    What users want and like changes constantly. I don't think you can ever get ahead by chasing whatever technology or feature is the darling of the day. Behind all of it is the true need: people wanting to communicate, to discuss things, with other like-minded people. Providing good content and a good environment in which to have those discussions will always be of top importance.
     
  2. haqzore

    haqzore Habitué

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    I don't want that either. I just want forums to keep up with standards.
    Push notifications aren't a "shotgun approach", they're an expected standard now.

    Do you know "most people" are like us? Or is it a bit of confirmation bias based on your experience?
    Not being confrontational, just curious. People have vastly different digital setups & consumption preferences. I have no idea what "most" think of push notifications.
    And no... I don't want to be part of noise. I want to keep up with standard expectations in 2019.

    Agree. I'm not a fan of chasing whims. Push notifications are not whims.
     
  3. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    Giving the user the option is hardly a shotgun approach if you're testing how it's used, but I get what you're saying with your philosophy, and I can get behind that to a degree. What data are you using to show that most people turn off push notifications? You're pretty lucky if that's the case with your niche. Most people I know that are on FB or IG have push notifications enabled. I'm one of the few who don't. Most of the people I've talked to who are active on our forum (or used to be) and are also now active on FB have push notifications turned on for FB - many of them ask if we will be building an app so that they can have push notifications for our forum. These are users who have contributed quality content over the years. I've made it a point to ask them these questions.

    I agree with this statement. But when you're competing against other communities who are striving to offer those same things, and they have technology that allows them to re-engage their users with their community quicker, it can put your community at a heavy disadvantage. Speedy responses are becoming more and more expected. Not all niches will be the same in this regard though, I get that. This is just what I've found to be true in the niches I work in.
     
  4. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    Good question. I think it is safe to say that we, as forum admins, are also forum users, so we are part of most people. Also, if you follow the usability profession, push notifications have been an issue for quite a while. Surveys and testing have shown that many (you are right to question my use of 'most') users have become so inundated with notifications to the point they either ignore them or turn them off. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the main issues is that a lot of notifications don't provide information to help users make a decision to act on them, making them even less useful.

    You've mentioned push notifications being a standard a couple of times. Are they really a standard, or are they simply a feature that these platforms adopted? Standards generally are based on criteria that come out of research and study of a known issue. I'm not sure notifications qualify, which is why I see them more as a trend or fad. That's not to say they don't fill a need, I'm just unclear about what exactly that need is and if push notifications are the right answer.

    I appreciate this position. However, I'm not sure the cause and effect of this argument results in the best outcome. It's a given that users want what they want as instantly as possible. Based on that, it seems obvious that anything which can speed up the process is good. So, push notifications are a no-brainer.

    Let's take a moment to examine that a little closer. Are speedy responses really that desirable for a forum? Do we want more members skimming a thread and dashing off a quick sentence while they are in line at a coffee shop? Is that the best outcome for our forums? For me, the answer is no. I want members to come to my forum when they are ready to spend the time to read, think, and then respond to what's been written. I don't want them to feel pressured into giving a short, unclear response because of some notice that pops up on their phone. There are cases when slowing something down, making it more difficult, results in a better outcome. I think that a forum is one of those cases. I know I'm willing to accept having fewer users, if it means building better content.
     
  5. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    Maybe what I should have said is that people want a "quick response time". A fast response to a posted question that sufficiently answers the question and solves the problem is a desirable outcome in a forum and any other community type. Do forum owners want to ensure these answers are well thought out and detailed? Sure. But I was referring more to the elapsed time of a response, not the length or effort put into the reply. I want quality posts, but in order to ensure the community thrives, I also need to ensure people get relatively quick responses to their threads with good content.

    Though I can appreciate what you mean when you say sometimes making something difficult results in a better outcome, I don't agree with it when it comes to user experience in a community. I think user interface should be as easy to use as possible, no matter what the platform. I don't think that just because it's harder to use you'll get better quality. Having fewer users might work for some communities but that also works against a community's perceived value. If a user thinks they are going to have to wait days to get a reply because hardly anyone uses the forum in question, they will likely move on to another place where they think more people will reply, regardless of the quality of that forum. I've had forum users actually tell me that. It's akin to product quality vs cost - the masses want it cheap with quality that is just good enough.

    Again, this might just apply to the niches I work in.
     
  6. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    You raise a good point. When we are talking about support type forums, be they official company ones or hobbyist, it is important to answer questions or at least begin the resolution process quickly. I can see making a use case for push notifications as part of that process, depending on how they are used.

    I wasn't talking about making the forum UI more difficult, or making forums harder to use. I was talking about slowing down the process of reading and replying within the forum to facilitate better discussion. It seems unintuitive and goes against everything we've been told about making our sites faster and easier for users, but faster isn't always better. We can look at an analogy from motor racing. Race drivers often say slowing down is the fastest way around a race track, because it gives them time to set up each corner to the best advantage. With the exception of those support type forums mentioned, many forums can benefit from a slower pace that gives users time to read and think about what's been written, so they can provide a more thoughtful response. That results in better value for all users.

    I agree this is a perception some have. I also reject it, because it is a perception that comes from the social media experience which some users want to apply to everything. In the real world of business communication, timeliness is a very real pressure. There is a constant struggle for writers to meet tight deadlines while still providing quality content, resulting in a juggling act between "good" and "good enough".

    With very few exceptions, our forums don't exist in that world. The pressures to provide instant answers and to constantly engage users are self-induced. Certainly users will threaten to go to other forums or platforms if they don't receive timely responses. So what? It's naive to think they aren't also going to those other sources regardless. It is like product quality vs cost. Everyone says they want something "quick and dirty" until they get it. Quality always comes at a cost.

    Forums have, historically, been a place for long-form, in-depth, discussion and analysis of a subject. Sometimes it does take several days before a forum post gets a response and sometimes discussions will carry on for several months. I think there is still a need for such a place and an audience for it. Current social media platforms do not provide that and don't seem inclined in that direction, and a certain portion of users are content with what those platforms offer. While I agree there is much that can be improved in forum software, I don't agree that we should be looking to the instant gratification scene for inspiration.
     
  7. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

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    I don't think speedy responses equate to low quality responses. Speed to contact is a measure of timeliness, the other is a measure of quality.

    You can still have long form discussion in a rapidly moving environment, I'm not sure why you automatically lump fast responses to low quality responses.

    Users demand a high speed to contact in today's day and age. You can go onto Google with most common questions, and Google will provide the answers then and there (!).
     
  8. Ludachris

    Ludachris Aspirant

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    I can appreciate that. Though as much as I would like to reject the perception that forums with low (or greatly reduced) activity are less valuable, I know some very influential people in our niche who feel this way - and it's not because they love social media. They feel that if people are viewing and not participating very much, which seems to be a trend in forums these days, that it's not a community anymore, it's a resource. And even if the owner doesn't let it die, it becomes quite a bit less valuable. The thought is that a community needs a critical mass in order to sustain itself and continue to offer value on a level that will keep people coming back and participating. It's difficult for me to disagree with that logic based on what I've seen in online communities over the past 20 years.

    Sometimes perception overrules reality and creates a narrative that becomes extremely difficult to reverse, even with influencers and brand ambassadors talking up the forum.

    Good discussion Nev. We might not agree on a couple things but I can respect your perspective.
     
  9. haqzore

    haqzore Habitué

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    Was about to post exactly this.

    Push Notifications & low quality content is not a causation relationship.
     
  10. gogoblender

    gogoblender shiny happy pantless

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    We have family all over the world, for that alone FB is priceless
    but for deep chatting about anything serious ?
    Forums first
    :)

    gogo
     
  11. MagicalAzareal

    MagicalAzareal Magical Developer

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    I love the points going back and forth here.

    I don't think it equates to low quality content, but it certainly might amp up the pressure to deliver something quickly, as opposed to poring through content from throughout the day (or from the past hour) and thoughtfully taking the time to write high quality responses to it all.

    It's one of those things which people may need to adapt to in our fast moving world, and maybe, occasionally self-imposed push mutes of sorts may be helpful so that people aren't overloaded with data as much.

    I myself will sometimes step away from forums for days or even weeks at a time, simply because the sheer influx of events can get overwhelming and end up distracting me from the things that really matter.

    This is before even getting to mobile where someone can buzz you 24/7 lol
     
  12. Ash

    Ash Participant

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    Facebook is great for friends & family and keeping in touch with them. Personally, I've never ever debating anything on my Facebook and there are some topics that you don't want to get involved in because of the people that you know that might see them. Forums are so much more private and gives you the freedom to discuss what you want.
     
  13. Erin Nicole

    Erin Nicole Habitué

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    Personally, This is my process with websites:
    1. Forums + Social Media but Forums (even owning my own) were my first priority.
    2. Social Media only.
    3. Now I’m back to Forums + Social Media.
    I feel like this is the way a lot of people will go because Social Media has become over saturated. Personally, I’m looking to come back to Forums because I see the same (or similar) posts all of the time on FB (don’t use Twitter much but may get back into it) and it is getting very annoying. The way FB does their pages are backwards and it is very annoying.

    Depending on how well my blog goes and if I get the motivation, I may start my own forums again on the military as I found some online but they seem to focus mainly on the news rather than on the soldier and his/her family. Being a milso (short for military spouse) I’d love an alternate place to go to get advice, rant, and meet people.
     
  14. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    I'm not saying fast responses equals low quality responses. What I've said is that taking the time to thoroughly read and understand what's been presented, then formulate a considered and rational response can benefit from a slower pace. The concept behind push notifications is antithetical to that slower pace.

    You can argue that push notifications do not force anyone to jump in and answer immediately, and for some people, that is true. It's also true that some people can hear the tone indicating they've just received a call or text message and not feel compelled to immediately check it. However, those things are designed to call for instant attention and I think it's pretty clear the majority of people that call.

    I've also agreed there are cases where push notifications for forums could be useful, such as a support forum, when you want to ensure speed to contact (not the same as a fast response), so the user knows their question is being looked at. The challenge there is to be able to tailor the notifications to provide useful information to the user. Otherwise, it's just another red flag in a sea of red flags.

    Users have always demanded instant responses and instant accesses, very often without valid reasons. The trick is recognizing the difference between what they want, what they demand, and what they need.

    Google can only find what has already been created. That isn't the same as expecting a fast response to every thought on a topic. And speaking of Google, I think most of us have heard of, or know someone who has been traumatized because they chose the instant answer from Doctor Google, over making a medical appointment.

    Note: I know it's been several days since I responded to this thread. Just to clarify, that wasn't done for effect. It was a long weekend here and I took a mini holiday from all this internet stuff. :)
     
  15. R0binHood

    R0binHood Habitué

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    Push has been really popular with BST sections on some forums I visit. Subscribe the relevant BST forum and you get first dibs on the best deals. Items are selling so much faster with push.
     
  16. Zero Numbers

    Zero Numbers Adherent

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    This topic has been done to death. It's like arguing if the Earth is flat or round.
     
  17. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    I disagree. In the case of flat vs spherical Earth, we have objective, scientific proof to show spherical is correct and flat is wrong. We have no such evidence with the other problem. We know many people have moved to using facebook over forums, even though it doesn't appear to be a better platform for forum type discussions. Because we don't understand why those people make that choice, we discuss the differences and features of the social media platform, in hopes of finding answers.
     
  18. overcast

    overcast Enthusiast

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    I think the opinion for normal public and the owner of forums would be lot different. people can prefer to be on forums or discard it completely. It's hard to gauge all of this based on any random data.
     
  19. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    I agree. However, people make specific choices for specific reasons, even if they seem arbitrary. It's worth trying to suss out those reasons, which may help forums in the long run.
     
  20. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

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    Another dimension that I think is important is the device size. Forums grew up in the era of desktop. Social media grew up in the era of smartphones.

    Smartphones have less room, which lends itself to short form communication. Smartphones are also the dominant form of device for modern communication.

    If you want to slow down your communication and you have a desktop era audience, then you're a good match. But I don't think community platforms necessarily need to keep itself oriented to desktop when, if anything, the default device nowadays is a smartphone. This is just a general observation, and not to be construed as a support shallow of or trivial responses. But it is hopefully a wake-up call to forum solutions that their default design and interface should be designed for mobile first now, desktop second.
     
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