Discussion in 'XenForo' started by Freelancer, Oct 9, 2017.
actually i did because xf was what vb4 was suppose to be
Tell that to snapchat. Facebook copied stories (and a ton of other features), made them better, and more people now use those features in the facebook ecosystem.
It will fail because it's incredibly difficult to get enough users to join new networks these days, all the big networks have cut off access to their social graphs, making it magnitudes harder for users to get their friends to sign up and join them on competing services.
There's an interesting quote in that first article I linked, which I feel is quite relevant
It's true that in many communities users are generating and wanting to share more and more pictures and video. The big apps make this a piece of cake and forums as a whole haven't quite managed to figure out how to make the experience of doing so as frictionless yet.
Why must forums make it so frictionless to share photos?
I don't join forums to have social feed content shoved at me, I join forums for discussions.
Because for a lot of communities people want to share photos and video to spark discussion around it.
This could be photos and video from events, how to's, tutorials, creative content they've generated, there's all sorts of reasons people want to share photos and video in addition to creating text based threads these days.
I believe that we will stay on XF 1.5 for at least another year or two.
For a long time I did avoid adding new add-ons and preferred to wait for XF 2. Eventually we decided that we can no longer wait and added both add-ons and custom modifications.
Now users rely on these add-ons and trust us to make sure that their data and work are kept.
I like Xenforo and I think that the software quality is very high. However I think that they did several strategic mistakes with XF2:
- Completely breaking all add-ons.
- Very slow development (3 years IIRC)
- A complete rewrite with the aim of feature parity.
I would have preferred that they took a more gradual approach and improve the components in smaller and faster steps and without completely breaking all add-ons. They took a large risk with their approach.
I hope that now we will see faster improvements, though I guess that like us, there are many admins that will be stuck on XF 1.5 for quite some time.
Fair point, though I still think to a point it's trying to make a forum into something it is not. As for making it easy to do videos and photos, there's the small limitation that we're not all running data centres where we can get masses of server power. Or that we have a single app just for our own individual site, and browsers do not give us the tools that dedicated apps can enjoy.
It's been expressed in many different ways but the poll speaks for itself. This results in a chicken and egg problem. At least for the commercial add-on developers, there has to be an expectation of a proportional reward to develop these XF2 add-ons, and that isn't there.
If you're going to invest in developing and maintaining a new plugin essentially, it makes more sense to expand to a new market than it does to make an XF2 add-on which, for the foreseeable future, some indeterminate amount of admins will use.
You might not ask that question if you had a car forum
Yeah, but the market wont be there until the addons are.
I can switch to xf2 anytime - but realistically not until the addons have converted, as I cant justify taking features away from my members. The sooner the addons are there, the sooner I'll convert.
That said, if I'm looking to convert, and your addon isn't ported over, but someone else's is, you might lose my business in favor of the other developers.
IMO, if I was a commercial addon developer, I would convert my addons asap. ROI might take longer, but I wouldn't want to risk someone else reproducing my addon and cutting me out of the xf2 market.
True, but this push towards friction-free content sharing is always advocated as THE ONLY WAY FORUMS CAN SURVIVE, which is nonsense.
I'm working on a forum right now that friction-free uploading of photos is not merely unnecessary, it would even be counter-intuitive. But given that the members are all about writing stories, and in particular fan-fic, where long posts are the norm (I've seen posts run to almost half an MB of text)... and I've seen threads of thousands of posts without a single picture.
I admit my use case isn't the norm - but neither is yours. There's no one true solution that solves for everyone.
Its not JUST that, its various things. Basically its about making forums as user friendly as possible.
I honestly don't think it's that simple, or entirely the answer because what's 'user friendly as possible' is such a varied term.
I saw a debate on here recently about 'how hard it is to know to use the profile on a forum' and seeing your name with a dropdown arrow might not be obvious for some people... but it's good enough for Facebook and they don't explain it.
And for everyone touting FB as the example of ease of use compared to forums, I have examples of when that's simply not the case either; the best one is my partner's aunt who is in her 80s and is still confused about how Facebook works, and has to have it explained to her routinely, even down to making friend requests and posting on walls. But she posts on forums just fine as far as I know.
Could it be made easier to post photos and videos? To a point, sure - but there's still fighting with what tools the browser makers give you, and fighting with the server resources necessary to make that work. No amount of magic can fix that video support is going to be sketchy at best on shared hosting, but there is the assumption that it is trivially doable because Facebook does it.
Is it possible to get huge uploads working on a shared hosting account without having to deal with the usual round of PHP timeouts? Sure. Done it in the past, even on mobile without Flash, the support's in browsers now to do this well, so mostly a solved problem these days - but getting the content back off the server, depending on whether or not you want to hide it behind the forum login is a lot trickier. Better in a lot of ways to not go there in the first place, that way no raised expectations or false promises.
Does that mean we shouldn't try to look at the situation? Of course not - if you assume it's a problem that *needs* fixing, and are realistic about what's achievable with a given set of resources, which unfortunately a lot of people simply aren't.
If you want a photo-first system, great. Maybe we need to create more niche distributions of forums, because I guarantee promoting photo-first as the style of content distribution (much like Facebook is slowly edging towards) will passively, and later actively, make long form posting of old be harder and harder. More and more discouraged, to the point where there's no point trying to write any more.
Already we see this same deal spreading across Twitter - the *poster child* of transient content. Express a thought in 280 characters, add a picture, add a video, job done. Hello world, look at me, on to the next thing. Look at all the SEO advice for Twitter: always post a picture, always post a video, always post some media. Great, if that's what you want to say to the world. But not all of us are like that and I resent the trends towards simplifying one type of content at the necessary expense of others. I think if forums collectively try to push photo-first in under the guise of 'making photo sharing easier' the way FB is pushing towards doing, it will discourage content creation. They say a picture tells a thousand words - but not always. Sometimes the words are just as important, and the collective mindset appears to be that the words don't matter, shove pictures in everyone's face, because that's what they want. I see it on Facebook all the time - post after post after post of picture, picture, picture, picture containing only words, picture, picture, picture, a few words on a pretty background.
This is what everyone seems to be wanting forums to become. This is precisely what I don't want, and frankly if that means I make my forums slightly *harder* for people to use, so be it, because I'd rather have a much more interesting signal to noise ratio.
That all said, maybe I'm horribly wrong and no-one cares about posts that are substantial and wordy and that require effort to read, process and reply. Maybe I'm the exception here and I should just be like everyone else - and then have the same as everyone else. What a wonderful world we live in.
Alright, so I've just converted one very small forum over this last few weeks. I haven't gamed or really been active in the clan for years, but I still manage the forums as it's a small group and I've made some lifelong friends there. Here's some initial observations and history.
Previously, the XF1 version was effectively dead. It's a small site for a very small gaming clan that has been around for 10 or more years.
Over the last 5 years all of the other new platforms have cannibalised the activity in one way or another.
We created a facebook group - all the activity ended up going to the facebook group.
We could shared pics, videos, links with ease - everything was easier to share, post and discuss on facebook groups. It actually got really busy, far busier than the forum ever was, but was a little disorganised because there's no thread structure there. We still used the forum to create and manage events and matches, but that was about it.
Everyone found the group easier and frankly much better to use because of the notifications and the app. This was yeeears ago. Easily 5 years ago up until maybe 2 years ago.
In an effort to try and bring traffic back to the forum we limited the group to video uploads only so we could use their uploading infrastructure, but push everything else back to the site. All that meant was that no one uploaded anything to facebook and there was very little increase in activity on the forum. Instead some members created smaller fractioned groups on facebook messenger.
What happened next? What'sApp.
Most of the active members created a What'sApp group. Why? Because it's instant, it's mobile, it has push, it's easy to share links to the group, you can upload photos to the group in seconds, you can upload videos that you took to the group in seconds. It has a desktop interface so you can also type slightly more longform posts that way if you're so inclined.
It was great for the kind of banter and community building that our group needed on a day to day basis. Transient fun communication was the bread and butter of that kind of community.
What happened next? Discord.
Discord came along as a Team Speak killer, trying to take the voice comms market. 3 Years ago as of just a couple of days they launched. Now they're an absolute powerhouse in the gaming community, but also as a community tool in general.
They do voice chat, they have IRC like chat channels, they have video conferencing. They're now a threat to the likes of Skype.
You go to any big subreddit now and check their sidebar - they have a Discord server and community where members can go for live chat, both written and voice. Tesla, Apple, whoever, you name it, they have a discord server with community action.
Go to some of the major YouTube channels now, you're also likely to see links to Discord communities.
Just this last few months YouTube itself has started rolling out it's own 'Communities' revolving around channels. I've been seeing more and more channels create text and image posts, essentially as threads and seeing hundreds to thousands of replies to these posts.
Now YouTube are officially coming for the forum market, as it's the community market. So watch out.
We of course created a Discord channel just to replace the ageing Teamspeak. And in general it's gone down a treat. It's a great tool, but yet again it's sucked away traffic from the forum. Their chat channels are great, it's easy to post pictures and videos, screenshots, links that get pasted turn into rich snippets, they have a full reaction suite where you can react to messages with any emoji you like, you can even upload your own reactions to completely customise the experience. They have desktop push notifications - if you have the mobile app you have mobile push notifications. It kicks the ass of a lot of forum features.
So now where we stand is nearly all of the action is split between What'sApp and multiple Discord channels. For day to day banter, sharing links, sharing screenshots, sharing video, all the light hearted interactions that always accounted for 90% of the forum interaction can just be done there now. They don't want or need they ability to write essays, bold and italicise snippets of text in their posts. They want the platform to be accessible on both desktop and mobile, to keep in touch with their friends in that given community easily, have notifications on both platforms, and have the ability to share and upload all 3 major content types (text, photos and video).
All of these services have native apps that make these interactions work fluidly. Mobile and apps have been a massive driving factor for this kind of content creation, sharing and engagement the last few years, and unfortunately TapaTalk has been the only company trying to bridge that gap for forums.
So, moving onto XF2. I thought **** it, why not upgrade and see what we've got going on.
First of all, I'd like to say that XF2 has a huuuuge number of changes under the hood that you really don't learn about or appreciate until you start using them.
I feel it really hasn't been advertised or promoted that well, or perhaps it's just hard to convey it without using it as many of them are small and subtle changes that don't really have a place in a have you seen video.
The ACP is a million times better. They've done so much on the back end to make it easier to use, navigate etc.
They've started linking and labelling options added by add ons so you know what options are a direct result of what add ons you have installed (it could still be improved, but it's a great start)
They've added a ton of useful features that were previously small tweaks possible by 3rd party add on in XF1.
They've created a very versatile widget system completely emulating one of the most popular 3rd party add ons that I imagine most of the V1 sites out there use.
They've added some top notch native 1st party payment provider integrations to help you monetize your board better (and pay for that bloody video hosting issue that still needs to be addressed)
They've started to better address the rich snippet conversion and embedding of links to posts natively for users that just want to ctrl v and be done with it.
They emoji support is immediately noticeable as users are including them in the posts (because so much of the traffic is mobile)
The members section is greatly improved for any kind of community that has a distinct usergroup structure that you want the members to be able to visualise and be aware of, you can easily create public facing lists to view and contact those members.
There's some really cool tools for designers.
Honestly, just having a quick peek to remind me of the thread 'What's new in XenForo 2.0' thread from the have you seen forum, I feel some of the features could really have done with their own dedicated have you seen vids to get the word out, as well as properly highlight their features and explain how to use them and how they can benefit you as a forum admin, similar to the recent IPS vids and posts created here over a long period of time to continually peak interest. It does XF a great disservice only having a couple of sentences and a single screenshot dedicated to some of them in the HYS thread. I think there was a lot of really good info and explanations on the demo forum, but that was all lost.
Beyond the stock install, I'm actually quite impressed as how quickly XF add ons are hitting the market. Just 3 months after release there are already 400 add ons in the resource manger. That's insane when you look at the XF1 directory and realise there's now only 2k there from the entire life span of XF1. Think about that for a second. At this rate, with no exponential growth XF2 add on numbers will reach parity with XF1 within 1.25 years of release, that's only 12 months from now.
I'm sure there's a **** ton of other work going on behind the scenes with private and bespoke work.
Already there's some great add ons from the usual suspects like Jaxel - his discord integration is vital - and very useful as it provides push notifications to the Discord desktop and mobile apps for our users.
Then there's the likes of Xon who already has a very respectable repertoire of premium and free plugins. Between him and few of the other hard working 3rd party devs, my small install is fleshing out very quickly and the users are loving it.
They're loving the custom post reactions, some of which are heavily tailored to the community, they're heavily using the very capable Siropu chatbox complete with desktop notifications, a massive upgrade from the old XF one (Taiga chat I think).
All in all, for this particular small, very niche community it's not groundbreaking and it will not tear all the users away from the competing and compelling UX design and features of the big social networks, but it's a huge step forward in the right direction and we're all seeing a real benefit in the upgrade (albeit still requiring a fair bit of work on the admins end to customise it to make it so, it's not plug and play like Fbook or Discord)
I have high hopes for XF2 and independent communities in general for years to come. Progress could come a lot faster, but regardless, progress is definitely being made, slowly but surely, and highly under-appreciated. (Perhaps some better marketing and feature awareness is in order)
For the most part I can afford to wait for the best fit because I have no competition. I obviously want to give my members the best possible user experience but if they don't like what's on offer there's nowhere else for them to go.
For whatever reason, the party line at XenForo.com seems to be "no need to rush to XF2"... you're fine staying with XF1 as long as it takes to get all your add-ons ported over. It probably has to do with the way the add-on ecosystem has evolved, but yeah, maybe they should be pushing it harder and faster.
For some kinds of communities this is absolutely to be expected. Different tools suit different types of communities and different types of content creation and consumption. And for some, the forum was a reasonable stop-gap until better real-time collaborative/communicative tools were created.
My contention is that there is a large contingent of people who feel that forums must collectively and entirely jump on this bandwagon and make everything about the transient here and now content, and screw anything historical. Which is fine if your community is fundamentally about transient and here and now content - gaming certainly could be on that list.
But what if that's not what your forum - or your community, for that matter (they're not interchangeable) - is about? What if your community is about knowledge sharing? Transient is the death of knowledge sharing. I resent the assertion that forums 'must adapt or die' because it's simply not true for everyone. It is true for certain niches - but my argument is that instead of trying to make all the forum software follow one mentality, let's make different kinds of forum software that cater to the different needs of different types of community, and consider that general-purpose isn't necessarily the way forward here.
I've long thought that a platform that wanted to really go to town on the photography front could make a killing as a photo forum platform first, with general community features second. Wouldn't even necessarily have to be photography, images in general where you're not necessarily trying to vie with Pinterest and DeviantArt specifically, but a system that was image first and made it really easy to get images in, especially if it included some nice manipulation tools out of the box.
People talk about the lack of innovation in forums, but there's wellsprings of untapped potential. It's literally never been easier to springboard new applications with the multitude of frameworks out there, too.
I often feel like there's potential for a good variation on the idea of dA for writers (there's several attempts at 'a writer's social network' but none of them really feel right IMO) that would lend itself to having some forum-esque fundamentals, even if not necessarily presented in a classical forum sense.
With the way the world is going, there's also a rising tide of questions about movement of data and of privacy - and I think there is an understanding that decentralising certain communities/types of communities and democratising the creation of communities has a place and a value again.
The thing is, the forum is still a much better platform overall because we do need some structure, we need to manage application, discuss recruits, have threaded conversations etc. but the features of these new services and apps are so appealing and make parts of the general community experience so much better.
What has happened is these new apps have now fractured the community between all these different services, with many users preferring the mobile first approach from the apps, even if they're obviously not the right tool for the job.
I don't use the What'sApp group anymore because I can't deal with the constant stream of notifications. I end up muting the group chat for 7 days at a time every 7 days. When the mute time period finishes I start getting notifications again. Sometimes I check the group to see what I've missed, sometimes I just mute it again straight away. But even if I want to catch up on the conversation it can be thousands of messages long and it's too late to reply to the parts I want to reply to, so I miss a lot of the information and community engagement. Similar with the chat channels on Discord.
If the forum had better mobile interface and perhaps a dedicated mobile app then we wouldn't have to deal with What'sApp. I swore off TapaTalk years ago, but there's no doubt in my mind that a service like that is necessary part of forums in the long run if they're to be considered community software suites and not just message boards.
The thing is, we're still sharing important info in these other channels. Useful references that would be beneficial to everyone and much better suited and archived and discussed in a dedicated thread on a forum. But most of the users don't care, they just want to quickly and easily share it in their channel of choice, and those choices are more often than not a mobile app on their phone or discord on desktop. They know they'll get much faster replies from the community and get push notifications quickly when people react and respond to their contribution, even if a large part of the community may never see it because of that choice.
All these other apps have much better notification options and management, they have granular settings so that users can have control over what notifications they get and where. With Discord and Slack you can control which channels (translate to forums) you receive notifications for and on what devices. You can also completely silence and mute aspects you have no interest in.
With Slack you can specify on a per channel basis which ones are important enough that you want to receive mobile notifications for.
These are the kinds of things that allow users to engage with the parts of the community in the way they want to, and receive news and updates of new content at a time that suits and on the device that works for them. This kind of thing would translate well to forums if they had the capability, I don't think that will ever be possible though unless we have a dedicated mobile app to interact with the software to manage these kinds of things and give users the right kind of mobile interface.
I'll move when a decent amount of interesting mods are available and I can be bothered to upgrade the forum style on the one site I have running XenForo at the moment.
As for all the stuff about whether forums are still relevant... well, I definitely think they'll return in future. Fact is, centralised systems like Reddit aren't just in execution, they're terrible concepts in themselves. Different communities simply cannot along on the same 'platform' for the long term, and people need to be able to act differently with different groups and in different situations. That's one of the reasons forums have been so great in the old days, and arguably also the reason Discord is so popular now (you can't tell what other communities someone is part of/exist on the system).
More people will see that eventually.
According to Digitalpoint's cookie search It looks like already 7.8% of public XF installs in the wild are on XF2.
That went up by 0.1% over the weekend. I wonder how accurate these numbers are.
I'm not sure what to think, that strikes me as quite a decent number for such a major version change only 3 months in.
I wonder how many of those installs are clean installs and how many are actual upgrades.
The cookie search unfortunately doesn't differentiate between IPS 4.x versions, so it's hard to see what the uptake is like there.
Here's VB for the sake of completion
That's a question I'd like answered. I want to be sure that XF2 is going to be a good fit for my forums. The majority of clean installations are not going to provide any real incentive for third party add-on developers whatever the numbers whereas up-graders are likely to need that extra functionality.