Why isn't there any true innovation in Forum Design?

Discussion in 'Community Organization' started by Wayne Luke, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. s.molinari

    s.molinari Leader of Skooppa

    That is why we've decided the connection to the user network for each site and each user will be completely voluntary. I am pretty sure though, the usefulness of the network will very much outweigh any disadvantages, which I am currently not even aware of.;)

    I highly doubt other software makers are worried about doing a vB5 kind of software release. I know I certainly am not. Only a fool and an idiot would do something like that.

    That is a good point. How about we list some of the problems online communities today are facing.

    I'll start off.

    1. No real innovation in the software. (ha, that one was easy! :D)
    2. The segregated landscape of online communities make them very little islands in the very big ocean of the Internet. And, they are getting eaten up more and more by the social networks, which form huge and growing continents.
    3. Currently the software offered is a boxed-in environment, in the sense that the application or the applications the online community owners can get are a total lock-in to those applications. Application creativity is left up to add-ons, which are at the mercy of extensiveness of the applications themselves. In other words, if you aren't a programmer, you'll be very much locked into the application's model and workflows or even the add-on's model and workflow. There is no breaking out of these molds really. And even as a programmer, you are locked into certain decisions, you might actually not like.
    4. The applications offered either do one thing quite good, or a lot of things just ok. There is no solution out there yet, which can do a lot of things really great. This causes successful communities to look to other software solutions to solve their problems, which means these successful communities end up with a systematic nightmare, which actually ends up throwing stones in their road to success. Or, you end up programming everything from scratch to keep the system standardized. (i.e. like Shawn did and does with Digitalpoint.com).
    5. Upgrading the boxed software is a constant PITA.
    6. Your site's security is not the software vendor's responsibility. They only fix their software. What happens to your site is always your problem.
    7. A good number of online community software customers use a web space to host their community. Upgrading and extending the software means doing it on a live system, which is actually a no-go. So the format of boxed software on shared hosting is actually a hindrance to success.
    8. The software vendors of today, because they sell boxed software, are stuck in a testing hell. They release a software and "hope" it runs on most systems. Why? Because there is no way in hell they can test every type of system configuration. This also means they make a lot of compromises, so the software can run on a larger number of possible systems. Bugs come out of the woodwork, which might be one-offs, because of an exotic or poorly configured system. And these vendors waste time fixing them. Customers end up with a software that is actually a bit more on the mediocre side, because of the need to make it usable on a large number of systems (think about the search add-ons). And this situation is only going to get worse, as more and more supporting software is released (i.e. web servers, OS's, etc)

    Ok... that is enough.;)

  2. TheChiro

    TheChiro Devotee

    You can do that with Xenforo with slight modification(s). Widget Framework has it all set up to do something like that (if not exactly like discourse). I plan on doing that but more like Reddit instead of discourse.
  3. Zardoz

    Zardoz Fan

    One of the biggest problems that threads face is that they often stray off topic, largely due to human nature. Post comments support in-depth discussion of off-topic subjects, with the added benefit of keeping the main thread much more focused on the topic of the original post.

    For example: Look at the following flow chart and compare the functional differences between Amazon, Forums, Blogs and Facebook. Note the striking similarity between forum threads and blogs if you add comments to posts. Similarly, look closely at the Amazon review system and compare it to forums.


    Take Amazon reviews for example. The product is the OP, the reviews are the posts, and the comments are often just that. What if I gave a bad review and a lot of people didn't like it? Without post comments, those comments would dilute the other reviews.

    Here is a prime example of post comments pertaining to a WD MyBook drive I recently reviewed on Amazon, though I won't say which review is mine.

    The product reviews:

    The most helpful negative review and it's comments:

    Here's another flow chart I created to illustrate how isolating off-topic comments would help to clean up a thread. Note that I only included branching for one thread and post, due to space limitations.


    The advantages of post comments couldn't be more clear, as in yet another example shown below. Notice how the colored posts (off-topic) are tied to the comment they're responding to, and how it greatly reduces the chatter in the main thread.

    Last edited: Sep 20, 2014
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  4. Xorlof

    Xorlof Aspirant

    I forgot at least one really nice feature. If you subscribe to a thread you can just reply to the email notification and it will post to the thread. Personally I *love* that idea.

    Well, I only run one big forum. We only just moved up from vBulletin 3.6 this past month, and only to v3.8, with no change to our old creaky (but nice back in the day) themes. In other words, we're waaay behind on getting something more modern.

    So that's a roundabout way of saying, that while I've thought about it, I've decided it would clearly be too drastic of a change for us at this point. However, I'm watching the project with great interest though because if you read the meta.discourse.org site, you'll see there are a lot of folks there with a lot of fresh ideas, so it seems like it is a hotbed of thought in modernizing forum software.

    There are things about Discourse I don't like, but they're getting attention. When that happens, and also provided the plugin ecosystem develops, I would think more seriously about moving to it, probably in a few steps. We going to be doing a redesign soon and our new design will still be in a comfortable, familiar forum style, but with some of the Discourse affordances tacked on to vBulletin 4.2 (we purchased non-expiring license for vBulletin 4 a couple of years ago--the budget isn't there to go to Xenforo at the moment). The next step would be to design a comfortable, familiar forum style for Discourse (i.e., one that doesn't look like Discourse) and migrate to Discourse with that theme by default, with users able to switch to native Discourse as they wish. Again, there are a couple of things that I'd to see in Discourse before that happens. The company created to develop the software (which--I kid you not--is named Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc.) appears to be well capitalized, so they've got time to keep paying people to develop it into something awesome. It's already pretty awesome, but still is best IMO for new communities, not established ones.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2014
  5. Xorlof

    Xorlof Aspirant

    It's been more than 2 years since this thread has seen life, more than 11 years since it started. I still haven't gotten to that redesign I mention in the last post, but it's back on my radar which is why I'm surveying the field again to see what's new, innovative, good, exciting, whatever in the forum space.

    I was pretty excited about Discourse when this thread was last active. It's continued to evolve, and there are several large existing communities that migrated over to it, which surprised me a bit. (As mentioned above, I thought it best for new communities, not established ones). I can't say that they or their ideas of caught fire, at least as far as I've noticed, but I don't actually frequent lots of boards.

    Anybody have any innovation progress reports or promising projects from the last couple of years to point to?
  6. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Moderator

    I am seeing discourse software being used more and more.
  7. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    I think Discourse should be far more popular than it currently is. The problem it has is us, the dinosaurs (aka the forum owners and administrators) who still think there's nothing better than sitting in front of a PC admiring our forum's node list while the rest of the world connects to other social media platforms via their smart phones.
  8. Drastic

    Drastic Habitué

    this as a forum homepage https://try.discourse.org/

    is 1000000xs better than this as a forum homepage https://theadminzone.com/

    people need instant gratification and they get that with a homepage full of current content and trending topics.

    typical forum homepages are boring, outdated, and you have to search for things.

    I like the discourse homepage because you can get to a multitude of the top categories and new posts in a single click.

    Now compare the category/node page
    https://theadminzone.com/forums/news-announcements.201/ - why do we need to say "replies/views" a hundred times? That looks terrible for SEO. It looks like we're trying to keyword stuff the word replies and views but we're not.

    They post views/replies once
    https://try.discourse.org/c/tech - while this is a tiny edit that can be made, it probably has a little bit of an effect on the search engines and helps Google see what the page is actually about, rather than thinking every forum pages is about "views and replies."

    Anything that discourse does is simple and can be done on other forum scripts, although I'm quite shocked that XF didn't follow suit in a handful of ways that promote forward thinking and being the trend setter instead of the dinosaur stuck in old ways.
  9. davemacc

    davemacc Fan

    I always find Discourse to be really slow to load for some reason.
    It's not an issue on my side as I have a reasonably fast (100mbps) connection.
    Most other websites load rapidly enough.
  10. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Tazmanian

    None since vB3 and the real vB4 (aka Xenforo)
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  11. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Tazmanian

    Reddit showed Forums that threaded discussion was superior to flat design.
    Forums now have non-threaded threads.
    Which is awkward at best !
  12. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Moderator

    Innovation is gone with every paid and unpaid forum script, the true innovations is done by sites like Facebook. What people must know is that Facebook can roll out a feature to x people on their site test it and make changes then look if it's good or not. Forum software can't do this we the clients are depended of the developers, but developers think they know it all. Look how new versions are made management/developers have an idea and start building when we get to alpha release or the first public release people are allowed to see it. After that they want input what we the customers want but by then it's too late we need to work in the specs that the framework has changing it is hard to do or impossible because other stuff depends on it. This is also true with addon development btw.

    What is happening now company makes the first choices, expands on that, ask customers what they want, develop more try to add customer input, debug etc etc.

    What should be done is.

    Ask customers first what they like to see, talk about framework with customers, make choices to incorporate ideas etc, develop, adjust where needed, debug etc etc. The framework is very important because it will save development time if that is build like a house. The second thing is styling this should be done by an UI expert that knows what is best and not developers that have no clue or do not have all the information.

    The innovation is gone because developers aren't asking the right questions and don't like the answers, so we are running behind on platforms that can do rapid development and deployment. Sites like Facebook are winning more and more people over if they ever create a forum on their site it will be a grave day for forums we are likely not to recover from that blow.

    The style developers are also to blame while styles look good it's more of the same they can make or break a site but it's like they do not care. We have seen nice styles but in the end it can be counted on one hand for lets say Xenforo, vBulletin or IPB. The major problem is that we do not have the option to build modular or have a system that can help write CSS.

    CMOBOSS All About Da-Cookies.

    I would guess that this is primarily due to a lack of time, or because many people just do not know how.

    I like what you're thinking... sorta... but the look of your/individual website is not on the software provider/dev.

    Forums boards were not intended for a global use of a couple hundred million users, they were designed to be used for inter corp use. The look or layout of the domain is on the admin/webmaster.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2016

    CMOBOSS All About Da-Cookies.

    I don't follow many people, but your efforts just earned you a space on my lets be friends list. lol.


    Bob comes home from work one evening, it's dark, before going inside he walks to the end of the driveway to get the mail from his mailbox. As he is walking up the drive he steps in a pile of dog poo. It's not the first time, so he joins a "landlords and tenants" forums.

    Bob Posts a new thread "My tenant left his dog's crap on the drive, and I stepped in it. This is not the first time this has happened. Aside from this dog poo issue s/he is a great tenant, I do not want to create a problem, just want to ask them to clean up after their dog... how should I bring this up with my tenant?"

    Jane replies with "OMG that happened to me with one of my tenants as well. I used to have a 10 unit apartment in japan with a great ocean view until the tsunami of course... I can't believe how much damage the tsunami caused. I was on vacation in the up in Nunavut with my cat spinxy, and my seven aunts, drinking tequila with a couple nuns that were there for the annual eskimo women's "baking with ice cream" contest.

    Dave replies Oh wow, I had property in Japan too. I was in texas with my brother when that happened.

    Greg replies
    I was a renter long ago, and my dog used to poo on the back patio until I stepped in it one day and ruined my brand new runners

    Scott replies Have you said anything in the past when this has happened?

    Zibabbwa replies Get best prices for brand new runners now! visit this LINK! Alternatively you can buy me my the books "when this happened" here LINK! watch this video on how tequila is made Link! escape to the bahamas for only $999 see this link. I hope the "poop" is awesome!

    Joe replies
    with "Awe man that's totally ****ty... I've never had to deal with renters with dogs, so I can't really help you with that, I would just say something to them the next time you see them. Politely mention the incident, and ask them to clean up after the dog(s). Welcome to the community!"

    billy bob replies I don't like dogs, they scare me. I got bit by a chiuahaha when I was livin with my inlaws back in 97, and since then I don't rent to people with dogs.

    Jin replies I was in Japan when the tsunami came rolling in. My grandma is half deaf, I could hear her yelling at me to come down stairs quickly. We almost didn't get to safety in time...

    STAFF replies Hi Bob. Welcome to LAT. I have searched a couple threads that may be of assistance... thread link 1 thread link 2 thread link 3 and here is the link to some more search results threads link

    PropertyPimp replies Welcome to LAT. If you haven't already mentioned this to the tenant in the past, I would write a polite letter, if it continues make sure to keep a record of it, each time, and if it keeps happening tell them you'll have to start paying someone to come clean up after the dog, and you will have to bill them for it. Hope this helps.

    Ackbar replies nike rebook air jordan get your new runners and find great flights


    Surely you get the picture I'm puttin out... lol.

    I just wanted to put in as much effort as you have. but in a different way. Lol. Here's the one simple truth... No matter how you slice and dice the content members submit, nor how you present the option to interact or submit (meaning no matter the formats as you've shown then in the images you made) the end result is that a website still needs at least one moderator or an admin if not for spam, for structure and growth awareness.

    my website is spam free, bots can't get in. and even if they register they can't get anywhere because they simply can not logic past their programming. You show me a computer/bot that can access (decipher) my website registration and verification process, actually post ( in an area where public posting is/are not permitted), and that can do so without first needing to have some script kiddie go through the process and scripting the run file, and I will be in awe of that alien technology, for ever.

    It's been many months since I've had a bot register on my domain. But if I tossed any software on there right now, I would have hundreds of thousands of registrations in just a short period of time.
  15. we_are_borg

    we_are_borg Moderator

    Yes and no the looks of the website is a interaction between developers (Script and Style) and the website owner. The developers (script) need to show how powerful their style is and the underlying framework.

    Not millions but even on a small scale you want to handle it the same as big websites give and try out then roll it out.

    Like i said above the layout needs to be done in symbioses with the developers (Script and Style) at the moment its done by the developers of the script that do not have all facts about designing a good UI.
  16. ChrisTERiS

    ChrisTERiS Developer

  17. davemacc

    davemacc Fan

    I really like that.

    How far away is the beta.
    I'd like to try it out.
  18. ChrisTERiS

    ChrisTERiS Developer

    Thank you. Really appreciate your supporting words.
    Actually the code is 100% ready even for the Pro version. The problem is that is part of my Dating script so I must separate the code from there and adapt it to the new design. If you want you can follow the project on this thread.
  19. Hauyser

    Hauyser illiterate.

    I wonder... The SandmanThe Sandman when are we moving from Xen to Discourse?
  20. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

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