So what's next for forums?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Online Community' started by cheat-master30, Nov 4, 2009.

  1. cheat-master30

    cheat-master30 Grand Master

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    As in, feature and technology wise? It does seem like most of the truly new features that could work for them have already been added in existing software, and that most current forum packages seem to be trying to be a whole website/social networking platform in one type package, but do you think there will be overall new, major innovations in their future design?

    Oh, and no mentioning virtual reality here. I've heard that idea so many times that the idea itself has become cliche for 'future improvements'.
     
  2. hotwheels

    hotwheels Champion

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    I really don't foresee any great changes, maybe a bit more ajax and some widgets. I would like to see in the future of any forum software away people can connect via their cams and have conversations via our websites.
     
  3. SimpleMan

    SimpleMan Adept

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    I think a lot depends upon the development of PHP, Ruby on Rails, Ajax, etc.

    Innovation will come in the form of "better" features to publish content. I think search engine technology will be refined and you'll definitely see more interconnectedness between threads and that sort of thing. Spam protection will probably evolve over time, so you may end up with other features and techniques that inhibit spam as well that might also change the experience.

    I think the social media plug-and-play is where it's going. You might see some sort of overall ID that ends up being across multiple forums. It seems a little wild, but it may come to the point where you access a forum directly from your desktop alongside your social networking accounts. You might just see forums become more like traditional websites and social media combined; the overarching idea is the contribution and dissemination of information about the topic at hand.

    I think the overall theme is going to be plug-and-play integration. I think the trend will be to try and further refine information organization and present it as quickly as possible to the user.
     
  4. David

    David Regular Member

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    Forum only sites are dead unless they're already established and very rarely do you see a new "forum only" site succeed. Forums need to evolve to include more than just put info in, take info out, there needs to be some form of live information exchange taking place.
     
  5. Vekseid

    Vekseid Regular Member

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    The primary issue I have right now, is that most of the things I want to do are rather novel, and at the moment only Drupal even has a structure remotely like what I want to see. There is a lot that can be done for forum software, but I don't think vB/SMF/phpBB/etc are interested in taking a new direction.
     
  6. Candise

    Candise Newcomer

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    But keep in mind here that the key to successful forum marketing is to become an active participant in the community.
     
  7. MattMecham

    MattMecham Novice

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    I think it depends on the forum. If the forum has a strong theme then there is a greater chance that it thrives.

    Often those that fail are either a new forum in a crowded market or a forum without any focus. If you opened up a new "Chat about anything" forum or "Windows Help" forum then it probably won't succeed without some aggressive marketing.

    For example, Vodafone recently opened a new IPB forum for their mobile phone customers and it was a hit because there was a need for it.

    There is always a need for archivable structured user-generated content. Social media like Twitter and Facebook are great but it can never replace a forum. You couldn't run a support site from Facebook, etc. Even easy-to-add widgets like "GetSatisfaction" are too light on moderation and organisation to be of any real use in my opinion.

    Twitter and Facebook are as ubiquitous as Google now. The real future is about hooking into that feed rather than trying to re-invent the format as a social medium.
     
  8. twhiting9275

    twhiting9275 Regular Member

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    Very good post and comparison, Matt.

    I think that vBulletin had a great idea with the expansion of the forum to include the social aspects, and I can see that IPB did some pretty good stuff there as well, just with my brief experience.

    Honestly, I think that forums alone are pretty much shot . You really need to be able to tie in with networking sites like facebook/twitter/myspace for a full experience, and to be able to grab user's attention. Sure, forums will never be myspace, etc, but they can always, always do good by tying in there.

    Keeping users interest is key, and with the short attention span of most (140 character status updates @ twitter as an example), forums really aren't alive and kicking as it were
     
  9. kneel

    kneel Regular Member

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    i totally disagree with this. I think they'll always be strong. Theres way too much info on forums. I learned everything about my car from a "forum only".

    Thers still a very good possiblity that sumone could create a successful forum only. :spin:
     
  10. tryfuhl

    tryfuhl Champion

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    not only that but people need interaction for the most part
     
  11. kev

    kev Regular Member

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    I would like to see:

    Better ways to customize profiles
    Better built in picture galleries
    Improved integration with sites like facebook an youtube
    Improved built in chatrooms
    improved downloads section for sharing files
     
  12. Blake

    Blake Regular Member

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    So if I were wanting to make a forum that served the needs/conversations around a local city/town, you think that a forum only model is facing a low probability of success? I started one earlier this year, but it didn't take off like I (naively?) expected. So it's been dormant for the last few months. But my intention is to pour some more time/resources into it.

    But to hear some people talk, maybe it's a bad idea? Or what more could the site offer other than forums? There are already three newspapers covering the area (one daily, one weekly, and one bi-weekly).
     
  13. Blake

    Blake Regular Member

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    Matt, when you say "theme", are you talking stylistically or in terms of subject matter/focus?
     
  14. SimpleMan

    SimpleMan Adept

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    StateDOG, I cannot comment for those folks, but I can for me. :)

    I'm looking at something similar, but I'm also probably going to do it in the context of a state as opposed to a city. I think much of the same apply to both.

    I don't think a forum on its own can function as a place just to discuss things. You can do that on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Roll it back 5-10 years ago and you didn't exactly have this competition to deal with, and starting a forum was relatively easy, you simply needed an active userbase and it would grow from there.

    These days, people are used to the bells and whistles. For a site to survive, it must generate content in one form or another. Of course a forum partially does this by nature, but perhaps not in the sense that it once did given the above. The question you asked about content is the hard part. What does your site do differently than the others (and other media in this case)?

    That's what Mr. Mecham means about theme. Theme is an appropriate word, but I would probably use the word focus. In the thread about why forums die in the first year, I posted a long experience with this very issue. Sites that lack focus...a definite purpose...will not survive. I have actually visited your website prior to AA, having come across your profile at another forum. (I was interested in MyBB and saw you used it.) It looks like some of my past forums before I figured the below out. I don't know how many general webmaster forums I created with cool and nifty forum names that I simply put up and expected people to post once they saw my link. Obviously you went farther than me with your site, but it's still a similar deal. You've put up a forum, made some good + relevant posts, and then a few folks came and left. Why should they come back? What do you offer them that a newspaper site with comments doesn't?

    It's not just a matter of being the first to open up a niche anymore. Take the other site(which I believe you must work with/own?) listed in your signature. I'm a Gamecock fan and there are literally 3-4 sites that serve up something similar exclusively for the USC Gamecocks. Heck, the news overlaps 99% of the time, yet they manage to thrive with active communities. Our local state newspaper even started their own website for the Gamecocks. This is not a large state yet they all do well.

    Why? Content. Forums are unique in that they eventually will generate their own content. This later advantage is at first a disadvantage in that it takes members to generate content and content to generate members in this catch-22. For forums to survive and thrive (and esp. new ones), it's going to take the addition of things like social profiles, new features, etc. Even with overlapping content, these sites still generate enough where people will post in forums, post their comments in the stories, and go there to see why we lost by 20 points last week or what the ole' ball coach plans to do about it. Things like controversy and "insider" information will bring people in.

    That's what it takes - again the hard part is figuring out what to deliver.
     
  15. twhiting9275

    twhiting9275 Regular Member

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    I wouldn't say it's a bad idea, but you need to focus on more than the forum.
     
  16. Blake

    Blake Regular Member

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    @CrazyTech - As a Mississippi State fan, I say thanks for beating the Rebels back in September.

    But you're right about the other site in my sig, but it started first as a phpBB board, then I moved it to IPB. In the beginning though I pretty much set it up posted a few topics with questions I thought would get good responses, put up a few different "check this out" posts here and there and.....voila! People came in slowly but steadily at first over the summer, and then took off once high school football started up in the fall.

    I think I was expecting this next one to be just as easy. But it hasn't been. Then I stopped promoting it as much. But I still think it has legs; just needs a little propping up at first. I can read the local papers (I forgot to include the daily paper the local university puts out) to get "timely topics" to post about. But at first it seems like I'm starting a bunch of threads w/ no one else responding.

    Not giving up though. Renewed energy is about be applied!
     
  17. Abomination

    Abomination Zealot

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    Buy an ad in your local paper after you have given your best shot at content.

    Maybe stuff people like to know about regardless of how busy they are. Perhaps city hall meeting minutes filtered and re-worded, local scout troop special events, food drives, where the latest local crimes were, High School calender highlights. Interview local officials / fireman / police / ambulance anonymously.

    Basically do it like the local newspaper should do it, but doesn't.

    You will find a person interested in collecting the information easy enough (super mod?), and they will find others. Focus on quality people.
     
  18. Nick

    Nick Regular Member

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    Might be interested in this thread: http://www.adminaddict.net/forum/general-community-discussion/forums-alone-unsuccessful-4708/

    I created it after seeing David's comment and decided to expand it into a separate discussion. :)
     

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