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Revolutionise the way forums are organised


Guest ph_bradley

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The feature I'd like to suggest - tagging - is an implementation of a technology sweeping across the Web's most advanced websites at the moment: tagging. Companies such as Google turned to tagging ('labels') to organise emails. Microsoft is getting replacing My Documents-style fixed-location folders with Virtual Folders. http://del.icio.us/ is a revolutionary way of categorising and highlighting interesting websites and articles. http://www.flickr.com/ demonstrates tag-sorting applied to photo albums. I'd like IPB to destroy its fixed categories, forums and subforums system in favour of a revolutionary user-customisable system of virtual folders.

More detail:
- When a thread is created, the poster has to select a tag from a list of presets (primary tags. He can also add any amount of tags he wants. Once the thread is created, any member reading it can tag it (with secondary tags)
- The admin can setup a default set of virtual folders, e.g. one for each of these primary (default) tags. Users new to this feature there won't notice any difference to how this is currently; they'll still see a 'General Chat' forum, and when I create a thread and select the General Chat (primary) tag, that thread will go in there.
- Members can setup their own forum views; they create a view which has just one virtual forum for both General Chat and Feedback-tagged threads.
- They can also create virtual forums based on secondary tags


A search for a tag will return a list of all threads tagged with a certain word or phrase. For example I could search for threads with 'Nexus' tags to return all threads about Invision Nexus. I could then be presented with an option to save this tagsearch - as a new virtual forum to show on the board index (for me, not others)!


A thread could, in essence, be in two forums at the same time. This is the same principle as Microsoft is going to use in the successor to XP (called Vista); i can have a virtual folder for all my photos (that includes all the .jpg and .gif's on the Documents partition on my hardrive) as well as one for all my documents about France, which include photos ive tagged with the word 'France', as well as letters to my French aunt, etc.


Not only does this solution offer a fantastic new way for Invision to revolutionise a model of forum organisation which has been essentially the same since bulltein boards evolved into forums, something people have been wishing for ages (see this thread for example), nor does it just offer a great new way for people that use forums a lot to get it setup exactly how they want it, but it provides fantastic new opportunities for forum admins - both commercial (Apple could sponsor the tags 'apple' and 'iPod' so that any search for that tag returns a page with Apple's branding on it; alternatively it could have its branding appear on any thread tagged with those words) and community - check out the Flickr phenomenon (link above) to see how communities love tagging


This would also help with the eternal problem of interesting threads being completely ignored as soon as they reach page 2 of a forum; since they'll often come up on page 1 of a tagsearch, they'll be renewed. Posting and forum activity will be boosted, without resorting to spammy forum games or creating threads which the community discussed two weeks ago and doesn't want to repeat itself. Increasing the lifespan of a thread this way will involve more members in each thread, taking the discussion in interesting threads further and deeper than ever before - making your forum and even more interesting place than it has ever been

This feature makes it easier than ever before for members to find and participate in exactly the discussions THEY want to take part in - making your forum magically feel more interesting to your members!

This would be a great use of Ajax - drag a tag from a list of the most popular tag searches onto a virtual forum to include any thread bearing that tag in that virtual forum; type-ahead would also make tagging easy, and prevent spelling mistakes


I've put a fair bit of thought into this and have more to say, more ideas revolving around this tagging concept, so if you'd like to probe the idea some more, my email/MSN messenger addy is philbradley -at- gmail.com

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+1!

I like your idea. I liked it when Microsoft suggested it for pix and dox as you suggested.

I would only add a couple things, which you'd probably agree with but didn't state:

-Admins (and mods) could change the tags.
-The original post (starting the topic) would list the tags under the title and description but above the body of the post.

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Let me try to explain it another way, maybe this will help.

Currently forums are organized by the admin, typically (like on my forum) you have categories of conversation, and members post where they feel their post will be most appropriate.

With this idea, the person making the post enters (or selects) one or more keyword(s) to describe their post. Other members (including mods) can add keywords.

I would assume there would be a place where you can look at all the posts, the whole lot of them.

Otherwise, and this is the confusing part... you enter into a search box what you want to discuss, or select from existing keywords (as all the keywords go into a database) and it shows you topics with those keywords.

It is a little confusing for the newbie coming into the forum, but once you've caught on, you would wonder how you ever did it the old way.

Better yet, look at the similar technology in Windows Vista. You'll be able to add keywords to pictures and documents, and filter them by keyword. Once as many people are using Vista as using XP now, I think you'll see a lot of +1's in this and similar suggestion threads. ;)

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Personally i prefer a system that allows the adminisrator to decide how their site looks, also i can se problems with people not bothering to enter ANY keywords when making a new post, or adding irrelvent keywords meaning the whole system grinds to a halt.

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thanks Mike. Seems these guys are on the same wavelength.

for those saying this would be confusing for newbies - the system of primary tags and basing a default view on those primaries means that you could have a board that looks no different from what it looks like now! in fact, since making a thread in a virtual folder would automatically apply the tag of that folder to the thread... it would even behave the same as it does now! Users could be given the option of using the tagging system or not.

Or: let's compromise, if this is too big a break from tradition. Let's let users save custom searches as virtual forums on a message board, that go alongside the real forums

It appears the Wordpress forums use tagging http://wordpress.org/support/ , as do others. My post above outlines a less significant breakwith Invision tradition, by favouring a Windows Vista-like implementation (virtual folders)

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Windows Vista improvement? You mean Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger improvement. Tiger's shipping and has smart folders and smart searching already. ;)

It would be nice to be able to allow users to create "smart" forums (as an option) that utilizes full-text searching to add posts or threads from other forums the user has access to.

My only concern with that is it might be a tad load intensive if you have thousands of users with these smart forums.

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I support the idea of redesigning the forum model to the point where it doesn't even resemble what it is today. Everyone does not think alike or even use the same words for the same concept. For example, say a forum has some posts dealing with the issue of subways. Conceivably, these could end up under tags such as: subway, rails, rapid transit, metro, tube, underground, etc. I doubt very many visitors will spend time entering all possibilities. Some folks have problems just entering a good topic title. Subsets of posts on the same subject matter could end up being split under different tags with similar meanings or have no tags at all. To keep this from becoming a total mess mods/admins would have to actively monitor it. Those running very active forums or have businesses more than likely will not want to spend their time this way.

The biggest problem I find under the current forum model is time buries info. Most visitors either don't use the search engine or won't wade through all the results to find whatever tidbit they need. Perhaps your tagging idea could help out in this area if the ability is given to a select group. When given to everyone, I see confusion ahead and a feature which will be labor intensive for a board operator.

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On the flip side, data on the internet expires faster than the old pen and paper world.

The best benefit to tags, as I see, is the inexact search language one can use to find topics. While I can't say I like tags very much (I'm 'detail oriented' and to this day I organize my folders very speficially), I think that some sort of ballance between the two may not be a bad thing.

To me, looking at the format of one of the boards Zef linked to in his article makes me wince. It's chaotic and I don't see right away where I want to be.

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The feature I'd like to suggest - [b]tagging[/b] - is an implementation of a technology sweeping across the Web's most advanced websites at the moment: tagging.



Uh, tags are just keywords and we've had keywords forever. I hate how people are saying tags are "revolutionizing" the web, when we've had them all along in keyword form. Search engines figured out a long time ago that keywords aren't the way to go.

However, I'm not against tags, I just don't think people would use them that often. It's too difficult to add tags. You have to consider things such as: Are you adding the right ones? Are you adding the wrong ones? Will people miss my post because they're not popular enough tags or because the tags I chose are too popular? It's just another form box to fill out that people probably aren't going to take the time on. Subtitles aren't used that often and tags would be used even less, I'd imagine.
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Uh, tags are just keywords and we've had keywords

forever.

I hate how people are saying tags are "revolutionizing" the web, when we've had them all along in keyword form. Search engines figured out a long time ago that keywords aren't the way to go.



However, I'm not against tags, I just don't think people would use them that often. It's too difficult to add tags. You have to consider things such as: Are you adding the right ones? Are you adding the wrong ones? Will people miss my post because they're not popular enough tags or because the tags I chose are too popular? It's just another form box to fill out that people probably aren't going to take the time on. Subtitles aren't used that often and tags would be used even less, I'd imagine.



Are you adding the right ones? Are you adding the wrong ones? - that's like saying 'forum search features aren't perfect, how do we know we're getting all the threads relevant to what we want to find out - some people might have misspelled the term i'm searching for, even though they put forward great ideas about it? so we shouldn't use it.'

Will people miss my post because they're not popular enough tags or because the tags I chose are too popular? - tagging tackles the problem of threads being ignored, because typically the set of tags being used on a board using will be greater and more refined than the number of categories, forums and subforums on an existing board. In effect, the problem you put forward there is actually much more relevant to the current system - what if I choose a forum that's too popular, my interesting thread will be on page 2 before sundown.

As for tags not popular enough, the primary tags ensure that threads are tagged with at least one tag that EVERYONE sees

Subtitles aren't used that often and tags would be used even less, I'd imagine. - those that dont use it don't suffer from this feature's presence. The admin can make it default so that new members only see the default layout of one virtual folder per primary tag. Since making a thread in a virtual folder automatically applies that tag, they tag box 'to fill in' doesn't even have to be visible to these Basic users. Advanced users that enable this feature have a message board experience that's massively more relevant to what they want to talk about, lengthening the lifespan of threads for everyone else; it's my opinion that 'necroposting' is a good thing, not a bad thing!
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Honestly I think this is unecessary for a forum. When you go to a forum, you dont necessarly know what your looking for. You're just "lurking" and finding interesting things to read. If you are looking for something specific, you use the search feature. There really isnt any difference between this idea and the current forum system + search feature. I do think the search feature needs to be improved as you cannot do the same thing viewing search results as you would when viewing a forum (like moderator stuff). And it would be cool to have a "Favorites" for search terms and have it there within a click. The key-words search also needs to be improved (as you have to have more then 3 characters in a search. How many words can you think of that's less than 4? SQL? ISP? IP Address? PHP? I could go on). But besides that, I dont see much of a point. Unless im getting this concept totally wrong.

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I dunno, it sort of feels like YADT (yet another darn thing) as we say at work.

It's good to break out of structure and think more free form, I agree, but the structureless boards looks pretty hard for a newb to pick up. Putting on the nerd cap: A sample study or something, run to see how people read online and which would be more effective might not be a bad idea, but I can't see anyone actually doing it.

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I dunno, it sort of feels like YADT (yet another darn thing) as we say at work.



It's good to break out of structure and think more free form, I agree, but the structureless boards looks pretty hard for a newb to pick up. Putting on the nerd cap: A sample study or something, run to see how people read online and which would be more effective might not be a bad idea, but I can't see anyone actually doing it.



please, a lot of people aren't reading the thread properly - i certainly agree that a structureless board is a nightmare. Imagine storing all the documents on your computer in one big folder. It'd be a nightmare! What the Windows team has done with Vista (the next XP) is to allow you to create virtual folders. No doubt in order to not frighten its users, it'll come with a default set of virtual folders to match the ones we're used to (My Documents, My Music) - as you grow accustomed to Vista, you'll start to create your own virtual folders - and it's a feature you'll come to love. If we think of individual threads as 'documents', there's no reason why this implementation wouldn't work with message boards. This doesn't even use tags! Tags would be a good refinement to the system, but I agree it adds a degree of confusion for the newbie that should be avoided until he's more au fait
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-1

Most of this makes no sense, and that parts that do - is useless.

In regards to forum organization, however, I recommend a feature where the forum order can be on a per user basis.

That way each member can select the order, with the default order still being chosen in the AdminCP.

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-1



Most of this makes no sense, and that parts that do - is useless.



In regards to forum organization, however, I recommend a feature where the forum order can be on a per user basis.



That way each member can select the order, with the default order still being chosen in the AdminCP.



That was the main point of my rather confused first post; I also presented how a tagging component could potentially improve a virtual forums feature.
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I remember someone coined the phrase "tag soup" :)


That was referring to HTML(not XHTML which is stricly formed) wasn't it?

I don't think tagging as a primary means of navigation is not good for a messageboard as regular posters are generally not looking for a specific thing. That would be more suited to a knowledgebase or similar.
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I've not read through all the thread, but one big advantage, is the possibility to have some topics in more than one forum.

I must admit, that this is a big plus !
Of course we are not used to it, and it seems that we do not need it, but there are plenty of situations where this could be helpful.
Before GMAIL I also thought that tagging is not that great. But now I NEED it. Not for playing, but because it INCREASES usability and the speed at which I can work or find things.

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Before GMAIL I also thought that tagging is not that great. But now I NEED it. Not for playing, but because it INCREASES usability and the speed at which I can work or find things.


In this case though, you are the one selecting tags which mean something to you. Imagine all the email originators doing the tagging instead. I doubt you'll find the feature nearly as useful then. It's also like having a stranger come in and rearrange your computer's entire directory system to something meaningful to him. The tag idea may work okay with a fairly small group. As the number grows, the mess will grow.

On the flip side, data on the internet expires faster than the old pen and paper world.


I'm not talking about data which expires but useful info that is quickly buried with time. You can see the phenomenon on the forums right here. Look how many times the same questions are asked and answered yet people continue to ask them.
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