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A new age has come - what IPS answer will be?

Ibragim Pupkevich

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Hi IPS team.

We all have to agree that a new age has already come. Age of social networks. Forums are pretty similar to social networks, but the key difference is how posts are going to appear on page. Twitter, Facebook, whatever... all post are going to be shown from newest to oldest and new posts appear on top of news feed. People get used to this due to very fast growth of social network popularity and this is actually a serious challenge for classic forum engine. You may not believe in my words, but I really get requests from users to switch topics into "from newest to oldest" view mode. And here I'm going to think about the subject - which audience I lose in fact?

My forums are pretty popular, but meanwhile I realize the fact that almost 80% of audience is coming from search engines. And they leave soon after they find content they are looking for. But it's really hard to encourage at least some of them stay on my forum, to post at least some message etc. Meanwhile I see how easy public social network pages/groups encourage their visitors to get started.

5 years ago there was 20% of people who was addicted to use forums and the rest 80% of people had just no idea how to read forums. Now is 2013, during past 5 years I guess all of these 80% moved more and more faraway from forums by addicting to read news feeds in their social networks. Actually it means that forums run the risk of losing even that 20% of potential audience they could had before.

What is your opinion on this, dear IPS? Very interesting to hear exhaustive statement of your teams point of view.

Briefly speaking: what's your plan to stay inline with the wind of changes (trends)?


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To stay inline to me means more to mimic them. Mimicking is still playing catch up and that sounds like a disastrous plan.

Most forums don't have the type of content (or enough new content) for activity feeds and status updates in my opinion are no better than silly chat boxes. Activity feeds will just display how niche, small, or inactive the site is.

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Realistically, I disagree that forums make sense (most of the time at least) showing content "newest to oldest". There's a big difference in the *types* of content displayed.

On a social network, you are displaying blocks of individual separate data (i.e. status updates, or tweets). These individual pieces of data can be displayed newest to oldest because they are separate and not interconnected. Similarly, when you visit a forum and look at the list of topics, you notice that the newest topics are at the top and the oldest topics are at the back. This is logical to most people, so they don't have to jump to the last page to see the latest thing.

In a topic, however, the context is different. This is a discussion, where each piece of text can be related to the previous piece of text, and subsequently you cannot visit a topic and start at the last statement or you don't understand what was just discussed. If you opened a topic and the first thing you saw was a response to something, but you don't know what the response is to, it makes no sense. That is why viewing a topic it goes oldest to newest (although our software does remember where you left off and lets you jump right to that spot). This is the same as social networks in fact - if you go to a Facebook status that has comments, the comments are displayed oldest at the top and newest at the bottom.

Keeping people on your site when they find it from a search engine has been an age-old "problem". This is nothing new, and we will continue to monitor trends and capabilities to assist with this. For instance, we recently introduced a "similarly tagged" feature in forums (if you support tagging in forums), which can show users who reach a topic other topics that are tagged the same which they may be interested in. We support Facebook and Twitter logins in 3.x to help lower the barrier for registration (and we support more services in 4.0 to extend that). We have a lot of other changes that we've made which we feel will also help keep users on your site, but we'll discuss that in more detail via our blogs.

Having said all that, while we stay abreast of changes on the web, in new trends, and so on - everything has to be balanced and applied correctly, otherwise you end up with a frankenstein software that tries to copy everything else and will fail in the process. I think you'll like the changes coming in 4.0, so I'd recommend following our blog to be notified when more information is posted.

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In the 9 years I've been running IPB I don't recall a single member ever bringing up that forum posts should be listed newest to oldest. The way I like to read forum posts is click on the go to first unread post button and then read downwards from there.

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From Ibragim Pupkevich;

"What is your opinion on this, dear IPS? Very interesting to hear exhaustive statement of your teams point of view."

"Briefly speaking: what's your plan to stay inline with the wind of changes (trends)?"

Sorry I'm a little late to the party, but this is one of those rare occasions where I'd like to toss in two old pennys. A cheap rant, for anyone who has the time to read it.

Sure, social networking is the rage now, but with more and more moves by big content to use and abuse consumer content, not to mention the privacy problems, what few sites I've been able to keep up and running have experienced a rise in activity, sometimes to the point where I have to check the hosting account logs to see if there's not some malicious activity going on in the filespace somewhere.

What I've personally seen lately is a steady, plodding but determined return to local sites, for local news and issues, without the taint and the meddling of site management. Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Twitter turning over user names and information to local LE? Come on. For Occupy protestors or marchers at political opposition rallies in US cities? Get real. Sure, everbody but those without electricity and people living on the moon know that the NSA is tapping every form of human communication on the planet, even sharing the information with the DEA, FBI and all their siblings. But people are aware and, in spite of still using electronic communication, a lot of people want to exchange ideas, debate tolpics and even argue in a relatively safe environment. Especially on local matters of controversy.

In my locality, LE has taken it upon themselves to start policing social networking sites. Local government employees have been censored, harassed, even terminated for hitting the like button. City police have made arrests for locals usiing profanity on the internet (no kidding). It has gotten to the point to where local LE can walk into the office of a local ISP and get account information on any internet account on their system, WITHOUT a warrant. Critics of local government, including people who criticize the local law enforcement establishment, have been outed by LE officials in the local press.

Maybe it is different in larger cities, but around here, people take their right to free speech very seriously. It has gotten to the point where citizens have been arrested for carrying video cameras to open public meetings, in spite of a state law that forbids government interference with videotaping or recording public meetings.

The members of boards that I operate have consistently voiced their appreciation for a site where they can express their opinions, without worrying about being outed by the site operator. I have run one site since September of 2003 and it is still going today, mostly for exchange of current events, local information on what's happening and where, and most importantly, for the expression of political, social, religious and other ideology and opinions that people don't feel safe saying on social media outlets.

I am a survivor of the old school computer BBS days. First phone-in BBS system was a 286 with a single speed CDROM, running QMODEM as a host. It was at the very beginning of the personal computer age. Not the Radio Shack, Commodore and Tandy era, but the span when DOS 6.22 gave way to Win 3.0. We had PCBoard, Wildcat, Spitfire and FIDONET and people were fanatic about being able to share, debate and argue politics, religion and everything in between. Then all that was run over by the freightrain that is the www/internet, AOL and IE and Netscape.

Now people are, at least in my locality, going back to the feeling that was had in the old BBS systems. Locals dealing with locals on local issues, without the hype and glue traps of social networking sites. I think that is a lost apsect of forums that the companies (VB, IPB and the others) have forgotten and kicked to the curb in a dash for the social net.

Over the last ten years, I have been more than vocal on disagreeing with IPB when it makes changes to the software that negatively affects my members (duh, d'ya think that a forum with 600+ users, and specializes in user avatar competitions, would take a hit when the avatar gallery went away?), then forces me to choose between being able to get updated security or holding on to the software that has the features popular with my members and risk being nuked by some loser nitwit with nothing better to do. Like Gates trying to force Windows 8 on users who don't want it, or dropping support for one of Microsoft's most popular OS (XP). Geez, people, when you get something that people like, stop trying to bend it in a different way and shove it down people's throats. God, I remember the whole fiasco of Windows ME and Gates never apologized for that mess and I never got my money back. I'm just happy that FOSS is at the point it is today and people don't have to depend on the big boys and their toys.

So I am personally seeing a spike in numbers, based on local interest in local topics, free of the ads and scripts and privacy issues that come with social sites. It would be nice if some small software company actually realized that there's a market for that kind of thing today. Hhmmm, seems I remember one being like that a long time ago. I wonder where they went?

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