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The future of forums... let's talk!

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@Steve Bullman,

 

Do not doubt the ability of Mark Zuckerberg. I never imagined anyone would pay to work, he got that feat. People pay to work for him.

 I have been working on Facebook since 2010, our page has 740k followers and today its organic reach does not reach 1,000 users. 

https://www.facebook.com/mochileiroscom/

@Joel R,

That feeling Matt found in the phrase was exactly how our community worked a few years ago. The old hard users are gone and the new generation does not have the same spirit.  Many good things are gone, but many bad things too.  I do not miss the trolls. Today they are on Facebook. This I need to thank Mark Zuckerberg for!

Edited by Silnei L Andrade

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There are 439,055 registered members here and small fraction of us take part in conversations like this.  That is a lot of intellectual capital that is continuously being untapped.  I would recommend encouraging the less active folks to be become active and embark on some thought experiments to figure out different ways we might better utilize this platform as it currently stands and what small changes we could quickly get IPS to implement or third-party developers to better engage our customer bases.

Edited by Christopher Anderson

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There's always going to be a future for forums.  But a diminished one.  There are a couple of concepts that I've been bouncing around with some other IPS admins.  

Forums will always exist because there's a need for:

  • Stigma forums - Forums that deal with topics or issues that are considered non-mainstream will always need to find an independent platform to host their content.  This can include things like mental health, addictions, or anything that's considered high risk or not acceptable.  Anonymity and lack of social ties are the important attributes.    
  • Brand control - If you have the money and you want more control, hosting your own community is always preferred.  You can do anything you want on your own platform, and being root admin is incredibly self-fulfilling.  I can see enterprises with a strong web presence develop their own community forms for marketing, lead generation, and support.  Branding and independence are the primary attributes.  
  • Customization - If you want to customize your community into something unique like a dating or friendship site, or to expand your community with technological tools that you can't do with off-the-shelf solutions like Facebook, then you're going to have to a third-party platform.  Customization and a rich developer pool are the main attributes.  

Also, social networks are fundamentally different than topical communities, even though we often blur the two:

  • Social Networks - Based on people.  It's an incredibly 'sticky' relationship because you know someone who knows someone who knows someone, and it's grouped by your social circles (coworkers, high school peers, college friends, work colleagues).  Humans are naturally emotional creatures, and they get stimulated by emotional triggers whether its curiosity, friendship, or dislike.  Those are all very rich attributes in a social network, which makes them very vibrant.  
  • Communities - Based on content.  I think it's a more transactional relationship, which is initially strong but fades fast.  Users come for the knowledge and once they obtain the knowledge, I'm not sure if there's a compelling reason for them to stay unless there's another need for the knowledge.  In which case, they leave and not come back until necessary.  The hard thing is empowering users to take the leap from a content consumer (aka Lurker) to start offering content themselves (aka Contributor) or to build social connections with others (aka Friends).  An alternate way of looking at the problem is to ask what emotional or social triggers are in your knowledge to 'activate' users to share their content or to develop bonds.  

 

 

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13 hours ago, Steve Bullman said:

cant see how anyone is going to pay to be a member of a facebook group!

I think there's more to it than the various news reports allude to. Think of it as a wrapper for paid services.  I pay for a Pilates feed, my wife does same for Yoga. My daughter pays for cheap flight news. I can see all of these move their offerings into FB groups. Makes perfect sense for them.

 

15 hours ago, princeton said:

Mobile first requires a new approach in strategy and implementation.

There's been lots of talk here about mobile. But what does that mean? Is it more than a different CSS, and or PWA delivery. Does functionality change?

 

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Forums are not going anywhere.

Forums are essential for support based communities.

For businesses that want to build real high value SEO.

For people that want full control of their data.

For everyone that doesn't want to be at the mercy of Facebook algorithm changes.

16 hours ago, princeton said:

I started talking about this in my previous message but I removed it as I had to step out. Below is a condensed version...

Mobile first requires a new approach in strategy and implementation.

I'm a big board admin (vbulletin 20 years; 1 million+ members; 9 million posts; 1 million topics). I mention this because out of all the forum software out there - I kept coming back to IPS. IPS is now my preferred choice. (Currently, in the building stage to migrate over to IPS.)

Why?

  1. They are starting to think out of the box. (Proactive; Forward Thinkers)
  2. They are fast with updates / improvements.
  3. It's clearly visible that the community and 3rd-party developers are important to them.
  4. The Software is extensible.
  5. Focused on Enterprise level (It's not just talk ... they are actively providing new tools such as SSO, Promotions, Commerce, and Support Desk that are needed at the Enterprse level.)

That last bullet is really important. It tells me a lot.

To succeed in this segment, you really need to look at things with fresh eyes. They will definitely need a Mobile First strategy. 

These things don't happen overnight. But, I have faith that they will streamline the content system (submitting, presentation, and discovery). 

We need to continue talking about these things ... it may not click at first ... but after a while they may see the light. 😉

Hey Princeton.

We've seen a huge increase in enterprise level demand for scalable forums, which is why we've put a lot of energy into the features you mention as well as basic things like S3 storage, ElasticSearch, etc.

We handle a lot of very high end migrations and we now have lots of valuable insight into hosting, managing and supporting high-level communities.

(And I'm responding to this comment, I'm not saying that is where IPS is going to focus solely on 🙂)

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10 hours ago, Silnei L Andrade said:

@Steve Bullman,

 

Do not doubt the ability of Mark Zuckerberg. I never imagined anyone would pay to work, he got that feat. People pay to work for him.

 I have been working on Facebook since 2010, our page has 740k followers and today its organic reach does not reach 1,000 users. 

https://www.facebook.com/mochileiroscom/

@Joel R,

That feeling Matt found in the phrase was exactly how our community worked a few years ago. The old hard users are gone and the new generation does not have the same spirit.  Many good things are gone, but many bad things too.  I do not miss the trolls. Today they are on Facebook. This I need to thank Mark Zuckerberg for!

Facebook is killing page reach. A good friend has 23k followers on his page, but average organic reach is about 200 people. It's fallen off a cliff this year.

They want to move everyone into groups to build communities.

But they won't achieve that with the same depth that we can because there is limited scope with a monolithic newsfeed.

I am active in a fairly good number of high level groups and they are telling everything "Build your email list, look at software outside of FB"

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Yes, they want you to pay to send content to the followers and not even paying it reaches all the followers, because even if he dreams about it, he will not be able to pack the internet in his data center. I hope they do not succeed and that you create something that removes the group managers from there so they build forums.

 

I follow weekly almost all the forums of development of the main forums. Someone needs to create some system that offers a competition against them. At this time it would be interesting to join the main developers of the forum market for the thing to walk faster. But I do not think that should be easy at all.

Edited by Silnei L Andrade

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6 hours ago, Joel R said:

An alternate way of looking at the problem is to ask what emotional or social triggers are in your knowledge to 'activate' users to share their content or to develop bonds.  

One thing that holds users off on Facebook is the feeling something is going on. As if it were a boulevard with lots of people going by and things happening. Some are just looking, others are talking, etc. In the beginning the forums played this role, that list of several people online in an internet that at the time was practically static gave that sensation to the users. Social networks have taken this with the timeline and stream. In fact they copied the best and improved. With the mobile it is easier to take it back, because people are almost 24 hours with cell phone on hand.

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I find it ironic that here we are, as forums, trying to analyze and chase after Facebook.  And Facebook is chasing after forums.  

In either case, we end up with the authenticity of forums.  Facebook Pages are a broadcast (one user to many).  Groups or forums are conversations (many to many), where users feel invested in the topic since they're on equal footing with others.  It also helps make you part of a shared system of values.  Instead of simply following someone else and his values (but you're just a bystander), you're now a part of a shared set of values with others.  

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5 hours ago, Matt said:

I am active in a fairly good number of high level groups and they are telling everything "Build your email list, look at software outside of FB"

Same - I'm in a group of almost 17,000 members, and it's complete chaos. Impossible to moderate, and I only see about a quarter of posts made to the group.

They constantly mention announcements about the rules of the group, but it's almost impossible to find them.

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14 hours ago, Joel R said:

There's always going to be a future for forums.  But a diminished one.  There are a couple of concepts that I've been bouncing around with some other IPS admins.  

 

At the enterprise level ... forums are often used to provide community support eg. evernote, etc

This is where Discord  Discourse is winning. There simplified UI is a win-win for all involved.

8 hours ago, Matt said:

Facebook is killing page reach. A good friend has 23k followers on his page, but average organic reach is about 200 people. It's fallen off a cliff this year.

They want to move everyone into groups to build communities.

But they won't achieve that with the same depth that we can because there is limited scope with a monolithic newsfeed.

I am active in a fairly good number of high level groups and they are telling everything "Build your email list, look at software outside of FB"

Agree! FB is not as publisher friendly as they use to be. 

Which is why IPS should add more social networks to Promotions. 😉 

Edited by princeton

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Until the beginning of this year the searches of the groups of the facebook only found recent content. The contents of the group were disposable, vanished in infinite scrolling. Now they have changed, improved the search, implemented ranks and tags. Invitations are sent to the admins of large groups so that they organize personal meetings as if they were Facebook's ambassadors. It's bizarre! On the other hand the fanpages have lost almost the totality of organic reach, they want that the pages pay to publish content.

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7 hours ago, Matt said:

Forums are not going anywhere.

I feel like this author is a tad biased on the future of forums LOL.  But I agree with the assessment, there's always going to be a future for  forums. 

There's a shake-out that's happening with online communities and you need to understand why you're using forums as a smart choice of platform and how it can help you achieve this goals.  

7 hours ago, Silnei L Andrade said:

As if it were a boulevard with lots of people going by and things happening

I love this phrase!

I was really hoping IPS could enhance the online activity in 4.4.  There's something almost addicting about knowing there's a user typing back with a fantastic response, and it helps generate more activity knowing that others are active.  (I know all of you are waiting with bated breath for my replies 😄).  

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28 minutes ago, princeton said:

This is where Discord is winning. There simplified UI is a win-win for all involved.

But isn't Discord a chat stream? 

Which means that large and complex topics quickly push content down, so it's hard to find or organize content.  

I think forums win in this regards.  Within IPS topic, you have:

- Popular posts - posts that meet a certain threshold get marked with a popular banner.

- Content messages - Moderators can highlight or explain a particular post, almost like a pin or featured post within the topic

- Staff posts - usually staff say more important things, so posts are highlighted

All of these make a forum topic more useful, because better content is highlighted.  IPS did a decent job with content recognition.  

Edited by Joel R

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14 hours ago, christopher-w said:

There's been lots of talk here about mobile. But what does that mean? Is it more than a different CSS, and or PWA delivery. Does functionality change?

 

Well, I can tell you what it means to me...

A simplified ... FASTER ... UI. PWA preferred. More search improvements (fast fast fast). 

Mobile users are inpatient. We need to grab their attention right away. We need to simplify everything - rethink everything We need to help them do what they want to do (or what we want them to do next). eg. let's say you are reading a topic on your mobile device ... and all of the sudden a Leave A Comment button appears .... I bet more people will leave a comment now.

I would also love to have automatic sign in (mobile/desktop). I seen this on one site where it automatically logged me in using my Google credentials. BLOWN AWAY! 

 

Edited by princeton

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6 minutes ago, Joel R said:

But isn't Discord a chat stream? 

Which means that large and complex topics quickly push content down, so it's hard to find or organize content.  

I think forums win in this regards.  Within IPS topic, you have:

- Popular posts - posts that meet a certain threshold get marked with a popular banner.

- Content messages - Moderators can highlight or explain a particular post, almost like a pin or featured post within the topic

- Staff posts - usually staff say more important things, so posts are highlighted

All of these make a forum topic more useful, because better content is highlighted.  IPS did a decent job with content recognition.  

Good catch. I meant Discourse.

That's what happens when you start reading another topic.   😁

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23 minutes ago, princeton said:

. let's say you are reading a topic on your mobile device ... and all of the sudden a Leave A Comment button appears .... What are the chances that people will leave a comment now?

That's super interesting.  That's a trigger feature within gamification design.  

I wonder how much more engagement would occur if reactions or reply boxes were animated.

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1 hour ago, princeton said:

I would also love to have automatic sign in (mobile/desktop). I seen this on one site where it automatically logged me in using my Google credentials. BLOWN AWAY! 

I saw that today somewhere, using my FB login. I was quite surprised. It was passive in that it wasn't moving around, but did the job - and almost tempted me.

Btw, I have a Discourse install running on Digital Ocean. Great for phones, but I'm not so keen on the desktop version. It seems unfinished to me.

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39 minutes ago, christopher-w said:

Btw, I have a Discourse install running on Digital Ocean. Great for phones, but I'm not so keen on the desktop version. It seems unfinished to me.

it's not my cup of tea but the Content Marketing / Community Management industry really talk a lot about it ... you never hear them talk about IPS, Xenforo, or vbulletin ... it could just be that Discourse does a great job at marketing to this group

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Forums are here to stay. 

What forum needs is to evolve fast with time. More features more features, more cosmetics perfume and fancy codes.

Forum needs to have that sweet smooth feel and looks. 

Top that and forum shall rise back to the top of the food chain as it was once before.

The Facebook user base has declined rapidly. Facebook is now old and boring. Facebook is now copying the forums.

Long live forums, my universal colleges and universities.

Edited by beats23

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