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About cfish

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  • Location
    Hampshire, UK
  • Interests
    Web Design/Development, Photography, Landscape, Walking.

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  1. Yes, in an ideal world, it's possible to hold great ideals. I used to think like you and in the early days of the web, I gave my time for free, creating content that no-one thanked me for and I felt really good about myself. After a while, the site grew more popular and hosting costs started to increase. At its height, my site was attracting a million visitors every month and costing £200 to keep online. Without monetising the site through advertising, it would have disappeared long ago, once the hosting costs outstripped my monthly pocket money. Because I monetised it, it's still online and all the content is available to everyone for free. It is possible to monetise a project without losing your morals. ?
  2. Very good point. For me, a successful forum is one that at least pays for itself. Providing I can generate enough revenue (adsense in my case) from the site to pay for my IPS 6 monthly subscription and to cover all hosting costs, it is sustainable. After that, success is measured by vibrancy, diversity etc. of the community. In truth, it doesn't worry me that we have lots of guests passing through and not contributing content. Effectively, they are the people that keep the community online because they are the ones clicking on ads. In a sense, therefore, it's as important to have lots of non-contributing guests as it is to have a core of loyal members who generate the content to attract the guests. It's a beautiful, symbiotic relationship.
  3. Whilst I agree with the sentiment, I'm pretty sure this is not a battle I want to take on. In truth, this is a societal change and it's going to take more than a few old forum warriors to put it right. Frankly, I think the genie is out of the bottle and it ain't going back. So my advice is, work with things as they are. Accept that the majority of visitors to your site will never contribute and focus you attention on those few who do/will. Actually, this is not so different now from back in the day. My forum has had millions of guests over the years but only a few thousand that have left any trace of their existence and possibly a few hundred who have become loyal community regulars. I don't see a massive shift from back then to now, although admittedly, there are fewer new members who have become regulars.
  4. In principle, I agree but we shouldn't assume that it's our job to educate the masses. We have to accept that the world has changed and that the way people want to interact has changed. There's no point being a King Canute and assuming we can stand against the tide of micro interactions. They are now an integral part of our (maybe not your) information space. Any discussion of the future of forums has to take this into account. Future forums have to allow for micro-interactions (as IPB already does to some extent - reactions) but they must ALSO provide the opportunity for considered, long-form debate. For me, the issue is not that one is better than the other but how best to mix the two.
  5. @Joel R you make some really good points and I'd like to add a couple of my own: 1. Content sets - I think this would be a bold but necessary next step for IPS. However, the implications of this go beyond content and effectively revise the whole architecture of the community suite. For example, what would be the point of a Gallery app if members can create Photoessays and Xoom? The platform becomes one large content bucket with content defined only by type rather than by application. Actually, this is much closer to a social media style platform and may well be an appropriate direction for the "forums" of the future. I like the concept of a unified architecture but I'm unsure about its application to many existing forums. On the other hand, it may encourage the development of new communities by those who are tired of giving their content away to the global social media giants. 2. The brilliance of Instagram (and other mobile apps) - It's true that app design (UI) has made interactions much easier. I love the way Instagram works and it's telling that the platform does not allow for the same interaction on the desktop - it is, fundamentally, a mobile platform that works brilliantly for photos and short-form text. On the other hand, mobile is not so good at long-form text. I certainly wouldn't want to write this post on my phone and am enjoying using a physical keyboard. I think whether a forum would thrive in a mobile-only environment is sort-of dependent on what type of interactions are taking place. For example, a few years back I moved one of my forums from vB over to a Slack group. The transition was really well received by members and it has thrived ever since. But the success is down to two things, the form of content (predominantly short-form text, links and code snippets) and the ubiquity of access via web, desktop app and mobile app. This allows for quick responses and real-time communication - ideal for those who use it. But I have noticed that we no longer see long-form text, more thoughtful opinion pieces. That's OK for that particular community but it wouldn't work for every forum and that's why I still run traditional forums too. 3. Video - I completely agree with what you say. It is a shame that at a time when cloud storage is becoming so cheap, hosted space remains relatively expensive. I haven't looked around recently but I'm guessing that the cost of storage at some of the CDN solutions may be dropping - that may be one way of providing enough content space to allow for independent video hosting. As above, this will be attractive to those who resent giving away their finely crafted content to multi-national corporations. The time may be nearing a point where independence on the Web is, once again, valued and viable despite the rich nature of content.
  6. Ha! So true. It would be interesting to know the average age of IPB licence holders. Are they all old hopeless romantics like us or is there a new generation of forum admins coming through?
  7. If getting people to register is a stumbling block for you, you might consider some strategies for encouraging sign-ups. For example, if your site has advertising, make it clear that members don't see ads or see fewer of them - the incentive being a better user experience. Also add forums that look interesting but which have no access for guests, they will be incentivised by their inquisitiveness. I use both these strategies on my forum and I get plenty of registrations. My problem is converting those registrations into contributing members. It's a different problem but results from the same basic issue you have identified. I'm hoping that my imminent move from vB to IPB will solve my current problem and that the gamification now embedded in IPB will be the solution.
  8. Couldn't agree more. Success will be determined by how well we are able to balance the mix between those two things. And the balance will be different depending on who your audience is and which sector you're in. It's not a simple calculation but one that's worthwhile spending time on.
  9. It's certainly true that the world has changed a lot since you and I were young. The contemporary obsession with the "self" certainly makes it harder to develop any idea of community around a subject area. I work with young people a lot so I have some understanding of their motivations. However, if it is possible to capture the attention of younger "consumers", they are just as keen to contribute as we were back in the day. The difficulty we face is how to capture their attention and how to provide the "entertainment" they seek along with the content they want to consume. The gamification aspects of IPS are one of the key tools in this effort. In the past, kudos was gained simply by contributing to a community. Now, that's not enough (what's in it for me?). Altruism is no longer a motivator. But, badges and likes and "wow, everyone loves me" reactions are the new motivators. This is one of the key reasons I chose to migrate to IPS. Like it or not, this silly and ephemeral paraphernalia is the key to tapping into your members knowledge.
  10. This isn't and either/or situation. All I'm saying is that the old adage, "content is king", still holds true. In any web project, that's the priority. If, by using IPS I can provide the opportunity for interaction and community building, so much the better. It's a win-win. Medium and WordPress are just fine if you're a content broadcaster but I believe the most successful community sites combine broadcasting, community and the opportunity for UGC. Hence, IPS turns out to be an ideal solution.
  11. It depends. Audience, sector and objectives all vary from one community to another and consequently, there's no one-size-fits-all. Sure, if your content is targeted at Gen Z, then you may have a point. For people who favour interaction over content quality, your approach is just fine. However, it's easy to believe that everyone on the web is looking for the same thing - they're not. If your content is aiming at the professional market, then the rules are different. Credible, quality content will trump interaction every time.
  12. My own view is not so much that people prefer to use Facebook over a more traditional forum platform but that there is much more competition in the information space these days. Yes, Facebook can provide an attractive platform for discussion but there are other platforms, like Slack that provide an even more compelling alternative to forums. Once you realise that it's a case of competition, the key is to identify your unique selling proposition. I have always believed (and still do) that what people are looking for in any information space is quality content. If your forum provides the best quality information on whatever topic and includes members with good knowledge/experience and a good reputation, it will thrive, despite competition. I recommend you provide plenty of original, quality content in the form of tutorials, articles and opinion pieces. This will attract organic traffic and encourage people to interact with your community. Adding social media into the mix is important these days for SEO but if used correctly, it can help to funnel users to your forum rather than distract them from it. Sure, forum owners have to work harder today in order to attract the same traffic they had yesterday but the move away from forums like IPS/vB/phpBB is not inevitable.
  13. I've just spent the whole of this week doing a dry-run migration of a vB4 forum with over half a million posts to IPS Forums. I've created a new theme and I've added Adsense ads and all the other stuff that's needed for a successful migration. I've also had a few trusted members take a look at the new forum and received feedback. I thought it would be helpful if I related my initial impressions. First off, I'm really impressed. Moving from vB4, I can hardly believe how thoughtful the design of this software is. I love the ethos of taking the burden away from the admins and mods and, at the same time, providing a great user experience for everyone who uses it. So, five stars for that. Second, I'm also impressed how intuitive (mostly) everything is. I managed to do everything this week with only a few references to the support materials. When I did need that support, the documentation was excellent. So, five stars for that too. Third, I love that IPS Forums looks, feels and functions like a thoroughly modern web application. It's head and shoulders above any other forum out there and I've had some great feedback from my testers - they can't wait to start using the live board. OK, so is everything perfect? No. I'm going to complain about the two things that annoyed me this week. The first is relatively minor but really should be sorted out. The second is (IMO) significant and ought to be a priority for the next iteration of IPS Forums. 1. Theme Editing: There is some ambiguity when setting theme colours. There are two ways of doing this, the Theme Editor and the Easy Mode Editor but they each offer different options for the same elements. E.g. the theme editor allows the user to select a single colour for the header while the easy mode editor allows for the selection of a colour or the creation of a gradient. So which one takes precedent? It's not really clear and although I started using the theme editor, I soon gave up and used only the easy mode editor to avoid any ambiguity. I think this needs to be better thought through. That's not to say that the Easy Mode Editor isn't brilliant, it is, but theme editing is confusing. 2. Advertisements: This is a significant issue. I know this because even vBulletin 4 got this right back in 2009. Like many admins, I use Google Adsense to support my site but I was alarmed to see that the hooks for the default ads are placed in the global template, meaning that the header and footer ads appear on EVERY page, even those with no content and clearly violating Google's terms and conditions. I couldn't believe that an application, so thoughtful and user-centred in every other respect, would not have considered this. The only safe solution I found was to manually edit the template files to add my own custom hook. It's really out of order to expect all users to take such a deep dive into this application just to satisfy the T&Cs of their ad providers. Of course, there are a couple of plug-ins that will prevent ads appearing on some pages but they are not comprehensive and they appear to work by hiding the ad via CSS. This is not a good solution as the HTML ad code still appears on non-content pages. I did a quick search on this forum and found lot's of examples of admins who had received a warning from Google after adding ad code to IPS Forums. In October 2017, @Lindy said "Just to note, we're aware of this concern and are considering solutions such as an option to exclude ads on login, error, register and pages that guests cannot access." As far as I'm aware, there's been no update on this. C'mon IPS! This really needs sorting out. Other than those two, one minor and one major issues. it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
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