Continuing the discussion from Forum categories as social isolation, not as information organization:
I started thinking about this even more, and I think the sub-reddit concept could really work here - the key would be to have navigation that makes sense, and make the sub-categories, or sub-discourses, or sub-areas, or whatever you want to call them, very discoverable from the home page.
- The main home page shows all the best discussions.
- On small forums, this means that all the discussions end up on the home page, solving the dead sub-forum problem entirely.
- On large forums, this allows people to camp out in their favorite sub-discourse instead of seeing everybody else’s posts from areas that you don’t care about.
- Each sub-discourse needs to have full navigation elements - Unread, New, Favorited… just for that sub-discourse.
- You can allow people to “subscribe” to the sub-discourses that they prefer, and then just put those discussions on the home page… for them.
Once you’re in a sub-discourse, you need to make sure that the navigation works for the sub-discourse just like it would for the main level discourse.
So here’s my very badly 'shopped mockups of how that could work.
Global home page, with new “Discourse Areas” box on the right to let you easily find sub-discourses.
And here’s the Sub-Discourse for “Feature”. Note that the navigation is ugly, but is pretty clearly just for this sub-discourse.
Obviously a real designer who doesn’t suck could come up with much better versions of this.