My latest forum... but it's not running Discourse - here's why

(Andy Crichton) #19

I am very keen to implement Discourse as we have a forum (more like Q&A) that is small enough to change over before it gets bigger, which it will, with the strategy we are implementing. By the by, but my view is that there is a place for slick and minimal, and other times, less can sometimes be less!

e.g. Usability studies have shown that where e-commerce cart forms are “dumbed down” with tabs that open drop down fields perform worse than bigger old fashioned forms where everything is on display. The inference being show the user upfront what they are expected to fill in.

Same principle with CTA’s. You cannot assume readers know what to do next, you got to tell them. Click here, sign here, do this do that.

So with discourse, I wouldn’t change a thing below the header area, the hierarchy is great, but first timers and less inquisitive I think would stumble at the first hurdle. i.e. They arrive, shoot what do I do now? This doesn’t look like a forum I ever went on before!

The first thing I would ask the person running our forum to do would be to change the header area, so CATEGORIES were open and the Search was prominent standout.

These are the two navigation methods that us dinosaurs recognise and also having the search prominent, you show users straight away what in my mind is the amazing aspect of this forum, how easy it is to find stuff with the search engine.

Once you are where you want to be, I think a user would then feel somewhat in control and start to click buttons to see how to reply and how to open threads up.

I just need to find a smart cooky to employ to install this for me on and change the css a bit and I would be happy to report back

(Michael Downey) #20

There are also those of us who would (and did) leave a bank (or any vendor) who insists on use of fax machines, because they’re so outdated and we gave them up decades ago.

Sure, I’m a modernist and want to tie my fortunes to those who adapt with the times. Does that mean that there won’t still be those who are stuck in the past status quo because it’s comfortable? Of course not, those folks will always be around and for some communities (particularly not tech ones) that’s probably OK.

Experimenting and trying new things is one of the best ways for a community to keep attracting new people and energy. If it doesn’t, it’s surely going to suffer attrition.

(Jeff Atwood) #21

This is a good point. Most of the existing “traditional” forums are slowly dying and losing users precisely because the format is so archaic. I hear this a lot. They fail to attract new users, but the old timers stick around. This is not a formula for survival.

Even great stuff like Metafilter, sadly, is losing steam, traffic, users, because the software isn’t adapting – it still has that old 1999 style design.

(AstonJ) #22

It’s not the format or the design that’s the main reason causing forums to go into decline imo, it’s that the platforms haven’t evolved and kept up, or, better still, responded to the draw of FB and Twitter.

That’s the real challenge, tempting people away from FB - and why I think forums don’t just need something to catch up, but to offer something FB or Twitter never could.

(Steve) #23

great question that one, i suspect a lot have moved on to facebook and twitter. plus the forum software is old and new users aren’t compelled to join. Truth is i’ve even lost interest compared to the old days.

Infact, the last 3 days is the most excited i’ve been about forum software since I first discovered it in the very late 90’s.


I’d bet the biggest reason a forum would lose members due to “archaic”-ness, is that a lot of those “archaic” forums don’t work well on mobile devices, which are gaining more and more steam every year. In a bit of irony, that is one of the things Discourse has extremely poor support for as well.

(Sam Saffron) #25

When it comes to reading content mobile is quite good. The main 2 pain points in my opinion are

  1. Adding comments, position fixed just makes stuff really annoying to get working right

  2. Image sizing is real tough on mobile cause with need to use percent width / heights that make pages jiggle quite a lot on first entry in mobile.

I am super curious to see forums that solve these issue without giving up and doing tapatalk, we do have plans to improve this.

(Sam Saffron) #26

I moved a post to a new topic: Issues with mobile theme

(Tomo Vukasović) #28

How to provide quality content when there is so much to share, send, copy, paste :smile:

If you have 30 minutes to use on YouTube, Facebook, forums and those 30 minutes you are on the endless scroll. While user scrolls through the posts it is extremely important that he can easily differentiate users with higher user rank. The ideal user rank formula would be mix of:

  1. Post likes.
  2. Mentions.
  3. Number of posts as percentage of all forums posts.
  4. Admin,mods, special groups can give special higher ranks. Their likes could give more weight.
  5. Badges also each carrying certain percentage in the user rank algorithm.

Final result can be any number. I prefer from 1 to 10 with decimal point.

User rank: 5.2

or present it visually like:

(AstonJ) #29

Can you share the links to your forums Steve? I’d be interested in taking a look. (Feel free to PM me them if you prefer :))

(AstonJ) #30

Yep, I think the summary could be more useful too - by having most liked post, and perhaps a best post or selected answer too. I know the DC team might not want that because of cross-over with SO, but it’s going to turn up on one forum platform or another soon…

(Tomo Vukasović) #31

I am not big fan of most liked posts and best answers. SO has reputation system, but it is visually confusing.

(Jeff Atwood) #32

I definitely support the idea of showing a user’s most liked recent posts on their profile in a prominent way.

We’ll redesign the user page in the next year to fold in more “greatest hits” on your user profile. I think that would be very useful.

(AstonJ) #33

That definitely sounds like something worth exploring. Most liked posts could work, most liked (or popular) threads that the user has posted may be problematic (sometimes, the busiest threads are where there is the greatest difference of opinion - and these are sometimes heated, ending acrimoniously). Perhaps if the user can prevent certain threads or posts from showing on their profile in these lists it could work.

Back to threads, we need to ask ourselves what a user wants from a thread when a) they are a guest finding us probably via a search in Google, or b) a member who is a regular visitor.

I suggested the XF team look at it too, perhaps with a view suited to guests and another for members - because their needs will often be different.

A guest, will almost certainly be looking for something - an answer or a piece of info, and we need to have a mechanism in place to give them that quickly and without having to trawl through the entire thread. Here I think a selected/best answer (SO style) along with a most liked post could be a great complement to the existing summary box at the top. Perhaps with an option to sort thread comments by most likes, too.

With regards to the ‘summarise this thread’ option, I am not quite sure it is useable - because it can be very difficult to summarise a thread automatically. Here we’d need to ask, what posts are the most important and relevant in this thread? I guess that would be all of the thread starter’s posts (and perhaps all of the direct replies to them), along with the most liked or most quoted. But still, I am not convinced it would to prove useful in most threads because they can differ so greatly - I mean, what about a ‘your photos’ thread, where you’d expect every post that contains a photo to be important. I guess we probably need a dedicated thread to discuss this tho!

(Lee_Ars) #34

I cringe when I have to interact with vbulletin. It’s in use by the Frontier Development folks over at the official Elite Dangerous forums and it’s cluttered and studded with cruft, while hiding useful bits beneath layers of unneeded features (ego search in particular is a nightmare). The Ars openforums phpbb install is about the slickest traditional forum I’ve regularly used, mostly because our web guys have made a concentrated effort to keep the feature list slim.

I don’t have the developer-style hate that @codinghorror has for php/mysql, since I can’t code my way out of a paper bag, but Discourse is refreshing.

As for forum members preferring one over the other, IME the masses are always going to prefer the familiar over the unfamiliar; it’s valid to take feedback into account, but only with the caveat that all such comments will inevitably be dominated by an extremely vocal minority. Design purely by group consensus is folly.

(Daniel Gagnon) #35

You are having doubts it can work or you did try it and found it innefective?

As threads grow to a hundred and more, the percentage of messages worth reading decreases and in my experience, the summarise function does wonder hiding those messages nobody cares about making reading such behemots feasible.

But if while doing so you think at some point you lost the meaning of the conversation, then expend the posts between where you are and the previous shown post and you should get your context back.

(AstonJ) #36

Both I guess.

I was waiting for a ‘summarise this thread’ to appear for this thread so I could see how well it summarised this thread, but it hasn’t appeared yet (when do they appear? What is the criteria for it?)

Also speaking of criteria, anyone know why this thread doesn’t show in the ‘top’ lists? What is the criteria for threads to show there?

(Daniel Gagnon) #37

It doesn’t appear for short threads. I’m not sure what’s the treshold.

(Jeff Atwood) #38

50 replies is the summarize threshold.

(Jeff Atwood) #42