Semi-public sub-categories?

My forum is currently a public forum with one category (apart from staff and lounge) limited to a specific group. But I have a feeling that in order to encourage more posts from my users, it might be a good idea to give users the possibility to post semi-publicly, i.e. limited to logged in users. My idea is to do this by creating a semi-public sub-category for at least some of the categories. But I’m not entirely sure where this might lead us and whether it’s really a good idea. So before I propose this to my users, I’d like to discuss this strategy here. Is anything doing anything similar?

I currently see two main caveats:

  • technical: sub-categories cannot have a semi-private sub-sub-category
  • community development: discussions might concentrate in the semi-public categories, making the forum look dead from the outside and, by consequence, attract fewer new users.
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Just to clarify, you’re proposing that only logged in users can see the posts in the semi-private category?

What kinds of discussions are they – i.e. what makes you think that this will encourage more people to post?

I do think there is a chance that you’ll cannibalise the rest of the forum, as you mention. Have you asked your audience what their thoughts are?

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You can’t have sub-sub-sub categories. But you can create categories that use trust level (or other groups) permissions. eg. instead of “everyone” (logged in, not logged in, search bots) “trust level 0” (logged in only)

The effect it could have on the forum because of the content not being seen by non-logged in visitors or search bots should be considered, but I imagine if used sparingly it could work.

Yes, precisely.

I guess it will depend on user preferences which kind of discussions end up in semi-public categories. I would say “probably those ones that people prefer not to be entirely public” but that would be pretty much tautological. Maybe a slightly better way of saying it is “topics that people don’t want to be discoverable via a Google search”.

The idea that such topics might exist came to mind when I posted a quick summary of a research project that I’m currently planning and on which I asked the community for feedback, including that people might already be working on similar questions, have done so in the past or might want to do so in the future. In other words, I’m encouraging discussions that are closely linked to questions of obtaining research funding and individual’s professional identities and career paths. (I might add that most of my users use their real name on the forum).

No, not yet, because raising the option would commit me to implementing it if people wanted it. So before I do that, I wanted to discuss this from a community management perspective.

Yes, exactly, that’s the idea.

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