What is the exact Meaning of The Community Spirit?

Hi, I always hear about the Community Spirit, while I searched the community, I didn’t find a good post talking about such “Community Spirit” and its development.

Rather, I’ve read something about the chinese discourse forum

Here we discussed what is the vitality of a forum when there already being facebook, twitter, zhihu, weibo, wechat, etc. When almost all the reading are based on cell phone, what kind of community do we need to build? Do we still need a forum or a BBS community?

I think most of the Chinese discourse website operaters’ ideas are very good. While I think I should can give you some translation.

The Value of a Forum in this ERA:

  • The forum is a very good place to keep a topic move forward.

  • While other tools are more like fast-food culture, talk for a while, if not having a good anwser, then this topic will be dead.

  • A forum can be a serious community for thinking , while other tools are often just for fun, jokes or just showing off.

  • A forum will be a Knowledge Repository, people keep maintain and foster a topic to make it so deep that the new comers can just come and see the Knowledge or even the Wisdom.

  • A Forum nowadays, must be smart enough!, or it will definitely be dead.

  • You can make the forum smart at learning for the user, and always present to the user the topics that he/she might be interested in.

  • Now, the Discourse is not doing well in information screening and information matching.

I just want to start a discussion on What the community spirit exactly is and What should we do to fully develop such spirit.


I’d say the Community Spirit highly depends on the type of community. Meaning there is a big difference between a forum of some RPG friends (about 20 people that all know each other in real life) and some global topic forum like for cars or PC games.

For me, the main difference between some social network like Facebook and a forum community is the focus: a social network is user based (everything revolves around single users that show off and communicate) while a forum is topic based (topics are created and fostered by users).

Because of that it’s highly important for a forum community to be able to find topics by active search or automated suggestion - to keep topics alive and useful. And the willingness of users to contribute to topics - instead of showing off like in a social network.


Even with a car forum, where 99% of the content is about a single marque (forums.jag-lovers.com) you still get flame wars and tensions within the community.

You personally might not think that the choice of an air filter brand can get people riled up, but believe me, it can develop as much divisiveness as any political issue.

Within any group of individuals bound by a common interest there will always be tensions. To me the trick as a moderator is to tolerate debate, even passionate debate, while keeping an eye out for when people start to get personal.

There will always be users who goof off, and derail anything.
There will always be users who get personal, (rather than arguing in the philosophical sense).


Such a tricky subject and yes it depends on the type of forum but even the most seemingly innocent types of forums like talking about flowers and plants can end up in huge flame wars. When people get passionate about something and someone disagree’s fights will start. Up to the mods and choosing good mods to manage it.

Yes, that’s right. And that’s another big problem.

If we try some restrictions to make people talk professionally or calmly or seriously—— They often stop talking. And the Forum will be dead.

If we let them talk in passion, the meterial they producted will often be useless and valuless.

So what is the best scale that we should restrict to the users?

  • I’m now only trying to delete all the add posts. —— Easy and for sure.
  • I’m now bearing posts like “Good!”“Like!” :grinning: :fonzie: , posts like this. —— While these posts are also meaningless.


  • How to make people feel free to product information on the forum, and they will now be so bored to start a flame war?
  • How to make the forum be active on the one hand, and be meaningful on the other hand?

How to make people enthusiastic?

Let’s see what other forums do?

  • They often have a scoring system, to make people come everyday, subscribe everyday. And answer for such scores.

  • They often build some interested related topics. Like a lottery. Or make a district for interest related topics, like the exam taking people communite places, the career choosing, experience sharing places.

  • They often make a show off platform. Like Making a Lesson or Live or Debate.

  • Other ways.

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Start good or very controversial topics for a start.

Set up reply templates in all your categories that say things like this:

- Introduce yourself to the community
- Give your topic a meaningful title

- When offering an answer to somebody, please make your reply meaningful and useful to the person requesting help. Reply's with simple messages like "Wow" or  "Cool" have no use to anybody and instead you should rather just click the LIKE button on the topic.

Have you installed the Akismet plugin? Also will dealing with spam registrations.

I first ran into Discourse on the Let’s Encrypt Community Forums, that’s a forum that defines Community Spirit and I am finding meta.discourse also to be very similar.


Have you published a set of rules for what is, and is not, allowed? Are these concrete?

In my opinion you can’t force people to post content which you find acceptable. What you can do is define what is, and is not, acceptable, and when someone steps out of line, remind them of the rules.

I personally don’t like the idea of deleting posts or banning users, on the one hand you may end up playing whack a mole with trolls, and on the other I think it is more effective to respond to a topic that is going thermonuclear and ask your users to exercise some restraint. Refer them to your rules, and be clear about what you will do if people don’t restrain themselves. If you just delete a thread which goes out of control then the “problem users” will just start another, and you end up doing the moderator equivalent of knitting fog.


Please concentrate on the right topic: What is the exact Meaning of the Community Spirit . And don’t be interupted by some trival rules or side topics. And sorry for such trival or side topics I’ve presented. But that’s also only a small topic explaining the Main Topic. But concentrate on such side topics is not. We can start another post to talk about your questions.

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I just set up some basic rules and DO’s and don’ts, haven’t officially invited people to the site even thought it’s live but when I do, over 500 invites at least then I will see what I am dealing with :smile:

I don’t think there is an exact meaning of community spirit. You may find rules trivial, but they are the only thing you have with which you can explicity define the difference between what is acceptable behaviour on your forum, and what isn’t.

The system may pose hard limits (picture size, post counts) but they have little to do with the ephemeral “Spirit” of your community.

The Spirit of your community is something that you can steer, but you can’t define it. It arises out of the subject of the discussions, the opinions which your users post, and what is seen as acceptable and unacceptable.


First, you are quite right.

On the other hand, I have to restrict the question again. I’m not talking about the difference between forums and forums, but the difference between the forum and facebook, twitter, zhihu, quora, wechat, weibo.

When almost all the reading are based on cell phone, what kind of community do we need to build? Do we still need a forum or a BBS community?

Because, facebook, twitter, zhihu, quora are so active while forums(almost all the forums I have to say) are not active.

I’m woundering why should a forum exist? What should a forum be like in a world with facebook, twitter, etc. (You see, a few years ago, forum is so active, but that’s because there is no facebook, twitter, zhihu, quora)

I think that should be the true meaning of “Forum of the New Era”.


That’s exactly what discourse is “a forum of the new era.”

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest of the social media BS have never and will never replace a forum and most people are sick and tired of them, chasing likes and shares.

I gave up on forums because they all became dated, complicated and cumbersome to use and with most of them to this day they bound you to a desktop computer because they certainly never worked on mobile and even using them on desktop was cumbersome complicated and frustrating, something which lead to 99% of fights on forums, users frustrated with a shoddy system and they take it out on other users.

Discourse barre none has re invented forums and community collaboration. The forum I am about to launch is sure to be a hit purely because it is so user friendly, so easy to moderate, so easy to control, so flipping fast and so magical it’s unbelievable.


Great! I really want to see how you organize a forum and what is your central idea.

I also want to help upgrade Discourse. I like the apperance of Discourse but I think the idea behind Discourse is still not smart enough, and that makes Discourse not so attractive.


@HAWK had a great writeup on this over at emoderation.com, which has since been rebranded & restructured. Article is still available on archive.org:

Sarah, any chance you have the rights to republish this article?


Thanks @erlend_sh – I wasn’t even aware of the rebrand.

I’ll get in touch with them and see what the story is. Thanks for the heads up.


In my opinion, the Community Spirit kicks in when users experience value from interacting with the community.
Just like people do in real life through social interactions.
So, the key to making a forum work and establishing a Community Spirit, is to offer users value.
That in it itself is the basis of social transactions.
Value can be created in different ways, but I suspect that the very nature of successful online forums such as Discourse, makes content prevalent.
When Community Spirit really takes off, a forum becomes a self-generating content machine through its participating members.
So the meaning of Community Spirit is the self-evident right to existence as a medium of communication for its community.
Or, put simply: it lends its community a voice.


The key difference between a forum and a social network is something that @XieLong touched on. A forum is topic-centric, whereas a social network is user-centric. If you’re interested in this question I suggest you pursue that avenue further.

I would try to avoid making qualitative assessments about the psychology of social networks, at least as a key premise in your analysis. Yes it’s true that you see some narcissistic behavior on social networks. It’s also true that many social networks are designed to be, and are in fact, addictive. But it doesn’t follow from that that social networks and the people who use them are inherently flawed. People want and need to interact with other people. Many people care more about the other people in their lives than they do about specific topics or communities. Another way of putting it is that focusing on the perceived flaws of the individuals involved in a comparison of two systems is an ad hominem fallacy.

The nub of the comparison between forums and social networks vis-a-vis ‘community’ is around the question of what makes for better social bonds. Is it personal connections, aka networks, or is it issues, interests and topics. Of course this isn’t actually a dichotomy. Both forums and social networks foster personal connections and issues/interests/topics. The question is their relative effect on the same.

There are two good books I would recommend on this topic, which I’ve linked below. I would suggest reading ‘Bowling Alone’ first, and then ‘Networked’ second, as the latter is somewhat of a reply to the former.

If anyone has any other quality texts on the subject, particularly non-US-centric texts, I would be very interested.


I moderated a long running forum of yoga lovers. It has been around for 15 years. The people on that board are still great friends and still have strong business ties because of the amazing spirit we had on our board.

It’s true, even lovely topics like yoga can get really out of hand. Here are some of my ideas about how to create a strong spirit:

  • Strong leadership from the top of an attitude of openness, sharing, connection over division. It’s important that the person at the center of the three ring circus have the respect of the members for their accomplishments in their field, and it’s important that this person participates and demonstrates the spirit of the board.

  • Great software that allows the use of emojis, pictures, GIFs, and offline connections. Chat features are nice but can add a weird element, especially as relationships between men and women get really flirty in chat.

  • Have a way for people to connect in the real world safely. This is one of the main things that we had that other people did not. Because we were centered around the teachings of an teacher who traveled widely to teach, we were able to meet up in person safely at his events. At one point, at any of his workshops there would be 5 or more people from our discussion board there. We had one event that was pre-announced on our discussion board that sold out - a very large event - just from the announcement on our board. We also had 4 large “gatherings” just for our discussion board members (but in the spirit of our board, there were always a few people who had never participated who got dragged there by friends or who were just happened to read about the event and decided to show up).

  • Rules are nice but it’s important that when things get rough that you train people to interact with each other in ways that model kindness and respect. Then people can model the skills and others can see that we can disagree but we can still put our relationships above all else.

  • One thing I wish I’d done more of was create cooling off periods for bad actors. Be willing to ban jerks.



  • The key difference between a forum and a social network is something that touched on. A forum is topic-centric, whereas a social network is user-centric.

  • Then what’s the key difference between a forum and Quora?

A Forum is a topic-centric and keep growing topic.

  • Quora is a place for one-question-one-answer. The topic will not go deeper itself. If you want to know more, you have to ask another question.

  • But in a Forum: People maintain or foster a topic to make it so deep that the new comers can just come and see the Knowledge or even the Wisdom. The topic keep changing, and goes deeper and deeper.

That’s a great question. Quora is driven by topics, issues and interests, so in the simple dichotomy of “Networks” v “Forums”, it seems to fall on the forum side of the equation. Quora mission statement seems to reinforce this characterization.

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge … The heart of Quora is questions … Quora has content you will feel good about having read … Quora’s answers come from people who really understand the issues and have first-hand knowledge

Interestingly, if you read Facebook’s mission statement, you will find some similar language

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected

Every ambitious tech company seems to articulate their business goal in terms of world impact. However the real core of Facebook, the reason they’re approaching 2 billion users, is

People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family

Your mum isn’t on Facebook to change the world, or even to understand it better. She’s on Facebook to see what you’re up to when she’s not around. Which is fine (or not fine depending on what your mum is like). But it’s important to acknowledge that, despite the fact that people use Facebook to discuss issues/interests/topics and despite the fact that Facebook plays an important role in civic life by sheer virtue of its size, it’s built around networks much more than around issues, interests and topics.

Of course, people, or perhaps more accurately ‘personalities’, still matter a lot on Quora. When I read about the mathematical explanation for the entanglement of the earphones I’m told that what I’m reading is coming from a chap with a Ph.D who has been up-voted by another Ph.D in ‘condensed matter theory’ (sounds relevant right?).

People also matter on a taxonomic cousin to Quora, the Granddaddy of the QA category, Stack Overflow. Interestingly, according to Alexa, SO (technically Stack Exchange in this instance) is at the top of the “Audience Overlap” list for Quora (you need a paid account to see this table in full).

Moreover, the way people typically engage with Quora is similar to SO. They search for an answer to a question and Quora is one of the top results (again, you need a paid subscription to see this in Alexa).

One of the interesting differences between SO and Quora in the way they handle People is that SO is less about ‘personalities’ and more about ‘reputation’. For all I know, “Greg”, the author of the most upvoted answer to “JavaScript function declaration syntax: var fn = function() {} vs function fn() {}” could be 15 year old girl with braces (no offense “Greg” if you’re out there). And in many respects that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that, not only has his answer been upvoted 3588 times, but that his SO ‘score’ is in the triple digits.

When you see a reputation number followed by a “k” on SO, you instantly feel more confident in what that person says, regardless of their formal qualifications. Despite their differences however, Quora and SO are trying to do similar things. Provide authoritative answers to questions.

So where does that leave us? The ‘QA’ category of sites does present a challenge to the simple taxonomy of ‘Networks’ v ‘Forums’ insofar as it suggests that ‘Forums’ is a very broad category. Perhaps overly broad to the point of losing any explanatory power. It definitely reminds us that any analytical lens we apply to the assessment of online communication has to be seen as just that: one lens to apply to continually developing and multi-various phenomena.

One might be tempted to say that when you look at some of the aspects of ‘QA’ category I’ve mentioned, like typical engagement patterns and the function of personalities and reputation, that they’re not a ‘Forums’ because they’re too transactional. People go there to find an authoritative answer and then leave. People don’t go there to be a part of a ‘community’.

However, I think that might be missing the wood from the trees, in that the role of a platform for authoritative knowledge can entail a very important communal role. The ‘tech’ community would not be what it is without Stack Overflow. It’s more than just a shared knowledge repository. It’s more than its online self. It’s an important aspect of how the tech community views itself and projects itself on the world.

From my, admittedly limited, perspective it seems that the same can’t be said for Quora. Quora is not a touchstone in a ‘real world’ (‘offline’ ?) community. No doubt it has a lot of great content, has some great people on it, and has its own sense of ‘online’ community. But it doesn’t seem to play an important role in any ‘offline’ communities. It may be a bit harsh, but one way to put it is that if Quora disappeared overnight, the effect would not be significant to any individual real world community. Mathematics Ph.Ds, as a group, would probably not be overly concerned.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that Quora’s scope is overly broad to be a communal touchstone. It’s a single platform that purports to be for all “Knowledge”. Yes Stack Exchange, as opposed to SO, seems to do the same, however it’s more a collection of platforms, rather than a single platform. It’s more a confederation, than a centralized federation.