Forums, love them or hate them.
I’m predicting they’ll make a come back as people realise the value of slower form and longer term value discussions.
Done well, forums can bring long term stability and sustainability to a community. We can also learn to look at communities with a longer term investment.
They are great for:
- formalising ideas
- seeking help
- collaborative note taking
- get answers
- giving back
- Support each other
- Learn new ways to do something
And here’s my Tweet version of this:
Forums are peerless when it comes to permanent long form content. It’s not unusual to have topics that are five or ten years old to still get replies and have more value added.
I also like that while personalities are not the focus within a forum, the content is; it’s easy to established experienced and helpful people based on the length of time they have been on the community, the number of contributions and their member/respect levels.
The long termness of it forums is what excites me the most.
What about forums that feel personality led? How do you feel about those?
I think Indie Hackers and dev.to / forem come under this category.
I miss Forums when ppl on Discord ask the same questions multiple times . Wondering how you will be onboarding Rosieland members into the Forum vs. Discord server of Rosieland? Or are you going to move away from Discord?
Yes, the long term value for forums is what people seem to have forgotten.
My plan is to use Discord for more casual chat and connection. It’s perfect for reaching out to people to ask if they are interested in doing something together. I’m also hosting audio events there too, which Discourse doesn’t cater for.
Whereas Discourse becomes a somewhat more intentional space. And is also searchable via search engines, which will hopefully bring positive impact with a longer term view.
Of course context matters, but I do think most communities should aim for a chat (e.g. Discord) + a forum (e.g. Discourse) combination for their communities. The tools compliment each other.
I think personality led communities are no different from brand led in terms of people lining up behind an ideology, passion or interest.
Your personality is key to driving this community forwards given that you encompass many different topics with overlapping discussion areas.
The main difference on a forum is that because we are not using an immediate chat format, there is more formality to replies which reduces the level of personality people inject. This allows the topic to become the feature.
Forums are fantastic (indeed, essential) for maintaining access to your content. Live chat platforms are great for that instantaneous connection, but forums give you longevity and allow you to easily refer to older content at any point.
In the WordPress community we have a project-wide policy that discussions can happen on Slack, but all decisions are made on P2 (P2 is the name for our contributor team blogs that serve the same purpose as a forum in our community). This not only helps for ensuring that all decisions are easily recorded and searchable, but it also means that people can get involved in discussions regardless of their timezone.
I like that.
It also reduces the fomo and overwhelm of trying to keep up with messages on Slack. It’s a struggle to keep up at times.
Great to read the replies so far. They really resonate.
I totally believe in this too. The FOBO (Fear Of Being Overwhelmed) is slowly but surely taking over the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) with synchronous chat platforms like Discord and Slack.
My assumption is that forums provide a space to consume and contribute on an individual’s term with less chance of feeling overwhelmed.
I believe forums ever so subtly create an opportunity to encourage gratitude – at least in comparison to real-time chat.
A forum post from a day, week, month or years ago can get a thank you. How cool is that!
You identified the problem correctly, but the solution to that problem isn’t forums. It’s making people not “ask the same questions multiple times”. For example one solution might be to find tags in the question, and suggest answers based on some FAQ, or previously asked questions/answers pairs.
Because even on Forums, people might be asking the same question over and over again. So just-in-time search results should help, on both ways of communication.
Notice the expectation to read the entire chat conversation, but not the entire forum?
I think what is lacking is better support for the core issues reported by many, to allow for a natural experience in Chat too. These can be: Bionic Reading, grouping of chats in threads, display of several active threads with priorities for those that are popular, ways to skim through content, summaries based on the timeframe you’ve been away and your time available to get up to date, and many such other experiments until this experience is improved.
Just like forums, chat conversations don’t gave to be consumed from end to end. Especially if you come back to the chat app after days, or weeks. And I think the affordance that causes this anxiety is the damn notification # (which could be completely removed or constrained to mentions only, for example).
A lot of it is about the culture of tools.
In chat spaces, people don’t have the tendency to search on previous conversations.
In forums, people do tend to search, or they discover the conversation through the act of searching for an answer on a search engine.
The solution could still be forums, it doesn’t have to be.
The anxiety of chat spaces is more about not knowing where or how to contribute.
Usually, I have to feel comfortable to make a contribution. And if I don’t get a reaction or response I probably won’t come back.
Often, at the end of the day, people often don’t want to converse, they just want answers or solutions to their problems. That’s more powerful to me.
I do personally believe in using both chat and forums together. It’s not an either/or. It’s a little dance between the two.
Need this as an illustration. Endless potential.
Any that come to mind? Or time for another forum thread on this topic?
Swing/salsa dance between two characters representing async discussion forums and real time chat. Social media platforms looking on as an audience.
…or the final dance from Dirty Dancing.
I love it.
In this instance, who is the forum? And who is the chat?