Getting Started Discussions about Planning an Online Community - Privacy Policies - Terms of Service - Targeting Niche - Demographics.

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Old 01-07-2004, 08:04 PM
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Default Starting a General Discussion Community
Anyone have any experience with doing this? I've seen some amazingly successful off-topic/chit-chat type communities out there and I've always wondered how it got that way. It amazes me that people are drawn to those types of sites when there really is no exclusive "content" there. Instead people are attracted to the personalities of the site. It seems like these communities are truly dedicated to building a family instead of making money.

What seperates a successful general disscussion board from the rest??
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Old 01-07-2004, 09:49 PM
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I've noticed this also. It seems that site's that don't really set rules seem to be more popular. People tend to like to express themselves freely.
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Old 01-07-2004, 10:02 PM
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This is a key issue to get a handle on if you want to have a successful Board. The life of the Community is not the Theme of the Board - it's the Community itself, the dynamic of the members. Look at vB.com for instance - it's ostensibly a tech support resource but due to the interaction of the members it's also a fun place to hang out - a Community. It must be due to the fact that people who purchase and administer vBulletin Boards are alike in enough ways, yet different in enough ways, to make for an engaging experience.

Sal and I have discussed this in regards to the CadillacForums which has grown beyond all expectation in the first year. Look at the demographic of the typical Cadillac owner and compare it to the demographic of the typical Bulletin Board devotee. It makes for a diverse group with a common interest but who would ordinarily not interact closely if at all. Couple that with the "amplification effect" of the net, the bringing together of people with similar interests without limitation by distance or the usual social controls and you make for some very interesting discussion.

The person who first described vBulletin as an "instant Community" is a genius.
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Old 01-08-2004, 11:54 AM
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Here's my take on general forums:

Just starting a general forum, getting it listed in search engines etc. in the usual way, will not work. Even advertising it a little won't help. Even having a site with content that is general might not help to a certain extent. You may have seen forums like general [M]ayhem and offtopic.com, these people were in the business much before other forums, so being first in the business also helps.

A lot of general forums are part of a network of sites. There's a lot of sites with specific topics and they all use the same forum which works very well as long as the sites have good content. I know this from past experience.

Now there ARE some general forums that do none of the above but are still popular. Sometimes, a forum spreads well by word-of-mouth and once a threshold is reached, growth from then on is much easier, as you have a base. If you can get a base, things are made a lot easier in terms of growth and popularity.

So really, nowadays it is taking a big risk getting into general forums, because it probably won't work out, which may seem blunt, but is the truth. Unless you're certain you have a structured model and plan of how things will and should pan out according to your actions throughout the production and opening of the forum, it will be tough.

So in conclusion, general discussion forums, lots of them are around now, competition is greatly increased and to start one up now (2004+) is a challenge. My suggestion is to choose a specific topic, make a site out of it, open a forum for it, then make another site on another topic, make a site out of it, use the forum you made for it too, there you have 2 topics, then expand >> eventually it will be pretty general.
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Old 01-09-2004, 03:45 PM
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The only thing that I think is stifling my board is that I cannot afford to advertise my board, I have to rely on free banner exchanges and search engine spiders. I think the banner on my board may even be putting people off from joining.
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Old 02-01-2004, 08:42 PM
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Mid-December 2003 I started BanterBoards.com wanting to start a general topic forum. I did have a nice tool to get the word out (ReallyFunArcade.com) as it gets a few thousand uniques a day...i just plopped a nice little banner on the front page and had members pretty quickly. I do have a few major hacks on my board that draw in a lot of people (an arcade) so that helps...but my stats a month and half later are:

Members: 125
Posts: 1,745

So I'm pretty happy...I've got a couple of good mod's who post a lot and the feel of the community is very laid back.
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Old 02-01-2004, 10:12 PM
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I like the BanterBoards. How are you making out with your AI bot?
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Old 02-01-2004, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Sandman
I like the BanterBoards. How are you making out with your AI bot?
Thanks! It hasn't been as popular as I thought it would be...but it's a fun little extra for kicks and giggles.
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Old 02-02-2004, 11:12 AM
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I think the ones with some rules (that are regularly bent in some direction) are immensely popular and easy to work with. www.offtopic.com is one of them, and by far, imo, the most popular and successful.
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Old 02-02-2004, 02:03 PM
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Are these AI bots very beneficial, e.g. encouraging new members to sign up and exisiting members to post?

Also how easy are these to set up?
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Old 02-02-2004, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwaforums
Are these AI bots very beneficial, e.g. encouraging new members to sign up and exisiting members to post?

Also how easy are these to set up?
I don't know that it's really encouraged anybody to sign up...and my existing memebers don't use it much. And it takes a while to install and most people have trouble w/ it the first time around.
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Old 03-10-2004, 09:38 AM
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Interesting Thread. I encountered the exact same questions of myself late last year/earlier this year- I'm quite a veteran of BB creation and administration and I have always warned people against general discussion forums, saying they are destined to dive, there is too much competition etc etc,

Then someone said to me "why don't you try and make a success out of a GD forum" - so I did.

I must agree with the comments already left in this thread, there are MANY large and established GD forums out there, so starting one up at this stage is going to be a very hard business- as I have found out. Attracting users is not too much of a problem, about 50% of my current users are people I know online/offline, the rets have eitehr found the site through word of mouth or from links elsewhere.

But the site isn't exactly 'fast moving' - we are only a few months old and I am more than happy with traffic levels so far, we average about 60 uniques per day and are currently at 69 users and around 3000 posts- I intend to continue developing the site, and who knows where it will go.

My advice? If you're in it for the long term and you think you can market it to enough people- do it, but you have to gain an edge over similar sites, something I myself haven't done yet, there is nothing unique about TDF.
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