A case against 'privatizing' existing forums

ethan

im a fireman, i mean EMT
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Sep 1, 2014
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Tails submitted a new Article:

A case against 'privatizing' existing forums

A case against 'privatizing' existing forums.
By
Ethan 'Tails' Puskas

it's becoming something I see a lot more and more in the field; a larger and growing amount of previously public forums 'privatizing' their forums by making it completely inaccessible to guests, requiring people to register to perform certain actions, ect, ect, with the end game of increasing users/traffic/ect. While it could be appetizing at first, pursuing such a policy is in the end detrimental to your community overall, unless it's within a set of circumstances that would have it make sense. To clarify, this is in no means a case against privatized forums in general; as I will go into below, there are certainly many circumstances where it may be beneficial, however it is my belief that many people confuse what would be a good 'private' forum, and what should stay public; I've seen (and I'm sure many people here have seen it, as well) plenty of casual discussion forums try this as a attempt to get more users.

Why not?
Again, on paper it seems like a good idea; forcing user registration = more users = more posts = ??? = PROFIT!, but it really doesn't take into account the average user and the long term goals of any community.

First off, say goodbye to your search rankings: Google (or any other search engine) will view your forums as a guest; they will not take a 'google account' login and cache from that. If your forum forces login/registration upon landing, that is the only page they will cache and they will move on. This, obviously, will (over time as the caching updates) kill your communities search rankings. There are a few addons (i.e Google First Click Free) that minimize this effect, but ultimately your search engine rankings will take a pretty big hit.

Secondly, the average demographic of your site: While this changes, and (as I'll discuss below) there are a few circumstances where this may make sense, in most communities, you have much more guests than users, and they generally are there to see a topic or two and then leave; So why not make them register? Simple; Most people won't even bother to register and will just ignore the thread. This obviously is bad for the community, the original poster of the topic, and your revenues (if you're actively pursuing them). Speaking as a user on many of these sites, I often wouldn't bother and would just leave.

Continuing on that thought, those who do register are going to be one-trick ponies; They'll...
Read more about this article here...
 
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gnuru

Aspirant
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
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thank you so much for this informative thread.

Yes, a guideline for "How to register/post" etc. can help.

As I provide lot's of popular downloads I did force people to register, before they can download. This brings a lot of members, but still engagement in the forums lacks.

What I have seen, is that providing facebook login handler works pretty well and moderated guest posting.
 

Shawn Gossman

Tazmanian Master
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Dec 16, 2005
Messages
8,034
I've been thinking about making most of my forums private here lately. Just setting up and homepage with an application where I have to manually approve members. My forums remain fairly small communities which is fine with me and to be honest seems to work better than a 'big board' styled community - more tight-knit.
 

karabaja2

Participant
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Oct 5, 2012
Messages
94
The best forums are private forums. People tend to write and share a lot more if they know their written content will not be "publicly" available.
 

cheat_master30

Moderator
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Jan 16, 2010
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3,840
I would disagree with that, at least in many niches. Yes there are a few distinct communities which have a higher level of quality than the norm, but in the world of gaming or webmaster or general forums, I'd say it's often the opposite.
 

JayCeeS

The Alpacas Are After Me
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Jun 14, 2008
Messages
890
Nice OP, some good tips in there. I know I personally won't join a forum where I can see nothing before hand, however as a guest I expect there to be things not visible/available to me.
 

Patrick0

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Jun 5, 2015
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If the ability to comment is restricted in most areas Google will still cache, and personally I think it's a wide choice to hide a few things
 

ethan

im a fireman, i mean EMT
Joined
Sep 1, 2014
Messages
160
If the ability to comment is restricted in most areas Google will still cache, and personally I think it's a wide choice to hide a few things
Google will only cache areas it has access too; I don't know if by 'restricting comment' you mean just not able to post or not being able to view it at all, though.
 

karabaja2

Participant
Joined
Oct 5, 2012
Messages
94
If the ability to comment is restricted in most areas Google will still cache, and personally I think it's a wide choice to hide a few things
If I understood correctly by reading between the lines, I'll just say such machinations could get site banned from Google. :)
 

Rudy

Enthusiast
Joined
Oct 18, 2004
Messages
208
This is a good basic article about private/public forums. I deal with some that are completely private, and they are for exactly the reasons stated above. Two are more of a private club among friends, and others are actually separate staff forums for busy "big boards". These are htaccess protected as well (per the licensing agreement and, for our own peace of mind), and are used as our test beds for new versions of forum software, add-ons, styles, etc.

The only way to build traffic on a public forum is to have public content. Keep as much content readable on a forum as you can (which helps with the search engines), but create private forum areas where members are more willing to unwind and get a bit more personal. Hinting at perks for membership is a good way to get people to sign up also, including restricting viewing of some types of content. There are some forums or platforms out there that let you read maybe one or two things, but then go on lockdown afterward with nag popups: to me, that is a deterrent, and I usually click away to another site.

That is, in fact, now I gauge what I do on my own sites: if I would click away from it with little provocation, then I should not do this on my sites.
 

vegasexcitement

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Joined
Sep 28, 2009
Messages
15
My experience with a forum with 30,000 members might be original here. My forum was regarding my home town, Las Vegas. It covered everything from Hotels, Motels to travel, buffets and gaming. I even allowed an acceptable number of private sections on the legal brothels and where to go off Industrial to find behaviors in every flavor... people do not come to Vegas to read the Good Book, and thats cool as well as none of my business. Everyone is welcome here. :) Smoke, drink, gamble, dance naked... literally, no one assigns a care to it. Just use a condom and wash your hands please. :)

It began ever so slow and I was able to handle it. The spammers from RU, the infighting and the time needed to monitor and direct the site. Equally slow began the creeping number of hours needed to handle the spam hits, the hits from RU, the posts that make a small and immaterial contribution to the topic/string then have a blaring sig file to sell some pill or girl/boyfriend service. The product or service was the real reason for the useless contribution. So, with 28, 674 to members, to be exact, I had to shut it down. It was a public site, that anyone could post to, and did. OMG, how they did. At the time there was no,"one click anything".

There are only 24 hours in a day. When it ceases to be fun and becomes barely tolerable, it is time for a change. If the forum that I raised from a baby were to have been "private" and "for members only", the problems would have been manageable. By allowing the world to post, and they did for good and for bad, it became the central focus for hack attacks upon my provider and abuse of the site for me. If it had of been private it would have been much better for me and for the valued honored guests that do Vegas the honor of visiting and then sharing their experiences.

I love Vegas, it is my hometown..lights, casinos and all. I am a corny nerdy older guy that doesn't smoke or drink, gamble or "Freak" around. I love my iced tea, coffee and cable TV. I mind my own business and allow others the same. But making the site "public" was a big mistake. After it gained its first 5,000 or so members I should have sent an email to everyone informing them that due to popularity I was going to make the site private and ask them to submit their info. THe core users would have. The new people would not know any difference.

So, based upon my experience, give them a free 10 day participation where their contributions go to be moderated, then posted. Then, when they make 500 posts with no problems, they will be unmoderated. I am against public groups that anyone can post to as when you (not if, but when) become the focus of anything your site can be destroyed by some kid in RU or CN that sits all day at the computer with lotion within hands reach. ... with appreciation to others views,....

Just my view shared openly :),

Don
 
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japanguitars

Aspirant
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
13
my forum has been private since day 1.
But I do it because the membership voted on it.
Plus given our subject matter it was prone to people taking our work and passing it off as their own.
Yes other "forum cliques" will discuss us but at the end of the day who cares it's our place right?If you want to join then register.
 

ebb

Aspirant
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
18
Some extra food for thought:

Keep in mind that a private forum (or one with private sections) will introduce certain issues later on if you ever decide to sell it. Why? Because the prospect of selling it introduces the idea that you will have to *trust* that any future buyers will honor your existing privacy permissions, even if it's in the contract. I personally decided to completely close (not sell) my once very large and active forum because of this issue of requiring the future buyer (and any subsequent ones) to honor my permissions. It was something that I didn't want on my mind, since members (especially those not internet savvy) tend to post too-personal info (relationships, etc, etc) without too much thinking, especially in the off-topic parts of the forum. So I put my forum out of existence. I also know of someone who sold his very successful forum to another party, and that party proceeded to open up (to google searches, etc.) previously private sections of the forum. This of course caused all kinds of really big issues with past members.

So, just something to think about.
 
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