Forums/Bulletin Boards vs FB Groups/Social Media

Pete

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It's been a long time since I ran a forum, I don't actually know 'the best ways' any more. The rules have changed.

I think there's scope for doing some of the things talked about here, using social media's strengths of new content to your advantage - assuming you have friends that would be vaguely interested in the content you have, you could share to your own timeline with more-permissive sharing than usual. If you're a member of some groups that potentially would be interested, share there too.

That's the thing, people treat it like a zero sum game when it isn't. The lines blur so much; people in this thread noted that they don't want 'meme or trash content', partially because it has some perception of cheapening the good content, but also because it creates some associations they don't want, that short-form trivial content is somehow less desirable.

Depending on your niche I think that's absolutely true - but the reality is that people don't want to be 'on topic' all of the time. The actual topics of discussion will vary and fluctuate because that's what humans do: flail and wander off topic with some boundaries. But people who have things in common over one set of topics (your forum niche) will likely have other things in common (shared cultural appreciation) - and that means space for the social media like content to exist and be allowed air-time to thrive.

On the other hand, while I made the observation that Facebook actively discourages long form discussion, there's no reason why you can't engage some of the more interesting threads from a social media angle. I don't have any truly inspired examples off the top of my head, but imagine you run something like a Star Trek themed site, and you had a robust discussion brewing about 'the new series of Discovery' - what's to stop you taking a position over on Facebook with a meme image, maybe "Discovery sucks, change my mind" (or the opposite, "Discovery is amazing, change my mind") - it's well understood that picture posts get more views than non-picture posts on FB, so use the strengths of the medium to your ends: FB-friendly content that has a shot of engaging.

That only works, though, if you happen to have friends (or groups) where that kind of call to action would get you anywhere, but the key is to be careful in how and what streams you want to cross - FB style content that engages can certainly pull people over to your site from FB, and if you have space for FB style content to flourish, it can result in cross-pollination.

Of course that may not work in all cases, certainly won't be appropriate in all cases - and if you're like me and don't have even 100 people on Facebook any more, your reach there isn't going to work.

At that point you need to come up with something for others to be your ambassadors; have content other people actually want to link to so they can when they feel like it - longer thoughtful articles with a punchy title seem to work pretty well, with the forum as a supporting vehicle for building a community around it.

The key thing is that a forum gives you a venue for a community, rather than a loose group of vaguely associated people who happen to be broadly in the same place at the same time. The next question is what that community can offer that Facebook can't - beyond the 'community' aspect where it's like a bar that everyone knows your name, what functionality can you bring to support the needs of that community.

If it's a local community, some way to have local events be posted, maybe integrated somehow with Facebook to reach people, integrated with Google Maps somehow to show people what's on offer, with some kind of virtual notice board for the local community to share what's going on with them. Maybe some kind of integration with a service like Padlet to give people a communal space they can decorate and inform people with.

If it's a community in a niche, what does that niche want/need? e.g. vehicle customisation forums tend to want a space to record the customisations they have, maybe with pictures so they can show off what they have and learn about what others have done in the hopes it inspires them. (IPS Pages comes to mind, though it's far from the only solution here). Maybe it's a forum about some niche kind of baking, maybe vegan or gluten free, where people can share recipes, again something like IPS Pages can help where people can share their recipes with each other, comment on them, try them out, share pictures.

I'm just throwing things out there - Facebook necessarily gives you low friction content and lots of it, the trick is to use it to hook someone by getting their attention. Then once you have them, what can you bring that Facebook can't possibly - it only offers one-size-fits-all for the content you can share, the trick must be from your perspective to have something to encourage and support the community that you're building. After that... I'd hope some kind of positive feedback loop can occur.

But I might be off the mark; I'm still thinking about what I need to produce for what I have in mind - my next venture is... well, I might just make a topic on it and see what happens.
 

feldon30

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Facebook rewards shorter and shorter attention spans. After long-term use, I had gotten to a point where I wouldn't read an article more than 1 page long or watch a YouTube video more than 15 minutes. Now that I'm off the site (not by my choice, but I'm thankful to be gone), I am a little more deliberate and patient in my internet browsing.

That said, I think internet forums could bubble up content a little better than they do. A flat textual list of subforums, then clicking New Posts and getting a flat textual list of threads that you have to navigate one-by-one to see what people said? Ain't nobody got time for that. I think it's possible to meet somewhere in the middle by floating up comments and threads that get lots of likes. Make the "cream of the crop" easier to get to. When I go to the front of the forum, there could be a Timeline where the threads and comments of people I'm friends with are prioritized. Obviously not for everyone, but an option.

The thing that has disappointed me is that XenForo and IPB aren't doing Forum Networks. Let me login once and no matter which forum I'm on, I get notifications for all the forums I'm a member of. Again this is part of that "go where the eyeballs are" thing that Facebook does so well. You can be in 20 forums and you are constantly hearing about what's happening in all of them. The Forum answer to that is... email subscriptions. The newest XenForo and IPB have browser notifications which is an improvement but so many forums I am part of don't.
 
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Nev_Dull

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Ain't nobody got time for that. I think it's possible to meet somewhere in the middle by floating up comments and threads that get lots of likes. Make the "cream of the crop" easier to get to. When I go to the front of the forum, there could be a Timeline where the threads and comments of people I'm friends with are prioritized.
This is the kind of thing social media does that results in pablumized content. It creates echo chambers where all you ever see are posts by friends or those who agree with you. It isn't a path to good discourse, which is what I'm looking for in a forum.
The thing that has disappointed me is that XenForo and IPB aren't doing Forum Networks.
I agree. I would like the option to create a few different forums under a single instance of software, rather than each having a separate install. I suspect that's a decision driven by revenue more than anything, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it from any of the commercial vendors. Perhaps if some of the free forum softwares added it, that would drive some more interest.
 

Jeremy8

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This is the kind of thing social media does that results in pablumized content. It creates echo chambers where all you ever see are posts by friends or those who agree with you. It isn't a path to good discourse, which is what I'm looking for in a forum.

Different people refer to different things as "social media," so I'm not sure if Reddit counts, but the echo chamber thing also exists there because of their upvote system. It seems that some people actually like it, but I agree, it's no good.
 

feldon30

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I understand the Echo Chamber argument, and I'd like to see people listen to more than their own tight inner circle. But the other extreme is Facebook. Because you can't block friends, family, and coworkers without IRL repercussions, people are forced to read absolute garbage from extreme ends of the political spectrum posted with impunity and without consequences (despite Facebook's inconsistently yet draconianly applied Real Name policy).

I'd like people to hear from other viewpoints, but we've seen what the extremes of that can do too.
 
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Oh!

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But as I have said on here many times, how can we find new members, or tell people that forums exist and offer many good features.
I think the only way to compete when it comes to the recruitment of members is to attempt to compete on scale and variety. Obviously, this is not easy. However, every large (or reasonably) large platform started out small. But, they were designed in such a way as to 1) attract general interest and members; and 2) to scale well. Scaling is difficult for traditionally structured forum. I know there are some very large forums (exceptions), but they never quite capture the imagination of the wider public. In any case, I am unconvinced of their value - but I could be wrong about that because I've never used such spaces, not even Reddit.

I think what is required is to conceive of a space which operates like a more local Net. Where there is local variety, but each space also operates as part of a cohesive whole. I think it can be done, but it takes some imagination.
 

Oh!

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That said, I think internet forums could bubble up content a little better than they do. A flat textual list of subforums, then clicking New Posts and getting a flat textual list of threads that you have to navigate one-by-one to see what people said? Ain't nobody got time for that. I think it's possible to meet somewhere in the middle by floating up comments and threads that get lots of likes. Make the "cream of the crop" easier to get to. When I go to the front of the forum, there could be a Timeline where the threads and comments of people I'm friends with are prioritized. Obviously not for everyone, but an option.
Yes, how to offer and access content is an important and vexing issue. The traditional forum structure works well for organizing content, but it is not great when searching, and generally lousy for those more interested the latest and most engaging material. I think Twitter is the absolute master of this - in this single respect that platform is leaps and bounds ahead of all the competition.

Floating up comments works well for Twitter, but I think there would be a lot resistance to this from traditional forum users and operators. But there might be other ways to achieve the same goal.

I think your ideas of highlighting favorite participants is a good one, and may be achieavle.

The thing that has disappointed me is that XenForo and IPB aren't doing Forum Networks. Let me login once and no matter which forum I'm on, I get notifications for all the forums I'm a member of. Again this is part of that "go where the eyeballs are" thing that Facebook does so well. You can be in 20 forums and you are constantly hearing about what's happening in all of them. The Forum answer to that is... email subscriptions. The newest XenForo and IPB have browser notifications which is an improvement but so many forums I am part of don't.
I think (in the main) you will be (for the foreseeable future) always restricted to the individual platforms and communities you individually join. Yes, some options already exist, but they have not taken off and probably for good reasons. I understand the desire, but no one has cracked it yet. And maybe they never will.
 

Oh!

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I understand the Echo Chamber argument, and I'd like to see people listen to more than their own tight inner circle. But the other extreme is Facebook. Because you can't block friends, family, and coworkers without IRL repercussions, people are forced to read absolute garbage from extreme ends of the political spectrum posted with impunity and without consequences (despite Facebook's inconsistently yet draconianly applied Real Name policy).

I'd like people to hear from other viewpoints, but we've seen what the extremes of that can do too.
I think FB's real name policy made sense for the platform given its origins and aims. I am not sure if changing that policy now would make sense, as the very nature and aim of the platform is connect people online who know each other from the real world. In fact, given that FB is already struggling to form a coherent path going forward, removing its almost unique selling point probably would be a mistake.
 

Oh!

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Different people refer to different things as "social media," so I'm not sure if Reddit counts, but the echo chamber thing also exists there because of their upvote system. It seems that some people actually like it, but I agree, it's no good.
I tend to apply a very broad definition for social media. All the platforms and forums (and even blogs) are structured differently from each other. But at the end of the day, they are all about sharing information, ideas and interacting with people who are interested in similar things. But how the platform/forum/blog is structured does affect output from its members/contributors - no doubt about it.
 
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Pete

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the very nature and aim of the platform is connect people online who know each other from the real world
It might have been once but for a very long time the aim has been to sell advertising. Real names and thus real identities are worth more because the ability to target ads is so much better.

Don't forget that Zuck infamously referred to his first users as "dumb f***s" because they willingly gave up all sorts of information about them.

However how the platform/forum/blog is structured does affect output from its members/contributors - no doubt about it.
They're all social media by definition: they're media being created and consumed with the intent of fostering socialisation.

Some are just more 'media' than others.
 
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feldon30

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I think FB's real name policy made sense for the platform given its origins and aims. I am not sure if changing that policy now would make sense, as the very nature and aim of the platform is connect people online who know each other from the real world. In fact, given that FB is already struggling to form a coherent path going forward, removing its almost unique selling point probably would be a mistake.
Ok but Facebook is damaging society and interfering with elections. Possible minor risks to its business strategies must take a backseat.

Also everyone said that Twitter would die if they increased the character limit from 140 or started zero-rating URLs. I see no signs of Twitter's imminent collapse despite going to 280. I'm still waiting for the zero-rating of URL characters.
 

Oh!

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Ok but Facebook is damaging society and interfering with elections. Possible minor risks to its business strategies must take a backseat.

Also everyone said that Twitter would die if they increased the character limit from 140 or started zero-rating URLs. I see no signs of Twitter's imminent collapse despite going to 280. I'm still waiting for the zero-rating of URL characters.
I actually agree with you about Facebook's negative effects upon society. But that was not issue I was addressing. Purely from a business perspective, FB dropping the real name requirement would not fit with the whole premise of the platform. And, I am not sure they can afford to make that kind of change. It is - pretty much - their thing and is what the whole site is about: connecting online with people you know (or knew) from the real world.

In any case, FB's real name policy is not root cause of their problems. Rather, it is how they exploit the data they generate from and about their members. Indeed, they even exploit data from non-members in a similar way, so their unethical problems are more fundamental than them having a 'real name' policy. But, certainly, the real name policy must assist their highly exploitative (PII) business model.

As for Twitter and 'everyone' - I, for one, did not give their upping of the character limit a second thought. It was not a fundamental change - it even made sense. Indeed, the 140 character limit was only set there because of restrictions imposed by the technology when they launched. A fortunate limitation as it turns out. But there their should have been no reason to suppose that the specific limit had to be 140 characters - that's just silly.
 

feldon30

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I actually agree with you about Facebook's negative effects upon society. But that was not issue I was addressing. Purely from a business perspective, FB dropping the real name requirement would not fit with the whole premise of the platform. And, I am not sure they can afford to make that kind of change. It is - pretty much - their thing and is what the whole site is about: connecting online with people you know (or knew) from the real world.

In any case, FB's real name policy is not root cause of their problems. Rather, it is how they exploit the data they generate from and about their members. Indeed, they even exploit data from non-members in a similar way, so their unethical problems are more fundamental than them having a 'real name' policy. But, certainly, the real name policy must assist their highly exploitative (PII) business model.

Facebook's Timeline/Wall started out based on people you knew (literally college classmates). However the sharing of memes and political statements by strangers on the other side of the planet has changed all that. I'd say 50% of the content I was sharing on Facebook at my peak was content that I didn't know the creator.

Facebook's Groups may have been intended to be between people you know, I don't know. It looks like it came out 1 year after Facebook's launch. But these days, how many of us know even a few people in real life in Facebook Groups we're in? I know most of the groups I was in, I neither knew nor cared where people were from. We were there for a common interest and it was stupidly easy to use compared to standalone forums (mostly obsolete versions of vBulletin, phpBB, SMF, etc. that suck on mobile). At least as far as Facebook Groups, I think they are mostly successful regardless of the Real Name policy. At this point, dropping it and allowing people to adopt different personas wouldn't really hurt them too much. Because of Facebook's size, enforcement is super lax anyway. Small accounts get away with fake names and anonymity for months or even years before getting swept up and obliterated.

Even if they don't have our name, Facebook has insanely detailed profiles on user #4049832432856 and can make almost as much money on us. I think the demand to have our real name becomes less and less credible every day.

As for Twitter and 'everyone' - I, for one, did not give their upping of the character limit a second thought. It was not a fundamental change - it even made sense. Indeed, the 140 character limit was only set there because of restrictions imposed by the technology when they launched. A fortunate limitation as it turns out. But there their should have been no reason to suppose that the specific limit had to be 140 characters - that's just silly.
As I'm sure you know, it dates back from when Twitter was a microblogging service that could be posted to from a non-smart cellphone via an SMS. As the years dragged on and Twitter refused to change, my favorite argument was that in Kanji, 140 characters is like a page of text. Yet in Roman languages, we always had to settle on at least one grammar crime we were going to commit to squeeze in a coherent thought. Twitter posts under 140 usually contained gobbledygook broken English, baffling contractions and spurious abbreviations. Yet they fought it in the genuine belief that the company would falter if they tweaked their "identifying feature".
 

Oh!

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It might have been once but for a very long time the aim has been to sell advertising. Real names and thus real identities are worth more because the ability to target ads is so much better.

Don't forget that Zuck infamously referred to his first users as "dumb f***s" because they willingly gave up all sorts of information about them.
Well, targeting ads does not require real names. All they need is the browsing history associated with a cookie and then feed targeted ads for that cookie. Done properly, there is relatively little risk to this practice. The problem is when data is not properly anonymized and sold on. In fact, there is are always inerrant risks with selling data (even anonymized) since datasets often can be combined and individuals again identified. This is part of the reason why Europe introduced the GDPR. And, as I mentioned in my post from a few minutes ago, FB does this to non-members too.

Clearly, Zuckerberg and FB care only about the bottom line. Roger Mcnamee (among many former investors) who turned away from FB and are highly critical of Zuckerberg's practices. There is a difference between being hardheaded in business and being ruthless to the point of causing societal damage.


They're all social media by definition: they're media being created and consumed with the intent of fostering socialisation.

Some are just more 'media' than others.
Yeah. I have never understood why some insist on very narrow definitions for what constitutes social media.
 

Oh!

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Facebook's Groups may have been intended to be between people you know, I don't know. It looks like it came out 1 year after Facebook's launch. But these days, how many of us know even a few people in real life in Facebook Groups we're in? I know most of the groups I was in, I neither knew nor cared where people were from. We were there for a common interest and it was stupidly easy to use compared to standalone forums (mostly obsolete versions of vBulletin, phpBB, SMF, etc. that suck on mobile). At least as far as Facebook Groups, I think they are mostly successful regardless of the Real Name policy. At this point, dropping it and allowing people to adopt different personas wouldn't really hurt them too much. Because of Facebook's size, enforcement is super lax anyway. Small accounts get away with fake names and anonymity for months or even years before getting swept up and obliterated.
I wasn't meaning to reference FB groups in my post. My comments were about the platform in general, its origins and whole premise for the platform (at least, in the beginning).

I don't suppose that Zuckerberg had any idea of where FB would end up and how they would monetize data. But it seems he was always ruthless and was going to mine the site to the best of his abilities.
 
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Pete

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Well, targeting ads does not require real names.
Of course it doesn't superficially, but that's not the point.

If someone has their real name on there, chances are the other profile data is similarly more likely to be real. Like your birthday for example so you can be tied to a given demographic. Rinse, repeat for everyone else - the more people who assume the data should be genuine raises the level of what can be inferred about you too.

It's deeply cynical, preying on the notion that people when in a group will tend to behave like the group at large out of a somewhat innate motivation to conform. Thus if all your friends are on there with real names and what you know to be their real birthdays from out-of-FB knowledge, and you see the reactions they get on their birthdays, you're motivated to do the same thing yourself. Which adds to a data point FB have about you that is for targeting of ads. Then you do it for home town, jobs, and so on and you begin to realise just how detailed the profiling they can build about you is.
 
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