How Do Once Popular Forums Fail??

mamaof2boys

Participant
Joined
Jul 22, 2010
Messages
99
I was once on a forum that had over 2 million posts and died... the 2 admins both found other things to do in life and quit posting and doing routine maintenance - the poor moderators worked their little hearts out trying to hold the place together for awhile. It was so bad, obvious spam would sit for weeks in the areas that the mods didn't have powers. For some reason the owner preferred to let it die rather than pass it on to people who wanted to keep it going.
 

datrue_canadian

Haters gunna hate.
Joined
Feb 17, 2010
Messages
192
My forum is dying :(

I am trying hard to keep it from happening...but it isnt working :(

Seriously getting discouraged. oh well...
 

JulieVA

Habitué
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Messages
1,150
I wonder if also forums generally are not as popular as they used to be? People's time is being stretched between so many other distractions such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc, there is less time for chatting, or building long-term relationships with others on a board. Maybe it's harder to maintain a site's popularity now than it was, say five or ten years ago?
I would say that this is a big part of it. While bad management and topic death (such as forums based on a tv show wich has gone off the air) are obvious causes...Facebook, Twitter, etc are pretty hard to compete with.
 

JulieVA

Habitué
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Messages
1,150
QFT but I’d add that it’s not a new trend. Check out Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute
Thanks for posting this link!


But yeah, the new kids on the block (social media) are taking over but I believe that in the future there will be a swing back to forums. It could happen much in the same way as horses were outmoded by the automobile. Horse riding still exists over 100 years later, it’s just in a different form and serves a smaller and perhaps more equine educated niche audience.
I feel this way as well...this is why I have not shut down & why I continue to market for my forum.

I also think that there are people who do prefer the coziness of a forum (I'm one of them!)
 

wynnyelle

Enthusiast
Joined
May 22, 2010
Messages
209
It all sounds nice in theory, but I think part of the problem is that admins are also human beings and we also get bored and tired of doing the same thing again and again when the signs are discouraging. At some point the membership has to take an active initiative in growing the forum or it will always go downwards.

All this bearing in mind that most of us are doing this as a hobby. I try my best to engage my members, but when they stop posting or stop visiting, it's much harder to keep some active discussions going. I cannot talk to myself all the time. I cannot force people to join and participate. Heck, even my friends don't login much and I keep bugging them all the time.

How does one hold a long-time conversation with 1 or 2 people who log in occasionally??



Perhaps, part of the problem is that online forums are themselves losing out -- there are things online that are much more interesting than forums and I will personally admit that I find social networking sucking up more of my time than before. It's not direct competition, but the web has got much, much bigger in 5 - 6 years and the same situation doesn't apply in 2010 what was applicable in 2004/5. I see a very visible difference in overall interest levels in forums and I am long enough experienced online to judge.
Survival of the fittest, then as forums get the squeeze. Bear in mind also, though, that more and more people are on the internet overall. Even if forums take up a smaller portion of the net than they used to, I still see a lot of them thriving.

*I* do it as a hobby. I figure that if people post up a topic like this and join a forum such as this one, then they're interested in knowing what they need to do to keep it alive. I'm giving out the advice I learnt myself over time: half-assed admins usually fail as admins. Especially nowadays with a lot more media competing, as well as many more well established forums. It comes down to how badly you want it to work. If you just like it as a part time hobby and don't mind if it dies down in activity to a small community, I don't think that much of anything said in this thread at all would keep you up at night :p

As for holding a conversation with occasional login folks, I don't. I hang out with the ones who login daily or almost daily and just chat chat chat on my forum =)

Absolutely, the members need to want to be there and take initiative and no admin can "do everything". But that's up to them to take initiative, it's your job to make them want to do it. And your job to make them want to do it again, or make new members want to, when they stop wanting to do it, and slowly tail off and leave. You can't have a country without citizens actively and enthusiastically living there, but if you're a lousy ruler, they won't stick around. You provide that spark that gets and KEEPS the ball rolling.

Nothing was ever worth doing that was easy :p
 

MisterPersonality

Shut up and run!
Joined
Nov 29, 2008
Messages
2,898
Old, loved members leave, leaving those other members cool with those long former members lost and without friends. That's why I always stress the point of keeping a closely knit forum. Because losing a forum-friend can be hard... Finding one like that friend is hard, and chances are when you think you found that forum-friend that was like the old one, the experiences shared won't be the same...

Keep a closely knit forum, and listen to your members - they are the ones who run the forum, at the end of the day.
 

hari

Tazmanian
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Messages
5,653
Survival of the fittest, then as forums get the squeeze. Bear in mind also, though, that more and more people are on the internet overall. Even if forums take up a smaller portion of the net than they used to, I still see a lot of them thriving.
Also remember that probably 90% of internet users as _passive_. There was a link to a study which asserted this theory.
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html

*I* do it as a hobby. I figure that if people post up a topic like this and join a forum such as this one, then they're interested in knowing what they need to do to keep it alive. I'm giving out the advice I learnt myself over time: half-assed admins usually fail as admins. Especially nowadays with a lot more media competing, as well as many more well established forums. It comes down to how badly you want it to work. If you just like it as a part time hobby and don't mind if it dies down in activity to a small community, I don't think that much of anything said in this thread at all would keep you up at night :p
I think that's a bit unfair way of putting it. A lot of us would love our forums to succeed but we are unable to dedicate that much time to developing it. People like me who are pursuing a serious career and making steps to achieve our goals find lesser time to work on the internet and forums require a LOT of attention.

As for holding a conversation with occasional login folks, I don't. I hang out with the ones who login daily or almost daily and just chat chat chat on my forum =)
Problem is your regulars can become "occasionals" if you are the only other active member.

Absolutely, the members need to want to be there and take initiative and no admin can "do everything". But that's up to them to take initiative, it's your job to make them want to do it. And your job to make them want to do it again, or make new members want to, when they stop wanting to do it, and slowly tail off and leave. You can't have a country without citizens actively and enthusiastically living there, but if you're a lousy ruler, they won't stick around. You provide that spark that gets and KEEPS the ball rolling.
Agreed, but then a lot of the time the initiative is taken, but where are the people who seem to be interested?

Unless you have a regular stream of traffic, no amount of "on-site" work is going to help.

Nothing was ever worth doing that was easy :p
Again, I look at it in terms of effort:benefit ratio. If the effort put into forums is so much and the potential benefits are actually less (unless you are an exception and make so much revenue out of it that you don't need a regular job), forums are not a viable long-term career option. Therefore not being a career option, the inherent limitation is that I cannot concentrate on it like I would if it was one. I bet the same limitation applies to a lot of us online.

While I can be passionate about hobbies, I have to actually realize that pursuing hobbies to the extent where my real-world activities suffer is actually "not worth doing".

This is why I go back to my old post and say: the admin can only do so much. And the success of communities rests with the overall membership activity, not merely with the admin. Putting too much emphasis on the role of the admin is a mistake.

I cannot even remember the name of a single admin or owner of any large, successful forum community I've been on. Doesn't that tell you something?
 

Taylor

Sexier Than You
Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
963
I've seen a couple forums struggle when the focus becomes profit, as opposed to community. :(
 

ALFAMAX

Aspirant
Joined
Oct 26, 2009
Messages
20
Hari said:
While I can be passionate about hobbies, I have to actually realize that pursuing hobbies to the extent where my real-world activities suffer is actually "not worth doing".
That’s why it’s better if you can actually find the walk to go with the talk. Having a separate interest online that serves no purpose in the real world could be thought of as pointless for most people I guess. One needs to bounce off the other for long term participation.

wynnyelle said:
Especially nowadays with a lot more media competing, as well as many more well established forums
That’s inline with the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_22_Immutable_Laws_of_Marketing"]The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia@@AMEPARAM@@/wiki/File:Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01.svg" class="image"><img alt="Stub icon" src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4b/Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01.svg/30px-Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01.svg.png"@@AMEPARAM@@commons/thumb/4/4b/Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01.svg/30px-Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01.svg.png[/ame] where rule 8 states;

  • 'In the long run, every market becomes a two horse race'.

But then rule 10 sort of contradicts it with;

  • 'Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories'.

I think also there needs to be a revolution in the user interface. You’ve got people who might be members of several online concerns and they all need a login which takes time – and remember one of the ‘rules’ of the web, is don’t make your users have to think about what to do, this is the instant generation where everything needs to happen automatically and it needs to happen 10 minutes ago! This might be fantasy but if there was a way to link or consolidate all accounts onto one screen and one window then that might have a positive impact on visits and participation as well. At any rate and despite the seemingly fast pace of the internet, behind the scenes things happen very slowly, and really, owning and developing forums is a marathon not a sprint.

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was that to learn something well, teach it to others. If you only ever use your forum to learn about your subject, then what’s the loss? Nothing in my mind, as long as you enjoy it and you get something out of it then by all means carry on. If you get regular contributors over that period think of it as a bonus. And who knows if you create a resource that you steadily build over a few years that you use yourself, you might see a route you can take to develop it at a future point in time.
 

hari

Tazmanian
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Messages
5,653
That’s why it’s better if you can actually find the walk to go with the talk. Having a separate interest online that serves no purpose in the real world could be thought of as pointless for most people I guess. One needs to bounce off the other for long term participation.
Actually that's one of the reasons I started lawstudentscommunity.com

It matches my real world career choice. And I am hoping that I can make it a success without it interfering with my career.
 

russellw

Participant
Joined
May 18, 2010
Messages
66
It's an interesting topic.

A fourm is a living entity and it will evolve as it goes through lifecycle changes.

To use any single metric as a tool to analyse the life of a forum is a failure to understand the evolutionary cycle.

We are in our 6th year now and during that time the forum has changed substantially in the habits and make up of the membership base.

For example. Our peak posting numbers were in 2007 when we regularly topped 60,000 posts per month but a substantial number of these came from a younger group of members that added little of value to the forum as a whole and caused substanital disruption. After a purge of these members, we have settled back at around 40,000 per month on a consistent basis. On the one hand that could be measured as a failure (it is, after all a 30% drop) but when the remaining metrics are viewed there is a different story to be seen.

Monthly visits at that same point in time (2007) averaged around the 75,000 mark but they are now averaging 95,000 and have passed 100,000 the last couple of months which represents a 30% improvment.

The evolution from posters to readers is part of what we would expect in a forum like ours and we keep accurate stats on new user activity so that we understand the process. From this we know that only about 25% of new registrations ever post but about 60% continue to visit although this tapers off beyond about 6 months and stabilises at about 30%.

Likewise, new registrations are a good guide as to how your board is surviving. We average about 500 per week (although we purge inactives each quarter) and that has been consistent for the last couple of years.

None of the above addresses the OP's question but it does say that active management and good knowledge about what is happening are both keys to maintaining a solid board.

Beyond that, it is essential to have:

1. Good and fair moderation by members that are generally well respected by the community as a whole
2. Constant refresh of content or at least currency of information
3. Continuity in management AND a succession plan (none of will live forever and life changes can have an unplanned impact)
4. A solid technical skills base to ensure continuity of service
5. A community spirit

Without these things, failure is only a matter of time.

Cheers
Russ
 

nineEgypt

Aspirant
Joined
Sep 7, 2010
Messages
21
Let me give an active admin's prespective on what can kill a forum. Lack of enough fresh registrations and membership participation over a period of time. There's too much blame on the admin(s) in this thread and I think we need to strike a balance.

If the rate of growth is too slow, it can halt an existing community and things can fall apart very very quickly even if you as admin do everything possible to keep it going. Sadly I had to take down a forum of mine recently because it had reduced to a state where every new member was more likely to be a spammer than a genuine member.

People do lose interest and leave. And there's actually nothing much you can do about it. It's a hard, hard problem to solve. I doubt whether it can be solved at all. As an individual there's only so much you can do.

The initial momentum counts for a lot, but once you have a sustaining community, the work needed to keep it growing is very important otherwise it will start to sink.

No matter how much work you put in as admin, ultimately you have to realize that it's people who make a community work and if you just don't have the people, the community will fail.

I am beginning to think it's better to cut your losses as admin and pull down a site rather than let it die a slow agonizing death. Seeing your beloved forum being run down by a regular stream of spam is awfully heart-breaking.
Agreed. Sometimes Admin turns themselves inside out trying to figure out why their forum is failing--but there is no answer. I've seen a few really great forums just self-destruct very slowly--while a lot of poor sites just go on forever. You never have absolute control. It's too bad really.
 

HallofFamer

Habitué
Joined
Sep 6, 2010
Messages
1,318
It more or less has something to do with the focus of your forum, so trend can be a factor here. I wouldnt be surprised if Harry Potter forums are slowly declining due to the fact that this series is over, or if a forums based on music bands die when they becomes less and less popular and active in their careers. Sports and RPG Video games related forums, on the other hand, do not seem to suffer from this. This is why there are still tons of new pokemon fourms being created despite the deadly competition among existing pokemon forums already.

Anyway, its the owner's job to broaden the topics his/her forum concentrates on and find new ideas whenever the old ones do not work out. For me, I can easily turn my forum into another RPG-Video game based forum or simply a general RPG related forum if Pokemon dies someday(not likely though, Nintendo wont give up on it for sure). In this way, I shall be able to prevent my forum from dying through trend.
 

Joshuad

Developer
Joined
Nov 23, 2004
Messages
2,597
Yeah, Pokemon is still a pretty hot brand, and isn't going anywhere for another several years. Not quite as hot as it was 10 years ago, but still big enough to make a successful forum over. Look at Mario. Forums for that genre still pop up from time to time these days too.

I definitely see your point, and a valid one it is.
 

HallofFamer

Habitué
Joined
Sep 6, 2010
Messages
1,318
Yeah, Pokemon is still a pretty hot brand, and isn't going anywhere for another several years. Not quite as hot as it was 10 years ago, but still big enough to make a successful forum over. Look at Mario. Forums for that genre still pop up from time to time these days too.

I definitely see your point, and a valid one it is.
Well yeah, there are pros and cons of building a forum of such genres. Its usually easy to attract crowd at early stages since the total population of users interested in subjects like Pokemon and Final Fantasy is huge. However, it also quickly puts you out of business because of competition. Nowadays its becoming increasingly hard to build a forum like that, while big boards tend to continue to flourish.

Anyway, to summarize the points I've made. In order to build a successful forum in a long run, you must have something unique compared to other communities. Its easy to start a forum focusing on hot topics like Pokemon, but in a long run it is rather hard to keep it going forever.
 

JulieVA

Habitué
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Messages
1,150
... I look at it in terms of effort:benefit ratio. If the effort put into forums is so much and the potential benefits are actually less (unless you are an exception and make so much revenue out of it that you don't need a regular job), forums are not a viable long-term career option. Therefore not being a career option, the inherent limitation is that I cannot concentrate on it like I would if it was one. I bet the same limitation applies to a lot of us online.

While I can be passionate about hobbies, I have to actually realize that pursuing hobbies to the extent where my real-world activities suffer is actually "not worth doing".

This is why I go back to my old post and say: the admin can only do so much. And the success of communities rests with the overall membership activity, not merely with the admin. Putting too much emphasis on the role of the admin is a mistake.

I cannot even remember the name of a single admin or owner of any large, successful forum community I've been on. Doesn't that tell you something?

Theres are good points Hari.

I disagree with the perosn who alluded that if an admin "wants it bad enough" the forum will be a success.
A forum lives and dies on many hills...

While forum administration is one of the key ingredients, the members in the community also play a role (either knowingly or unwittingly). Admin may set the basic tone by determining what is permitted and what isn't and enforcing it (or not.) But the members set the pace and the atmosphere.

The forum topic is key too. For example, a ZZ Top forum may be less active at the moment than a Twilight Vampire forum. Fast forward 10 years and the Twilight Forum may be slower. Gaming and sex forums will always be active.

Like you, my forum is my hobby. I have an active career and a family. I am only willing and able to put so much into it. I do enjoy working on it & I do fund things for my forum when I have to; however, I have a proverbial line in the proverbial sand about how much time & money I am going to put into it.
 

lllAE86lll

Computer Technician
Joined
Jun 13, 2007
Messages
193
Admin does not care about the community such as no new content nor any new about it.

Staff abuse it power.
 

AnonymousWrath

Neophyte
Joined
Sep 14, 2010
Messages
2
these theories are all very well but it's when the admins stop caring for the members/users of the community theres also such annoyance as when the
admin cannot stop the viagra and spam bots which are a constant pain i find
there are many ghost forums out there but they need to be revived by the
owner if he/she wants a community running smoothly and well functioned
 

Rose_Wee

Aspirant
Joined
Sep 3, 2010
Messages
18
That's quick to judge admin but that's harsh thing to say about staffers AE86. After I read all threads here I've realize the secret of success not only lies on members, it's the trend that matters most. Halloffamer points out the most important part about forum. Trends. I've come to conclusion after reading the post are what are the reason people join forums in first place.

I have a story about one forum which is once successful that it has 1000 members till the forum have made a change when second admin take over.

*Lily owned a forum before, it was the time when Harry Potter fans cheered for it when it become phenonmen on few years the movies are made. The forum is a success, but Lily strived not only based on Harry Potter's world only, she made a decision to recreate the world which is filled with many roleplay places. It did receive response, but people didn't active much but they are active in the specific forum of Room of Requirements which is hosted by moderator-admin. The forum have not lost members as the trend move to new sub forum which is active around the clock and Harry Potter forum remained active as usual. Soon this forum remained to the day of closure and everything turn back normal. The membership soared to 1000 members. Those days I was in charge of Room of Requirements. Later Lily have to move on and hand it over to second admin. The forum have moved to different address.

When I saw new staff members appointed in second version of proboards, I was uneasy by the choice the second admin made as she appointed one of old members I have trouble with. The member is appointed as Head of Slytherin but has a record from me as she did participate in ROR sub forum, she's adult and hardly think of forum as PG but adult theme.

When the second admin take over I can't say anything as she already made decision to have new staff member to take over and in charge of management. By end of the year? The forum have reduced to 100 members and some are active in the forum.

It's a sad story.

*fake name

It's base on true story.
 
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