I’m not sure I’d count SMF though. Given that 2.1 is now more than 10 years in development, anyway.
This is such a Miss America answer. Give the man his crown.
What's your greatest weakness Matt?
Well Joel, I raised prices because - gosh! - I care too much about the community industry.
(Real picture of Matt wearing his diamond tiara, paid for by the extra $0.83 / mo renewal fee)
On a serious note, IPS is the most forward-looking out of the legacy 3 forum companies. I honestly believe XF is a full generation behind in terms of their design and thinking (they just rolled out an overpriced cloud - sound familiar??). IPS is shifting its market - whether or not you like the changes, can pay for the changes, or evolve with the changes is going to be up to each forum owner's personal circumstances. It may be difficult for some of you to adjust, but it's a necessary shift that is happening.
I hear a lot of complaining and griping by some forum owners in this topic. Why are you complaining? Why are you not proactively taking steps, such as:
IPS might take more flack in the market because it's the first to move, but the shift of the hobbyist forum market is no longer coming, it's here.
- If your board only has 2 active members, why are you paying for premium community software that costs hundreds of dollars a year, then complaining when it costs even more hundreds of dollars a year for premium development? No one will begrudge you for using free forum software like SMF, which is an oldie but goodie, and will probably outlast all of us.
- If you don't like the new pricing scheme, then ... don't pay it. You have options: stay on the last available version of IPS, and / or migrate to another software that is appropriate for your level of budget and community. Better yet, pick up a hobby that you might be good at.
- Stop worrying about the platform so much. The more I educated myself on community strategy, the more I realized the countless things I could do on content / engagement / membership / promotion. Even if you had money to pay the new rates for IPS, your success won't be driven or dictated by the IPS platform. It will be driven by your community strategy, or lack thereof.
I am sorry to say that we are going to turn off access to the forum on 10th September 2021. The forum has been a long-standing part of Eurogamer, and at its peak welcomed thousands of active contributors each day.
Sadly, times change and the way people communicate also has changed. Traditional forums are no longer a popular place for people to come together to talk, and have been replaced in popularity with more modern community platforms like Discord, Twitter, and Twitch.
Due to this, our forum community has declined over the years to the point where there are only a handful of people left actively using the forum. This makes it difficult for us to spend resources keeping the forum running. You will have noticed how little attention the forum has had in terms of updates and changes over the past few years, which is a direct result of them not being used so much.
Bethesdas notice of forum closure:
Then there's the general question about content discovery.
Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at workYeah. Here's the thing. Do you see people making more money using social media (Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) or from forums? People tend to go where the money is to keep their hobby alive, not where it's becoming a financial drain just to spend time in an effort to gain 5 people. Only 1 of who is active.
Even though IPS is more 'forward thinking' it's also clear, like most forum software these days, to still be stuck in the trappings of forum software from 10 and 20 years ago. The design, which is still relatively the same design and layout from the past 2 decades, still persists.
For me, I used to visit forums frequently years ago. Used to run a popular one even. But in more recent years I visit Reddit, Discord, Facebook Groups, Tik Tok, and others more frequently. In a given month I maybe visit one or 2 forums for a few minutes. That's about it. And even then it's sometimes not even that much.
I closed the forum down years ago I used to run because people are fickle. They come and go. The forum activity dropped and cost versus benefit just ended up not being worth it. Even with a free option. Unless you offer something new and radically different to the table, you're likely going to be largely ignored and buried. There are just too many options online these days that allow for more immediate responses and finding of things.
Also, just because a forum software offers more, doesn't mean it offers better or that the 'more' is useful to most people. If that was the case, some plug-ins wouldn't be necessary. Instead they are used to try and fill in some of those gaps. The downside is when support for those end and if you do not remove it, it could break the forum during an upgrade. That can cause problems for owners and members.
IPS is shifting its market. That's their choice. Long term I'm not sure if it's a good or smart one with the world and corporations generally moving away from forums in general. It's a certain way to shrink your market, and thus revenue. Especially in a world right now where cost is everything and spending less for most businesses and for personal use is more important than ever.
As an example, recently Eurogamer closed their forums. Bethesda have too. (To name a few.):
Bethesdas notice of forum closure:
While some may move to forums from places like Facebook for whatever reasons they have, it's clear they have been the exception rather than the rule.
Reading through the comments from the article above I came across this one:
// I’ve moderated forums in the past and now I actually run an organization’s social media as part of my job, and indeed the differences between a forum and virtually anything else social media-driven cannot be stated enough.
What has really “killed” off a lot of forums is that so many individuals are used to immediate information and feedback. They can’t be bothered to search or dig for whatever it is they’re inquiring about - and that’s honestly a pretty big problem. When you don’t take the time to search and you repeat a lot that has already been reiterated, all you’re doing is effectively adding to the crap pile. This is why real well-run forums would always tell it’s users “better to bump something than start anew;” all a new post or thread adds is just more to a crap pile that comes up in search.
What I will say is possibly unfortunate for forums is that many have been around for so long that they have had difficulty property adapting or simply have laid “dormant.” A good example is with Photobucket. Remember when everyone used to use Photobucket to get past a lot of forum restrictions on photos? Nowadays if you go back to any of those posts you’ll see watermarks and inability to actually see what was posted in most cases. That situation has likely ruined many threads. //
And another comment worth noting:
// Then maybe encourage people to use forums
The problem is that people have stopped using forums, in favor of Discord and Facebook... and both are awful for doing what forums do: allowing extended conversations on diverse topics. There’s no way to search and organize categories, and unless The Algorithm decides you should see a post, posts often get buried - including “that one I just saw and can’t find again.”
The thing is... since people don’t have to register separately for each Facebook group or Discord community, it’s easier to get in and use. Maintaining separate logins to forums is a nightmare after a while (I have hundreds), so maybe the trick is to get more forum communities to use single signon systems, so we don’t need to keep track of hundreds of different passwords and URLs. //
And another good comment in that comment section:
// Part of the issue is there aren’t a lot of active good forum solutions anymore. Some of the updates also have some big trade-offs. I’m going from foggy memory, but even around 6 years ago I had situation with a forum that a client wanted to update and the upgrade path was going to remove some things that were critical to the forum experience.
The problem was there was a lot of overseas scripts injecting garbage into the forum because it had old outdated security. The solution we settled on was to pay a 3rd party service that allowed us to “turn off” traffic from some countries to stop the scripts. Not great either. Maybe there are some newer forum solutions out there, but some of the ones that are long in the tooth are security nightmares. //
Regardless of what reasons one has for forums vs social media, there is zero doubt forums have long standing issues they can't seem to overcome which then lends themselves to people leaving them and going elsewhere.
Personally right now I see no reason to run a forum. For either personal or business. The cost has outweighed the benefit with better and cheaper options out there. But that's just me I guess.
Images posted by me. I may want to use an image again or re-post it elsewhere.What would you even search for?
You say this as if it's a bad thing. As I've done before, I point to the book. They haven't changed since the first bindery, yet people still use them regularly. Forums aren't stuck in the past as much as they are built around a tried and tested structure that works for the type of content they contain.Even though IPS is more 'forward thinking' it's also clear, like most forum software these days, to still be stuck in the trappings of forum software from 10 and 20 years ago. The design, which is still relatively the same design and layout from the past 2 decades, still persists.
I agree completely. This debunks the entire argument. There is nothing wrong with the concept or structure of the forum. The problem originates from the changing attitude of people. Shallowness and instant gratification seem to be the constants for many, and that doesn't suit forums (or wikis, novels, and many other content forms). This is also a problem for social media as these people's loyalty is only to the new and trendy. Platforms must constantly chase the shrinking attention span to maintain their users.What has really “killed” off a lot of forums is that so many individuals are used to immediate information and feedback. They can’t be bothered to search or dig for whatever it is they’re inquiring about - and that’s honestly a pretty big problem.
Forums do have issues, none of which can be solved by trying to emulate or chase social media platforms. One of the biggest problems to me is the lack of standards and portability. We should be able to easily move our data between forum software, rather than being locked into one.Regardless of what reasons one has for forums vs social media, there is zero doubt forums have long standing issues they can't seem to overcome which then lends themselves to people leaving them and going elsewhere.
Findability is the other primary issue, as others have said. Tagging is useful, providing the forum managers have skills to develop a decent taxonomy to make them meaningful, and we have the tools to use those tags to offer alternate paths and views through the content. And I agree tagging content isn't something you want to leave up to the users, if possible.Takeaway 2: we need to encourage people to tag topics so that the useful topics, the informative topics and so on can be found again. It doesn't matter whether this is done by manual lists of topics, or something more automated, but it needs to happen. And it needs to be done by a common core group rather than left to everyone because this only works if it is used consistently.
I agree with this completely. I love IPS as it gives a nice social touch and while it could certainly use more social tools due to so many users being on social media, it should not be chasing to be Facebook v2. As there is no calling for 100s on niche Facebook-like websites to exist and there is no way IPS is going to beat FB or Twitter at being FB or Twitter.To expand on this:
You can run a community on social media, and you can create a social media-style community on a forum but you are playing against the platform strengths.
The future of forums is not in making it more like social media, it's about making our strengths stronger. This will increase the divide from social media platforms, not decrease it.
It is easy to create a community on social media, but it is harder to keep it on social media.
Oh, and while some businesses do not understand the value of a forum and close them, the members certainly do.
QVC recently announced the closure of their forum and their plan to move it to Facebook (via a hashtag?), and the members revolted until:
There's a few things here for sure.Just a thought. We see these big companies closing their forums to ostensibly save money, but if you're going to gut years of archived knowledge, aren't you likely setting yourself up to have to spend more on live support, to address all those problems that users might have previously been able to find the answers to themselves...? Yeah, sure, some of this can be addressed with bigger, more extensive knowledge bases, but in reality those are almost always of limited use.
No doubt large companies like that have accountants to figure out the cost benefits of either approach, forums or some other platform, but I wonder if in some cases they're really able to reliably predict just how much it might possibly cost them in the long run when they axe their forums.There's a few things here for sure.
The platforms popular with enterprise tend to cost around $150k/year so it's a fair chunk of change for even the biggest org. A lot of the communities that are getting shut down don't have a community manager in a position of authority within the company to argue for it's upkeep and the value it brings.
Often the board will get wind of a few complaints on the forum and their reaction is "well, we don't need it, just shut it down."