Understanding Forums vs Social Media - Discussion Flow

fixer

I'm In My Prime
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Jan 28, 2010
Messages
2,056
I will be putting together some content relating to how forums and social media differ. We need to understand our differences in order to focus on the improvement of our strengths to ensure the vitality of our communities.

My inspiration comes from Matt at Invision Community, He recently sent me an email that really made me re-engage into forums and caused me to do a complete revamp of my sites homepage to focus on the sites strengths and simplification...

This month, the team have been discussing the role of forums in the social media age.

Aside from owning your data completely, the main advantage to building your community on your own platform is allowing your members to be relatively anonymous.

With social media, it only takes a few clicks to discover more. It's easy to look at your political leanings, which area you live in, what your favourite films are and so on.

All that information comes with you when you join a community on Facebook whether you like it or not.

With a forum, you can create your own personality unique for that forum. You don't need to reveal your real name, or photo.

You put privacy back in the hands of your members.

We really like that.

I'll be digging into this in more depth in a blog this month. I came across some fantastic research which supports this and has some lovely quotes such as "social media is being alone, together and forums are being together, together."

I'll leave you with that thought.

- Matt at Invision Community

So I've been putting some thought into the differences between a forum and social media experience.

And for this topic, I wish for everyone to consider there are exceptions to every rule!

Today's bad guy is the "quote", The quote feature and misuse can destroy a discussion. Some softwares have tried to curb misuse by making a reply button perform quote like actions. and lets not even get started with multi-quote as it seems to be reserved for those who have a forum posting PHD.

Where did the quote feature come from in forums? something so small and simple.... is responsible for perhaps the biggest difference between forums and social media. Discussion Flow

The majority of Social Media discussions revolve around the topic starter posting a message and every replier responding to him directly, very seldom do participants other than the topic starter converse among themselves.

On a forum you generally have a different situation, the topic starter creates a discussion and the repliers converse among themselves with or without the starters involvement, in some cases they may never even see the starter again and the discussion continues. the absence of the starter doesn't really seem to matter.

Discussion Flow.png

So here we are, what is better?

Do we want to ditch the quote and bring the obvious difference between replier to replier vs replier to starter comments?

Facebook; for example, uses indent and "replying to @user" prompts

Starter
Replier
Replier
___Replier
Replier
Replier
___Replier
___Replier
Replier

Forums; for example, can be a complete dumpster fire

Starter
Replier
Replier *Quoted starter
Replier
Replier *Quoted replier
Replier (dont know who hes talking too)
Replier *Quoted replier who quoted replier
Off Topic

Maybe we discover how our discussion flow more encourages multiple exchanges between members to reach a collective conclusion in lieu of everyone having direct communication to the starter?

In order to establish this what changes need to be made to how we think of forums?

Is the quote feature our enemy?
 

Joel R

Fan
Joined
Nov 24, 2013
Messages
875
I don't really have an opinion on the quote feature but I'm impressed with your pictograph!

I think the more fundamental question that you're really asking is if threaded conversations or flat conversations. And that's a debate that will rage for as long as forums are around.
 

Panupat

Habitué
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Feb 12, 2010
Messages
1,623
For me it's just about reserving information VS reaching out to people.

Forum reserves. Facebook reaches out.

You want people to see your post, and only the FIRST post without caring about replies at all, Facebook.

You want the replies to matter, then classical pagination forums (So no not Discourse or Flarum). I think this is especially great when you ask questions. Years and years later you can still search for the question in Google and it will happily point you to the thread. How many times have you seen links to Facebook posts in Google....
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,260
I vote yes to quotes. When used correctly, they orient the reader and focus discussion to specific points. Like any feature, quoting can be misused, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

There are differences between the forum model and facebook or reddit. As you say, most "discussion" on social media platforms are more one to one, with each replier speaking directly to the starter.

Forums are more organic. Discussion moves very much like a real world conversation. One person may introduce the topic, but subsequent discussion among the participants can take over or move the thread in a completely different direction. Again, that may be good or bad. (Judicious moderation is the key here.) Overall, I think forum based discussion is a better way to more fully explore an idea than those other platforms.
 

User37935

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May 4, 2011
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I will be putting together some content relating to how forums and social media differ. We need to understand our differences in order to focus on the improvement of our strengths to ensure the vitality of our communities.

This is a great idea and it's nice to see positive content on the subject (as opposed to whining that Facebook is destroying civilisation).

Pointing out how a forum is different to FB - to your members - is useful to do IMHO. For example as you quoted from Matt, we can really push the privacy thing. A good thread on this should give us all some handy ammunition.

As for quotes. Don't get me started ;) I went on a crusade against over the top quoting (pet hate, full quotes of a long message in the previous post just to add a short comment) but it didn't help, so instead I bought some scented candles, learned to relax and let go, and just let people get on with it.

What could be handy is a plugin that scans if a new reply is quoting the previous post in full, it then removes the quote. Maybe this already exists? Too labour intensive to do manually. I did experiment with removing all quote options from the last post in a thread but it didn't work out.
 

Joel R

Fan
Joined
Nov 24, 2013
Messages
875
This is a great idea and it's nice to see positive content on the subject (as opposed to whining that Facebook is destroying civilisation).

Pointing out how a forum is different to FB - to your members - is useful to do IMHO. For example as you quoted from Matt, we can really push the privacy thing. A good thread on this should give us all some handy ammunition.

As for quotes. Don't get me started ;) I went on a crusade against over the top quoting (pet hate, full quotes of a long message in the previous post just to add a short comment) but it didn't help, so instead I bought some scented candles, learned to relax and let go, and just let people get on with it.

What could be handy is a plugin that scans if a new reply is quoting the previous post in full, it then removes the quote. Maybe this already exists? Too labour intensive to do manually. I did experiment with removing all quote options from the last post in a thread but it didn't work out.

In some software, the quote is condensed if it's more than X lines. This keeps the quote available but doesn't overwhelm the page. I suppose scented candles also work, ha.

I also really like the inline quote selector, where you only highlight certain parts to quote. This gives you the ability to focus on a certain section of any previous post.
 

fixer

I'm In My Prime
Joined
Jan 28, 2010
Messages
2,056
I also really like the inline quote selector, where you only highlight certain parts to quote. This gives you the ability to focus on a certain section of any previous post.

Didn't even know this was a thing, until just now
 

overcast

Adherent
Joined
Mar 17, 2019
Messages
486
What I have noticed is that with social media reading through the comments is a pin compared to forum. And often lack of quote makes it hard to see the context.
 
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