Forum advice?

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Submitted by Marnia on
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As part of the remake of www.reuniting.info, we're trying to figure out what to do with the forum. It really doesn't help people find the "juice" of the site, because much of that juice is in the blogs. "All recent posts" is where the action is.

The original concept of our former webmaster was that the forum would gradually fade away because wikis and community topics would guide users to the content they seek. This was a brilliant concept, but unfortunately it hasn't worked. Hardly anyone worked on the wikis but me, and so they weren't very engaging. Smile And "community topics" (under posts) aren't working either, because everyone describes content issues differently, and many forget the commas between terms, which fouls up the whole system.

So...even before we get the new arrangement under way, which will have users categorize each post using a very short dropdown menu that sorts into karezza and rebalancing (rebooting), I'm thinking of making the forum link directly to "All recent posts," which would be called "Latest community posts" or something like that.

This means there would be no direct access to the forum, though. I could put a link to it under First-Visit or something, of course. But it may be very frustrating for visitors who arrive via a link to the forum from some other site.

Any thoughts?

I agree that the recent

I agree that the recent posts is where the action is. So I think it's a good idea to have the forum link directly to these. If I was more of a techie, I'd probably be able to help out more. I'm open to any changes that need to be made. I won't be like one of those people who complains when facebook makes changes to its layout.

I can bury it

but dropping it wouldn't make sense as some places link to it. So people arrive via that portal sometimes. My fear is that they will post...and then never be able to find their post again because the "Forum" link will go to recent posts. Most have enough problems without wondering what the hell happened to their posts.

When I first found this

When I first found this site, I used the forum a lot. Then once I created an account and started posting, I found the "All Recent Posts" link which is all I use.

I know quite a lot about wikis actually as I deployed one where I work now and am currently leading the charge to move all of our internal documentation over to it. It uses the MediaWiki platform running off Turnkey linux. I love it! But, wikis are good for some things and not others. They are great if you know what you are looking for or are familiar with this site. However I am probably like a lot of other people who stumbled across this site and really had no idea what to read next. So I found the articles listed on the left hand side next to the one I was reading was actually a great format.

I almost wonder if "All Recent Posts" and the blogs themselves are what is causing the disconnect? Right now you have a forum and blog area but they are kept separate. If new blog posts were added to the forum with an indicator that it is a blog entry, that would now correlate everything into one place. Remove the "All Recent Posts", "Member's Blogs", and "Community Topics" from the left hand side, and shrink down the number of categories within the forum to just a handful (3-5 works great). Now you would have everyone going to the forum first to find the posts they are looking for. "Member's Blogs" could be listed on the Forum's category page as well in order to still keep them separate, and if there are still people who want to see every single recent post, it could be on the bottom of the Forum category page so people still visit the forum first.

Just some friendly suggestions! Quite a few message boards work this way and I think the ones that simplify things look the nicest.

I appreciate your help

I agree that simpler would be better. This site is like an archeological dig. Sad Your suggestions sound a lot like Gary's. (You've probably noticed that it's easier to find things at YBOP Smile )

Unfortunately, I may need some help implementing your suggestions if we go this way. We're more content oriented. Smile But I'll see what I can do. My problem is that the forum categories really aren't good. They were made somewhat arbitrarily too early in the process. Maybe I can just move a lot of the topics to a few different "parents" and streamline it that way.

Thanks. All suggestions are welcome.

Major design challenge

Marnia I think you've found the challenge of allowing people to have personal blogs and mixing that in with a forum with subtopics. That is tough to mix together and actually I think the recent posts does an OK job of it.

The toughest thing for me is following threads I am interested in (usually when I comment). From day to day I struggle to figure out where I need to follow-up. The track feature is OK, but I really prefer a subscribe option (with optional email updates). But I get that your software doesn't support all of that like vBulletin does. I also like vBulletin because it hooks into a nice iPad app.

I've designed and researched Wikis and the such along with many websites. Wikis and freeform content always struggles unless it is heavily monitored since everyone has different ways to writing and labeling stuff. So solid and fast search engines are usually what I recommend.

vBulletin has also implemented a superb anti-spam feature that is pretty cool. Just saw it for the first time tonight on a board.

But switching would be a ton of work and doesn't really address blogs versus forums all that well. Sound I am now talking in circles, plus this board is your invention and obviously it's taking on a life of it's own. Tough decisions!

Thanks

I really don't want to be The Wiki Editor again.

I'm hoping the new version of Drupal will support thread subscriptions. It's on my list.

Here are some suggestions from another programming whiz about wiki ideas. Any thoughts (any of you)?

I'm a huge fan of stackexchange format for a question & answer forum. (see paleohacks.com as a non tech usage of it)
Here's one for Drupal that might come in *really* handy: http://drupal.stackexchange.com/

Here's one question with some good links for how we could make a real wiki as a part of the upgrade.
http://drupal.stackexchange.com/questions/7834/how-can-i-make-or-render-...

And this is one of the recommended tools:
http://drupal.org/project/wikitools

Some posts are more chatty, and some are definitely question & answer type things that would lend to the stackexchange format. "How do I get her to slow down?" Stack exchange is very flexible - but again, it's just an idea. A real wiki would provide much of the same usefulness - good tagging and the ability to add information from the discussions as they are relevant.
A real wiki is a delight to use. The one that's here is an exercise in frustration. But with Drupal 6. there are a lot more options.

I have only ever used

I have only ever used Mediawiki as a platform, mainly due to the level of support that exists. It has a ton of custom extensions you can use, and a lot of guides on how to customize it to your liking. It is also the package that Wikipedia itself runs off of. However Drupal has a ton of support too, so either way would be a good choice. I don't have much experience using Drupal but I know of it and know how popular it is as a content platform.

Looking over the categories, I think some of them could be condensed down to single threads contained in a bigger category? Some sub-categories are very small and others, such as the announcements, could be used as "Sticky" Threads in each category. My best advice would be thinking what themes this website seems to encompass and use those as categories. Porn Addiction Recovery, Karezza, Sexual Experimentation, General, and Member's Blogs could be good to start with. But, you know your website much better than I do! I have been lurking around all the PMO posts so I will admit to not reading all the other sections on the forum!

Wikis

[quote=Marnia]I really don't want to be The Wiki Editor again.[/quote]

I don't see how you could get users to hand pick content like you are doing. They will happily contribute content in a dialogue via the threads, blog, etc. Making a wiki is a task in of itself. If they intentionally made a wiki, the content would be different and perhaps not as useful overall as the hand picked bits. Do you want recovering folks selecting the important bits? Also, your selecting gives the bits a unified flavor. Read the communities section at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki and you can see why eliminating the role you've played might not be possible.

The recent posts are good for staying up to date. It is perhaps most like a hot topics system. Most online communities use some sort of reverse chronological fashion. Some bump the posts to the top like here. Others just leave them in the place the thread started with no bumping. Some rank them in some fashion. Most have some sort of categorization system and search function so people can find ones on a particular topic. I think the forum isn't working because there are too many categories and too many blogs mixed in. Even if you have less categories, you still have many blogs. Users aren't always sure whether to post in a forum or a blog. Maybe you should convert the forum into just a category viewer. Someone interested in posts tagged with that category can view only that, but still in the same order as all recent posts.

Keep in mind that categories simplify searching. If someone knows the name of the blog user or the category, the search is faster and there are less results to sort through. That is less of in issue these days with better search functionality, but it's not yet irrelevant.

Perhaps it would be fun to have a thread of the past for the day or something like that to keep the old new.

I'm mixed about sites that work like stack exchange. In a rush, it is nice to get to the most useful stuff, but that removes the fluidity of the discussion and suggests that the other comments don't add value. If some user is consistently at the bottom, he may go away. Look at the trouble we've had with people leaving due the porn talk. At the same time, look at people who have been here long-term and how their posts have changed. This site has considerations that many other sites don't need to ponder.

Tracking is possible

[quote=wfk007]
The toughest thing for me is following threads I am interested in (usually when I comment). From day to day I struggle to figure out where I need to follow-up. The track feature is OK, but I really prefer a subscribe option (with optional email updates). [/quote]

For now, use My recent posts that appears on the top of the page when in All recent posts view. That tracks any thread you have posted to.

So many good ideas

About the site...this is the time to do some spring cleaning (not my strong suit). So I'm sure some improvements can be made. I'm thinking that simplifying AND freezing the Forum might be useful. I could explain under "First Visit" that visitors are welcome to jump in anywhere on any thread, and that are welcome to request a blog, too.

I agree that we have unique needs and that ranking posts is absolutely out of the question. People need to be respected and supported wherever they are. Perceptions change, but their value as people does not.

You are the best resource on the planet.

Marnia,
I've been lurking for 61 days, and daily visit Recent Posts as my continual source of support and inspiration. No PM since day 0 and about 5 O's with my lover over the duration.
I'm not ready to blog yet, but will when I feel the time is right. I'm in my mid fifties and in a complicated situation (aren't we all!). Long term usage of porn, and I know I will get there without lapsing, and prepared to persevere for as long as it takes.

For me, a few in depth visits got me to using Recent Posts as my regular starting point. I wouldn't worry too much about the site. Perhaps Recent Posts should be signposted better.

What you provide is so invaluable, and has literally changed my life after that first visit. A genuine epiphany. Reading Virgil's comments provided me with that initial inspiration that has sustained me so far.

Marnia and Gary. Thank you so much.

I don't know

The site will be upgraded to a new version of Drupal...before too long. That feature may become an option then. It's on my list. We'll see.

For not, INC's solution is the best you can do.

YES!

HELLO! I've been enjoying this site for about 2 months.

Could the 'All recent posts' section be split into separate categories, and each blog poster would select into which category his post fits? Then, each member could home in on the most relevant stuff. For example, I'm on Day 37 no PMO, and it's a delicate place wherein I want to help newbies some, but I'm shaky enough in my own sobriety that I want to be learning/seeing a lot of positive, solid stuff, and not reading a ton of commiseration, suicidal ideations, and hopelessness!

Possible categories:

-Confessions of slips/relapses [I'm trying to avoid these now!]
-Requests for help/insight (general) [Maybe I could help]
-Requests for intervention (crisis) [ditto]
-Tales from the Rebooted [I love reading these, plan to post someday!]
-Days 0-21 [kind of arbitrary, I know; some other number scheme could certainly work]
-Days 21-40
-Discussion of Theories/Principles [with subcategories of stuff that everyone trips out on: fantasy, youtube, relapse, preparation for Reboot, porn-blockers, etc.)

Thank you very much!

That's why we created YBOP

We don't have the technical ability to do this under the present system, but maybe we will?. Second, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Third, and most important, that's why we created YBOP, with the FAQ's, rebooting accounts with titles and days, Tales of ED, tools for change, and the rest. Everything on your list is right over there on YBOP - and we add to it every day.

Oh.

Cool. I just thought most of the discussion-action is here on reuniting.info. YBOP seems less social media-style. Am I missing something?

No, you're just too rational

Reuniting was created for another purpose. You guys are cherished guests, but we probably won't plan the forum around you...for a variety of reasons.

We don't want a forum on YBOP because forums take a lot of minding. One is enough.

So the confusion is just part of our eccentric charm. [bigsmile]

Oh,

I was missing something--forgetting that this site is not solely to serve PMO-recoverers. Whoops again! Well, anyways thanks for having us.