Forums Are Dead, Long Live Forums

Jeff Atwood June 28, 2013

Here’s my ForumCon 2013 keynote, Forums Are Dead, Long Live Forums — you’ll have to juxtapose the video with the slides manually, unfortunately, but here they are side by side.

People seemed to really enjoy it, and I believe it got the positive, hopeful message across that I intended. I’ve been thinking about the forum problem for over a year now, and much of that thinking is reflected in Discourse itself. But if ForumCon is any indication, the larger problem facing the forum industry is the massive numbers of legacy forums out there that aren’t going to be upgraded any time soon, if ever.

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks for the reminder, @PabloC and @tothetick. This one has the slide deck side by side with the audio and video.

  2. First of all, as an aside, I’m loving the fact that I have the YouTube video up on my TV while reading the slides on my iPad. A small little thing that I didn’t realize I’d really enjoy.

    I’ve never seen you give a talk before, so I really enjoyed this. A lot of this was a more in-depth dive into the About page on the Discourse site, but it’s nice to hear more directly from you on your motivations with the project.

    I’m really curious about the audience that you were speaking to during this keynote - looking at the convention page, I wonder what was the demographic of the audience in terms of the people who have an influence in the innovation of the forum software realm? After the keynote and Q&A, what were the kind of conversations that people wanted to have in terms of reacting to what you were presenting?

    Finally, was amused to see you talk about your 2nd partner, I’m guessing that you were referring to BoingBoing. :slight_smile:

  3. Re: 8:40 -

    I used to moderate a forum with a largish number of users. If there is one thing I learned that I think every other forum admin should know, it’s that a significant number of new users will not even look at categories. They will just click the first one and make their post. The corollary is that the correct ordering for categories is according to whether they appeal more to newcomers or experienced users (So “Welcome” go at the top, while offtopic and meta forums should be near the bottom). Just a crumb for anyone still stuck with Dewey.

  4. Avatar for MaMu MaMu says:

    If someone blocks someone else they should never see any of their posts or threads, or replies to posts (and vice versa).

    I disagree with this specific point as this may lead to confusing situations during a discussion. Imagine A is in a vividly discussion with B and C but has blocked D. If B and C start to discuss a statement which D has added to the discussion A won’t be able to reconstruct the discussion’s progression. Blocking may be a useful and necessary feature in a social network but in a community based on discussion it isn’t the right tool to overcome bullying.

  5. Agreed on this one. If someone’s only recourse to protect themselves from bullying is to fully pretending another user doesn’t exist, then maybe that bully shouldn’t be in the community to begin with.

    Additionally, I think the idea of flagging someone as being objectionable and simultaneously removing them from view are too tied together, especially in chat systems. In the majority of cases I admit it makes sense from the point of view of the admins, but frequently (especially in MMO games) I will want to report someone for language or behavior, but won’t because I’m in a situation that depends on communicating with them in order to succeed (like a raid group), or because they’re harassing someone else and I want to be able to defend that person and let them know that they have someone in their corner… all it takes is one disgusting person in a game or community to make someone feel like they are universally unwelcome.

  6. Avatar for Juju Juju says:

    Brilliant! =D I also really enjoyed the juxtaposition of slides and video. Not that the non-audio parts of the video are entirely necessary, but it is a bit more engaging to see a speaker and not just get some slides and a disembodied voice.

    I loved the ideas, which I suppose is the base philosophy anyway, of “Civil Discourse” and motivating that specifically through software. I think a lot of forum software replies are made in anger, and that catching them just-in-time with a few choice words from the system are the best possible way to diffuse that.

    Calm, undeniable logic, in my experience, is the best way to send you from angry and irrational to introspective and embarrassed in like 5 seconds. And while some people might lash at at some “smarmy $%*#” who’s trying to reason with them, when SOFTWARE reasons with you, it’s hard to lash out - and if you do, it doesn’t care.

    I also like the downplay of categories and pages. Both, to me, are system related, not user experience related. (ie. There because they’re EASY, more than because they’re really useful) Both think like libraries, which was fine for the early internet, because we didn’t know any better. But I sort of like to think we do now, or at least we should, given the rapid rise of social media.

    As for the homepage, I completely agree categories don’t belong there, and a categories page is great. I mean honestly, we all love categories so much, so why not give them their own category? The home page should be about sparking an interest, whether showing a new user “What’s Hot” or showing a veteran “We know just what you like” I mean, things like 9gag and facebook have excelled in these areas because they make an effort to get to know, and to please their target audiences. (Whether individually or as a majority)

    Anyway, I’ll stop now, because I’m such a fan of this project and I could talk about this forever. Hopefully, my reply is constructive enough (the little popup while posting did motivate me to at least try =P) But forgive me if it’s not, this is my first post, and I’m altogether to excited about technology in general right now to organise my thoughts properly.

    Glad to join you, and Viva La Forum Revolución!

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