Introducing Forums 2.0

When we launched our forums, we spent a significant amount of time and energy trying to get it right. To make a long story short, we failed.

Today, we are re-launching our forums in an attempt to do better this time. Let’s take a look back at what we did (and didn’t do) and why it didn’t work out the way we and our users expected.

New Forums

Even though our blog and forums run on different software (WordPress and Phorum), Chris was able to create a beautiful design that unified the way the comment section in our blog and discussion threads in our forum look like. We cut everything down to the essentials in order to create one of the most uncluttered forum interfaces possible.

When we finally launched the forums, we were very excited. Even though we never considered our forums to be anything else but user forums, we contributed quite a lot to the discussions that quickly emerged. We were happy to see that the forums attracted a number of nice people sharing their experience with using Things.

Anyone who has visited our forums lately will have most likely noticed that the times have changed. Trying to analyze the situation, I believe we made three mistakes:

  1. We never clearly stated that, above anything else, we consider the forums to be user forums. That is forums for and from users of Things. We never intended to make any official statements there. In particular, we didn’t want to discuss future features in the forums. There are notable exceptions though, which, of course, only added to the confusion.
  2. Our presence in the forums was sporadic and inconsistent. As I mentioned above, we contributed a lot in the beginning. Satisfied that everything worked beautifully, we moved our focus away. Every now and then, when an issue seemed particularly pressing, there was a sudden burst of activity from our side that quickly faded again. In hindsight, it is no surprise that users didn’t know what to expect.
  3. We never really posted forum rules. Nor did we make a strong enough effort to consistently enforce the few we hinted at. Our reluctance to burden anyone with rules surely came from the best intentions, but it was unnecessary nevertheless. Every social context has them. Not only are we used to it anyway, it is actually good to know that everyone is playing the same game.

So, what are we going to do about it?

Simplified structure. From now on, there will only be three forums: “Using Things for the Mac”, “Using Things for iPhone and iPod touch”, and “Everything else”.

The two “Using Things…” forums are exclusively devoted to solving problems and improving productivity by sharing helpful information and concrete tips related to released versions of Things. Everything else goes to, well, I guess you know where :). If necessary, we will be moving off-topic threads from the “Using Things…” forums to “Everything else”.

More consistent presence from Cultured Code. We will be encouraging every member of Cultured Code to spend time in the forums. We will be making an effort to arrange our presence such that ideally every day one of us should be around for a while.

I want to emphasize that our presence doesn’t change the fact that we consider the forums to be user forums. We will no longer discuss details of future updates or their possible release dates in the forums.

Posting rules. Everyone should communicate in a respectful and constructive way. Our posting rules are little more than an attempt to spell this out in a more detailed way. Nonconforming posts will be deleted without further notice. We also have some more guidelines, but neglecting those will not entail as harsh a consequence. Please read the full text here: Posting Rules and Guidelines.

More than a week ago, we took the old forums offline. The reason being that we wanted to bring as many topics over to the new forums as possible. Since then, we have been busy sorting existing topics into the new forums. We didn’t bother to copy obsolete discussions, and of course we also didn’t move posts that do not conform to the new rules. This process will likely continue for some time.

We hope that our Forums 2.0 will be more useful and fun than version 1.0 has ever been! Come and join the discussion…

21 Comments

  1. phil Aug 25, 2009

    This is the right way, guys..

  2. KenBotwinick Aug 25, 2009

    WOOHOO!

  3. AndyM Aug 25, 2009

    Great news! Looking forward to the new forums.

  4. Gary Aug 25, 2009

    Great work guys.

  5. Vasily Aug 25, 2009

    I’m glad to see you’re implementing some posting rules, and will be enforcing them. I participated in the forums in the early days, and left in disgust at the level of negativity I saw there. This is a great step in the right direction, and I hope you guys will not hesitate to remove posts or close threads that are abusive or nonproductive.

  6. Jacob Aug 25, 2009

    I remember being confused one of the first times you tweeted a link to the forums for an announcement about new features. I thought, “Should I be checking the forums instead of the blog?” I’m glad you’re going to get away from that.

  7. Pascal Laliberté Aug 25, 2009

    Really great work guys. The design rocks. It shows that you had fun through the process of designing the user experience. In fact, Things and Things Touch both feel like you had fun designing them.

  8. antonie Aug 25, 2009

    Way to go.
    Humble, not blaming the visitors, but looking at the plank in y’r own eye…
    I like it.

  9. rogerinlondon Aug 25, 2009

    Sounds good. Well done. I do have to admit though that some of the more pointless discussions in the old forums had great entertainment value and I will miss that. ;-)

  10. Ernie Aug 25, 2009

    It looks really good! Glad you’ve brought the forums back to life!

  11. mashby Aug 25, 2009

    Are you still using Phorum for your forum software?

  12. Jürgen Aug 25, 2009

    @mashby: Yes we are still using Phorum.

  13. nanochrome Aug 26, 2009

    On this note you should upgrade the blog to the latest version of wordpress!

  14. Karel Aug 26, 2009

    Great!
    Time to re-join the forum!

  15. Salutis Aug 26, 2009

    Great!

  16. nanochrome Aug 26, 2009

    Great,
    I’ve resigned up!

  17. Tony Aug 27, 2009

    I have a great deal of respect for a team that can admit to making a mistake and take several concrete steps towards repairing it and moving forward.

    This post has restored still more of the faith that I had lost over the past year or so. I dare to hope that I can be as fanatical about Things as I was when I first discovered it, and that my fanatacism won’t be let down again. :)

    This is great stuff guys! Keep it up. Once again I have hope and enthusiasm for Things and Cultured Code.

  18. andhika Aug 27, 2009

    Bang!

    “More consistent presence from Cultured Code.”

    This is it. So it is a “user forum”–but surely you guys are also *users* of Things? =) So please be there… as users! This way, i believe, customers’ trust will be sustained, and in turn, your cash flow =D …

    And i really like the way you honestly evaluate the situation and make it better. What a feature to expect from a maker of something as growing as a piece of software!

  19. Malcolm Rowe Aug 29, 2009

    @Jurgen
    All very good indeed just keep taking CC the ways you at CC want to take it.

  20. mike Aug 31, 2009

    in the rules you said that we can’t mention by name any of your competition?!?!? What is this all about?

  21. Jürgen Sep 02, 2009

    @mike: You absolutely can mention competing products by name (it is just a guideline). We just prefer otherwise :). We plan to improve the wording to make this clearer.