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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...