With Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Social Media- do forums have a future? - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-12, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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With Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Social Media- do forums have a future?

I am currently reviewing the future of Digital Home along with the Digital Forum and thought I would invite feedback from members.

A decade ago when I started the website, the web was still pretty passive. People and companies posted websites and other people read them.

Back then, the forum was one of the few places on the web where there was interactivity. Yes there was Usenet and list servers but they were restricted to a minority of the population.

Today we have social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and every news website invites readers to feedback on every article published promotiing interactivity on those sites. In addition, there are tons of blogs, all of which promote interactivity.

I wonder if the future of forums is strictly a company related thing such a the Dell, Apple, Rogers or Futureshop forum and use of the more general purpose forum will atrophy.

So where do you see forums going in the next decade?
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-12, 05:17 PM
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Ten years ago !!

I remember the dial up used to be an acoustic coupler for remote access, so I go back way before then

Personal view - I use twitter a lot, but I rarely index the tweets, so the information is transient.... I don't use Facebook because of the companies lack of concern about my data security.

Will there still be a use for fora in ten years time, sure; The information provided is fairly easy to search and the range of information is quite wide, and not constrained by tags or limited character post limits.
No doubt there will be advances in the technology, but I am old enough and wise enough to know my crystal ball is not able to predict past the end of the week.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-12, 05:56 PM
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Every "format" on the internet has its strengths and weaknesses. Each is focused on a certain type of interaction.

Discussion & Debate
In my opinion the single-thread discussion format (that this forum uses) is still the best approach for a ongoing topic, and works well up to a certain size (maybe ~300 posts or so). Talking about recent events, or having a debate on a certain topic where there is back and forth, and you want to reference previous posts. Twitter messages are too short and useless. Facebook doesn't bring the right people together and the discussion aspect doesn't scale as well. I still like vBulletin (and other UBB-clones) the best.

Question & Answer:
Where the "PHPBB" interaction format start to break down is when people want to search existing content of questions and answers when they are looking for a answer to a straightforward question.

My favourite structure for this sort if information is how Stack Overflow works.

Comprehensive Knowledge Repository
When you want an well developed article, I think the Wiki format is the best interactive medium that will produce a great end-product (in the form of an article). Clearly Wikipedia has been tremendously successful there. Other good examples are WoWWiki where you have a specific (game related) knowledge repository.

Facebook and Google+
I quite like this format of having "circles" of people who automatically see your updates. I don't think this discussion format will tend to encourage in depth discussion, but this format would tend to do two things: include people who you know personally, and keep responses short. It also has the side effect of doing a great job with pictures and (apparently) multi-player games. I know a certain someone who is hooked on Facebook Bejewled and needs to play every week to beat her friends scores. Human beings love sharing and commenting on pictures, and they also love proving that they are better than their friends at a game.

I'm not a twitter fan. I think Facebook and (especially) Google+ are better than twitter in important ways. First, they don't have that silly character limit, and second, they are better that sending out a one-to-many "IM" style message where the many isn't "the world!" I often have something to say to my peer group.

Where are things going next? I dunno, I think the communication mediums will be more specialized; not generalized. A long time ago on the Internet I had email and that was it. It was how you did business, and if you wanted a discussion forum, well, you just created mailing lists using email. Listserv.

I'm not smart enough to be able to say anything intelligent about what's next specifically, but I think the trend will continue in that we'll have more options on how to communicate, not less.
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-12, 06:04 PM
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I am old school dating back when BBS forums were the norm. I like being able to browse different subjects in one area and not the feedback news web sites have.

I tried twitter and it definately isn't my style.

As long as this forum exists, I'll stay aboard. This is how I like my forums. Simple and in one spot. Just like fast food I guess.

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-13, 01:28 AM
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For me, those other "social" things are useless for getting knowledgeable information. When you're the "techiest" (or most knowledgeable in whatever area) person in your social circle, posting a question on Facebook or twitter isn't going to get you a useful reply.
Going to a good, well-moderated forum like this one (and a few select others) typically answers my questions quickly and accurately.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-13, 02:00 AM
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I agree with Nuje. Much more information can be obtained in a forum, and I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future. Social media and blogs can be good at finding information sometimes, but aren't the best for discussing said information.
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-14, 03:31 AM
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forum will have a future for a long time to come if not forever. People on forums are looking for specific information on a subject. There are all kinds of forums for every subject under the book and people will be looking for specific information that social media cant provide in such a fashion
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-15, 03:00 PM
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Blogs are useful if the information is presented in a usable manner, but forums are much more useful as far as I'm concerned.

As for Twitter: how many tweets would it take to explain how to swap the hard drive in a SA8300HD? Or how to root your Android based phone/tablet?
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-15, 03:17 PM
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One thing just occurred to me. I am on another forum that has a feed (RSS?) To facebook and if you subscribe, it shows posts on your FB page. Hugh, could this be something you could do?

I hope forums don't go away. I like the format, and wealth of information, which, like what the others have said can't be conveyed the same as twitter, etc.

Sorry if that sounds like a contradiction.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-19, 04:20 AM
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I definitely think that online forums are here to stay, and that is the best format for this site.

Facebook is all about popularity contests, "likes", and finding out everything about what your friends are doing. It's not bad for a business to have a Facebook page; in fact, it's a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there (so to speak).

Twitter is about real-time status updates, announcing things to the world, and trusting links that redirect you who knows where. Again, it's not bad to have a Twitter page, but it's not really necessary unless you'll be making a lot of short announcements, such as "DHC will be down for maintenance for the next 2 hours". It's also sometimes used as a secondary "Contact us" link, alternative to email.

LinkedIn is primarily resumes, and wouldn't be relevant to DHC. Usenet is dead. I wouldn't recommend usenet for any active discussion, since many ISPs have ceased carrying newsgroups, and it's primary use these days is distribution of spam, porn, and warez (in no particular order).

Audacity mentioned wikis, and I think that wiki's might have some potential, not as a replacement but maybe as a complement to discussion forums, for organizing frequently-accessed information that might otherwise be stored in FAQs or Sticky posts. For example, an OTA Wiki with easily-searchable info about antenna configurations, stations, and transmitters available in each area may have value, assuming the information's not already duplicated on another page like Wikipedia. The downside is that to make a Wiki about Shaw or Bell, for example, you'd probably need permission from the company and there'd be legal hurdles involved about what you can & can't say about them.
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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-19, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by tux View Post
The downside is that to make a Wiki about Shaw or Bell, for example, you'd probably need permission from the company and there'd be legal hurdles involved about what you can & can't say about them.
Nope. Wikipedia doesn't need permission for their articles. I doubt WowWiki got Blizzard's permission before setting up shop.

Sometimes if you have contentious topics you may run into "editing wars", but Wikipedia seems to have more or less solved that problem. If I were Hugh I'd create a Wiki to summarize a lot of the information from FAQ threads here, e.g. OTA FAQ threads. Oh, and integrate the authentication system with the existing user database.

The main problem with forums is when you get a "epic thread" on topics such as "HTPCs", the old posts are more or less useless because of the rate of technology change. There are newer posts that have value, but only part of the information in the older threads are valid, and the reader needs to understand the intent of the recommendations and realize that the specific recommendations may need to be revisited. Most new readers don't want to read through 50 pages that may or may not be helpful to them.
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-19, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Nuje View Post
For me, those other "social" things are useless for getting knowledgeable information.
Agreed. I will never, ever use Twitter or Facebook. Ever.

I love this forum.
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-19, 06:57 PM
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I think Audacity has summed up my view on the subject quite well.

The forums have been invaluable over the past few years to me but I can see how some new users could be overwhelmed when searching for what seems like simple help. Being asked to go read a thread that has 60+ pages is a daunting task even for a well versed veteran of the site.

I remember reading that at one point Hugh tried some Wiki software, I think the 1st time it was tried it didn't go so well. Maybe it's time to give it another go, say in "beta" as a test to see how participation levels come in from the users. Open it up to the users and I bet we'll see some really good information get consolidated.

The other option is to always shake the pertinent info out of a thread and put it in post #1, instead of telling someone to go to post #256 and #280. This would have to be the moderators but they seem busy enough as it is today so that leads us back to a community-driven wiki. Let us do the shaking of good info out for you and let the moderator team keep the forums in tip-top shape. I can even see some wiki entries having links back into the forum so the user knows the source of the entries and can get a feel for how the discussion on the topic went / is going.

I vote for trying a Wiki again.

I also vote to keep the forums. Social sites aren't structured in such a way to get all this great content we have here.
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-21, 02:04 AM
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I still see them being here. I see social networks and other stuff to be a different kind of medium altogether that attracts different crowds. Sort of like side-ventures that won't ever replace one main form of conversation. Forums allow for more multi-tiered intimate discussions. Forums are a bit like the bulletin boards you had to call up, and usenet. They're just the same function to bring like-minded people together, only more advanced, and I'm sure there will be something even more advanced down the road for the same purpose. Forums are an important cornerstone if you want people to communicate.

I've seen with my own eyes sites that got too caught up in the social networking craze and pretty much ignored their forums, and then wondered why their forums were doing badly. It's not pretty. It of course differs on the type of audience you have the subject material, but it's a lot easier to get people to browse a forum than it is things like Facebook, Twitter or social networks and get conversations going where there isn't any real sense of convergence.

Blogs are mostly about posting news, and while they allow people to comment on postings, they're generally less about the community.
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 2011-09-21, 11:21 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the responses. It was interesting and I love reading peoples viewpoints.

Four comments:

1. Tried a wiki twice. No one is interested. Typical response from everyone was "what, just use Wikipedia."

2. I tend to see Twitter and Facebook marginalizing forums in the next decade.Twitter seems to be the place to get the latest while Facebook is becoming the community. When Issues come up, people tend to post a link to Facebook and that becomes the focal point for the issue.

3. Blogs. Much community and discussion seems to have moved off of forums and onto blogs.

4. Companies such as Rogers, Bell, Telus and Shaw are getting heavily into social media. They are building their own Twitter feeds, facebook pages, forums and communities. These companies can support their social media efforts with Television ads, Radio ads, newspaper ads and magazine ads to drive consumers to their "communities"

Overall, I don't see much of a future for forums, especially independent ones.
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