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Zantherus » 2009 » January

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Archive for January, 2009

“Smaller Forums Have A Better Community” is just an excuse

January 29th, 2009

I’ve heard this phrase a million times. To me, a forum owner saying such a phrase is just an excuse, shielding the fact that they don’t have a big forum.

Let me say first that a small forum is not a bad thing. It can be nice, but once these small forum owners start blurting out these phrases is when it crosses the line.

Because that’s simply not true.

In fact, I’ve seen quite the opposite. Bigger forums have members confess their deep dark sins and fly across the country to meet each other, while smaller forums struggle, using filler topics to try to keep alive, claiming that their “community” is real while the bigger forum’s community is not.

Extreme example but I’ve seen it happen. It’s not always the same for every forum, of course.

However, let’s define the word “community” first before I get into this topic. Dictionary.com defines it as:

a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

Just the first definition, but I think this fits the definition of a forum community, does it not?

A bigger forum does have a community. There are a couple reasons why:

1) The chances of you finding someone you share a common interest with you is greater.

That’s the definition of a community. Granted, it’s a lot easier to find someone if it’s a niche forum, such as computers, but finding someone who’s into Ubuntu Linux may be a bit tougher. Or finding someone on a general forum who’s into underground hip-hop. It’s easier to find someone with a similar interest on a forum with 100,000 members than 100 members.

2) It’s easier to talk about “real” stuff.

Analogy time.

Imagine you walked into a convention of people with a similar interest to you. How comfortable would you feel, doing things such as checking out the stands, talking to other people, if there was only 5 people there? 10 people? How about 100? 100,000?

It could be a little awkward to you if you’re the only one doing things at the convention while everyone sits down and is silent. It’s a lot easier to do something when so many other people are doing the same thing. In a bigger community, the chance of that happening is a lot better. Leading by example plays a huge part in the community.

If there was a thread where people confessed their deepest darkest secret, would you feel more comfortable posting in it if it had 1 reply or 10,000? In fact, you may feel more compelled to post in a bigger thread than a smaller one because you could relate to a lot of the posts in there. A bigger thread is more likely to occur in a bigger forum.

However, this is not to say that a smaller forum does not have a community. But these forum owners sometimes get a cynical view on bigger forums, saying they’re too rules-based, strict, no community, or other false accusations. But you know, there’s a reason why they’re big…and that’s because they do have a community.

Of course it’ll be harder to “be known” in a bigger forum, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Each forum has some sort of “tolerance” for new members, and usually for smaller forums it’s lower because they need to be welcoming, otherwise their memberbase could dry up.

Anyways this may sound a bit jumbled but I’m just posting as I think.

Other

Constant Revamps is a Bad Sign

January 28th, 2009

If you find yourself having to revamp your forum every couple months or so to stimulate activity, you better take a hard look at your forum. You’re doing something wrong, and that problem can’t simply be solved by a revamp.

They’re living off the hype that brought the members to them in the first place. When they revamp, they want that same hype that they received when they first opened.

Not necessarily a good thing. First off, it’s tough to replicate those opening board stats and two, the constant revamps will eventually backfire. Revamps are supposed to be something cool for your members to experience, not a monthly ritual. Consistency is a good thing. Members like to see a consistent applications of the rules, the same moderating team consistently active, a consistent layout that doesn’t change up too often, and revamping too often can kill that idea of consistency. Imagine going to school or work and at random times, they moved the desks, chairs, and even rooms around randomly to “give it a new look.” You’d get annoyed by that of course. Maybe once every so often can be good to relieve the boredom of the workforce or students, but not all the time.

The biggest problem that causes a revamp is a lack of a true member base. A forum may brag that they have 200+ members and 10,000+ posts in a matter of days, but how often they revamp really shows how “successful” they are. Of course, such stats aren’t much to brag about if you just opened, because chances are you’re just riding the hype. When the hype dies down, it’s back to the revamp board…unfortunately. You can’t rely on your members to bring activity.

Revamps bring a new look, and because of the look, it seems to provide fresh new content that entices members to come back. It doesn’t always work that way.

But you don’t need to revamp to stimulate activity again. It’s tough to replicate your most active weeks, so first of all, don’t aim for that. Instead, aim for a member base that posts rather consistently. Maybe not 100 times a day, but maybe a couple times a day is something to shoot for.

There are several other things you could do in order to stimulate activity again. Remember though, don’t do these too often. Instead, these are meant to delay the revamp and try to get activity going so you don’t have to revamp to get activity.

1) Get a contest going

A contest is a great way to get your members going. However, make sure the contest is something simple, accessible, and most of all, related to your forum. For example, a posting contest. A posting contest can be done on any forum really, and members will be motivated to post. Watch out for spam though. The moderators need to step up. A more specific contest for say, a gaming forum, could be an online tournament.

Be sure you offer a good incentive too. Same rules as the contest - simple, accessible, and related to your forum. For example, with a gaming forum, you may offer in-game items as a price if the game is online. Or with a music forum, offer a CD or even an mp3 player as a prize. It costs a little money of course, but if your members and you have fun doing it, you didn’t really lose anything at all, did you?

2) Get Involved!

Nothing hurts a small forum more than the admin not interacting with the members. If you have a gaming forum, hold a weekly/bi-weekly gaming night where all of the members log onto a game and do something together, whether it be just chatting, playing against each other, or playing as a team against another team. Have a leaderboard where you can keep track of the best players and maybe award prizes.

When the event is over, your members will come back to the forum to discuss it, stimulating activity. Additionally, it’ll bring your community closer.

3) Add a new forum

Alright, this could almost fall into a revamp, but not always, especially when there’s a huge demand for a certain kind of forum. This should definitely not be done a lot, but adding a new forum can have a lot of benefits. It shows the member what  is allowed at the forum and can trigger something in their mind that they could post.

As an example, imagine a general discussion forum with three forums, “General Discussion” ,”Music & Movies”, and “Books.” If you wanted to post about sports, where would it go? The most logical place is General Discussion but it’s not really “General.” If a forum added was “Physical Activity.” It’s more specific and you know where sports should go.

So there are a couple tips if your forum needs activity. Remember to get your member base started so that way when you revamp, it’s because you need a new look, not because you need new members.

Other

If you have a niche forum, ad forums are NOT for you

January 21st, 2009

I’ve been on a lot of advertising forums lately, and I’ve seen a rise of very specific forum (niche forums) admins pop up on these advertising forums and advertise with a futile effort. The “niche” forums I’m talking about are pretty specific forums like say, gardening forums, health and fitness forums, etc.

Let me put it out there that there is nothing wrong with these forums. If at all, it’s good as it’s a break of all of the generic “relaxed” general chat forums, gaming forums, and music forums that seem to pop up twice a day.

But what is wrong, is their advertising method. These owners go to advertising forums in order to show off their forum. The problem is, from what I’ve seen, it gets no results.

Why? Because ad forums aren’t the target audience they’re aiming for. However, the simple act of them advertising gives them a sense of work and accomplishment, so they do it, even though it gets them no results. Members on ad forums aren’t looking for a niche forum to post at. They’re looking for forums that are easy to post in so they can advertise their own forum.  Not exactly the best way to get members who are into cooking, car repair, or woodworking.

There’s better ways to accomplish the traffic niche forums want such as link exchanges, word of mouth, and simply getting your name out on things RELATED to the niche (stores, conferences, etc), which are exponentially better than posting at a forum where no one is really interested in that topic. I have never seen a successful niche forum in my time that has advertised on an ad forum. If they have, the forum had already been established so the extra advertising wasn’t really helping in the first place.

The only reason why I should see a niche forum owner on an advertising forum is to get post exchanges to build the forum up (which could be hard because the forum is pretty specific) or services that benefit the forum rather than advertise the forum (like reviews).

Once again, nothing wrong with niche forums but it’s just something I noticed.

Forums, IF/ZB , , ,

Lack of Innovation is Killing Forums

January 19th, 2009

For the past couple years while I’ve been looking to promote Zantherus, I’ve seen an influx of clone forums that seem to be riding on the trends that have been taking the Zathyus Network by storm - advertising and “no-rules” general chat forums are recent examples. When a forum is going to open up, the owner promises “unique” services or content that would make the forum different. However, when the forum opens, there’s nothing new, with the supposed “unique” content being the same as another forum’s except with a different name.

It’s unfortunate that people actually reward these admins by going to their forum, fooling themselves that this content is really different, and proceed to boost the admin’s ego by accumulating hundreds of posts per day. These forums offer nothing different, so why make them succeed?

Then there are forums who offer something truly unique…but there’s a reason why they’re unique: they don’t work. For example, an ad forum awhile back offered a YouTube Video Service for forums and they would make a YouTube video for them. First off, that’s not bad of an idea. Sites can get traffic off of YouTube. But, it was executed poorly. It was just a plain old advertisement. Nothing compelling for a YouTube viewer to watch. Was there any research done to see if this works? Given that most Zathyus Network admins aren’t marketing majors, probably not, but before you come up with a service, you should at least make sure it’s effective. Just because it’s easy/fun for you, doesn’t mean it’s good or effective for the customer.

I’ve mentioned before on forums that you don’t necessarily need innovation in order to succeed, just the perception that you are. While this is true (at least for Zathyus), it’s unfortunate as well. A real innovative forum that doesn’t stretch the boundaries (like the YouTube Video Service) is a big advantage over the clone forums that make way too many empty promises. Don’t make a forum simply because everyone else is making one. If you have a truly different idea, don’t be afraid to make one. And vice versa. If you just want to make one, don’t make it.

Short entry…eh. I’ll expand more later.

IF/ZB ,

Forum Slowing Down? Don’t Close It!

January 19th, 2009

Many times I have seen a forum close down because it used to receive 200 posts a day but dropped to a “measly” 50 posts a day for a couple of days.  A sudden drop in activity doesn’t mean you should close your forum down, it means you should take a look at your forum from a visitor’s perspective, and your own. Here are a couple of tips when your forum activity begins to slow down.

1) Determine your community’s posting pattern

If you don’t know this already, find it. In your forum’s Admin CP, find the statistics and see when you receive the most posts, the least, etc. For example, Zantherus is most active on the weekdays (oddly enough). So when your activty slows down, determine if that’s when your forum is supposed to die down a little. Another example is during the holidays. Most likely you’ll see a drop in activity as most people are spending time with family. Don’t worry about it. Wait it out and it’ll pick up after the holidays.

2) Get a Review

Some people seem to think that reviews are pointless. They aren’t. Go to a bigger site with a good review section (aka not all forums are in the Great Forum section). Check out some of the reviews. If you like how they do it, apply for one. They’ll (hopefully) point out things you could improve on.

3) Revamp

Sometimes things could be stagnating because members could be getting bored. Add a new skin, a forum, a contest, new staff, etc. anything that could get your members to post again. However, keep your revamps to a minimum, say, once every six months at the most. Constant revamps make your members think “not again” rather than the “oh! a new skin!” response. A revamp loses special points every time you do one, so keep that in mind.

4) Post Exchanges

I’ve already covered this  in a previous blog post. I’m going to correct myself a little bit. Post exchanges can still be used in a bigger community if it’s stagnating, as an influx of newer members can introduce new content to the forum for veterans to see and post.

5) Advertise, advertise, advertise

Advertising never dies. You have to keep doing it over and over and over again. Maybe the reason why your forum is stagnating is because you’ve stopped advertising. It’s happened to me before. Find new forums to advertise at and get at it! If you must, have staff post on the forum while you advertise. The reason why I say not to have your staff advertise is that YOU know your forum best. You’ll have full control over your advertising if you do so.

So in short, just because your forum is slowing down doesn’t mean you need to close it. There’s a reason why it’s slowing down, and if you find that reason, fix it and you’ll see your forum thrive like it used to.

Forums , , , ,

Review - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS)

January 14th, 2009

Yes this is a departure from previous posts. But I have been playing this Phoenix Wright game and while I know it came out a long time ago, I still want to review it, because well, the game is amazing.

In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, you play as the spiky haired Phoenix Wright as he begins his new job as a defense attorney. You are to defend your clients who are wrongly accused of murder by poking and proding at the witness’ testimony and find inconsistencies and contradictions. Of course, evidence is everything; your accusations of the witness lying must be backed by solid evidence.

Of course, being a game, there are some absurd situations that would make a real attorney cringe. Stolen evidence is legal in this court, and cases are thrown out after three days. Not to mention an animal testifying in court, and an attorney telling the judge what to do. It’s things like this that make the game absolutely a blast to watch. It’s butchering the legal system, but in a good way.

But the trial isn’t the only part of the game. You are supposed to search buildings and environments and question people to try to prove your client’s innocence.

What I was amazed about this game was how the cases, on the surface, seemed to explain itself, yet what really happened in the case is, well, a lot deeper than that. Of course, a bit expected, but watching the story unfold throughout the trial was exciting, much like watching an action scene in a movie.

The music, too, was great. It always fit the mood perfectly and when things were getting rough and tense, the music was too; once you found a contradiction in the witness’ testimony, the music immediately stopped, giving it an even more movie-like feel.

Almost everything about this game sets it apart from other games; the genre of the game is by far uncommon and it doesn’t require the prettiest graphics to win you over. The anime-like characters and completely over-done reactions are a blast to watch.

If you get a chance to play this game, do it. You won’t regret it. I haven’t enjoyed a game like this since Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

Games , , ,

Filler topics does not a community make

January 14th, 2009

I’ve seen this around a lot lately. What are filler topics in the first place though? Filler topics, also known as Q&A topics, generic topics, etc., is my term for the simple topics that elicit a single response that involves no discussion at all, such as “What is your favorite color?”, “Favorite day of the week?”, “Last movie you watched?”, or even the ever so famous “What song are you listening to?”

To start out, filler topics are not bad. They allow a smaller community, maybe less than 1,000 posts or even 10,000 posts to accumulate simple content that is easy to make and reply to. They’re there to “fill” up the forum so it doesn’t look so empty because something is better then nothing.

However, once you’ve gotten your memberbase established, stop with the filler topics. Why?

Well, what do you do when you get to know a friend? Take this analogy. When you first meet someone, you want to get to know them, so you ask questions that is like these filler topics. “Where do you live?” “Do you have any kids?” etc etc etc. However, once you start to actually know the person, you start to discuss more personal things. “Hey check out what happened to me today. I was going home and this homeless dude…” or “I just applied to be a journalist at…” The “filler” topics disappear. What has replaced the filler topics are actual discussion.

I’ve seen forums with over 50,000 posts have pages and pages of filler topics and when I post there, I have no sense of community. I just feel like I’m writing an essay or filling out a survey as the topics are so bland and boring.

When you establish your memberbase, it is essential that you start moving away from filler topics. Every now and then a filler topic is okay (”Oh hey Fred, what did you say your favorite TV show was again?”) but moving to actual discussion will be far more beneficial for your community in the long run. The better your community is, the harder it’ll be for your members to leave your forum, as they get attached the more and more they get to know your forum. But, if you keep with the filler topics, people won’t feel such an attachment and could quite possibly click X and never visit your forum again. I know I’ve done that more than once.

Forums, IF/ZB , , , , , ,