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Zantherus » Forums

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Stop creating forums

December 23rd, 2008

I wish that there was a background check on creating forums. It would be easy; it would check to see how many forums you’ve created and then their shutdown date. Then depending on those stats, it would approve or deny your creation of a forum. If it denied it, it would give a small reason why, like “you suck” or “learn English” and singlehandedly ruin a person’s self-esteem, because then they would really know that they suck instead of living in denial.

Hold up. I just got a call on my cell phone from some random company that tells me that my car warranty is going to expire. My car is 18 years old so I think my warranty expired already. I’ve gotten calls from these people in the past and it’s obviously a scam. What’s even more odd is that someone who received the call on her cell phone is on the National Do Not Call list. And plus, it’’s illegal to solicit on cell phones.

Holy shit! I figured out why this happens… I’m referring to both the call I just received and why I think people should stop creating forums. The answer has been quite obvious but I think it’s coincidental that the call I received shares something similar to the blog I am writing. To make it simple, the reason why people do these things is because there is no consequence.

But, I’m sure you already knew that.

There is no consequence because we’re on a free host, and the company that called me hasn’t been caught yet; while there have been complaint about it, there is no lawsuit against them. But suddenly add in a small price, then quality of forums will increase; add in the lawsuit for the companies, and they will stop their service and lose revenue.

Well, they aren’t exactly alike. But I hope you know what I mean.

There’s no way Invisionfree or Zetaboards is going to charge for their services though. So, I propose a solution. It’s called the 150 hour rule.

There is a show called Heroes and the writers use this rule. It states that if you come up with a great idea, wait 150 hours. Then if it’s still as awesome as when you first thought of it, use it. If it’s lost its flair, then don’t use it.

The point of this rule is to filter the good ideas from the bad ones. When we think of something awesome, we tend to think too far ahead and idealize the concept — putting it on a pedestal, if you will. And since we tend to over think it, we act on a whim and spend too much time into the idea, then we realize that it’s not going to work. That’s the worst thing that can happen, because wasted time isn’t something you can get back.

Now, you don’t NEED to stick to 150 hours, of course. Most of the time all it will take is a good night’s sleep and several hours off of forums will be all it takes to make sure you realize that idea you thought up is absurd.

Quite often as an administrator of Zantherus, I come up with great ideas. If the ideas all worked out as I planned, then I’d be the ruler of the world. But they don’t. I followed what Mark Rosewater, a Magic: the Gathering developer, coined the Bullseye theory. It’s not the exact wording, but the idea still stands:

If a novice archer were to shoot enough arrows at a target, he would eventually hit a bullseye. Likewise, if an administrator were to come up with enough ideas, he would eventually hit upon a “key” idea and become successful.

Simple enough, isn’t it? I think a lot of forum owners use this theory far too much. And well, it’s not exactly a good thing.

I think that this issue stems from several problems; now of course, there is the inherent problem that these forums are free and the only investment in it is a little bit of time. The second problem is that the forum owners become too far engrossed in their idea that they fail to see the reality of it. And this is why the 150 hour rule is so helpful in this regard; the ideas that we put on a pedestal when we first thought of it will no longer be on that pedestal. Waiting awhile before implementing ideas allows you to see the idea as other people will see it — well, not exactly, but you will see it in a more pragmatic manner.

Forums, IF/ZB

Post Exchanges: Yay or nay?

December 22nd, 2008

Post exchanges are something every administrator faces when developing his or her community. Some forum owners embrace the act of post exchanges, actively participating in them, while others are adamantly against the very idea of forcing posts.

But first, let’s start, what exactly is a post exchange? Similar to traffic exchanges, two users agree to post on each other’s forums, either until they both reach a desired post count or a set period of time. Once the post exchange is done, usually the users part ways, never to see that forum again, until another post exchange comes around.

The first thing that pops into someone’s head when they first hear about a post exchange is usually a negative connotation. Shouldn’t forums gain posts naturally, i.e. advertising to get members who will join and post on their own will?

The answer to that is: of course. Ideally, once a forum owner begins to advertise, whether it be by posting on forums and including a link to your forum in your signature or paying for advertising, the forum should gain some members, who would begin to post.

However, the world is not an idealistic place. Realistically, advertising may very ineffective. An empty forum, even with a decent layout or appearance, gains nothing without one thing.

And that’s content. Content ranges from anything from downloads on music sites, articles on a blog, and in a forum’s case, topics.

Post exchanges provide just that. A forum with 57 posts and 4 members looks a lot less appealing than a forum with 347 posts and 22 members, and that forum looks a lot less appearling than a forum with 2,451 posts and 78 members.

When a visitor sees your forum for the first time, you need to make sure that they’re there to stay. A high number in the statistics table certainly helps plead that case.  A big number of active users helps even more. By doing post exchanges, you ensure that content is being provided on your forum at a decent ratio. A forum that contains topics all created by the administrator can be just as bad as a forum with no posts at all.

Of course, a bad post exchange is just as bad as having a forum with no content. If you do post exchanges, realize that your goal is to provide compelling content for the other forum, and in turn, the other user will do so for you. The number one rule: Don’t mention that you’re there for a post exchange. That completely defeats the entire purpose of the post exchange, plus you ensure that you won’t be having another post exchange with that person (or other people, if you develop a reputation like that).

So why exactly is it that people are so against post exchanges? It’s a good reason - post exchanges develop no community. People who are at your forum for a post exchange are there for a quick second, maybe a week or two, accumulate the desired post count and leave, disappearing off the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

That creates a problem, especially if the user creates a topic that requires more elaboration. The user will never expand on it, and therefore the topic dies. Or maybe the user isn’t familar with the rules and breaks a couple, such as posting in old topics or posting too little in a serious debate forum.

However, pro-exchangers contend the point of a post exchange is not to develop a community. In the way that street musicians “seed” their tip jar with a couple of $1s and $5s in order to convince people to donate, post exchangers “seed” the community with content, further encouraging first-time visitors to come back, and hopefully, register and contribute to the community.

One of the toughest parts in administrating a forum is developing that first member base. Post exchanges, while not a part of that first member base, help toward that development and getting those first few “real” members to register and be a part of a growing community. Post exchanges help “seed” a forum in a way that is more effective than one administrator doing all the work and is more ethical than creating fake members do to the job that post exchangers could.

In short, people who are against post exchanges do not fully understand the concept. Post exchanges are not meant to take the place of a real community, nor are they really meant to be used in a thriving community. They are there to give the boost a small forum needs in order to be successful. After all, when the post exchangers are gone and a real community is in place, it doesn’t really matter if you used them, because now a real community is providing the content that the exchangers once did.

Forums