How can forum software be improved?

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John Q. Public
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How can forum software be improved?

Post by John Q. Public » Sun Oct 26, 2014 9:32 am

The next version of our software is coming out on Tuesday but it will be a while before I update. The changes that will be apparent to the user are on-page notifications and the ability for me to make "pages" like for the rules or whatnot instead of posting them as threads. The biggest changes are to the core and all (3) of our modifications won't work as they're written and our style most likely won't work, so I'll have to wait until the plug-ins are ready and I'll have to come up with a new "style" for the place. I really don't like the standard ones.

So I thought it might be a good time to ask this. I read an article a couple days ago about what one guy thought were the shortcomings of the forum platform. It's been basically the same since the '80s and nobody's done anything especially innovative with it. His idea was connecting separate forums so Board A and Board B share users and posts. I can see how that could be a good idea in some cases but I can see how it would be a very bad idea in others. If it's a forum people use to get information, like car repair, DIY, parenting, cooking, etc. it could be beneficial but I'd think it would mean nothing but problems for a board like ours. What if we connected with a board with a stricter banning policy (or a less strict one) or one where staying on topic is strictly enforced?

What I think is the biggest shortcoming is the format. You come to the board and you're presented with an index. You click a link and you get another index. You don't get actual content until the third page - and then half of the time it's hidden behind a really bad title that doesn't tell you what the topic is about. There are plug-ins that let you hover over the title to get a preview but I'd like to see the preview right there on the page. But how do you present that, especially on a big board with a lot of topics? Another board I look at just started using a "Featured Topic" um, feature that puts an excerpt of a selected topic at the top of the index pages. Some of the people think it's great but boy, you should see the screaming from the others! Everything from it takes up space to people who don't want to be told what to read. I, personally, love it and would add it here in a heartbeat if something like it were available for our software. But, then, maybe I'd have to remove it when everybody revolted against it. I'm just the owner. The board is here for its users and they know what they want better than I do.

Forums' greatest strength is that they're still the best way of sharing and discussing written communications. You can't do this stuff on a blog or on Facebook or Twitter. But those sites have their appeal, too. I'm curious what users think makes those sites interesting or fun as opposed to forums. Is it the content? The brevity? The format? Or just the people? What do they have that forums don't - or can't - have? Is there something about those types of sites you'd like to see incorporated into the forum concept. Or is there something else you'd like to see? Or do you like forums just the way they are?
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by Troglodyte » Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:14 pm

People are naturally resistant to change of any type. They like what they are used to no matter how much they bitch....
I wouldn't like having to click through a couple of pages to get where I want. Remember your admonishment about just providing links instead of giving a synopsis of what it says??
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by John Q. Public » Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:58 pm

Trog wrote:I wouldn't like having to click through a couple of pages to get where I want. Remember your admonishment about just providing links instead of giving a synopsis of what it says??
But that's what you do here, and it's my gripe with the format. I'd imagine most people skip over the board index page and bookmark either Active Topics or, unfortunately*, the High School forum. But either way, all you get on the page is a list. I think that can be done better but I'm not real sure how without making a very cluttered page of excerpts.

* I say "unfortunately" because a lot of people on the High School board don't even know the other parts of the site exist and quite a few of them will never see this post, for example.
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by John Q. Public » Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:47 am

Nobody has any thoughts on this? We all spend time on forum(s). Is there any way they can be improved?

Also, while I'm working on getting the next version of the board ready to go, are there any requests for features you might have seen on other boards? Right now, add-ons I'll probably be using are the BBCode panel (yes, that's an add-on), some kind of "Like/Thanks" thingie and a topic preview. The new "extension" system will make it much easier to install them, so it might be easier to take requests for those. The limitations will be server load and conflicts with other extensions, but it will be easier to at least try them out.

Oh, and another improvement in the new version will be that Announcements will appear (I think) as a blurb at the top of every page, rather than as just a link on the index pages. You'll be able to dismiss them, but there will be less excuse for not having read them. I like that a lot.
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by MDDad » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:38 am

JQP wrote:You come to the board and you're presented with an index. You click a link and you get another index. You don't get actual content until the third page
I don't understand why this is an issue. I bookmarked the "View Active Topics" page, and that's how I always enter the forum. Except for when I start a thread, I haven't seen an index page in months.

The forum is fine. There's only two things wrong with it:

1. The ridiculous periodic slowness and inability of pages to load. Of the hundreds of sites I've visted, no other one has this problem. There are Mickey Mouse third world porn sites that load faster than this forum (or so I've been told).
2. Wabash.

And one of those problems is easily remedied.

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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by John Q. Public » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:04 am

But the "View Active Topics" page is also just an index. There's no content on it.

I have considered finding a way of making that the landing page and making the board index and the individual forum pages secondary, like Reddit does. The board index is really a pretty pointless stop on the way to whatever you're here to look at.

Oh, and I tried posting an announcement on a test board. Doesn't look any different to me. But it could be because the test board is a beta version. :eh?:
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by Troglodyte » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:30 am

Can there be a feature on the user control panel where the reader can choose which topics and threads they want to peruse?? I'm not interested in the HS, college, or sports section. I don't usually go into the At Home, religious, or entertainment sections.. Being able to get directly into areas I am interested in would cut down the choices presented.
Also can there be a bit more policing on individuals leading threads off topic and posting trash instead of presenting valid arguments? Sniping and trash talking takes away the interest from discussion..
Wabash could be given his own thread so he could argue and snipe at himself. Brooke could moderate her own immigration thread all by herself.. Kramer could have his own conspiracy theory thread. We could chose not to enter those if we don't want to..
Also get a few more moderators to counter balance Vile. What ever happened to the "committee"?? Don't hear from them any more..
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Re: How can forum software be improved?

Post by John Q. Public » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:55 pm

Troglodyte wrote:Can there be a feature on the user control panel where the reader can choose which topics and threads they want to peruse?? I'm not interested in the HS, college, or sports section. I don't usually go into the At Home, religious, or entertainment sections.. Being able to get directly into areas I am interested in would cut down the choices presented.
Well, you could probably do something like that yourself by using the search page, highlighting the forums you want to include, checking off "first posts" or "topic titles only," hitting Go and then bookmarking the results. Maybe. I can't guarantee it would work and it would be counterproductive for me to make as a feature. I want people to see all of the active topics.
Also can there be a bit more policing on individuals leading threads off topic and posting trash instead of presenting valid arguments? Sniping and trash talking takes away the interest from discussion..
Wouldn't that be nice? We do delete some of the sniping and trash talking when that's all a post is but there's no rule against being annoying or making the same frigging post a thousand times. Self-policing could work there, but only if the self-policers are willing to call out people they agree with as well as the people they disagree with. Same for keeping threads on topic. The second and third people and the ones who tolerate it are as much to blame for that as the first person is. Mods can only do so much, especially without being called Nazis.
Wabash could be given his own thread so he could argue and snipe at himself. Brooke could moderate her own immigration thread all by herself.. Kramer could have his own conspiracy theory thread. We could chose not to enter those if we don't want to..
No comment.
Also get a few more moderators to counter balance Vile. What ever happened to the "committee"?? Don't hear from them any more..
A couple more mods would be nice, not to counter balance Vile, but to help him out. He's a good mod and I have no complaints with him. If you could see behind the scenes you'd know why I say that. I'm not looking to "counter balance" anything. I want fair mods and that's it. I don't want a mod with an agenda. But "mod" is a voluntary position. I can't just declare them. People have to volunteer and nobody has in quite a while. One on the Sports side would be especially welcome.

The Committee is still there. They aren't all that active in the public forums but they participate when they need to in the "secret" forums. And we do listen to them. :thumbsup:
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