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hey everybody - the basement blog is hosting this month's IndieWeb Carnival, this month's theme on "accessibility on the small web". Please go check it out and participate if you are so inclined!!!

general On the Sustainability of Small Forums

joined nov 9, 2023

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joined nov 9, 2023

quoting stonehead:

On freeform community forums like this, it's a lot harder. There's usually an introduction thread, some "what music/games/movies do you like?" threads, and if your lucky a "what's the meaning of your username" or similar game threads. But, because there's no unifying interest, most users aren't actually interested in that many threads. So they show up, make an introduction post, and maybe add their favorite anime/sport/book or something. Most users don't react, the new one comes back once or twice, sees there isn't anything new to read or comment on, and stops coming back.

I think finding a solution to the problem of sustainability on small forums could start to be found by considering discussion as a low population or team requiring activity and then taking inspiration from the others. Examples being minigames in MMORPGs, dancing, sports, or clubs instead of just looking towards web social platform development. I think one of the problems shared is asynchrony. One of the ways they solve the asynchronous hurdle is by co-scheduling events with each other.

For example, it wouldn't be fulfilling to go a tennis court expecting a partner and them to only maybe to show up two weeks after you expected them to. By the time they show up you might no longer be in the mood, and so they themselves may expect this and not attempt to show up late even at all. Discussion is clearly more elastic in the required synchrony of the participants but I believe there is a limit – which small forums run into long term to the detriment of them.


Following off of the above, for a variety 'freeform' forum it could maybe be of beneficial effect to have organized spotlights weeks or by batching post releases. This would be used for slower topics, or the topics people think less of and feel more through in their experience of them.

You may not be unified around a single common interest but your trajectory and experience through topics could (partially) be.

Some predictability for when posts and returning discussion should arise on topics would probably be fulfilling to readers as well as posters looking for discussion. Beyond just making participation more satisfying it increases memorability of the forum by charting itself precisely into a person future as a time to check back. You could even seed a new spotlight session with popular posts from past sessions as a way of introducing new participants to old community hallmark posts as well as guaranteeing something to be there to see when you show up.

If you used spotlight weeks for certain topics, it also helps be a middle ground solution between having a broad topic board that has no direction and siloing a subtopic into its own isolated board before it has the ability to actually self sustain itself – which is another issue I think small forums run into long term.

posted 11/10/2023, 5:59 am

joined jun 30, 2023

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joined jun 30, 2023

FYI 1000 hours, is about 41 24-hour days. Assuming you play a game for only 4 hours per day, that's a little over 166 days. I think everyone one of us has played something longer than 166 days (especially if you were one of THOSE MMO players back in the day), so it doesn't hold water to me.

posted 11/16/2023, 12:09 pm

joined dec 15, 2023

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I am a meat popsicle.

joined dec 15, 2023

I have been a member of one small forum since 2011, it's largely been ticking along as some guys side project. It used to be a lot more popular in the past and more so before I joined with over 4,000 registered users but now its the same 100 or so people posting, about 10 of which do so regularly and they seem to all know each other offline or from other communities. I have gone months and years between visits, will sit with it open in a pinned tab for a few months and then forget about it again. I'm glad it's still alive.

Similarly I have been a member of the DOS Games forum since 2008 but I only rarely visit, usually when I have a question. When I do, I try to have a look around at the recent threads to see if there is anything I have something of value to add but normally I lurk and leave.

I think the biggest issue small forums like this one have is discoverability; I was very excited to discover this forum, but it was by accident that I did so (I think it was via the "the internet is (a little) boring" blog post.)

posted 12/18/2023, 3:15 pm

joined dec 4, 2022

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joined dec 4, 2022

quoting carbontwelve:

I think the biggest issue small forums like this one have is discoverability; I was very excited to discover this forum, but it was by accident that I did so (I think it was via the "the internet is (a little) boring" blog post.)

my hope is that this issue is solved with more content, and that only comes with time.

posted 12/28/2023, 6:48 pm

joined jan 27, 2023

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joined jan 27, 2023

quoting carbontwelve:

Similarly I have been a member of the DOS Games forum since 2008 but I only rarely visit, usually when I have a question. When I do, I try to have a look around at the recent threads to see if there is anything I have something of value to add but normally I lurk and leave.

I use a rhythm gaming forum in a similar way. I think that ultimately, this is the root cause of a lot of small websites dying out. I don't know much about DOS Games, but for rhythm games, there just isn't enough news to talk about every day. (I don't think that's a bad thing either, games shouldn't consume every waking moment of your life). Because of that, there aren't many new threads, and so most people don't check very often, and so not many people respond when there is a new thread.

Under these conditions, it makes sense that people would invent social media. Take all of your "one new thread a month" sites, and combine them into one feed. That way you don't need to remember to check some obscure forum, you just see the news pop up in your feed. 20 years ago, I would have thought it was a genius idea.

I'm sure we've all gone on at length about how bad social media is, so there's no need to recap here. Ironically, the technology of the past (mailing lists and rss feeds) do a better job of simply unifying feeds. Even then though, I'm not sure it's what I want. I'm trying to be more intentional with my time instead of blindly consuming, but that's a bit off topic.

posted 1/8/2024, 9:21 pm

joined dec 15, 2023

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I am a meat popsicle.

joined dec 15, 2023

Ultimatly I think it's a case of different platforms for different speed of communication:

You want to post a question to a certain community and have it collect replies over a period of days, weeks, months or even years then a forum is perfect; doubly so because that thread can remain useful for future visitors so long as the forum remains online or has otherwise been archived.

At the other end of the spectrum you have instant messaging, IRC, Matrix, various platforms direct message solutions, etc. These are perfect for short, throw away conversations that are transient.

Inbetween these two lie social media; here you may have have permanence like a forum however the window in which these threads remain visible is shortened to at most a couple of days with an incredibly high noise to signal.

Forum threads have a longevity to them, forums in general are community focused and instant messaging can be community focused. Social media is largely audience focused, less about interacting with a community and more about broadcasting to them, the rise of the Feidverse has brought a welcome change to that, in that my experience of federated platforms being more akin to a community space than a stage to perform on.

I'm actually dissapointed that the yesterweb forums are being deleted after their shutdown, there are some good threads on there that would be useful to future netizen's and to my mind archiving the whole lot as a static served website hosted under the domain is the way to go but it is what it is.

posted 1/9/2024, 11:36 am

joined sep 29, 2023

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joined sep 29, 2023

Before social media, even a niche within a niche seemed to attract enough users to keep a dedicated forum lively and worth checking. In fact, I remember hanging out on subforums that had their own exclusive sets of dedicated users.

Of course busy hobby forums do still exist. Cluck.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/forums/

And here's a tangentially related discussion on Blue Dwarf:

https://bluedwarf.top/cackle/view-post.php?post_num=2423

edited 1/9/2024, 12:17 pm

joined jan 1, 2024

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'Mel' is fine, though.

joined jan 1, 2024

quoting carbontwelve:

You want to post a question to a certain community and have it collect replies over a period of days, weeks, months or even years then a forum is perfect; doubly so because that thread can remain useful for future visitors so long as the forum remains online or has otherwise been archived.

I think this is the greatest part of forums that are not taken advantage of. Once a forum grows large enough there is a trend of repeating content, whether it's the same questions being repeated every few months, or the same – or just very similar – topic getting brought up, splitting conversations into several parts, making things harder to search, and just wasting space. There is no 'necro' on a forum that is well-organized.

posted 1/9/2024, 12:52 pm

joined jan 27, 2023

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joined jan 27, 2023

quoting NobodyFix:

FYI 1000 hours, is about 41 24-hour days. Assuming you play a game for only 4 hours per day, that's a little over 166 days. I think everyone one of us has played something longer than 166 days (especially if you were one of THOSE MMO players back in the day), so it doesn't hold water to me.

I am curious though, were they still "fun" after so long? Maybe it was, I dunno. There are all kinds of people in the world. I've played a few games past the 1000 hour mark though, and I'm not sure if I would say I still had "fun" playing them. After so long, it's just mindlessly going through the motions, or worse, an obligation that feels like a chore I still do just because I've invested so much time in it already. At the very least it loses some of the magic it once had.

quoting the-syreth-clan:

I think this is the greatest part of forums that are not taken advantage of. Once a forum grows large enough there is a trend of repeating content, whether it's the same questions being repeated every few months, or the same – or just very similar – topic getting brought up, splitting conversations into several parts, making things harder to search, and just wasting space. There is no 'necro' on a forum that is well-organized.

That's a good point, I hadn't thought of that. Maybe it's too early to focus on longevity. Maybe once you get enough quality discussion threads, new users keep joining and adding their thoughts indefinitely. Still though, I'm worried something is lost without a good enough notification system.

If a new user adds a new comment every other month for example, would you still keep checking your old thread for updates? I don't like the crazy rapid pace of social media, but I do think there's some value in back-and-forth communication, as opposed to periodic replies to the original post.

posted 1/29/2024, 9:39 pm

joined dec 4, 2022

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joined dec 4, 2022

quoting stonehead:

Still though, I'm worried something is lost without a good enough notification system.

agora's is really good. I think sending notifications for threads you posted in is a good idea and eventually one i'd like to implement.

if this was a busier forum it'd get annoying but it really works for smaller forums

right now you kinda have to rely on people quoting you or checking your bookmarks page, which I think are solid options but notifications would definitely be best

edited 1/31/2024, 4:08 am

joined jan 1, 2024

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'Mel' is fine, though.

joined jan 1, 2024

I would support notifications for bookmarked threads as well, but only with some sort of option to turn off auto-bookmarking threads which you replied to as it may get out of hand quickly on the occasion of multiple threads beginning to pick up pace.

edited 2/1/2024, 1:55 pm

joined dec 4, 2022

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joined dec 4, 2022

quoting the-syreth-clan:

I would support notifications for bookmarked threads as well, but only with some sort of option to turn off auto-bookmarking threads which you replied to as it may get out of hand quickly on the occasion of multiple threads beginning to pick up pace.

luckily that's already an option in your settings!

posted 2/1/2024, 5:17 pm

joined jan 1, 2024

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'Mel' is fine, though.

joined jan 1, 2024

quoting orchids:

luckily that's already an option in your settings!

Whoops, I have completely missed that one. Thank you.

posted 2/1/2024, 9:07 pm

general On the Sustainability of Small Forums