Some observations on forum activity

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Some observations on forum activity

Postby bookworm » Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:13 am

I've made a few observations recently and had some thoughts cross my mind that I want to share for consideration. They deal with questions around whether our lowered activity rate should be overly concerning or not and can be distilled into two main points. They aren't really connected to each other, but because they both address aspects of message board activity I thought I'd put them in one post.

1) It's not just us.

I occasionally lurk around a sports message board which has hundreds of active members and gets literally thousands of new posts a day. It's an overwhelming flurry of constant activity that rivals and possibly eclipses the Golden Age of the ToO that some people, in terms of daily post numbers, have expressed a desire to return to. I found it extremely interesting to see that several times over the past few months multiple discussions have emerged about their concerns over board activity that uncannily echo the ones we have had. They're saying the exact same things, lamenting a noticeable decrease in posting, expressing deep concern about failure to attract new members at the same rate as they once did, and similar worries. I look around at their pages and pages of new posts that appear every hour and think are they serious? How can they think they're in dire shape? I haven't been watching them for long, I guess a few years ago they were even more insanely active. But as an outsider looking at them now, even if their current activity is less than it once was, I can't see how they could possibly think they are in trouble.

It made me realize that this is a subject that every forum community thinks about at some point, and it is the activity decline itself that raises concerns often viewed outside of the context of the current activity situation. Anyone looking at that forum as it is now would say it has an extremely healthy activity level. It's the long time members who saw how it used to be that think there is a problem by realizing that they are currently at a lower level compared to before, even though that level in itself is still extremely high. The members there who don't think the sky is falling are saying look, the internet has changed. The lower rate of new members is due to the fact that message boards aren't what a lot of people are into anymore, it has to be expected that you're going to have less of a draw over time, what is important is having a good active community among the members you have at present. In other words, having a decline in general over time is not the same thing as being in decline and imminently approaching forum death. I think they are absolutely right, and I think it's a similar situation that we have here. Of course we undeniably have less activity right now that we did in the past, but we have been pretty consistently holding what activity we do have and making the best of it. The takeaway I think is don't panic by inferring trends directly from long term comparisons taken at face value, there are more factors at play that, when considered, make the picture less dire.

2) If you think there's a problem you should be part of the solution.

This is a thought I've been wanting to put out there for some time but wanted to find the right way to express it because I don't want it to sound mean or like I'm calling anyone out, I'm not. I'm going to quote TS, because his comment is a good lead in to what I want to say, but this isn't directed at him, or anyone else, personally. It's simply something I want to submit for consideration by everyone in case they haven't thought about things this way.

Some time ago TS remarked, in regard to site activity, "there's hardly anything new to read whenever I log on." The implications of this sentiment are a mindset which, if too many board members have, explains in some part where a lack of activity could come from and how it would be prolonged, but also how it can be remedied to at least a small extent. If everyone just says 'there are no new posts today so there's nothing for me to post' we'll never get anywhere. Responding to existing posts and furthering existing content is only part of what keeps a message board going, there also has to be continual creation of new content. If there aren't any posts in current threads you feel driven to reply to that's fine, but replying shouldn't be the only thing you log in to do, you should also be looking for opportunities to start your own threads on other subjects.

When I read an article I think is interesting, or hear a news story I think is significant, or learn something I think is neat I share it here in case others would also like to know. When I have something I'd like to get ToOer input on, either specifically because they're ToOers and I want opinions from this community I value, or simply because this is an easy way to get the thoughts of several people at a time, I post it for discussion. It's never been my mindset to only reply to existing discussions, I'm always looking for worthwhile reasons to start new ones, but maybe not everyone else does. If you aren't as inclined to start a new thread I encourage you to go ahead and try it! The worst thing that could happen is just that nobody responds, but I don't think that would often be the case. Look for opportunities to start threads on subjects that interest you or things that catch your attention, even if it's just a passing story or event that may only get a few replies before things move on. The longevity of a thread isn't important, what is important is engaging this community regularly, whatever the subject. :)

These are just some thoughts that have been floating around my mind for a while. If you got anything worthwhile from any of them great, if not that's fine, I just wanted to put them out there. The bottom line is this community is very special to me, it has been since the day I joined, and I'm happy to have whatever activity we have.
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Re: Some observations on forum activity

Postby snubs » Mon Oct 09, 2017 1:11 pm

Yeah, I've brought up your second point several times before. It's been really annoying hearing so many users complain and talk about how the board is "dying" but not do anything about it themselves. I've tried to rally people together, to encourage them to want to post, etc. But ideas like that usually end up in me doing all the work with no results. For a while, Kaida and I (and I think a couple other users, like Bren and.. I don't who else), were actively trying to respond to old threads (making several posts a day), and trying to create new threads/discussions. But again, it just didn't take, because there wasn't enough people doing it.

I love this board too, and I always will, but frankly I'm tired. I'm tired of putting so much time and energy into something that gets little results or help/interest from others. I'm only one person, and I can't say I didn't try or play my part. This is one reason why I haven't been around much. And you know.. life.

I still think about coming back and continuing what I started, but eh, I just can't seem to find the motivation.
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Re: Some observations on forum activity

Postby Kaida » Mon Oct 09, 2017 3:59 pm

Yeah I tried that whole start a thread thing but only a few of the new kids would reply. =p
It was pretty discouraging so I gave up and now I just lurk and post every now and then.
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Re: Some observations on forum activity

Postby ric » Mon Oct 09, 2017 4:07 pm

Hey guys!

I was never particularly active in the first place, but I'm hoping to post more in the days to come. It's cool to see that some of you are still around and have been trying to keep things alive.
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Re: Some observations on forum activity

Postby Steve » Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:47 pm

I will continue to contribute nothing but sporadic, useless sarcasm and dad humor to any and all discussions on this forum. :noway:
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Re: Some observations on forum activity

Postby Catspaw » Sun Oct 15, 2017 6:26 pm

The only part of that I take issue with is the use of the word "sporadic." :noway: Come share your useless sarcasm more often! :yes:
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