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Author Topic: Future of Forums  (Read 1393 times)

Offline samdersb

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Future of Forums
« on: December 29, 2020, 08:50:11 PM »
Hi all,

I have been a huge fan of SMF forums for well over a decade now. I believe that this is a powerful software with lots of growth potential, with the right idea. With the prevalence of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in the 2010's and no end to their growth in sight, what puts SMF above other social media platforms?

I love SMF and would still love to start my own community, but I can't but help to feel that the forum scene is quickly on the way out. Is it even worth considering starting one now? I feel as if one of the few benefits SMF has over the social media giants is the retro and nostalgic appeal. Has SMF made any efforts to modernize the software? I think it's a real shame that modern social media put the "nail in the coffin" for online communities. Could anyone share some hope and wisdom?

Thanks!


Offline shadav

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2020, 09:30:17 PM »
well except that social media and forums are really 2 different things

social media is more of a free for all with no organization....so while there may be some good posts made with good info, it's hard to find it among all the other posts since they are all lumped together....

whereas forums are organized into categories and subcategories

if you were looking for info on a topic do you search social media sites or forums/blogs/ect type sites?

each one has it's own place but they really are not the same thing....

Offline Aleksi "Lex" Kilpinen

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2020, 01:40:13 AM »
Forums do have a lot of advantages over social media, but the use case is (at least meant to be) different and they can't really be compared like that.
2.1 does bring a lot of new goodies to the table though, if you are interested in seeing a "modernized" version of SMF, maybe take the 2.1 RC3 for a test drive?
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Offline SpacePhoenix

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2020, 02:07:48 AM »
I think it's more the "question & answer" sites like StackOverflow that have taken traffic away from forums, probably not for all subjects though

Offline GL700Wing

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2020, 03:49:03 AM »
From my perspective, and as a forum admin for three technical forums, I believe forums are a much better platform/tool than social media for collecting and sharing technical information - especially if the image, PDF, etc attachments provided by those who contribute technical information are uploaded to and stored on the forum website (frustrates me no end to find a technical/how-to post where linked images formed a substantial part of the information and all I can see now is "Image Not Found" placeholders) - whereas social media sites are more suited to transient/in-the-moment content (eg, holiday photos or, heaven forbid, daily update photos of what someone had for breakfast, lunch, dinner etc).

The following is a link to what I believe is really pertinent information about the value businesses can gain from having a user community forum: 6 Reasons to Consider a Discussion Forum for Your Website
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Offline samdersb

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2020, 08:35:09 PM »
Everyone, thank you so much for the replies. The distinction between social medias and forums must be made, but what would drive someone to post on a forum, compared to a Facebook group, or a subreddit? I still am somewhat unconvinced that the conversation has not moved from forums to social media giants.

I have always considered creating my own forums and building my own community. To me, it felt like the explosion of social media platforms have sucked life away from user-owned community forums. I wish forums were still popular, but I just can't but help to feel as if the platform is a thing of the past (for the most part). However, I do feel optimistic for the future, with the current pressure on social media platforms to be more "platform" rather than "publisher." People are getting worried that Zuckerberg and Dorsey have too much influence and power and control the flow of information on their platforms too much.

Other than reactive themes, has the SMF development team considered making the platform more mobile-friendly? I think if SMF was more geared towards mobile, while also respecting PC users, it could boost activity.

SMF is the best forum software on the market, hands down. It provides all of the functionality one would need to start their own community, without spending money on the forum software. No need to pay a fortune for other softwares which provide the same functionality.

Ultimately, I came here for advice, as someone who is very ambitious and wishes to start their own community, but has a nagging feeling that it may just not be worth it.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 08:52:41 PM by samdersb »

Offline efk

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2020, 09:39:17 PM »
It all depends on what people are used. Forums and social media, both have pros and cons. I believe forums are now complete software if combined with Discord which completely go over social media in almost every point of view and is absolutely the best app to chat with people and to voice call, not sure about video calls. 
On forums every conversation will be available for public for a long time while on social media is on the move conversation which will most likely be forgotten after short time.
Now about forums popularity, its all about content and ideas. Forums are not much different compared to social media, they can be very toxic or user friendly, again this very depends on content and on people. Huge advantage of forums is availability, similar to searching on Google, forum will offer all possible knowledge if you know what to search, while for example Facebook is a bad place to search for answers, only good to find people or to sell yourself/your info - not much different compared to pornography, people are posting their pictures, places, what devices they are using, where they are and who knows what else..
I'm not sure what forum software should do to modernize something, for that purpose there are hundreds of mods that modernize forum, of course if you know what you are doing.
A very nice advantage of forums is organization of boards, SMF is very futuristic if you find right theme with nice quality.

Offline GL700Wing

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2020, 12:11:26 AM »
... what would drive someone to post on a forum, compared to a Facebook group, or a subreddit?
Number one reason is that not everyone wants, or is allowed by their employer, to have a Facebook account ...
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Offline Aleksi "Lex" Kilpinen

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2020, 12:47:13 AM »
... what would drive someone to post on a forum, compared to a Facebook group, or a subreddit?
Number one reason is that not everyone wants, or is allowed by their employer, to have a Facebook account ...
Eh. I wouldn't really say that's number one. It's most likely one of the multitude of reasons, but using myself as an example since I can use FB all I want basically 24/7, yet still I hang around many forums - To me, it's more about the different natures of the two.

Facebook is everyone's and anyone's living room, where you basically can not have any control over the discussions that take place without using FB-groups,
and when a FB group grows large enough you again lose all control over what discussions you really even get to see and participate in. Add to that the fact that FB is admittedly always been trying to control content, and content visibility for every user individually, so that you can't even be sure you and your identical twin with similar tastes sitting next to you can see the same discussions... Yeah.

Forums on the other hand, tend to be directed at (generally well) defined smaller audiences, and offer structure, stability and continuity so that you pretty much know what types of discussions you are about to see when you log on, and that any discussion you took part in yesterday will most likely be easy to find and continue tomorrow.

These, are among the biggest reasons for me.
Disclaimer: No, I don't have a twin - that was just a bad example I came up with.
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Therefore, you should only allow people that you trust, implicitly, to have such access." -Douglas

Offline landyvlad

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2021, 11:58:07 PM »
Please do not PM, IM or Email me with questions on astrophysics or theology.  You will get better and faster responses by asking homeless people in the street. Thank you.

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Offline GigaWatt

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2021, 05:12:19 AM »
I think it's more the "question & answer" sites like StackOverflow that have taken traffic away from forums, probably not for all subjects though

That and reddit.

(frustrates me no end to find a technical/how-to post where linked images formed a substantial part of the information and all I can see now is "Image Not Found" placeholders)

Likewise, BUT on the other hand, I have to keep hosting costs at a minimum, so... I decided to compromise... until the former became too frustrating for me as well.

Other than reactive themes, has the SMF development team considered making the platform more mobile-friendly? I think if SMF was more geared towards mobile, while also respecting PC users, it could boost activity.

Depends on the type of forum you're running, i.e. what the forum's about, but in my experience, no, it won't. I've seen really good looking forums, mobile device friendly and all that, drown. It doesn't make a difference, the user base is the problem. Everyone's expecting forums to look more like social media, because that's like "the norm" - if it doesn't have a like button, it's not worth visiting ::).

The reality is, people have gotten lazier and lazier... everyone wants everything to look fancy and have all of their info and "toys" in one place. Social media achieved that about the "toys" part, but since most people are not critical thinkers, the info part is disregarded and "well... let's just see what's everyone doing and click away" is the thought that prevails.

Ultimately, I came here for advice, as someone who is very ambitious and wishes to start their own community, but has a nagging feeling that it may just not be worth it.

Unless you're planning on spending 5 to 8 hours a day creating original content and tweaking your forum to cater the needs of the users, rather than having a life of your own... no, it's not worth it.

See, the problem is, social media and other platforms have raised the bar when it comes to "how interesting your site/forum" has to be in order for it to be "busy"... and obviously, you as an individual (one man show) can't possibly compete with a company with thousands of employees. These are the cold hard facts. Most forums are one man shows (in some rare cases, 2 to 3 people might run it), so, it's inevitable to always be lagging behind a company with thousands of employees.

The internet nowadays is more like a shopping mall. If you don't rent a space inside the mall, you're not worth visiting, plain and simple.

Number one reason is that not everyone wants, or is allowed by their employer, to have a Facebook account...

This might be true in the US and a bunch of other western countries, but trust me, this is not the case in most eastern countries.
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Offline Grammy

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2021, 07:27:12 AM »
I don't have a FB or a Twitter account and have never been interested.  My forum members prefer forums over FB/Twitter/ etc., because SMF (all we use) does not collect and sell their personal information.  They don't feel tracked, censored or exploited at the forum. 

I also think that given the recent punitive behavior of Twitter and FB, people have basically had enough.  At least, at the forum, they can express themselves freely, without having to clamor for attention.  It's a very calm, organized environment. 

That's not to say that forums don't have policies, but those policies are provided up front and are clear.  Most of the big tech giants seem to make theirs up as they go along. 

Just my opinion.   :)


This post is another example of Big Tech's loss of popularity.

Offline GigaWatt

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2021, 09:28:08 AM »
The only forums that seemed to survive (in one way or another) when social media platforms became mainstream, were either English only, Russian only or Chinese only speaking forums. The main reason is IMO the number of people speaking the language. If it's a language that more than 10 million people speak, yes, you've got a chance of having a (somewhat) active forum. In any other scenario, no, the forum is mostly dead... unless the forum's staff posts something, but that's not the point of having a forum, is it. Might as well have a blog in that case ::).
"This is really a generic concept about human thinking - when faced with large tasks we're naturally inclined to try to break them down into a bunch of smaller tasks that together make up the whole."

"A 500 error loosely translates to the webserver saying, "WTF?"..."

Offline landyvlad

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2021, 07:38:06 PM »
Recent events on facebook show how precarious the existence of any content can be.   A good argument in favour of forums I think.
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Offline ajac63

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2021, 02:33:06 PM »
Don't forums by default have a social aspect to them, especially SMF one's, even if forums and social media platforms are perhaps catering to different markets?  There must be a fairly high number of SMF-powered forums, so if there was a sort of directory on SMF itself, I think this would be a positive thing and keep a high level of interest going.
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Offline ChuckWheat

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #15 on: Yesterday at 09:42:34 PM »
well except that social media and forums are really 2 different things

social media is more of a free for all with no organization....so while there may be some good posts made with good info, it's hard to find it among all the other posts since they are all lumped together....

whereas forums are organized into categories and subcategories

if you were looking for info on a topic do you search social media sites or forums/blogs/ect type sites?

each one has it's own place but they really are not the same thing....
I agree...I see social media (in general) as I see a cat watching a pendulum...attention is always on the latest movement, fixated on the last thing said, going nowhere really if you seek to understand something more than X number of characters deep.

With forums, as shadav said, there is history, context, and a sense of organization.  And I think that's part of the value of forums. For instance, in the short time I've been here I've learned a great deal about forums that I was never been exposed to in the free-forum arena.

Some people may be migrating to social media, especially those who prefer hit-and-run style postings...but for those who enjoy learning, I think forums will continue to have a distinctly important future.

Offline Rob Lightbody

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #16 on: Today at 07:30:05 AM »
Once upon a time Forums were EVERYTHING... this was when there were no Facebook Groups.

What has happened, is forums have become more specialised and, well, special.  There are less of them for sure, but the ones that are there, are really good and useful.

A good example for me is about a particular classic car that i'm into.  There are literally hundreds of Facebook groups about it.  But if someone wants some accurate technical help, its one of the small number of forum's that they go to .  Quite often their first post starts with something like "I tried to find the answer on Facebook but...."

So I think the trick is to not be disheartened because forum's are no longer a huge thing, but enjoy them for what they are, and why they are different and, yes, better.

Offline Aleksi "Lex" Kilpinen

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Re: Future of Forums
« Reply #17 on: Today at 08:07:55 AM »
So I think the trick is to not be disheartened because forum's are no longer a huge thing, but enjoy them for what they are, and why they are different and, yes, better.
This. I agree.
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How you can help SMF

"Before you allow people access to your forum, especially in an administrative position, you must be aware that that person can seriously damage your forum.
Therefore, you should only allow people that you trust, implicitly, to have such access." -Douglas