More talk

More talk
: I’m thinking about starting a forum. What do you think?

  • Mikhel

    The major problem with forums generally revolves around a particular majority center: the forum, depending on readership, will invariably skewer to one political perspective to the detriment of the alternate political philosophy. If you think you’ve got an intelligent, open-minded readership — go for it. Otherwise, it will probably just be a headache.

  • Beware of the amount of time it takes to “police” a forum !!

  • Good idea in theory, in practice it can be risky. I’ve noticed that forums really do depend on the active participation of the forum owner to keep it going. And sometimes, despite the owner’s efforts, the forum will just die for no reason at all – maybe it was started at the wrong time, or people just didn’t feel like making the effort to go visit the forum. Consider also how much time you’d be able to devote to the forum, based on what I’ve said above this sentence.

  • Tim

    Jeff,
    I think this already is a forum.
    And, yeah, I know I’m intentionally missing your point, but I think there’s a lot to be said for the “led-discussion” forum model of a post and open comments.
    However, I’ve found that some more traditional forums can be very useful when there is enough of a critical mass of readers and posters around a particular topic.
    I’d bet that it would work here as well. The trick to kicking it off well might be to have open forums, but also start or add to particular threads with your posts. That way, the tone of the room can be set, and there would be active cross-pollination between the blog and the forum.
    /.02

  • tim

    To echo MommaBear above, it can become a HUGE time sink, but again it depends on the audience. Look at your email — if it mainly tends to be civil in tone, that might be a good indication of the type of people you have reading and participating in your site currently.

  • Puce

    foram place as four AMERILYERS!!!

  • Jason

    Mr. Jarvis, I’ve got a very small forum going over at Moorelies.com, and it’s a major pain to police, edit, monitor, update, maintain, and etc.
    I can’t imagine the sheer time and annoyance involved with operating a forum that would generate the traffic and volume that yours no doubt would.
    You’ve got a great thing going on here already- your reader’s comments are centered around your ideas, your posts, your direction. Opening a forum, you may find that visitors stray off the path, conversations devolve quickly, and it’s very likely (or at least very possible) that the quality of conversation on this site will degrade even as the quantity rises.
    Alternately, you may want to consider a creative way to expand/push/re-present your existing comments system to make it a more prominent, active part of your posts.

  • I’ve done forums before and will not venture there again. They seem to all begin sanely, but eventually, the loudest and nastiest take over, and I’ve found this to be almost universal. Your energy is much better spent grinding the wheels of the buzzmachine.

  • lk

    “If you think you’ve got an intelligent, open-minded readership — go for it.”
    You don’t, myself included.

  • Jeff, my husband runs an art forum off of his site. My advice to you is simple: Don’t do it.

  • Jediflyer

    I am all for it. I reguraly participate at the Senate Floor of the Jedi Council Forums (political discussions for people who happen to be Star Wars fans). You can find this board at http://boards.theforce.net/board.asp?brd=10320
    What they do at JediCouncil.net is name a number of moderators to the board. If you have any close friends or people you trust and they have some spare time, make them mods and it will take off some of the workload.
    I also think forums are user friendly than comments. Forums can enable dialouge on an issue due to the fact that the topics can all be found in the same place. Comments, on the other hand, fall out of attention as the blog is updated. In addition to not allowing the participants to think on the arguments other posters make, comments also encourage quick posting to get you word in before it disappears (see Atrios for an example of this).
    That being said, my vote is go for it!

  • Staci

    Why do you want a forum? What would it accomplish that you can’t do here and how would it fit in with your other net activities?

  • Jediflyer

    Sorry for the double post, but Mikhel said something that caught my eye:
    The major problem with forums generally revolves around a particular majority center: the forum, depending on readership, will invariably skewer to one political perspective to the detriment of the alternate political philosophy. If you think you’ve got an intelligent, open-minded readership — go for it. Otherwise, it will probably just be a headache.
    I think this is true for the most part. However, at the Jedi Council, the political discussions are fairly dynamic, most likely because being a Star Wars fan runs across ideologies.
    What I am getting at is perhaps you can team up with other bloggers across the spectrum and try to neutralize the bias that way.

  • Jeremy

    It will probably devolve into flame wars between sane people and the “Coalition of the Pissy”

  • scott h.

    Only if you make Puce the moderator.

  • Mike G

    I think it will quickly demonstrate the virtues of comment threads which expire of their own accord, but which bring the same cast of posters back on different subjects again and again.

  • cbk

    Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, bail.
    I’ve often wondered how forum would work in conjunction with blogs. Forums have some advantage in that they allow offshoot discussions. Of course, this benefit is contingent on the characters who use your forum.
    I’ve often surmised that some blogs (ie. WoC & Samizdata) would benefit by virtue of their highly intelligent commentors and the nature of the discussions in the comments section.
    You could be a pioneer if it works. If it doesn’t no harm.
    CBK

  • Jim C.

    So did this death wish come on suddenly, or has it been developing for a while? ;)

  • you already have a forum, Jeff.
    trad forums would dilute buzzmachine. don’t fix what ain’t broke.
    instead, i’d play around with the idea an IRC chatroom, like Joi Ito’s

  • Sarah e.g.

    On certain blogs that usually have interesting discussions happening in the comments, I’d really like a small column on the main page that shows recent activity in the comments section, even if the original entry has fallen off the screen (Blogcritics has a system like this). I think it’s a more blog-centric solution than a forum.

  • Alex Moon

    If you are prepared for the time and effort that is needed to run a forum, then give it a shot. Just be forwarned about what you can expect. Forums are a lot more open than the comment section of a blog. A blog ultimately controls the discussion because commentators are limited to what the blogger is discussing, to some degree. With a forum, it’s a free for all.

  • Forum software has been around for years. And it’s quite popular. But look at how blogs/comments took off. This medium has some real advantages over forums (and forums have advantages over blogs). I wouldn’t be in a hurry to change.
    Myself, I think forums are better for building community. Blogs are better for building insightful topic discussion. Choose based on which you want more of.
    As a middle ground, you could open up the blog to multiple authors, or perhaps have some sort of system where a topic-starter could enter an initial post, which would then be “staged” until you, or some other from a list of folks, approve it. This lets you bring “fresh blood” into the topics, without losing control, and without taking the amount of time that forum moderation does.
    Just some thoughts.

  • Katherine

    I have run forums for Ziff Davis/ZDNet in the past going all the way back to CompuServe and then moving to the web. I also started the first cheap online “university”, ZDU, that gave people as many computer classes that they wanted to take taught by the best authors in the field for $4.95 a month. (Of course, with the Internet hype, it was bought by elementk in the late 1990’s who has run it like a regular training company so it lost its roots.)
    It takes a lot of work, and, as another poster said, it builds community. It also works extremely well to share information point to point that one person or a group of people find impossible to put together on their own, like PC support or tips about timesharing, since the experiences can be so specific. When it is about politics, that becomes less of an issue.
    One place where I think it would make a HUGE amount of sense and also dovetail with your interests is if you make a forum for foreign bloggers. They could discuss software, repression, etc. They could share strategies that we have no clue about because we live in a free society, despite what people say about the Patriot act. The server would also be safe for them — theoritically, since you would host it and it would be an American company. Americans and other western users who come visit would get an earful, and probably help out individual people.
    You could then start a non-profit giving bloggers cameras, etc. to get the word out. You could start a foreign news service from the people instead of from news reporters who are forced to hire “minders” from the repressive regime.
    Anyhow, I think the above would be worth the extra effort.