Ideas For Reinvigorating The Forums - Your Feedback Please

Every year or so I do a bit of a stock-take - which in Community Management terms means that I take a look at what we have, how we use it and how it’s working for you guys - the community. This year I’m feeling a little bit down about it. I’ll be honest with you - community engagement is down and I feel like we’re losing some of the spirit that this place used to be known for. I want to know why you think that is and what I can do to make it a better place to hang out.

Rather than my usual approach, which is just to ask you what you like and don’t like around here, we’ve done some brainstorming behind the scenes and have come up with some strategies that we think might be interesting and I’d like to hear what you think.

Before I go into those, I’d like to bring up the forum upgrade. As with any redesign, ours has been polarising. I’ll be the first to put up my hand and say that we have teething issues and that we’re still working to resolve those. On my urgent list of fixes are the Tapatalk app, installing Sphinx Search (which will resolve the frequent search errors), the new homepage (which will have Featured posts, the left-hand navigation tree, recently viewed posts etc) and finalising the style and accessibility issues. If you want to give feedback on the upgrade, please do it here rather than hijacking this thread.

I also know that (like every forum) we have an ongoing issue with spam and fluff posts, and we’re still battling those as hard as we can.

So, what I want to know now is how you feel about these ideas:

  1. Revitalising the forums a bit to move with the times: opening some new forums (perhaps Git, SASS/LESS, node.js)
  2. Kill some of the dinosaur forums which are spam traps (SEO comes immediately to mind)
  3. Overhaul the current incentive system - develop on the pips idea so that there are extra incentives for making high quality posts
  4. Start some short fun quizzes and graphics wars - competitions that could be done in a lunch hour, rather than the current ones which sometimes run for a week or more.
  5. Have a repository for valuable go-to threads - all you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask. Somewhere where we collect all the most useful threads and use no jargon, just a brief explanation of the concept of the post. Somewhere welcoming for newbies to go and find out the basics without having to trawl forums for stickies. Somewhere especially welcoming and accommodating.
  6. Have a fun ‘who are we?’ section. Forum Staff/SPHQ staff/SP authors spotlight: Interviews, what they do, how they work, how they plan, how they interact.
  7. Have a greater presence from SPHQ staff. Perhaps expert Q&A sessions. Interviews on subjects that you request.
  8. A new forum called “News From Our Members” where you get to talk about what you’re working on and blow your own horn a bit. It would be moderated so that it doesn’t become a spam trap, but it would allow you to showcase new and exciting things.

I’d also be interested to hear if you have any ideas of your own which you think might go some way to reenergizing the forums a bit.

And as always, I’m interested in your feedback whether it’s positive or not, but I do ask that you’re constructive and tell me WHY you don’t like something.

Thanks. :slight_smile:

Hi ^hawk, I value sitepoint but it’s not always my first port of call for a tech problem. I think you need a better Unique Selling Point for the forums, I’d like to see some step by step projects over a few weeks with a few leaders in a forum discussing issues. Faceebook is a good area where a few ‘leaders’ could run a concept.



I have no strong feelings either way on these, although anything that helps cut down on spam/fluff sounds like a good idea.

Sounds like an interesting idea; again, something to improve the quality of posts can only be good.

Sounds like another good idea to me.

Now that seems like an excellent idea. Posting in forums can be quite intimidating for any newcomer, but especially so if they’re new to the subject as well as the forum. “What if this has already been answered and I just didn’t search properly?” “What if I’m not using exactly the right terminology?” There is a vast amount of useful information in the stickies, but that’s the problem - it is vast. Where do you start? I really like the idea of an “absolute beginners” section. After all, most, if not all, of us are still beginners in one area or another. :slight_smile:

Again these all sound interesting ideas.

If I had to vote for just one of these, it would definitely be no.5. :tup:

That could be another good idea.

Yaargh - no. :nono: For one thing, sending people to Facebook seems like an odd way to get them to visit the forums. :confused: For another, there are some folk around who are not on Facebook, don’t want to be on Facebook and frankly hell will freeze over before they have anything to do with Facebook. (No offence intended to those who do enjoy using it.)

First, as you can see from my post count I am extremely new here so take my comments in light of the fact that I’m a serious newbie.

I hate to point to another forum, especially one that I absolutely DESPISE, but at least in this regard the warrior forum does a pretty good job of turning every member of the forum into a sort of “admin”. Posts that get flagged more than a few times are dropped automatically. Perhaps you could take some of their ideas? (without turning into a cess pool of negativity like they’ve become)

Revitalising the forums a bit to move with the times: opening some new forums (perhaps Git, SASS/LESS, node.js)

In my opinion the problem isn’t too few forums, it’s too many. You’re fracturing the user base across too broad of a space. This means that no one post is likely to see very many views simply because your active user base is all over the place. Simplifying the forum into only three “web design”, “web programming”, and “web marketing” would consolidate the visitors and would likely cause much more discussion because more people would be compressed into less space.

Kill some of the dinosaur forums which are spam traps (SEO comes immediately to mind)

Again, see my comments above for turning everyone into a form of forum admin and the “killing of the forums” idea

Overhaul the current incentive system - develop on the pips idea so that there are extra incentives for making high quality posts

This is probably a good idea. IF you also get “points” somehow simply for voting on people’s posts. Sort of like a “Karma” thing. You get karma for making good posts, lose it for making poor posts, but you can also gain karma by voting on posts.

Start some short fun quizzes and graphics wars - competitions that could be done in a lunch hour, rather than the current ones which sometimes run for a week or more.

Love this idea.

Have a repository for valuable go-to threads

For this, all you’d need is a way of pulling the posts with the highest amount of quality (most high votes or some such). That way this repository is something that is actually built by the entire community.

Have a fun ‘who are we?’ section. Forum Staff/SPHQ staff/SP authors spotlight: Interviews, what they do, how they work, how they plan, how they interact.

Eh … this one sort of exists already through the profiles. If you wanted to do something like this, it might be kind of cool to put together a sort of monthly “tv show” (youtube?) that does some of this and embed it into the forum.

Have a greater presence from SPHQ staff. Perhaps expert Q&A sessions. Interviews on subjects that you request.

Do this as video … or possibly a webinar ( and it would probably be pretty cool. Again, just embed into the forum.

A new forum called “News From Our Members” where you get to talk about what you’re working on and blow your own horn a bit. It would be moderated so that it doesn’t become a spam trap, but it would allow you to showcase new and exciting things.

Could be interesting. This might be something to think about … but again, I think your overall issue is too many forums. There’s too many different places to go and visit and too few people (even still) are using your RSS feed to simplify things. Like I said my biggest suggestion is to VASTLY reduce the number of forums.

If it hasn’t already been done, it might be of benefit to do an analysis of the % of downturn pre and post forum upgrade. I suspect the fact that the state of the forum functionality and layout/styling on its launch was well below par for many members and visitors and so contributed to the downturn. Whether the teething problems you mentioned could have or should have been identified and fixed in a development environment before the upgrade launch is another issue, but regardless of the reasons (which ordinary members and visitors are not privy to) for the state of the forum on the upgrade launch the overall state of the forum created a significant negative impression for many members and visitors.

So how can you fix things?

  1. Obviously the high priorities you have already identified are a must do asap - including the post searching functionality which still, for me at least, is not working properly.

A not 100% search function will probably turn away a lot of newbies looking for quick answers.

  1. I think the idea mattgoffrey suggested earlier of turning every member into psuedo “fluff/spam police” is an excellent idea. Adding to his idea of automatically deleting a post after it has been flagged 5, 10, 15 or whatever is appropriate times, you could record the member names that flagged that post and if the member contributes to X fluff/spam posts being automatically deleted in a 12 month period, give them some sort of reward. What reward would be appropriate I have no idea off the top of my head.

  2. Hold members, especially members with some sort of SP badge, more accountable for the accuracy of their posts’ content. In the last few weeks (and I won’t go into details here) an SP member with a green SP badge made statements in “legal advice” to me that were total garbage for my circumstances. After challenging the member on at least 2 occasions to post evidence to support their statements they refused or were unable to post any supporting evidence and instead kept “pushing” their incorrect statements and they eventually used their “power” to close the thread to, imo, avoid further scrutiny of their statements.

This sort of behaviour, especially from badged SP members, reflects poorly here and elsewhere not only on the member but on the forum owners and it can create a perception, here and elsewhere if nothing is done to hold members to account for their statements, that the administrators/owners condone the behaviour.

Anyway just some food for thought and my :twocents: worth :slight_smile:

I’ve just had an idea :teleport: to me :lightbulb

What about something like an iTunes Gift card or something similar :slight_smile: :bouncy3:

I think if you give people a usable incentive you’ll have a much higher chance of getting more than the 4-5 people you say in another thread are flagging fluff/spam posts.

I appreciate your thinking on this webdev, but tbh I just don’t have the budget to spend on trying to incentivise people to flag posts. Millions of people would start flagging immediately and we’d be broke! My real purpose of posting this is twofold. Firstly, there are people that don’t really understand, or don’t realise, what reporting posts is about so this is to educate. Secondly, there are people that relatively frequently complain about fluff and spam, so my point to them is that they can help us do something about it.

I’m not sure that is the case but it would depend on how you implement an incentive scheme. Obviously not everyone that flags posts would be entitled to a reward. But if you set a high enough target (which would need to be periodically adjusted) of automatically deleted posts as described earlier that a member needs to achieve to be entitled to a reward, then only those truly dedicated to helping clean up the fluff/spam would likely get a reward.

Without a reward scheme, you might initially get a slight jump from the 4-5 you now have flagging fluff/spam but I suspect over a short period of time the numbers flagging posts would drift down again.

Also, with a reward scheme I think you will be more likely to retain members on this site, rather than them drifting from website to website like many (including me) do currently, because they will have an incentive to spend more time here helping to remove fluff/spam. And while they are browsing threads flagging spam/fluff the likelihood of them contributing to the threads is then also increased which would help reduce the downturn in interactivity you mentioned has occurred.

Personally, the reason of decline for my participation in the forums is lack of conversation of advanced topics. As of late the average quality of questions can be answered by picking up a book. The majority of the forum just seems littered with lazy people looking for a quick answer which I’m tired of.

interesting observation :scratch:

Maybe SP is a victim of its past success and educated noobies too well in the past and they don’t need to come back as much or maybe people have found other reliable sources of help - as a consequence of the proliferation of countless tutorials and information now on the www.

But I hear what you are saying and my personal observation is that in the last 1-2 years more “noobies” or your “lazy people” are looking for answers to simple questions which a quick google could provide or they think forums are basically “a free code debugging service” :lol:


The JavaScript forum is a perfect example. It is an endless array of fairly basic jQuery questions. I mean… if half the people asking questions took the time to actually learn JavaScript they would not be having issues…

I would agree in regards to the more intermediate to advanced skill level being capable enough to problem solve without others. I for one will not post a question unless an answer absolutely can’t be found with research. I mean that is part of the job – being able to solve problems yourself. With the endless array of resources available in this day and age there is very little reason besides laziness to ask many of the type of questions people do here…

Off Topic:

I’m much the same.

What I find amazing is many noobies will post a frequently asked “nooby question”, the answer to which they could find in 5 mins max using Google, yet they are happy to wait 1,5,10,24 or whatever hours for someone to reply to their post in a forum - go figure that one out without getting a migraine :headbang:.

In the “real world” professional developers/coders don’t have time to sit around waiting for someone in a forum to help them solve a problem. They should have developed their own problem solving and debugging skills, which includes consulting their peers and those more knowledgeable. But consulting others should not be their main source of help. Having a reasonably up to date personal reference library and list of informative online references are my main research and problem solving tools - and of course :google:.

But wait…:lol:

Isn’t the direction this discussion is heading potentially driving people away from forums and the opposite of the intentions of this thread?

I think I better stop, or at least put ot tags around this post, before I get another infraction…hehe :whip: :slight_smile:

I’m pleased your engaging with this issue, as I have noticed things being rather quiet around these parts especially since the upgrade.

I can tell you that I visit here less often, mostly because of the new layout.
I used to love the highlighted posts and my recently viewed posts right thereon the frontpage - it kept me engaged, and without them I just stick my head in the odd forum every now and again - but definitely don’t look outside them as I did with the highlighted posts. The left menu is also sadly missed, but less central to engagement I think. I’m very pleased you’re working on these - and the changes can’t come soon enough before you actually start losing members.

With regards to the ideas - the post of the month thingy you used to do was great - you’d make the same quality posts you’d always make, but every now and again these would be highlighted by the staff and out of the blue you’d get to choose a copy of a SP book. With the digital editions, these prizes would be basically free from SP’s perspective and definitely welcome. I prefer these picks to a points system, as there is no way to “game” the system and doesn’t promote spam in any shape or form.

Also, killing and merging some forums is definitely a good idea - better to have one forum with 10 new posts per day than 2 forums with 5 each in my opinion - especially if they overlap in content. For example - you may as well roll the AdSense forum back into the main advertising one - the overlap is 100% and the dedicated AdSense forum gets very few posts these days.

Hearing you - I’m just not sure how to turn it around. I think we have to build up a new culture so that people stay around.

Ah, very good idea. We can easily reinstate that - the Golden Posts Program.

Consider it done.

Welcome to what I’ve been saying about javascript libraries like jquery and mootools from the day they were introduced – on top of being fat, bloated, slow and throwing stupid annoying animations onto websites for no good reason and getting in the users way, they prevent nubes from learning the underlying technology first, making them unqualified to fix their own problems. There’s a reason, well… horse… dead… flog… you know.

My advice for ‘reinvigorating’ the forums, make it so that I’m not having to recustomize my adblock every five minutes just to make the page render properly since the stupid things like that banner at the top screw up the entire layout… make it so it loads TODAY and not a month from today thanks to endless pointless javascript for nothing and fat bloated code.

When the forum index is blowing 560k in 43 files to deliver 19k of plaintext and six to eight content images there’s something horrifically wrong with the entire page. When 186k of that is HTML… well, you just pissed all over being a website about good web development practices.

Even if that’s really not your fault and more vBulletin’s; but we discussed that via PM not to long ago where I was asking a bit in the traffic numbers, where it sounds like you’re ice-skating uphill with all sorts of fancy underlying speedup technologies that end up being little more than “stupid server tricks” for visit levels up until last month I was handling on another forums on a lone P4D with 2 gigs of RAM… you’re choking out something like a quad XEON with 4-8 gigs of RAM, right? Server guys not entirely being able to explain the 500 errors that STILL crop up daily? Claiming you needed to upgrade the forum software because the hardware was giving out and this site TWICE the size of the previous iteration would magically use less bandwidth?

… in other words… well, I said it before and everyone got their panties in a twist… So I’ll leave it at that.

You want more visitors? Get the forum index down under 100k where it belongs, instead of the massively slow and bloated 186k of markup, 241k of javascript, and 90k of CSS for Christmas only knows what! I don’t even want to think about how long PHP is stuck there with it’s thumb up it’s backside trying to build the HTML.

Probably is saving bandwidth, less traffic due to nobody wanting to wait for the page to load can do that; everyone diving for the script blocker can do that… as it sits even AFTER your little “redesign” I’m STILL having to use custom CSS to make the site usable, using every script blocking and ad blocking trick in the book… to the point where it’s been a better experience to just throw up my hands, walk across the room to the Tandy 1k and use LYNX.

Again, vBull 4 is a laundry list of “how to flush a website down the toilet” and they’ve got giant brass monkey balls charging money for it – though at least it’s nowhere NEAR as bad here as say… over at Digital Point which has gone absolutely APE with twenty times as much “how not to build a website” as you have here. Either way it’s a little annoying to see such inept unnecessary coding from two websites that are supposed to be ABOUT web development. It’s almost like you’re taking the advice from the recent Sitepoint books seriously.

No offense, but you know my position on HTML5 and Jquery… they exist to sell books and prey on the ignorance of nubes who don’t know any better.

I actually agree with what DS60 says most of the time, not just in this thread, and his way with words is entertaining :slight_smile: but I think whoever at SP is preparing DS60’s daily dose of “angry pills” and giving them to him each morning to get him fired up before being let loose to wonder through the threads is over compensating :lol:.

I have a pretty thick skin and it doesn’t concern me at all, but I suspect DS60’s in your face opinions at noobies, especially thin skinned ones, could be scaring some of them off.

So maybe the dosage could be cut by about 1/2, at least on a trial basis :slight_smile:

Off Topic:

Sorry, is my complete disgust to the point of nausea with the web development industry as a whole leaking through too much again? You’d think I was getting sick of all the nube predation, misinformation, and sleazeball laziness or something.

You’re damn straight, but I’ll be blowed if he’ll listen to me. I’ve been asking him to tone it down for years.

I’m sure he means well and he’s obviously very passionate. Although, as I said, his message delivery technique is entertaining it can come across as abrasive.

Tbh, when I first joined this forum and read my first DS60 post I thought something like “Whooooaaaa, what’s going on here? How is this guy allowed to get away with the way he talks to some people?”. Then after reading a few more posts I thought it’s just his style - right or wrong.

And I thought that sometimes I can be abrasive/aggressive, but I don’t think I am to the same extent as DS60 and yet you still gave me a 2 point infraction a week or so ago - go figure :lol: (btw, this is not a whinge about the infraction. I told you although I and many others don’t agree with it, I’ll cop it on the chin)

Luckily DS60 and I seem to agree on most things. We’ve locked horns slightly only on 1 or occasions :).

And I’ll continue to try to behave - basically, if people leave me alone I tend to leave them alone.

Awesome - thanks!