View Full Version : Upgrading the forums
Jun 9/03, 02:05 PM
I've been looking at some ways to improve these forums so we can increase the level of participation, and I would like your feedback. One thing many people have asked for is a daily or weekly digest that will automatically send new posts via email, thereby eliminating the need to come to the site and look around to see if anybody has posted new messages.
I have always agreed that this is good idea, but there have been very few options that combine a web based forum with a digest feature. The Ikonboard software we use now still doesn't offer this feature, but I have found some other options that do. Unfortunately, they are not free like Ikonboard and it may not be possible to transfer the existing usernames, passwords or topics to the new forums. It may be necessary to start from scratch, but I have talked to a couple developers who say they should be able to at least transfer our usernames. For a fee of course.
The option with the best digest I can find is called UBB.x and will send a digest like the one picture below daily or weekly via email. You can even reply to topics right from your inbox without going to the site. I like that very much!
Unfortunately, this is a hosted option. Which means it's only available with a hosting package ($21USD and up) and would require the entire canphoto.net site to be moved to a new server in the U.S. Currently we are hosted with a Canadian server called Blacksun and I have been very happy with them. So I'm not too excited about the prospect of changing servers.
There is another option by the same company that makes UBB.x that costs $225 to $725USD and can be hosted on any server. Besides the license fees, the other downside is the daily digest. It is just a text only email of the latest posts to the forums. If you want to reply you have to the visit the site.
So what I’d like to know is what is important to you? Is a daily digest worth the effort and the expense? Do you think it would help to increase participation here?
If we do change the forums, I would also like to reduce the number of different forums to get rid of the ones that have not attracted any interest. I've been thinking of reducing it to: "business, technical, and community forums".
Let me know what you think and if you have any other suggestions to improve these forums please feel free to post them here as well.
Jun 10/03, 09:36 AM
I dont really need the daily digest stuff.....I kind of like visiting the website to see; what's going on; what new Cdn photogs and their sites have been added; new services etc.
The paring down the categories might be a good idea.
As for increasing usage because of your 'layout or web design', I dont think it matters....people just have to join in with their 2 cents worth...
I'm still a little pissed off that you didnt even come close to the hosting fee you requested...
Jun 10/03, 10:04 AM
Thanks Keith. I appreciate your comments and your willingness to visit the site on a regular basis and participate. I wish more people had your attitude, but many people have said things like: "I don't participate because it's too much trouble to visit the site and look around for something that interests me", "your site has to push itself into my life", "most photographers are a member of many sites, and they have no particularly loyalty to any of them, except the ones that a) keep in contact, and b) offer something useful. We all need periodic reminding."
It would be great if all 500+ members would check in daily with their morning coffee, but that just ain't gonna happen. So I can appreciate the comments above, and think a daily digest would help keep our site fresh in the minds of those members who need more reminding than others.
I just wish there was a shareware or freeware solution available that could meet our needs.
Hi Andrew: I would not be interested in a daily digest format and so don't think that changing servers would be of interest for me. I feel that things are fine the way that they are and that you've done a great job.
Even with the more popular forums that I visit, its nearly always the same people posting. Its just the nature of people it seems that there are too many lurkers and not enough participating. Too many students and not enough teachers (or photographers willing to experiment and to pass on their findings to others).
We're an instant gratification culture now, and we want to find the answer to a question immediately rather than discover the answer one's self, even if discovery means searching archives vs. just asking the same questions over and over. With only 500 people on this forum vs. several thousand on others, there are more immediate answers on other forums due to a few more teachers or those willing to discover, experiment and share.
Be patient and hopefully this forum will develope into what you'd like it to be.
Jun 10/03, 12:11 PM
I wouldn't mind a daily digest, but I come and check out the forums on a regular basis regardless, so I woudn't necessarily see any added value... *However a periodic reminder would be probably quite helpful. *I get reminders from various mailing lists I'm on (every couple of months) to remind me I'm on the list and to update any info if I need to. *Can you e-mail a reminder to everyone who has not posted?
I agree with Alec, in as much as it might take a while for things to get hashed out with regards to the forums, and I think there will always be people who will lurk and glean what they can from the discussions without adding anything. *
Whatever is decided, I'll support it. *I've really received a lot of benefit from the site, and I'll continue offering as much as I can. *If you do decide to make the directory more based on the number of posts that people make, I'm all for that, too. *A reward might entice more people to post, but I wouldn't bet on it. *You can't, as my father always says, get blood out of a stone.
Let us know what your plans are.
Jun 10/03, 05:30 PM
Thanks Alastair and Alec. I've also been looking at some options for bulk email marketing and I think it may be better to keep in touch with members this way, rather than going to all the trouble of changing forums for a daily digest.
I still think it would be a great feature to have, but I also think that many of the people who say they don't participate now would just come up with another excuse if we had a daily digest option.
Cheers and thanks again for all your support.
I'm in agreement with the comments from the previous posts and cutting down on the categories is a good idea. *I was wondering how many members of the professional associations (CAPIC, PPOC, PP......) are aware of this site and the discussion forums? Keep up the good work, it's appreciated.
Peter Wm Richardson
Jun 14/03, 06:21 AM
You, I am sure, already know my thoughts and ideas about the site. However, for the group, I'll reiterate some of my thoughts. I am a big supporter of daily digests.I subscribe to several groups around the world, and I have very specific interests in each of them. For me to search all these websites would be far too time consuming to justify and so the digest is ideal for my busy schedule. I can quickly peruse them for specific points of interest and if time is short, I can leave it in my inbox to remind me to read it later(usually about 1 am)??? The digest option also lets me track topics and responses more easily than web searches. BTW, in regards a comment made earlier, about teachers and lurkers, I contribute advice, from time to time, I also operate as an independent consultant to the profession/industry/craft and it is my opinion that not only are lurkers a fact of life in every site, but that most should probably remain so. Most lurkers do so because they want to learn and have little if anything to contribute. In most forums, when one of them feels that they have something to add, they find their voice and speak up. Also, many of us who do contribute regularly, do so only as time permits and I find I tend to ignore people who constantly ask the same question. I will refer them, once, to the archives and then if they persist, dismiss them. My grandmother, had a favourite expression( or two, or three) which went " the lord helps those who help themselves" I tend to live with it in mind.
But, I digress, something I am prone to do,the daily digest is a BIG added value for me! If you use it properly, it is a serious time saver.Regular reminders, of the site or of current hot topics might be an idea also. Another plus would be reducing this sites list of topics. I for one would like to see it pared all the way down to the business of photography and nothing else. There are loads of sites for selling used gear, businesses and the like, we do not need to be one of them. The reason so many other sites are more successfull than us at attracting responses, is that they are tightly focused and moderated.They quickly censure off topic posts and keep everything flowing. I have said in the past that moderators are a good way to go but I have not pushed the point because I am unable to step up to the plate and offer my services to be one.Nevertheless, I would strongly support our use of this system and of tightening our focus. Another of grandma's pearls comes to mind, "jack of all trades, master of none". We can not and should not be all things to all people. rather, we should be a strong and opinionated forum for the business of photography!
Jun 14/03, 09:09 PM
The daily digest doesn't stike me as being worth the expense and time it would take for you to make the change.
I definitely agree that making members more aware of recent topics could increase participation. The bulk emailing you mentioned may be worth pursuing. Some time ago, I started receiving the CAPIC weekly e-newsletter. *I actually enjoy looking at it on Monday mornings. The Tech Updates and links are quite informative. Something similar covering the latest forum topics would be good. Would it be very hard for you generate a Top 10 topics of the week list?
Keith already mentioned it but I too am a bit surprised that the donation level has been low. I certainly find value in Canphoto and am sure the 'lurkers' do too!http://www.canphoto.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif
Good luck for whatever changes you decide upon.
Jun 16/03, 09:21 AM
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote (Peter Wm Richardson @ June 14 2003,07:21)</td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">I am a big supporter of daily digests.I subscribe to several groups around the world, and I have very specific interests in each of them. For me to search all these websites would be far too time consuming to justify and so the digest is ideal for my busy schedule.[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
I agree with you for the most part Peter. I think a daily or weekly digest is a wonderful tool, but only if they are structured and formatted in a way that makes them useful to members. Unfortunately, I have found very few that meet these requirements and, IMHO, some actually discourage participation.
I belong to several Yahoo Groups such as EP, APAdigital, etc, etc. I receive the daily digests, but lately I have been deleting most of them without even reading them. I can't stand the fact that they are not organized by topics and members can, and do, change the topic title any time they want. So even if I scan the topic titles at the top of the digest, I still have to wade through the whole digest to see if something interests me. If I do find something interesting and want to respond, I have to visit Yahoo Groups online and try and find the topic while being subjected to pop-up ads and other annoyances. If I just reply to the email, as most people seem to do, my post is no longer associated with the thread and it makes it almost impossible for anyone to follow a discussion in the archives. I could go on about my feelings for Yahoo Groups, but I think that's enough ranting for now http://www.canphoto.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
That's why I like the digest feature of UBB.x (see screen shot above) so much. However, I don't want our site to be tied to one server and also don't want to lose all the current topics.
So I've been looking at the latest version of the board we're using now and it offers a "Forum Tracker" feature in addition to the "Topic Tracker" we have now. This feature will notify you by email when someone starts a new topic in a forum you've subscribed to. It's nothing like a daily digest, but it's a start and I can transfer all our topics, usernames and passwords.
So after looking at all the options I thinks that's the best route for now and I will also try and send out email updates on a more regular basis. I like Don's idea about the top ten topics. To make the forum tracker more manageable I want to reduce the number of forums. And while my original reason for starting these forums was to get people talking about business in Canada, I see nothing wrong with giving people separate forums where they can talk about other photography related issues while they are here. As for moderation, I'm all for that too. I only hope we get busy enough someday to warrant it.
Let me know what you think.
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