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Old 04-04-2006, 09:02   #1
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Arrow Major Project: What is the best way to organize our discussions?

Ok, the time has come to talk about the structure of all of our forums. As we know there are discussions in various places that should be located somewhere else. Part of this is because there is not always a clear place for members to know where to post the thread.

I suggest that we create a major project to look at the taxonomy (big word for organization or structure) of the forum categories and then work on a plan to reorganize the forums to meet our needs moving forward.

As food for thought I suggest we analyze our own content, which forums are successful, which forums are confusing, what forums are redundant and then look to other forum communities to see what works and what is not working...

This is a big project and in many ways can be very difficult because not everyone will agree on the best structure. We know from some posts that KISS is needed (Keep It Simple Stupid) or that we need to make sure and not make things so complex it takes a manual to figure out the right place to post a new thread.

The old software was not capable of having sub-categories but now we can. If you take a look at one of the other sites I manage www.AirstreamForums.com you will notice lots of sub-categories especially in the restoration area for things like heating, electrical, etc. We might want to consider having less top level categories (the page is so long to scroll up and down) and have more sub-categories (just an idea).

Also, take a look at www.discusscooking.com (another site I manage). You can see that the sub-categories can be laid out in columns which I think looks better and makes it easier for members to find the right sub-category.

With the new software moving threads around after making these changes does not take that long. We can do searches for threads and move them in bulk to new areas.

On that note, what are your thoughts on the current forums? What is working well? What do you think would be good changes to the structure?

Let's here your ideas, comments, thoughts, recommendations, etc...
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Old 04-04-2006, 09:31   #2
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I agree with the idea of reorganizing the listings to reduce the number of top level categories, in favour of more sub-categories.
ie:
Yacht Maintenance, Boat Building, Tips & Tricks (or whatever it becomes):
could be sub-divided into:
- Mechanical
- Electrical
- Electronics, Instruments, & Communications etc.
- Refrigeration & Heating- Air-Conditioning (HVAC-R), & Plumbing
- Rig & Structure
- Carpentry & Finishing
- etc ...
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Old 04-04-2006, 10:12   #3
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Thumbs up Sub-categories

I'm for it!
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Old 04-04-2006, 10:51   #4
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I like the ship analogy, but suspect that what appears to be a number of sub forums would be excessive, unless all these are being included within one forum heading.

Personally I liked the multihull/half boat split, as t saved a lot of looking at stuff I wasnt interested in.

Another problem is the caused within longer threads where some people go off and discuss their interests and others continue on the original subject -- this makes it very difficult to pick up if you miss a few days.
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Old 04-04-2006, 11:19   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talbot
Another problem is the caused within longer threads where some people go off and discuss their interests and others continue on the original subject -- this makes it very difficult to pick up if you miss a few days.
This will be something we need to address via moderation. With the new software we have the ability to split threads and try to keep discussions as "on topic" as possible. Thus a moderator can perform this action, let the member know and ask that he/she try to start a new discussion if it is off topic. It has to do with the habits we have and how we manage the communtiy. I think it is great that we try to work on this stuff now so that in 2-3 years when we have 2-3 times as much info and members we will be on a great path vs one where we have to try and figure out how to turn the cruise ship inside the little bay...

so let's get back on topic here about break forums structure...

I don't think we will have a clear answer for the best way to break down the forums until we really do some deep analysis. Also, the first reorganization will most likely not be perfect and therefore we will keep refining over time. In the end I know we will have a great setup.

So keep posting your ideas and feedback.

knottybuoyz - I like your analogies and the layout quite a bit! One thing is having marinas inside the "The Bridge". I think that might be best in an area where we have regions listed and then inside that we have discussions about marinas, local laws, other regional news and items of interest...
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Old 04-04-2006, 12:12   #6
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Categories should be set based on activity level alone. A category with no posts for a month is dead and should go. When the number of active threads in a section fills more than a screenfull it could be considered to be split. They don't need to fit your "vision of what the forum should look like". It should look like every single catagory is busy!

You want all categories to look active and full of active threads. When volume increases you add as many as it takes. When it slides down maybe there is consolidation. Maybe if it gets really slow you have no categories but what ever you have it looks full and with lots of activity. Right now I think there is too many categories that are not active - drop them all.

People gravitate to the active categories! It does not follow that because you make a category people will go there. On Line people with two legs and a jib sail where they will. It's silly to think if you added more categories they would naturally grow. This is not a garden. It may grow but you can't know when or in what direction. No matter what it is on any day it will change either growing or shrinking or topics will shift.

It should never look inactive! Empty categories are bad. It really does not matter what is in them at all as long as people like it.

It really does not matter what gategories you make if you use it to split the traffic. Better you don't try to make static sections as you find like I do there is always one active section bigger than the rest. Guess where someone asks the question? Not in the "proper categpry" but in the most active section. if you are always herding messages between sections user don't like their threads moved and why should you exert all that effort to move threads maybe there were where they should be in the first place.

Basic Suggestions

1. I say create the rule that there will never be a section without a post for more than a month or it's consolidated.

2. Create archives and move old threads that are not active. They are a valuable resource but deter new activity. Compute a proper "scroll rate". Regroup as required. You can't create the organization that lasts a lifetime. Add a search tool to dig through the achives so it is a vlkuable tool.

3. Anytime a section generates too many posts it gets split to define a more detailled category, but not before it does. You don't need a cystal ball.

4. Nothing lasts forever so change the forum with the traffic flow and avoid being a traffic cop. Making the world post where you want them won't / can't win. Just look at what people post about to see where you need to reorganize.

5. Don't get cute. The forum messages need to stand out from the furniture and fixtures not the other way around.

6. Lay off the ad banners. Any more and I'm sure gone. Put them in one place only!
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Old 04-04-2006, 15:21   #7
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Once again more great feedback and suggestions on how to proceed. Other please post your thoughts too!
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