Where Do Forums Fit on a Social Network Driven Internet?

Apparently I stirred one of the Moderators for Cre8asiteforums with my remarks the other day in Are We Designing For The Human Experience? I stated that I felt it was “wishful thinking” to believe that forums would last much longer. Considering I own one, I can see this raising an eyebrow.

My friend Adrian Lee, Cre8asiteforums Site Administrator and one of my longest known friends on the Internet, chewed on this and then came to the forums to pick our brains, in a discussion called The State Of The Social Web And Where Forums Fit In. He launches the thread with:

Forums used to be a bastion of online social communities. Not the first kind of community. You had newsgroups and others before Forums, in the form we see them now, became big. But for several years now, there have been lots of big forums, huge, diverse communites or people discussing various things in various manners. They’ve been one of the main forms of community on the web, especially since chat rooms began to decline in popularity.

Now that we have this new raft of social community, from the Diggs/Reddits/Teechmemes, to the Facebook/Myspaces/Bebos, are forums as we know them, under threat?

Kim’s been mentioning it a bit recently, wondering how they fit into the new scheme of things, and I see Rand saying he’s drifting more to blogs and social bookmarking sites from forums.

And actually, I can see what they mean.

One of our points is that sites like Sphinn, SearchEngineRoundtable and others not only direct their readers to some of our forums threads, but discussions can occur on those sites, outside the original thread. In the case of Sphinn, readers can vote on a topic, which in some cases, is not an article but one of our Cre8asiteforum threads.

Interesting thing. Is there something wrong with forums? Is talking about discussions outside the room with outsiders kind of like gossip? Is the ability to cross link and weave forum threads in and out of other web sites simply part of the social aspect of the Internet?

Forum participants in this thread are offering thoughtful ideas and it’s obvious a nerve was struck. Can blogs, forums and social network sites continue to share the Web or are forums being phased out?

Where do you feel the most comfortable being?

20 thoughts on “Where Do Forums Fit on a Social Network Driven Internet?

  1. I don’t see forums going anywhere – they’re still the most effective way to communicate linearly and directly with large groups of people interested in a topic.

    The disparity of conversation locations is a whole other story – Danny’s trying to break through it with Sphinn & SELand sharing comments, but it seems to just be limiting the participation of comments on Sphinn. Blog comments are actually notoriously inconvenient. Even social networking sites are, generally speaking, no good at threaded conversations. Where does this leave us?

    I don’t know – I’m guessing better features and better functionality will evolve for the forums of the future and help to continue to make them relevant and competitive with other forms of web interaction.

  2. forums still rule, and IMO, will for quite some time. they do, however, need to be upgraded, and incorporate a lot of the useful functionality we see in some of the newer social networking sites (like profile pages, blogs for members, etc).

  3. I see forums co-existing with blogs. It’s not one or the other. Although many blogs are multi-dimensional, forums like Cre8asite have such a tremendous amount of depth and history and such a huge knowledge-base with such an impressive collection of moderators, that I think forums will be around for a while. All this information can’t be replaced in a blog or even someone’s huge list of RSS feeds.

  4. I don’t think forums are going to disappear anytime soon. Blogs are great but a lot of them are much more controlled by the owner than forums. Forums are the best place for a large amount of people interested in similar topics to discuss them openly.

    Social networking sites and blogs are more about the webmasters take on a particular topic with a little room for comments here and there. Don’t get me wrong they both have there place on the web.

  5. “they do, however, need to be upgraded, and incorporate a lot of the useful functionality we see in some of the newer social networking sites”

    That’s what triggered my intial questions. I don’t believe forums are about to die off, they will certainly survive, I just wondered if it will be the ones who evolve with the times who survive, or at least survive best.

    Those that don’t evolve may not close, but they might just find they aren’t quit the places they used to be.

  6. I believe that forums are here to stay, until they evolve into something more of a mix of RSS, search-capable website, user-designed (like NetVibes) web 2.0 stuff…
    I’d rather go to a good forum and ask a question (even people might make fun of my “stupid question”) then google for a solution, look at blogs of unconfirmed quality or so…

  7. @Matt Jones…
    I agree with you, but the relevance and niche expert knowledge you won’t find in Social networks (as far as i can see it), because it’s more-less general public, kids, people… and more important, to have a group discussion on, let’s say Facebook, you have to have a critic mass of people, and when i type in google some forum-related topic, i don’t see Facebook’s results anywhere (type “pda facebook group”)…

  8. Rand’s term “disparity of conversation” is spot on, IMV. There’s only so much time and attention you can devote to interaction per day, after all.
    Personally, I generally dislike the social networking/bookmarking sites except for their power of pointing to interesting OUTSIDE their realm – which, IMV, is where any further discussion should be taken.
    Of course I’m aware that it doesn’t work that way as a rule – which isn’t surprising seeing that many people will actually want to comment on the “abstract” or excerpt featured on an SNS itself rather than on the article it’s pointing to.
    But seeing that all human resources are finite, IMV this tends to divert people to yet more superficiality rather than reviewing issues in more detail. (Naturally, the mass factor impacts this as well – I mean, there’s so many different SNS and “community” setups cropping up now, it’s getting impossible to keep track of them all.
    I’ve more or less pulled out of forums myself except for some very select, closed-shop places (usually requiring registration, some by personal invitation only) where there’s less noise and more serious discussions of the issues I’m interested in.
    And to address Adrian’s other question: No way I’d be prepared to discuss details of what’s happening in there with anybody outside who’s not part of it – this would violate people’s trust, it would kill the spirit of active cooperation (quite marked there even amongst competitors) and would destroy the atmosphere of relaxed exchange and banter.
    Obviously, open forums are another matter altogether, esp. when they can be spidered by the search engines anyway.

  9. This is a very interesting topic. It seems that it hits at the core of where we are today with the use of technology to both learn and interact. Technology has been democratized. It is ours now and it will continue to serve our needs, whatever they may be.

    Blogs are about publishing. Whether it’s information you want to convey, your own opinion or just telling a story. It is personal publishing that also provides the option for others to comment.

    Forums are discussion groups. People sitting around having a back and forth conversations.

    But these are both just tools that will continue to evolve and change.

    Fortunately, they will evolve based upon the needs of the users.

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  11. As far as i’ve noticed, forums are still the medium of choice for individuals who are serious enthusiasts in a particular topic. Be it hacking, seo or programming. Stuff like this is not interesting to everybody and hence won’t have much acceptance when it comes social bookmarking. My 2 cents.

  12. I agree with Rand on this, that forums are by far still the most effective way to communicate with a large groups of people. And idea or topic can go from nothings to something huge almost instantly unlike any other online medium.

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