Data or studies on not sub-forumizing?

(Mark Williams) #1

In my new role, I’m taking over a once-thriving but now struggling forum. There are many problems, especially platform issues. However, those are going to take a longer look and BRD, buy-in, etc. so I’m looking for some short term boosts.

The one I really want to push is moving to a single “general” forum vs. the many sub-forums that currently exist, some of which have had no posts in months. I know from past experience that this can give some lived in look which helps participation. However, the data from that past experience is locked away in an NDA. I can certainly use metaphor and vague promises, but I’m looking for a case study or similar to give me some backup for the proposal. I’m guessing I’m going to get some pushback internally so I’d like to go in with bulging pockets of pokéballs of concern deflection. Anyone have something to point to?

(Sarah Hawk) #2

I know that @rebeccabraglio went through a culling project. Did you stay in that role long enough post-cull to collect data Rebecca? @stevebridger too.

My experience backs up what you’re suggesting Mark, but it’s anecdotal – I don’t have access to the data.

(Darren Gough) #3

Just curious but what would happen if you quietly turned off 1 or 2 of the dead sub forums and see what happens?

(Jordan Tompkins) #4

I’m curious about this too. Right now we don’t have any actual discussion categories–they’re just all floating around! How do you come up with the categories discussions are posted in?

(Sarah Hawk) #5

Did you make a call on this @mdfw? What happened?

The way I did it here was to have one catch-all for all discussions (Managing Communities) until it got too cumbersome. At that point I tagged the posts and there were some clear distinctions that could be made. Those dictated the new categories.

The danger is making assumptions. If you don’t need categories at this point then I’d wait and see how your audience uses the space before deciding. People tend to browse the most recent posts or search for specific terms anyway, so categories aren’t crucial and sometimes end up creating a detrimental paradox of choice, esp when it comes to posting.

(Jordan Tompkins) #6

Thanks for the response! The community I work with is 6 years old, so we have a lot of discussions “going”. Part of the problem is that since we’re a community of practice for cancer control researchers and practitioners, people might be looking for a discussion on breast cancer or another specific topic.

I see what you’re saying though about making assumptions, especially with what I wrote above. People may be ok with the discussions how they are or it might be useful to do what you did–tag and categorize them. That point makes me think, too, because one thing we do is attach discussions to our featured partner and webinar pages so that people can ask the FP’s/presenters questions and talk about their own experiences, etc. but it’s rarely used. How do you measure that? Usability testing?

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Why don’t you ask them? I think there is a danger here of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

I’m not sure I understand the question. How do you measure what, specifically?

(Jordan Tompkins) #8

Sorry - How do I figure out why people aren’t using the discussion boards where they can ask presenters and featured partners questions and connect with one another? I don’t know the technical name for this kind of testing, so I’m not sure what to look up.

Another caveat - You and @richard_millington speak a lot about asking users questions, but my problem is that I don’t know which users to reach out to. I’m not sure if we keep data on users themselves, but would you recommend talking to those who use the site most or who have used it most recently?

(Sarah Hawk) #9

Ah yes – you’re correct – it’s usability testing. It’s something you can do yourself.
Here you go:

Not necessarily either, but maybe both. It depends on what you want to know.

Here, I work hard to build and maintain relationships with people personally, and I know that I can contact those people when I need to ask something. They need to be trust-based relationships or they won’t feel comfortable being honest. That would be my primary group, and most of those people are regular visitors.

If you were trying to find out why people haven’t visited in a while, then that group probably can’t help and you’d need to dig back into your data. TBH though, emailing people that haven’t visited for a while to ask why they haven’t rarely works well. I get about a 1% hit rate, but even that 1% can be valuable.

In other cases, sending out surveys works (e.g. if you want to know what people’s values are).

And yet others, starting a topic in your community asking people straight up can help. Like this one.

(Darren Gough) #10

That’s pretty true - i’ve had the same experience in the past.

Don’t expect many replies, but those that do are usually VERY specific (often abrupt).

(Sarah Hawk) #11

This. I’ve had to toughen up a LOT over the years. I used to find it personally upsetting if someone didn’t want to remain a member of a community that I run.

(Darren Gough) #12

It can be tough to hear, but important too I think. That said, communities evolve and a % of the members will just move on over time or lose interest.

(Mark Williams) #13

Hi everyone. Thanks for the ping @HAWK. Sorry I’m delayed in response, I was visiting The Mouse with the kids all last week.

Short answer: it hasn’t happened yet. Longer answer: there are two issues, technical and political. Apparently, there’s no good way to bulk merge forums on our platform†. In addition, I’ve received some negative pressure internally on the proposed changes. Mostly fears on SEO death with massive URI restructuring. I’ve been trying to attack the technical first (by basically doing the IT lifting), but our IT team has been slow to respond because of priorities on a separate project. I’d like to make sure we can technically make it happen before spending the political points.

I still think it’s the right move, but in the middle of all of this I realized the metrics we were getting were wrong too. If I got what I wanted, I wouldn’t have metrics to back it up. So I spent the few weeks before vacation deciphering the baffling way the system saved data so I could teach our metrics team the right SQL to report against it.

My technical chops got a workout, but I’m still in a holding pattern. We’re concentrating on other ways we can potentially grow while we wait for winds to change and reporting to settle in.

I’m not sure that helped or is just me venting, but there you go… :slight_smile:

†Platform: A 3(?) version old mostly non-supported Telligent Community Server. The more I’ve dug into it, it has some really interesting abilities, but it’s crazy-making to actually work with day by day.

(Jordan Tompkins) #14

Hey Hawk, thanks for this! I’m looking forward to taking a look at the resource and your insight on kinda segmenting who I talk to makes sense. That’s unfortunate about response rates.

This is kind of tangential, but I actually tried a new engagement strategy this month of emailing people before a webinar and asking them to comment on/ask a question on/share their experience or opinion on the associated discussion. I would guess I usually have about a 50% response rate when I email people asking them to post to discussions, but weirdly enough I emailed 19 people (I think) about posting to that discussion (with the email in the same format I’ve used before…explaining why their input would be valuable, etc.) and got nothin’ but crickets. Of course one try and 19 emails isn’t enough to go by, but I was pretty surprised.

Thanks again!

(Jay Pfaffman) #15

I don’t know about importers for their platforms, but most Discourse importers include permalink remapping, solving the SEO problem.

(Sarah Hawk) #16

Could it have been the subject matter – i.e. the webinar isn’t of interest? Or the time of year? The last few weeks have been pretty quiet with Thanksgiving etc.

(Mark Williams) #17

Thanks. It’s not an export/import problem, it’s a “I want to combine two sub-forums on my existing forum and there’s no (built-in) support for that” problem. Transitioning to another platform is but a wee dream.

(Jay Pfaffman) #18

I see. It’s just that I like to make dreams come true. (And, I’m something of a one-trick-pony who sees moving to Discourse as the solution to all problems.)


(Jordan Tompkins) #19

Maybe the time of year, but the webinar was definitely of interest – we had 450 registrants. I think I would have to try this a few times before I really looked for a pattern. Would you include an invitation to join the discussion in the webinar’s promotional email, or as a separate email? I want to try to see if I can grab registrants too (instead of only targeted emails to one person at a time).

(Sarah Hawk) #20

I’m going to call @richard_millington in to advise on this one. He handles our webinar/content/email processes and has a lot more of a handle on what works than I do.