Forums at pwnwear

When there are a lot of comments here, I find that it can be hard to find the latest, because blogs are oriented around the fresh news more so than the fresh discussion.

Today I’m opening a forum system to enhance discussion, and make it easier to see the most recent discussion, so people can reply to one another more easily and to create a meeting place for DK tanks. Blogs are blog-article centric, whereas forums are forum-post-centric. Put another way, blogs are good at one-to-many conversations, forums are good at many-to-many.

Why forums at pwnwear?

A few reasons related to pwnwear:

I’m noticing a lot more of you guys are talking to one another, and not just me, there are good side-conversations going on which are often really important and interesting. But they’re harder to find, and harder to have in the first place, with a comment-based system.

It’d be nice to have forums for levelling and raiding Cataclysm is out and there is less theorycraft OPs to write, and more chatty discussion.

I wanted a forum system that allowed maths theorycrafters to use Latex (for complex formulas), so I have enabled that feature too.

I also think forums are a good structure for presenting information because of the list nature of thread titles, and with good forum categories it can be easier to find content.

Forums easily allow you to author a post and maintain it, on a particular topic they’re interested in.  Whilst I will probably write most of the content initially, forums allow you to also contribute to DK tanking community. This last point normally is something I’d have looked for on other sites’ forums, which takes me to another reason I’m opening forums here.

To replace Twitter. I often tweet useful snippets of info which then disappear into the abyss of twitterdom. Forums would let me write very small but useful posts, which are neatly organised rather than vanishing 30 minutes later.

The decline of deathknight.info:

Lastly, my home forums since before WotLK are not so healthy. Since deciding to make a Death Knight my main before WotLK was released, I’ve been active at deathknight.info. Now, those forums have a declining activity level, but worse is that the site’s not being given the love it deserves by the new owner, and it the volunteer community are keeping it afloat. I’ve really done my best to rejuvenate the site, even organising volunteer bloggers to write for the front page. That fizzled because blogging isn’t easy and people lose interest. The owner hasn’t even changed the ad banners, never posts nor even moderates; the site is neglected and has less traffic every month.

The community of my fellow tanks at dkinfo are who make it for me, to be honest, and I hope they’ll come chat at pwnwear. I really value that group of tanks, and honestly it’s only for them I put effort into keeping dkinfo afloat. My friend Chris/Kenzi, the dkinfo founder, moved on a while ago. The writers in the tanking subforum are the ones whose opinions I particularly value. Now there’s probably only about 30 people in tanking forums who are active, and its often just us talking to one another or helping the occasional new tank.

To be honourable, I’m going to retire from being a global moderator and the Admin at dk.info. At time of writing, I’d made 2500 posts. I registered on August 11, 2008. As I’m not the owner, I’ll email him and let him know. I’m a bit sad about it.

To give some perspective on traffic, here are a few comparison points between dk.info and pwnwear:

Statistic deathknight.info pwnwear.com
forum/site views Feb 2010 209,296 272,845
Jan 2010 285,801 296,571
Dec 2009 310,862 212,833

I wrote even more on what I’d like in the forums over here.

My debate whether to have a forum or not

I thought long and hard about this. Should I actually have forums? There are many reasons blogs shouldn’t have forums.

Many blog sites have forums because they mistakenly think creating a forum structure magically creates traffic and/or an active community of posters. Some do it for vanity, then discover the vacuum of an inactive forum actually makes their site look unpopular, which creates an emotional barrier to entry for new visitors who don’t want to post in an empty space.

Others simply don’t have the traffic or visitation for a forum to ever be useful, and they rely on visitors to create content. That just fails. I have had a few guest authors on pwnwear’s blog and none of them have stuck around. I tried on dk.info too. Basically, it’s naive to rely on other people for your content.

Since I generate so much on my own, this won’t be a problem. If some people also create their own threads, that’d be awesome and a great outcome, but I’m not going to foolishly rely on others for content generation. That leads to failure, and is why many blogs shouldn’t have forums.

Also, if you only post blog content once a week or less often, you aren’t generating enough content to sustain a forum either. You need more velocity.

Technically, until recently there were limitations with forum integration with wordpress blogs, leading to a very messy outcome with the forums looking one way and the blog looking completely different, as if another site altogether, plus having no shared content across the two. I found a way to integrate forums seamlessly with pwnwear’s blog content. In the version I’m launching with, blog posts will be in both the blog and forums. I’ll selectively cross-post from blog to forums. In the next version, comments on articles will also be mirrored in the forum itself, so that if the community activity on pwnwear remains exactly the same, then you’d see lots of original posts from me in the forums with the readers’ comments as replies.

I was tempted to wait for the next version of wp-united to bereleased, because integrated comments between blog and forum is a success criteria, but basically wanted to start sooner so I wouldn’t lose good info in the ocean of twitter, where much of the smaller news is now.

Lastly, if you’ve got a healthy alternative forum somewhere (like dk.info used to be), then there’s no need to split communities up by creating a new forum. For example, there’s no need for another tank paladin forum, that’s nailed by the wonderful maintankadin forums. There wasn’t one for DK tanks, except dkinfo tank subforums and the ubiquitous tankspot. I’ve never felt Tankspot was my home, for some reason, no idea why since it’s a great community. Maybe it’s too big, or maybe too argumentative or too many newbies, I’m not sure. I still think it’s a fantastic site. The EJ forums just piss me off. Their single-thread monolithic structure is just silly and the culture of EJ is distasteful sometimes.

Forum registration is easy

Registration is actually fun; you have to answer a WoW question, then I’ll chat to you in the forums!

Once you’re registered, you can’t create new threads initially, only replies. This helps with quality and also eliminates spambots.

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8 comments to Forums at pwnwear

  • Anafielle
    Twitter: Anafielle

    I’m excited about this!
    You seem to have a very intelligent community here in the comments. I think a forum sounds like a great idea. I’ll register and look forward to lurking! I’m a pally tank, but this is one of my favorite tank blogs. :)
    .-= Anafielle´s last blog ..Blood Queen Lanathel (10) Zerg Strategy =-.

  • Rhidach
    Twitter: Rhidach

    I was originally going to comment that forums might be a bad idea, but then you precisely mentioned the same reason I was initially against them–barren forums reflects badly on your blog. But, you definitely seem to have considered that and have really thought this out. Best of luck man, I’m sure you’ll create an awesome community!
    Also, completely agreed on TankSpot and EJ. I can’t spend much time there and I definitely will never be able to post.

  • Dril

    It’s a real shame about DK.info, I used to troll there, normally as a guest, but I had no idea the original owner moved on. Is there a link to the story of that? :)
    Anywho, if I ever get back into tanking and WoW at least now there’ll be a reliable community forum to go to, I’m in the same boat as you about Tankspot and EJ.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Thanks guys, and it’s going well so far. Quite fun! Aye Rhidach, I’ve been analysing technology for this for months and thinking about success criteria also, then testing implementation ideas against that list. Fairly thorough.

    The story, wasn’t much to it Dril. Chris sold the site after losing passion for WoW and not playing anymore. That post is in the dkinfo general forums somewhere, one of the last posts Kenzi did if you search by his name. Back in the height of DK-mania, dkinfo was a very busy website (like 1M visitors a month for a short while), but DKs aren’t FotM anymore so traffic subsided, but then got even lower I think as a result of there being no voice of leadership there (other than mine and fellow mods).

    What’s not been known publicly is that he sold to Penn who then got really busy with work and hasn’t been able to do much. That’s not something anyone has talked about until I did with this new forum.

  • Launched with typical forethought and planning Grav, and from a very solid base of active community members, combined with your customary dedication, this is sure to succeed!
    Best of luck to go with it.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Thanks matey.

  • Sagramor

    Nice idea.  I agree with the ‘personalities’ of the other sites you’ve mentioned with the exception of ‘belligerent’ for Tankspot.  I’ve always found the senior posters/mods/admins to be very welcoming.  Tanking is one of the tougher jobs in WOW to master, and I think those guys strike a good balance between quality content and tolerance.   EJ just makes me laugh these days, though I grudgingly respect a lot of their analysis.  What a sad little world they live in.
     
    You’ve clearly thought very carefully about this.  One caveat though: one thing I’ve always loved about this site is that every post is interesting to me.  I know the standard of content will be high, and I know I won’t have to sift through pages of chaff to find something I want to read.  It’s why I prefer the site to others you mention: Maintankadin, dk.info, even Tankspot.  With a forum, even a very targeted community forum, you always run the risk of lowering the signal-to-noise ratio and thereby driving users away.
     
    My recommendation: don’t stop blogging (I’m sure you won’t) and keep the blog posts easy to locate.  Make sure users can set an RSS feed to only deliver the blog content.  Some days I’ll want to read/participate in a debate between 200,000 people; other days I’ll just want to read an interesting article.
     
    Keep up the great work.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      That’s good and well-considered feedback, thanks. I was hesitating about ‘belligerent’ too. Argumentative might be more accurate. I might edit that.

      One side-effect of the forum integration which I hadn’t anticipated fully is that some of the navigational feature I’d used on pwnwear’s blog are incompatible now, most annoyingly the nice sidebar-post navigator and the mobile-user renderer. I’ll see if I can fix those, but if not, the “find stuff here, by category” is quite functional.

      To blogging, yep, will keep on it. I do enjoy it, and a success criteria for this endeavour was an integrated forum and blog technically, with a push of content from blog to forums (not the other way around). Some forum writers may generate content that’s so damn awesome it deserves a blog entry, for sure, but that’s not my goal.

      The other point you raise is the authority of the author. This is a big factor. People come to a blog because they generally trust (or know the weaknesses) of the author. You don’t get that in forums, so much. I countered that issue (somewhat) by having forum avatars include the progression rank and raid size of the writer, and making them mandatory registration fields. Sure, it’s self-assessed and people might mislead, but that’s not so likely I think compared to the benefit of knowing a little more about who this person is, and what kind of experience they have under their belt.

      It doesn’t demean or belittle a 5-man tank, it just qualifies it. Gives their opinion some context without them having to insert a silly disclaimer every post.

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