Sunday, February 28, 2010

An online forum as a grafitti wall

Note: this is a translation of a Dutch blogpost. I'm thinking how to continue with a Dutch and an English blog. I used to have different content, but maybe I'll just translate? Anyhow here's a translated post:

(foto door cheryljns)
I've started in January with an online course 'Think till you are thin" 'Denk je slank in Dutch' It works I lost 4 kilos!). It is an online training so also signed up out of curiosity to see how they shape the course. The way it is set up is fun, with exercises, text-messaging, videos and a coach, though I miss the interaction.

There is a forum for sharing with other participants. This is a nice example of how you should not use a forum. It is a kind of online grafitti wall where any participant can post on any topic. It is not facilitated (at least I have not even noticed) and it is public, so anyone on the internet can read it. Not all forums have to be private, but if you want to discuss issues related to your weight, it helps when you have some feeling of privacy. As a result, it is a kind of graffiti wall where everyone starts as reporting that the course he started, then the conversation stops. A typical example of a message: "I started the course today and hope I get the book soon! As a result of this type of message, during the course people do not go back to the forum. People look at the forum in the beginning and forget about it.

What can you learn from this example? I see the following lessons:
  • Consider carefully whether you should make a forum public (visible to everyone) or private (visible to members only). If the goal is to discuss personal struggles with weight loss (as mentioned on this forum) I would make it private, only accessible to learners.
  • If you want to bring together people around shared interests and topics you will need to facilitate this and use categories or groups on the forum, so people will get attracted to a particular category or group.
  • Working with cohorts of new members, make sure that people from the same batch can find each other and link. Make for instance a group for anyone who starts in a given month.

1 comment:

forum widget said...

I really agree with you, and I also think your conclusion was correct. I'm a member of a music forum which deals with bands from my hometown ONLY. and we don't want to censor no one, but we wand to keep it relevant - so it won't look like a grafitti wall. thanks!