Are healthy online discussion forums a result of good product design or the people they attract?

Oliver Kraftman
8 replies
Evidence that people express more outrage on Twitter because of what is rewarded (design decision), but other smaller communities like PH bring together like-minded people and it seems to be healthier. What is more important?

Replies

Donna Murdoch
Learner and Educator
I would say that initial attraction (topic, UI, vertical if any) is one thing and possibly informed by design. As far as the discussion forum itself, you would be surprised at some of the incredibly robust discussions I've seen in the most poorly designed products/environments ever. It doesn't matter. It depends on size - and if under 50 or so people, it is absolute serendipity. Some groups click, some do not. You never know and there's nothing you can do about it. In a larger forum, facilitation can help guide (and does guide) but for really massive platforms (i.e. Twitter) healthy discussions find their way with the right hashtags, maybe ultimately find a DM box that they use with 20 or so people and continue a conversation forever there, or start a Mighty Network, or other. Humans are humans and they find a way to connect with others w/ similar interests or the opposite :(. I will say - one of my discussion groups started on G+ and has traveled wherever and landed in that DM box in Twitter as I described. No home, but people still like to follow other streams so they are unlikely to move.
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Oliver Kraftman
Founder of Collate
@donnamurdoch By design I really meant the features and content structure that guide conversation. E.g. Twitter's openness combined with retweets can cause dogpiles when one side of a debate retweets a part of someone's argument (on the other side) without context. Twitter is obviously a beautifully designed and complex application, but this is a fundamental design decision which I believe damages the Twitter experience.
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Donna Murdoch
Learner and Educator
@oliver_kraftman Yes, I absolutely understand. And agreed about Twitter, retweets, context often left aside, retweeting of articles that people don't read (somewhat new feature = "do you want to read more of this before you RT? which was a great idea) etc. After years of being involved, either as a participant or an instructor or developing product - I still think that ultimately what drives the conversation is the humans. And I'm not sure product design brings the "right" humans for discourse - it might help in navigation or ease of replies, but as far as engagement ongoing, and having people come back to the discussion to continue engagement - that's about content, people, context - and the features are a nice to have. Just my experience.
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Oliver Kraftman
Founder of Collate
@donnamurdoch Yeah I think you may be right.... Well I'm trying to do both: design consciously for something better + bring together some great people... launched on Ship our idea https://www.producthunt.com/upco... check it out :)
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Janinah
Business Analyst in Leamington Spa UK.
I would say the people they attract for 2x reasons. 1. Last year I discovered Linux and joined a forum for a Linux operating system called Endeavour (OS) a system I'd began using and loved. Though the forum was on the small side and the operating system not as popular as other Linux systems. It had an absolutely lovely community who were warm, friendly and helpful. Thanks to that community Endeavour OS skyrocketed in popularity and is now in the top 3 for recommended Linux operating systems - Thats not an easy feat when there are hundreds of Linux systems out there. P.S When I was active in that forum last year they were number 15 I think. 2. I've never really liked the product/UI of Quora and reddit (I'm sure I can't be the only one) and yet they're the two most known forums in the Internet world.
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Oliver Kraftman
Founder of Collate
@janinah I agree people are central. But on 2. I think that just means there are great opportunities for us builders :)
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Janinah
Business Analyst in Leamington Spa UK.
@oliver_kraftman Defintely I think both forums are great growth channels
Oliver Kraftman
Founder of Collate
@janinah and to exploit their weaknesses building alternatives in niche areas!