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The Art of Forum Making

Space Technology 5

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Okay, not exactly an art, but it makes for a catchy title.

This tutorial has been created upon the request of Roddy15, a fellow blogger and administrator on my forum, Creativity Network – The Rebuild.

Let’s start with a simple Top 10 list of things you should know to kick this off!

Example forum view, from PhpBB.

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1. Choosing a Provider: There’s all sorts of Forum Providers on the net. Some better than others. I personally use Forumotion.com, a French company that produces highly customizable forums, abounding with features, for your use. No money is required unless you would like to remove ads for everyone on your forum (you can remove them for your members without paying a fee), having a personalized domain name (which is hardly necessary with their plethora of extensions), or adding more space (in addition to the fairly apt 20MB provided for free). Yet let’s say you do not wish to purchase credits – you can always win a contest! Forumotion hosts frequent credit-winning contests for forums, and they aren’t too hard to win, I even managed to score third place at my first try.

2. Invite some Friends: Before marketing your forum try inviting some friends over to your forum. They’ll be able to give you feedback and add to your post count!

3. Make Your Revisions: Add all the forum categories you need, start out fairly frugal (with the main topics that center around your forum’s theme) then expand as you deem necessary.

4. Do it Right: If you want people to join your site, you’ll need to look like a pro. Sometimes this may be done by visiting your forum host’s help forum. There’s all sorts of help topics, and useful hints – even people willing to join and help you out! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Once this is done, I’d recommend creating a eye-catching homepage, with attractive (yet not overdone or with eye-straining colors like bright red or hot pink, go for easy-eye tones) graphics and a general idea of what your forum is about. Do the same to your forum!

5. Build Your Team: Get a group of people together. Graphics designers, programmers, and forum moderators. If you pick the right people, you certainly won’t regret it! Don’t be afraid to recruit your members if they’ve gained your trust and you’ve noticed they excel in a particular area that would prove useful.

Facebook logo

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Free twitter bar

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6. Get the Word Out: Some forum providers give you pre-installed features to reach out to dozens of Social Networks in a few simple steps. If you don’t have that luxury, and have chosen a forum without this feature, you can always do it manually! Make updates about your site on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and ask your friends to do the same!

7. Be Active: It’s your forum, so post on it! If you interact with your members, it’ll create a much tighter-knit community.

8. Enforce the Rules: Don’t put up with stealing (like the all too common plagiarism and resulting copyright infringement), cursing, or obscene graphics and media. This could result in the deletion of your forum, and legal involvement.

9. Follow the Law: I cannot prove legal advice, as I am not in a position to do so. Yet I can express the importance of common sense. If you’re starting a forum, you need to keep in mind there’s a long list of rules and regulations to follow. Both from the forum provider and your country. The United States has online regulations such as COPPA which protect children, and require certain procedures. Do the research!

The hierarchical domain name system, organized...

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10. Making your Domain Name: Let us suppose you have gained enough credits, or purchased them manually, to purchase a customizable domain name. DO NOT take a company’s name and use it as your domain name. Some names are universal in meaning, and able to be reused. Others like “MyLegoForum” or “LegoStuff” or anything involving the company name of “Lego” could result in an unwanted lawsuit. Once again, I cannot prove legal advice in these matters – be sure to consult reliable resources, even http://copyright.gov/ could help.

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Forum Design

Example forum view, from PhpBB.

Image via Wikipedia

One thing I’ve never really touched on at the Adventure Writer Blog, yet I have been working with for quite a few years, is forum management and design.

Running a forum can be beneficial in understanding how various things work on the internet, how traffic flows, how to keep people’s attention, and maintain a constant rate of mass discussions.

I currently co-operate a forum which has around 132 registered users, and a total of a total of 12625 messages.

The statistics are far from satisfying:

# of Registered Users:
Feb 2010 2 10%
Mar 2010 5 25%
Apr 2010 1 5%
May 2010 1 5%
Jun 2010 0 0%
Jul 2010 0 0%
Aug 2010 0 0%
Sep 2010 1 5%
Oct 2010 6 30%
Nov 2010 2 10%
Dec 2010 2 10%
Jan 2011 0 0%

And this may be the typical result with a new forum (as ours is, as we’ve changed our focus), or stale conversation.

A forum must have a fairly universal subject, or one that will hold the interest of it’s members for a lengthy period of time. In other words, be able to maintain a fan-base and keep activity flowing.

We will continue to explore forum-making at a later date – for now, back to all-things-reviews and a literary focus!