What can be done to improve forum engagement?

A meeting place for rose breeders.
Don
Posts: 1921
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 7:00 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73353Post Don
Mon Oct 18, 2021 4:27 pm

Hi Jim.

The "main website" is itself a relic. The only traffic to those pages get are search engines spiders. For that reason, and because it really does facilitate rose breeding in a way that social media cannot, I think we should focus on improving the forum. If we categorize the forum, for instance, we could subsume the purposes that some of those pages serve. We could also integrate the website pages and forum a little better.

The challenge is deciding what categories to use then breaking out the existing threads into those buckets. I am working with some automation tools for that purpose.

The comments about ease of participation are interesting. As you point out it is easy to drag and drop a photo yet that seems less intuitive on our forum than it does on Facebook and Twitter. Likewise the perception of the post-response cycle. Technically there is no difference between phpBB and social media platforms (or email or text messaging for that matter) yet their interfaces differentiate whole segments of the IT industry.

It may be that we need forum software with features somewhere between the current phpBB and Facebook. It would be foolish to try to emulate the Euro rose breeders because of the reach of Facebook but it is very reasonable to provide a landing zone for those wanting more depth than the Facebook group can provide.

Don
What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

wickertgardens
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:21 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73356Post wickertgardens
Tue Oct 19, 2021 10:08 am

I think if recruitment is the goal, we'll need to use the social media sites to engage people. People are using Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. They are more likely to search those pages for a group to join than to just go to a search engine to join a group related to a topic. Social media does not need to replace the forum. It can be used as a way to attract more people to the forum and to the group. A similar strategy should be employed by ARS and the local rose societies. I would not have known this group existed if someone had not mentioned it in a Facebook group a couple years ago.

Similar to some previous replies, I am also just starting out and don't have much to add compared to what the experienced posters here are already contributing. But, I hope to contribute more in the future.
Wickert Gardens
Madison, OH
wickertgardens@gmail.com

Rosesbydesign
Posts: 426
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:07 am

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73357Post Rosesbydesign
Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:41 pm

Don, what do you think is needed to update forum software? It sounds like a daunting task.

Thank you "wickertgardens" for the suggestion! I "pinned" a link to the RHA Facebook page that links to this forum. I should have done that a long time ago...

Don
Posts: 1921
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 7:00 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73359Post Don
Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:51 pm

Jim, I've been scouting forum software with the suggestions from this thread in mind. Most of the options for alternatives are very similar to what we have right now but one does stand out so far. It is called Discourse. It is open source like phpBB but is a bit more demanding of server resources so would require either upgrading our hosting account or finding a new one.

Here are some example forums that use Discourse to give you an idea of what it is.

https://community.naturephotographers.network/latest

https://forum.glamour.de/

https://forums.developer.nvidia.com/

https://forums.babypips.com/

https://forum.asana.com/

Any decision would be very premature but I think it would be worthwhile to test drive it. We should be able to set up the necessary services with our current hosting provider to do that. This would also make it convenient to work on the categorizing and migrating of the message database while leaving our current forum operating normally. The cost would be minimal and temporary, I will email you with the details.

As for degree of difficulty I can only say that overall it looks like an interesting winter project.

Don
What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

philip_la
Posts: 1098
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:28 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73374Post philip_la
Sat Oct 23, 2021 3:24 am

Several years ago there were numerous discussions on the RHA future plans by a group of members in another forum once available under the board index, which I am no longer able to find. Were those discussions deleted?

There were a number of ideas presented there, if I recall correctly. I personally would like to be able to review them.

But their absence exemplifies one of the frustrations I have had with this forum. It is a wonderful repository for experiences and knowledge, but retrieving that information is not always easy.

At the time I had suggested (within that sub-forum) a supplemental site within, built on the Wikimedia template, that would enable the archiving and editing of information in a searchable format. My thinking, even then, was that this site needs to be more than a basic forum that cannot compete with other social media platforms in functionality. And, yes, the European Rose Hybridizers group on *shudder* Facebook *is* now what this site *used* to be...

There were numerous other suggestions as well, and to say that this site appears dated would be an understatement.

To be rather blunt, however, my recollection was of a feeling that many in the old guard seemed resistant to change.
Philip F.
Zone 8 / Sunset Zn 30 (Austin, TX -- formerly New Orleans, LA)

philip_la
Posts: 1098
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:28 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73375Post philip_la
Sat Oct 23, 2021 3:29 am

I missed that there was a second page to this discussion before posting...
Philip F.
Zone 8 / Sunset Zn 30 (Austin, TX -- formerly New Orleans, LA)

philip_la
Posts: 1098
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:28 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73403Post philip_la
Tue Oct 26, 2021 3:07 pm

I know little to nothing about website design, but building on the idea of using the free MediaWiki template for a searchable database, MediaWiki does have forum templates, and "skins" are available for customizing and getting away from the horrid MonoBook template of Wikipedia and other generic wiki sites. https://bluespice.com/top-10-mediawiki-skins/
WikiFab, for instance, is a site that has similar uses to ours and uses a variant of the "Chameleon" skin to personalize it. (Their "community" (forum) page is less in the forefront than I think this organization would want ours to be, but looks pretty nice from a quick glance.)

http://wikifab.org/wiki/Accueil

I think that were this group to create an attractive site with resources that were searchable, it might attract visits for something other than that for which this current site cannot compete with other social media venues.
Philip F.
Zone 8 / Sunset Zn 30 (Austin, TX -- formerly New Orleans, LA)

Don
Posts: 1921
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 7:00 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73404Post Don
Tue Oct 26, 2021 3:45 pm

>> Their "community" (forum) page is less in the forefront than I think this organization would want ours to be, but looks pretty nice from a quick glance.

Their "community" page would suit a discussion format, of a sort, but what content do we have that would belong in the wiki format?
What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

philip_la
Posts: 1098
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:28 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73409Post philip_la
Tue Oct 26, 2021 8:14 pm

Well, that was actually my original point. If members could create/edit pages based on knowledge or from information gleaned in discussions, I wondered if that might be a draw to the site.

One of the things *I* personally wished for this site in the past was the ability to search and find more organized information from discussions rather than weeding through a half dozen threads each with dozens of posts just to try and glean a little information from the experience of others on one single topic. (Usually I ultimately ended up asking again, which might not have been a bad thing as it generated new discussions...)

Heck, if the forum topics pertained to information worth putting into a database alone, that would prompt some interesting discussions, IMHO.

I have no idea if it's viable nor would get enough input to be remotely warranted -- particularly in view of the already decreased participation -- but consolidating the research and experiences of others into a more refined database, my thinking went, could be a *draw* to anybody researching anything having to do with others experiences.

The reality, of course, is that some of my favorite databases have fallen by the wayside for lack of use. (Rogers Roses, for instance, had roses species organized taxonomically with photos, which at one juncture influenced my thinking on the species I would like to acquire. Wikispecies is clunky, and HMF doesn't really organize species hierarchically.) I don't know, for sure that a database by and for breeders could work alongside HMF and other sites, but thought it worth suggesting and discussing.

Of course, I also have no idea how absurd of an undertaking it would be to create, nor if the uploading of images or other things folks are critical about here, would be any less cumbersome...

Again, just an idea I was throwing out for discussion...
Philip F.
Zone 8 / Sunset Zn 30 (Austin, TX -- formerly New Orleans, LA)

bvanderhoek
Posts: 171
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:19 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73410Post bvanderhoek
Tue Oct 26, 2021 11:33 pm

Here's a web forum I visit from time to time for aquarium plant information. As a planted aquarium novice, I find it an easy website to navigate to find the answers I need.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/

roseseek
Posts: 5297
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:54 pm
Location: Zone 9b Central California, Sunset Zone 15

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73411Post roseseek
Tue Oct 26, 2021 11:42 pm

That feels much like it uses the National Gardening Association platform. https://garden.org/forums/view/roses/
Kim
California Central Coast
USDA Zone 9b
Sunset Zone 15
Cooler inland coastal valley with strong marine influence

Don
Posts: 1921
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 7:00 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73414Post Don
Wed Oct 27, 2021 1:55 am

Talk about a niche hobby.

>> As a planted aquarium novice, I find it an easy website to navigate to find the answers I need.

The messageboard is technically pretty conventional but is broken out into 18 categories of discussion plus another 10 for commercial and retail sales.

>> That feels much like it uses the National Gardening Association platform. https://garden.org/forums/view/roses/

I have a couple of thoughts about the NGA website.

First, having had no idea that the NGA website exists, it seems like a I see familiar names among the members of the Rose group. Given the scope of the website and broad adoption by rose people would it be unreasonable to explore consolidation of the RHA with the NGA? The American Rose Society never had anything like this as a web presence and they are a shadow presence now so I don't see any conflict in that regard.

Second, a look under the hood shows that the NGA is using a custom tailored website built with components from Bootstrap, https://getbootstrap.com/. Bootstrap is very fancy stuff and offers a myriad of features and functions but it's a box of parts rather than a finished product. There are a lot of custom themes offered through the Bootstrap website. While some of the themes they offer do have a very Facebook-looking chat feature I did not see any that had a proper forum built in. There do seem to be a lot of independent tailors out there selling forums of various sorts built with Bootstrap components. I note, however that the "Community" discussion board that the developers of Bootstrap use themselves (link at the bottom of getbootstrap.com home page) is a Discourse board hosted at github, https://github.com/twbs/bootstrap/discussions.
What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

roseseek
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Location: Zone 9b Central California, Sunset Zone 15

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73416Post roseseek
Wed Oct 27, 2021 2:07 am

It may work to enhance the RHA...or not. I infrequently visit the NGA and only mentioned it as the aquarium site reminded me of it. As a discussion forum, I prefer Garden Web (the old edition rather than the HOUZZ version, though they appear similar but HOUZZ is HORRIBLE).
Kim
California Central Coast
USDA Zone 9b
Sunset Zone 15
Cooler inland coastal valley with strong marine influence

Don
Posts: 1921
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 7:00 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73417Post Don
Wed Oct 27, 2021 2:26 am

Succession is a significant concern for online talk shops. I remember the sense of loss I felt when the old Vine sites got subsumed (by Yahoo, or AOL maybe?). Likewise with the old Rootsweb genealogy sites having been slowly assimilated into Ancestry.com.

However, those were ventures that lacked institutional support and were operated for profit. We have nothing of material value to offer so are not a target for takeover. On the other hand we could evaporate pretty easily.

>> As a discussion forum, I prefer Garden Web (the old edition rather than the HOUZZ version, though they appear similar but HOUZZ is HORRIBLE).

What about them did you like?
What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

roseseek
Posts: 5297
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:54 pm
Location: Zone 9b Central California, Sunset Zone 15

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73418Post roseseek
Wed Oct 27, 2021 2:42 am

"What about them did you like?"

There weren't the constant HOUZZ ads and continuous HOUZZ forum glitches. I realize someone has to pay for the forum. If we don't, then WE are the "product". I simply HATE HOUZZ and the shoddy way they run it. Getting things fixed there is as impossible as it is on Facebook.
Kim
California Central Coast
USDA Zone 9b
Sunset Zone 15
Cooler inland coastal valley with strong marine influence

henry kuska
Posts: 1118
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:06 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73421Post henry kuska
Wed Oct 27, 2021 4:30 pm

Why not make the RHA a sub unit of the American Rose Society?

rikuhelin1
Posts: 417
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2016 7:56 pm

Re: What can be done to improve forum engagement?

Post: # 73422Post rikuhelin1
Wed Oct 27, 2021 5:31 pm

I vote stay independent and “loose”. A personal preference.

All imo ….

Stay away from rigid, rigorous hierarchical organizations - they become atrophied and rarely can not become relevant or re-invent re-fresh themselves without first imploding.

Updating the site is good - what menu / options no opinion on.

If you split into groups l suspect shrinkage of the parts (low traffic).

Logging the knowledge is a great idea but how to do out threads l am not sure is doable.

The key for me is a viable wide ranging self sustaining core group people ready and willing to answer or opine (with respect) to drop-ins questions or show and tell, or digress into other horticulture hybridizing topics. It worked on me.

Maybe mission statement refocus as “Roses and As Such Hybridizers Association”.

Kidding about “As Such” but helps me think l get my opinion across.
Riku

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