FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby setrofim » Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:59 am

FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Motivation

Ever since the reincarnation of the forum after months of being down, we're not getting nearly the same traffic the old forum used to. In particular, the sub-forums that deal with specialist programming topics are seeing very little use. This marginalises their benefits and increases the relative weight of their costs. Therefore, I submit this FEP (Forum Enhancement Proposal) for consideration by the admins and other members of the forum.

Problem

In short, we have too many sub-forums. This that mods have to constantly direct users to post in the appropriate forum. This takes up mods' valuable time (which is already taxed by protecting us from the ever-looming wave of spam). It also discourages new members as they feel like they are being reprimanded for not following some arbitrary rule when all they want is to get some help.

Proposed Solution

Get rid of "GUI", "Game Development", "Networking" and "Web Development" sub-forums, merging their existing content into "General Coding Help". I haven't included "Project Euler" in this because, to my mind, it is different as it deals with a specific set of problems and lies somewhere between "coding help" and "in depth discussion". Though given that we've had no real posts in it, maybe it should be ixnay'd as well.

Arguments Against the Proposed Solution

The following arguments may be presented in opposition to this proposal:
  1. Sub-forums facilitate getting specialist help by filtering relevant posts (e.g. those not qualified to give help with GUI development can just ignore "GUI" forum).
  2. We have the "Read This First" topic that explains how to use the sub-forums.
  3. They make it easier to search for help with specific topics by providing logical sub categories within which to search.
  4. They encourage posting more in-depth questions.
  5. They make a good place for topic-specific stickies.
  6. They make the forum look more substantial.

Most of these can be addressed by pointing out the fact that we simply don't get enough traffic to justify the segregation. If, at some point in the future, this changes, we can always re-add the sections (e.g. we suddenly start getting a lot of web-related posts).

To address specific arguments:
  1. People often post in an inappropriate forum, which defeats the point.
  2. Yeah, but lets be honest, nobody actually reads that before posting.
  3. There is a search box in top right corner that conveniently searches for what you need. And most people use Google rather than browsing posts anyway.
  4. Possibly, but the flip side is that people post questions that too in-depth (e.g. networking questions not related to Python).
  5. True, but we also have the tutorials sub-forum .
  6. Not really. Plus, if we remove those sub-forums, the remaining sections will fit on one screen without needing to scroll down.

Some Unnecessary Data to Further My Point

Note: the following numbers were accurate at the time of writing; obviously, they may be different by the time you read this.

This is the summary of all topics/posts for each sub-forum:
Code: Select all
General Discussions   51  251
Tutorials             26   91
Completed Scripts     15   29
Jobs                   2    2
General Coding Help  108  607
GUI                    9   29
Game Development       4    4
Networking             2    4
Web Development        4   17
Project Euler          1    1
Suggestions            7   47
Bar                   13   98

Total                242 1180


The four sub-forums this proposal suggests are removed contain 19 topics and 54 posts or only 7.8% and 4.6% of total posts respectively (Of those, the majority are in 'GUI', which out of the four has the strongest case for existing).

Conclusion

The superfluous sub-forums exert a cost in terms of maintenance overhead and baffling and detracting potential new members. We should therefor "optimize" them out of the forum.

Thoughts?


P.S. In case it's not clear, the format of this post is intended to be taken with tongue stuck firmly in cheek :) (but the underlying proposal is genuine).

P.P.S. Yes, I get bored at work...
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby ichabod801 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:51 pm

My thinking is that this is probably a temporary slow period. We've only been back up since what, February? If we remove some of the forums now, things might pick up and we might want those forums back in a few more months.

It's not that I'm against adjusting the forum design to fit the traffic flow. It's just that the statistician in me thinks we have a small sample size and should collect more data. And if we do redesign them we should look at splitting forums as well as combining/eliminating them.
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby setrofim » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:01 pm

ichabod801 wrote:My thinking is that this is probably a temporary slow period. We've only been back up since what, February? If we remove some of the forums now, things might pick up and we might want those forums back in a few more months.

True, but is it that much effort to combine/add new forums? (Genuine question -- I have no idea how phpBB works and what's involved). Also, in my experience "temporary slow periods" tend to last longer than one expects. Reverse network effect applies here -- the less posts are on the forum, the less likely it is to come up in Google search results, the less likely it is that new members come to the forum to generate new posts. I suppose, pro-active posts like tutorials and complete scripts help remedy that.

ichabod801 wrote:It's not that I'm against adjusting the forum design to fit the traffic flow. It's just that the statistician in me thinks we have a small sample size and should collect more data. And if we do redesign them we should look at splitting forums as well as combining/eliminating them.

Agreed. Hey, we could be scientific about it and A/B test this :mrgreen: .
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby ichabod801 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:24 pm

Another thought I had was about the general forums we have (General Discussions and General Coding Help). If there's a general cateogry people may post there instead of the specific category, making the specific categories seem light. I know we've gotten game development and web applications in the general coding help. But on the other hand lots of specific categories will result in more posts in the wrong area.

It would be instructional (and probably not that hard) to code some keywords for every thread in the forums. Then you could analyze the frequencies and relationships to inform a redesign of the categories. Hmmm, I may get to work on that this weekend...
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby micseydel » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:40 pm

For the most point, I don't much care about this either way. I don't read code with GUI stuff here (which isn't a problem for well-written, modular code, even though that isn't necessary what we get....) The GUI section is great for in that regard, usually.

Also, this forum is supposed to be temporary, and we're supposed to have a Python one instead of PHP at some point, and we might be able to do the "suggest to a different part of the forum" thing, I'm not sure that phpBB can do that.
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby jkbbwr » Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:43 am

Im saying no. Because in about 10 days the forum should be filled with original posts from the backup. This will both use the specialist topic sub forums and increase google search traffic thus making python-forum.org more popular
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby setrofim » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:26 pm

jkbbwr wrote:in about 10 days the forum should be filled with original posts from the backup

Ah ok, I didn't realise this was happining. That of course renders my arguments invalid. Therefore I withdraw the proposal.

One question: what is going to happend to duplicate accounts when the old ones are restored?
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Re: FEP 1: Streamlining of Specialist Topic Sub-forums

Postby micseydel » Sat Mar 23, 2013 8:48 pm

setrofim wrote:One question: what is going to happend to duplicate accounts when the old ones are restored?

I would assume, since he'll have the old database backup and can make a backup of the current system, that he could write a script to merge things. If he doesn't want to do it, I'll happily volunteer to do so.
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