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Other forum sites
For the arguments in Appropedia:Forums#How is this different from other forums? to be convincing, someone would have to search for other potentially suitable forum sites, evaluate them, and find them wanting. My naive initial guess would be that given the large number of other existing forum sites on the Web, there should be at least one of them that has all (or sufficiently many of) the properties Appropedia needs. For example, I just randomly Googled and found SustainabilityForum.com, which "is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License."
Comments on specific desired criteria for a forum we can use:
- "Focused on building a knowledge resource."
- "Focusing" any site has the side effect of making it smaller and excluding some participants, who want to do things that fall outside the focus. I don't understand what would be the problem with using an already existing forum site that happens to have a somewhat broader focus. Surely the people who want to build a knowledge resource could do that within a subset of a forum that has other uses besides. Also, the focus of any online collaboration tends to evolve over time, as the community itself gradually figures out what it wants to do. Limiting the focus ahead of time may not be realistic - the focus will depend on factors we do not entirely control, such as who shows up and decides to participate.
- "Open licensed."
- With a trivial effort I already found one existing forum that is open licensed. Perhaps there are more within the sustainability community, or more whose operators could be persuaded to open license them.
- "A place for Appropedians to get to know each other and inspire each other."
- I don't see how our ability to know and capacity to inspire each other would be different on our own forum vs. on some of the existing forum sites. Plus Appropedians already have Appropedia on which to inspire each other.
- "Somewhere where we don't have to constantly explain why something belongs on a wiki page - because we're talking with people who "get it"."
- I don't get this argument. We don't have to constantly explain anything - we only have to document something once, and thereafter link to it by shortcut. As a general rule, any time we find ourselves explaining something more than once, we should write a manual page for it, and assign a shortcut link to it. That's what the Wikipedia community does to save vast amounts of time while grappling with the Eternal September problem. (As long as people remember to display shortcuts as links rather than as unlinked gibberish codes.)
- If we limit the forum to people who "get it", that contradicts the stated purpose for the forum, which is to make participation more accessible to people who do not "get it" ("it" being Appropedia's MediaWiki markup, and the whole complex idea of a wiki with all its rules).
In short, I'm not seeing a convincing argument here against using one or more of the existing sustainability or appropriate technology forum sites. I do, however, see arguments in favor of using an existing forum:
- Eliminates the technical labor of selecting, setting up and maintaining our own forum software, and training users to use it. Someone else is already taking care of that nasty job. Instead we can focus on what we know how to do that other people do not.
- Eliminates the need to recruit our own user base - an established forum already has a user base.
- Synergy and serendipity - by going to other forum sites, we may find people who want to do more than have throwaway forum discussions, and we can tell them about building collaborative content on Appropedia. Or tell them passively by linking to Appropedia content in our forum posts.
As a general observation, I think it is inadvisable to keep generating ideas faster than we can implement ideas. It takes only a few minutes to think of tasks that would take person-years to complete. We can keep writing to-do lists that get longer forever. Someone must have the discipline to prioritize all the wish lists, and attack items in decreasing order of priority. When arguing for or against any particular to-do item, one must consider its opportunity cost. Spending our time on one thing means we cannot use that time to do anything else. Thus if we set up our own forum site, we would have to be able to say the gains from having our own forum instead of simply using the existing forum sites would exceed the gains from anything else we could do with our limited resources. Have we shown that to be true? --Teratornis 15:27, 15 May 2011 (PDT)
- Just a quick note - you commented somewhere that the principle of "making a successful new wiki is hard" will also apply to forums. This is absolutely true (though I'd say no as hard, especially for an existing project).
- If we go ahead with this, it needs to be done properly - with planning and commitment from a numner of people. I've been reading a bunch about online communities and finding it very helpful.
- As you mention, we've got a bunch of ideas backed up, so I think a higher priority is getting other important tech tasks done, and building a tech team - both of which are making progress. This perspective has delayed any forum launch significantly, IMO... but I'll revisit your comments later (& also see if anyone else wants to comment - RichardF has done so). --Chriswaterguy 08:02, 16 May 2011 (PDT)
Improved discussions within the wiki
See Appropedia:Discussion development#Options (just updated). I hadn't looked at this for a while, but there are some interesting options now.
The DPLforum extension as used on Wikia is looking much nicer than last time I looked, and it's had a lot of use on Central Wikia's forum. It felt ugly and clunky before - neither fish nor fowl - but now I'm liking it. And it has a key forum feature I really like - conversations sorted by latest activity.
If we go with DPLforum (creating a "Forum:" namespace for the Village Pump & any other forums we want) it won't be as full-featured as dedicated forum software (phpBB, Vanilla...) but it would be within our wiki platform, it would be edited in the same way as any wiki page, helping to familiarize newbies with the wiki. Thoughts? --Chriswaterguy 11:37, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
- Another possibility would be to look into how MediaWikiWidgets Iframe could be used to frame any discussion board. That approach could be used for the Blogs: as well. Going the other way, perhaps Wordpress, or something like it could be used to create the main Appropedia.org frame structure that holds tabbed pages for the wiki, blog, forum, etc. --RichardF 17:00, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
- p.s. I tried to add the widget to test it out, but I was shooed away from WidgetSpace. :-) RichardF 17:35, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
- Richard, interesting extension - I can see how that would be very useful in a few ways.
- Using our own forum via iFrame doesn't have some of the advantages of DPLforum (native MediaWiki without an external platform; wiki editing; ease people into wiki editing; forum posts searchable within the wiki and part of the category system). So DPLforum is still my (new) favorite.
- But for displaying another forum where Appropedians might want to contribute, for organizations wanting to display their own site, and no doubt other uses as well, Iframe widget looks great.
- I created Widget:Iframe - please test! If you want to experiment more with MediaWikiWidgets, sign up to whatissustainability dot org (our dev site). I have user rights management rights there, and can give you access to Widgets. If you want to edit Widget space here (& I don't see why not) then Lonny will need to do it. It's a separate user right from adminship. --Chriswaterguy 02:31, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
- Thanks, I'll give it a go. I also started a more general discussion about "framing" Appropedia subsites at Integrating Appropedia subsites. From the perspective of that general approach, any forum software could be implemented as the Appropedia subsite application. --RichardF 09:29, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
- With transclusion, we need to address the security aspects. We can leave it aside for now - it only becomes an issue if and when we have a platform which is external to the wiki that we want to integrate in this way. Now... what is the platform that best serves the needs of Appropedia and Appropedians?
- I'm very interested in hearing reactions to Central Wikia's wiki-based forum. --Chriswaterguy 11:36, 26 May 2011 (PDT)
- Structurally, this appears to be a one-forum forum -- Community Central. Conceptually, that structure would be inadequate to me. A "typical" forum structure would allow for categories (big groupings) of multiple forums (collections of topics). If the discussion is limited to wiki topics, then I see no real need for an external forum. If the forum scope goes beyond the wiki, then a one-forum limit (wiki) doesn't cut it. The mechanism of the posts being entered in wiki style is moot after that for me. --RichardF 17:04, 26 May 2011 (PDT)
- Looking around, it looks like we can have sub-forums: Campaign Wikia forums. That's important - we'd want a few sub-forums, to allow for topic discussions, help, and wiki issues (categorization, structure, templates...). I think an "Off-topic" forum would be good as well (in part because it would help keep other forums "on-topic"). --Chriswaterguy 11:32, 27 May 2011 (PDT)
- Subforums definitely make a positive difference. I don't consider "off-wiki" and "off-topic" to be the same. The blog, other foundation projects and the foundation itself are "off-wiki" but not "off-topic" when the foundation defines the scope of the forum. And who knows what types of "off-topic" topics will eventually turn themselve into "on-topic" topics?! ;-) --RichardF 12:28, 27 May 2011 (PDT)
Hi I am in the middle of creating a template which allows you to create a form for example
I am in the middle of adding more but I have added first name and last name I am adding more