State of the Forums

October 8, 2009 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

We launched discussion forums earlier this year, and I think the time has come to evaluate how well they are working and what we need to improve. I’d like to start with two theses:

  1. We are absolutely thrilled with our community, the support that everyone provides on our site, and the answers that people are getting to their problems every day.
  2. We believe that the software we’ve provided the community to interact with is fundamentally broken.

Before I talk about what’s wrong with the software, I’d like to talk a little bit about the success we’ve seen. Here are some interesting numbers:

  • Including posts in search results has increased forum pageviews by over 100%.
  • Since we launched forums not that long ago, 1,405 different people have posted more than 1,100 threads and over 3,400 posts
  • While forum traffic pales in comparison to the number of views we get on repair guides and teardowns, the degree of interaction is a couple orders of magnitude higher.

Our top six contributors, ordered by post count, are:

Fun fact: Sarabian has posted 3 times more posts than I have.

There is no doubt in my mind that these discussions are an invaluable resource to thousands of people. I’d like to personally thank everyone who has contributed thus far. Everyone involved is helping keep devices out of the landfill by making them work longer. Awesome work, everyone.

So why do I think the forums are broken? The number one reason is that forums (all forum software, not just ours) are designed to facilitate discussions, but our community is really using the forums as a way to ask questions. This makes perfect sense! We’re all trying to fix something. This issue is exacerbated when forum posts come up in our search results. There isn’t a good way to differentiate in search results whether a forum post has been answered or not. Thread titles are often ambiguous (a recent title read “Apple iPod”), adding no value to the post. The likelihood of a positive outcome of a topic like that is very low.

Other times, the text within a forum post can offer very little information as to what the real problem is. People don’t always address a specific problem — we’ve seen more than one “My Ipod is broken. How do I fix it?” post since the forums have materialized. And there have been a couple of even more ambiguous “My laptop broke.” posts that quickly faded into obscurity within the deep void of our forums.

OK, so there are some issues with the tools we’ve given the community. What are we going to do about it? Something big.

I will save the details of what we’re working on for another post, but I can tell you that we completely scrapped our existing forums and started from scratch. What we are building will revolutionize how the world communicates repair knowledge.

If you want to be on the bleeding edge, we will be accepting a limited number of people to to stress-test our new application on an invite-only basis soon.

1 Comment

  1. Just wanted to say hello someplace. Found http://www.google.com/ncr – you guys through google. Hope to contribute more soon!
    -Selisligue

    Comment by Selisligue — March 19, 2010 @ 5:43 pm


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