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Cleaning up our subforum list

Discussion in 'About This Site' started by Forest, Oct 30, 2014.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Everyone,

    I just wanted to give people a heads up that in the coming days I'm going to work on combining some of our subforums to make the forum easier to use and more intuitive for newcomers.

    Right now we have four whole subforums about our nonprofit. They are:
    All four of them have so few posts that people visit them only very rarely. When I post in one of them, I feel like I am sending my post off to die of neglect.... :( It is really just very hard to get a conversation going in a subforum with little traffic.

    Because the subforums with less traffic are located low down in our subforum list, I think that many people simply just don't bother going down to the subforums that far down on the page. As a result, posts in those subforums just don't get seen by a large proportion of our visitors. Further, when they do get seen, the threads are already fairly stale, so why bother replying.

    Combining these four subforums will result in a subforum that is still very easy to keep on top of, but which holds more interest. It will also give people one place to post all threads directly related to our nonprofit, keeping things simple.

    Another subforum that isn't getting adequate views is our "off-topic" subforum. Often people post threads in the General Discussion Subforum that really should go in the "Community Off Topic" subforum. To be honest, I can't blame them, though, because that is where the people are! Forums are about connecting with people and if there are no people in a given subforum, why bother posting? For this reason, I plan on combining the Community Off Topic subforum with the Laughter is the Best Medicine subforum to give people a single place to go for their off topic and fun posts. With the traffic being higher, people will be much more likely to post.

    Of course, we want people to be able to find the funny threads easily and quickly, because they are a lot of fun. This will be made possible by more extensive use of what are called "prefixes." Prefixes are the colorful labels like you see on the Ask A TMS Therapist posts that say "Alan G" or "Dan L." If you click on a prefix, you can get a listing of all of the threads in a particular subforum with that same prefix. For example, here's a listing of all of the threads with the "Alan G" prefix in the Ask A TMS Therapist subforum:

    This might not make sense now, but with some careful writing and customizations, we can make it more intuitive and easy to use, so that people will start using prefix listings without even thinking of it. We'll do this with the tutorials as well, but it will take some time to set it all up.

    So far this reduces the number of subforums from an unwieldy 17 to a somewhat more manageable 13. However, there are still a number of subforums with very low traffic that could be combined into another subforum (or into different subforums). The key would be to carefully use prefixes and prefix listings so that people can easily find the content they are interested in.

    These subforums would be:
    We would make special prefixes to correspond with each of these old subforums and provide special links so that you wouldn't lose access to the views that you are used to (it may take one or two additional clicks to find them).

    All told, we will slim down from 16 subforums to a much more manageable 10. Then we can collect more data and see how people respond. If people seem to like it, we can always go farther, but only time will tell.

    Any thoughts on all of this? I don't expect people to necessarily love it at first, since the old system is comfortable, but when I look at the usage patterns from our Analytics data, the change seems pretty necessary.
  2. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest, you are da man! I am confident that whatever changes need to take place will only increase the ease and accessibility of this site. I am SO not a tech person and I stand in awe of your administration and techno brilliance. tiphata
    mike2014, Colly, yb44 and 1 other person like this.
  3. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I must be in the minority but I tend to hit the link for All Recent Threads rather than going through each sub forum although I can understand why people who want support, for instance, will zero in on the support sub forum. I do really appreciate the use of prefixes though. These tend to stand out more. Just my two pence worth.:rolleyes:

    And what North Star said...
    mike2014 and Ellen like this.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I use the All Recent Threads link, too, but I visit often. If I hadn't been here for awhile, it would be hard to sift through everything that way.

    I know whatever changes Forest makes will be well thought through, and only make things even better.
    Colly likes this.
  5. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi everyone, I just wanted to give people a heads-up that there was a fairly protracted medical issue in my family (plus the holidays), so I had to put this project on the back burner. However, I'm going to start picking it back up again.

    In general, when a subforum is removed, it's contents will be given a special "prefix" before they are merged into another forum. You can see how I did this with the "All The Rage" subforum. By clicking on that prefix from some views, you can view all of the threads that had been in the forum:
    Details on which views you can click from can be found in the thread announcing the removal of that forum.

    In general, to reduce the number of forums in order to keep the forums useful (this is important for less frequent visitors) we will be using more prefixes rather than subforums.
  6. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Looks easy and super sensible, Forest! Can there be an ISTDP prefix, too? I hope your family issue has resolved.

    YB44 and Ellen, thanks for the reminder about just pushing All Recent Threads.

    Love this forum and anything that strengthens it is fine with me.
  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Okay, I've made a lot of progress in the last several days and am almost done. I'm going to have to take another break soon on the project, though, as I've got a lot of work at the moment and need to focus on other things. I'm leaning toward keeping the research subforum separate for the the moment for reasons that I will go into when I have more time to start the project back up. In the meantime, I'll try to do some work to make the prefixes more intuitive and easier to use. This will be an ongoing effort, though.

    How much sense do the prefixes make? Do you see yourselves becoming more comfortable with them? In the long term, I'm thinking of integrating a clickable list of official prefixes either into a quick navigation page or into the forum main page. In the interim, I'm leaning towards integrating a clickable list into the FAQ page, which I've been putting some work into recently. I'd love your feedback, but I think it will be hard to give before you see the clickable list on the FAQ page, but the buttons in the clickable list will be like this one:
    It's clickable, so try clicking on it if so inclined.

    Thanks for your support, everyone!

    How about an ISTDP tag? Here's the link:

    The difference between tags and prefixes might be a bit confusing, so let me say this. In some sense a forum is just a mess of threads - about 5500 threads in our case. We use subforums, prefixes, and tags to organize them and make them more useful. Subforums are the most important because they are the most visible.

    Prefixes and tags are similar, but prefixes have a disadvantage that that they seem more tied to a specific subforum. For example, when you click on a prefix in the thread listing in the General Discussion Subforum, it finds all of the threads with the "Parts Therapy" prefix in that subforum. Unfortunately, it wouldn't find any threads with the parts therapy prefix in the Support Subforum. But what if there are great threads about Parts Therapy from the Support Subforum?

    Tags don't have this problem. Right now I'm trying to just use prefixes when I might otherwise make a subforum, as prefixes almost seem to be like a "sub-subforum" - for example when you don't want to quite make a subforum and separate out the threads completely, a prefix will work.

    Tags also have big benefits for search engine optimization, so that people who don't know about TMS can find out about it because of the tags. In the long term, I hope to invest more in tags because I think they will be very valuable for both the users and for search engine optimization.

    Whenever you start a new thread, you can choose the tags for that thread. Likewise, if you are logged in and look at the bottom of this thread or any other thread, you'll see that you can edit the tags in the thread. There are 242 tags to choose from and I am always happy to make new tags. Unfortunately, to choose tags you just have to type the tag that you want and see if it's an option. With 242 tags, though, you're likely to find what you want (or I can make a new one). Like I said, though, I'm eager to make new tags, too.

    The list of the top 100 tags on our site is here:
    I don't talk about the tags much because there aren't that many threads that have been tagged yet and I don't want to make a big fuss about it and have people decide that it wasn't a useful feature. I'd love it if people just started using the system, though.
  8. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    As always, Forest, thanks for the information and all you do to keep this Forum the wonderful and informative place that it is.

    I didn't know I could edit the tags. I will now pay more attention to this.

    I'm glad that you are thinking of how to combine some of the sub-forums, because all my mind can seem to do is think of more to add. :) I'm thinking it would be useful to have one called "Advocacy" where we can discuss ideas and activities to spread the word about TMS.
  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

  10. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wow! That is very cool.
    Forest likes this.

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