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Selfish Heathen
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
2019-06-02, 13:16

I'm just now catching up on this thread... forgive me while I rehash things for a moment just to throw my belated opinions into the mix.

I'd agree with several sentiments here about the reasons behind "death of the forums". To repeat and maybe add a few more thoughts:
  • Apple in general just isn't exciting any more. The company doesn't innovate or compete like it used to; it's in a safe, stable period instead of one that was more exciting, fluctuating, and growing.
  • We don't have a lead-in like ThinkSecret or any "head content".
  • The "open" social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are much more accessible since they are practically universal hubs and anyone can create a group/platform/voice for an audience. They have taken over and dominated the space that a lot of self-hosted, privately-maintained forums like AppleNova once filled.
  • There are far more numerous, more active, and more technically savvy (in terms of SEO) sites out-competing us for the random Google search visitors. This includes aforementioned social media platforms.
  • At some point, the fall in activity became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fewer things being discussed means fewer reasons to reply and fewer reasons to return, and the cycle repeats until it's the whimpering heartbeat we have today.

What brought this forum together (going all the way back to the AppleInsider days) was the common interest in Apple and the technology world around it. Sure, there's always been (and sometimes more fervor in) the non-Apple discussions, but the Apple seed was always at the core of the audience. But today? If I were to speculate, I suspect most of us that are still here are here simply because we have a shared history and familiarity. It feels like old college buddies meeting up for beers every once in a while. Those personal connections are something that is really hard to scale for growth; it can't effectively be the foundation of new membership growth. There has to be a cohesive and interesting theme underlying it.

That brings us to the idea of getting into the article-publishing game everyone is talking about now.

Yes, it's true that waaaaaay back in the early days Jack, Gargoyle, and I toyed around with integrating the forums with a CMS (Mambo, RIP) or creating a new one from scratch. We had something working at some point, but we had a big problem: nobody really wanted to write quality, article-style content.

Has that changed? We're really talking about the people in this thread stepping up and volunteering to come up with and produce regular content for general audiences. We'd also need people here to *cough* spam *cough* share links on the aforementioned social media platforms (in a way that isn't obviously spam) in order for the content to actually drive new visitors.

Originally Posted by drewprops
Creating compelling, unique, consistently published content is a job.
I couldn't say it better myself, but it bears repeating. It's easy to underestimate the effort required there. Companies have dedicated teams of people on salaries or contract to do this kind of thing.

I'd be willing to put up a fresh install of something like WordPress and slap some CSS on it if people are honestly saying they will step up to the plate and take a swing. Talking about general subjects is a start, but who here is ready to write?

I'm sorry to say that at least *I* am not. It's not that I don't think that this is a clever idea, but I just don't have the time nor the mindset to get into long-form writing nowadays.

Side note:

Now that I think about it, there's a whole other can of worms to be opened if we do see a real uptick in traffic. We're running an ancient version of the vBulletin software. Last I checked, even though I have/had a paid license, it's so old that my account has been deprecated or lost, and I couldn't even get in to download the final patch version of our release. So, we are probably riddled with security holes that I just don't even know about. The risk of someone exploiting a vulnerability in vB (or my custom server setup) is by far the thing that has worried me the most about keeping this site running for the long haul.

At some point I would need to look at migrating the forums to something else. I honestly don't know what that is. Over the years, I've occasionally looked into open source platforms (phpBB, Vanilla) or dropping $250 to upgrade vB itself. On top of that, of course, any data migration (even just to the latest vB) is going to be a lot of back-end work both to get the data shuffled and to re-skin the thing to look and feel anything like the current forums.

Most recently I have actually been thinking about when the right time would be just to close the forums. So, this thread is actually rather timely for me. It's not something I would do overnight or without discussing with everyone here, but I've considered that if/when that day came, I would keep the forums in a static read-only mode with a sticky note somewhere to send people somewhere else entirely. The AppleNova subreddit that Drew snagged a few years ago is the first next destination that keeps coming to my mind. Closing the forums and redirecting visitors is a last resort, of course, but it's a solution that gets the technical maintenance, looming security risks, and tangible costs ($30/month currently) off my plate.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.