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TOPIC: Forums and Communities

Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 09:51 #12768

I would like to discuss the technology behind this site a bit, to see how or if stuff needs to be tweaked to maximize its utility.

As you know, this site is run on open source software and, significantly, the site data is entirely within a database that I control. Data ownership, to me, is very, very important. What has me vexed is Google+ Communities, of which Buddhist Geeks is the most visible to us. Russell pointed out to me this morning that Dharma Overground has also started a community, and that has caused me to revisit the community (non-forum) part of our site.

I notice, for example, that pretty much nobody uses it. If someone wants to share something that they would put on their timeline in Facebook, for example, they (instead) create a forum topic here. That makes me cringe a bit, and I have to wonder: why? I recently (and silently) removed forum updates from the activity stream, because it was being littered with "thank you" and "reply" notifications that were quite redundant, thinking that with the reduced noise, shared stuff would be more visible. But nobody noticed, let alone took advantage of it.

The threaded discussions are clearly the bread-and-butter of this site, but I did envision a community too. And with things like hangouts and other events,, we do dabble in non-forum activities that, clearly, would be equally well (if not better) served by Google+. Make no mistake, I am not planning on jumping onto Google+ all the way any time soon. But if we do some hybrid thing to help with hangouts, for example, I do wonder what else might become redundant. That said, to force everyone to have a Google account just to participate here is not that appealing to me, but maybe that's just me.

Those are some of my meandering thoughts this morning. I welcome any input or opinions.
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 10:06 #12769

It does seem like the technology is ever changing, and how I engage with different services changes too. For instance, I don't use twitter actively anymore, but when I did it was mostly to post blog updates and to retweet stuff from friends that was amusing or related to their own blog updates. On Facebook I appreciate the superficiality - mostly there's tweets about what people are eating, or pictures of pets. Sometimes people post rants about politics, etc. I use it mostly as light social contact with extended family and friends from home, though sometimes I'll link to a blog post I've done, or post an inspirational quote from something I'm reading.

Here and on another spirituality forum I visit regularly I either post my random journal stuff, or practice related thoughts.

I use Google plus very infrequently, but when I do I use it more like I did Twitter - posting notification that I have changed something on my blog or website.

And then there's the Google hangouts, which I think are very fun, engaging and beneficial.

So each of these services, for me, seems to cover a slightly different "pie slice" of my social world, addressed to the small group of people who are also participating, and geared towards what's relevant to that group.

Given the problems at KFD, i would not want this deeper forum discussion to be hosted on a service where we don't own and control access.

Perhaps one of the challenges here is growing this community - as others have pointed out, there is always a very small proportion of participants who actually participate, the rest lurk. And for a new sub-community to form (such as a subforum just on Zen, or just on Christian practice) there has to be a core of active and experienced participants who will lead it - ie it might form around a teacher, or an existing practice community, or something controversial that makes people want to rant and rave a lot. Leaderless communities online seem to never get very active, or lose focus, or have a poor quality of conversation.

Just more ponders, no clear ideas.... Good topic.
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 10:19 #12770

I brought this up to Tom, simply because when we have tried to put together a Hangout, it is a bit cumbersome and clunky to get the people who want to be involved to the right place at the right time. We post a forum topic to get the time situated, then post an 'event' here and let people say if they are attending, which they usually already have done in the forum topic. Then we have to make sure we are in peoples G+ circles, add them to a "hangout circle" to send the invite, and then hope everything works out. There has to be a way to streamline this and make it less redundant. So, there are the 'Events' that could maybe somehow be tied to G+ Communities instead of through this site.

There is also the ability to group chat (instant messaging) if we were so inclined. Tom has this on the site now, but no one uses it, so I don't know if that would even be useful. Forum-wise - I don't think a good thing like this should be messed with :)
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 11:32 #12771

I tend not to use chat on Google or Facebook either - if someone pings me, I prefer to move the chat to skype.
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 12:34 #12772

Tom, why not call this message board a community? It is to me. I belong and have belonged to many messaging systems over the years and the participants have always thought of themselves as communities. I'm just curious as it seems the definition of the word has changed due to technological changes.

Message boards are deep as online experiences go and the connection I get from other people on them is likewise deeper and more lasting than, oh, Facebook conversations or Twitter comments, or even Google+.
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 13:25 #12773

Tom Otvos wrote:
The threaded discussions are clearly the bread-and-butter of this site, but I did envision a community too.

When you envision a community, Tom, what comes to mind? What's in your vision of a community that isn't present here?
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 15:44 #12778

Just a note on the chat room. I check it anytime I'm online but no one is ever there or using it and I personally find that to be a bummer. I was addicted to the old AOL chat rooms back in the day and had a lot of fun banter there. This of course has a classier vibe to it than AOL chat rooms, which adds to it's potential benefit. I'd like to see it taken advantage of.
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Forums and Communities 21 Jun 2013 19:25 #12781

I use the thread posts and occasionally the chat function. Have used hangouts once but hope to be on more. My limitation is the time zone difference to most people on this community so reading comments after the fact etc. Chat is good but I probably would need to get to know people better before bothering them with chit chat. Chat room here is a bit confusing - it says people are there but it doesn't show me who they are or what room they are in.
Teacher based rooms could be good but that then gets into a service type approach which would have to be formally agreed on with people who teach and some limited access to students so it wasn't a 'free for all'. So without building in lots of extra functionality at extra time and cost presumably, i think this site works pretty well Tom.
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Forums and Communities 22 Jun 2013 00:58 #12783

Duane, regarding the chat room, I think it highly unlikely that someone would just be "hanging out" there. I think the intent for such a small place as this is that you would initially just chat with a single person using the direct chat, but that if you saw a couple of people online and wanted to have an impromptu group chat you would all agree to go into one of the rooms and continue there. I have certainly used the direct chat a bunch of times, so next time you feel like you want to chat with someone, check out who is online and hit them up.

That said, one of the issues regarding real-time stuff like that, and why this place really thrives on the forums, is that we are widely separated in space and time, and so the indirect discussions offered by the forums are obviously well matched.
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Forums and Communities 22 Jun 2013 01:09 #12784

andy wrote:
Tom Otvos wrote:
The threaded discussions are clearly the bread-and-butter of this site, but I did envision a community too.

When you envision a community, Tom, what comes to mind? What's in your vision of a community that isn't present here?

Andy and Chris,

We are indeed using different definitions of "community", and I am very much referring to the technical one that is synonymous with "social network". Yes Chris, this place is a community of interesting people that share a common interest. It can't get more "community" than that. But I was specifically referring to the other features of this site that one would expect from a "social networking site", of which Facebook (for better or worse) is the model. Sharing, profiles, "walls", that kind of stuff.

To Russell's point, I also had a long talk with Ona today, and I am going to try and streamline the Hangout process a bit more, and work on cleaning up the Activity Stream a bit, and maybe I'll be happier. It seems I am the only one who is feeling any sort of angst anyhow. Sorry to rock the boat.
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Forums and Communities 22 Jun 2013 04:57 #12786

I actually wouldn't mind the Profile section being a little more flexible, customizable or appropriate to our needs. It's got a big section for contact info like address & phone, but that's fairly irrelevant for an online international group of meditators. A place where we can list our own sites (tumblr, blog, websites, etc etc) would be useful - many people have multiple online presences like that. A place to link to our GoodReads account (several of us are using that, and it shows what book you are reading now). A place to list favorite other dharma sites we like, favorite music, what I'm listening to now.

I suppose some of this might be the kind of stuff the activity stream is intended for. The thing I dislike about activity streams (such as on Facebook or Twitter, too) is that they are so momentary. How many times I try to re-find a link someone posted on Facebook last week... it's hardly worth the effort to try. So I tend to be a fan of more static presentations of that sort of stuff.

Just throwing ideas around....
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Forums and Communities 22 Jun 2013 10:09 #12789

Ona, I can easily extend the profile section, and will do so this weekend. As to the activity stream, yes, it is ephemeral and I think that is the point of the "status update". I get your point about sharing a link, though, and I guess it would be up to the sharer to decide how best to share something. In our favour, the activity stream is likely to be far less busy than on FB, due to our size, and I think it actually might work really well.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Ona Kiser

Forums and Communities 22 Jun 2013 19:32 #12807

I have enhanced the profile pages to include some of what Ona was requesting. Give it a spin if you like...note that you only need to fill in whatever you like, and only what you fill in will be visible.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Ona Kiser
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