Over the past couple of weeks, apart from cleaning all the forums by removing over 50,000 spam posts and eliminating problem accounts, I have had a few good conversations with some TF members who have all agreed with the idea that if TalkFreelance is to have a shot at existence in the modern web, radical changes are a given.
I am not going to delve into a lengthy explanation of what was discussed however. If I were just to summarize, the way people interact and seek help today is dramatically different from 10 years ago. Take even the most popular forums - most of them have been going through a decline. A forum as a platform has moved on to a combination of various things. Yes, social is still an engine, but the way information is digested has evolved. We need to get there.
I have outlined a 3 step plan that will require very heavy changes early on through transition. I am not involving members participation at this point for a couple of reasons: (a) it will take unnecessarily long to gather enough actionable feedback, and (b) big changes will still be required regardless. So I've decided to jump straight into it hoping for the best.
One of these steps will require migration to a completely new platform. After reviewing dozens of applications, software such as VanillaForums, Discourse, XenForo (2.0), Burning Board, Flarum, NodeBB are more in line with the way people communicate and search for information today. Certainly not all of these apps are ready for primetime, but at least they are give access to some of the features that are in line with today's trends:
- single sign-on integration opportunity;
- better visibility of quality content and top contributors;
- choice of reputation methods and built-in award badges;
- socially-driven profiles (build a following of your own within a community);
- post editing with active member username mentions, auto-embedding, drag and drop uploading and auto-saved drafts;
- threaded private messaging conversations;
- easy content discovery with a wide range of filters and tags.
The two under serious consideration at this time are Vanilla and Discourse. I am personally leaning towards the latter.
One of the other steps will impact the membership model itself. Not to cause any panic, I can assure you that if you have an active account in good standing - it is safe. However, certain things I'd rather not talk about in public just yet. If you'd like to hear a little more, you are welcome to contact me in private.
Unfortunately that is all that I can share with you for now. Might not appear like much, yet it signifies a ton of work that I'd be tackling in the next few weeks.