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Author Topic: BBBB and the Future  (Read 10640 times)
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Zarniwoop
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« on: 03 March 2012, 13:49:31 »

Our little corner of the interweb has grown since it started some years ago but like all things on the web it needs nurturing to survive.

With the sterling efforts of a select few we have built up some very interesting areas on the forums but in the last year things have started to tail off. There are still a few people making vital contributions to BBBB but as good as those efforts are they are not in and of themselves enough.

In order to keep a high profile in the search engines and in order to even begin to get to the front page of the those searches when people look for topics we cover we need content and lots of it.

The fact is we get a lot of visits per day but the post count per day is low, coupled with the fact that because we do not post enough, we are not getting any new users who could swell and enhance the community we have built here. The odd few new users we have had unfortunately have mostly been Spammers whom we have had to ban.

The RSSFeeder was put in place to keep a constant level of content pouring into the boards, I have set it to pull in messages from areas of interest on this forum. It will take some time to catch up and therefore slow down the amount of posts but to be honest the level of posting it is achieving is where we should be aiming at as a normal level.

I will always keep this project going but it may wither and die of its own accord despite mine and CrazyFrog's best efforts to breathe life into it.

If someone else has any better ideas on how we can improve the daily use and encourage new people to come and use our site then please feel free to let me or Crayfrog know.  For now though, as far as I can see, the only thing to do is utilise this automated tool to keep posting as it is helping us being scavenged by the webbots thus helping people find us when searching for stuff.



As always I welcome your comments and feedback.  idea
« Last Edit: 03 March 2012, 14:02:12 by Zarniwoop » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 03 March 2012, 15:29:27 »

Well, you asked.
ABC of Building a Successful Forum
Top Ten Secrets to Building a Successful Forum Community

I had a look around some places for suggestions and a few spring to mind as being quite relevant. Mind you, though I've helped run a forum before, I've not been involved in any kind of 'success' on this front. Infact both of the forums I was involved in running are very specifically dead and gone now, so do take this with a hearty pinch of salt. I didn't follow any of this advice, either.

The most important point is to have a niche, and to target it. Numerous articles as above stress this above all else. I feel that right now the Burger Bar is very general. It's a bit of roleplaying stuff, a few Hitchhikers references and a lot of subforums.

They also advise keeping the number of subforums down, so that activity is collected in a small number of places. This makes it easier to find things and makes it look a lot more active. The idea they put forward is that you only start splitting off into the desired subforums when they become necessary, because of the volume of posts.

I would suggest carefully considering majorly consolodating the subforums, removing over-specialisation and redundancy wherever possible. I've no idea what to suggest regarding prioritising a niche, but that could be as simple as re-emphasising what is already here.  

Content is another important point. Forums attached to existing websites will often have a much larger flow of new members, simply because there is more content to bring them. This touches on the RSS feeder issue. Whilst it might help the search-engine-optimisation having a flow of such posts, the RSS news feed posts are all simply sending links outside the forum with a tiny nugget of news attached.
Firstly, as far as I understand it's an inefficient method for Search Engine Optimisation anyway. What you want is links on other peoples websites pointing here, not the other way around.
Secondly while some of the titles are interesting, but I'm not sure it's really the type of content that people seek out.  Look at the number of views and replies the RSS topics get?

If the forum is simplified to three or four areas (not counting things like the group or campaign setting specific subforums) then similarly reducing the number and frequency of the RSS posts might actually increase their value. Specifically, instead of having it post a half dozen over a day, what if it posted one and people actually responded to it, discussing it?
This would be easier if it was posting the actual article rather than just a link, though. Reproducing the content in it's entirety would also increase the likelyhood of inward-facing links. I've no idea if the RSS feeder can be configured to do that, however, but several of the articles I read do suggest something along those lines.
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« Reply #2 on: 03 March 2012, 15:49:09 »

Some thoughts on subforums -
I've had a look, and here's what I propose;
General Discussion - All subforums merged with main.
possibly also merge Events and Conventions section, though I'm unsure of that one.
Alternatively, merely merge Events & conventions subforums with itself, or that plus making it the only subforum of General Discussion.

Now, the gaming section as it stands -
I think this should basically be a single section, or at least three much simpler sections. Collapse Board Games, Minatures and Wargames and Roleplaying's individual subforums into their main section at the very least.
Possibly also merge them into a single forum section.
I'm unsure about Play by Post. I'd probably collapse it into a single section, losing the game specifiic subsections. The question would be whether to have it as a subforum to the general Board & Roleplaying conglomerate, a Subforum to the Roleplaying section, or leave it as at the level it currently is. I suspect that it isn't really active enough to justify the latter, but it's also appropriate to keep it seperate from the rest of what currently makes up the 'Gaming' section.

I've no idea at all what to do with the group specific section. It probably needs auditing, re-organising and archiving where relevant, but I'm not sure entirely where to begin and I think I've spent enough to pooring over this subject for now. Smiley

I'm not sure you'll find any of this useful, or helpful. They're just my thoughts on the subject as they stand here and now.
Make of them what you wish.
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« Reply #3 on: 03 March 2012, 18:29:51 »

I think it all depends on what you personally want out of the website Zarni.
I like to go there and see whats happening with the games in the UK, to this end I mourn the lack of activity in Winchester.
I also like to see what is happening in Burton and read about the variety of games you play.
It's also interesting to see EvilG's wargaming stuff and Too Fat Lardies.
Things I am not interested in is links to things I am not bothered with, I have my own sources, newslinks etc and would be pretty sure they are tailored to my tastes no other geek would want them.

If your goal is to host a popular website then a bunch of gamers organizing a get together and (sometimes) writing up their escapades will always have a marginal audience.
I like coming to the bar regulalrly and see whats going on, if their are no new postings it's not a problem I know there will be again soon.  I normally game twice a month and post our adventure notes (just had a three month hiatus, but should be back in the slot now).  Now seeing all the news feeds pushing out the items from people I know (sometimes figuratively speaking) ticks me off.  I also like reading through our old adventures which stretch back for something like eight years now.

So if the BBBB continues as a bunch of links I have little or no interest in so be it, I won't quit and will continue updating things I write up for our group (as it is a great repository of information for me), but if the links churn out every hour on the hour I will lose any tidbits of information posted by real people and either have to spend more time searching for them or get hacked off and spend less time looking.  I have no desire to out spam the spammer (as I think Snakes has noted before).

And as I am in the USA can honestly say that this is my two cents worth.
« Last Edit: 03 March 2012, 18:45:06 by slug » Logged

...my cold dead fingers. Whats that dear, gaming? no no just going to do some shopping, I may be gone a little while.
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« Reply #4 on: 04 March 2012, 01:22:39 »

I appreciate all the feedback as above all else this is a community, even if only a small one at present.

Here is what I have done....

Firstly I have suspended the BGG and SFX feeds, after taking a hard look at these they add minimal content and require additional admin work to tidy the resultant messages.
I have left the others for now, they do provide relevant information and the posts contain something worth reading.

I have created the "Basement - Filing Cabinet" which I have used as an archive for redundant sections of the forum, thus I have moved my old work Gaming Group and and the Bothellians group sections there as they are unlikely to get any further use but the content is good to keep around.

Whilst I will take a look at the many subforums with an eye to culling unused or unnecessary ones, on the whole the sub-forum structure makes things easier to find. As I, and I am sure you, are aware search functions on the this and other forums are never ideal. If I were to reduce everything to one or two message boards a lot of material will be lost in amongst unrelated topics making it harder for people to contribute to the subjects they are interested in.

The other problem with shrinking down is that moving whole forums higher or lower in the structure is relatively painless and requires minimal admin, merging forums or removing them altogether means moving the individual topics one by one which is a vary laborious task. I could, if I had the skills, possibly automate this more by hitting the SQL database at the backend but if I got anything wrong that could break the forum.

The newer versions of the forum does have mods that allow the user to mask certain boards from the "Latest Posts" and has more functionality but I am finding it increasingly hard to get the time to create a full offline copy of BBBB in order to work the kinks out of upgrading before I take the plunge. At the moment I am using one mod that does not have an updated version for the new SMF, so I would have to wait for that or just accept the loss. The mod posts events here to a google calender that people can use to sync with devices and I use it to link events to the Raiders Guild on BGG.

I will endeavor to post a lot more content myself, I have been deliberately holding back as I did not want BBBB to seem self-indulgent but in doing so I may have added to the stagnation. I would love for the Forum to grow bigger but on the other hand I don't really have a problem with it being a small community at the edge of the interweb (rather fitting really). I'd rather a happy small community sharing their enjoyment of various hobbies, than a huge one that ends up bickering as so often happens on larger forums. This project was started to progress my Old BBS into the internet age, as such the structure and diversity of coverage was to more or less match what I had before.

There is a lot of gaming going on in the Burton area and I would love to read more about the games I am unable to get involved in. In the past I have found it a godsend going over Slug's notes before going to Lefthandrule games as they have served as a good memory jog for events helping to keep the atmosphere of the games going from session to session. The other benefit of having game notes on here is that it will peak other peoples interest who may want to join in existing or future games. The painful reality is that with the best will in the world gaming groups ebb and flow so it is always good to have new people show an interest in order to have an ability to keep on enjoying the games we love.

It is good to know that people care enough to respond with ideas and suggestions and I thank you all for taking that time and effort.
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« Reply #5 on: 04 March 2012, 05:07:55 »

Thank you Zarni, I will also try to get back to my old level of posting but its rather time consuming to create posts containing original content such as more background for my Exalted games & Death Watch games & resurrecting the online sections for the former.  This is not helped by my working an average 60 hour week, being let down by people I do manage to persuade to help out aggravates this, being chief & only working  Admin at Friends of Spirit Games on FB & my generally trying to keep supporting Spirit Games itself particularly with Magic, malifaux & cardfight vanguard .

I love the Burger bar I just wish more people used it for what its for after all a my post rate is only slightly over one a day & if I can manage that anyone can to be honest. So lets get on with contributing to the forum & make measures like the RSS feed less of a problem.


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« Reply #6 on: 04 March 2012, 12:55:44 »

With my 'user' hat on, I do find the RRSFeeder useful as I'm too lazy to browse the other sites looking for the latest info etc, and it has delivered some interesting topics and keeps me up to date with games.  However I do remember that the BGG feed was something I didnt really find that interesting.

As I'm only gaming at Raiders these days, I'm not posting about gaming, but I do enjoy reading others posts especially EvilGinger wargaming and the Two Fat Lardies / Roundwoods world.   However I still watch movies etc so thats something I can do, which makes good practice because reviewing stuff is something I'm poor at.


Always remember reviewing games is a good idea as you can posted them into Spirit Games too and try to win the prizes at Beer n Pretzels. 
1 year I will succeed at this, I just need to wait for the farmyard to stop flying past the window first, lol.

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« Reply #7 on: 12 March 2012, 09:22:56 »

Now that the automated mailer has been running for some time it has caught itself up on all of the RSS feeds it is set to look through. The upshot of this, as I mentioned to individuals, is that the number of daily posts has now dwindled to about 5-6 a day. This level should remain relatively the same.

I know the Recent Posts block, in the past, has been filled with the autoposts but you can always use the "Latest Posts" on the menu above which gives you the last 100 Posts to the Forum (I can always up this if people require) or use the Show unread posts since last visit. link.
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« Reply #8 on: 12 March 2012, 15:42:40 »

I am glad about that as I am certain that the recent posts block being full of RSS posts that this has put off lazy readers however never found it a problem myself as I tend to use the " Show unread posts since my last visit" method which I find quite manageable provided you are not off line for ages as I was recently & have to wade through pages of posts.

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« Reply #9 on: 28 June 2012, 15:41:38 »

I think at this point it's worth sitting back and having a look at how the forums most controversial feature is doing, as it has been running steadily and stabley for a decent period of time now.

Has the RSS feed done what it was intended to do?
Well, that's an easy question to answer once you confirm what it was intended to do.

And there are basically three elements to this.
Quote from: Zarniwoop
In order to keep our web profile high we need content, hopefully useful and interesting, both to enhance the experience for our existing community and to hopefully attract new people to our little corner of the 'tinternet.

The first point is to provide content, useful and interesting content.
Well, it's certainly providing content. Up to a dozen new threads every day, on a wide variety of mostly entertainment subjects and the occaisional Spirit Games related announcement.

The second point would be the raising of the web profile itself. This is harder to adjudicate though I suspect there are tools out there that can do so. It does show up as the first two results when searching for the name, but didn't show up for midlands roleplaying or any variations thereof nor for Hitchhiker's Guide Forum. So, tentatively a mixed success.

The third point is to hopefully attract new members. Does anyone have a list of new members brought in by the RSS feed? Perhaps we should do this scientifically. If you joined the forum, or found the forum in the first place because of the RSS feed's mix of entertainment news and Hobby Links, leave a reply below.
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« Reply #10 on: 28 June 2012, 21:37:29 »

Has the RSS feed done what it was intended to do?

Broadly speaking yes, daily new content and without new content of any kind we are likely to go to the back of a dusty cupboard on the internet. Better would be loads of new content in all of the areas of the forum but this would need more of the userbase to actively post regularly. This is why the Feeder has not been a total success as on it's own it was never going to be enough but without it we would not be where we are.

I have scaled back a lot of what the autoposter does, reducing the number of feeds and the frequency of polling them. The Spirit Games posts for example I stage to hidden boards where I manually edit them into one message otherwise the forum would be flooded with even more posts as each game would be posted on it's own. This does take up a chunk of time but does give me a chance to tidy up the content to make it a bit more human friendly.

Am I interested in every post it makes, probably not but then others may like those and not the ones I do. Which also applies to the general posts on the forum as well which is just the natural order of things.

The second point would be the raising of the web profile itself. This is harder to adjudicate though I suspect there are tools out there that can do so. It does show up as the first two results when searching for the name, but didn't show up for midlands roleplaying or any variations thereof nor for Hitchhiker's Guide Forum. So, tentatively a mixed success.

Search for Midlands Roleplaying and BBBB is on the second page of google (for reference).

The Autopost will not help with every search for that we have to be posting content containing keywords matching that search criteria. This goes back to the earlier point and the reason for the Autopost we need content to be found:

  • Interesting & Relevant posts
  • Posts in the subject areas we cover
  • repeated daily posting adds to the amount of hits for that subject area increasing our chances of being found by people looking for it.

There are numerous companies that will take as much hard earned money as you want to throw at them to allegedly improve your SEO but these are mostly money making schemes or charging you for common sense solutions. The best way is and has always been to have active, ongoing posting of content. Ideally this should be structured to have key phrases used in common searches used in the message conetent. However, we are all human and one can not expect everytime someone posts a message about roleplaying or a board game to phrase their posts in a rigid fashion to make it work better for google. No rather we want people to post messages that other people would like to read and reply to.

Eventually this all adds up to us being crawled more, the subjects we talk about getting higher up the search lists because we are talking about them more.

I can not and do not want to force people to post that is their choice. If people want to join our little community to lurk I have no issues with that. The problem comes if we all do that then this all falls flat. I like the community we have built here and we have thus far avoided the usual internet foibles of forums, keeping everything more or less on a friendly basis. Long may this continue.

If I had a more viable alternative or the activity here increased way beyond its current level I would seriously consider the ongoing usage of autoposting but so far there does not seem to be a more viable option.

We have a decent sized user base here and so far either publicly or privately there has only been a couple of people arguing against the use of the autopost, which means the rest are either not bothered or like some/or all of the content provided. If there is a concensus against it's use then I will of course listen to that, this is not a dictatorship but I also have an opinion.

Thankyou all for your opinions and continued contributions to BBBB I am always willing to listen to ideas/suggestions either publicly or privately if you prefer lets continue to build something here that we can all be proud of.

Best Regards,

Zarniwoop
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« Reply #11 on: 29 June 2012, 00:49:46 »

It's not about consensus or the lack of consensus. It's been running for over a year, do you feel it has acheived it's goal? It's really that simple a question, and one you should think about very seriously.
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« Reply #12 on: 29 June 2012, 12:51:39 »

It's not about consensus or the lack of consensus. It's been running for over a year, do you feel it has acheived it's goal? It's really that simple a question, and one you should think about very seriously.

Simon, with respect I have answered your question at the start of my previous message and thought seriously about my response. Whilst the question may be simple the answer is decidely not and is rather complex.

However, I do not want to bog this down going round in circles on the same point. You have raised some valid points in your original message and I have addressed those in my response.

Going forward we all need to discuss ways in which we can attract more usage of the forum across all apects of its coverage as well as ways to attract new memberships. There is no one-size fits all approach to this, we will need to implement multiple measures for this to be successfull and for this we need help from the wider community on ways this can be achieved.

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« Reply #13 on: 21 April 2013, 18:53:44 »

I have sadly not been posting as much as I should be on here and part of that is the time taken to sort and post the Sprit Games new release posts. Whilst I really want to help support the shop by re-posting the new releases here I am unsure whether it is worth the time and effort to do?

Jamie has done a sterling effort with posting details of the Pathfinder games on the Thurs night sessions, Evilginger is doing a grand job posting the RPG and other Spirit Games events into the calendar as well as posting the interesting Wargaming/miniatures blogs. However, I still would have been interested to hear about the games played at the Wed night sessions, the other boardgames being played on wed night that I am not in Smiley

Still this is old territory and I fear it will not change, it would also be nice to hear from some of the other gaming groups but I suspect most of them do the FacePalm thing. Facepalm is just something that does not interest me, especially as it seems to be becoming a corporate giant with targeted advertising and such. It getting less a social network and more of a market place or advertising billboard.

I will keep trying to post my event blogs, gaming sessions and I will try and get back to doing some more reviews, though again some more from other sources would always be welcome.

 Dont Know I probably need more  Coffee or  Beer or certainly some  help

Till next time...

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« Reply #14 on: 21 April 2013, 19:41:20 »

Here here is all I can say to that

I also apologise for not posting at my usual rate but I have been heavily involved with the moving madness shifting boxes & covering the shop whilst Phil did shop fitting & other move related stuff.

I am even more knackered than normal  Shocked Shocked


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