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Sunday, April 8th, 2012 08:57 pm
Wiki editing is fun and a fannish activity like any other. Sharing and discussing what we love is part of what we do as fans, and there are many fans who might love Fanlore if they had the chance to get to know the wiki and the community surrounding it. Right now doing that on Fanlore is difficult for people new to wiki editing, and even experienced editors sometimes feel alone in what they are doing.

Therefore, there is one thing we hope to get off the ground this year, and it’s one many of you have asked for: a wiki forum.

It could be a place where people:

- introduce themselves / get to know one another / chat informally
- ask questions about wiki editing, and answer one anothers’ questions
- collaborate/brainstorm on and squee about wiki pages
- ask questions about Fanlore policies, and receive answers from Fanlore Wiki Committee members
- find previously answered questions without having to de-lurk

Since late last term, there have also been discussions within the OTW (our parent organization) about establishing public org-wide forums and how to incorporate the desired Fanlore forum into that structure. But rather than wait on org-wide forums, we thought Fanlore could more quickly and easily set up a forum hosted by a third party.

Currently, we are looking at Vanilla Forums for hosting. It has several advantages: you could sign in with other accounts (twitter, google, fb), we could have a custom domain name, and we would be able to move it to our own servers without losing content if we needed to. Most importantly, it appears to be the only viable option for accessible forum software, but if someone familiar with accessibility issues can offer alternative suggestions, please let us know.

Once we have a Fanlore forum, we might be able to add other OTW spaces (for example an AO3 forum) to the existing account at a later date.

Now we want to hear from you:

- What do you hope to see in a forum? What would make you want to use it? (What would put you off from using it?)
- Which topics and threads would you like to have?
- Some ideas: FAQ, introduction thread, compilation of talk page discussions, pages in progress, announcements, news, fannish history discussions, suggestions, gardeners, …

At present, the wiki committee doesn’t have experience setting up or running a forum, so input from anyone with forum expertise would be appreciated and fans willing to help as a moderator would be welcomed with open arms.

We’re in the early stages of planning, so really, any sort of input is appreciated!
Monday, April 9th, 2012 06:34 am (UTC)
collaborate/brainstorm on and squee about wiki pages
ompilation of talk page discussions
fannish history discussions

All of these would be awesome! Actually, this ties in rather well with an idea that [personal profile] lian and I very briefly mulled over a while ago - a sort of OTW "book club" for discussion about fandom-related books and meta. That notion has been churning around in my head ever since, and now that you mention the above as possible things to do on the Fanlore forums, I wonder if the forums wouldn't be an awesome place to have a "book club" on.

*thinking out loud here* For instance, someone who's read Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet and wants to highlight or discuss some of it could make a forum post about it. People could discuss and/or add their own impressions/ideas/interesting quotes/etc. The Fanlore page for the book could link back to the discussion, and/or someone could summarize the discussion on the Fanlore page. Books without Fanlore pages could have one made by the poster or whoever else feels up for that. In that way, the forum would help generate content for Fanlore, too.

This wouldn't have to be limited to books, of course. Any sort of meta/anything with a Fanlore page would be up for grabs. There's the talk pages for discussing articles right now, but those really aren't ideal for this sort of thing: they're not very visible, and participating isn't easy for new people. Ideally, this sort of "book club"-ish fun chatting-about-meta thing would turn into a lasting resource for people who don't want to delurk but are interested in finding new fandom-related reading material. Having everything on a forum with lots of topics, a semblance of organization, and easy participation via twitter/google/fb could make a huge difference in making these chats about Fanlore content into a great resource.

It could also turn into a Help location for people who are looking for a certain kind of meta can ask for recs (e.g. "Looking for something in English on Taiwanese fandom please" or "The list of legal analysis articles on Fanlore is damn long, can someone tell me which of those talks about legal issue X?"). Or where people who want to read something but can't find it because it's out of print or behind an institutional paywall can get help.

Establishing the Fanlore forums as a discussion space for wiki pages, talk page discussions, fannish history discussions, suggestions and so on, like you suggest, could also help Fanlore tie in more effectively with the other resource-building efforts of the OTW -like the vidding and TWC bibliographies. I bet a lot of people don't even know about those, and they contain great stuff that could inspire a lot of Fanlore content. And and... Ahem. Sorry. I got into Fanlore fairly recently and am full of joy and enthusiasm.

Glancing at the features page of Vanilla Forums, I think the following functionality would be nice:

-Some forum things I keep missing in other non-forum places where good discussion goes on, like on DW or LJ, or the volunteer forums: bumping of threads with new replies, users sigs (seems like you can even turn their visibility off in VF, which many people will probably like) and of course icons.
-Badges, hell yeah. I would want ALL the badges.
-Giving users the chance to flag spam and trolling for the mods sounds really cool.
-Is it possible to have some kind of threading of replies to a certain comment? I guess not, but even without that, VF looks like it has a lot of neat communication functionality (like the User Mentions thing that alerts people when they're mentioned, or the Q&A thing).
Monday, April 9th, 2012 10:22 am (UTC)
You mean, sort of like "book club" / fanfic club" / "AMV club" /"podfic club"? I find the goals of the club idea a little fuzzy though -- if the aim is to generate content for Fanlore, then that would shape the discussion differently than if it was just all free-form or for knowledge generation (e.g. if we had a book club on "PHP for Dummies".) I'm also not sure how pertintent "prompting" is for Fanlore -- sort of, generating "fresh" opinion specifically for compiling into an article vs. documenting what occurs "naturally"/unprompted (b/c with the latter you ghave sampling bias, but with the former you have like... selection bias?). So I really believe the primary goal of the book club needs to be made clear -- I still think it's a great idea, I'm just not sure if it isn't a bit too general for Fanlore forums specifically.

Now on to take a closer look at Vanilla Forums :)

Monday, April 9th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
Nah, what I was thinking of is mainly that I really want a place to chat with people about fandom-related meta ;) Seriously. I read/gather so many books and articles and meta posts all the time, tweeting and bookmarking and annotating and whatnot, and I see other people doing the same, and yet so much of all that is fleeting and hard to recover for others who might benefit from, say, hearing about the latest legal analysis re:fic. What I tweet is off the radar in a minute, what I save on Zotero is findable for academics but not for other fans, and so on. And so much of it is just broadcasting when discussions would be a lot more fun (and useful for all). I think it would be great if we could make a space for discussing meta (books to whatnot) that's more accessible and easily searched than, for instance, a personal DW journal. Given that Fanlore is pretty much based on talking about fandom and making a resource that's accessible for as many people as possibly, no matter what platforms they're used to using, it feels like a really good fit for that kind of meta-related discussion to me.

And the nice thing about forums is that they preserve discussions in a lovely searchable way, meaning that as people have fun chatting and solving each other's problems, they end up making a lasting resource for others. Generating inspiration for Fanlore content definitely wouldn't be a primary aim, just a happy by-product in some cases. (As for prompting vs. documenting what occurs naturally - I'm not sure it matters where the inspiration for an article comes from?)

But yeah, if we're making a discussion space, we'd have to know what people would want to discuss before randomly making up things about what's off topic and what isn't. Because I also want to talk about how to learn PHP. I have an old copy of "PHP for Dummies", actually, but it didn't stick. Anyway, the goal of the book club should definitely be made clearer, but I do think it could fall within the realm of Fanlore-the-resource-on-fandom very nicely. And we don't have to start out huge or anything.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:47 pm (UTC)
That sounds as if it would lend itself well to a subforum then -- but one I think could also be migrated to a "general" OTW area once (heh, being optimistic) those are added, with a tie-in back to Fanlore.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 11:05 am (UTC)
- I'm not really a fan of threaded replies in forum threads. If that is an option, I'd suggest finding out if there's an option for users to mark their preference between threaded replies or flat view. I've been on forums where that's possible and it's a godsend. Everyone's happy.

- I definitely like the "read new posts" (or whatever Vanilla's equivalent is -- I know it's possible because it's there on the AllHipHop.com forums) feature in forums. I know it's something lots of forum-goers use to see quickly what replies are new without having to go through individual subforums. Although I suppose this depends on whether or not the Fanlore forums will have subforums... Subforums might be something to keep in mind depending on the types of topics and sections you want to address and cover.

And for those who happen to be reading this, here are two forums that use Vanilla:

Just in case anyone is like me and finds live examples more useful to look at than a list of features.
Edited (shouldn't be typing when I'm not awake, apparently) 2012-04-09 02:21 pm (UTC)
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
Definitely useful! I've been looking for optional views (flat/threaded etc.) but I think this is probably a plugin. And there's not list for plugins, meh. On the other hand, it offers free trial, so I imagine if ppl decided to give Vanilla forums a spin, we could review the plugin/features list in more detail then.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm an avid forum user, so this is great news!

- What do you hope to see in a forum? What would make you want to use it? (What would put you off from using it?)

* I like to be able to switch between several design styles. inkstone posted two links to forums that use Vanilla, and one is a prime example for the a forum design I would avoid like the plague. ;) Most forum software offers several layout options, especially if you have to pay for them.

* "mark all read" link

* I'm not a big fan of threaded topics either, so I hope there would be a possibility to choose a flat display.

* Bumping threads, having a visible indication of new replies in a thread, stuff like that which makes it easier to organize and follow threads.

* Icons! ♥

- Which topics and threads would you like to have?

I guess a basic separation between chit chat and focused work would be good. Since Fanlore covers a lot of areas, I would use subforums to structure the forum better and to make finding things easier. Subforums could be: introduction & announcements, collaborations & WIPs (i.e. projects in progress), technical questions (code, formatting...), content related questions, suggestions & ideas, fan history, unrelated chit chat (sometimes lovingly called "Spamboard" *grin*), admin forum... That's what I can think of from the top of my head.

To me, very important would be a sticky thread with a brief list for newbies (and not so new, but occasional editors) with links to help and information. Something like:
- What is Fanlore, what belongs here?
- First Steps on Fanlore.
- How to get help.
- Creating a page: Text.
- Creating a page: Images.
- Creating a page: Categories.
- etc.

Those links could either lead to other topics where in an introductory way Fanlore and its way of working is explained to the new members (for example how categories work, why they are structured the way they are etc.), or to the respective pages on Fanlore itself. What I was missing immensely when I started to hang around was a structured, easy to find and brief list of helpful links and stuff (even later on I always had to have a bunch of tabs open for various codes and infos while writing a page).

The infos I got on the main page and the portal page didn't really help me, because they were presented in a way alien to me (i.e. in Wiki style). They were already part of something I had not yet made connection to. I'm not sure, how to explain it, but some people (me included) need simpler indexes to make quickly sense of a new structure, just the key words, not entire walls of texts (those come later on ;)).

This index, if it proves to be helpful, could also find its way to the main page, perhaps in a differently colored table so it's really obvious that This Is The Help.

Ahhhh, very excited about this!
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
I like your subforum suggestions! At the very least, I definitely agree that there needs to be a separation between focused work and chit chat. One of the reasons why I wanted a forum was because I wanted a centralized location for discussing specific work (creating/editing/sprucing up articles, for example) and it would just irritate me to have those threads mixed in with random chit chat.

(Heh! At the forums I haunt, it's usually called Off-Topic or The Water Cooler.)

I also second your suggestion for a FAQ-type sticky for newbies (and anyone who needs them for reference). I definitely agree that the info on the wiki itself was not useful to me when I was starting out and if I hadn't had another editor to walk me through things, I certainly wouldn't have caught on as quickly as I did.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
At the forums I haunt, it's usually called Off-Topic or The Water Cooler.
Hm, Off Topic is a bit dry, and Water Cooler for a place to chat is a term/association many people probably aren't familiar with. (At least, I wasn't. At the work places I have been where water coolers had been installed, they never served a communicative purpose. People just filled up their water bottles and went back to their work. In my work culture it would be a coffee or tea kitchen where people meet and chat.)

I'm in favour of having a non-related chat forum, because that's often the place where connections happen easier and quicker, helping to build the community.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, I definitely agree there should be a non-related chat section/subforum just because if you don't have one, those threads will take over the entire forum. /wry That's what's happened in my experience anyway.
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Yes to a non-related chat forum. "Off Topic" sounds familiar to me for that sort of thing, but a water cooler as a place to chat isn't an association that I make easily, either. (Also a coffee/tea kitchen culture person.)
Sunday, June 17th, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
Hey inkstone,

I definitely agree that the info on the wiki itself was not useful to me when I was starting out and if I hadn't had another editor to walk me through things, I certainly wouldn't have caught on as quickly as I did.

I was just wondering if you could tell, what kind of info you were looking for and what do you think there should have been so you it would've been helpful to you? Like what is missing and what is "must" in there?
Edited 2012-06-17 06:22 pm (UTC)
Saturday, April 14th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC)
It's the Penny Arcade one, but not because of the color scheme. My browser window is pretty large and having a forum that takes the space of almost the entire window width is hard to read. I usually read the topic title (on the left) and who posted last (on the right) so if I want to quickly skim over the recently posted list I get a bit crossed-eyed. The entire middle of the page is basically wasted space that could be better wasted left and right from the forum. ;)
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
I've been reading the Vanilla page in detail and looked at example forums; so far, it definitely looks good. If everyone agreed to go with it, I'd be interested in what users say about its gamification aspects. I'd be cautiously in favour, but editing cred doesn't equal forums cred, so it's sort of unhelpful. (sort of like: MPH posts little on forums, but edits ALL the pages; I post a lot, but edit nothing. Then I get lots of forums-based badges that...don't say anything about my editing prowess.

On the other hand, from what I've read, you can definitely make custom badges; so, potentially, you could introduce "no. of edits" as a value that one can input and get a badge for. (whee XD)

Same with reaction buttons to forums comments: You can customize those as well, like enable only specific "reactions" buttons.

But I digress -- I just think it's an interesting aspect of this particular software.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not too sure about the gamification aspects. I've been on (and modded) forums where your user title changed depending on how many posts you've made (like "Newbie" would be 0-9 posts, "Testing the Waters" would be 10-25, etc), which is fine for a standalone forum. But if it's a forum that's meant to support something else (like a wiki), it might just encourage participation on the forum and not on the wiki itself! It might be something to consider anyway.

Do you happen to know what exactly do them mean by reaction buttons? If it's "Report spam/abuse," that's pretty common. I've been on a couple forums where you could also add "karma" to a user if you found a post of their particularly useful. If you accumulate a certain number of points, it allowed you access to locked/private subforums. (It was a way of measuring whether or not you were trustworthy.) But I'm not sure the latter is necessary here.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
This blog post makes the concept clearer, I think; the "reactions" feature seems to be specific to Vanilla, while "badges" are more or less what you describe. But I'd be very interested in learning how badges can be customized to reflect off-forums data, too, which would be most relevant in Fanlore's case.

Hm, maybe time to go and lurk the help forums while I'm still stuck & bored at work :P

ETA: Actually! it makes much more sense to look at the *software* page rather than the *hosting business* siute to learn about features: http://vanillaforums.org/docs
Edited (new link!) 2012-04-09 03:28 pm (UTC)
Monday, April 9th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link! That does make it a lot clearer. Ok, I'm familiar with the reactions feature then, though it was called something else on the particular forum I'm thinking of. Actually, now that I think about it, it's sort of a combination of the reputation feature on some forums and the comment promotion on certain blogs. Interesting. I don't know if that's something pertinent to Fanlore/OTW's needs though.

I definitely agree it'd be nice if badges could be customized to reflect something like wiki edits.

(haha, good use of work time! ;) )
Friday, April 20th, 2012 08:23 am (UTC)
I only now followed the first link and read about the like/dislike/greying comments out aspect and I admit, I'm torn about that. I know this mechanic from gamer blogs and websites where the primary reason for the community is to get relevant information out. In that context, and considering the big group of children and teenage boys/girls in online gaming communities, greying out trolls is a welcome and often necessary thing. However, for a forum of mature people this kind of cencorship isn't needed, in my opinion, and only distracts from the flow of a thread. I'd prefer to decide for myself, if a comment is worth reading or what weight it has in the context of a discussion.

I do like the idea of awarding badges according to Fanore edits though.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
One thought: will the forums replace the Talk pages. We use the Talk pages to discuss (and debate) issues on a specific page. I can imagine a lot of this type of specific chat moving over to the Forums which will make it less transparent and harder to access and find from the Wiki. One idea is to request that if anyone does start a chat about a specific page, is that they add a link to the thread/topic on the forum on the Talk page. That way people wandering through the Wiki will know where to find the reasons behind some of the changes (and possibly voice additional thoughts).

The other way to handle this is to have a policy were rather than using the Forums as the place to discuss and decide the content, we use it as a place to ask for help: ex: "I need help on the Vidshow page. Please join me there." Personally, this would appeal to me as I know people have made request for hep on Talk pages but those requests get buried under the steam of Recent Edits.
Monday, April 9th, 2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
One idea is to request that if anyone does start a chat about a specific page, is that they add a link to the thread/topic on the forum on the Talk page.

That would be a good idea. It will probably balance itself out: some people prefering the forum to discuss (and a link on the talk page refering to that discussion), others will prefer the talk page (and a link on the forum, if they asked for input, will refer the reader to that page). Not sure, if making it "either... or..." would be a good solution.

ETA: However, if the forum is moved to a different place in the future, for example to become part of an OTW forum, that would mean a lot of broken links on the talk pages. In which case it would be better to use the forum only as a means to raise awareness to a certain talk page, but keep the discussion on said page.

Child of ETA: In fact, it would be sufficient to only have one sticky thread on the forum - something like "Talk Page Alert" - where anyone in need of an opinion can post a link to the respective talk page.

This wouldn't change the fact, that should discussions derive from the initial issue on the talk page which are then done on the forum, there should be a way to ensure that respective links on the talk page ("A side discussion on this has emerged on the forum here (insert link).") won't break, should the forum be moved at some point later. I'm not sure, if or how that could be done at all other than to place the forum software on a long-term server from the beginning and plan not to move (i.e. include possible growth on this forum (OTW, other projects) instead of moving to a new place to merge).

If this is not possible, then that would mean there can be no linking to the forum from Fanlore other than to place the main link to show visitors the way to the forum.
Edited 2012-04-10 11:20 am (UTC)
Friday, April 20th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC)
That sounds good! No obstacle then for a tighter connection between Fanlore and forum.
Thursday, April 12th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
Some introduction and quick help for new fanlore people would be great. The PR from OTW is very attractive, but I'm sure people are stumped once they follow the link about what to do *next*. A link to a beginners subforum would be great.
Thursday, May 17th, 2012 11:23 am (UTC)
It strikes me that something like this might be very useful when one wants to alert people to a situation. For a few days at the beginning of May, I was frantically busy (see this page on my LJ blog (http://greerwatson.livejournal.com/12449.html)); but I still had enough sense of responsibility vis-à-vis fandom at large that I wanted to tell folks at Fanlore that FortuneCity had gone down on the 1st of May, taking quite a lot of fan sites with it. However, I couldn't figure out the best way to do this. It didn't seem quite page-specific enough for "Attention: Gardeners"; but contacting the board seemed more appropriate to policy issues.

Hence this post, if you see what I mean.

I've made a page List of FortuneCity Fansites (http://fanlore.org/wiki/List_of_FortuneCity_Fansites) so that they can be documented, with their URLs. However, no one else has added anything to it. How does one get the word out?

When GeoCities disappeared, there was quite a lot of prior publicity. People got worried, and had various little projects to preserve info about them. FortuneCity has just...vanished.

Right at the moment, it is still possible to do a site search on Google ("site:fortunecity.com FANDOM"), and at least come up with the names of sites so that they can be hunted down later on the Wayback Machine. You can even look at cached pages, where they exist—though sadly, about a week ago, someone purged all the cached graphics (which means the pages only have text, plus blank rectangles where graphics used to be). Still, for the moment, one can at least locate them, sort them by fandom, and get their addresses for further reference.

In a few months, all the cached pages will be gone; and a Google search will no longer be possible.

See, that's where a forum would come in really handy!
Thursday, May 17th, 2012 03:02 pm (UTC)
For now this is the perfect place to bring up these issues and ask for help. and there is also the gardeners mailing list where you can raise issues and ask questions.

I'll link to your post at my LJ. My thinking is this: we pull together a list of fandoms on a Google spreadsheet. We each take one fandom and using the Google search function, grab the first...5? pages of search results and add the URLs to the Fortune City Fanlore page.

I'll cross-post this to the Gardeners mailing list.
Friday, May 18th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Or I could do it for you if you'd rather.

Please. I'm on LJ but not DW, so I can't start posts.