suggestion for forum software

6:41 p.m. on August 14, 2007 (EDT)
1,407 reviewer rep
1,340 forum posts

I read through some of the suggestions here, and there were responses saying things along the lines of "we're considering working on that". The replies imply this is home-grown software requiring customization for some of the things people requested (like email when a posting is updated, or inserting pictures in posts, etc).

My suggestion is that it might be easier to switch to a commercial forum package like vBulletin. That one, at least, isn't very expensive, it's widely used so people are familiar with how it works, and it includes the kinds of things being requested here.

Just a suggestion :).

My other suggestion would be to advertise this forum somehow to develop a larger user base. It seems like most of the questions are answered by the same few individuals :).

These aren't intended to be criticism, they're really just suggestions :).

1:50 p.m. on August 15, 2007 (EDT)
331 reviewer rep
979 forum posts

Thanks for taking the time to put together these suggestions. To answer your first question, yes, nearly everything you see on Traispace, including the forum software, is home-grown.

Several years ago we considered switching to a commercial or open source package for the forums, but ultimately found that none of them were going to allow us to do all the things we wanted to. While it's not obvious on the front end, the forum software is pretty tightly tied into other parts of the site, including the gear reviews, blog, news articles, etc.

Although we haven't (yet) taken full advantage of it in terms of features available on the site, the backend databases have been designed to facilitate rich connections between related content. So, for example, your forum post about choosing a stove could eventually be automatically linked to reviews, specs, and descriptions of the stoves people have mentioned. Likewise, product detail pages could link back to relevant discussions in the forum. (A lot of valuable discussion currently gets somewhat lost and forgotten once it's pushed of the first page of the forum.) Those are the sort of things that we wouldn't be able to do with something like vBulletin, and we'd also be stuck with a lot of overhead for features that we don't necessarily want of need.

So, we've forgone some forum bells and whistles and significant ease of development in order to create a purpose-built system that will ultimately provide a richer, more integrated and purpose-specific experience than some piece of off-the-shelf software.

You mentioned email and pictures. Email notifications is something I'll be working on as soon as we get the newsletter done this afternoon, and picture-posting in some form is on the list as well. We're planning to make major upgrades this fall to the forums and other user-centric features (such as picture posting, email alerts, rss feeds, enhanced user profiles, etc.) If you have additional feature requests -- e.g. features from vBulletin that you'd find useful here -- definitely let us know, either here or in Alicia's recent call for ideas:

I'd also love to hear any thoughts you might have about how to increase participation by a broader cross-section of the user base.

12:18 a.m. on August 16, 2007 (EDT)
1,407 reviewer rep
1,340 forum posts

Dave, thank you for your detailed reply I know how the "build or buy" thought process can go. It sounds like you've put a lot of thought into the design - that's great!

As for my "wish list' of features, I think Geo summed it up well in the "what features would you like" thread:

Upload photo's to posts capability.
Email notification on 'watched' threads.
'Homepage' in profile.
Small Avatar/pic on postings.

To that, I'd add a few:
- richer profiles
- more comprehensive forum search capability
- ability to edit old posts/reviews/etc (it seems after some time has passed, we can't edit them anymore)

As far as generating more traffic goes... in thinking about how I found the site, it wasn't easy. I did a bunch of different searches, errr, "googles", for things like "hiking forum", "backpacking forum", etc. Eventually one of my searches turned up The obvious searches like those I just listed didn't turn it up.

Maybe something like Google Adwords would help?

I wonder if companies like REI, EMS, Any Mountain, Moosejaw, etc. would arrange some kind of deal with you to provide links from their sites. It could be mutually beneficial - it would provide traffic for you, and a way for their customers to read real reviews of their products.

Just a thought...

Anyway, the site is nicely done, and it seems like a great group here so far, so I'm looking forward to seeing it take off. The great things about forums like this is the ability to get varied opinions and hear different experiences, to enable us to form our own conclusions.

10:30 a.m. on August 21, 2007 (EDT)
331 reviewer rep
979 forum posts

Thanks for the additional ideas...that's just the sort of stuff we're looking for.

One note on editing: At this point there is a two-hour window during which you can edit your posts and reviews. This should be long enough to fix typos, clarify points, etc., but not so long that somebody can come back in and change a post to the point where replies no longer make sense or vital information is removed from a thread.

12:28 p.m. on August 21, 2007 (EDT)
1,407 reviewer rep
1,340 forum posts

OK, Dave, I see your point about the edit feature. I often think of things later that I want to go back and add or change. But I can do that as a new post too.

January 16, 2017
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