30 January 2011

Discussion Forum

There has been a huge response in the comments to the last FFAF (60+ comments) and there has been requests before for a discussion forum to be attached to Philofaxy.

So I've done some initial investigations in to this, but before we dive headlong in to having a Forum in addition to the blog, let me first of all layout as I see it, the the upside and the downside of having a discussion forum attached to the blog.
  1. It is possible that the discussion forum would dilute the comments we get on posts on the blog. 
  2. The Philofaxy discussion forum would possibly duplicate the discussion group already in place on the Flickr Group.
  3. The Philofaxy discussion forum would be yet another site to visit, maintain, read etc to keep up to date with all the latest news. 
  4. The Philofaxy discussion forum would be separated in to different categories which would focus the discussion on particular topics (see picture below)
  5. Before you could post on the Philofaxy discussion forum you would have to register with a Username and Password, although 'Guests' would be able to read the Forum. There would not be an easy way of tying the log in to say OpenID or your Google account, it would be completely separate, just as your Skype Account is separate.
  6. There is a risk of spam associated with the Forum, that we currently don't see with the comments. The Philofaxy discussion forum would therefore need some form of moderation and moderators would need to be appointed. 
  7. There would occasionally be duplication on the blog and the forum, for instance announcements about Sales Offers, Roundtable events, Meet ups etc. But the normal blog posts about using your Filofax, or reviews etc should remain on the blog as they are now. 
That all said I do have extensive experience of running Forums on-line so once set up, it's well within my skill base to run the thing. It's just that I've had some bad experiences in running a Forum in the past, hence my caution.

I am also cautious about forcing something on you the readers that might upset the excellent community spirit that we have built up over the last couple of years or more. I'm not predicting that would change, but in a way I'm seeking your approval/support before we add this extra facility.

So here is what it might look like:

Click on the picture to see a full size version of it. The photos section would in fact be just a redirection link to the Philofaxy Flickr Group, I see no point in reinventing that site when it's already working very well. 

All the Categories/Sections can be renamed/amended/reordered and descriptions added, although I think it's fairly straight forward? 

Depending on the response to this idea, if people are mixed in their views I would be happy to put it to a vote on the site to decide on the addition. Or may be a trial of a discussion forum for say a couple of months to see how well it is received, what problems or benefits we gain etc?



  1. Hi Steve (and everyone),
    I think you have outlined the pros and cons very well.

    Personally, I don't see the need to add a discussion page to be honest. There is a lovely, lively, helpful, warm community here, all with usernames we recognise (and relate to, even if we haven't necessarily met). Yes, there were a lot of comments on the last FFAF, but that just adds to this blog I feel, rather than detract. I am still working my way through all the posts and comments on the site since it started and still finding great ideas and lots of information. I wouldn't (personally) want to also be working my way through discussions on a separate site.

    On a less personal note, but with guidance from having moderated a student discussion forum a few years ago, I would hate to see any aspect of the blog diluted by the organisers also having to spend time de-spamming and moderating a discussion board.

    I'm sure some/many might well disagree, but I would prefer the site to stay as it is.

    Thanks Steve, for raising this and for opening up a discussion on it.

  2. Hi Steve - I was one of the people who suggested a blog. My personal experience of forums has been very positive and I have had a lot of pleasure and information from them. This is probably why I would enjoy one. The ones I have used have had a very good vibe - just a bunch of people who want to share a hobby or interest.

    An overriding benefit in my eyes is that content is grouped and therefore it can be easier to find info. For example I'd love a thread discussing the uses everyone puts their filofaxes to - and of course all this content would be in one thread so easy to come back and find again.

    I guess the only thing that will make it really successful will be if there are enough of us wanted to talk to one another.

    I'd love a Philofaxy forum, but am very happy to go with the majority feeling. I love this blog and can't help myself - I have to check it at least three times a day!

  3. Dear Steve as you know I am also an avid Philofaxy fan. However I agree with Amanda on this one. It is easy to find threads by using the search function and the labels tabs and I find going back to archived posts and their associated comments very useful. Personally I would find it more inconvenient to use a forum and when one of my other favourites stopped comments and changed to using forums I found it difficult to keep up and stopped participating.I think the comments add to the blog and a forum will probably detract from that. Although I love the flickr group I rarely find the time to go onto it and this may be the same for others.
    However this is just my two pence. Why don't you do a poll and see what people think?I love checking this blog during mini breaks to see new comments on a post. I won't do that so often with a forum. Somehow it also seems less personal to me. Take care!

  4. I would not want this to change in any way, it is far and away the best blog that I read. It would I think duplicate the Flickr and Yahoo forums, so in short my sentiment is don't fix something that isn't broken.

  5. No forum please. The blog is great as it is.

  6. I am going to agree with a forum being too redundant. I'd much rather use the Discussion forums on Flickr and comment section on this blog... there is enough cross-pollination right now for everyone to get their fix, and I'd rather the contributors for this blog continue to blog instead of spend their time moderating a new forum.

  7. I like the idea but you don't want to spread yourself too thin. I don't see it as dilution, it's more about expansion. As an idea (or a blog) evolves you have to find a way to accommodate it.

    Another alternative is to import a discussion-style comments section (I personally use Disqus on my blog) which encourages conversations and allows you to reply directly to people.

  8. oh goodness please no forum.

    no really, please don't do that.

  9. Hi Steve, Hi Philofaxers,

    I think this blog is just superb, and love it as it is. I think a forum may spoil the connected feeling of friends joining together and reading news about a shared interest, which this blog spot has. Some FFAFs are bound to be larger in contributions than others.

  10. {NAME}.. You are OFF TOPIC... this is the {SUBJECT} area. Please take this to the {SOME OTHER SUBJECT} area.

    No... I like this blog, just the way it is.

  11. Hi all,

    I have to agree that the blog is great the way it is. I also think that a forum might detract from the point of the blog. However, if people would like a discussion based on category, why not try out the Flickr discussion group? I have to admit that I don't use it myself (mainly because I forget it's there), so I don't really know if it is the place for something like that.

    I also agree that time (and talent!) is better spent on writing blog posts rather than moderating forums discussions.

    Just my two cents - I'm good for whatever the majority decides.

  12. I guess I should qualify my comments by saying that I would not like a forum if it took away the content on this blog. If you are spreading yourself too thin, then I'd rather have this blog than a forum.

    I guess I had forgotten about the Flickr and yahoo forums. Perhaps Flickr is the best place for the forum because of it's ability for everyone to share their photos on that platform.

    I have to say I've never been a regular participant of draconian forums - the ones I have been part of have been really nice places to be. One example linked to this Filofax hobby is the Fountain Pen Network which has much discussion about fountain pens, paper, ink and so on. http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/

  13. No forum, please. KISS - keep it super simple ...

  14. I don't want a discussion forum either. The search function of Philofaxy works very well, if I ever need to look up something on a particular subject, I have no troubles finding it. It's even possible to search through Google: I just enter "Philofaxy" together with the subject and the right Philofaxy page pops up. I don't believe a new system could beat this!

  15. I agree with many other commenters. Please, no discussion forum. Let those who are interested use the forums that already exist.

    Browsing the comments on the posts as we do now is much more user friendly, in my opinion.

  16. If there was a way of regular contributors to initiate a blog post, perhaps with a workflow from Steve to approve first? I think that this remove the need for a seperate forum. This would allow more people to start interesting threads of discussion.

  17. @Gareth but isn't that just "guest posting"? I'm sure there could be a facility/contact link where people could be encouraged (more than already) to contact the Philofaxy team with a prospective blog post.

  18. The guest posting is great, and there is also FFAF (which triggered this discussion) so I think there are plenty of ways for people to contribute.
    Perhaps a middle ground would be to have, say, a guest post a week (if there were enough people to write one - maybe put a call out and see how many bite?) plus the FFAF? That would give plenty of voice to people and still maintain the essence of the site - with regular posts by the team and the possibility to comment on them.
    I agree with Jotje - the search facility works well for looking up posts, and the tag-words always allow posts on similar topics to get grouped in a search.

    I know there is a discussion site on Flickr, but I never remember to look at it. I would probably never remember to look at another Philofaxy one and the comments on the main postings would probably get diluted.
    It ain't broke. It doesn't need fixing, IMHO.

    Nice to see what everyone else thinks!

  19. Hi Everyone,
    Firstly thanks for your open and honest opinions and discussions on this subject.

    As you might have guessed from the tone of my original post I am not that keen on the idea of a discussion forum, they have some advantages, but they are heavily outweighed by a lot of disadvantages in our particular case. Yes they do work in some areas, but not all.

    As I indicated I've had both good and bad experiences with moderating and running forums, the worse bit was a 4 hour interview with the local police, because o a complaint they had received about one of the users who turned out to be a policeman!!! Never again... thank you!!

    For my sins I've even been banned from using one particular forum, because I complained about the way it was being run by the moderators... yes they get that bad. Suggest some changes that they don't like so they ban you for life! No, I have better things to do with my life than to play their silly games.

    Yes I would prefer to spend more time on writing and managing the blog than running a discussion forum.

    So, out of the comments:

    1. Guest posts are always welcome, they don't have to be long either, some my own posts are sometimes quite short. So if you can submit any posts to our email address (See About) along with some pictures I'm sure everyone will appreciate your input.

    2. I will endeavour to look at the discussion group on Flickr a bit more and respond a bit more.

    3. The Yahoo Group is still there but not very active, I took that over a few years ago when the previous 'owner' was about to shut it down because they didn't have enough time, it was before I knew Philofaxy existed even!

    4. Nickie mentioned her comments system. Yes that would work, but it looks like it takes up a lot more screen space, so for now I think we should stick with what we have, it's simple and it works.

    5. Don't forget you can subscribe to the posts and comments separately using the RSS feed, this is a great way of always seeing the latest comments without having to revisit several posts or in the case of a forum hop from one topic to another.

    Again thank you for all of your comments. Let us continue as before shall we.


  20. I'm a bit late to the discussion on this, as I was at work.

    I am surprised at the outcome I have to admit! I love Philofaxy and I think the team do a wonderful job. What I struggle with is if I have a question or comment which is not related to a current blog entry, what do I do? Until recently I didn't really feel able to just send Steve something as a contribution, so tried to wait until a Friday so I could post in the FFFA... but then I would forget, or the Friday postings would be on a different topic so I felt I couldn't post as it might appear I was "interrupting" another discussion.

    Also, if someone posts on an old entry, how do I know unless I have subscribed?

    Forums do have their downsides which others have mentioned and I totally agree with.

    Perhaps, if I may suggest, we could have some clarity on whether anyone can send in a suggestion for a post? That might encourage new folks to contribute, ask questions etc.

    Personally I would have liked a forum, but I am just happy Philofaxy exists and we can natter about all things Filo :)


  21. Sorry I am late commenting... but I think that points to the reason why I prefer a blog to forum. I get minimal time on the computer so love reviewing the blog through my google reader (pushed to my phone) and responding when I am near a computer. A forum would be an additional thing to check (I can feel my stress levels rising just thinking about it!).

    Any-thing I need to search for comes up perfectly with the search function and the word cloud thingie (sorry, not technical) and I try and pop back and check comments on the blog.

    LOVE the blog and always happy to read the posts.

  22. Nellie
    Points noted... I will try and think of a suitable topic and day for any questions to be asked and answered, done weekly I would hope this would help most people.

    Some of these Q&A's would also be fed in to our FAQ page.

    But anyone is free to email us any time, if I can't answer your question then I will turn it in to a post normally within a day or two of you emailing us.

    As others have pointed out the search works well, likewise the tag cloud works in bringing together all the associated posts. One small issue some of the earlier posts were not tagged... I'm slowly working my way through them to tag each post, but it does take a while to do....

    Keep commenting with the feedback it's all good stuff and it all helps to make the blog even better.


  23. Its good to know that the guest posting is so open, I didn't realise. I will contribute something.

  24. Also, if people have an "urgent" question or need immediate input, they could post on the Philofaxy facebook page, I suppose?

  25. @Jotje That's a really good point. There is also a "discussion" tab on the Philofaxy FB page so any urgent requests/discussions could go there. It could also encourage Philofaxy members to go and join over on FB too. I know that it's not intrusive and a good reminder when posts are up on here.

  26. I really dislike the whole Facebook thing. I know I am in the minority with this and many millions love it, but it's not for me.


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