Ideas to enhance the Forum experience
Please take the following ideas only as brainstorming ideas on how to improve the general usability and experience of the forums, and in no way a complaint or criticism on how things are working now or how the 3D Facture team may choose to move forward with the forums...
I've participated in many forums and open source projects over the years, and one observation that is consistent is that the more anonymous the medium allows it's users to be, the more likely folks are to be easily offended or to offend simply because there is no connection or identity.
Of course that never eliminates or prevents the inevitable TROLL or aspiring empire builder from doing there thing... but, the following ideas are all offered as possible ways to mitigate the effect they can have on the community at large, while at the same time, fostering deeper collaboration with those who wish to do so, and still being informative and relevant to the casual observer/lurker/passer-by.
I spent a bunch of time today reading through the Vanilla Forums documentation, searching their own community forums, and browsing the available "addons". Below is what I came up with as features and addons that I think could greatly improve how the forums function for all involved, lumped into a few categories:
Ways to foster collaboration & community
Moderation - As things progress, you'll find you will NEED moderators to deal with day to day administrivia of the forums. Among other permissions, moderators can:
- Manage spam & abuse queues that are populated by trusted members, making it easy for moderators to take care of issues before they become problems.
- Manage members abusing the forums or members by, sending them warnings, remove or ban a user and all the user's data, find out if a user has multiple accounts, deal with Trolls by making them invisible to other members.
- See a roll-up view of all bad content reported by users so they can take action.
- Post a dismissible messages that can appear anywhere throughout the site.
Groups - Allows for having discussions outside the normal forum category structure in self-contained areas. This could be a good way to privately work with your Backers or other key stakeholders and collaborators in your ongoing product development.WhosOnline - Lists the users currently browsing the forum. It's nice to see who else is online when you are.User Map - Shows a map with a marker for member locations, should they chose to share that info.
Ways to reward members & help them stand out:
Badges - Not necessarily awards, but rather, signs that point the way to positive participation in a community.Signatures - Users may create custom signatures that appear after each of their comments.Role Titles - Lists users' roles under their name and adds role-specific CSS classes to their comments for theming.Role Badges - Adds user's role badges under their name in comments (similar to "Role Titles" above).