Developing The Birmingham Post forum

Out of my post about naming newspapers in a Web 2.0 world another interesting debate has start to develop.So, I have decided to turn it into a post.

The Birmingham Post forum, which launched in February along with the companion website, is looking a little sorry for itself and perhaps needs a little TLC.

It’s a topic I’ve been mulling over since Alison Gow’s post on the subject.

At the moment, there are links at the bottom of our stories linking to our forum:

Link to Birmingham Post Forums

When the forum link is clicked, this takes you to a registration page. If you have registered then you have to go on to another login page.

Some have commented that this is a labourious way to enter a forum and that they feel many people will just give up.

This is not necessarily true however, I note that The Stirrer forum requires registration and yet that seems relatively active.

So, I would like to make it easier for people to use the forum. Thought it might be nice to involve people in how it might work.

Obviously there are no promises as I have very little understanding of what we are technically capable of doing, but I do promise to make enquiries and make any improvements that I can.

11 thoughts on “Developing The Birmingham Post forum

  1. I don’t think I explained myself well before.

    Try this – if you read a story on The Stirrer, there is a note at the end saying “DISCUSS THIS ON THE STIRRER FORUM” and a red button. Clicking on that button takes you to the forum, where you can read posts other people have written.

    If you read a story on the Birmingham Post website, you will find a note at the end saying “Have your say on news, business and sport in our Forums”. Clicking on this link takes you to a form demanding your e-mail address, password and nickname.

    At this point, most people will just hit the back button or go to a different site. They don’t want to fill in their e-mail address and tick a box saying they understand the privacy policy.

    Yes, you need to make people register before they are allowed to post, but people do not read forums just because they want to take part in them. They read them to read what other people have written (lurking), and they post only after they have lurked a bit. By that point, they will be happy to fill in a form.

  2. Joanathan,

    Ah. Gotcha. Sorry, I had misunderstood what you were saying. I think that is certainly something that’s fixable.

    I’ll look into it on Monday.

  3. Always found it useful to highlight elsewhere on the site what’s going on in the forum.

    For example, you could have a weekly article highlighting what’s happened on the forum, in the comments and other blogs.

    You are just bringing together existing content but putting it in front of readers who might not know such sections exist.

    Clearly you can link directly to forum posts, which is good for readers, so as Jonathan says they can read without logging in, but also has strong search potential.

    – Craig

  4. Craig has a good point there. Some sort of summary might do two things: provide an incentive to have a look, and an incentive to add comments, ‘cuz they might make it into the summary!

    On the latter point, there’s even a possibility that discussions deemed newsworthy enough to go into a weekly summary could attract a broader range of sober comments. Let me put it this way: if you took the range of engaging comments that the B’ham blogging community gets each week, and put them together in a review of sorts, you’d find that it isn’t always the usual suspects, and some of the comments are both inspiring and newsworthy. The task for a forum is to attract the same range and calibre of comments. Craig’s suggestion might do the trick.

  5. I’ve always thought that the ‘have your say in our forums’ link should link to the forum’s index, rather than a sign-up page. You can also embed a relevant forum thread in an article, so users can comment on that specific story, too.

  6. Hi Jo

    Looking at your forum, the “create forum thread” is being used from time to time at the moment – maybe another forum section called “comment on our stories” which would enable you to add forum discussions on more stories without drowning out the threads which users are creating themselves?

    And perhaps widgets on other parts of the site showing what the latest discussion points are? Example midway down the page at http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk.

    Good luck!

  7. For the article-led threads, can you use the name of the person who wrote the article rather than ‘birminghampost’?

    People may be more likely to enter a discussion with a person than a thing, it’d put more author names on the (currently quite sparse) page and it might encourage your journalists to get involved in the forum themselves.

  8. Echoing the points made above about logging in… I can’t help but notice that when I eventually do log in I go straight to the ‘do you want to change your password’ page. I then hunt around the page looking for where the forums actually are, and eventually hit upon the ‘Join A Forum’ link hidden at the top of the page. I’ve tried once or twice before now and given up at this point, assuming there weren’t actually any forums in there.

    So, as far as I’m concerned: logging in should take you straight to the forums front page. Ideally, if you’ve come from one news item it should take you to the discussion in question too. There should also be a link on the ‘password’ page mentioned along the lines of ‘Go to the forums now’.

    Secondly ‘Join a Forum’ is somewhat misleading as a link. I want to see the forums first before I start thinking about joining them. ‘Enter Forum’ might be a better phrase here.

  9. I’d say the first thing you need to do is make it a little bit more obvious how to register on the forum index page.

    If you click on the Birmingham Forum link (in the blogs and comment section) you come to the forum index page and the register button is way up there at the top. It took me ages to notice it (actually I had to get someone else to have a good look at the screen and point it out to me).

    A more obvious registration button would certainly help.

  10. I’m coming back to this with some additional, somewhat tangential questions, and taking it as an opportunity to bump this topic up the list again.

    Q1: does the Post have resources in common with IC networks around the country? I’m thinking of the forums in particular, and that I have to register separately at any given site. It would be useful to have a common ID, or better yet, to have OpenID working on all these sites.

    Q2: are IC operations likely to follow the Post’s lead in adding Related Stories and Related Tags to their stories?

    Q3: so, what’s happening with the Post Forum in terms of making it easier, more integrated, and so on?

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