When I found out about Discourse, it made me curious about forums. I bookmarked a few of the sites that had adopted Discourse, then visited them regularly, assuming that I’d eventually want to chime in. I felt like that was what I was supposed to do, because if I remember correctly, Discourse’s UI is designed to heavily emphasize/reward reading, and put up road blocks to posting. If that’s what being a part of a forum community is like, then I was doing it right by reading first, right?
But I never did chime in much! And eventually I stopped visiting all those forums, Community Leadership Forum included.
However, I’m posting now! What’s different now is that I had this story to share. I did not get to this point by reading much of the forum. I’m actually here because of Jono’s e-mail with a link to the survey.
Filling out surveys is easy and fun, and that was enough to get me to log in. Then when I was done clicking answers, I was sad that there were no replies. I started thinking about the 100+ people who (like me) answered all the questions and left. And that got me thinking about if that is the expected response to a survey (answer and get out). It seems like a forum would lend itself more to… discussion? And that led me to the question in the subject line: what is it like to be a part of a forum community?
So what is it like to be a part of a forum community? Is it primarily about reading? Is it working against the Discourse design principles and posting more than you read? Is it having a particular recurring goal, like seeing what people are talking about this week, or getting something off your chest? Or is it about what happens in your head, like getting attached to the people in the forum, or the way it makes you feel to surf it? Maybe another way to put it is, how would you distinguish a forum community member from a non-member?
And what are the ways people transition to being part of a forum community? Does it really start with reading a lot until you feel like posting? Does it start with writing a post like this and becoming attached to the people who reply? Or something else?
What’s your mental model of what makes a community, and how people come to be a part of it?
And nice to meet you!