Thoughts on a Forum?


For various reasons, I've been thinking of moving all commenting on Gamegrene articles to a forum based system like phpBB. There are benefits and detriments to doing this, and I'd like to hear your opinions on it. Good idea? Bad idea? Roll a save against "not invented here" syndrome.

For various reasons, I've been thinking of moving all commenting on Gamegrene articles to a forum based system like phpBB. There are benefits and detriments to doing this, and I'd like to hear your opinions on it. Good idea? Bad idea? Roll a save against "not invented here" syndrome.

The detriments are the easiest to list first: higher "cost of entry" (you'll have to register at yet another site to leave comments, which could potentially turn away new commenters and better thoughts) and no conversion of previous comments (creating disjointed thoughts spread across two different systems; this would disappear after a year's worth of use) are the big ones. Likewise, I'm all gung-ho about thinking about this today, but I doubt I'll have any time soon to actually implement things based on your suggestions (an initial investigation suggests no easy-to-use MT/phpBB integration, which means I'll have to code my own. Not that big of a deal).

Benefits include: off-topic forums, non-article-but-game-related forums, better admin management, better user management (edit your posts), subscribe to threads (to be notified when they're updated), etc., etc. - everything you've probably come to expect from other phpBB-based forums. I can't help but feel, however, that the "growing pains" of the detriments could make or break things, and could spell a wrong turn for the growth of Gamegrene's community.


this is a great idea. it lends itself to a more logical grouping of comments and as you said, will allow for a more intuitive grouping of off-topic posts. users can post outside of a direct relationship to an article and won't have to rely on an 'open forum' riddled with everyone else's similarily-off-topic posts.

* Direct article-comment relationship between the front end and the forum. A dynamic link between the two areas? Hacking the relevant forum code to the bottom of each article?
* guest/registered options. Don't require people to register in order to post, but do require registration to take advantage of the forum-features like email notification, avatars, et cetera.

change is good.

It should be mindlessly simple to link from thread-to-article, and it'll be mindlessly simple to link from article-to-forum, but the tricky part comes in with article-to-thread. I've yet to hammer that one out (phpBB uses unique IDs for its URLs, and somehow, I'd have to return that unique ID to MT, and then have MT display that in the template. That's the tricky part).

As for guest/registration, I've yet to explore the depths of how much phpBB can do with a guest user, but what you've suggested is the ideal approach.

If we register for accounts, are we going to be able to say whatever we wish on the forums? I've been censored at Gamegrene before and was quite offended.

I wouldn't mind registering for a forum, it would be a better way to have conversations than these comment fields.

I know phpBB is free -- but vBulletin is superior. Just my two cents.

Starhawk: I don't remembing the censoring I did of you, but if you want to take it up through email, by all means, I'm willing to listen. As for censorship, in general, I think it all involves common sense: if you're on-topic in an article-related thread, you'll be fine. If you're off-topic in an off-topic-related thread, you'd be fine. If you want to create your own thread in a generic area, that'd be allowed too. But, if you want to write literal rape and pillage stories (ala the EverQuest news we posted many moons ago), personally attack other people for no reason (which has also happened here, to my chagrin), or in general, are just being rude, uncouth, and vile, then that's grounds for censorship. I've also rarely had to whip out the censorship stick at Gamegrene: besides the Off Topickers incident, spammage, hack/warez requests, and (apparently) yours, I think that's it.

I'm all for saying what you've got in your head, and far be it for me to restrict you from doing so. But, there is certainly a time and place for everything: I may welcome rude, uncouth, and vile behavior in other fora (I'd be lying if I said I'd never posted my own unique flavor of taboo in a not-too-appropriate place) but at Gamegrene, I'd like to keep that as minimal as possible (unless, of course, you're on-topic, like in a Book of Vile Darkness thread or some such). Of course, due to memory loss, I'm not specifically accusing you of being "rude, uncouth, and vile", so please don't take it that way.

free is good...

Have you ever though of adding an dorky-gamer-art-forum to the site?


I'm so honored to be at the top of your Censorship-Stick-List...

Art forum: I've thought about it, but eventually determined that I'd be personally "offended" by some of the crap that is created. I try not to support suck.

I've never posted before. but I've managed to read nearly all the posted articles and their comments. for some reason I felt inclined to post.

as a person who tends to troll sites more than comment, I would say this site is one of the most readable and easy to follow sites. there are some "commentary sites" I avoid simply because they have "click on link" to read more type commentaries. which to me indicates that the writers and/or site publishers really don't care what you have to say (in your commentary) they just provide it to be polite.

I personally find most PHP/BBs to be not so reader friendly. sure you can choose to read the particular threads you want at a glance (especially the active ones) and the management capabilities may seem more user friendly. but I think your end product would be hurt in the long run.

I'd say your site is fine as it is.

With regards to the Art:


You decide what posts stay and go, so you can do the same with the art...screen 'em first...

I think I got whacked with that Cencorship-Stick myself a couple of times. Of course not as bad as the good Shark and Olly.

I try not to support suck myself there but fail miserably most of the time.

I think a new fiorum set up is a good idea. Like Salvatore said change in good. In this case it will prevent really long threads and the "So-And-So Said" thing when you want to respond directly. It may take some getting used to and the login thing might be annoying, I won't know untill I try it, and it may prevent the random person just surfing through from posting and that would be sad. I mean, hell, you just have the regulars posting and then it would be the same stuff over and over again: Ass says something barely on topic, Sam chastises him for contributing to spam, Ass says somthing quippy back at him, Sam sings the 'Spam' song, Morbus whips out the Stick again and calls us crackwhores again.... you see where I'm going with this. If there were a way to do what you're suggesting without the login I have the feeling it may go over better. Just a thought. Okay, a few of them. Man I've got cronic typetoomuchitis today or something, jeez. I should use this on my English essays that are due today. I probably won't though.

In quick experimentation with phpBB, it'll allow Guest posts with lesser privileges: things would really operate as they are now (welp, you'd put your name in, but no email) and "anonymous" posts would be possible. If you wanted stronger features, however, like thread notifies, start-yer-own-topic, private messaging, comment editing, blah blah blah, you'd have to sign up for an account.

I think that's a decent compromise, and it removes the fear of new users being forced to register to post. If I go ahead with it (I'm still up in the air), I'm still working on a way to make the change to *readers* (like Jazz, above) as banal as possible (my current plan is to include the latest phpBB posts on an article at the bottom of each article AS WELL AS in the forums, so that things would still look the same as they do now, there'd just be an additional "to respond to this article, click here" link).


Your above post is just about the right size. I prefer that a poster possess the essay ability to make his/her point(s) in one paragraph...not in one "edition." Of course, I guess I could just print the long posts and save 'em to read during my afternoon dump.

This proposed "new layout" is not gonna be like an internet chat room is it? If it is, those long posts will just *poof*
Most people have to gather their thoughts before writing a novel, and in a live chat room that just wouldn't work out.

I'm not sure what you mean by "internet chat room". If anything, a forum (and the ease of quoting) will devolve into mailing list equivalents of 30k messages with insane amounts of extraneous quoting. You can see an example of the forum software here (which may or may not have said example of satanic overquoting):

Judging by the number of comments most stories on this site get I doubt there are enough posters to really support a phpBB-style forum.

If you think otherwise though, first test the waters by implementing it separate from the MT site. Give it a link on the menu to the right ("Gamegrene Forums") and see what happens. If it continues to see real use after a few months *then* worry about integrating it with MT.

For what it's worth, 7000+ comments on any site is relatively decent, especially when you math 'em across 300 articles. Regardless, the intent of a forum isn't *solely* to replace the commenting system: one of the benefits would be a more active "community" outside of the articles we deem fit to publish here. I could certainly add the forum without changing the commenting over, but then we're creating split conversations: "oh, yeah, this was mentioned over on the board" or "go see this post for my comments on this" or "pff, this article is just a rehash of what we've seen in this thread".

I don't want conversations split into two places: it's either all (funnel article comments into the forum, allow new threads to open) or nothing (comment only on what I "allow" you to). I wouldn't want to start a forum and just "hope" that it'd spring into action in such a rabble-rousing way as to ace-in-the-hole a commenting transition: by funneling article comments into the forum system by default, it becomes that much easier for new discussions to start up (if you're already on the page, clicking "Add New Topic" is far easier than suggesting an article idea and then waiting for us to publish it).

I'm in favor of a BB-style forum. I've always thought the posting interface was...erm...quaint. It *is* pretty easy to read, but I dislike posting in it (relative to other interfaces, I mean).

I had intended to keep quiet until I got my very own e-mail adress, but this I can't hold in: NO NO NO!

I want to read the comments *right after* reading the article (it's annoying enough that they are in chronological reverse order) and if it's something I want to save, ditto for the comments. Please do not put barriers, no matter how trivial, between your thought-provoking articles and the sometimes equally-so feedback they generate. True, often the give-&-take wanders far from the original article and would reach a more general audience in a forum, but that is only the case if at some point the discussion is split off into a new thread. If that is to be done, it can be done without sacrificing the current set-up.

I do agree with not wanting split conversations. But in long conversations, whether they are article feed-back or forum comments, there will inevitably be references to other threads. Perhaps commenters could include the relevant URL for the benefit of those who would like to know more.

In the end, I think there are 2 (at least) key considerations:
1) Is the feedback on the articles provided for the readers of the article, or is it for a more general readership? (I hope it is the first.)
2) Is your target readership primarily frequent users & those who are comfortable with a forum-based system, or do you hope to lure in new readers, including those who have a lower web-comfort-level. (I hope it is the second.)

Please, if it ain't broke, don't mess with it.
If you fool around with something long enough, eventually you will break it.
As for "change is good"--clearly said by someone who has never experienced menopause, even second-hand.

Oops, sorry: I didn't mean "reverse order"--that's someplace else, and I apologize.
I meant to say that the old ones disappear from the page, so that newer comments referencing them appear without context. (Making getting to them easier would be nice, but not nice enough to change my mind about changing the entire system.)

Kat, for what it's worth, if I did go with a phpBB forum, it would be contingent on the fact that comments would *still* appear as they do now. As I mentioned above, I'd want things to appear, to *readers*, as if nothing changed what so ever. Only a *commenter* would have an extra step of "click here to comment" (which would then present them with the phpBB interface, where they'd be able to post as a Guest or as an account they created). With that in mind, you would indeed continue to see the comments *right after* the article - if I can't accomplish that, the forum won't happen. (And, for what it's worth, with a forum, you'd have been able to edit your comment to mean what you meant, instead of creating a second comment to clarify your first).

Morbus, at first I did not like the idea so much. Now reading your expanded comments, and seeing how the comments would still follow the article, it seems like a good idea. The article/comment reading would not get any harder and both the ability to respond and to read the older posts would be available a click away.
Finally, I do think a forum could lead to a more active community. For example I am not up to writing an article, but in a forum I might ask what people thing of the upcoming gurps 4th edition.

I like the site, I like your proposed enhancements. Good luck with it.

Thanks for clearing that up, Morbus.

Something I just thought of though is that having a forum could actually discourage people from writing articles for the site, since it is much easier to cut the formalities and post a message.

Actually, I'm a recent *reader* of your site by chance actually. (AmphetaDesk is cool) and as I've been trolling the archive so to speak I felt it pointless to post on old articles. I mean who's gonna see my comment to an article written over a year ago.

Non-the-less, I would participate in a forum if you added one in addition to the articles. I think it would be great if the same reader friendly format you have now could be maintained with the php/bb. As that was really my main concern. I don't think adding a forum would be any kind of detriment to the site at all. As said above, it would probably enhance the community aspect of the site, perhaps enticing more trollers (I can't be the only one) to participate.

gee.. I didn't mean to stop the conversation... I guess saying actually twice in one sentence really turns people away...

Hey Morbus,

While you're at it. Go ahead and add one of those 'real-time' online gaming rooms to your site...

Um. No ;)

I would suggest first off that if you go with phpBB then wait for version 2.2 to come out. Starting something before that, I think, would be torture since you would have to reupdate everything again when the new, totally rewritten, version comes out. I am waiting for that before I take my next step as well.

I think using the forum to enhance the site instead of replacing it would be a way to go. I think the setup you have now is good and it works. If you can maintain the setup with phpBB then that is one thing, but if you have to compromise it to make phpBB fit in then I don't think it is worth it.

Forums never hurt and they allow discussion outside what the current system has and, therefore, lead to more of a community feel. So perhaps use the forum to augment this would be good, but not to replace.

You could use phpBB's user management system to automatically input the username and email of those that are logged into phpBB, that would be a simple way to try and bring the two together in a less dramatic way. So those that wish to sign up for an account aren't forced to retype what is already stored and it also doesn't alienate others that don't wish to have an account. Best of both worlds I think.

Forums are good. I love them. But I think you have something excellent going here and I would be hesitant to mess too much with that. Really though, wait till 2.2, I think the options will open up a bit more and it will give you a better chance to accomplish the most with the least amount of disruption to the current setup.


In general, I like the idea of doing comments a different way. Noticing how off topic the discussion has gotten in most of the articles I've read it seems prudent.

Well, I can assure you that a forum is going to do nothing as far as helping you to stay on topic, as a matter of fact it will probably get worse. It will take more work and many well chosen moderaters to keep the forum topics free from stray ramblings and with more open discussion in the forums there will more likely be worse bleed over into these article comments as people get used to looser topic arrangements.

I think it's a great idea. I'm a semi-regular reader of this site, but I don't generally contribute to the comments. I am a regular poster at other forums on the net, and actually run my own site with rather active forums. Forums have the distinct benefit of changing your site from having merely a bunch of readers to having a community of participants. It is, IMO, a move in the right direction.