Archive for the 'Featured Forum' Category

The Long Tail of Forums

In 2004, Chris Anderson wrote an article in Wired Magazine that discussed the importance of the Long Tail economy in regards to Internet based companies. Anderson argues that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough.

Some of the most successful Internet businesses have leveraged the Long Tail as part of their businesses. Examples include eBay
(auctions), Yahoo! and Google (web search), Amazon (retail) and iTunes Store (music and podcasts).

Perhaps nowhere on the Internet is this more clear than with Internet forums. Niche meeting grounds for merchants and consumers, forums provide a unique environment where experts can talk to people really look for advice on their future purchases.

Recently Sanjay Sabnani, a hobby knife collector and forum geek, ran into this issue. So how does one go about locating a blacksmith in today’s world?

Sanjay’s first step was to turn to different forums including BladeForums.com. Friends of his had purchased knives through this site and he knew it had a solid reputation. Through his search, Sanjay was introduced to the work of Zoe Crist, an up-and-coming blacksmith.

Prior to the Internet, Sanjay may have dreamed about knives but if his city didn’t have knife makers it would have been difficult to locate a modern day blacksmith. The Internet in general and forums in particular, have the potential of connecting up unlikely people, vendors and merchants looking to make niche purchases.

Forums opened up the door for Sanjay to become the proud owner of a knife that is being shown at a Blade Show by Zoe Crist. Forums also gave Zoe a location to discuss his craft and to meet potential customers.

This is truly one of the clearest examples of the Long Tail economy at work.

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Featured Forum – Prince Jackson Board

Today we’re talking to Celina, aka princemj, founder and admin of the forum princemichaeljacksoni.lefora.com.  Celina started this forum just 2 months ago and has already passed 500 member!  They are sky rocketing up the Lefora charts, with over 6,000 monthly visits!

Prince Jackson Board Stats:

* Age: < 4 months

* Threads: 653

* Posts: 20,155

* Members: 527

* Software : lefora

Celina, why did you start your forum?

The reason why I wanted to create the Prince Michael Jackson message board is because I realised how many girls out there that are falling for this sweet boy. Including myself. I wanted to create a place where we could discuss the latest, share pictures and show our support. It’s all for love. L.O.V.E!

How have you promoted your forum so well, all within a few weeks of starting your forum?

Well, at first I started discussing with a friend wether or not to even open the forum. Then we decided it would be a good idea, so we started figure out ways to promote the forum. First I made a youtube account for the forum, then I made a badass trailer and uploaded it on youtube and suddenly the members just kept floating in.

Do you have any specific tips for people on Twitter about how they can use Twitter to promote their forum?

First of all its important to know how to promote without getting people pissed off. Twitter users are just like the rest of us in that they are blind to obnoxious messages after many years of receiving commerical messages in their in-boxes. Make your tweet interesting and capturing in a smart way.

What are some of the reasons you originally choose lefora over another forum service?

I asked my friend who is good with technology and stuff for advice and he told me about lefora. I then found out how easy and great it is to handle, and I’m glad I made this decision!

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. Make a smooth and nice-looking design for your forum. A design that attrachs visitors to join.
  2. Promote your forum on different webs, such as facebook, twitter, myspace, youtube, and the list goes on.
  3. Treat your members with respect, be sympathetic, helpful, and professional in your way of dealing with problematic matters.

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And finally, is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank all the members of PMJ for making the board such a success in every way possible! Everything truly couldn’t have worked without their participance and loyalty. I’m greatful that eveything is going so well on the board, and thanks to lefora too for being so damn great and professional with their service. It’s all for love, L.O.V.E!

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Author’s Comments: Celina has done an amazing job of growing her forum, within a month of starting her forum we noticed her moving up the charts.  She’s used twitter a lot to promote her forum and reach out to the community and creating that video like she did on youtube was a really smart way to ‘advertise’ her forum with a viral video that people wanted to watch and would pass around.

Featured Forum – The Unofficial B-Cast Forum

This might be the first time we’re featuring a forum that is less than a week old.  Just 4 days ago James (veritas) started The Unofficial B-Cast Forum for fans of the daily B-Cast show.  What’s interesting, is this forum caught my eye within 2 days of launch due to its spread on twitter with ‘re-tweets’ and it’s enormously fast growth (over 200 posts from 30 members in just 2-3 days).

Unofficial B-Cast Forum Stats:
* Age: < 4 days
* Threads: 67
* Posts: 274
* Members: 37
* Software : lefora

What is your forum about? My forum is a “fan” site for Breitbart.tv’s The B-Cast, which is a daily M-F 4pm to 6pm eastern webcast with live chat, hosted by Scott Baker and Liz Stephans. They are very active in the conservative media and Scott Baker was recently featured on the Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck Show.  They focus on the political topics of the day and various other news breaking events like the Acorn scandal along with other interesting stories and the occasional humorous viral videos. The forums seek to reflect that same type of information. Myself and several others of a growing audience have been involved in the chat aspect of the show for quite some time now. When chat was left open around the clock, we started noticing that people would show up at all hours of the day and night and just chat and share links. But as you probably know, chat is like dropping leaves in a stream. If you are not there at the time, you more than likely will miss whatever is said or posted. Because even though the chat runs all the time, it does clear from time to time. I thought that the same people involved in the chat all with very similar interests in politics might want a forum to give more permanence to posts and allow people to get their posts seen by more members and have more time to really expound on their points. Chat only allows for quick one line types of posts and with the viewership rising continually it was getting harder to get your posts seen. I think that the chat feature is what makes The B-Cast special because we can interact with the hosts during the live shows, but people still wanted to talk even after the 2 hour show was over. I floated this idea of a forum and several of the chat members thought it was a good idea. That is why I started the “Unofficial B-Cast” forums.
Have you run a forum before? I have been an Admin on a few successful political forums and have tried to launch a couple of others in the past.
I see you’ve had a lot of ppl retweet about your forum on twitter, how did you go about motivating other people to tweet about your forum? Well I would like to say I had a lot to do with it, but it was really just the chat members letting others know what we were doing.
How else have you been promoting your forum? I have really just been using twitter and our chat community at The B-Cast to promote it. Along with putting it in my signature when posting elsewhere. I tried to use the sidebar function to create a custom html widget to show The B-Cast’s twitter posts. I followed the directions in the support FAQ, but for some reason I can not get it to work.
Is there anything else you’ve been doing to help generate such high posting activity over the first few days of your forum? That is pretty much it. I happen to have a great pool of the B-Cast community supporting what we are trying to do. I think that was key. There was already a group of like minded people that were anxious to express their ideas, I just gave them one more place with a little different format to do so. I hope that as The B-Cast grows, our fan community will as well. The B-Cast’s URL is http://www.breitbart.tv/livestream/ the show is M-F from 4 to 6 eastern and the previous day’s show loops after that until midnight or for weekends when the next live show starts.
How did you find out about Lefora and what made you choose it as your forum software? To be honest, not knowing exactly how people would like the forum idea even though many said they would, I Googled for a free format and found Lefora. I like the WYSIWYG style for the posters. I will say that since most of the sites where I have been an Admin were phpbb, the Admin tools are a little limiting, but sometimes simple is better. I like the way this site takes many of the headaches most Admin face, such as spam, and tackle that for us. Also, the theme format that was available and I chose was perfect to coincide with The B-Cast.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with fellow admins? I would say that one thing I have learned is make sure you identify your audience before starting a forum. If you can find something that already has a following online, but not a forum, you will probably be able to get members. The trick after that is keeping them. I think it will work for The B-Cast forums, because this was started by me as a service to my other Bcasters. I believe in what Liz and Scott are doing and I want to promote it any way I can!

What is your forum about?

My forum is a “fan” site for Breitbart.tv’s The B-Cast, which is a daily M-F 4pm to 6pm eastern webcast with live chat, hosted by Scott Baker and Liz Stephans. They are very active in the conservative media and Scott Baker was recently featured on the Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck Show.  They focus on the political topics of the day and various other news breaking events like the Acorn scandal along with other interesting stories and the occasional humorous viral videos. The forums seek to reflect that same type of information.

Have you run a forum before?

I have been an Admin on a few successful political forums and have tried to launch a couple of others in the past.

I see you’ve had a lot of ppl retweet about your forum on twitter, how did you go about motivating other people to tweet about your forum?

Well I would like to say I had a lot to do with it, but it was really just the chat members letting others know what we were doing.

How else have you been promoting your forum?

I have really just been using twitter and our chat community at The B-Cast to promote it. Along with putting it in my signature when posting elsewhere. I tried to use the sidebar function to create a custom html widget to show The B-Cast’s twitter posts. I followed the directions in the support FAQ, but for some reason I can not get it to work.

Is there anything else you’ve been doing to help generate such high posting activity over the first few days of your forum?

That is pretty much it. I happen to have a great pool of the B-Cast community supporting what we are trying to do. I think that was key. There was already a group of like minded people that were anxious to express their ideas, I just gave them one more place with a little different format to do so. I hope that as The B-Cast grows, our fan community will as well. The B-Cast’s URL is http://www.breitbart.tv/livestream/ the show is M-F from 4 to 6 eastern and the previous day’s show loops after that until midnight or for weekends when the next live show starts.

How did you find out about Lefora and what made you choose it as your forum software?

To be honest, not knowing exactly how people would like the forum idea even though many said they would, I Googled for a free format and found Lefora. I like the WYSIWYG style for the posters. I will say that since most of the sites where I have been an Admin were phpbb, the Admin tools are a little limiting, but sometimes simple is better. I like the way this site takes many of the headaches most Admin face, such as spam, and tackle that for us. Also, the theme format that was available and I chose was perfect to coincide with The B-Cast.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with fellow admins?

I would say that one thing I have learned is make sure you identify your audience before starting a forum. If you can find something that already has a following online, but not a forum, you will probably be able to get members. The trick after that is keeping them. I think it will work for The B-Cast forums, because this was started by me as a service to my other Bcasters. I believe in what Liz and Scott are doing and I want to promote it any way I can!

Myself and several others of a growing audience have been involved in the chat aspect of the show for quite some time now. When chat was left open around the clock, we started noticing that people would show up at all hours of the day and night and just chat and share links. But as you probably know, chat is like dropping leaves in a stream. If you are not there at the time, you more than likely will miss whatever is said or posted. Because even though the chat runs all the time, it does clear from time to time. I thought that the same people involved in the chat all with very similar interests in politics might want a forum to give more permanence to posts and allow people to get their posts seen by more members and have more time to really expound on their points. Chat only allows for quick one line types of posts and with the viewership rising continually it was getting harder to get your posts seen. I think that the chat feature is what makes The B-Cast special because we can interact with the hosts during the live shows, but people still wanted to talk even after the 2 hour show was over. I floated this idea of a forum and several of the chat members thought it was a good idea. That is why I started the “Unofficial B-Cast” forums.

Author’s Comments: In just a few days, James has done a terrific job of realizing another outlet was need for a community and so he started a forum on Eamped.com (running the Lefora forum software).  He took an active chat room and turned it into a thriving forum overnight.  From posting links in their chat room to his use of Twitter and of other members ‘re-tweeting’ his message to their network has helped contribute to this success.

It was also interesting to read his comments on the Lefora software – at first it seems limiting, but it’s simple and automatically takes care of the many headaches that admins have to deal with on other forum software, like spam prevention and theming.  Our goal is to hide complexities so that the admin interface is incredibly simple to use and not overwhelming.  We spend extra time programming automatic community functions into the forums, so admins can spend their time fostering their community, not tweaking a bunch of settings.

Featured Forum – The Budget Queen

Today we’re talking with Teresa Theriot, Founder, CEO, and admin of The Budget Queen Forum.  Teresa has done an amazing job of integrating a lefora forum with her website.  The layout and colors have been matched across the two sites, so that a member on the forum, doesn’t feel like they’re visiting a different site when they visit other areas of her website.  Teresa is a stay at home mother of three children, she is an expert on saving money and founder of www.thebudgetqueen.com.  She has a weekly TV spot on  KATC’s Good Morning Acadiana in Lafayette, LA and a weekly column in The Daily Advertiser.

The Budget Queen stats:
* Threads: 492
* Posts: 1,861
* Members: 96
* Software: lefora

Teresa, could you tell us a little bit about how you became the Budget Queen?
Of course! A few years ago, my husband I decided very suddenly that I should stay at home with my kids. Being that we were both professionals, it cut our income in half. I had no choice but to make it work, so I started researching books, magazines, and websites on frugal living. There was a lot of information out there, so I had to work to compile it into a system that worked for me and my family. My main concern was that I wanted to continue the same lifestyle that we were living for a whole lot less money.

As friends and family noticed our success, they started asking us how we were making it work, because they wanted to stay home too. I began e-mailing deals and sales to everyone. When that got overwhelming, I decided to compile all of my data into a website so that anyone and everyone could access at anytime. I wanted it to be a one-stop-shop for all things frugal so that people wouldn’t have do all of the research that I had to do. I really wanted to help people share the same financial success that we were. So www.thebudgetqueen.com was born.

As the economy worsened, the popularity of the site grew into a full fledged business. I now offer paid advertising on my website and forum, corporate classes, group classes,  and private consultations. I also have a regular segment on KATC TV3’s Good Morning Acadiana, here in Lafayette, LA and I have a weekly column in the Accent section of The Daily Advertiser. Coming soon, I will have an eStore that offers money saving tools and products.


Who is your target audience and how do you go about marketing to them and bringing them to your forum?

I am not purposefully trying to target a particular audience because the information that I offer is useful to anyone and everyone, although it does seem to be majority female of all adult ages. The forum is devoted to sales, bargains, coupons, deals, etc. which is mostly relevant to women because they generally do the household shopping.

There seems to be about a 50/50 ratio of working vs. stay-at-home moms. There are also a couple men on the forum as well.  I really am trying to get the message out to everyone about this different way of living, so I am hoping that the number of men on the forum will grow.

Being that I am The Budget Queen, I generally only do marketing that is free. I do lots of word-of-mouth marketing, I am a member of a networking group, I am doing the weekly column in The Daily Advertiser as trade for advertising on their www.acadianamomslikeme.com website, I promote my site on my KATC segment, and I send press releases to the local papers when something new and exciting is happening with the site. I also take advantage of marketing myself for free on sites like StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I am always looking for and taking advantage of free marketing tools.

Have you noticed the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Lefora bringing new traffic to your forum?
Yes is an understatement. When I started the site, I was getting at the most about 3,000 unique visitors per month. Thanks to Lefora’s Search Engine Optimization I have seen numbers as high as 22,000 unique visitors per month, with no other national advertising of any sort. I have only been with Lefora for 5 months, so this is a huge success. Lefora’s SEO is going to be the key to helping me reach my goal of a national website. I am so grateful for the services that Lefora provides!
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What goal did you have in mind when you first started your forum? What goals would you like to achieve at this point?
When I first started the forum, it was my goal to have a community where frugal minded people could come together and share their ideas, deals, coupons, recipes, or anything related to frugal living. Originally, I was targeting stay-at-home moms in an effort to help keep them from returning to work out of financial necessity. As the site grew, I realized that it was more than stay-at-home moms that needed the help, so I changed my focus.

Now that I realize the value of the information I have to offer, it is my goal to take the site to a national level to teach Americans a new perspective on money. As a culture, we are very frivolous and unconscious with our money. I would like to teach people that there is a better way to live. The truth is that we can live the same lifestyles on a lot less. My website www.thebudgetqueen.com has all of the tools to help people live better on less so that they can get out of debt and start saving towards their goals. The Budget Queen System is the key, and the The Budget Queen Forum is part of that system. It allows people to come together to discuss issues and share ideas on smarter spending. It has been a valuable tool in the growth of the site.

What are some of the reasons you originally choose Lefora over another forum service? Have you worked with other forum software in the past?
To be completely honest, I originally chose Lefora because it was free. As The Budget Queen, I always opt for something free over something that I have to pay for. The lower I keep my overhead, the more I profit. Plus, when I first started the site, all of the elements had to be as cheap as possible in order for me to stay afloat.

I tried other free forum services, but they always had problems that were never resolved. I loved the set up of the Lefora forum and felt as if it worked best for my readers. It was similar to some very popular forums that I saw in the past, so it was love at first site! Since then, Lefora has grown, changed, added new features, and I love it more each day. I feel that they listen to my needs and concerns and make a continuous effort to give me what I need. I am enjoying watching Lefora grow along with my own site.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. First and foremost, you need to be present on the forum. It is essential that readers know that you are there, so I recommend trying to post at least twice a day. Any random conversation is enough for people to know that you are there and that you care about their questions. I try to make an effort to get on and at least respond to some of the posts twice a day. Be as genuine and personable as possible so that others feel comfortable posting on the site.
  2. Secondly, post valuable information that keeps readers coming back. Random conversation is great, but to really hold people’s interest and keep them returning to the forum, you need to have valuable content for them to look forward to. For instance, on Sundays I post all of the drug store sales and deals. On Tuesdays I post all of the grocery sales and deals. On Wednesdays I try to post my menu plan for the week or some new recipes. Fridays are what I like to call “Freebie Friday” when I post all sorts of free samples, events, downloads, etc. This information reduces the workload for the reader by compiling the data so they don’t have to, thus making it easier to keep their budgets low. Anything that saves people time and effort is valuable information. My readers are aware of the routine, so they come back regularly to check out the deals.
  3. Last, get readers involved. When there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity on the site, create a contest or other fun game to get readers involved. In the past, I held a contest asking for new money saving tips. I chose the winner at random and sent her an Entertainment Book as a prize. I think I got about 52 responses to this post. I also posted a request for pictures to get readers to add their pictures to the site. There are all sorts of creative ways to get readers involved based on your forum topics. When things are super slow, this really seems to renew the passion on the forum.  I also try to do or add something new to the site each month to keep the site growing and constantly interesting.

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I hope this information helps everyone! It’s been a pleasure working with Lefora. Thanks so much for your interest in my site!

Author’s Comments: Thank you Teresa for sharing such valuable tips on how to grow a successful forum.  I particularly like what you mentioned on how you go about marketing your site for free, from sties like stumbleupon, twitter, and facebook.  Word-of-Mouth marketing is very powerful, espically when that happens online where it’s easy for people to share.  It’s always helpful to make something understandable in just one sentence on how it would benefit an interested party – that is sure to get spread around.

For the admins, you are right on the ball about being present on the forum.  There have been many members that come to us asking why their forum isn’t popular, but the #1 thing they are forgetting to do is post consistently on their forum.  By posting a few times every day like you suggested, it ensures two things.  #1 that when members come to the forum, there is something to catch the member’s interest and make the forum feel current.  #2 it helps google crawl a forum if there is new content added each day – and that will send potential visitors to the forum.

Featured Forum – Neo-Geo Forums

Over the weekend, I had the chance to interview Bobak, one of the administrators of Neo-Geo Forums.  According to the forum ranking site, Big-Boards – by their sheer number of posts, Neo-Geo Forums is in the Top 1,000 forums on the web.  Neo-Geo (wikipedia article) is a classic console gaming system that was like having an arcade in your own home.  Talking to Bobak, brought back a bit of nostiliga of my early teen years.

Neo-Geo Stats:
* Threads: 181,034
* Posts: 2,539,134
* Members: 17,598
* Software: vBulletin v3.7.4

Bobak, as a Community Administrator on neo-geo.com, what do your tasks include?  (Same go for the other admins and Global Moderators).
The Administrators and Global Moderators of Neo-Geo.com have more-or-less the same tasks and authority.  Other than ridding the forum of the occasional spambot, our tasks are fairly simple: the general membership of Neo-Geo.com is intelligent and good at self-policing.  This has a lot to do with the culture of the forum, but I’ll get into the details of that aspect later.  In terms of Admin/Mod tasks, we do a lot of service requests from individual members: sometimes these involve administrative issues like account errors or moving threads placed in the wrong forum; every now and again it might be a dispute over personal or transactional issues that might warrant admin or moderator meditation.  On the whole, the moderators and administrators of Neo-Geo.com have collaborated to put into place rules that are easy to follow, and rarely require our actions to enforce.  We also sometimes collaborate on general site design, like realigning the sub-forum topics, and most of that is done after input and suggestions from the membership.  The actual line between administrator and global moderator is fuzzier than most forums: the handful of Admins do not press themselves on the other moderators, and global moderators have access to limited administrator-level tools on the forum.  We do have one Administrator, Mouse_Master, who handles all technical issues on the website.  The site has never needed many moderators or administrators to operate on a day-to-day basis, generally 2-3 on any given day is more than enough to handle any issues that come up.  Unlike some other forums, once a moderator becomes less active, we are unlikely to take away their access rights unless they do something truly harmful.  While these retired moderators may not be around often, we see no reason any putative measures. Over the years, the moderators and administrators work quite well together and are all on pretty much the same
page.  The admins and moderators actively participate in discussions.

I see Neo-Geo.com was started all the way back in Dec 1999.  That’s almost 10 years old!  Very impressive.  How long have you been involved and how have you seen the site evolve over the years?
The website itself dates back to 1999, but the forum didn’t arrive until August 2000.  Site owner/founder Shawn McCleskey became interested in the Neo Geo system in the late-1990s and jumped-in with passion.  In 1999, he was a part of a community that found itself on an old Yahoo! Club (DolphinLord SNK NeoGeo Domain); but the Yahoo system, which used a one-thread BBS, was straining badly with the number of members using it.  Shawn decided to add a forum to his own website, using a basic forum system (UBB when it started) and adapting the rules and concepts found on the Yahoo Club –I’ll explain that below.  At the time, I was a very active member of the Yahoo Club, but as fate would have it, Shawn actually started the Neo-Geo.com forum during a time where I was working on the road for a major  candidate in the 2000 Presidential Election.  As you may recall, that “election” ended in December 2000, and that’s when I got back to the hobby and noticed that everyone had migrated to Shawn’s excellent forum.  The original moderators were picked from the existing moderators of the Yahoo Club (including DolphinLord), and when one of the original four moderators retired, I was asked to step in and replace him in early 2001.  Since then I’ve been a global moderator, and later I was promoted to be a forum Administrator.

In terms of seeing the site evolve… wow.  That’s a long answer.  To speak generally, the site was born of an existing membership and culture that was wary of scams that were prevalent at the time of the forum’s founding in 2000.  The personality of the membership was decidedly anti-authoritarian and even a bit anarchic, but this actually worked well with Shawn’s own hands-off approach and desire to preserve a level of free speech that’s still very hard to find on the internet (without it degrading into something focused on trolling).  Starting from a position of some of the loosest rules possible, the forum has gradually tightened some rules only when the general function of the site was at risk.  Obviously, this upset some older members that were used to the rules at the beginning, or the type of discourse that may not have been beneficial to the site as a whole.  Basically, it became a series of fairly minor tweaks that kept the site as pleasing to as many old (and, more importantly, new) members as possible.  The site still actively welcomes dissenting views on everything from the state of SNK, the Neo Geo, to how the site is being run.  As the membership itself grew and developed into its own forum culture, its become quite good at policing itself and making it pleasant for anyone willing to become part of it.  The culture of the site is definitely a little sharper than a number of other niche video game forums: members are known to haze new members a bit, but the level of discussion remains intelligent and rewarding for those that find it a home.  This is a forum where you will find the moderators and admins getting into arguments with members on various subjects –we’ve been told this isn’t always the case.

As a side note, I actually wrote a brief history of some of the more crazy stories of site back in January 09, here it is:
http://www.neo-geo.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2649189&postcount=9

Any plans for a 10th birthday party?
Actually, none at this time.  The time just passes so fast… I think this is partially because the site doesn’t actively try to make money: you’ve probably noticed we have absolutely no advertisements on the forum or general website.  The general Neo-Geo.com website is related to Shawn’s own NeoStore.com, but there are many members on the forum who don’t even realize that.

From looking at your members, I see both old and new members that are very active on the forum.  Other than Neo Geo conversations, do you think there is other reasons pulling this community together?
Oh, there’s absolutely more to do with the website than just Neo Geo talk.  It turns out that many of the members have similar interests in other video games, movies, sports, music or whatever.  The Unrelated Topics forum’s long been the most active forum on the website.  We were also unique when we started in that we had a “War Room” forum for channeling flame wars and allowing people to vent their more unconstructive ideas.  Over the years, that subforum has developed into its own subculture.  Generally speaking new members tend to spend their time in the more neo-centric forums, and then –if they like the general attitude of the site– find their way into the unrelated areas.  The unrelated sections generally have older members, so they’re the sections where you find a more “clubhouse” mentality (which isn’t at all a bad thing).  Sometimes members have issues that pop up and they want to vent to people they know, but not necessarily people they see everyday.  There’s also a history of completely crazy, but entertaining drama that erupts between members, some of which were placed in the “Best of” forum.  We have a saying, which I actually coined, that its “Neo-Geo.com: Come for the games, stay for teh drama” [sic]; I think it pretty much summarizes what keeps us old timers interested.


Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. Don’t be too heavy handed in moderating your members: if you treat them like children, you will may end up with less interesting discussions and, in some cases, a messy rebellion.  Its about maintaining an adult level of respect.
  2. Be active in the online community.  If you’re too removed, people will can forget you’re there or grow to resent their absentee “rulers”.  It’s sort of like being the town constable going into the tavern with everyone else at the end of the day: the more comfortable everyone is with everybody, the less likely you’ll have serious issues with those members you regularly interact with.
  3. If you have to make an unpopular decision for the good of the website, be decisive but also take the time to carefully and clearly explain to everyone else why you made your decision –it lets people know you respect their intelligence –and if they’re taking time to spend on your forum, you should respect them.

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And for all the Neo-Geo fans out their, what’s your favorite game?
Magical Drop III, probably the best competitive puzzler out there.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I think it helps my tasks in that I find people interesting and I like to meet people and find out what they’re thinking.  Over the years I’ve actually met up with a number of members from the forum (its something over 70 by now… I’ve lost count), and I’ve found they’re all good people.  Some people look at internet forums as an opportunity to act out some e-persona they would like to have, but I’ve always –for better or worse– tried to stay like how I really am.  The best administrator or moderator will be able to roll with punches and not let things get to them if people get upset.  After all, its just the internet.

If you have any follow up questions, let me know.


Author’s Comments:
Thanks Bobak, you really packed in a lot of great advice here and I think it’s best summed up in your second to last sentence  “The best administrator or moderator will be able to roll with punches and not let things get to them if people get upset.”

You made some interesting points about tightening the forum rules as the forum matured.  Changes had to be made in small steps in order to meet the expectations of potential new members and not upset older, existing members.

You also touched on a key trend for many communities on the internet – the ‘Unrelated Topics’ (aka Offtopic and General) are the most active on the forum.  As you pointed out, a gaming site like New Geo tends to bring in people with similar interests around movies, sports, and music.  Or to paraphrase Bobak: “Neo-Geo.com: Come for the games, stay for teh drama”

Featured Forum – HackYour.Lefora.com

Today we’re talking with coloneljack, the founder of the clever named hackyour.lefora.com.  Starting on Lefora only about a month ago, the colonel has been doing a great job of answering people’s questions on both our support forum and his hackyour.lefora forum.  We love the idea here at Lefora and we hope both sites can provide valuable help to forum admins.

So Colonel, what inspired you to start a forum for hacking up lefora?
As a born tinkerer, I’m always willing to take things to pieces to see how they work – and then see if I can put them back together again!  To be honest, setting up hackyour.lefora.com fulfilled a selfish need by allowing me to play with other’s forums when I couldn’t think of anything else to do to my own!

Also, visiting the support forum showed that there were people there asking the same questions – a dedicated forum of our own made sense. I hoped it would be easier for everyone who needed it to find help and/or advice, especially with the influx now from MSN.

What are people most interested in ‘hacking’ on Lefora?
Everybody wants to do different things with their forum – I think that’s a testament to the flexibility of Lefora. Some are happy with the default themes and just want photos or pictures in the right place, some want a new colour scheme, others just want the sidebar switched to the other side. What I don’t think people realise is how much of their forum can be changed with the CSS editor, and how easy it can be to make your forum look different to everybody else’s. I’m not saying anything is possible, but certainly more than you first think!

How do you find working with the CSS on Lefora?  What tools do you use?
As recommended by you guys, I use Firefox with the Firebug add-on. I also use the Firesizer add-on – this lets me check what layouts will look like on various screen sizes.

Before coming to Lefora, all I knew about CSS was how to spell it. After playing with Firebug for a while, turning bits of CSS on and off, changing values, and generally breaking your pages (Firebug makes the changes on-the-fly), I could figure out enough to start making real changes to the layouts. Apart from an image editing app or two, these are the only tools you’ll probably need.

Do you have any educational CSS sites or tutorials you would like to share?
For anything new I always go to http://www.w3schools.com – lots of reference material there for CSS. They also have options for you to try out CSS by making changes on-screen.

What are some of the features that originally drew you to Lefora?  Had you worked with other forum software in the past?
I’ve never worked with any forums in the past, but when the news came out that MSN was closing down, there were the expected groans, followed by people saying how hard it would be to set up somewhere else. Having never liked MSN much anyway, I knew there were better options out there. To prove a point, I Googled ‘forum’ and a few minutes later I had a fully-functioning replacement for MSN here at Lefora. The uploading and embedding options alone were a luxury compared to MSN. Everything else is icing on the cake.

If you could make improvements to Lefora, what would you like to see?
Get rid of the CMYK theme! It makes my eyes bleed! No, really, on a practical level, private categories would be useful for a lot of people, I think.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with a new forum admin starting their first forum?
Be patient – it won’t happen overnight… But it will only happen if your forum fulfils a need.

Finally, is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks to Hal9000, my admin, for knowing the stuff that I don’t!

Oh, and save your custom CSS code to a text file… There’s nothing worse than trying a new theme, and then realising it wipes your CSS!

Author’s Comments: The Colonel has some really great advice here, especially the importance of customizing your forum from the start to give your community it’s own unique home on the web.  I’ve always thought one of the reason’s myspace gained in popularity compared to other services at the time was due to the amount of customization a person could do with CSS on their profile page.  Just like the real word, an online presence requires the same unique choices of personality – and that’s especially true for communities.

Featured Forum – Lifehouse on Lefora (LoL)

Today we’re talking with Nicky James, who runs a forum on the popular band Lifehouse.  His forum is growing fast, with over 7,000 posts in less then a month since it’s creation. For those of you unfamiliar with Lifehouse, there’s a good chance you’ve heard some of their songs on the radio, such as Hanging By A Moment.

Welcome Nicky James.  Besides being a Lifehouse fan, what made you decide to start a forum?
I felt that there was a major lack of moderation and an overall sense of fellowship on the “official” Lifehouse forum at lifehousemusic.com.  And after being bogged down by a horde of clones and forum trolls I simply had enough. I didn’t want to fully drop out of the Lifehouse community because of the people I met. So with determination and a whole lot of free time I looked for an answer and eventually, after doing some homework, came across Lefora.com and set up shop. Plus, the name “Lifehouse on Lefora” has a cool ring to it and abbreviates well; “LoL”.


Are there other Lifehouse band forums out there that you have to compete with?  Is there anything you’re doing differently?
Hmm… I wouldn’t say that we “compete” with any other Lifehouse fan communities/forums. In fact, my ideal goal is to come to work closely with the other 2 forums that are largely focused on Lifehouse fans (lh-bsides.shortURL.com and lifehousemusic.com) in order to provide an awesome experience for Lifehouse’s fans. But my personal thoughts are that we that there was a certain niche that needed to be filled that no existing forum was addressing. The official boards will always have the stigma of being “Official”, and that can carry them for a long time. The B-sides forum is the next step in that it is separate from being official and is built by Lifehouse fans, for Lifehouse fans. And because of those reasons, that forum is pretty successful. I feel that Lifehouse on Lefora is the next step in that evolutionary process. One of the LoL members said it perfectly. She said “LoL fills a hole that the other forums do not fulfill. People here can joke around and laugh at funny video clips or talk about current events. There’s a more concrete sense of fellowship on LoL.” We take the best parts of other places and put them all on our forum.


As for what we do differently? Myself and my admin team keep in very close contact with members, were not some no name face that looms over everyone. Our forum also hasn’t looked the same since day one. Which was a big problem I had with other forums that all looked so bland or looked good but had looked the same for the last 2 years. We’re updating our look every week. We currently have 10 themes that we switch off every week and it keeps things looking fresh. We are also heavily involved with contests and giving prizes out to members for something as small as posting, say the 5000th post, all the way to full blown month long contests. We even have a special day coming in June where were going to be giving out more than $300 in prizes. you can go to one forum to be official, one to be more intellectual and serious, and one to just have fun and laugh your butt off with people that you’re on a first name basis with.

Where do most of your visitors come from? How do they first here about your site?
Thanks to the very close-knit community of fans that are out there over MySpace, Facebook, and other forums,it makes it extremely easy for us to cast a wide-net and reach many fans with ease. I’ve spoken with other admins of different forums that are struggling to find an audience and I think it all comes down to the demographic you’re trying to reach. If you run a video game fan forum, what happens then? You’re mainly going to be trying to attract males from ages 15-25. Lifehouse doesn’t necessarily have a target demographic or part of the world. We have members ranging in age from 13 to their 40’s and we’re represented in the US, UK, the Philippines, Canada, Indonesia, Australia and beyond. From what I’ve seen thus far, new members come to us mainly from Google. I’ve brought in quite a few members simply by contacting them directly and asking them to come check out LoL and because I have enough faith in my forum to where I know that they won’t be disappointed and sooner or later, they will want to get in on the all the fun and interesting conversations were carrying. The word “addicting” comes up quite often from members when describing why they spend so much time on the forum. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve also had some members hear about us on the other existing forums and will come from there as well.

What first drew you to Lifehouse?  Are there any Lifehouse lyrics that you find inspiring?
Lifehouse’s lyrics have been described as the sonic equivalent of a good friend, or a warm blanket. It’s a divine mix of honest lyrics, and great musical hooks. They don’t pretend to have all of the answers but they sure make the questions sound interesting. A lot of Jason’s lyrics revolve around deep and sometimes spiritual self questioning and trying to find out who you are. You know, there are some artists Like Johnny Cash, or Bob Dylan that can tell one hell of a story but fail to make you look within yourself and question. Lifehouse really fills that niche and that is why I am continuously drawn to their music. Asking a Lifehouse fan to choose a favorite song or choice lyric is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. But if I had to choose one lyric I would have to quote a lyric from this song:

“I’d rather chase your shadow all my life,
than be afraid of my own,
I’d rather be with you,
Id rather not know
where I’ll be than be alone and convinced that I know,
cause the world keeps spinning around,
and my world is upside down,
and I wouldn’t change a thing,
I’ve got nothing else to lose,
I lost it all when I found you,
and I wouldnt change a thing,
No, you and I wouldn’t change a thing.” – Spin

Just recently, you were sitting on the other side of the interview desk, interviewing an award winning music video director (both Billboard and MTV awards).  How did you go about arranging that?  And has the interview spurred more interest on your forum?
I was setting up a forum section dedicated to Lifehouse music videos and came across the video for the 2005 song; Blind. I wanted to find a little more information on it. So while searching for some info I found out that the video was directed by Nigel Dick. I am very familiar with Nigel’s work and was surprised to see that this Lifetime Achievement Award winning director that has worked with such acts as Tears for Fears, Green Day, Elton John and has directed over 300 videos was working with our little band. I was definetly intruiged and wanted to look further into it. To my fortune, Nigel was very pleasant and we had a correspondence over the course of a couple weeks and I eventually just asked him for an interview, because that’s essentially what I was already doing. He obliged, and like in everything I do on LoL, I included the members and let them take the helm and ask the majority of the questions. They did a fantastic job and asked some very deep and intellectual questions. I posted the interview yesterday morning and we’ve had the single most busy day since the inception of LoL. I am currently trying to land an interview with Tina Majorino who has acted in over 20 movies and tv shows, but is best know for her role as Deb in the 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite. She played the protagonist in the same music video that Nigel directed. I am also working on an interview with Lifehouse’s manager Jude Cole.

Do you have 3 simple tips you could share with other forum admins to run a fun and active forum?

  1. Include your members!!! They are the the lifeblood of the forum. This is especially important for a young forum. I rarely make changes on LoL without informing the members. I issue a weekly update usually including what has changed, why it has changed, and what’s coming up as far as new forum features or contests. If you give your members something to look forward to while also keeping your forum fresh in their minds, they will keep coming back. Another way I do this is by personally sending out welcome messages to every new member as they join the forum rather than just a cookie cutter message. Or worse, no welcome at all.
  2. Never make your forum about one thing. Sure, this is a Lifehouse fan forum. But people sometimes get confused, thinking that it is a place where you can only talk about Lifehouse and that’s not true. It is simply a place where Lifehouse fans gather. Our most popular thread right now is a thread that’s simply titled “I like cheese.” WTF, right? It’s fun to know that you can talk about anything and because you are all like minded, you can always bring it back to your forum’s purpose.
  3. Remember, you’re a leader, not a tyrant. Everett Dirksen said “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles. The first of which is to be flexible at all times.” Have fun with your members! You’re a member of your own forum, it shouldn’t be a chore. If you can find that space between being a “boss” and being a member, you will be in the perfect position to manage a successful forum. Being an admin can be a very thankless job. keep your chin up!

.

Finally, is there anything you would like to add?
Yeah! This is probably totally cliche to Chief [admin of lefora support] at this point but I want to take the time to sincerely thank you for all the help you’ve given me and all the one on one time you’ve spent with me helping to hammer out technical issues with my forum. I know that yourself and the Lefora team are working your tails off to bring us this free service and sometimes it can be very very thankless. But everyone over on LoL is so grateful for you guys because if it wasn’t for you, we would not have met some of the awesome people we have come to know. So off with the nay-sayers! lol.

To forum admins: Keep working away at that forum. Fact is, that you’re going to have to put in a whole mess of your personal time into this forum to make it successful. Utilize the Internet. if you don’t have a Myspace, get one. Also make sure your mods and admins are properly trained. There’s no better way to annoy members than to anger them with power tripping mods who want to edit or delete every post.

I also want to thank the Lifehouse on Lefora team for all the hard work and dedication they put into helping me run this successful forum. Oreolover000 and cmacd, you guys are the best I could ask for. Thanks for all your help.

I’m also going to shamelessly plug Lifehouse now. *Shameless plug* Lifehouse is currently in the studio working on their fifth album that is slated for release this summer, but until then, you can buy their newest Gold certified album Who We Are. Also be on the look out for a new music video for the song “Make Me Over” coming soon!!!


Author’s Comments: Nicky James provided some great commentary here.  I’ve visited the forum a number of times since it was first started, and Nicky James does keep the themes active and changing – which I think is great.  It always makes the forum look ‘fresh’ and hopping.  It’s very easy to change colors, background images, and header images on Lefora without changing your layout.  So members still feel comfortable on your forum, but they’ll know you’re interested in keeping things fresh.  Prize offerings are another great idea to spur activity – it doesn’t have to be anything large.  And finally, interviewing well known and respected people related to the forum is always a great way to spur interest and get new members to join – and asking for interview questions from your community is smart.


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