PROFILE NOTE: Eric Odom is the community architect and lead developer behind the Grassfire Social Environment at Grassfire.com. You can contact/connect with Eric with any questions or comments about GF Social on his official GF social profile by clicking here.
Early last year when we were working in the Beta platform of the new Grassfire Social we discussed a desire to see heavy emphasis placed on groups. Groups are key to organizing members around issues, places, people and things. These had to be at the core of our environment. But we also wanted to see forums on the site and that’s where the challenge came about.
You see, there are two primary ways of publishing content into the Grassfire Social platform.
- Publishing updates/links/media into the activity feed
- Publishing forum topics & replies
We had these two working great when we came of out Beta. Problem is they were two completely separate animals all together. We had a group for Texas, for example, but then in the forums we had a discussion category for Texas. And if someone posted in the Texas forum, that discussion topic was in no way connected to the activity feed or the actual Texas group.
Yeah… that’s a problem.
So the decision was made to scrap the standalone forums in favor of marrying forums directly into groups. The bad news is we weren’t able to salvage or import the old forum discussion topics into groups because there was no real coherent way to categorize them. The good news is now the entire systems runs a LOT smoother!
So here’s how the new system works with forums and groups working together as one.
Each group now has an activity feed/wall AND a discussion forum. Now you might ask… why both? And the answer is the two play very different roles in managing content.
- Activity Feed/Status Updates – The activity feed/wall is not really designed for long term, properly archived online conversation. This is more designed for quick status updates where other members can be tagged and quick daily conversation can take place. Once a status update gets a few days old it kind of gets… lost in the fuzz of all the new activity across the network. So status updates into the activity feed are great for quick conversation. Think of it as the lobby or cafe. You won’t be there long but you still might have a discussion while passing through.
- Forums – The forums are for much more extensive debate and discussion. Forum threads are very well archived, you can subscribe to them, they have a full visual editor, you can follow them and you can see them in your profile. While the activity feed is for lobby chat, forums are for more in depth, meaningful conversations that can go on for weeks, if not months or years.
Your topics, content, replies and activity will ALL show up in the main feed. Forum posts and activity status updates. So when deciding which to use, just ask yourself if you’re looking for a discussion that could be relevant a week from now or is this something that people may only engage with today? Quick hits go to activity, long term stuff goes into the forums.
And don’t forget that forums now belong to groups. So to participate in conversation about Radical Islam, for example, you want to join the Islam Watch Group to ensure your topics are best categorized and relevant. This helps keep the site properly categorized, but more importantly it will begin developing groups of members around each issue, place, person or thing.
And THAT is the goal!
Hopefully this helps explain the way groups, status updates and forums work on the new Grassfire Social.
– Eric Odom