Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Week 6 -Discussion Forum

Task for Week 6 - Discussion Forum

1. Locate an example of an online forum and post to your blog a link to the forum with an assessment of the identifying features you might look for in an online community. Include in your post a comment or some ideas on how the forum might benefit from facilitation services - such as a coordinated event to help focus people around a particular issue, or the writing of a summary to close a thread in the forum.
2. Conclude your blog post with a list of facilitation techniques you think might be useful in assisting community communications through discussion forums generally.

Before I immigrated into New Zealand, I was living in China. A forum for people like me who are considering their immigration or are waiting for the results of their immigration application did help me a lot. The forum provides all the updated news on immigration policies. I went there to read all the latest news, essential information of the life in NZ. The most attractive part for me is that I can ask questions and I still remembered how anxious I was waiting for the answers from others in the forum. People in the forum even group up together by areas they are living and by the time they moved to NZ. They helped each other, exchange information and even made phone calls to their ‘friends’ on the forum. I really enjoyed the time when discussing and browsing on the forum. Even several years later while I am living in Auckland I still go back to the forum and help other new comers fit into the new situation. That might be the so called “sense of belonging”? It’s a shame that I cannot show you guys because the forum is in Chinese.

To complete the required task for this course, I tried another forum about travelling to China. The address is: http://community.travelchinaguide.com/forum.asp

This forum is very well structured. You can find relevant information in different topics, and you can even choose your travel destination so all the posts relevant to your destination will be displayed.

Obviously this is a very popular forum attracted thousands of people. There are posts on travelling tips, living in different cities, general info of China, etc. And people asking and answering questions quite actively.

For the forum like this, people just come and exchange information. As a facilitator I won’t expect doing too much on it. But what I can do is maybe:

  • Providing general updated information;
  • Post information on topics that people might be interested;
  • Summarise most interested and most frequently asked questions from ‘old’ posts (maybe weeks, months or even years ago)
  • Highlight the title of ‘good’ posts (could be important notice, latest update, most popular post, useful introduction, informative post, etc…)
  • Set certain threads (e.g. most important, helpful, popular) on the top of the forum
  • For some popular topic maybe could provide cross links to other threads / forums / websites
  • Try to raise questions that is practical to the travelling
  • Encourage people post their travel stories and reviews of their experience.
  • Provide suggested travelling plan in details, e.g. details on 5 days tour in Beijing, including accommodation, transport, food, sites introduction, event information and background of each travelling sites, etc.

Any more ideas, guys? Pls leave your thoughts here ^_^

25 comments:

artie said...

Hello Joy,
Thanks for that thorough post. You said that you looked forward to the responses and there is a sense of belonging. I would think that a forum gives the greatest sense of belonging to the owner of it.

I am wondering about how message boards fit into the community? How much do the members really matter? How much does the owner matter? Could the board function the same or better or worse if there was no owner?

How does the Chinese Internet work? I think that there may be nearly one billion communists in the world. Are their voices present on the Internet?

:)
artie

Leigh Blackall said...

What an interesting forum space Joy. I got drawn in straight away! It was interesting to see the points system for its contributors.

I think you are right, a facilitator's role would be pretty low key in this highly active space. Perhaps one role would be monitoring for when expert advice is needed and to bring in that expert when needed. It would have to be handled carefully so as to not ruin the sense of DIY and community in this space, but could be a valuable contribution non-the-less.

As for the Chinese emigrant community you mention.. with the link, we could pass it through Google Translate, just to get a general idea of it Joy..?

Elaine Dittert said...

Hi Joy
I really enjoyed reading your post. What an interesting site! Its well organised with clear threads. I of course headed straight to the travel sections as China is one of those "must go to" destinations on my still long list of travel goals!

I liked your facilitation idea of summarising FAQ. Since each thread in the forum seems to be quite specific a summary of the posts within each thread could be shown at the top of each one (or maybe just on those with more than 100 posts. I also liked your idea of highlighting areas such as most read, most helpful, most recent etc. On a site such as yours that would be probably highly used.

The site I reviewed in my post: Travelblog http://www.travelblog.org/Forum/ has an area on Asia, (although not a separate Chinese forum) which would still however be great to link into your site. This is full of travellers stories, hints and tips which would be very useful for the members of your blog.

PS I have no idea how to add in hyperlinks into this comments area as there are no icons to help me along so I've just put in the web addresses. Apologies to those veteran bloggers - I'm still learning all the time
:-)
Elaine

Joy said...

Hi Artie

It's really a good and very interesting question to ask will the board function will be different if there is or not a owner of it. I guess having a owner maybe better, at least the own can moderate the forum and make sure all the threads are moving smoothly towards the topics / goals.

I've been to several forums with some unrelevant and offensive threads published. Those threads not only lead the whole discussion away from the goals but also ruined the forum that at least, I am not interested in it any more.

It's not easy to find a very active forum that most of the paticipants are Chinese people 'cause generally they'll create their own communities in Chinese - a total different language to you guys ^_^

Yes there are plenty of communities in China. My daughter used to show me a chinese website that full of almost all the forums that you can think about, even just key in your name, and you will find a forum consists of people have same name with yours. (Chinese surnames are relatively limited compared with English surnames, and they used to use only 1-2 characters as their first names. So you can imagine there are lots of people have same names).

The power of chinese online community is extremely enormous. Chinese government even amended several policies and legislation based on the facts discovered, discussed and cross-linked widely between forums / communities.

Joy said...

Hi Leigh,

The forum link is here:
http://bbs.askynz.net/list.asp?boardid=21

The forum is not that active now because the immigration policy has changed. But if you start from the last page, it will show you how active it was before. Lots of questions, responses posted.

Hope you can get the idea what they are talking about ^_^

Cheers,
Joy

Joy said...

Hi Elaine,

I've been to your suggested travel forum and I really like it. By the way, to create a link in my blog, you need a lil bit HTML coding. Put the forum address this way:

http://www.travelblog.org/Forum

Cheers,
Joy

Joy said...

Sorry Elaine,

the code should be BRACKETa href="http://www.travelblog.org/Forum" BRACKET http://www.travelblog.org/Forum BRACKET/aBRACKET

artie said...

"It's really a good and very interesting question to ask will the board function will be different if there is or not a owner of it. I guess having a owner maybe better, at least the own can moderate the forum and make sure all the threads are moving smoothly towards the topics / goals." - Joy

Hi Joy,
Why couldn't the board be owned and run by the community? The entire U.S. government is transferred every four years to a newly elected president. The same feat is routinely accomplished by thousands of national, state and local governments. Why should it be more difficult to democratically administer a forum of 50 people?

:)
artie

Joy said...

Thx Artie,

After reading your comment I realise my thoughts about discussion forum have been limited in a convertional way. Yes, to have a group of people to manage the forum is really a good idea, and that might motivate members' contribution and strengthen the connection among community. Good point!

Thx ^_^

artie said...

Thx Joy,
Well, I did not think of that, but you are right! If the owner is the only real member, then when the members are the owners, they become real members! They will be motivated to take responsibilty like an owner would. People would feel a sense of belonging and contributions would increase.

You are helping me to answer your own question in your comment on my post "What is a Forum? when you ask: "I totally agree that it's important to keep everyone has equal right to talk and express themselves. How would you encourage those not very active members (probably most of the time they are just observing - sounds a bit like me ^)^, hehe... )?"

:)
artie

Joy said...

Thx Artie.

It's always a pleasure to "chat" with you thru our blogs. And the info you suggested and the questions you asked are very helpful. ^_^

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