Cultivating an active forum within the modern internet
it's fairly disappointing to me that people have been so quick to write off the concept of the internet forum as an antiquated relic which has no functional place in the current internet and honestly it makes me sad when i hear people discuss the idea of the forum in the past tense as if it cannot possibly exist now, but at least in my eyes as someone that used forums extensively in the past i really don't understand why the format magically can't work anymore

during the summer months and even some times in the winter I don't really have the means or inclination to sit around in chatrooms where discussions fly faster than you can meaningfully comprehend them. there is no real reviewing of past ideas or the development and progression of more complex concepts evolving over time, which were two of my favorite aspects of the forum. a partition of specific ideas was made so that within each thread you would have a sea of related posts working out a specific theme or idea sequentially over months or sometimes years

really if i had to summarize why nothing online seems interesting to me anymore it's that everything is such a fleeting whisper that, within mere moments, ideas are born and immediately die in a vast ocean of informational irrelevance. the odds of having a genuinely good conversation online with any one person at this point is so scarce that it's hardly worth bothering, let alone within the context of a group. the lost beauty of the forum, in my opinion, is that you could have very complex and interesting discussions with people you often barely knew of (if at all) and very often the collection of many voices on one subject, everyone not necessarily beholden to the others, generated many new perspectives and even occasionally branching ideas tangentially related to the original thought

my ultimate question and the purpose of this thread is this: how can we cultivate a healthy, active forum in the current time on the internet? despite my gripes and bellyaching i genuinely have no idea at this point how to approach this question and i'm too far removed from how things work at this point that it wouldn't be worth offering an opinion. it would be wonderful to have flashii be the host of an active, fun forum, but it's very clear we need to approach this elephant in the room to make such a thing happen

what do you guys think? can a forum work in these times, and if so, how? or, is the idea not workable at this point, and if so, why?
Unfortunately I don't have an answer for your question but I also disagree with the sentiment that forums are supposedly antiquated.
I think it's moreso that people have become used to things just being a section on Reddit or whatever, which, despite being a terrible implementation of the concept, is still a forum that allows you to create your own full sections easier. I suppose you could say Reddit is to forums what Discord is to chats.

The best I can do is continue to improve the forum software to hopefully make it more appealing to use.
Perhaps a review of the forum sections could be in line? I remember MalwareUp used to have a section to just talk about and make topics about recent events, that could be a way to pull traction to the forum and hopefully make people look around more or get inspiration for new topics.
There's a lot of factors that go into whether or not a forum can be successful, and I do feel like some of those factors do lay outside of the scope of the forum itself. For one, the most active forums, both now and when we were running them back in the day, are generally both topic focused and/or given a draw from outside the actual forum itself. Like, MalwareUp would've been completely dead from the get had it not been tied to the (at the time) quasi-successful YouTube personalities of Dan and Joe, because the topic focus wasn't kept very strong compared to competitors like the much more active MalwareTips, albeit was still focused enough that it didn't die completely ala Tirade or the 2012 version of Dan's forum. Or nowadays, one of the most successful forums is the LinusTechTips forum which, well obviously, gets most of its draw from outside the forum but is also pretty solidly technology centric to keep it having purpose. Or game forums, like osu! or facepunch back when that was a thing, where the idea was to have a support forum that just happens to have extra sections because why not, but all those extra sections (outside of a catch-all off topic/general section) were related to similar themes as the game(s) in question so it makes sense. My point is a general purpose catch-all forum for the sake of a forum is completely the wrong approach and that's where the concept that forums are dead comes from.

That said, we are also in the app era, and a lot of people nowadays find it easier to find things within an app instead of going to a full on website, but people will go to a website for stuff if they feel they have a reason to. That is what you have to solve for. If you only have a single topic worth talking about, its more likely that people will want a subreddit for it. Your discussion too general and not focused? That's where chat apps took over. Finding the sweet spot is hard, but not impossible. Also having some kind of notable thing worth having noticed from outside the forum itself is pretty important too, or be like all the MyBB people and SEO until your face is blue and hope and pray.

Also, community attitude is important too. If your forum comes off as a place for people rejected from "the mainstream", it'll reek of that and drive people away. Keeping people from being complete shitheads is a necessary evil. I know you try to keep the moderation pretty lax due to how hardcore we were back in the day (I'm incredibly sorry btw) but there is a such thing as too lax. That said, obviously this comes to being important after you already have the community building, but it's important nonetheless.

Those are the main things I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure there's more I'm missing too. And I'm just one bitch so I'm not the end all be all expert on this (or anything for that matter) so hopefully some others have tips to chime in too.
Dying of boredom, I'll try it all...
something about instant messaging technology being more widespread in the current day and how zoomers are more naturally drawn to the moderate permanance quick asynchronous characteristics of text messaging as a communication channel

as forums are more asynchronous and often have high permanance, i'm under the opinion the current generation has sort of shyed away from them in favor of more instant communication methods

as much as i enjoy forums and would love to see them make a comeback and such i think in the modern day it has been replaced with social networking sites and more popular technically forums like reddit, since they share a lot of the same characteristics

i like forums but i dont think other modern day people would adopt them as much

unfortunately most it seems to me that by the wider adoption of the internet other formats become appealing as the quality bar is lower there,i.e. while it's possible to shitpost in forums and such it is 'easier' in other methods of communication

i think it is difficult to cultivate a healthy active forum on the internet nowadays unless you have likeminded individuals who would use that forum with you. alongside that comes the quality bar, which weeds out even more people. since keeping a quality forum already requires it to be niche to begin with (the niche here is people who are interested in quality posting (i.e. consider posting pattterns of something like 4chan vs lainchan))
with so many things in the way, it's hard for me to imagine forums making a 'comeback' in the current era.
i think the closest we will get is something like 4chan

just repeating myself but basically i think it's because other methods of communication that did not exist then are more attractive to people who also did not exist then now than forums now, and the people who would use forums then do not exist much now

i am just squelching and spitting out whatever thoughts come to the top of my head instead of formatting these in a readable manner sorry about that
I think where the problem lies is that in 2021, cultivating and running an active forum is like catching lightning in a bottle. Like flash said sites like reddit are basically an "evolution" of the forum structure. People who are interested in specific / niche topics, whether its a show they just watched or a new application they are developing, they don't even really google these things anymore.
They usually just open reddit and search for the community instead.

It can be argued that even though you can develop much closer and beneficial relationships on a traditional forum website, people are now accustomed to and prefer the scale and accessibility something like reddit has. Even if in the long run these communications are superficial at best. On reddit it's common place for people who haven't lurked, or even interacted with a single member of a community, be able to post a new topic and be met with usually welcoming, genuine and nearly instant feedback. This is the public perception of reddit, a place where people can easily integrate into a community with little to no effort.

This is in contrast to the typical forum website. Where lurking is necessary for proper integration and expression. I think a lot of people are turned off from the idea of smaller forums because they want to be accepted in the community but don't know how to lurk, or how to express themselves in acceptable way to other users. On reddit you can just yell into the abyss and usually the abyss yells back, but in a much lower voice as to not scare anyone away.

I think flashii and sites like it are in a difficult situation. This community is built off of YEARS of interactions, inside jokes and mannerisms.
So i think the difficulty of entry is a lot higher than your typical public forum. Pushing for horizontal growth would only serve to put cracks in the mold that defines this site.

The most we can do is simply just encourage users to post on the forums through interesting topics and events, encourage responding to new topics and threads, and make the push ourselves to welcome people into this very niche community.


personally the thing which stops me from using the forum more (at all) is the fact i never know how to participate. there's not a lot happening on the forum which i could participate in, and i'm not good at starting discussions.

what i think is the biggest reason for this is that the amount of (expected) effort and attention per post is so different on forums vs chats that it's difficult to judge whether something is "worth" posting over vs just shitting it in chat, so it's easy to just default to joining chat. the fact that absolutely nothing happens on forums anyway makes it even more difficult to consider posting something there, which just causes a feedback loop.

this is why forums have to at least start with some shared topic, which brings some base amount of "confirmed worthy of posting" content. over time the members end up forming a community and start going off topic, but it needs some "content" baseline. this is why it's difficult to start and run a forum with "off-topic" content only, and why live chats excel at this. when there's a much lower barrier of effort per post, it's much easier to just post whatever and keep the place alive, even if "quality" ends up being a casualty.

chats are also more addictive as it's much easier and faster to get a reply and gratification and le dopameme. when there's little actually meaningful discussion to be had, this becomes a rather important part in keeping a user posting.

this theory also explains the popularity of chans back in the day, they provided a kind of forum which allows for lower effort, more immediate way of posting which also ends up "expiring" over time just as chats kind of do. this makes it easier for a user to just post whatever, also at the cost of conversation quality. they also move much faster, so it's again easier to get dopameme hits from them.

anyway, the obvious way to amend this would be to find a way to bring a "baseline" amount of posting to the forum to kickstart it. a more radical way (maybe worth attempting?) would be to just shut down the chat for some time, to not allow a user to "default" to posting something there because they find it "not worthy of posting". spɟsƃɟ
Shutting down the chat to attempt to boost forum activity has been attempted before by a different small website and went exactly as you would expect it to.
it's pleasing to see the detailed replies with many different interpretations, i wasn't really expecting much. i tend to agree with most of the diagnoses brought up especially considering flashii as a website was never really strong on the forum component (save for prior to the chat release but it was faltering by that point anyhow) though i do have one major counterpoint

per the issue of a community being too insular and long--standing to be inviting to others coming in, i would have to wholly disagree. it's been nice to see a lot of new active users on this website after the relaunch, and, frankly, i think most of the active users are no longer even the original crowd of people from the past. this isn't really surprising but it's a breath of fresh air to see new users on an independent community website with a nonstandard chat. on this regard, i don't really think this is so much the issue as is the lack of a unified cohesion of an overall topic as stated. if you're looking to discuss something in depth, no one would really think to come here and per being a small community the interests are too varied to synthesize generally in a forum context

per szy's several points (and some of tensy's), it's a bit frustrating that people feel as though they need to offer some titanic world-shaking novel of a post to enter even a casual forum discussion but i do understand the intimidating aspect of engaging.

given the casual nature and narrow userbase of the community, is there something that could be done to encourage more frequent posting by regulars? even if someone starts off making simple points or just agreeing/complimenting someone's work, to do this might encourage further posting and establishing more of a forum mode on the website which i think could work well in tandem with the chat at large
In the chat someone brought up the idea of maybe giving the #1 poster of the month a special role and colour, as well as one of those things where you get a rank displayed on how active you are in the form of stars/badges and whatnot. I'm not sure what the metric of the latter would be but the former seems like it'd be fun.
Thats a pretty fair point malloc, now a days the most active crowd are people from the past year or two, not even really the OG's. So I can agree with you there. But i still think that the view of smaller communities still stand that they are harder to join without an invite from the inside. I dont think flashii has a tendency to attack newer people or anything like that but i think to some extent it can be daunting to dip your feet in the water here or really anywhere else if youre brand new to the community.

I do think a majority of the newer people got here pretty organically which is really cool and it does make me doubt my stance on this.
But at the same time, historically i've brought a couple of people here and understandably they didnt really last. And its not that the community pushed back, but that it simply just wasnt the right fit for them i think. This really makes me think about what its like to join organically, without really knowing anyone.

I think some kind of basic reward to users who are in active in the forum, or the top poster should receive some kind of "reward". Just giving back something to those who are pushing to keep the forum active would probably encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Just building a routine of checking the forum and seeing where you can respond or add to a conversation, logging your projects and thoughts would start to push the forum into being way more active.

I also think that integrating a view on the homepage that lists the most recent threads and posts would also let people to hop in on conversations.