Potential new Forum software

Anything about use of this forum : NOT about cycling

What would you prefer for the Forum in future?

Keep everything as it is now.
26
68%
Re-build the Forum to look and feel more like other CTC sites.
4
11%
I don't really know, it depends...
8
21%
 
Total votes: 38

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meic
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby meic » 6 Feb 2012, 4:02pm

As we are re-applying for charity status, which was refused for acting like a membership club, surely any website/forum which is members only should be avoided?
Yma o Hyd

drossall
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby drossall » 6 Feb 2012, 6:38pm

I think it's been said a number of times that integrated log-ins don't have to mean member-only log-ins. You just have a database that says whether someone is a member (the membership database), but also contains non-members. The log-in identifies the user, and if it's a member you let him/her into the member-only areas.

I have no doubt that the CTC could identify me if it wanted to. I can't imagine why I would be concerned about that.

Integrated log-ins would be useful. So would, for example, being able to have right-hand links to CJ's Shimergo page when such issues were raised in the forum (and conversely, linking that page to Q&A in the forum as a follow-up). Therefore some integration would be good. I don't find that users notice whether the design is exactly the same, mind.

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Mick F
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby Mick F » 6 Feb 2012, 8:45pm

My point - badly made perhaps - is that the data base isn't anywhere near good enough to keep track of members/lapsed members.

I know my membership number.
It's easy to remember because of the numbers and the repetitions of them, and I don't need to look at my membership card.
I will never forget the number.

Just let's say I don't renew one year. Can I still access the members' site?
I'd bet I could!
Mick F. Cornwall

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meic
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby meic » 6 Feb 2012, 8:57pm

I just tried with a membership that expired at the end of September and it was rejected.
Yma o Hyd

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gaz
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby gaz » 6 Feb 2012, 9:22pm

hubgearfreak wrote:my questions to you are;
of the 18000 how many are genuine cyclists & frequent forum users
what percentage of those that remain would have to vote before the vote would be considered relevant in your eyes?

no offence meant or taken i hope, but i get very nervous of dismissing the voice of those that can be bothered to vote solely on the basis that the majority can't be buttocked


No offence taken, far from it.

There is no way whatsoever to authenticate "genuine cyclists" amongst the total of forum members. Frequency of posting may not equal frequency of browsing and forum use, however it's the only measure I have available.

Posts by Si, TC and Mick F together account for about 9.5% of the forum's total content. Roughly 70 members have four or five figure numbers of posts attributed to them, acounting for approximately 42% of the forum's content. 50% of the forum's content has been posted by about 140 members (those posting 500 times or more, under 1% of the forum membership). By contrast around 7500 members (including failed spammers) have never posted at all.

Admin has opened it up to the whole 18000+ forum membership to have their say, why do that if he was only interested in the views of frequent forum users?

At the end of the day if Admin required a survey of opinions from "frequent posters" he could have PM'd whatever proportion of members he felt necessary. It's Admin's poll, so it will be up to Admin how he interprets the figures and comments he gets.

With less than 1% of the forum's members accounting for over 50% of it's content it would be very easy to consider that the only relevant voices belong to those 140 members. I get very nervous of attributing too much importance to a vocal minority.

I think the useful bits for Admin to consider will be in the detail of the posts, considering the importance not so much of the "what do we want" but more of the "why do we want it".
There'll be tarmac over, the white cliffs of Dover ...

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Mick F
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby Mick F » 6 Feb 2012, 10:21pm

gaz wrote: I get very nervous of attributing too much importance to a vocal minority.
I get more than "nervous".

The Vocal Minority rule this country of ours - and most of the "democratic" world due to most people not being bothered to vote - and then they complain that they haven't got what they wanted.

Going round in circles again - - we have discussed endlessly about the charity status of the CTC and how so few of the members actually voted, and how the government is voted in by less than 25% (ish) of the electorate.

meic wrote:I just tried with a membership that expired at the end of September and it was rejected.
Good.
That's the way it should be, though I am surprised.
Mick F. Cornwall

drossall
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby drossall » 6 Feb 2012, 10:37pm

We have heard some stories of confusion over membership. However, I'd be amazed if they were anything but a minority of the members. Therefore, statistically, we shouldn't be surprised that meic's test got the right result.

I hope we can keep things in perspective.

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admin
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby admin » 7 Feb 2012, 4:33pm

Just to say I posted this poll to gauge opinion, and to get people's thoughts, about a general "integrate CTC websites" idea that has been floating around for some years. There may be potential to do something as the new CTC website is being developed, and it's worth thinking about possible improvements that could be made.

In general it would seem that the consensus, so far, is that sticking with the current system is most favoured, along the lines of "if it's not broken, don't fix it". So any changes would need to provide enough benefits for enough people to override the disadvantages of the cost to CTC and any changes in the Forum's functionality for users.

I suspect the "best" way forward is, as always, gentle incremental improvements rather than a big "step change". But it helps to know where we would like to head towards in our journey.

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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby thirdcrank » 7 Feb 2012, 4:41pm

Lthough you are much too modest a chap to say it, the consensus is that things are excellent IMO.

(Even when we get a very occasional "outrage")

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Si
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby Si » 8 Feb 2012, 9:04am

a general "integrate CTC websites" idea....... There may be potential to do something as the new CTC website is being developed, and it's worth thinking about possible improvements that could be made.


Being a believer in (indeed, a whole hearted advocate of) advantageous integration, I fear that we are already past the point where we could have done it properly as it should have been planned before the new website was started. Nonetheless, there are still things that we can do, but it seems to me that the vast majority of these are changes to the website or other parts of the CTC's comms, rather than SW changes to the forum.

The forum could be changed by adding the odd new section, increasing moderation staff or enhancing moderation procedures - but I can't really see these areas impacting on the average user in any detrimental way.

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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby thirdcrank » 8 Feb 2012, 9:26am

Si wrote:.... before the new website was started. ...
In my totally non IT view, the key to this is there. I suspect (and I draw support from some of the posts from people with vastly more knowledge than mine) that a bespoke set-up, which is never quite ready, always being delayed for a further "very short period" so that worthwhile improvements may be incorporated, which make the extra delay well-worthwhile.... etc.....etc.... is unlikely to be capable of integration with anything, without another prolonged (and probably expensive) wait. (What my dear old dad used to call "a stained-glass window job.")

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patricktaylor
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby patricktaylor » 8 Feb 2012, 10:33am

The first thing is to be clear on what we mean by integration (the forums with the website). With Drupal (the system being used to build the new website) and phpBB (the system used for these forums) I'd guess it would be easily possible to 'integrate' in the following sort of fashion (a 2008 list from Drupal's website):

phpBB can be completely embedded inside.
phpBB topics can be created from Drupal.
phpBB comments instead of Drupal comments.
Can be used on a working site and forum with existing users.
Authentication and synchronization in both directions.
Automatic creation of users.
Synchronization of account info, such as user names, passwords, emails, signatures, and avatars Synchronization of profile information from Profile.
Support for Drupal forum signatures, avatars, and birthdays.
The forum can be displayed in a full window, in a frame inside Drupal, or in a Drupal page.

How well these things work, I don't know, but it seems no big deal to implement something along those lines. But what does it achieve other than more distractions?

The other thing that seems to me to be unclear is the status of these forums in relation to the future website. As I understand it, they are currently 'independent' of the CTC - a sort of add-on service for anyone who wants to join in, as opposed to something that benefits members and whose content has the CTC's blessing. At present the CTC does not 'control' the forums as such, and presumably do not feel editorially responsible for what is published (even though they may be legally). This arm's length thing works well in my opinion, but maybe somebody up there doesn't like it. The more things are integrated, the more that somebody might feel inclined to intervene. On reflection I don't actually object to that. After all, there are plenty of independent cycling forums if independence is what users want.

By the same token it could be argued that the CTC should control its own official forums, if that is what they become, and moderators should be on the payroll. The Tweeters and Facebookers are presumably paid for that they do. Either way, some clarity would help to inform this topic.

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Si
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby Si » 8 Feb 2012, 10:57am

The other thing that seems to me to be unclear is the status of these forums in relation to the future website. As I understand it, they are currently 'independent' of the CTC - a sort of add-on service for anyone who wants to join in, as opposed to something that benefits members and whose content has the CTC's blessing. At present the CTC does not 'control' the forums as such, and presumably do not feel editorially responsible for what is published (even though they may be legally). This arm's length thing works well in my opinion, but maybe somebody up there doesn't like it. The more things are integrated, the more that somebody might feel inclined to intervene. On reflection I don't actually object to that. After all, there are plenty of independent cycling forums if independence is what users want.


Yep, you are in the ball park area there.

This version of the forum was created in the CTC's name with their blessing and had to agree to certain provisos before it come be created (you can probably guess these if you went on the old forum). Creation was championed by a member of the CTC council so it was done very much under their eyes.

Thus the content has the CTC blessing, and the idea of the forum is that it will benefit members (I'm sure that you'll agree that it does - if in doubt just look at all of CJ's input), but also it ought to advertise the CTC. Again, it does this to an extent - you'll often find it higher in the google listings than the main website so many potential new recruits might see the forum (rather than the website) as their first on-line encounter with the CTC.

The CTC hierarchy doesn't often tell us what ought to be on the forum. Examples of where they have include the section for cycle training, and the addition of the section for the charity debate (note here they requested that it was created and that the link to the website were put in - they did not request the the forum staff steer the debate in any particular direction or take any other action that would not have been seen as carrying out normal duties on other parts of the forum). More recently we have had a request for another new section on the forum from the Council. This was not so much an order, rather it was a discussion of as to how it might help and how it might be done.

However, we are part of the CTC and the forum staff are CTC officers (with the same protections and responsibilities that other CTC officers have).

Some of the suggestions for integration could bring us nearer to the main part of the CTC - they might encourage more input to threads from the CTC staff and Council which I see as a good thing: discussion of issues pertaining to the CTC with those who are empowered to make changes must be a positive, right? They might also make moderation easier (which probably won't make much difference to most people but it'd help me!!!). And they could even help promote member groups - something that many have recently said is a problem.

Although when I talk of integration I'm talking more from a use/engagement perspective than Anthony's technical/SW perspective.

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horizon
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby horizon » 8 Feb 2012, 11:17am

Si: while that is a really useful response, I'm reminded of the opening post on this thread which reads:

We are discussing the future of this Forum, in terms of the software used to run it. The two main options are:

1. Keep phpBB3 as we're using now.
2. Move all the posts and users into the new CTC website software, Drupal. Note: we would ensure that all discussions and user accounts were kept!


I've highlighted the important bit. Given that I regularly go off at a tangent on threads with impunity I'm not going to suggest that we don't do it here but I'm wondering if we now need to clarify the issues - everything that you and Patrick have raised is important IMV and might get lost in a technical thread about software.
When the pestilence strikes from the East, go far and breathe the cold air deeply. Ignore the sage, stay not indoors. Ho Ri Zon 12th Century Chinese philosopher

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admin
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Re: Potential new Forum software

Postby admin » 8 Feb 2012, 2:14pm

Ah, poorly phrased. I meant "the future of the Forum, in terms of how it works", as opposed to "the future of the Forum, should we kill it?".

There are costs associated with making changes, and integrating the Forum more with the CTC's new website. But there could be some real benefits too.

The big question is whether the costs are more, or less, than the benefits.

I'm trying to discover how big people think the benefits of things like single-sign-in and a common look-and-feel across CTC sites are. My gut feel so far is, yes, it would be nice for CTC members, but perhaps not that much of a benefit.

If a single-sign-in system, and more integration, resulted in a few more thousand members joining, then there'd be a strong argument for spending some time and effort on making the changes! If the majority are happy with what we've got, and don't see much advantage in changing, then it's silly to waste time doing so.