Author Topic: The future of the forum  (Read 8691 times)

Claireliontamer

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The future of the forum
« on: June 14, 2016, 12:03:52 PM »
Since the last high profile member 'retired' I have been doing a lot of thinking.  Well, to be honest I was thinking about a lot of these things before he left but him leaving has re-energised the thoughts.  I too have been thinking of leaving/retiring whatever the correct term is, for a while now and I have come incredibly close to.  However, I have a kind of sentimental nostalgic streak about me and so I thought instead of just going I would open a thread that hopefully will be an honest an open area for people to discuss the forum and it's future.  Maybe others don't think there is a problem, in which case that too can be said here.  What I hope doesn't happen is it just turns into a moan about individuals or people take things too personally.  I would like it to be constructively critical rather than just critical if that makes sense.

I have actually been in touch with Crow and if he allows me to, I can share some of his thoughts too but this really is about the bigger picture.

Anyway.......my thoughts and opinions.

1. We have lost too many regular members that created the content that kept this place going.  Now, each may have their own reasons for leaving and yes people on forums do change but that isn't always the case and shouldn't necessarily be the norm.  When I now look at the regular contributors on here, most of them I have on another form of network too so I no longer feel like I need to be here to keep in touch with people.

2. We're not getting many new active members.  The ones who do join and start posting don't seem to be sticking around for very long.  Part of the fun of forums for me is meeting new people, not just the ones I already know and getting to hear different points of view.  It's almost become too cliquey for want of a better word and I think that is quit intimidating to new members.  Maybe we could start spreading the message out and about a little more?  It's certainly not the case that all atheist forums are low activity, I did a quick search and there are plenty of very active ones with lots of interesting topics and debates going on.  What are they doing differently?

3.  Recently I think it has been too heavily moderated for content.  Anyone who seems to spark a little bit of debate seems to be got rid of very easily.  Which I think also links back to number 2 also.  Perhaps we do need some more argumentative characters once more to kick the debates into action.  BTW I'm not equating uncivil with argumentative.  I'm thinking more of the Stevil type character who was perfectly civil but often gave a different perspective.

4.  Perhaps we need a discussion on what a forum like this is actually for?  At the moment I feel like there isn't a difference between this and my facebook feed. 

I appreciate any thoughts.

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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2016, 03:19:08 PM »
I agree, it would be nice to have some new active members to replenish our numbers and inject some new ideas and perspectives. :smilenod:

We are a small forum but that does have its advantages. Our community might be tighter knit than those of other larger forums, with hundreds or thousands of active members, but IMO being smaller can be a double-edged sword and really can be intimidating to some new members who might feel slightly marginalised at first. Not that new members are excluded from conversations here, I'm basing this on how I feel when trying to join formed groups where people know each other well, it can be a bit difficult to get started.

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3.  Recently I think it has been too heavily moderated for content.  Anyone who seems to spark a little bit of debate seems to be got rid of very easily.  Which I think also links back to number 2 also.  Perhaps we do need some more argumentative characters once more to kick the debates into action.  BTW I'm not equating uncivil with argumentative.  I'm thinking more of the Stevil type character who was perfectly civil but often gave a different perspective.

Being a small forum and community, we are protective of our regular members. Maybe overly so, I don't know, it's when mistakes are made that we can tell. It's something that we need to keep in mind. 

There's no problem whatsoever with people being argumentative but civil and one does not exclude the other. I think, if you want to be argumentative then go for it!  :thumbsup:  :P

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Perhaps we need a discussion on what a forum like this is actually for?  At the moment I feel like there isn't a difference between this and my facebook feed.

Personally I prefer HAF to FB. :P

The most active subforum is the Laid Back Lounge, and not Religion or Life as an Atheist which might be expected from a platform that calls itself an atheist forum. I'm assuming that it's one more characteristic of small forums of any kind with small communities that preference for topics drifts into something that looks more like Facebook feeds. To me at least, it seems like most religious or irreligious topics are preaching to the choir, we've all heard it all before. Again, the solution might be to get some new active members.

What kind of member do you think is better suited to this forum? Someone who wants to talk about religion and atheism or someone who wants community and wants to talk about whatever?
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2016, 05:45:49 PM »
Quote from: Fernanda
What kind of member do you think is better suited to this forum? Someone who wants to talk about religion and atheism or someone who wants community and wants to talk about whatever?

We used to have plenty of both, which was our strength, but as often happens it began to split into two groups.


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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2016, 06:54:48 PM »
Quote from: Fernanda
What kind of member do you think is better suited to this forum? Someone who wants to talk about religion and atheism or someone who wants community and wants to talk about whatever?

We used to have plenty of both, which was our strength, but as often happens it began to split into two groups.

:chin:

Is the tendency to split into groups necessarily a problem? As Claire pointed out one way to remedy this would be to have new members join in. How we'd go about to achieve this I don't know, if I knew any other English-speaking atheists in my area I would invite them. 
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2016, 07:40:57 PM »
How we'd go about to achieve this I don't know, if I knew any other English-speaking atheists in my area I would invite them.

Yep. It was the lack of atheists around me that drove me to seek out a forum.

Personally, I love the close knit group on HAF. It's what differentiates itself from other forums. New members are great, but I don't find it stale just because we do t get very many of them.
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2016, 09:36:32 PM »
Hm... Well... Yes.

Thing is, pretty much everything that can be said at this point in the atheism versus religion debate has been said. On both sides, I might add.

Yes, we can seem an appealing place for an occasional theist or new atheist looking for answers or atheist, new or old, looking for a community of like-minded people, but for my part, that's not why I'm here. And yes, I realize that I'm a bad example of member reliability as I do tend to disappear for months at a time with no to little warning, but...

It's no longer about the debate, it's not about meeting new people... It's the all-you-can-eat buffet. That's why I keep coming back. (No, there is not some profound metaphor behind the buffet reference; in actuality, it is all about maintaining the existing online relationships, which in my case are mostly unique to this forum as I frequent no other)

Me being me, I'm not at all discouraged by good contributors leaving. That's life. Things change and people change and sometimes they [things and people both] come to an end. If that is to happen to HAF, well... We've had a good run. If not, then the run continues. That's not to say that I do not have an opinion or a preference in the matter, however, in this case, my agenda is irrelevant. I'll keep popping in and out for as long as there is a HAF and as long as I have the ability and the inclanation to do so.

...Re-reading my post, I'm somewhat surprised that my opinion on this matter isn't stronger... Or at least more strongly worded. But then again, that's my trademark stark fatalism without the fate part for you, I suppose.
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2016, 10:38:15 PM »
I can take on a different persona and be a total jerk/contrarian about everything, if that will spice things up.

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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2016, 12:14:31 AM »
I can take on a different persona and be a total jerk/contrarian about everything, if that will spice things up.

Only if you call your second persona Professor Fancy Pants.

I also like the forum the way it is (tho in my case it's not at all like my FB page), but I wouldn't mind more diverse or contrary opinions either.  On the other hand, I also wouldn't care for a parade of Pahus who don't contribute anything but copy pasta, or people who just seem to want to put the cat among the pigeons.  I don't mind arguments, but I do mind pointless name calling and insults, which lately all arguments have seemed to devolve into.  Maybe I'm asking too much, I don't know.
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2016, 12:43:27 AM »
This is the first and so far only atheist forum I've ever been a member of, so I don't have a lot to compare it to. But I have noticed what Claire is talking about.

So I joined 4.5 years ago and liked the small size and general feel of the place at the time. It was welcoming and sane but also interesting, and I didn't feel like an outsider at all. I think we're still pretty welcoming and sane, but I have found things stale lately. Well, maybe not today's argument with Davin :) Sure, sometimes I just want to talk about Game of Thrones or movies, but then there were the discussions/arguments I had with En_Route and Stevil about morality, which were fun and really made me think, even if I thought they were nuts most of the time. That's the kind of thing I don't see here anymore. A little arguing and conflict is healthy and rejuvenating as long as it doesn't become personal, and I think that's also what attracts new members.
And concerning the over-moderating, I agree that at times it's been excessive, and I wonder if that's one reason why I feel the way I do. I haven't seen anything recently that I haven't brought up before, thankfully, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's a factor. I definitely don't notice nearly as many new members joining as I used to when I first started here.

Also, the fact that we're such a small forum likely means that every time a member leaves, it's felt much more so than it would be on a larger one. I wonder if it would be worth asking some of the people who don't post lately why they don't? I might run that by Ali since I'm FB friends with her, and I'd be curious to hear from others like Determined_Juliet, Amicale, and Crow if anyone's in touch with them.
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2016, 02:30:54 AM »
Well…there’s the staff, and there’s the members.

This post was made in 2012: 
What do you expect/want from the staff of the forum?

I don’t know where the hell I was! I didn’t contribute anything to it.  :scratch:

This caught my eye:
My only criticism would be the same as what Scissorlegs has suggested. There have been times when mods have just put there foot down before people have had the opportunity to argue or support it because it was controversial or caused conflict between a lay member or mod. Though I don't remember reading anything that got scissorlegs warned with mod font.
It's a fine line and I do tend to stomp very close to the edge. Mainly because I've seen what goes on at other places if arseholes get the upper hand. They don't just do direct damage by insulting people they can bring down the whole tone of the place and then, for want of a better term, 'the gentler souls', leave and don't come back and then it becomes a fight between the arseholes and the remaining thicker skinned members which can end up in a downward spiral leading to the demise of the forum.

Very true. To be honest I would be the worst mod in the world and do not think or would want to try and do better as I know I couldn't. It is only a very small comment on a largely very good job, which you do not get paid for and must take up vast amounts of time.

I can understand Tank. He must maintain our motto: We are: The Happy Atheist Forum. Anyone who insults another, “Can bring down the whole tone of the place and then, for want of a better term, 'the gentler souls', leave and don't come back and then it becomes a fight between the arseholes and the remaining thicker skinned members which can end up in a downward spiral leading to the demise of the forum.”

I can also understand Crow. Maybe there’s not enough consistency, but being a moderator doesn’t look as if it’s an easy job to have, either.

This is the first thing new members see when they come here:
The Happy Atheist Forum Mission Statement.

http://happyatheistforum.com/
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…It is our goal to help dissolve negative stereotypes currently held towards atheists and facilitate productive dialogue with those of differing viewpoints…
If that’s the case, why is it that only one Christian has stuck around this long? :eyebrow:
Why is it that new members don't stick around?  Is it because they can't stand the "heat" from the members, or because most of them have been banned? :eyebrow:


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Claireliontamer

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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2016, 08:40:03 AM »
Thank you to everyone who has replied.  I was actually a little worried about posting as I didn't want to come across as overly critical, so I'm pleased people have seen it in the spirit it was intended.

Just a few comments on things people have said:

xSP  I do agree that new members would be great.  We do seem to get people signing up but then a) never post at all or b) post one or two times and then disappear.  I do agree that it is sometimes harder to join and get involved in a small forum, it's like walking into a party alone where everyone else already knows each other.  Even for the most extrovert of people that can be difficult.  I'm purely hypothesising here but I wonder if there is a critical membership level where this doesn't happen?  I feel perhaps at the moment we are below that level.


What kind of member do you think is better suited to this forum? Someone who wants to talk about religion and atheism or someone who wants community and wants to talk about whatever?

To answer this directly.  I don't see why it can't be both, like OG said we used to have people who were part of both camps, gradually we've evolved more into a general forum.  Maybe there is no problem with that, in that case maybe the whole forum needs rebranding?  This might help with the new members, if people sign up thinking it's an atheist forum (I imagine most people find us by googling 'atheist forum' after all) but then see very little discussion on atheism itself but more on what movies people have seen it may put them off joining in.  On a personal level I wish we'd go back to more of an atheist forum, I genuinely don't mind all the small talk too as an extra but I miss the intellectual debates.  Perhaps I personally need to find a different forum.

Asmo maybe you think Atheism as a topic is dead and all there is to say has been said.  It makes me wonder why so many other atheist forums are flourishing though?  Again, maybe I just need to join one of these.

Ecurb  I don't think people have to be uncivil or act as jerks to spice things up.  That's really not what I was suggesting.  Although as an aside, when looking around at other forums I did find an ex-members (well someone using the same username anyway) who were considered ban worthy here but they are actually making positive contributions on other forums. 

Buddy I don't think there is anything wrong at all with having a close knit group of online friends.  I just don't know why that would need to be threatened by having more active people here.  I find meeting new people from different ways of life interesting but maybe that's again a personal thing to me.

Firebird I think it would be interesting to hear from ex-members.  Of course people are entitled to leave, they have lives outside the forum and people do change and drift away.  Could be worth seeing if there's a theme though.

Magdalena  I too find it interesting that only one Christian has stuck around.  Maybe a change in goal is required to meet the new style forum.

I don't know what the answers are.  I didn't post this with all the answers in mind and I didn't know if others felt the same way or not. 

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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2016, 01:10:08 PM »
Asmo maybe you think Atheism as a topic is dead and all there is to say has been said.  It makes me wonder why so many other atheist forums are flourishing though?  Again, maybe I just need to join one of these.
Not dead - not at all, just dormant in its core questions. Until something new and exciting comes along, it's mostly just reactionary to the foolishness of religions.

My comment was more about why I think people come here (We are, by the way, fourth on Google search for Atheist forum) and went on to ramblings about my own reasons for being here. Once, when I was young and far less cynical, I did come for the debate. That reason no longer applies. For instance, I would not join another atheist forum with the intention of parroting tired old arguments about how unnecessary and unlikely gods are or shooting down the equally tired and equally old apologist nonsense.

As far as our understanding of gods and their existence goes, we are at a stalemate. I leave enlightening those who still haven't arrived at that conclusion to better teachers and better debaters on both sides.

All that being said, I welcome the idea of evolving HAF further, but I have no clue as to the exact mechanisms needed to facilitate such an evolution.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2016, 05:21:50 PM by Asmodean »
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2016, 02:35:50 PM »
Prior to joining HAF I belong to the forum "Atheism Plus" which several years ago was an extremely vibrant and active forum. When I logged onto it a month or so ago there hadn't been a new comment posted in some 4-5 weeks, and now the forum itself isn't even available online as I assume they have allowed it to go dormant rather than spend money keeping a dead forum active.

Atheism isn't the hot, new topic it once was. Like Asmo posted below, and at this point in my life I have no interest in continuing with the same old arguments about god or gods, creationism vs. evolution, etc...I enjoy this forum not because I want to continually rehash these tired-old arguments about gods and religion, but rather because I know that members won't' evoke god when discussing current events or politics.

Although I consider myself extremely liberal with regards to my political ideology, I do have some conservative views on certain issues, but what annoys and bothers me more than anything is folks wrapping up god, country and flag into one single political ideology which they believe represents this countries values, the so called "Patriots".

I took part during the Memorial Weekend as part of Color Guard to honor veterans and was in my Army Uniform. I don't know if I will do so again, as the number of people coming up to me and wanting to "God Bless Me" for my service.
I could possibly stomach those comments alone, as I know they are sincere, but further discussions ultimately reveal an extremist bent to their thinking with regards to "Those Immigrants", "Guns", "God" and the "Devil Obama".

I don't have to hear that here at HAF...

Anyway I think forums and those who participate in them are changing, different outlets are available to express views such as FB and Twitter.

Again like the Asmo I would welcome the idea of evolving HAF further, but this change may not be seen or even received by those long term members who were accustom to the way HAF used to be.

That said I would personally like to extend my apologies not only to Claire, but to Siz, JJ, Crow, Bad Penny, Recusant and any others here at HAF for having ruined such a bastion of intellectual discussion and debate.
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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2016, 05:58:36 PM »
Prior to joining HAF I belong to the forum "Atheism Plus" which several years ago was an extremely vibrant and active forum. When I logged onto it a month or so ago there hadn't been a new comment posted in some 4-5 weeks, and now the forum itself isn't even available online as I assume they have allowed it to go dormant rather than spend money keeping a dead forum active.

Hmm, Atheism+ only came into existence in the latter part of 2012. I didn't know you were part of that forum, and to tell you the truth I'm amazed that you were able to get along with their oppression olympics ideology.

That said I would personally like to extend my apologies not only to Claire, but to Siz, JJ, Crow, Bad Penny, Recusant and any others here at HAF for having ruined such a bastion of intellectual discussion and debate.

 :grin:  :nanana: :thumbsup:

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Re: The future of the forum
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2016, 08:14:26 PM »
Time for a membership drive?  ;D

I dunno... it's a bit calm here now, but it's nice.

Wouldn't want it to get *too* quiet though.