Saturday, July 7, 2012

Social Networks Replacing Forums

Okay, so I asked this a couple days ago, but I think I'm starting to see ideas. I may be crazy, but I can start to see these ideas come together. Especially if the social network is more of a platform than it is just a stream.

The problems I discussed before haven't gone away, but I might have ways to address them, at least.

First: anonymity. There are forums where people want to discuss things but need to retain anonymity; places which are dedicated to allowing people to talk about work issues (venting about customers, or bad bosses, in particular), or alternative lifestyles. These are very real, very common, and serve a very real need.

Using Google+, an individual can make a "Page". These are supposed to be product or brand pages, but could easily be used for pseudonyms. This would allow me an anonymous way to post to such a forum.

The major problem that remains is the problem of actually having fixed topics for a forum, or subforum. I think I might have a way to achieve that goal, thanks to hashtags.

Basically, everybody appends the same hashtags to their posts. For instance, if the forum has a specific section named "New Members" which is for introductions, then everybody appends "#newmembers" to the post to indicate it belongs there.

Now, this is not foolproof, since anybody can make a hashtag say anything. Some code would need to be done to make an extension to the platform (either a browser based extension, or maybe something that accesses the APIs themselves, I'm not sure). This would provide a way for somebody to say that this #newmembers hashtag is supposed to be sent to JimBob'sForumOfGlee as opposed to NancyDrew'sForumOfMystery.

It's not a fully fleshed out idea. I'm not going to pretend it is. There needs to be some way to provide the main forum page itself. On G+, I would say to make another Page for the forum.

It also has flaws. For instance, if I'm a moderator for a forum, I need to be able to deal with problem members. This can include muting them on the forum, banning them, or other punitive measures. There's a whole suite of management tools built into something like vBulletin that would no longer be accessible by using FB or G+ (for instance, IP address information becomes lost).

I'm not sure of how to proceed from here. This could go in so many directions, and some of the problems are completely not addressed (not even as a concept). What do you all think?

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