Evaluating the forum after one year

Thanks for the input and clarification. Yes, Facebook has a different culture. And rightfully also the algorithms to make sure people see content they probably like instead of a linear timeline of everything posted. But that puts you in competition with lolcats and girls in bikinis so to speak. Things that aren’t necessary act as a supporting platform to have focused discussions.

So yes, technically they are similar. But the forum offers more focus and makes sure people get the info they subscribed for. There are a lot of Facebook Groups. None of them you can control in a unified way. Content also has to be manually re-posted across all those groups. I’ve done it, it’s a a pain. Just like having all those Discord servers, which then also have many channels. Your screenshot and motivation around it make it seem you have the impression everything is reachable and organized. I strongly disagree. I only have 4 servers in my Discord and I can’t make any sense out of it.

Here we have the groups and users which you can directly tag or DM. Also a map of where these chapters are geographically. In a previous comment I also addressed the latest and top filters which allow a nice overview. Saving time and effort to keep up.

If you want easy access, you may like the PWA (Progressive Web App), it functions as an app on your phone or computer. Just like any other app. It’s simple to install. The app offers push notifications to your phone (not as emails). Only if you don’t react to those notifications you then receive an email by default, this can be modified as well.

Those numbers you list of social-media pages, forum groups and group chats are impressive. But those numbers need to be taken into perspective. Sure active users is always lower. But also, what’s the effective reach? The Facebook posts sometimes only get a few dozen likes, sometimes even less. Liking is of course not the same as seeing and reading the post, but it’s a more accurate indication than Facebook’s interpretation of “reading”. And Discord has many users. But anyone that joins is listed as a member. Even if those people then just spend their time in another server, they’re still registered as “online” in the TZM Discord. So I think we should take those online and membership numbers with a grain of salt.

Here are some stats from the forum, with also the context. People come and watch, but don’t interact as much unfortunately. Also note the web crawlers, very useful to spread the train of thought. And this is also a yearly overview, so it’s normalized, some spikes in user activity is not visible because it’s normalized with inactive days. Quarterly and weekly overviews show these spikes better.

Moderation is easier here as well. Trust levels, (real) AI for detecting toxic language (not just a word list), a custom word list is possible though and customize some rules for that, and many, many more. When people reach higher trust levels they automatically become soft moderators as well. So as the forum grows, it automatically recruits people into a (soft) mod role. And people can flag posts as well. You also have the option of “canned replies”, which you can use for recurring interventions, saving you a lot of typing. The list is long, but I suppose you get the impression. You can do more with less on the forum.

A workshop about how to use the forum? I did that in the beginning with a bunch of people. The next step would then be the moderation course, which is in the #staff category, but yeah, only visible for staff :nerd_face: We never got that far.

That’s a bad thing? I think it’s more healthy and promotes more substance in the comments. While also being able to link easily to other threads, topics, categories and tags to save time and explaining thins again.

Thanks again for your feedback!

Quite off topic, but the TZM NL site isn’t doing too bad either. Also take into consideration that when a user has the “do not track” option enabled in their browser, Google Analytics doesn’t work. So the actual numbers could be higher.

I don’t use Google Analytics for the forum for privacy reasons. There is no such intelligent way for users to disable that tracking on the forum. But there is not a real reason to use Google Analytics anyway. You already have all the logs you need locally.

As a newbie, and having talked to some of the active users, I personally think this forum is technically a good idea in principle, but for purely subjective reasons, some users have been turned off and/or rather the discord or other formats. I like forum formats, but I think there are users who don’t apreciate all the longer format reading and writing, and prefer or are more used to other formats. By the way, and this might seem obvious, but I think all of these platforms depend on personal leadership to some extent, as they are used and moderated and organized by human people and human communities, with their subjective human tendencies and limitations and needs and whims, etc… I hope that makes sense.

As a minor issue, I think the layout is nice, but some TZM related or otherwise interesting visuals could be pleasant and offer something visual for people too.

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Hi @pau, and welcome to the forum! :slight_smile: Also thanks for leaving your feedback.

It’s generally true that people tend to write longer replies on forums. But it’s not a rule. Posts can be brief as well. Also Reddit and Facebook use somewhat the same format as Discourse (the forum software we use here). So I think people can adjust fine to it.

And about long threads, which do happen, Discourse has an option to summarize those. Saving people some time by just tuning in to what may be the most relevant comments. There are a ton of other features that help moderate and organize communication in a way that’s not doable in group chat.

Anyway, have look at the docs, there are some nice articles in there to get you up to speed on the forum features and whatnot. We also have a few community maintained wiki pages (you can also add one yourself).

Discourse can be heavily modified with themes, plugins and theme components. I’m using a few here, but I want to limit its use for stability/compatibility reasons.

Thanks. Like I said I like this format, but it seems to me that for subjective reasons perhaps, or wrong expectations or whatever, people might not be as attracted to this as to other formats. If you know what I mean. So it’s mainly a problem or ‘marketing’ and social influence, and community building, so to speak. Or maybe also just graphic design or something like that.

Yeah, that makes sense, and I’m not questioning that directly, I was just suggesting possible ways to attract people and users. I’m also not sure what or how big the audience or ‘market’ is for long format intelligent reading and writing posts type forum realistically. One thing is visiting a site, reading things on facebook, or watching videos on youtube or writing a few words on discord from their phone, and the other reading and writing long posts with syntax and formatting.

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I understand, I was just replying to the general argument that forums are “old” :slight_smile:

The forum can be installed as an app on your phone too, see below for more info:

Hi all, I’m doing monthly “Science Summaries” and am interested in working towards systemic sustainability, learned about the movement at about the time Addendum was released.

For feedback on the forum: I think it’s useful, thanks for setting it up! What I’d like to propose here as either a replacement or a complement to the forum is a “chan” for TZM or even sustainability (science/technology-based progressive sustainability in particular) in general.

I think there would be more activity and participants in a chan for many reasons. It may be the better format in principle too. Chans are basically all about or perfect for discussing ideas per se and places of high originality and in-depth discussion of viewpoints and ideas. One advantage is that they are easy to use, good for quick back-and-forth discussion and you don’t need to sign up (but can), which are some of the reasons why I think participation would be higher.

Currently, the chan closest to it is the /sci/ chan (don’t mind that there’s many unconstructive posts; note that we’d need to have rules and moderation to remove inappropriate posts (which will surely come); you can check things like the layout there). It could be called the “TZM Chan” or “Sustainability Chan” (the latter could have a pinned post about TZM). We could also discuss this in a new thread but I’d suggest setting up the board and just see how it goes (maybe I could help a bit; let me know if you have any questions). You could use (can’t link them here) Vichan (Tinyboard) (or alternatives like meguca, tinyib, uchan). What do you think of this?

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Hi @prototyperspective! And welcome to the forum!

I personally see Reddit as the best alternative, but of course the community can choose their favorite platform, regardless if the forum will stay or not. But I think if the forum is discontinued I’ll focus more on local activism again in @chapter_netherlands. So feel free to setup anything yourself :nerd_face:

@Kees There already is a subreddit for TZM. This isn’t a matter of taste which platform you like most (or even an “either-or” decision) but imo more about which technology is best suited:
If you want an active community, I can only strongly recommend setting up a chan and giving it a try. If you’d like to only have website (largely) without community and discussions where only relevant links are posted and which will remain fairly inactive (reddit) or not have the community connect and build over the Internet then an imageboard wouldn’t be relevant. I can understand if you don’t want to set it up yourself, maybe somebody else comes across this and sets it up (shouldn’t be difficult, you really only need to set up some existing software on a server).

I won’t set it up myself, partly because I don’t really consider myself an activist and think that sustainability is a subject of science (even though activism is both a relevant subject of it and a partial means to it). I don’t know of any other significant movement that has long advocated for society to orient to/via science and technology for sustainability (e.g. “scientists 4 future” is recent and not large).
One advantage of imageboards is that they also work well if there’s not much active discussions and that threads can be like reddit for posting links & media, like versatile general debates, etc.
Sorry if this didn’t address the forum itself much and only suggested a successor / complement to it.

Hi, I’ll clarify my comment a little bit :slight_smile: Yes the r/tzm subreddit is the one I was referring to. People can move their activity to that existing subreddit if and when this forum goes down. Reddit is quite popular and shares some features of this forum. Both the TZM subreddit and this forum lack active users. Reddit is perfect as a replacement since no hosting cost is required and activity is low anyway. So it will be a better fit.

But for self-hosted solutions I think Discourse (what we use here as well) is overall best. It’s used by many communities. If this forum discontinues it will be up to someone else to setup something new. Either self-hosted or hosted somewhere else, that’s up to the people that take the lead. If no one takes the lead, nothing will happen.

Did it meet its goal?

If the goal is for the forum to replace all other platforms, it seems to me that that goal is never going to be met. We cannot prevent people from having casual and informal chats, but we can establish (if there is consensus, of course) that the forum is used for serious discussions that involve important changes for TZM.

Do you find it useful?

Yes, but it could be even more so. Anyway, I don’t think we should expect the forum to serve all the interactions that happen in TZM. I am content if we use it for some specific tasks, such as conducting important discussions here and recording meeting minutes.

Should it remain online?

Yes.

Forums are irreplaceable tools to have orderly and long discussions, in addition to fulfilling the role of repositories. However, I do not think that this forum can replace other tools for other forms of interaction, such as chat rooms or instant messaging. The use of each communication tool arises from each need. If people don’t see the need to use the “forum” tool, they won’t use it.

Although it also seems to me necessary that the members of TZM always have efficiency as a premise. For example: if we old members know that there are some debates that have been recurring throughout the history of TZM and from time to time they continue to be repeated, the most efficient thing is to develop those debates in a place where they can occur continuously and where can be consulted later. So if someone new approaches TZM and asks a question that has already been answered hundreds of times, we can redirect that person to a specific place where they can find the answer or the discussion that was given to get to that answer. Unfortunately Discord is not used for that, nor do I think that is its function, no matter how popular Discord is. Nor would it be efficient to hold an assembly every time someone questions something that has already been discussed many times, unless there are new arguments to change the position. And those arguments should be dumped somewhere where everyone can look for them and answer them asynchronously.

What don’t you like about it? How to improve it?

Regarding this particular forum, my suggestions are:

  • Within the “Train of Thought” category, it would be more useful for the subcategories to refer to subjects, such as the ones we have used in the Spanish-speakers metachapter forum: Economy and Society - Education - Technology and Science - Human Relations and Human Rights - Ecology and Environment - Philosophy and “Spirituality” - Current political and social news. It does not seem so relevant to me to know in advance if the information is in video or image format, but it does seem to be able to address that topic one wants to talk about.

  • It seems to me that most of the things that the zeit-bot publishes is unnecessary and generates noise. I understand that perhaps the intention is to keep the forum active, but it can have the opposite effect, visually taking the place of the real discussions. I think it is very necessary that the visitors of the forum can more easily find what interests them. Another option would be for the bot to publish by default in a category separate from the rest.

  • What would be the reason for the topics to be closed 6 months after the last response?

  • It would not be necessary to advertise the forum if we left the function that each communication tool will have settled somewhere (for example, explaining that social networks are more than anything to socialize). Of course, for that we would need consensus among the members.

Hi @DiegoJujuy, thanks for your feedback!

The goal of the forum is explained here (also mentioned in the top post of this thread). In summary this forum was meant as the digital square where we can come together. We use many platforms, but they are not interconnected. We created islands. Each of those islands have a few active people and share ideas. This forum was meant to bridge those islands and form a group mind. Such that we may mobilize again as one, with the few people we have left. Keeping things on islands limits momentum and the development of the movement. We already lost the momentum, let’s not make it worse!

It’s of course fine to keep those islands, but at least we should be able to bridge those islands. So you can more easily organize the movement, keep track of activities of these chapters, etc. The forum offers many solutions for that, which I won’t go into now because it’s documented already in full.

So if the forum failed to bridge those islands, but yet again created another island, then it failed. I also mentioned this a year ago in my video when I promoted this idea. Then it would be better to merge with other existing platforms and make the most out of that. Reddit is the platform that comes closest. But is limited in features compared to this forum. Reddit is also not #open-source and also doesn’t run on renewables. So it’s not really practice what you preach. This forum does by the way. As well as Jitsi, the video/voice conference tool that’s integrated into this forum for real-time in the moment discussions.

Forums and chat groups are totally different. They cannot replace each other. This forum is also not meant to replace Discord or alike. But for sure Discord should not be used for everything, which is happening now. Discord is a black hole. People only interact with what’s on the screen. There is no central overview either, each channel is a black hole. That’s a problem. Because it by design doesn’t move a community into a direction. And indeed you have the problem of repeating conversations a lot. Also moderation is harder in group chat.

This blog post below gives a great explanation how forums and group chat can be used together. What the strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve shared this on Discord a few times as well, but the problem wasn’t recognized. Due to that it became arguments rather then working towards improvements.

The categories on this forum are indeed high-level. That’s on purpose. The categories are forever, they should be relevant for all times and not change the layout of the forum every few months because some subject was trending. Having many categories for each subject would not make the forum self-organized. People don’t want a lot of categories to choose from. They are then more likely to pick the wrong one and thus moderators have to micro manage people, what you see on Discord with the many channels. But to create more low-level categories, tags may be used. Which do what you suggest and can be reorganized without retraining people on the forum about the core categories. But to keep tags easy to use and help with organizing posts, they too have to be somewhat generic. If they are too specific, then a simple topic for that is enough. Tags and categories should group many similar things, they should not be a single subject. Because again, a topic thread on the forum is enough in that case.

I disagree about the zeit-bot, the posts are relevant. The posts are e.g. blogs, videos or podcasts from TZM activists. It also posts RSS feeds from like-minded organizations, which I think are brilliant posts. The zeit-bot doesn’t post that much at all. The thing is, I’m the only person together with @BoQsc that creates about 99% of all organic posts :nerd_face: If more people would be active here, then the zeit-bot won’t be so much present. Zeit-bot also assists in bridging the TZM islands by posting chapter updates automatically. I don’t want to ask people to repost their stuff here manually, if it can be automated. And that’s one of the things we advocate, #automation, because life is too short! :stuck_out_tongue:

Auto-closing old topics is a practice I’ve seen on basically all Discourse forums (example). I asked mods about this. The reason for that is that after 6 months it is hardly ever useful to restart that topic and would be best to start a new topic (which can easily be done and automatically reference to the old one). Also by re-using old topics, you would notify those people in there by mail or pop-up. Which also is almost never what is intended after such a long time. It can be disabled of course, per topic, if it makes sense. But if it doesn’t make sense for about 90% of the time, then it’s more mod-friendly to set a default to auto-close topics.

I’ve given up the promotion of the forum a bit, if that’s what you mean with your last bullet point? Like I mentioned with that blog about group chat and forums, people don’t want to see the problem of using e.g. Discord as the one-stop-shop for the movement. But “they” rather see you as someone that tries to sabotage existing decisions, while the intentions are meant well and not in any way directed to people. Just towards the tooling. :slightly_frowning_face:

Sorry for the long but to the point reply. It’s not meant rude, I just don’t have much time and there was much to unpack :slight_smile:

I said that about the goal of the forum because for a moment it seemed to me that I understood that you wanted the forum to replace all the islands. Now you’ve cleared up my confusion.

I was already aware of everything you mention in this excerpt that I quoted, and I largely agree. In fact, I was one of those who insisted the most that we should create the forum that we have since last year for Spanish speakers, so I understand your concern. :+1: When the forums that we used to have in Argentina and other countries stopped being online, much of the history of TZM was lost. :sweat:

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If this forum goes offline, I’ll work with @kublermdk to arrange a static copy of the forum. If possible of course. But indeed, we shouldn’t erase history.

I would like to continue the forum as well. But it seems it won’t be missed if it would go down, due to its use the past year. Reddit would then be an okayish free replacement.

I’m financially able to support the forum. But if the forum isn’t used, then it’s still a waste and the money could be used to host an amazing yearly ZDay without an entrance fee, maybe even a free drink :slight_smile:

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It’s been a year now since the forum went public. We already did some evaluation, this is the last time I’ll bump this topic to collect some more feedback to work with.

But I’ve got some good news. I’ll continue to support the forum for an undefined period. In other words, last time I defined a minimum of 1 year dedication to give the forum a fair chance. I won’t rehash it to another period. This year has provided enough insight to how valuable this forum can be. The analytics of Plausible convinced me even more. We have way more visitors than the dashboard of Discourse itself shows. Which makes sense, because the data of Discourse is only about logged in users. It’s still sad to see many people don’t sign up, and those who do, don’t really post or interact much.

I personally still think the forum is the best platform to support and grow our movement. Of course the forum can be used in combination with other solutions. Such as social-media to build up an audience and group chat to discuss short term plans in the moment. But what we need as well is a persistent knowledge base we can contribute to as a community and develop projects and goals, that’s where the forum comes in. Below are some of the main reasons I think the forum excels, there are more reasons, but I value these the most:

  • True community decisions which are accessible to everyone, no matter your timezone or busy schedule. Which are also persistent and categorized so that they are easy to find in the future and by search engines.
  • Integrated mailing list functionality to automatically inform everyone of popular topics when people don’t visit the forum (which can be customized by users).
  • Moderation by the community (not just a few appointed mods) and assisted by true AI that can detect toxic language. This makes moderation much more time efficient than in a group chat or even the big social-media platforms.
  • The forum acts as a knowledge base and can also work with #wiki topics, this way documentation can be kept up to date and we as a community own and control it. No small group that has this responsibility, we all have.
  • We own the data, which greatly improves privacy and control.
  • Runs on #open-source software and uses renewable power.
  • Many, many more! See e.g. the docs.
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Hi. I just got here as you can see. I assume the question is how to get more… So I just got disconnected and the forum refreshed the page and so i lost a good chunk of my post. Somehow it kept my first 2 sentence.

Anyways… I’ll keep it simple. As a new user it was hard for me to find this forum. Maybe I was just searching for a zeitgeist forum improperly. Another issue is I don’t know if this is even ‘the’ official TZM forum. I can only assume it is. Another is this forum just seems a bit hard to figure out. I don’t know where to look. But then I’m not really sure what to look for. I bring this up because maybe a lot of users have some of these issues. Then everything I see seems empty. There are threads but not much of replies.

So it gives me the feeling that there’s just not much here, and maybe in TZM itself. That’s what I observed.

The other issue is perhaps more inherent in TZM itself. Most people who are actively doing something we’ll likely not be in the forum much. Those who would be active on the forum are likely not doing anything and are probably just people who would like to bicker away and ao it wouldn’t be much a benefit anyways.

So even if this forum was somehow better. Or there was something better, I don’t know if it would be of any good in moving TZM forward. Now if you just want traffic then that’s another subject/issue.

I am sure the forum can be structured differently to promote traffic, interaction, progress. Etc but I haven’t tried to design that structure myself. That’s my input on this threads question.

The one thing i can say I like is the random threads apparently mostly posted by a bot about emerging tech and news. However they seem out of place.

Alright that’s my post.

Oh yes. One more thing. Typing and navigating this forum has a lag to it. I noticed that with some services, not all, typing is just very lagging. I can only assume this is due to buggy designs for Android users in my case. Or there is a monitoring process going on with each typing and movement. I dont know.

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Hi and welcome to the forum! Thanks for your feedback, this is really helpful. Although I need some more info to be able to act on it. First of all any reply is auto-saved while typing, as long as there is a stable network connection. It’s strange this happened in your case. Full page refreshes do not happen, these are dynamic, for new content a refresh is not needed or triggered, it would simply only reload what’s new without the loss of data. Maybe an unintended browser gesture caused a refresh?

The thing with a new platform is always to get used to it and figure out the workflow. To help people with this we give some advice. When signing up you’ve received an introduction message. Over time you’ll get more that will tell you more about how to start on this forum. There is also a tutorial, send to you as well. Have you read these? How would you suggest to change this introduction? Also, there are a few pinned topics those are a good start as well. Furthermore, each category has a “about” topic pinned, which explains the goal and use of that category.

People visit the forum, but don’t interact much with posts. This is true and it would be cool if people would do this more. If you have specific ideas, please share them.

This forum is as official as any website initiated by an activist. Be it a chapter website or a TZM project one. We are however listed on thezeitgeistmovement.com for the chapters overview.

Please share some specifics about the structure of the forum and how you would change it. What are you looking for and what are you doing to try and find it? Have you checked the docs too?

Which topics are out of place and why? With some more information we could perhaps improve things or explain the reasoning.

The forum works snappy for me. I use Android as well. Both Firefox and Chrome work great. From where do you connect? Is your connection usually stable and fast? Can you perhaps create a screencast and share it with a speedtest?

Looking forward to hear more from you!