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Why is discussion board participation down?
Troy posted a topic in Culture, Race & Economyraised an issue about the reduction in participation on the AALBC.com discussion boards in recent years, suggesting that Facebook and social media was the cause. I have not taken the time to quantify the reduction, but anyone who has been observing our boards in recent years knows participation is lower. The life of a discussion board is a direct function of the level and quality of the conversation so this is an issue that I care about and since AALBC.com is a one man operation I typically have not had enough time to really delve in the causes and take more aggressive action reverse the trend. Over the last 15 years I've collected data on how the site is used as well as anecdotal information from people I've talked to over the years. If I had the time I would create a survey and collection information on user experience in a more meaningful way, host some focus groups, etc. Until that time comes please feel free to share you thoughts. In the meantime here is what I know: Participation dropped significantly after the discussion board software was updated in January of 2010. For technical reason I had to migrate to more robust software. The old board was prone to crashing and getting rid was spam was very time consuming. This board gets spammed too but it is easier to prevent and get rid of (spammers are very persistent and clever). Many users simply did not migrate over to the new platform. Maybe the learning curve was too high. Google Search adversely impacted web traffic This is a major issue not only effecting these discussion boards but independent websites in general. In the old days a query on an author's name would turn up an AALBC.com page on the 1st page. Today I'm doing good if I'm on the second page. Google will now return 10 Amazon pages for an author before retuning an AALBC.com page. Increasingly, Google is even displaying their own content -- eliminating the need for visitors to even visit the underlying websites. Google will also return all the social media sites before independent websites. When I Google my own name Troy Johnson (see my results in the image below) my Facebook page (#2), LinkedIn Profile (#3) and my Twitter pages (#9) are returned. To many this might seem like great results, especially when you condsider how common the name "Troy Johnson" is. But in reality, this is terrible. My own pages which objectively has more complete and better content appears on the 3 page?! this is alarming when you consider that I rarely use Linkedin, 1/2 my twitter updates are dynamically generated, and I dilberately share very little on facebook -- again there is an active and deliberate bias is against smaller sites -- my only saving grace is that I've been around for 15 years and I have a ton of content. But when larger coporate entities are aligned against you -- it is not a fight one can win alone. Thumper (of Thumper's Corner Fame) has stopped posting Thumper's really loves books and was not afraid to express his opinion in a very humorous but non-traditional - no holds barred fashion. It was not schtick, it was his real personality. As a result, Thumper's opinion about books was widely read and respected by readers and industry folks alike. Thumper has not posted here in the better part of two years. In fact I have not heard from him myself in during the same period -- despite reaching out to him. Don't ask me why. Kola Boof Love her, or hate her, Kola Boof has had both a positive and negative impact on these discussion boards. Lurkers (people who read but don't post) often enjoyed her antics, extreme, often outlandish perspectives. On one hand she could be very supportive of AALBC.com then do something so bizarre I would think she was crazy. At the end of the day many posters could not tolerate took her strong, often hostile comebacks. Cynique could take Kola without getting her feeling hurt and this made for some interesting dialog. However many, most notably Thumper, could not. In fact I created a separate discussion board for Kola to give her free reign to be herself. I can't help but think that my unwillingness to shut Kola down is the reason Thumper is not here. I know for a fact Kola has chased off and alienated other posters (I've been told this). Today Kola rarely posts... go figure. Social Media - Facebook in particular I highlight Facebook because the other social media sites Myspace, linkedin, twitter, none of the others are comparable in features and functions to a discussion baord. Facebook however has does have the ability to host conversations between people but there are a few fundamental differences that make it more appealing than a traditional discussion board to most; (1) Facebook only has a "Like" button for the most part people can easily post anything and all others can do is like it. This creates the illusion that people agree with you and really care about what you have to say (this is very intoxicating). Here people will disagree and challenge your opinions and ideas. Most people are not really up for debates or arguments (many people have fragile egos) so Facebook is more appealing on that level. (2) Facebook is echo chamber. Like the "Like" button people ideas are artificially reenforced on every level from the advertisements you see to your newsfeed -- everything you see is tailored to suit what facebook "thinks" you want to see. Again, nothing you will likely disagree with -- I hate that. I have asked some posters who used to be active on here and have engaged me on Facebook to come back and post here again, but they usually don't. I could go on all day about Facebook but I will end with the fact that Facebook has the active support of other big business and people freely give Facebook free content and personal data. This is a powerful combination. An AALBC.com can not compete against this or ignore it -- all I can do is post my content and hope enough people are moved to share it with other and visit the site as a result. I've been running this discussion board almost 15 years and building website for almost 20. It feels like I've lived several online lifetimes :-) SO MUCH has changed in 20 years. When I first started people were using telephone lines and 300 baud modems to access the internet and AOL was the Facebook of the day. What hurt AOL was that they could not be the entire internet (all things to all people). The growth of other websites large and small is what killed AOL as we knew it knew it back then. Today it is fascinating to see Facebook going down a similar path. Facebook too will meet a similiar fate as AOL and MySpace, it is inevitable. Unfortunately, they will drag down many independent websites before they crash and burn. My job is to not be one of them. Any help and assistance is great appreciated -- needed. If you find a conversation here use the social media icons or just email your friends. Thank you active posters posters for sharing your ideas and thoughts! Thanks you too lurkers -- maybe some of the insight I shared here will encourage you to share your thoughts. Peace, Troy ------------ Results of a query of my name Troy Johnson (your results will vary)