When an administrator first creates a forum, it is completely empty. No posts, no nothing. Turning an empty forum into a forum with one million posts can appear to be a very daunting task. It can take years of hard work, expensive advertising, and unbelievable effort. But, is creating a forum with one million posts really a realistic goal? Is it even a desirable goal? There are other paths to success. Other ways of measuring how good one forum is when compared to another than simply post count.
Community is what truly matters.
Community is a sense of belonging. It means knowing the people around you. Sharing ideas and experience, discussing something that both sides don’t necessarily agree on in a civil, constructive way. They have arguments, quarrels, outcasts, and an occasional blow-ups. But they also have revelations, jokes, memes, and celebrations. In a way, a community is a living organism which changes and evolves, but stays strong, at least until it loses its energy and begins to die. A forum’s success is defined by its sense of community, but there is one problem.
How does one quantify a forum’s community? Being able to quantify a community is necessary so that an administrator can track progress and adjust the path of his or her forum accordingly. This is usually done by post count or page views, but neither of these is an active indicator of how well a forum’s community is doing. A forum can have millions of posts, but still be dead, and millions of page views, but only traffic from search engines. A forum could have a hundred people online but nothing to talk about, or fifty registrations per day with an atrocious bounce rate.
That is why, today, I am introducing a new way to quantify the strength of a forum’s community. It is called the Forum Pyramid.
The Forum Pyramid is similar to the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, which is a concept used by sociologists. A newly created forum starts at the very bottom of the Forum Pyramid, and moves upwards as its community strengthens, and downwards as it weakens. The pyramid has six levels, and each forum on the internet can be said to exist at one of the levels of this pyramid. The pyramid is shaped in this manner because of statistics. There are probably a million forums at the bottom of the Forum Pyramid, but only a few at the very top.
The Six Levels of the Forum Pyramid
- Level #1: Emptiness. An empty forum has no activity. It could have zero posts or a million, but none of them have been made recently.
- Level #2: Filler. A level two forum contains posts which were made for the sake of posting. Posts made by staff, exchangers, or packagers, with no real purpose or soul behind them.
- Level #3: Discussion. A level three forum contains interesting discussions which include facts and a few revelations, but not yet any disagreement or truly useful opinions.
- Level #4: Debate. A level four forum contains discussions which have two sides. Debates, disagreements, and give-and-take. When discussing anything, be it politics, cars, or webmaster techniques, anything worth studying is worth debating, and debate is a strong indicator of a valuable community.
- Level #5: Drama. A level five forum includes not only debate, but also discussions about the forum itself and its internal affairs. The forum becomes serious enough that its members take the forum itself seriously, not just its subject matter. The forum begins to have a true sense of being something.
- Level #6: Community. A true community has a complex web of nuances, secrets, inside jokes, and memes, all revolving around ongoing discussion and drama. The strongest characteristic of a community is that it has its own unique atmosphere, mood, and users who are recognizable and aware of each other.
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles concerning this pyramid, which I originally created for this series of blog posts. Using this pyramid, we will be able to better understand how a forum starts out, and what an administrator needs to do to turn their forum into a success. The next part of this series will be entitled “Climbing the Pyramid,” and will describe, in full, how to move a forum up to the very top of the Forum Pyramid, and thereby create a thriving, valuable community.