Geek Corner will be your online window to some of the latest trends that Digital Women UK has come across in digital media, with recommendations and suggestions. Please feel free to let us know what is floating your boat in the digital world. If you are not yet a geek about social media, we truly hope that after reading this slot you will be. This month Samantha Watson looks at online forums and the impact of Moot.
We live in a digital age where everything is discussed. We want to respond to everything, either on a blog post, a picture you have seen or something you have heard about in the news. To an extent it has always been this way, but the channels through which we can air our opinions have exploded onto social platforms like Twitter, blogs, social networking sites, podcasts and not forgetting our trusted old timer, online forums.
Are online discussion forums still around, I hear you ask? Well, yes, is the answer. Whenever you need technical support there is always a forum for you to ask specific questions and receive some timely answers. Alternatively, there are forums (in the broader sense) where you can take part in lively topical debates or offer advice. You will also find a few charities who have the word ‘forum’ etched into their main menus, but when visit these forums they are very outdated in comparison to the rest of their website, and activity on those forums is low.
In a way forums have lost their momentum. As the likes of news and blogging platforms skip ahead merrily in terms of conversation, functionality and design, forums, and their purpose, are lagging behind. As news giants, including The Guardian, focus on comments rather than forums it begs the question: do we need forums at all?
Don’t give up on forums just yet. There is Moot, a free (for now) open source platform which enables you to integrate forums and comments into any web page with ease. Simply by embedding code generated by Moot, you can not only integrate forums, but comments into your web page.
The dashboard has the style and feel of Twitter. Users can style their forum in line with their website. It’s responsive and levels of complexity are kept to a minimum; there’s a one-click process to get to a discussion going. One of its biggest selling points is the speed of the real-time responses – no need to wait for your post to be posted or to wait to see other peoples responses.
There are benefits for both forum admins and users. All forum admins who understand how disparaging some spam can be, no longer fear as Moot uses Akismet by WordPress which makes the process of managing spam much easier. For thosw who understand the pain of trying to remember numerous usernames and passwords to different forums, Moot users have everything under one roof.
In comparison to old style forums like phpBB, PunBB and others, Moot provides a fresh new look, bringing the whole concept of forums nicely into the 21st century, with more changes to come. But, as with all platforms, there are competitors. Discourse and Lifefryre are just two that are adopting a new approach to forums and its manageability.
Online discussion forums still provide a space for free expression, but they are being developed to meet the many changes required to share information and discussion. Moot, already being classed as the WordPress of online forums, will celebrate its first anniversary in the spring. So has Moot shifted public opinion on the continued value of online forums? It’s too early to ask, or even say, but the style, manageability and speed of the platform certainly gives it credibility, and they have a prime opportunity to capitalise on a neglected market.
Samantha Watson is Digital Women UK’s community interaction manager.