Re: User forums: suggestions, experiences, guidelines, pitfalls, liabilities, etc.?

Subject: Re: User forums: suggestions, experiences, guidelines, pitfalls, liabilities, etc.?
From: Andrew Harvie <withanie -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Hannah Drake <hannah -at- formulatrix -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2014 15:40:57 -0300

Two questions, if you don't mind...

Which forum software did you use?
How do you deal with the spammers and hackers?

On Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 10:38 AM, Hannah Drake <hannah -at- formulatrix -dot- com>
wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> I got promoted to also managing the software I was writing for (ha, go
> figure) so now I'm absolutely slammed. But, it's nice to have a big say in
> how things should work :)
>
> Anyway, I implemented a test user forum on our website. Here's what we did
> to get buy-in - run a 6 month trial. Then promote the HECK out of it. We
> had more interaction than my company thought we would, so we still have it
> to this day. We also changed our "feedback" link in our software to link to
> the forum, so users can make suggestions that way.
>
> You absolutely do need to interact on the forum. How much time really
> depends on how active the forum is. For a platform, I heavily, heavily
> recommend UserVoice. It is *awesome* for so many reasons.
>
> The benefits heavily outweigh the potential downfalls. Of course, our use
> case for wanting one was to provide a channel for our users to tell us what
> they'd like done differently -- some people hate surveys (okay, most people
> do), and our users are very busy, they aren't usually at their desks, and
> they probably don't want to stop to type out an email with their
> suggestions. They can also see that we're paying attention and where their
> idea is in the development cycle.
>
> Our userbase is very specific so we knew the forum would be small. But it
> still gives them an outlet, should they want one. People are so used to
> companies being unreachable, and thinking that an idea a user has will
> simply be "sent to the developers" and forgotten, never to see the light of
> day again. When you show that there's real people behind a company, and we
> do care about what they say/suggest, they love it.
>
> If you're more talking about a regular forum where users can discuss
> whatever, then yes, you really do need to have a large enough user base to
> make it happen. The key to either set up is promotion. And perhaps have a
> core group of users "buy in" so they can generate the initial discussions.
> It's like taking the first piece of cake, nobody wants to be that guy, but
> once one person does, everyone jumps in.
>
> Hannah
>
> On Monday, September 8, 2014, Elissa K. Miller <emiller -at- doubleknot -dot- com>
> wrote:
>
> > A very small but vocal group of customers want my company to provide user
> > forums so they can be in contact with other users. As "person care a lot
> > about our users," it's my task to evaluate every aspect of this request.
> >
> >
> >
> > The benefits seem obvious-people can find answers instead of calling
> > support, power users can use their vast expertise to help their peers, I
> > can
> > clearly see issues that trip people up and require better documentation,
> > etc.
> >
> >
> >
> > On the other hand, I can see potential problems with a forum. It might
> not
> > reach critical mass, and an empty forum is a sad thing. There's a vast
> > skills gap between our most basic users (often administrative staff and
> > nonprofit volunteers) and our power users, and power users who know the
> > basic user answers may not deign to go to those areas, while the complex
> > questions from power users can only be answered by our staff and the
> issues
> > may be entirely related to custom integration and not relevant at all to
> > others. And, senior management is concerned about providing our customers
> > with a place to say negative things about us. Which I don't even know how
> > to
> > respond to other than "I appreciate your concern."
> >
> >
> >
> > Then there's the whole "so now technical communications would include a
> > blog, documentation, online help, knowledge base and now forums-what's
> the
> > mission/strategy/goal for each of them and how do they fit into the
> larger
> > plan?" Also, "How much time will I need to spend answering posts in the
> > forum if customers don't get help from their peers, or if the help is
> > incorrect, unclear, or incomplete?" And, "I'll have to come up with
> > policies
> > and guidelines for handling off-topic or hostile posts." Also "Holy
> crap, I
> > do not need more work."
> >
> >
> >
> > I am grateful for any suggestions, guidelines, experience, pros, cons,
> > pitfalls, liabilities, and any other information you care to share.
> >
> >
> >
> > I suppose the first step would be to survey all customers to see if they
> > think that they would use a forum if one existed, to find out their
> > self-reported skill levels, and to learn whether they think they'd answer
> > questions that they could answer in addition to posting their own
> > questions.
> > I expect that whatever answers I get will indicate more interest than
> there
> > will actually be if it's launched, but it's a start.
> >
> >
> >
> > Thank you in advance for any help.
> >
> >
> >
> > Regards,
> > Elissa M.
> >
> >
> > ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> > Read about how Georgia System Operation Corporation improved teamwork,
> > communication, and efficiency using Doc-To-Help | http://bit.ly/1lRPd2l
> >
> > ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> >
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>
>
> --
>
>
> *Hannah Drake * Rock Maker Product Manager & Documentation Specialist
> *Formulatrix, Inc. * â *office*: +1-781-788-0228 x 137
> *mobile*: +1-617-610-6456
>
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Read about how Georgia System Operation Corporation improved teamwork,
> communication, and efficiency using Doc-To-Help | http://bit.ly/1lRPd2l
>
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>
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>
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> info.
>
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> magazine at http://techwhirl.com
>
> Looking for the archived Techwr-l email discussions? Search our public
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>

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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References:
User forums: suggestions, experiences, guidelines, pitfalls, liabilities, etc.?: From: Elissa K. Miller
Re: User forums: suggestions, experiences, guidelines, pitfalls, liabilities, etc.?: From: Hannah Drake

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