Brad's quick guide to the new Stardock.net forums
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by Frogboy | Discussion: Virtual Communities
Welcome to Brad's tips on how to use the new forums. The new Stardock forums are custom developed based on the needs and uses of our customers. Over the years, we have experimented with many different layouts with varying degrees of success.
The 2006 Stardock forums have many advantages over previous generations:
- Bandwidth - they use about 1/4th the bandwidth of previous forums we've used which means they load a lost faster.
- They allow for more categories to be displayed.
- They conform more to the style of the more common forum styles out there which reduces the learning curve for new users.
- They display who last commented on a particular post.
- They have much easier navigation between various sub-forums.
- They have more customization options for the user.
Stardock forums have one primary advantage over other forum systems. It's an advantage that is invisible to most users -- it is the world's only distributed network forum system (that we know of anyway). Visit other companies or communities and they have one giant forum in one place. Visit a site using the Stardock.net forums and the forums displayed are specific to that site. If two sites overlap, so do the posts. A post on PC Computing on WinCustomize.com will show up on JoeUser.com but not TotalGaming.net. A post about strategy games might show up on TotalGaming.net and GalCiv2.com and Joeuser.com but not on WinCustomize.com. This overlap means that users from different communities can interact together without even being on the same site. It gives more options for users and customers and allows Stardock to interact with the varied communities much more easily.
Another key difference in Stardock forums is that new posts float to the top of the parent forum which in turn floats to the top of its parent.
In a forum system you might have:
..and so on.
In a typical forum system, if you wanted to find out the newest post on a real-time strategy game you would have to dig all the way down to the real-time sub-category. On a Stardock forum, the forums are set up almost like a search result -- The parent forum contains all the posts of its children arranged by the newest first. If the newest post is in the Real-Time area it will be the first post in the Software forum. In this way, digging down allows users to get more specific if they choose but casual readers can stay more general.
One can imagine a forum like this:
In a Stardock.net forum, a user who clicks on the nVidia forum would see the newest posts from all the sub-forums. So if there's some hot new utility that lets users over-clock their 7800, the user who just clikced on the nVidia forum would see it without having to dig all the way down to the Overclocking utilities area. As a result, it saves a lot of clicks.
So why are other forum systems set up the way they are? There are lots of reasons, but one likely reason is that when forum software was first being developed, getting more page views was considered the goal. Stardock's sites are designed to try to reduce the number of clicks and page views since it generates revenue from selling software and subscriptions. So our forums are designed to let users get to as much info as possible.
Tips & Tricks
Tip #1: Quick-Jump
One of the first new tips I'd like to show you is how easy it is to jump to other sub-forums. If you click on one of the arrow separators between categories (i.e. Home -> General -> etc.) you will get a pop up menu that lets you jump to another sub-category.
Tip #2: View All Recent Posts
Near the bottom of the forums is a small link that we will probably make more prominent over time and that is the "view all recent posts". By pressing that button, all the recent posts on the forum will be listed and users can go through and see all the actions anywhere.
Tip #3: Smart Pins
Pinned topics are very important to new users but just get in the way for expert users. The new Stardock.net forums let users minimize the topics and it will remember that you did so for future viewing.
Tip #4: My posts
At the top of the forum, "My posts" are there. Click that link and you will get a list of the posts you have made. Are also working on it so that it will eventually display all the posts you've recently interacted in. That way, if a post you've been participating in scrolls off, no problem, you can quickly follow it.
Tip #5 Your Watch List
If you want to keep an eye on a post for the long-term, even if you're not participating in it, you can add it to your watch list. To add a post to your watch list, click on the tools button.
Tip #6: Referrals
Is someone pointing to a post you or someone else made? Stardock.net forum posts automatically link back and let you see who is talking about it (and sends traffic back to the people who link to you). Your account gets points every time someone goes to something you created from another site via a referral.
These are just some of the tricks that we have already.
The 2006 Stardock.net forums are still in their infancy and we are always looking for suggestions and ideas for them. But we hope you find the new forum system fast, reliable, and effective. Have fun!