The role of forums in 2020?


CGA President, Tribe of Judah Founder & President
Staff member
So I've been working through some thoughts on the subject of the changing role of forums in the current online culture.

I was chatting with a fellow gamer we both agreed that the role that forums used to fill is now largely filled by Discord (for community) and reddit (for news with an optional light sprinkling of community). I maintain there's still a place for forums, but I admit I'm old school and I like to stick with things that work and work well, even if they're older.

What do you all think?
Discord is great for some things, but, so was Teamspeak, Mumble, and, IRC all at one point, and they all got replaced. How long before Discord does? Every time they died the forums provided freedom and a stable base. They keep us alive and consistent.

I'm also not going to use Discord for any serious conversations. Sure I'll voice chat, because you can't exactly do that on the forums, but if I am going to have a serious discussion I don't want my 10 hours of work, per post, to go into the internet nether, and I don't want it subject to non-Christian oversight (try doing this on Discord). Even this discussion would be a pain on Discord. I couldn't go right to it, you have to scroll and try and filter out what is on topic, guess which channel the chat is in, and, if you leave for a couple days have fun finding, or, continuing a topic. You can't tell when a conversation is over because people may, or may not, go AFK at any given point. You also don't have time to think out your response because other people will post off topic things between you. Here I can just look at the thread title know exactly where to go, exactly what I am getting, are not left to wonder if a conversation is over, and, can post at my own pace. Without separated threads you get a cacophony of "wha?" on Discord. You can't even do proper spam threads on Discord because you can't keep them separate and continuous. I agree it's a great voice chat program, possibly the best ever, but, for all the reasons I listed above it cannot replace the forums.

There is a countless line of things that get popular because they are new and people are shallow. That's why they pointlessly redesign UI's every few years whether it's better or not (cough, cough, Netflix, cough, Windows). Discord has some legitimate good points, but, it has bad points too. Don't let the "newness" blind you. No one should do things because "the world" says it's better, do it because it is.

On Reddit. Like HCS I am also quite wary of giving ourselves over to any platform that we don't control. I've never posted on Reddit, but, I've looked at things there because Google threw me there, but, posting never. It seems very disorganized compared to forums. More to the point shackling ourselves to any non-Christian organization is bad juju. One with ads and NSFW groups seems like an even worse idea. Reddit has banned subreddits before and while we may agree with most of those bans today it's only a matter of time before we don't. More coughing, cough, LBGTQZATTACKHELICOPTER#$*, is coming for you.

I've seen the way this goes. Something gets popular, you trade what you had before for ease, then it gets bad, and you don't have a home to go back to. Being popular isn't worth your freedom. This is how uber companies that no one likes get made.

Again without the proper type of games to bring us together CGA just isn't going to be as popular as before. That's the reality as a forum but as a group as well. Yes Discord is more active than the forums, but, be honest, it took the memes and meaninglessness out of the forums not the seriousness. I haven't seen a single serious, or continuous, discussion on it beyond the mod section. It's like every section is a spam thread that just ebs and flows pointlessly. Even the mod chats are terse compared to the forums.

Note I haven't been that Discord active, but, I do like it for voice, and, hate it for text beyond "Hi, getting the group together", and, look at this funny thing that randomly crossed my mind. I've even missed most of the prayer requests until after the fact... might want to add a channel for that now that I think of it...

I get it. It's no use spending money on a dead duck, but, the forums are the only permanent (well more than Discord) thing we have as a community. It's not just nostalgia. If you want a community to last you need that permanence, that anchor, and freedom. I'm fine with moving to anything forum equivalent, BUT, BIG BUTTS FOR TEK SO HE REMEMBERS, it's got to be equivalent or better. No compromises on usability or our sovereignty. I don't see Reddit doing that and I doubt Word Press does either (though I have little experience there).

Also forum Discord plugin. I'm still not in a rush for it, and, don't expect a miracle, but, if the cause of all this effort is forum traffic concerns it's there. It's also something that needs to be considered for compatibility in whatever you move to before hand.
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Just going to echo that we need a long term place for community-only discussion, and that forums are better for offline discussion. I have trouble ever chiming in on Discord because interesting conversation is already too far in the past.
@Tek7 i'll try to weigh in on the other areas. I think this comes back to the idea of, what are we doing out here on the internet? what do we want it to do? and recognizing that we are perfectly setup for the results that we are receiving.

That being said, forums in 2020 are EXTREMELY RELEVANT - but only around certain types of communities, and the communities that have that are content creation machines OR communities that add value ($)
two really good examples: and LTT forums

we can make forums great again (MFGA?) but it would require significant reorganizing and effort and is more about what we want in a community, which at this rate we're pretty complacent and content just being a group of old people talking about life and vaguely God. That might be a little harsh, but its also reality.

I think the even harsher reality is that as of right now, we're mostly irrelevant regardless if we have forums or not
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I still need to come back to this in a thoughtful fashion full of pro- statements, but my opening question is gnawing at me. I mean this in all love and no negativity in response to the pro-forums folks: What would it take to see the forums as successful? I understand some of the appeals forums offer that Discord does not, but my question is this: What are each of us going to do to make forums matter?

Certainly not all of the forum usage here, but most of the activity has seemed reactive rather than proactive for quite a while. Most of this is reacting to weekly prompts that exist to bolster forum activity and make them relevant. That's not at all meant to be a criticism, and I enjoy seeing those responses, but there's not a lot of forum activity that is new content or effort to make new connections.

Echoing Atown here: If we want forums to matter, we need to make them matter. Reasons to not like Discord isn't enough to make the forums matter. Reasons to favor forum technology doesn't make them matter. Users are what will make forums matter. We have to make them matter.
For my part I haven't the time to make either the forums OR Discord matter. Gerbil is not a chatty social butterfly.

In my thoughts on a forum Discord plugin I have wondered if there isn't some type of reverse equivalent to get Discord traffic sent to the forums, or integrate them somehow, but wondering is as far as I've gotten XD.

I still need to update mah spam thread but that's certainly not going to make the forums popular :p .

Edit: Oh yes I had planned to, don't know if I will get to it, make a thread on the Presidential election, but not until it's closer and the Democratic candidate is decided upon. 90% of the time people say it's "politics" it's actually about morality and on that no Christian should be silent. That's definitely not a Discord discussion.
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As someone who relies heavily on asynchronous communication methods for both real life and virtual relationships due to disability, and who deals vocationally and ministerially with other people who experience limitations in mainstream socialization, forums are a pretty big deal to me and to many I know.

That being said, I've also witnessed their decline and abandonment to be a nearly universal occurrence happening, not something specific to CGA that would point to "doing something wrong." CGA has actually remained one of the most stable communities I have seen in spite of its challenges, so I think there are still some things being done right. You can't always control when events outside your scope of influence push your natural trajectory towards the edge of an oncoming cliff, but slowing down the approach to that cliff is a worthwhile and commendable effort that can end up yielding more time and options to figure out a better (or at least less bad) outcome in the long run.

Personally, I think the main challenges to forum vitality are actually economic in nature rather than just changes in desire or behavior. Behavioral changes have definitely happened and created consequences, but to me they've seemed symptoms of economic factors rather than root causes in themselves.

While the core of what forums offer and how they offer it has remained relatively unchanged for ... decades? .. so many other conditions surrounding them have gone through massive disruptions - some positive, but a lot not - that the cost vs benefits ratio has plunged dramatically. There are more technical, legal, and security costs to have to consider than ever before, while at the same time the value of user-generated content has been dropping due to either an ever-increasing workload of "adult responsibility" or competition with less-labor/thought-intensive but more-dopamine-triggering social mediums.

Adminning forums now is a significantly different and more costly and stressful affair than it was years ago, even if the mechanisms of them have remain unchanged. Even for as much as I love and value them personally, I have trouble seeing how they can continue on a volunteer or low-budget basis without either exceptionally gifted people and resource management skills to defy economic and political reality or an explicit calling from God that it's a work He wants to continue and will Himself provide for the challenges incurred.

While I have a great personal interest in hoping for a reversal of this decline, I can't in conscience ask or expect that admins, moderators, or even other participants act against their own needs to make it happen.
Actual administration/moderation of the forums is ridiculously easy because there is nothing but spam and tumbleweeds to have oversight of XD. Spam deletion is a checkbox and button press (though Tek had to fix that recently, TY again Tek!). Even when the forums were hopping moderation wasn't that big of a deal just the occasional atheist, drama or troll thread that had to be handled but we haven't gotten those in a coons age.

Now there is work on the maintenance/update/cost end but only Tek and HCS can really comment on that. I know vbulletin was said to have been a pain thus Tek bought a Xenforo license. Of course it's not certain whatever we swap to would be any easier or cheaper. If it's on the web it still has to be hosted and updated.
My ability to get online frequently varies, (currently smartphone only) so a solid foundation is pretty much necessary. As for relevance, hehehe that can be reinstated. We are gamers that will usually step up to a challenge and one sided moderation diminished our argumentive relevance. Just my tiny bit of input....

Thank you all for your replies.

And just to make it 100% clear, I have no intention of shuttering the forums or moving to another platform. XenForo has been fantastic so far, both as a user and an administrator. It's clear that there's still a place for forums in 2020 (especially after reading your replies), even if that role has changed significantly in the last 17 years. (Our forums date back to early 2003.)

I'm fine with moving to anything forum equivalent, BUT, BIG BUTTS FOR TEK SO HE REMEMBERS, it's got to be equivalent or better.
Had to quote this because it made me burst into laughter. :D
@Tek7 so with that ..... does that mean we have vision and delegation to make forums great again (MFGA)?
@Tek7 so with that ..... does that mean we have vision and delegation to make forums great again (MFGA)?
I'd like to get some traction on the new Tribe of Judah web site first, but I definitely want to come back and address your question at length soon.