||Five Rules for Building a Successful Online Forum
These rules were developed by Robin Miller. This article outlines five basic rules for building sustainable online communities that are based on my 15+ years of experience with various online services, discussion groups, usenet forums, and -- for the last seven years -- as part of the management team behind the famous Slashdot discussion site. I'm not saying that you should follow slavishly in my footsteps, but I assure you that a forum you build (or rebuild) in accordance with my rules will be more popular, easier to manage, and more profitable than one that doesn't follow them. These rules -- and the software that helps enforce them -- are the driving force behind hundreds of popular and profitable discussion-based Web sites.
Your discussions must be threaded or nested, not just "flat."
A flat discussion tags the newest comments onto either the top or the bottom of ones already listed. A threaded discussion shows "discussion threads" but doesn't display the entire content of posts replying to "parent posts," just their subject headers.
You have readers who know more than you do about any given topic -- and plenty of readers who don't know nearly as much as they think they do.
Let your readers judge each other so you don't have to judge them yourself.
All good things must come to an end.
You can't leave online conversations "open" forever. Sooner or later you need to close them off, if only to keep comment spam from taking over posting threads on older stories. You may chose to allow comments on stories for as long as 30 days, although you're probably better off closing comments on most stories after a week or two if you publish weekly, daily or constantly.
Why buy a cow when the software is free?