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Re-thinking ‘posts’

  • Take it for what it’s worth. By many accounts in reply to this discussion:
    http://buddypress.org/community/groups/miscellaneous/forum/topic/the-buddypress-ui-design-and-conceptual-approach-to-social-networking/

    For WordPress, I know only two types of ‘posts’ a user can make, and I like it that way:
    Rich, and plain. Strictly technically speaking, no other type of post exists. A horde of different options for display, permissions etc. still applies (like the difference between ‘post’ and ‘page’).

    Typical blog post:

    - Rich blog post (usually close to a proper ‘article’ or ‘story’)
    > plain comment
    > plain comment
    –> plain comment
    –> plain comment
    > plain comment

    The blog post is commonly well written and formulated with the mindset that it is content, mainly for people to read and react to, but not so much add to.

    Typical forum post:

    There is none is there? But this is just as good an example as any:

    - Rich post (thread starter; commonly posts a question or problem to be solved)
    > plain comment
    > plain comment
    > rich post
    > plain comment
    > rich post

    What most forum posts have in common though (“stickys” are usually the exception) is that the thread-starter expects participants to add significant value to the thread. In fact, the starting topic is often just a question, awaiting detailed response. You can start with a plain post with rich content added to it later.

    Simple pros & cons

    Blogs
    + The key contents are usually found in the top article alone.
    - Users are blocked from adding rich content.
    - Insightful as some comments might be, they are much less likely to be read than the blogpost itself.

    Forums
    + “Every post is equal”; Equality fosters collaboration. Knowing that your reply will be read, you speak your mind in full.
    + Users can add to the value of the thread by attaching rich content.
    - Valuable information and media gets lost in the midsts of long threads.
    - Forums have a hard time encouraging concise writng.

    I think the technical design between the two can easily co-exist as one and the same, while maintaining (and adding to) the strengths in their differing use-cases and common form.

    Roles

    The forum is the place for discussion of all things, including blog posts. No discussable item escapes the forum.
    A ‘blog post’ is just a particular way of displaying a rich article, with certain conventions applied to the form of comments.
    (an ‘update’ is a form of microblogging, i.e. just a particular way of displaying a plain article)

    Visibility

    First off, the way to create a ‘board’ can be done with many different metrics: display all ‘threads’ within a certain ‘category’, ‘tag’, ‘group’, or a more finely tuned mix and match of each, even specific to each board.

    In-practice Example #1

    So say you have the BuddyPress group, with the tabs ‘Blog’, ‘Activity Stream’ and ‘Forum’.

    I make a blogpost called:
    “Rants for $0, free all weekend!”

    In the blog section, it appears like you’d expect.., it’s a blog post, on top of other blog posts, and if you ‘read more’ you see the simple box for comments at the bottom.

    In the forum, it appears like this in the ‘latest topics’ section:
    > “Rants for $0, free all weekend!”
    > Posted in: Blog; By: ; Latest: ; 4 minutes ago

    You won’t find it in any category unless you have created a category for the ‘blog’ type (which one might do to create an alternative way of browsing the blog archive). It can already be found where people expect it: In the group’s blog section.
    On the other hand, if a blogpost is in the ‘development’ category, and a ‘board’ (just a way to collect all posts with a certain labeling, remember?) happens to collect all posts in that category, it will appear there, just like any other forum post.

    The ‘wire’ (I think that’s what I’m referring to anyways. A ‘wall’, in other words) would work in the same manner, except for the wire you only deal in plain posts and maybe an enforced character cap. Personally I’d probably refrain from using the activity stream unless it was in conjunction with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter; that way I’d have more incentive to make a special form of brief updates.

    In-practice Example #2

    The traditional way:
    John is the author of the “Rant Enhancement Plugin” (it’s really just a smiley-pack of mixed emotions). He has just released the beta of a new version that could really use some feedback. Not a whole lot of people frequent his plugin (group) listing. He’d like more exposure, but it makes no sense to post outside the domain of his own group when he’s got this nice piece of space dedicated to his work already. Instead he posts in two places: One elaborate post in the group as the call for feedback, and another post in the dedicated ‘Extensions’ and ‘Features’ boards, just briefly directing interested users to the main thread.

    Better way:
    With the use of ‘boards’ and their keywords detection for grouping of contents, John’s call for feedback would appear anywhere relevant.

    I have more thoughts on threaded conversations, organization of rich vs plain content etc., but I’d rather deal with it one discussion at a time. What I’m trying to address here is merely the visibility of blogposts vs forumposts, and ways to encourage continuity and exposure of threaded discussion. One last thing to bear in mind: I did not take the time to fill in every single conceptional gap. When you spot a hole, I’d recommend trying to suggest a solution for it before you call it a flaw (the abuse of keywords to appear everywhere for instance, is amendable).

    To anyone who reads these words without having skipped through any of the above, I commend you.

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