Second Life to shut down forums

What’s the deal with forums being shut down lately. First Apple and now Second Life.

When Second Life first opened we at Linden believed that it was important to support a web-based, asynchronous community, and so the SL forums were born. Those first few discussion boards started in the summer of 2002 have grown to literally dozens of boards used by Linden Lab, SL teens and MG Residents and groups. They encompass technical discussion, new product and event news. However, they require significant maintenance and we have been working on developing other communication channels that will be as useful, informative and conversational.

The rest of the blog entry is an interesting read. But I’m left feeling like Linden Lab is either ignoring their user needs in lieu of their own, or not being open and honest with users. They may well have valid points, but the way they’ve communicated makes it seem like they’re just bored with the forums and ready to move on whether their users are or not.

Regardless of whether I’m getting the full skinny with the Apple or Second Life stories, there’s some good lessons we can extract.

Social interaction is full of drama
When you get a group of people together, there’s going to be drama. If you don’t want drama on your forums, ask yourself what you’re doing with forums in the first place. The question isn’t how to remove drama, it’s about figuring out the best way to built a moderator team to channel the drama in a positive, hopefully productive way. Finding moderators is a tricky process, but can make or break your forum.

Shut down forums as a last resort

Forums are a difficult thing to remove all together, typically driving fans nuts and getting widespread attention. It’s the easiest solution to simply flip the switch and turn out the lights, but often a fresh team of moderators, new site features, or clarification of site rules can improve the situation quickly and easily.

Keep it live
Often one of the key reasons forums grow out of the control of the owners, or lose membership is because the technology is not scalable. Companies too often simply shut one site off while the build the new site. Make sure there’s something ready to be turned on when you turn the previous off.

Whatever you do, make sure you plan for change. Make sure you continue to add security and user requested features (versus pointless waste of time features). Make sure to empower your key users to help drive positive culture.

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