So in the exchange on moderation of the ChainLink Forum this bit of wisdom appeared from Howard Kaplan:
Reply by Andronymous 57 minutes ago
Tim Cook is a corpdroid(tm), but Steve Jobs was renowned for personally responding to emails from pretty much anybody.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Nothing to see here, move along. Add more fem mods, then we’ll talk.
Reply by Nikul Shah 40 minutes ago
Has it? Given the long and winding nature of this thread, it is hard for me to tell. For the record, I have regularly kept up with this thread. It is Doug’s thread and question. May be we should ask Doug how he feels about the responses to his questions/concerns?
Reply by h’ 1.0 26 minutes ago
This is a user forum, not a blog. When somebody puts something out there it is inherent in the medium that any communication that results can be directed in any direction.
This is not “Doug’s Thread.” But feel free to ask him anything you wish. Ideally over and over again, even after he has gone out of his way to address it.
Howard, in a word you are wrong. But I understand the confusion. Like most things about the internet these days it takes either a bit ‘hands on‘ experience to understand the nuances or you have to actually be young enough to write code and create something worthwhile.
So in the hope of helping another Senior Citizen get along in life, let me do some ‘mansplaining‘.
The Blog (Wikipedia)
A blog (a truncation of the expression web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject. More recently “multi-author blogs” (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise ofTwitter and other “microblogging” systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into societal newstreams. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously, a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)
A majority are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking service. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers. There are high-readership blogs which do not allow comments, such as Daring Fireball.
Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important contribution to the popularity of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (art blogs), photographs (photoblogs), videos (video blogs or “vlogs”), music (MP3 blogs), and audio (podcasts). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts. In education, blogs can be used as instructional resources. These blogs are referred to as edublogs.
On 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. On 20 February 2014, there were around 172 million Tumblr and 75.8 million WordPress blogs in existence worldwide. According to critics and other bloggers, Blogger is the most popular blogging service used today, however Blogger does not offer public statistics. Technorati has 1.3 million blogs as of February 22, 2014
The Forum (Wikipedia)
An Internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are often longer than one line of text, and are at least temporarily archived. Also, depending on the access level of a user or the forum set-up, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible.
Forums have a specific set of jargon associated with them; e.g. a single conversation is called a “thread“, or topic.
A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.
Depending on the forum’s settings, users can be anonymous or have to register with the forum and then subsequently log in in order to post messages. On most forums, users do not have to log in to read existing messages.
WordPress© ‘The Chameleon’
Okay, Howard, settle in and let me take you through the paces. You can best understand the idea of a forum is you go back in time to the days of the message board or the BBS (i.e. bulletin board system). A friend of mine runs one called BentRiderOnline.
As you can see from the screen shot below this is highly regimented.
What differentiates this from the ChainLink Forum is that information is sorted into categories. Things do not ‘roll off‘ the screen over time. This is more like a reference area where specific discussions might have been carried out by folks with specific expertise in a particular field.
And in fact that is where the idea of moderator really comes from. These ‘experts‘ were able to give you sage advice or share their technical expertise on a given subject. So the owner of the Forum usually has specific people tapped to be the ‘gate keepers‘.
What they do is essentially keep the technical content high and foremost (where needed) and make certain that people ‘stay on target‘ during a discussion. For instance if the category is about tires and someone starts venturing off into electric motors, then the moderator steers them back on task.
Blogs Are Overtaking Discussion Forums
WordPress is a piece of software that can be just about anything. The first thing you notice about a Blog is that it is sometimes focused (in a very general way) and that the owner returns to his subject matter from a dozen different directions over time.
Most often blogs are single person operations. The beauty of a blog is that if you allow your readers to do so, they can comment. When that happens you are beginning to become something of a discussion forum. It is a slippery slope and is probably the one thing that makes the ChainLink Forum more like mud wrestling than anything else.
Things like Facebook have really put a crimp in the tails of many a blog operator. The high degree of interactivity is addictive to people who like to chat. Ning’s product is more like Facebook in that regard. But frankly it is technically a ‘community of blogs‘.
If you visit the blog entry I wrote on creating your very own WordPress blog you will note that their software that host the blogs of people is itself a bit like the ChainLink Forum. Each person gets a small sand box ‘in which to play‘. And because the Social Media website is so very fluid it creates problems.
Technically the person who begins a thread, owns it. That is to say they have the ability to stop it dead in its tracks whenever they think that the purpose of the thread has either been achieved or abrogated. In every respect they are like moderators and blog owners simultaneously. But they do not have the overarching control of the entire system that Ning Moderators have.
BuddyPress and BBPress for WordPress
In an effort to allow a blog owner to be all things to all people you can have ‘plugins‘ that transform a simple blog into a social media beast in a heartbeat. BuddyPress is designed to operate more like Ning. While BBPress operates like your traditional BBS for the most part.
Now if you take a look again at the BentRiderOnline Forum (but this time heading to the topmost level) you will see that the owner of the forum has a blog ‘front face‘. It is a quasi news area and jumping off point for reviews and such that might be useful to users.
Ning Is Neither Fish Nor Foul
And Howard this is where we started out. Ning is more Blog than it is Forum. I base that characterization on the fact that its content ‘rolls off‘. Now you could set it up to function as a Forum but that would take a bit of strict adherence to a protocol that probably does not suit your users.
On the other hand if and when you adapt WordPress you will be able to move in both directions simultaneously. But that too is going to cause some problems. People who are new to the place will have to discover where to visit if they are looking for specific technical information in a hurry.
On the other hand they may never find that spot if they fall down the social media rabbit hole. But the good thing is that both kinds of people can coexist in such an environment. It will probably mean that there will be a fair number whose paths seldom cross because of their interests.