About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Are Forums obsolete?

Tony Karrer posted a query for suggestions of how a financial institution can replicate an online forum which they had previously been successful in creating.

This was my comment:

Part of the problem in financial institutions today (as opposed to two years ago) is that they are under the scrutiny of regulators. I have been an employee in an atmosphere of high government regulation (I was an internal auditor) and learned never to put anything in writing that I was not absolutely sure of. It could come back to bite you. This sounds like a similar climate.

It seems to me that first there needs to be a sense of connection with the other members of forum outside of the forum. Once this has been established, the community needs to feel that they need the online forum. How has the forum been set up? How will they use it? Will there be a moderator? Will it be private? Anonymous? How will you insure the group's privacy? How will you remind them that the forum is there? Often, having a forum that is linked to a vital website is more useful than one in which they receive email updates.

To get them to use the forum, you will need to have "events" that will bring them back to the community (i.e. online training events, important updates from those in authority, interviews or guest "appearances" by key decision makers or stake holders). I think if you were to look at the previous forum, you will find that there was some hook that got them going and/or key personnel that maintained the forum. My experience is that there are some groups that just won't share and others that won't do it online.

Finally, I would look to the tools being used. With twitter and other "shortened" tools being used today, a forum is outdated and not useful. A social network such as facebook or ning gives a more informal feeling, but also requires a moderator to update information. This person, from the concerns you have identified, should be someone in a position of authority so the information provided is validated and filtered.

Tony then posed the question as to whether I thought there was no role for forums in the corporate any more. This was my answer:

I wouldn't say that a classic forum won't ever work. It depends on the community. I think older workers would prefer the forum format (i.e. upper management). However, I think as workers are being squeezed for time, attention, and accountability, they need tools that will fit their community's "personality". If they are facebook users (which more and more people are), they will want to access information through facebook. If they have all received training through a ning or other tool, they are familiar with that tool so are more apt to use it. If they are following each other on twitter, they are more apt to want to share information using that format. But the tool should come from the community rather than the training or IT department forcing them to use something. The ideal would be to negotiate between the two groups what would work.

What do you think?

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