Unvalidated Ideas #020
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F/OSS Forum hosting
Forums are under-appreciated in 2022. The days of the internet forum seem long gone, but I think they're due for a comeback.
These days, community builders rely on Slack and Discord, but there are various problems with chat-as-community. Startups like Linen have sprung up to fill the gaps (ex. SEO), but the problem is fundamental.
Chats are ephemeral, lossy and they encourage engagement but are synchronous-by-default and often lead to burn out. The damage done by bad actors in chat groups is instantaneous and hard to deal with.
Forums, on the other hand, are similar to chat, but they make it easier to remember information, interact/respond asynchronously, and make standing of members obvious (usually some sort of karma system or badges). Forums are easily searchable, easily SEO-ready, and can encourage multi-year membership.
Right now community buildiers are mostly reach for chat, but I think they should be reaching for forums.
It's not rocket science -- offer a hosting platform that makes F/OSS forum solutions available to people who want to manage communities.
You don't even have to build the forum software -- there are excellent F/OSS forums out there:
This idea can also be validated fairly cheaply -- build an MVP page for taking orders/onboarding (you could do the whole thing with emails and payment links!), then manually set up forums for people with your deployment platform of choice (ex. DO droplets or some other app hosting platform).
Once the market is validated, you can think about driving down costs and get nerdy about your hosting provider/how you find the cheapest compute.
Read my raw notes >
NOTE Another cool feature would be making it possible to move the conceptual pieces of a community (members, posts, shared uploads/gists, notes, etc) from one F/OSS solution to another.
This would make it near-frictionless for people to try out new forums and do what works for their group(s).
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