To sum up the conclusions we have drawn from the experiences with the
GULLIVER forum: It is not difficult to run a forum, but the better the design,
structure and organisation are, the greater the outcome will be. Contrarily,
poor design and sloppy organisation of a forum will almost inevitably lead
to problems and end in a more or less chaotic heap of texts. Generally speaking,
GULLIVER was certainly a success, but some things could have been designed
more clearly and organised more efficiently.
The following guidelines represent the most important points to consider:
4.1 Guidelines for setting up a forum
- Make sure the purpose and topics of your forum are clear and obvious – even to occasional users.
- If you can influence the design of your forum, make it as clear and foolproof as possible. It should not be possible to post entries in the wrong category or to enter contributions without a headline.
- Make sure that all entries have a headline with the most relevant information, e.g. user data (as far as necessary), contents, contact mail address, date, etc.
- Explain the use of the forum to its users in a suitable way. Offer a user’s manual and FAQ-section on the site and/ or organize training classes.
- Narrow down and define the topics as precisely as possible. If there are several topics, create a subsection on your forum for each one of them.
- Make sure that you have the right to eliminate unsuitable entries – even if the site is run by somebody else.
- Think about a timeline for your forum. Setting up closing deadlines may intensify the discussion and help to keep up interest.
4.2 Guidelines for forum users
- Use the forum to present information and opinions that may be of interest to all users. For private exchanges, use e-mail or a chat-room instead.
- Before sending your contribution, make sure that it follows common netiquette rules (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netiquette or comparable sources)
- Check your spelling and grammar before you post, and use standard language. If you must use specific terms or slang words, explain them.
- If you answer to another contribution, quote the relevant passages in your reply.
- If you send your contribution in an attached file, make sure other users can get the information even if they don’t use the same software. You may, for example, create a simplified or “text-only” version of your contribution.