Denis Krukovsky brought Blogoforum to my attention. A forum application that has a lot of features I described in Rethinking Discussion Boards and a little bit of Forum 2.0. There have been some tag-based forums before, but either they died or they aren’t really developed anymore.
Blogoforum is actually quite nice. It adopts the idea of getting rid of categories and boards like in the traditional forums and only uses tags (although it calls those categories). On the frontpage is a list of recent posts and a tag cloud at the right. Anyone can post messages. Messages can be replies to other messages or entirely new topics.
I’ve been clicking around on the site, reading some topics and I feel I get lost. And the thing is, I don’t know why. You cannot really get lost in a site with no real hierarchy can you? There is no hierarchy of categories, boards and topics here, it’s just messages with tags assigned to them. So how can you get lost in that?
Maybe it is that each message is also its own topic. If somebody replies to a message it is grouped with that message into a topic. But the message itself can also be the start of a topic. For example on the frontpage I saw a link to this topic. This is clearly a (silly) reply to a topic. When I look at this page I get confused. Visually. Have a look:
First of all the very top. Who understands what that means? “Blogoforum — blog+forum on meegos, chatting, messenger, icons, addon, msn” What I think it means is that we’re looking at a topic in (virtual) forum on meegos (whatever that may be), chatting, messenger, icons, addon and msn, which I assume are the tags associated with that. This is confusing and looks very ugly. Personally I would put the title of the thread at the top, not some potentially long string of tags with blog+forum. Who can read or understand that?
Then I see another title “RE: Free Meego’s For MSN”. This is the message we’re currently viewing. Then we see “started from” and another “RE: Free Meego’s For MSN” title with a message which I assume is a parent message. It’s the message this message is a reply to. By clicking on that title we move up a level. Then underneath that, again, is the title of our current post, with the actual text “(blank)” underneath it. Then there’s a reply somebody posted to that. Complicated? Exactly.
Visually this is really confusing too.
This is what I’m used to:
Clean. Simple. No confusion. A topic with replies. That’s it.
I admire Denis’ attempt to move away from the concept of posts all belonging to a single thread; making every single post a potential thread starter, but like this it doesn’t work. I think making some visual changes actually will make a big impact. Maybe a more traditional forum-like layout? Maybe he should try to find somebody with some good design and usability skills to have a look at it and make some suggestions.
I still believe in this idea and think, if executed properly, it actually could work. Maybe somebody here can see what’s wrong and how to fix it?
Update: Blogoforum is now looking for a designer.