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Top 10 ways to kill a forum
1) Forum confrontations are arguably the quickest way to kill an active and otherwise healthy forum. It is common to see a large forum with all locked topics or a forum offline message like "XYZ Forum has been shut down due to an increase in personal attacks and inaccurate information...". Don't kill your forum by letting confrontations get out of control. For more information, read our article on dealing with forum confrontations.
2) Inactivity is obviously a huge issue when it comes to keeping forums alive. Active forums that have a prolonged drop in activity will quickly notice a domino effect. Most of your users check your forum because they are interested in particular topics and they want to see what others are saying. If they get out of the groove of checking your forum often, they'll eventually forget about the forum entirely.
3) Server downtime is just as deadly as forum confrontations and inactivity, and it probably the easiest to prevent. If your host can't keep your forum up at least 99% of the time, drop them. This is especially important for new forums. Older forums can handle more downtime because your users aren't going to leave you that quickly. Odds are you've already had to switch hosts several times in the past, and this is the same old news to you. For new forums, however, server downtime can stop all your traffic that day you finally got published in your newspaper, you finally got a healthy number of new posts a day, etc. Don't let someone else kill your forum, find a reliable host that knows what they are doing.
4) Data loss can kill a forum that has been weakened by confrontations. Forums have many invisible (sometimes not so invisible) sub-groups and sub-loyalties. A powerful user with a large following may see your forum slipping and suggest people join the forum they just set up instead. While you can't prevent people from building followings, you can make your best effort to keep things running smoothly so any mention of a revolt will fall upon deaf ears.
5) Revolts can kill a forum that has been weakened by confrontations. Forums have many invisible (sometimes not so invisible) sub-groups and sub-loyalties. A powerful user with a large following may see your forum slipping and suggest people join the forum they just set up instead. While you can't prevent people from building followings, you can make your best effort to keep things running smoothly so any mention of a revolt will fall upon deaf ears.
6) Changes in the direction of your forum. Your users joined your forum for the way it was. Changes are often inevitable but the severity of the changes can make or break your forum. If your forum was about one game and your interest has shifted to another, your users might not be on the same wavelength as you. Stay on topic and try not to impede on your user's interests. Add forum synergies if you want to expand but keep the core content the same.
7) Changes in ownership can be a quick way to see an active forum quickly dissolve. In smaller forums, the forum admin can be an essential part to the forum's activity. Users respect and relate to the admin and losing them can be like losing purpose on the forum. The best way to prevent the ill-effects of ownership changes is to make the change overtime. Keep past admins on for a while until the new admins are settled in and accepted by the users. Now is the perfect time to create a content or other motivating event to break the ice and make a good impression.
8) Loss of interest is dangerous because it can't be prevented. If your forum has a niche (and most successful forums do) then you rely on the interest your users have on that niche. If a user no longer enjoys fly fishing then you aren't going to retain them. Do your best to keep new users coming in to fill in the gaps as others leave.
9) Relevancy. If your forum is about Survivor Season 79 and the season is over, your forum is at risk of dying off. Keep things fresh and remind your members that you will be discussing future seasons or serving as a place to remember old seasons.
10) Joe the hacker. Joe the hacker is someone who hears about a vulnerability in the forum script you use, guessing your password or password of someone else with powers, and make a mess of your forum. If your forum is defaced it is easy to lose hope and just pull the plug. Find someone who can help you secure your forum or move somewhere that manages security for you. Your forum was targeted for a reason, don't give them the satisfaction. Read about why Joe the Forum Hacker is not a concern.
Author: Chris Davis
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