Hello Riot (and anyone else reading this)!
The purpose of this post is to provide my own analysis of the current and beta layout, opinion from the perspective of someone who has been very active on a few different forums, and suggestions for the beta layout.
This post is long, so forgive me; however, I wish to provide feedback as thorough as possible. **There is a TL;DR at the bottom for those who don't want to read through all of this.**
**The main issue is that the current layout is very similar, and is likely based off of the Reddit formatting.**
Reddit is a successful site, that is no question - however, its focus is much, much different than a forum like League of Legends currently has. Reddit is what I would term an "information aggregator" - somewhat similar to drudgereport. It differs from drudgereport in the fact that it *filters out that information based on the userbase*.
Forums are used to encourage discussion on many topics. Reddit, on the other hand, has the userbase select topics they consider "worth" seeing, while the rest is buried in archives. Basically, the topics are filtered by "popularity." Like a post? Upvote it so others can see. Don't like a post? Downvote it, with enough it will vanish from visibility.
The issue with up/downvoting threads (and posts) a la Reddit is that they are generally very "snowbally." More upvotes mean more visibility means more upvotes. More downvotes means less visibility means vanishing into obscurity or more downvotes. I like to visit the LoL subreddit, but I generally have to space my visiting over several days since the same top posts will stay at the top until another top post comes and steals its spot. Considering the subreddit is great for posting things like videos, champion quirks/bugs, and eSports news, the subreddit has a decent flow of material.
There is, of course, options to filter posts based on recency, upvotes, and "controversy," but as someone who has avidly used forums, it's just not as user-friendly. The current forum layout makes it less confusing to navigate posts - I see all posts in sequential order. Downvoted posts disappear, and I pay attention to highly upvoted posts. I only browse Reddit and enjoy just going through the "top" threads; I don't want to have to enable different filters to see different posts.
There are other issues and concerns, of course, so I will proceed to address them.
Pendragon has posted this in regards to focus on feedback, which I will respond individually to:
> Here are a bunch of things we don’t like about the current forums
>* The technology is not made to scale, and it’s difficult to keep online + add new features
>* It’s difficult to follow a linear sub-discussion in a large thread
>* Bumping mechanics reward spammy behavior
>* 80% of discussion happens in GD / There isn't a great home for smaller >communities
>* It’s difficult to find good content, and the percentage of content that you’re exposed to that’s good is not high
>* Moderation is difficult – because of speed/distribution of posts
>* Not enough is done to encourage the creation of high quality posts
>I’d love to hear your take on these things and answer any questions you have >about how we’re approaching this project.
* **"The technology is not made to scale, and it’s difficult to keep online + add new features."**
I'm not the most tech-savvy person, so I can't offer much feedback in regards to this because I don't quite understand the issue with the technology used for the current forums. As far as I am understanding this statement, it is that a complete rehash of the forums may be more beneficial to introducing new features and such (though I may be wrong on this).
* **"It’s difficult to follow a linear sub-discussion in a large thread."**
A simple resolution to solve this without resorting to a "tree-like" thread structure is to introduce multiple block-quoting. That is, being able to block quote something that is already in a quote block. The current forum allows this, but does not automatically do it (it can be easily solved by doing a QUOTE="user" but I have only learned this by becoming more familiar with the HTML code, and other forums I have used automatically input the code).
Multiple quote-blocking, of course, can lead to obnoxious quote-trains, and thus relies on a user to delete the quote blocks, but is not difficult to manage. It is also not as "efficient," so to say, as the Reddit "tree" structure (providing clear threads of sub-discussion), but still provides an option. Perhaps an option to have permalinks of quote-blocks is possible (don't know if that is possible/requires difficult programming).
* **"Bumping mechanics reward spammy behavior."**
The Reddit-esque comment/upvote tree style certainly solves this. In the current forum system, bump-spamming is reliant on moderation. Moderation is a topic I will touch on later, but there is little ability for anyone outside the moderators (the forum-goers) to control bump-spamming - they can only hope a mod sees it and closes it, or that ignoring it long enough it will die down.
* **"80% of discussion happens in GD / There isn't a great home for smaller communities."**
There's not enough incentive for users to post in other places other than General Discussion, and General Discussion is too easy for people to have discussions. What I mean is this - General Discussion is *too* general. Anything that can be discussed in other forums can be discussed in GD. Discussion about the current 5v5 meta? It can be posted in Summoner's Rift, but GD works too. Want to talk about the Freljord lore in the recent patch? Lore Discussion is the place, but GD works just as well. Have an idea for a champion? Player Concepts should be the place to go, but you can also post it in GD.
All of this is facilitated by user activity in the forum, both general and Red. I know if I want to post something regarding anything, General Discussion is the best place to put it because that is where most of the traffic is.
If we want to resolve this issue it may be more beneficial to simply remove General Discussion and focus on specific sub-forums to host. That may be an topic of controversy, of course, but it promotes growth in the other sub-forums. GD is a hodgepodge of advice-seekers, meta discussion, balance discussion, skin discussion, complaints, trolls, etc. Were GD removed, people would find another forum to gravitate to and populate, but not based off a "general" interest, but gravitating towards a specific one.
* **"It’s difficult to find good content, and the percentage of content that you’re exposed to that’s good is not high."**
This ties in with point #4. Good content is difficult to find for two reasons: 1) there is no "home" for them and 2) they simply aren't promoted enough.
By "home," I mean that there is no specific place a user can post something and have it be visible to many people. For those that do - for example, Sauron's Tier List that was posted on the Dominion forum - they don't get enough publicity, and is what I mean by "not promoted enough".
High quality content cannot be threatened of drowning within the mass threads of General Discussion (and thus again relates to point #4), and thus needs the ability to be promoted. Before they altered the layout, I participated in the xbox.com forums, and for certain games wrote FAQs and Guides which would be requested to be stickied by other players.
I would post examples, but unfortunately, Microsoft erased all previous content contained on the forum archives very shortly after their layout revamp, which sucks. However, threads had a **rating system** (they could rate the thread 1-5) and players reading or the author could request a moderator to sticky the thread. A rating system allows users to promote threads of value and a sticky option allows others to see it easily. It may also be of value to separate stickies and regular topics within a sub-forum.
* **"Moderation is difficult – because of speed/distribution of posts."**
This once again relates to point #4 and how General Discussion is too much of a hub for ALL discussion. Moderation, I would assume, is much easier to do within less populated sub-forums. With the volume of posts in General Discussion, it is difficult to pinpoint problem threads by simply scrolling/face-checking them.
Furthermore, it appears moderators are only Riot employees, and concentrated in the Santa Monica office (and thus moderate based on the Pacific time zone). Problem threads may emerge closer to midnight (by "problem threads," for example, I am referring to the wave of NSFW picture threads that happened recently every night).
Riot can opt to hire volunteer player moderators. Both forums I have been active in, xbox.com and personalitycafe.com, have user moderators who operate within their own time schedule.
* **"Not enough is done to encourage the creation of high quality posts."**
I can address most of this point by referring to point #5. In addition, **forum badges** are a great way to incentivize players to post quality content. While there is a general "User Level" that is tracked based on post count and other factors, special User Levels are awarded (such as MVP, Moderator, Developer) as well as Icons (such as "Tipster," "Gamer Spotlight" [where certain players were highlighted], "Networking Guru," and "On Topic").
For example, as a forum user, I aimed to create quality guides and FAQs for games, hoping to increase my user level or be awarded an icon. I was never awarded one, as they were very selective in icon distribution, but the fact I got several posts stickied was a great landmark for me. Riot already does this with titles like Wrenchmen - they are noticeable, and for good reason.
>Information regarding how Xbox.com handles User Levels can be found here: >http://forums.xbox.com/xbox_forums/forum_faq/f/6/t/117951.aspx#members
>Information regarding how Xbox.com awards Icons can be found here: >http://www.xbox.com/en-US/forums/iconsandlevels
Additionally, a blog system may be a good idea to encourage quality posting. A Diamond player may be able to create a blog system talking about different topics, such as champion mechanics, team compositions, and how to increase in ranking. To complement this, a way for users to easily browse through blogs can be instated.
Lastly, I would like to propose certain suggestions to improve the forum layout. I realize the forums as I see it while writing this post is in beta, so I will try to keep it in mind. Most of my suggestions are inspired by my forum experience with these two sites:
* forums.xbox.com (the old layout)
Each of these sites have their own strengths:
* The old layout of the xbox.com forums made it easy to navigate forums (unlike their current layout, which is awful to look at/search through) as well as view posts (there were major distinguishing factors between "hot topics," "new post," "general post," "stickied post," "locked post," etc). Their personal user interface was great, including "My Forums" (finding threads you have posted in reliably) and "Private Messaging." Their Xbox Gamertag is linked to their User Profile so you can easily add friends.
* PersonalityCafe has *excellent* categorization/formatting and is very user-friendly. There is a Notifications tab at the top allowing you to see replies, "Thanks" (upvotes), and other notifications whenever you refresh. In addition, their User Profile interface is very good, including a board for users to send public messages (for a quick "hello" or "I liked your post" or whatnot), "About Me," "Quotes" (posts that other users have quoted), "Mentions" (the site utilizes @user tags so that they receive notifications), and "Blogs."
Simply put, I would like to UI to be improved. I want to be able to track my own posts and people who have responded to me. I want to be able to PM other users. Have a customizable user profile that allows me to create an identity - lack of identity is a huge problem for the current LoL forums, as I can't differentiate users except if they have a title or have made themselves notorious.
**Now, I understand I just wrote a LOT, so here's a TL;DR version**:
1. I am not a fan of the Reddit layout when it comes to forums, as the upvote/downvote system highlights/obscures posts too heavily, which ties in to how posts can be filtered (only by "best" or "recent," never both).
2. It is probably best that Riot is moving from the old forum technological layout, but not necessarily move away from the intrinsic structure of it.
3. While the Reddit "tree" thread structure is efficient for sorting sub-discussions, automatic multiple quote-blocking is another option for a forum that might have the current layout.
4. While the Reddit upvote/downvote thread structure resolves bump-spamming, it still leaves posts in obscurity; moderation is a proposed solution to bump-spamming.
5. General Discussion is too general of a forum, thus gathering most of the forum traffic. Removing it and encouraging participation in specific sub-forums encourages diverts traffic more equally.
6. High quality content needs specific forums to gain visibility in, as well as methods of "promotion" for other users to see - a rating system and "request for sticky" allows other users to promote high quality content.
7. Moderation can become an issue as there is a lot of posts to filter through; carefully selected player moderators may prove useful in controlling user posts.
8. User Awards and Icons - much like the current "Wrenchman" or "Adjudicator" titles - can provide incentives for users to post quality content. User blogs may also prove useful in posting quality content others can view.
9. Improvement of the User Interface, such as a post tracker, private messaging system, report function and creating identities for users through user icons and profiles is beneficial for distinguishing users and establishing a greater sense of community.
There's several other things I'd like to address, such as Red tracking in the current PBE layout, but I'll leave it here (esp. since I'm pressed for time as I'm submitting). Some features look great right now, such as the log-in pop-up and smoothness of editing posts!
Thank you for reading this long-ass post, if you did, and I would love thoughts on my feedback! :D