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The Forums

Some of my earliest memories of hanging with the Dad were visits to the local hardware story, Orchard Supply Hardware. I remember two things. First, the distinctive smell, which I learned, years later, is the stench of fertilizer. Second, the huge amount of time it actually took to get to the register, which was near my primary target, the candy.

The Dad was smart. He knew I’d come because he’d always buy me a treat, but at came with a cost. The Dad was physically incapable of spending less than an hour in Orchard Supply and WE WERE THERE FOR A BOX OF NAILS. He had to soak in the place, wander each aisle, muttering to himself… it drove me nuts. By the time I was a teenager, I was a tremendous jerk, hated my parents, and swore to never go to a hardware store again. THERE’S CANDY ELSEWHERE, POP.

During the carefree apartment rental years, I avoided hardware stores by purchasing the inevitable hammer at the local grocery store. My hardware policy changed the moment I bought a house, when WHAM I needed a wheelbarrow, and it turns out they don’t sell wheelbarrows at Safeway. It was time to return to Orchard Supply.

The place smelled the same. All fertilizery. Same folks wandering around in their forest green vests trying to look helpful. Same horrible fluorescent lighting. I wondered if they candy selection has improved in the past decade? Hey, what’s this? A tool chest. I need a tool chest. Wait, this vice grip rocks. I could totally fix my kitchen with this thing. And that reminds me… I’ve got that loose tile… Where is the tile glue? I NEED A HELPFUL GREEN VEST STAT!

The cliche about hardware stores and people over thirty is this: it’s a toy store. We go there to buy crap that looks cool, but that we don’t really need. Wrong. My Dad was not wandering Orchard Supply looking for crap; my Dad was looking for ideas. That’s what a great tool does: it inspires you to build.

Rands in Repose Forums

I’ve been noodling the idea of Forums for Rands in Repose for over a year. Some of the most interesting articles on the site have little to with my reposings and everything to do with people taking the time to comment on my original thought. Forums seem like a natural way to encourage the growing Rands in Repose community to interact, but the problem has always been — the tools suck.

Over the past few years, I’ve installed and toyed with both PunBB and vBulletin on my server. Each time I thought, “You know, all I need to do is announce this to the public and we can start this experiment.” Folks will show up and, if past comments are any indication, they’ll have something to say. Problem is, forum or discussion board software just looks boxy and rigid and I’m messy. I live my life in my inbox and my inbox is an insatiable growing beast. Sure, I like to give myself the impression that I’ve tamed the beast with mail rules and filters, but the fact is, I’ve got 5000+ unread message in my inbox that I’m never going to read.

Still, that is how I think about conversations. Not in structured discussion groups, but in a firehose of a queue that I can slice, dice, tag, filter, sort, and whatever other verb makes my info_surfing easier.

Enter Lussumo’s Vanilla forum software. I found this software July of last year, and, like any great tool, I instantly thought, “Yeah, I can build something with this”. It’s not the prettiest software out there; it doesn’t have the most features, but what it does have is instant software sex appeal. When you first look at it, you don’t think, “Golly, which discussion group should I search?”, you see everything that folks are talking about right this second. What Lussumo gets that others do not is that I’m not interested in building a discussion forum, I’m building a community. The success of piece of social software is an easy measure — how long does it take one person to find people they should talk with?

Jump Starting the Forums

The forums are an experiment and by experiment I do mean, “I’m going to keep tweaking it, throwing stuff at it, and then we’ll either call the experiment a success or a failure”.

  • You can browse the public forums without an account, but to post, as well as access all the forums… including access to the slush pile of articles that didn’t quite make it to the front page… you’ve got to create an account. I realize this hoop will decrease the number of folks who sign up and I’m “OK” with that fact.

  • I’m new to the whole forum thing, so I’d definitely appreciate constructive criticism, feature requests, and whatever other members think would improve the experience.

Let’s begin

2 Responses

  1. Peter 18 years ago

    For other unobservant people like myself, the link to the forums is:

  2. marnie 18 years ago

    Dear Rands,

    Don’t know about offering constructive criticism, but constructive encouragement, yes. I imagine there will be problems and sometimes flaming will occur, even the most tight-knit of forum communities experience those from time to time. Just don’t give up. I for one enjoy coming here.

    It is strange, but some of the most genuine personalities I have encountered are from the geek/nerd computer online world.