This is probably the most complicated "forums" style website I have ever seen.  It's incredibly disorganized.  Think Atheist is another atheist Ning website, and while it is also frustrating to navigate, it is steps ahead of this one.  I blame this mostly on Ning.  Honestly, phpBB forums would be better than Ning.

One non-Ning issue that I constantly run into is that people post discussions in groups instead of on the main site.  This means every person who wants to reply has to join the group.  This also means the discussion will not show up on the main discussions page, forcing us to manually check the "My Groups" tab to see if there are any updates to our groups and then to manually check each updated group to see what happened.  And even then, as far as I can tell, often nothing actually happened.  (Maybe it indicates "activity" when someone joins?)  Anyway, I see absolutely no reason to post discussions in groups, unless the subject matter is not allowed in the main forums.  It just decreases the chances and frequency of a discussion being replied to and divides content and the community unnecessarily (of which "blogs" vs "discussions" already does a bang-up job).  There have been several occasions where I wanted to reply to a discussion but realized the author posted it on a group page.  Sorry, I'm not going to contribute to this mess by joining your group.

The front page is cluttered beyond reason.  I don't even know why I go there anymore.  I have actually AdBlocked a lot of crap that just took up room.  When I visit AN now, I link to the "Forum" section and have it switched to "Discussions" view because the default "Categories" view is absolutely useless.

I spend a great deal of time reading the bottom right corner of the screen, "Latest Activity," because I often find it more convenient than checking 3, 4, even 5 separate pages and still not seeing all of the updates.  So why is something so important just a tiny box in the corner?  Think Atheist has definitely done some things right that AN could learn from.

Also, Think Atheist seems to have an updated text editor script, because the problem of the cursor randomly jumping to the beginning was fixed a while ago, same with the problem of quote mode getting stuck on.

Well, that's my critique.  AN has a pretty decent community, but I would really like to see in the future the merging of sites like AN and Think Atheist onto a non-Ning platform that is more conducive to discussions.

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Before you take a big dump on the website, I'm not sure you fully understand the implications of building a web community forum.

Though I didn't set up this one, I have set up others, and it's far more difficult than you think.

I'll take you through the process...

Let's say your starting off, you have no idea if what your going to build is a success, so you don't want to leave your job to produce it. As such, throwing money at web designers is expensive in both cost and time. This leaves you with one of the prebuilt services. Oh, but wait, not only are you limited to software that has been built to function for other groups with a meriad of features, but you also have to consider bandwidth and server space, which means hosting a very active forum on your owner server can equally put you in the poor house. This system is self hosted, produced and maintained by a third party, which includes most everything. It lets them focus on building the community with modifications until the day they are ready to build from scratch, of which, will be a massive undertaking.

I'm sure the site admins are the last to say this is perfect,but nothing is stopping you from putting together your own web software and presenting it to them, factoring in the cost to host and time to maintain.

I can't speak for everyone, but the only reason I come to these places is for discussion.  phpBB code is freely available and provides a much better medium for holding discussions, IMO.  There is no need to build from scratch.  In fact, based on every experience I've had of proprietary forums, I'd say it's a very bad idea.

Having said that, I see absolutely zero chance of a Ning site ever migrating to any other forum.  The owner would lose a huge chunk of his/her community just from the migration, probably the majority of them.  These Ning sites are just going to ride it out until everyone moves to the next big thing.  That's my prediction at least.

Finally, my complaints were about the organization of the website more than Ning.  The clutter of the main page is absolutely under their control.  If I had to guess, I'd say the community kind of went rogue and started this tradition of posting within groups instead of on the main forums, but it could still be requested of them not to do that, unless there is a good reason for it in the first place (in which case I'm all ears/eyes).

Oh well then, you got your work cut out for, I look forward to seeing it when it's complete. Do you have a date yet?

Bro, I hope you aren't trying to suggest that the communities should not give valuable feedback to admins, because that's definitely what it feels like.  I was not unnecessarily harsh and did not make any personal attacks.  I was just honest, as I would expect anyone to be with me.

Nope. I'm just saying I look forward to seeing what you put together.

The original posts are still there?  I don't know if it's too late, but you could have changed your name in the settings, which would have changed it on all of your posts.

When you change your name, your new name becomes attached to your old posts too, in my experience. One of my friends changed his name, gender, state, picture, and description. But I saw the new name attached to my archived messages of his, so I know who he was.

I don't have any influence with the setup of Nexus, and am not involved in the programming or design.  That being said, I like the groups, the forum setup, and the rest of the site.  I especially like having separate interest groups.   Im very comfortable with it.  Each to their own I guess.  

So what do you when discussions you want to reply to are posted in groups you aren't interested in?  What do you like about having separate interest groups?

I disagree with your complaint that

people post discussions in groups instead of on the main site.  This means every person who wants to reply has to join the group.

It's unworkable to have all discussions in one giant grab bag. What's wrong with joining a group? It's not like they charge you dues or something. Granted that many groups have infrequent activity, but they're still there when you want to share something on that topic.

In a way there's a dilemma for a social network as small and specialized as ours. If we had all discussions mushed together on the main page, the site would seem more active, like lots of conversations happening. But it would be cross talk, and most of the topics wouldn't interest you. By sorting our discussions into interest groups, every group becomes quite small, for example atheists who like motorcycles, trading relevance for the impression one has walked into an empty room. If you just want to talk motorcycles, other sites have more participants.

But AN isn't just a specialized niche, it's a superior troll free social network! I love it because I'm not verbally attacked. It's civilized here. I need that far more than thousands of members in my group.

One complaint I have is that the list "my discussions" only includes main site discussions. Sometimes I want to refer back to a discussion I started months ago in a group, and there is no easy way to retrieve it.

I don't know if your theory holds true.  Personally, I am most interested in discussions people are posting in groups and am rarely bothered to even read the discussions that people post on the main forum.  Also, I don't think this place is active enough to truly need to divide it up, although I do see your point.  The main forum is divided into categories, but checking through each category of interest for new posts is another level of frustrating on top of everything else that would probably make me explode.

How much of this site is Google searchable is, like front page clutter, under admin control. I'm the administrator of another Ning site. I let the front page be Google visible, as part of "marketing," but that's it. The "clutter"? First, we don't have a bunch of ads on our site, and that's in part because it's just one venue of a larger nonprofit organization. Second, our site is set up with a three column structure, with both left- and right-hand rails.

At the same time. I do agree to some extent with Tenkin's crtics. Dude, this is easier than somebody having to do phpBB, or something else. Plug-and-play's always easier, if not optimized for an individual group. So, if you want to build a site yourself, fire away.


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