We’ve got forums!
I’ve been holding back on this announcement because I didn’t want to waste your time if they didn’t pan out. But after launching quietly at the end of March, today we’ve passed the 100-user mark on the new BikePortland Forums and that gives me the confidence to officially announce them here on the Front Page.
BikePortland has always been about fostering good conversations, sharing information, and inspiring people to go out and use it. It’s why we invest so much in our comment section and maintain daily discussions here on the blog as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (not to mention old-fashioned emails and all those private messages).
So why add forums into that mix? Let me count the ways…
Forums give your voice more freedom, power and prominence. All the content and conversations BikePortland publishes come from me or a contributor. That’s just a few people. And while I do my best to reflect your voices in all our work, it’s not representative of the community. I want you to have your own platform. A place where you call the shots, where you are the publisher and the instigator of the conversation.
Social networks create silos, groupthink and echo chambers. BikePortland is the largest tent of cycling thought and opinion in our community. It’s where people of wildly diverse cycling backgrounds come together every day. When we strengthen this network and cross-pollinate within it, special things happen. That’s the magic of BikePortland, and our forums build on that vital part of our work.
Social network owners don’t have your best interests at heart. Our forums are powered by Discourse, a 100% open-source platform from people whose values around the need for civil online discussion align very closely with mine.
Different platforms welcome different voices. I’ve noticed over the years that BikePortland has different audiences on our different channels. Our comments here are dominated by men and we see the same names posting often (not ideal, I’m working on it). But if you follow us on social media, you’ll notice a much different commenter base. Just like you feel more comfortable in certain coffee shops or public spaces than others, the same applies online. Our forums are another platform that I hope will lure some of you out of shyness mode and into sharing mode.
They democratize my private emails. I get asked tons of important and interesting questions via email. I’ve spent countless hours over the years typing out answers to people I don’t even know and they’re the only ones who benefit from that. Now I strongly encourage people who email me directly to post their question in the forums so that others can add to the answer and everyone can benefit from them.
They work great. I admit our comment section is an imperfect host and it’s built on our existing blog tech that is a bit dated. The forums look and work perfectly on smartphones and they are loaded with cool easy-to-use features. I’m still discovering all the functionality and I’m very impressed.
The potential is huge. I can see a future where we have vibrant forum sub-categories managed by volunteer community hosts. For example, I’d like to have quadrant or neighborhood-specific advocacy sections with a moderator who’s an expert in the area (you know who you are!). These neighborhood sections could be the place to post current projects, hot topics, best routes, bike shop reviews, and so on. Imagine someone moves to Portland and finds their corresponding neighborhood section full of information about location-specific topics, routes, projects, and so on — all written by folks who live near them and with a host ready to answer their questions.
So come and join us. All 100 of us! I’m in there a lot and we’ve had some great discussions already. It’s easy to grab a log-in name and get started: Forums.BikePortland.org.
Thank you to everyone who’s joined and to our subscriber and financial supporters who make new features like this possible
(Thanks to our first 100 forum members!)
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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