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Unread February 13th, 2006, 10:56 AM
James Pretzer James Pretzer is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 283
Exclamation How can we liven up the discussion?

I've received a couple of queries recently from forum participants who would like me to find a way to encourage new participants to speak up more and to encourage more lively discussion on the part of all participants. In response, I'd like to get suggestions from forum participants:

1. If you're someone who visits the forum periodically but who hasn't posted anything yet - What are the barriers? What could we do to make it more comfortable for you to post your questions, comments, and opinions?

2. If you're someone who posted once or twice but who hasn't continued to post - Was there anything about the response you got that discouraged you from posting more? Do you have any suggestions about how we could encourage more participation?

3. Would it be a good idea for me to try to make a point of responding to every post so that people don't feel that their post was ignored?

4. Alternatively, would it be a good idea for me to respond less frequently so that participants don't get in the habit of treating the forum as though it's "Ask Jim Pretzer." (Remember, it's not my forum. I'm just the moderator.)

5. Would it be a good idea for "veteran" participants (other than me) to make a point of responding to posts by new participants?

Any other suggestions?

(If you're shy, feel free to respond anonymously or to send me a private message.)
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Unread March 2nd, 2006, 10:41 PM
James Pretzer James Pretzer is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 283
Default Re: How can we liven up the discussion?

Doug William sent this response (which I'm posting with his permission):
I think maybe the biggest problem with this new format is that it has a veneer of formality whereas the 'old' format gave much more a sense of dialogue. In fact the dialogue itself with immediately viewable. You could read it as an ongoing discussion. The current format absolutely encourages the 'Ask Jim Pretzer a Question' approach-- because everything at the site does end up being compartmentalized and you can't immediately see any ongoing interaction. Instead of a conversation about a given topic, everthing looks like its divided into topics--- and I agree that seeing Jim Pretzer's name all over the "topic list' as the initiator and responder does give the wrong impression.

My idea-- and I can see you possibly cringing at this!---- is for you to make contact through private messaging with the poeple who have participated and introduce this idea of having a 'discussion'. I think the one-on-one effort would bear some fruit. I would be willing to do this myself, but I think the impact of you making the effort to contact people could help to 'light up' the forum a bit. If you don't want to do this, I will give it go--- but I think you doing it does give a much bigger impression!!

Thanks for your time-- again

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Unread March 7th, 2006, 02:28 PM
Rod Whiteley Rod Whiteley is offline
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 7
Talking Re: How can we liven up the discussion?

1. I have lurked here occasionally and this is my first post. Although I have a role in delivering psychotherapy, I would not describe myself as a mental health professional. This has made me feel that participating actively would not be appropriate.

2. In other online forums, there are many people who only post rarely. I wonder if that is a good group to target. It seems to me that the "Ask Jim Pretzer a Question" model works well for those people who very occasionally need to know something.

3, 4. I think it's fine for you to respond to every post, if no one else gets there first and says all that needs to be said. There is a forum where I do that, and it does not seem to inhibit discussion.

5. Yes, I think it is good for others to respond too.

In the UK, the BABCP's mailing list is a very active discussion of cognitive therapy and related subjects, with something like 200 - 300 posts a month. I have been wondering what the differences are.

One difference is that it is e-mail (although it has a web interface too). Perhaps posting on a web site feels scarier than sending an e-mail.

Another difference is that access is controlled. Indeed, participants sometimes have to be reminded that non-therapists are able to join the list. Perhaps you should eject people like me to create a feeling of "amongst ourselves" here.

Some of the topics here have a heavywright quality that makes them daunting to respond to. I think forums work best with brief comments and questions that have transient relevance. For longer articles that have persistent value, a wiki might be more appropriate. Then the discussion of an individual point from an article in the wiki would make a manageable thread in the forum, and more people might feel able to join in.

Regular readers of the forum can help to promote it by deliberately moving discussions that arise in e-mail and elsewhere into this public arena, saying, "Let's continue this discussion in the forum, because it might be of value to other poeple" or "...because we might value what other people have to say."
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