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When to use channels in your community

March 7, 2018 at 6:46pm

When to use channels in your community

March 7, 2018 at 6:46pm
Yesterday mentioned something in this thread about introductions which caught my eye:
I noticed it was easier to grow the forums when I funneled people into fewer "channels". So I'm holding off on using channels at all until they grow and split organically.
This caught my eye because thinking about when and how to use channels in a community is a really common question we hear, and so it seems worth diving in a bit deeper here.
The way I think about channels in communities aligns closely with what Matt said: start small, split organically. I'd add on: make the splits a function of what the community is already talking about, not necessarily what you think they should be talking about.
For example, if your community is starting to become overwhelmed with new conversations and messages, and you notice that a substantial subset of those conversations are about Topic X, it's probably a good idea to introduce a channel for that specific topic. To me this is a better flow than a community owner saying: "I want more people to talk about Topic X, therefore I'll make a channel for it."
I hope that distinction makes sense.
Additionally, I think it's important to keep in mind why channels are really useful: it provides a granular way for people to decide what kinds of conversations they care about within a given community. Thinking about it as a function of helping people opt out of content results in many communities spinning up channels like "#random" or "#offtopic" because while those conversations are valuable, admins realize that they have the potential to turn off community members who are only joining for a core set of topics.
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I'd love to know what else folks are thinking about channels - have you found any other strategies on when is the right time to introduce them?

March 7, 2018 at 6:47pm
Generally speaking from my experience with forum building, introducing too may channels is ALWAYS a way to dilute conversation. When you're getting a non-trivial amount of discussion on just one subject is usually the right time to introduce a new channel in my experience.
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So I'm going to throw a dumb comment in here. Until I joined this meta channel yesterday, I didn't even know communities had multiple channels -- Mainly because from the standard, aggregate screen it isn't obvious that there are channels.
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So if I'm not alone in that confusion, then having multiple channels could definitely dilute conversation.
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But I'll throw in my inital hypothesis anyway and say that I wouldn't add channels to a community until conversation got unmanageable and old conversations became difficult to find. The React channel, for example, has only two channels, and I've never been overwhelmed there -- so I'm going to vote that less channels is better.
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Ha good point - we've got a bit of work to do on channels, but the one thing we're doing under the hood is setting each newly created channel as a "default join" channel, so that all new members will automatically join all the channels. This is to try and prevent that dilution you mentioned. Eventually we'll expose UI controls around that so that you could have truly opt-in channels for new members.
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March 8, 2018 at 8:50pm
The way I've been looking at channels is probably more related to tags then separate siloed channels. My assumption is that most members view either the Home page or the community page. With that in mind, I created a few "channels" to start tagging the types of conversations I'm seeing. I also set up a few channels that don't really have any content at the moment, but with the hope of encouraging members to start sharing that that type of content. :)
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Makes sense , definitely one approach
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Also we let you move conversations between channels anyways, so you can definitely curate things in that way
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Yup, I've been going through the backlog of conversations and moving them to the proper channel. It would be nice if there was a way to do this in bulk! ;)
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Ahhh! Yes, that *would* be helpful :P
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Spectrum CMS™
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March 21, 2018 at 4:45am
there has to be some Law or something that says every webapp eventually wants a CMS
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