October 18, 2006

Topix Forums: Sharing the love…

by at 12:41 PM

Last year when we were designing the topix.net forums, we took a look around to see what was working and what was giving others trouble. We were especially interested in systems that were trying to capture raw input from their readers. The LA Times tried this with their wikitorial, but had to yank it down in less than 3 days, as it quickly became overrun with users posting porn and other offensive material. The BBC also launched a moderated comment system, but limited the feature to a handful of articles and didn’t allow users to respond to one another in discussion.

We knew we wanted commenting enabled on all 360k channels -- giving users the freedom to post without a stifling review process -- and at the same time avoid a cesspool of obscenity and spam.

We wanted raw voices, not blistering.

We set out to build a system that is almost fully-automated, with powerful filters and tools -- a system that would run itself, with just minimal touch from our community manager. Since launching in last December, we’ve had a number of blog posts detailing the success of the Topix.net forums platform. The latest numbers show nearly 2.5 million posts and over 400K unique users in less than 10 months. It continues to grow like a weed.

comment2.jpg Our partners have taken a liking to these numbers, too. So much that they asked us if we could share the platform and host their forums for them. We asked our engineers to create a simple javascript comment-widget that partners could easily drop into their legacy systems, and to give them moderation tools that would allow them to control the occasional troll or spammer. In other words, no headaches, but lots of traffic. (Tastes great, less filling!)

The results have been spectacular: Since launching our first test with Tribune’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel they’ve received over 100K posts! As you might guess, their readers are talking about all things local, but also reacting to a lot of national and world news, too.

Our friends at Gannett liked what they saw from the Tribune test, and decided to launch their own forums on the Indianapolis Star. In less than a week, we’re seeing the same pattern. The folks in Indy have a lot to say, and have found a place to say it.

So we’re excited to share the love by powering our partners’ forums so that they can join the fun, too. And if this sounds like a program you might want for your site, drop us a line at partners at topix dot net. There’s plenty to go ‘round.