ForumCon 2014 Highlights

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Last week was our annual conference, ForumCon, and what a conference it was! Here are the most important takeaways from each of the day’s sessions.

What does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

In the opening session, moderator John Boitnott led panelists Tyler Smith, Zach Hobbs, Craig Dalrymple and Howard Steinberg in a discussion on increasing Internet consumption via mobile devices and the effect that is having on forums. The panel emphasized that forums will need to adapt as users increasingly use mobile devices to consume forum content but less so to create new content. Developing countries in particular have many users who access the Internet solely through their mobile devices.

The Lean Community: Simple Tactics for Building Thriving Communities

David Spinks spoke about his first experience in building an online community that was centered around Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. David argued that forums are far more likely to succeed if they are built as an outlet for an existing community, rather than an attempt to build a new community based on corporate interest. Additionally, David informed the audience, despite conventional wisdom, debates between community members could be key to developing stronger community bonds.

The Top 5 Forum Insights that Changed Our Business

Crista Bailey emphasized the importance of encouraging community members to openly  share their content. As the CEO of TextureMedia, Bailey has built the largest online community for women with curly hair. If TextureMedia weren’t an environment where women in this historically-marginalized community felt comfortable sharing their stories and pictures, the brand would not be what it is today.

Moderation and Management of Your Community

Dan Gill moderated the talk about managing online community with panelists Greg Childs, Justin Isaf and Patrick Clinger. The panel members had important insights about who ought to be responsible for electing community managers. One great example was, if someone asks to be a community manager, they probably aren’t a good choice. Instead, ask an active and influential member of your forum to be a manager. There’s a good chance that they are the type of member who plans on being a part of the community for an extended period of time.

Conversation about Online Community

Conversations about Online Community gave attendees the chance break into groups and answer assigned questions. They then chose their best insights to share with the entire ForumCon conference. Attendees made a series of clever suggestions such as, making sure that each community manager receives individual attention and emphasizing the importance of randomized checks on manager decisions. There was also plenty of discussion about whether to remove “downvote” features altogether.

ForumCon Tech Fest

This year’s ForumCon featured the first ever Tech Fest competition with a series of entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of expert judges. Each of our presenters had a great pitch, but Panjo and their advertising marketplace for forums ultimately prevailed.

Using Proven Science to Create Highly Addictive Communities

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about proven methods that increase their community’s retention rate from Richard Millington. One of his most interesting pieces of advice was messaging someone right after they join your community might not necessarily the most effective use of your time, especially if your goal is to get them to contribute to the site. Instead, Millington found that responding within five hours to a new member’s first contribution resulted in a 53% increase in the chance that they would contribute again. Additionally, responding within the first hour increased that figure even further.

The Future Discussion of the Web Panel

ForumCon’s final panel was moderated by Nellie Bowles and featured Jeff Atwood, Josh Miller, Daniel Ha and Thomas Plunkett. Our most forward-looking panel spoke about the need to encourage civil discussion online and some of the ways previous efforts to do so had fallen short. For example, insisting that users login through Facebook doesn’t seem to have any effect on their being civil to one another. What’s most important is for people participating in online communities to realize that even without face-to-face interaction there is someone on the receiving end of their comments.

How Purposeful Design Increases Engagement

Courtney Couch explained the power of purposeful design (the holistic approach you take to your site). Couch suggested that every design decision ought to be evaluated on the basis of its benefit for users and not simply because it “could be done” or might look “cool”. His talk tied to previous comments made at ForumCon that the most successful forums are very basic with user-friendly designs.

Thank you to all of you who came and a special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: FORUMS.net, tapatalk, Vanilla, BoardReader, Panjo, Internet Brands, Hi-def Ninja, Vbulletin, Verticalscope and Topix.  Other great wrap-ups have been written byJessica Malnik and Evan Hamilton. You can also check out a great collection of content from the ForumCon Storify and visit our blog for videos of the sessions.

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

Ever wondered what ForumCon is?

Ever wondered what this amazing thing called “ForumCon” is, that we have been talking so much about?

Well, know we have our very own promo video to explain it. Happy watching!

PS. You might just recognize a few familiar faces…

If you fancy joining us for what promises to be a day full of learning, networking, and most importantly lots of fun. Please use our special VigLink registration link to receive 25% off. You can also check out the full agenda of amazing speakers and activities here.

See you on Thursday 19th of June!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer

In 2014, Turn Your Forum Into an Ecommerce Media Giant

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business and future of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Follow this link to join us for the day and get a special VigLink 25% off discount!

Written by Chad Billmyer, CEO, Panjo

Businesses purchase forums based on trailing revenue and traffic growth. Do you want more revenue and more traffic? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

In the last few days, VerticalScope agreed to acquire PBNation.com for $1.38M (a paintball vBulletin forum) and Freelancer.com paid $3.2M for Warrior Forum (a digital marketing vBulletin forum). You can grow the value of your community higher than that. To quote the Sean Parker character in The Social Network, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?” A billion dollars.

panjo graph

According to BuiltWith, the number of forums powering the top million sites on the web has declined by 33% since 2011. In the face of the decline of Web-based forums, you can still grow the value of your community. Now is the time for you to evolve your community into an ecommerce media business.

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist.com, explains, “Now we’re at the beginning of Commerce 3.0. Every day you surprise and delight people by showing them interesting things, and then you layer on great storytelling on a daily basis…. People come to your store more often because they never know what they’re going to find and what they could discover. When they get there, they spend more money buying the basics that they actually need. It’s been four years since we acquired JackThreads, and we’ve gotten really good into making a reader into a shopper and a shopper into a reader. We will do more than $100 million in revenues this year, and I believe we can be a $1 billion business.” [source]

This past March, Lerer spoke at the South By Southwest conference in Austin. You can find the slides from his talk, Content & Commerce: The Digital Cronut, on slideshare. There is an excellent recap of the presentation in Publishing Perspectives.  In summary, you have thousands of enthusiasts frequenting your site. You have earned their trust. You need to move beyond advertising, subscription, events, and licensing. Says Lerer, “you’ve got to actually physically sell something to that consumer” to have a chance at that billion-dollar goal.

Through his research, Michael Brito, author of Your Brand: The Next Media Company, found that successful media companies shared five characteristics. He shared the five characteristics in an interview with SocialMediaExaminer:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Content

  3. Relevance

  4. Ubiquitous

  5. Agile

Perhaps the sentiments of Lerer and Brito are a bit too theoretical or macro for you. You are in the trenches, building and moderating your community and keeping sponsors happy. What is your next step?

  1. If you don’t already have a content management system (CMS) attached to your forum, add one.

  2. Create a plan for the creation of compelling, original content. Focus on storytelling.

  3. Identify the ecommerce opportunities within your vertical. Who are the entrepreneurs, small businesses, and major vendors who want to reach your audience? What is the best way for those partners to sell product through your web property. What ecommerce platform will you use to power that commerce?

To help you execute on the three steps above, you can turn to tools and services like RebelMouse, Contently,DivvyHQ, SingleGrain, Panjo, Magento, and others.

Returning to the topic of valuation, let’s break down the valuations of the aforementioned forums. Warrior Forum’s $3.2M acquisition price means that Freelancer.com paid…

  • $4.36 per registered user
  • $0.44 per thread post
  • $2.62 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.23 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $4.36 per email address

CrowdGather purchased PBNation in 2011 for $2.4M. [source] PBNation’s recent $1.38M acquisition price, a decline of over $1M, means that VerticalScope paid…

  • $2.08 per registered user
  • $0.02 per thread post
  • $6.40 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.66 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $2.08 per email address

Usually, forums are bought and sold between two privately held companies and there is little or no public information about the purchase price. These recent transactions involved publicly held companies and as material transactions, required public disclosure.

Forums are not bought and sold based on the metrics above. As stated above, forum acquisitions are based on traffic and revenue. Do you want more traffic and revenue? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

 

Resource-Aware Graphical Models with Katharina Morik

Katharina Morik

We are delighted to announce, Katharina Morik, TU Dortmund University, Germany, will be joining us on Thursday May 29th, to give a special talk on “Resource-Aware Graphical Models.” We would love for you to join us and this special one-off presentation in SF. To save your spot you just need to register here.

The evening will start with drinks, snacks and networking. Please note the talk will start promptly at 6:30PM.

Abstract

Machine learning can help to enhance small devices. For instance, keeping the energy consumption of smart phones low is one of the major concerns of the users, as is well illustrated by various “charge your mobile” stations at public places. Where the operating systems of smart phones already offer heuristics and battery apps show consumption profiles, machine learning can do more. Predictions allow better optimizations of the operating system, prepare for particular app usages at certain points in time, or manage services such as GPS or WLAN in a context-aware and adaptive manner. This challenges learning algorithms to real-time application of their models. Moreover, it demands the models to run on the resource-restricted device without consuming more energy themselves than they save!

In the talk, graphical models are presented that face these challenges. Using Conditional Random Fields (CRF) for the prediction of files that the user will fetch next on her smart phone can be used by the operating system for organizing the memory. Analyzing groups of apps running on the smart phone may estimate the energy consumption over time.

A novel spatio-temporal random field (STRF) has been implemented, smoothing the temporal changes and distributing the optimization. This graphical model has been used to predict app usage over time. In another application, it has been combined with a trip planner resulting in smart routing for smart cities.

In order to run graphical models on very restricted devices, even those without floating point calculation, one computing with integer values only has been developed. The integer approximation of graphical models shows good accuracy and speed-up and opens up novel applications on resource-restricted devices.

For those interested here is Katharina’s suggestion for further reading

  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2013). Spatio-Temporal Random Fields: Compressible Representation and Distributed Estimation, in: Machine Learning Journal, Vol. 93, No. 1, S. 115 – 139.
  • Jochen Streicher, Nico Piatkowski, Katharina Morik, Olaf Spinczyk (2013). “Open Smartphone Data for Mobility and Utilization Analysis in Ubiquitous Environments”  in: Mining Ubiquitous and Social Environments (MUSE) workshop at ECML PKDD
  • Thomas Liebig, Nico Piatkowski, Christian Bockermann, Katharina Morik (2014). Predictive Trip Planning – Smart Routing in Smart Cities, in: Mining Urban Data Workshop at 17th International Conference on Extending Database Technology.
  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2014). The Integer Approximation of Undirected Graphical Models, in: 3rd Int. Conf. on Pattern Recognition Applications and Methods (ICPRAM).

Look forward to seeing you later this month!

 

ForumCon 2014: Agenda Announced!!

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We are delighted to share that this year’s ForumCon agenda has been announced! And what a agenda it is! We will be joined by experts from across the forum and online community space including: NicoClub, Texture Media, Discourse, Disqus, Gawker, and so many more! Check it out for yourself:

Agenda

Time

Session

7:45am Registration Opens
8:15 – 9:00 Full Continental Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00 Speed Networking
Meet 10 new contacts in 30 minutes
9:00 – 9:15

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink
9:15 – 9:45

What Does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

Craig Dalrymple, Online Community Consultant
Howard Steinburg, Mobile Professional, HScott Mobile

9:45 – 10:15

Lean Communities

David Spinks, CEO of CMX Summit, TheCommunityManager.com and Feast

10:15 – 10:45

Keynote Address

Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media

10:45 – 11:15 Networking Break
11:15 – 12:00

Panel: Moderation and Management of Your Community

Greg Childs, CEO and Founder of NicoClub
Justin Isaf, Co-Founder of Communl
Patrick Clinger, Founder and CEO of ProBoards

12:00 – 12:45

Conversations about Online Community

From the People Who Know Best – You!

We are leaving this one un-structured. You decide the flow and the conversations that will happen. Bring all your questions and stresses about forums and community and we will use the knowledge of the crowd to find answers. No question is too great or too small and there is no better source of information than the ForumCon attendees to help each other work through the issues we all face in our online community roles.

12:45 – 1:45 Lunch
1:45 – 2:30

ForumCon Tech Fest

Hear from forum technology innovators as they pitch you and a panel of experts. We have invited five brave participants to the stage to give you their best 5 minute pitch. Then we will be opening up questions to the floor and the experts. We’ll grill these companies and end with a panel vote on who is most worthy of being awarded this year’s ForumCon Tech Fest Winner.

Expert Panel:
Brian Glick, Entrepreneur in Residence at HomeBrew and Former Google+ Communities Product Manager
Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media
Vlad Dusil, COO PurseBlog

2:30  - 3:00

Buzzing Communities

Richard Millington, CEO and Founder of FeverBee

3:00 – 3:05 ForumCon Tech Fest Winner Announced!
3:05 – 3:20 Networking Break
3:20 – 4:00

The Future of Discussion on the Web

Jeff Atwood, Founder of Discourse
Josh Miller, Co-Founder of Branch, Acquired by Facebook
Daniel Ha, Founder of Disqus
Thomas Plunkett, Co-Founder of Gawker

4:00 – 4:45

Keynote Address

Courtney Couch, Co-Founder & CEO, Muut

4:45 – 5:15

Closing Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink

 

If you haven’t heard of ForumCon before, then we’re doubly excited to share this news. Every year we produce ForumCon and it remains to be the only event dedicated to the future and business of forums and online communities, providing a platform to share tips, tools, and best practices for managing, and growing forums.

This year’s ForumCon is going to be held on Thursday, June 19th,  at the Hotel Kabuki in downtown San Francisco’s Japantown. We will be starting the day with last year’s hit, speed networking, and ending the day with another networking reception

ForumCon 2014 is going to be our best year yet! And we would love for you to join us. Follow this link and get your special VigLink 25% discount off normal ticket price.

Can’t wait to see you all on June 19th!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer

Community is War

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Join us!

 

We were delighted to co-host SFCMGR last week and bring along two very special guest from the online community world, Lane Becker and Thor Muller, co-founders of Get Satisfaction. They brought down the house with their very honest and unique take on the business of communities, likening the experience not to the happy, smiley, fields of flowers often portrayed and rather to ideas of war and conflict. They shared their stories from their time in the community “trenches” including some of our most favorite nuggets of “wisdom”, which are all helpfully wrapped up in 140 character snippets – thanks to everyone who attended and tweeted:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my most favorite nugget from the night, that you must(!!) go and check out.

 

SFCMGR is heading to Pinterest next month. I will make sure the most interesting insights are shared out live via @ForumCon and on the Facebook page. Please check back here a few days after for the round up of all the evening’s best findings!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

T – 2 days to CMX Summit 2014

 CMX-Summit-Black-Square

The first CMX Summit is taking place this Thursday, February 6th, and I am excited to say I will be going.  I will be reporting live from the event via our facebook and twitter. If you were still on the fence about joining, let me tell you why I am attending. I mean beyond the our amazing and exclusive 25% off discount we have to share! To snag yourself this special discount just follow this link and type in forumcon25. Tickets are quickly selling out, so act fast to secure your seat.

Onto the real reasons why I am attending – CMX Summit is a new conference, which is focused entirely on community building. This year CMX is bringing together unique perspectives from fields and companies like psychology, behavioral analysis, habit analysis, Apple, Lyft, AirBnB, Facebook, 500 Startups and more. I have been promised in the audience will be the industry’s leading community professionals and startup founders, who will be sharing their best tips on how to build, scale, and sustain healthy communities.

This will be a great day of learning in the long wait to this year’s ForumCon and I can’t wait to share some of the top forum and online community tips I learn on the day.

Watch this space forum owners and community managers! Expert knowledge from those in the know on way!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager

 

Join us at Affiliate Management Days & Save $600!

Thanks to our friends at Affiliate Management Days we are excited to share a superb discount for their up and coming San Francisco conference, March 19th – 20th. Use the code VLNK15 to get a very special 15% discount, saving you around $600 (!!) for the full conference.

Our very own CEO and founder, Oliver Roup, will be attending and speaking on the topic of “Mobile Affiliate Marketing: Why it is not Reaching its Full Potential.”

If you are not familiar with Affiliate Management Days (AM Days) it is the must attend event for any affiliate managers who are responsible for their company’s affiliate marketing strategy, management and operations. Whether you have an existing affiliate program or you are creating a new initiative, AMDays offers you the most valuable insight into how other online retailers are successfully implementing and managing their affiliate programs.

AM Days covers a vast range of topics including:

  •  Affiliate program set up
  •  Affiliate recruitment techniques
  •  Communication with affiliates
  •  Affiliate marketing fraud
  •  Role of affiliate network(s)
  •  Affiliate automation tools
  •  Landing page & conversion optimization
  •  Compliance policing & enforcement
  •  Legislative issues & challenges
  •  Innovations in affiliate marketing
  •  Tracking & multi-touchpoint attribution
  •  M-commerce in affiliate marketing

AM Days is the place for affiliate marketing teams and executives to come together and share case studies, insights and the latest tools and techniques to effectively and successfully manage their affiliate programs.

Make sure you get the best bargain possible by registering TODAY, before the early bird ticket price runs out.

 

Jeff Atwood Takes to the Stage to Talk Communities

Jeff Atwood’s in the house! We are delighted to announce that tomorrow we are sponsoring and co-producing this month’s #SFCMGR meetup. We have started the year in true style, having the one and only Jeff Atwood take to the stage to talk about forums and online communities.

Jeff Atwood is the serial entrepreneur and all round geek guru behind the programming blog, Coding Horror, and he is the co-founder of the question-and-answer website Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange Network. His latest venture has taken him further into the world of online communities, where he has started an open source next-generation discussion platform called Discourse.

Discourse was developed due to Jeff’s (and others) dismay that forum technology had not evolved since the early 1990s.

He was our keynote speaker at last year’s ForumCon, where he wowed the crowds with his talk titled “Forums Are Dead, Long Live Forums.”

To build excitement for tomorrow, here is his thought provoking talk about the future of forums and communities:

We just can’t wait to hear about all the latest developments and what’s in store for the future of online communities.

To join us tomorrow, just RSVP here and head to the Twilio HQs (645 Harrison St. 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA), at 6.30pm tomorrow. Oh, and there will be free pizza and beer. What more could you ever want!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Marketing Manager 

#ASW14: Our Highlights!

ASW14

We are back in sunny San Francisco after our #ASW14 outing to Las Vegas. It was as fantastic as ever and we had a jam packed three days of meeting old and new affiliate friends.

We can’t possibly cover all that happened over the three days, but here are a few of our highlights.

We kicked off on Sunday with the meet market. We met a lot of great people, but no one was better dressed that our friends from Zeef.

 

Our very own CEO, Oliver Roup, carried on our fantastic Sunday with his captivating solo presentation on on ‘The Link Economy: Exploring the Economic Power of Links.’

 


We ended Sunday in style with the Performance Marketing Association CEO and Founder cocktail party at the Pampas Churrascaria. The night brought together some of the industry’s big hitters and provided a chilled out atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of ASW14 to share a few affiliate stories over a couple of very tasty drinks.

 PMA party

Monday and Tuesday were crammed with meetings, mingling, and enjoying ourselves at the VigLink booth.

 asw14

We finished our #ASW14 adventure with our best highlight… Meeting the one and only Hulk Hogan! Some of the team even managed to bust a few WWE moves with him.

ASW14

ASW14

Jeremy and Hulk

We just can’t wait to see who we will meet at Affiliate Summit East 14… We can only hope it will continue to include some of the team’s childhood heros…