Increasing the relevance along with the ontogeny of a community site
8 years, 3 months ago Posted in: Guide 1


I was requested to provide a small write up on how a forum (sl2college) helped me in applying for the universities in .

I got to know to sl2college during a session at US Fulbright Commission, Sri Lanka, when it was just a yahoo group and I am great to see that evolved into what we have a powered forum + website. But how about its usefulness and relevance?

While something might not be making a difference to a wider audience it could be bringing huge difference to single person. In that context, I see the objective of the sl2college to be, a forum to share the ideas, a market place to facilitate the meeting between providers and consumers, resource library that archives the answers for well known or already answered questions, and finally a place to get the questions answered by voluntary resource persons. How it is being used? I have seen activity in all aforementioned aspects, and for me, it has served as only a resource library thus far.

From my GSoC experience, in a community I see 4 types of participants. Active givers, who likes to answer questions and help people for some reasons, active takers, who suddenly appear with questions not necessarily appropriate, relevant and well formatted, contributors, who answers the questions directed to them and passive members, who do only reading possibly through feeds and mail-lists. I had been a passive member in my opinion.

I believe, for the betterment of the group, we should encourage the participation of the first and last type of people by easing up the process and, welcome the second and third for better utilization of the resources that get accumulated. Also the communication can be strengthened if the latter takes some responsibility before requesting the help.

To make it easy to contribute, we could bring the following 3 aspects into the sl2college site.

  • Posting an article by e-mail (if it could support a blogging application like Windows Live Writer it would be excellent, which is supported by Drupal and WordPress)
  • Simply sharing a link (perhaps weblinks approach in Joomla or blogroll in WordPress). It could be the author’s blog post like what you are reading now, or an article that seemed significant to be referred.
  • Encouraging users to contribute in the form of articles and blogs that will be followed up by comments. How many feel comfortable with forums as a resource repository?

This will also ensure a follow up, as users will be interested in answering a question posted under their article than an arbitrary question.

Although it will alleviate the need for QnA platform like a forum, still users might  not find all of their questions answered even if they have done their homework. In which case, they could write a blog in question form, providing a small introduction about them, and the overview of the problem followed by specific questions. This will not only be beneficial to future readers, but also make an itch on the contributors to answer when they find that the users have done their homework. I find it quite essential, as it was annoying to see common, already answered questions like “how to attempt GRE?”, “how to apply?”, “what are the best universities for this area?”, etc being posted. A single Google search would have led to the answer instead (of course at the cost of 7g CO2).

Further, the sl2college must incorporate at least basic level of social networking features like, members directory, member contact forms, and possibly twitter and / or Facebook integration. Also it must be taken into consideration that people tend to spend more than 80% of their online time in only a handful of selected sites like gMail, Facebook, Google reader, etc and it is paramount to increase the presence of sl2college in those sites to improve the utitlization rather than ringing the bells at sl2college itself.

For some reference in asking questions ..

And finally a quote from WikiHow

Never ask a question just for the sake of it, whether it be to bring attention to yourself or for appearingsmart. That is the worst possible motivation for asking a question.

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