Your challenges with using the Forum

In SoFA Support Services (S3) Circle, we’ve been having conversations about how to support members in making use of various communication channels and tools so that we can stay (or grow more) connected with each other. We continue to have interest in this space, the Forum. But we are also hearing from members, including members of our circle, who are finding their experience of the Forum to be challenging or unenjoyable. I’m curious about that (and so are the other members of this circle). Would you be willing to add some thoughts about what obstacles you have to using the Forum, or what would make the Forum more of a community space for you? Do you have thoughts or ideas somewhat related to these questions? (I recognize the irony of asking about this here on the Forum.)

As a fun aside, in our S3 Circle meeting earlier today, Pame brought up some playful ideas for ways that we might encourage each other to engage with the Forum. One idea was to have popcorn or invitational style topics and posts, where we tag other members and invite them to respond and pass it along. I want to try it: @sofie.malm-3492 and @rhonda.baird, I know you both have some hesitations around using the Forum. Would you be willing to share more about that here?


Thanks for offering this topic for discussion.

I have various kinds of obstacles in relation to my (lack of) forum use.

  1. My main profession is as a manual laborer/body worker. My screen time is limited, and those micro breaks I actually take I use for watching reels or other things that are easy digestable.

  2. The tempo and pacing is very unpredictable in (any) forum. It makes it hard for me to enter into conversation and have a reasonable level of engagement in relation to what I post. I might find a recent topic that I want to respond to, and actually post my response. There is no way for me to realistically predict when I will return to read others responses, and regardless if I return one hour later or a week later, I can have anything between 0 and 100 responses.

  3. I’m not often “magically” drawn into the forum like I was now. Would that happen more often, eg through suggestions in SoMBu, a report about an intersting topic at my circle meeting, a carousel like high light of post that would show up when I enter the homepage etc, I might hang out here more often.

Hope this can get the conversation started.


Hello, everybody.

I appreciate this topic as, for me, it is about being connected and building our collective intelligence asynchronously. Through exploring our dimensions, opinions, reflections, or even suggestions, we can become a source of inspiration for our present activities and progress, both as an organization and as individuals.

I believe it’s not essential to maintain what we call “a dialogue” by responding to every new opinion, but rather to gather different opinions from various people, according to their interests and in their own time. It shouldn’t be a burden but an opportunity to share, inspire, and be inspired—a kind of “minutes” we can access and remember as members of the same organization.

At least for me, diversity is key. How can we get to know each other if we don’t understand what we are thinking about, what our concerns are, or what suggestions we have regarding the challenges we face?

In my understanding, sociocracy is for those who work together, and some of our work could or should involve sharing feedback, knowledge, and ideas. Is there another way to synthesize proposals and make decisions that work for all those interested, something that is “good enough for now and safe enough to try”?

As long as a piece of “the solution” could be in our pockets, why not share our ideas within the forum? If it can be done asynchronously, I believe we could enjoy the stimulation of sharing and reflecting. A house is not just a certain number of bricks but bricks that are linked together for a common purpose.

Best wishes.

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Thank you for tagging me, John.

I can appreciate much of what Sofie shared–especially #2 about tempo and pacing and engagement.

Sometimes I also find it hard to find or feel like I need to wade through content in order to really find what I’m looking for or to post in the right section of the forum.

Finally, there are so many channels of communication that different circles use, it feels like so many options dilute our attention and focus and capacity to build shared reality and know that everyone else is aware of the conversation. This is a significant need within SoFA.


I appreciate you all offering some feedback about your experience of using the Forum. Another member messaged me directly and offered that the Forum is “overwhelming, text-heavy and unlike some other platforms, feels hard to find a hook to start with”, and that they “see lots of posts with views and no comments. Psychologically, I feel inclined to either look at why or not bother because no one else has commented”. These sound similar to some of your reactions, sofie and Rhonda.

I’m curious about what strategies we could use to lighten some of those challenges. I wonder what would help to provide our participants here with hooks to be able to enter into the conversation. I also see a lot of posts with views and no comments, and I also find that to be a turn off. I wonder how we might build a culture of trying to present or frame topics so that it is clear what sort of engagement the author is wanting from the community.

The member also mentioned using Slack. This caused me to reflect on the differences between Slack and the Forum, and a few noticeable differences came to my mind. I also looked up some of what other people have said about it: it’s very stimulating; thanks for putting me on this track!

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Hello John (@ john.l.clark),

Thank you for coming back to this thread. I guess that “discussion forum” is a space dedicated to discuss some topics and, as I know, when somebody proposes a discussion topic, other people could read or not, comment or not, depending on a multitude of factors.

Some people just read and keep their reflections in their own minds, some are triggered to respond to something (in case they feel so), some people don’t use time to even read the posts, etc. The level of involvement differs and is not exclusively related to the content itself or to the person doing it, but there are many other factors that influence the presence, the involvement and the contribution in the discussion forum.

Well, if something could be done to help people to select the posts they are interested in, we can use some special tags to differentiate the type of content. Some people may want to just exclude some of the posts or even some people from the search results and they are free to do so. People could see who is making a post and avoid that person.

Regarding the content, is there an objective way to “classify” the post using some criterias. It may help some people find just what they want, but searching is a process to reach the information we are looking for. Even when we use Google to search, the returned proposals are not always the information we are really looking for, so we have to refine our search.

The philosophy of searching for what we are looking for may contain at least two approaches:

  1. How to exclude the posts we are not interested in;
  2. How could we find the posts relevant for us;

I guess the first is really difficult to do and it involves exclusivity, not inclusivity. For the second approach, we may establish a series of tags to categorize the posts and add that tag in the post.

Example of tags: name of the contributor, q&a, reflections, opinions etc. It’s difficult to eliminate any kind of subjectivity because there are so many, sometimes different, interests and approaches to share information and propose discussion topics.

Everybody has their preferences and I guess diversity of perspectives is a core principle of sociocracy. As I know, nobody stops somebody else to have more posts, be more present, share more insights if they have the time and willingness to do so. Let’s be wise and not transform this “discussion forum” optimization into a method to exclude somebody from sharing something.

I personally add on all my posts this invitation: “If you want to share your personal reflections on this topic, please feel free to do so in a comment below. Thank you.

Is there a survey on this topic? How many people are, in fact, discontent of how they can use the discussion forum? Do they contribute with their views, opinions, perspectives, dimensions, etc. How often? Should we be the same? Does anybody prevent people from personally sharing their own contribution as posts or as comments?

I sustain the optimization of the discussion forum by creating new specific niches. Some people contribute more often with forum posts, some people are present by reading them and some people have more contributions in different ways in different other spaces. There is or should be a space for every voice. Or not

I’m looking for other feedback as well.

Best wishes.

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I am not a member, so I can’t comment on the problems encountered with this specific forum.

For what it’s worth though, I just wanted to share the experience from my cohousing group, because we are using the same technology (Discourse) and we are incredibly happy with it.

Following the example from a consultancy company called Edgeryders (which is kindly hosting us) we have fully abandoned the use of email in favour of our Discourse forum, and it works like a charm. It takes a couple of days to get used to it, but once people are, there is nobody who would want to go back to using email.

We are as open source as we can be, so you can witness it yourself should you be interested: Cohousing The Reef’s discussion forum.

(if you click on the orange logo on the top left you can go to the entire Edgeryders Discourse forum, which again is the open email system of this company)

One of the things Edgeryders does, is to put zero restrictions on people who want to post, i.e. they got rid of the default Discourse requirements that you need to have read so many posts and whatnot before you are allowed to make your first reply etc. To my surprise this works very well, and they rarely have any problems. It’s even their purpose and their strength: by opening up their communication to the entire world, they have created a massive network, just by attracting people who were interested in one or the other discussion. Other than that they are protected by one or the other AI mechanism that flags spammers when they create their first post (moderators get a notification).

To get people on board in our cohousing group, we have created a short manual, which we are happy to share (click on the link).

Here are a couple of reasons why I think this works so well for us:

  • There are several functionalities that make it possible to tweak the intensity of notifications just the way you want it . Several other functionalities also help you to prioritise and organise (see our manual for further details).

  • Building a cohousing in your free time is incredibly intense. If we would get all those messages in our inboxes (often only in cc), we could go absolutely crazy. Instead we can choose what we read on the forum, and all responses are neatly posted one beneath the other, which makes reading time much shorter.

  • The search function works really well, which is also something you can’t say about email.

  • Every single reply gets its own URL, so nothing gets lost and everything can easily be referred to.

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