The Communities That Web 2.0 Forgot

By Anil Dash

There are a lot of web conversations that are out there struggling.

On cluttered bulletin boards, ghost-town forums, and decrepit old message boards, a lot of conversations that have nowhere else to live are puttering along. We've all seen them -- you do a quick Google search on some esoteric topic and end up poking around a community that seems to have been left behind by the advances in usability, conversation, and interactivity that we're used to in blogs and social media sites. There's no sign of the rich media or social profiles we're used to seeing today. Or maybe that out-of-date community is powering the forums on your company intranet, looking like The Community That Web 2.0 Forgot. Though the currently-popular phrase "User-Generated Content" isn't very elegant, at least it has the word "user" in it.

Well, we haven't forgotten about the millions of conversations that happen on the parts of the web that today's modern blogs don't yet reach. So we're proud to launch the Movable Type Community Solution, a powerful set of features that sits on top of the rock-solid core of Movable Type 4, to help you use the platform to power rich, thriving social media sites that combine the power of blogs, forums, and real community.

You can create all the features you'd expect from a forum or social media site, in just a few clicks. Easily let anyone register for your site, create a new topic of discussion with a few clicks, and comment on or subscribe to the threads they're interested in. And we've taught those old sites a few new tricks: Registration can happen through your existing blog accounts, or using the hundreds of millions of OpenID identities out there on the web. Creating a topic or forum thread can include rich media and file attachments, or anything else that you'd put into a blog entry, and those assets are automatically incorporated into MT4's built-in asset management system. Instead of just subscribing to a thread, you can mark posts and threads as favorites, or rate and rank them, Digg-style.

Using a powerful platform like MT even lets you do age-old tasks in smart new ways. Instead of silliness like "pinning" a post to the top of the forum saying "Important! Please read our forum policy!", just use MT4's built in Pages feature to create a Policy page or a FAQ and show it in your navigation. Isn't that a lot more sensible? 

mtcs-profile-detailAnd then there's the part that's completely new: Real social media profiles, for every member of your site. Naturally, members can customize their names and profile pictures, but it doesn't stop there -- profiles show the blog posts you've written, the forum topics you've started, the comments you've left on any part of the site, the threads or posts you've marked as favorites, and the conversations that started as a result of your contributions. Think about it: Your profile is your resume in the community. If every comment you've contributed gets lots of positive replies from the community, a site administrator can use MT4's built-in permissions to promote you to a blog author, or even to an administrator. And if you're managing a site and someone's profile shows that they're only ever causing trouble in a thread, it's easy to take appropriate action.

MTCS also lets forums finally benefit from the kind of simple, powerful customization that bloggers have always taken for granted. Use MT's familiar templating language to choose exactly how your forums look (we've got a clean design that works right out of the box, of course) and even use modern tools like widgets to trick out your forums with the latest features. Unlike most forum applications, MT's web addresses are search engine-friendly, making it easy for readers to find your site content, and MT's built-in search and tag clouds work across all your blogs, forums, and pages.

Customization doesn't end there. For the first time, MTCS offers system-level templates -- shared navigation, ad units, or header and footers for all your blogs and forums are a snap. You can even completely customize the system emails generated by MTCS, using the same powerful template editor that's won raves for MT4. And everything in MTCS supports customizable fields: Entries, pages, categories, folders, and users.

mtcs-forum-header.pngThere's lots more, of course. But right now, we're most excited to see what innovative new kinds of communities spring up using the combination of familiar forums for participation and this powerful new user experience enabled by the Movable Type Community Solution. It's going to yield some amazing results, but don't take our word for it -- take a look at some of the early reviews:

There are other forums tools for sites and blogs ... but the Six Apart product, called the Movable Type Community Solution, is the first that I know of that integrates this tightly into a blogging platform. ... I'm intrigued by the new integrated forums in Movable Type. Forums are hugely useful sources of information and community on many sites, but they are rarely well-integrated, easily managed, or indexed well by search engines.
Six Apart has announced they are launching a community platform for brands to use. A company already focused on openness, social graph, opensocial, and OpenID, I'll expect that brands will have full access to their data, and users will also have control over their information. ... Six Apart has three things going for them: 1) Brand recognition: companies that have already deployed a social media program have already looked or used their blogging tools. 2) Experience. With Vox, a form of a more secure social network site previously launched, the hopes are the company has worked out any bugs to extend this tool to brands. 3) Movable Type: Reading between the lines, I suspect this is an 'upsell' opportunity for existing MT users, which is a good move for them as they already have a strong footprint with existing customers.
SixApart has launched a new version of the their Movable Type (MT) blogging platform, Movable Type Community Solution (MTCS) that takes blogging into the realms of forum hosting, with some nice 2.0 touches.
There are some other nice nods around the web, from Mashable to Wired. And keep your eyes open for an upcoming MTCS-powered community that's still in beta right now, but is close to our hearts: A completely revamped version of our own Movable Type Community Forums.