Surnames: Forums versus contact lists

from Commons.Wikimedia.Org
from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

We have all come across them – a list of people who are all researching the same surname as you are. Excitement! Compatriots! Cousins! You click on a name and up pops your e-mail client, and you feverishly type away a quick note of introduction, explaining where you found their e-mail address and your shared interest in the ‘Doe’ surname, and send it off with a flourish. On to the next name in the list!

And in a few seconds you get a notification from a mail server explaining that it cannot deliver the e-mail because the [inbox is full/e-mail address not found/account is inactive]. Or fill in the blank. And the same is true for all, or most, of the names on the list you found.

There are a few ways around this. One is, as a regional coordinator, to use a forum, rather than an e-mail contact list, because then a question asked and answered is available to many other people to find. And asking the question once may have many people view the question, increasing the chance of an answer being found.

A problem with forums is: people need to visit them to see the questions. So if you have a forum, you need to advertise it – hopefully on every page of your site!

And you need to use it. An active forum, where things are regularly changing and updated, questions answered accurately, will convince people to ‘sign up’ for receiving e-mail notifications of new topics. Or to add a ‘feed’ to their news browsers. Or just to stop by regularly. Your forum needs to become a valuable resource to people.

But the nice thing about that is – as it becomes valuable, more people will become involved, which makes it more valuable yet!

bbPress logo
bbPress logo of course supports forums. Right now we have the WP ‘bbPress’ forum enabled, but there are other forum integration options as well. Do you have a preferred forum software? there’s probably a way to run that on