Community link curation

22nd August, 2013

There are countless forums full of knowledgeable, passionate people sharing what they've learned about a topic. These forums are naturally full of links to useful resources (both external and within the forum itself).

All of these links are buried in the format of forums: posts and threads, masses of them, full of text. It can be hard to navigate and figure out what links a community considers valuable, and for what purpose. Even simply finding the most linked-to threads within the forum is often hard work.

If these communities had a way to organize the links they naturally produce, it would make it much easier for forum-members, noobs, and casual surfers alike to find what they want to know.

Imagine if your favourite forums had a way to capture the community's collective wisdom about:

  • best way to get started
  • best resources about some sub-topic
  • classic forum threads
  • best forum comments

Such a thing could conceivably be boot-strapped by:

  1. crawlling a forum
  2. extracting all links
  3. figuring out what links are about (this is the hard part) with some cleverness

But any such mechanical solution would fail to capture the richness of information stored in comments ("Great link, that really helped thanks!"), and the information stored, but latent, in the minds of forum members.

Why is there not already a (successful) system enabling this kind of community link curation?

A wiki is a one way that doesn't really work. They are unpleasant to use, require a lot of effort to maintain, and suffer a high disincentive to use for all but the most elite forum members ("what if I do it wrong?").

Something like a community, has the problem that tags are hard - or rather they are hard to make useful. Synonyms, spelling, slight differences in use make them essentially unworkable for anything other than dedicated individuals. Something closer to the Stackoverflow model of an organized system would be more appropriate.

There are also numerous problems if the link curation tool is not be part of the site itself: it is easy to ignore or miss, it'd require another login, and perhaps some way to connect logins across sites.

Could this possibly work as an add-on service?

  • forum adds a piece of javascript from the link-curation site.
  • all links in the site then get some javascript allowing user to vote on them, and vote on tags for the link.
  • tags are from a controlled vocabulary managed by forum admins, and each link can only have N tags.
  • some way for the javascript service to identify forum users.
  • could have widgets for users showing links they have shared/liked.