James Robertson (via his blog) provides some ideas on "it sounded like a good idea at the time" intranet discussion forums. He identifies "two critical success factors for intranet discussion forums: a clear purpose, and a common community."
I'd like to add a third, but I can't take credit for the idea - Cliff Figallo in the ultra practical book, Hosting Web Communities, has a brilliant model that describes online forums using the following attributes:
- Focus (or "clear purpose")
- Cohesion (or "common community")
The additional attribute, Interactivity, is particularly useful because it can help to put the success or failure of a community into perspective. If we expect high levels of interactivity, clear purpose and common community as James explains them are definitely a critical factor. However, a community can still be successful in Figallo's model even with low interactivity - we either see that as a starting point for moving towards greater interactivity or build our forum approach around those attributes of a particular community.
Tags: Cliff Figallo, intranets, online communities of practice