Nabble offers a flexible way to catalog forums and messages.
An active forum is great, but its many users and diverse interests often drive the discussion off topic. Nabble tries to address this problem by allowing users to easily create child forums. A child forum structure helps to keep messages focused and properly categorized. The hierarchy is displayed at the parent level for easy drill down. Users who want to ignore off-topic discussions can drill down to the relevant child; and the users who don't mind reading all the messages can still do it at the parent forum level.
Creating child forums is a powerful way to add a structure to your discussion, but you should be careful to avoid overdoing it. For example, if you are in a new forum with few messages and users, why bother creating a fancy structure? No matter how well structured, a forum without users is still a dead forum. What's more, a structure that goes too wide or too deep could get people confused as to where to visit or post, thus making it difficult for them to join the discussion. We recommend that you create child forums only when it is truly needed.
After you have created child forums, you may find users ignore it when they post, and most of the messages continue to get posted at the parent level. In such cases, don't just blame the users. Take a good look at your design and ask, do they make sense? Are they clear and easy to follow? Is the hierarchy too wide or too deep? If you feel certain that the structure is sound, and that you and a few other forum members support it, then you can use the "Edit this forum" feature to make the parent forum read-only. This means that a user cannot post a new message in the parent forum. They will be prompted to drill down to a child forum to post there.
It is often useful to put related forums into a group. There are two ways to do it. One way is to group them under a parent "category", the other is to group them under a parent "forum". (What's the difference between a Category and a Forum?) If you use a parent category, you can browse the list of forum names at the parent level, but you cannot view any messages, which only show after you drill down to a child forum. If you use a parent forum for grouping, then you can browse the list of child forums as well as all the messages combined together.
Which way is appropriate depends on whether there is a need to view all the messages at the parent level. For example, if you have a "Software" forum and a "Hardware" forum, and you want to group them under "Computer", then "Computer" most likely should be a Category not a Forum, because it is NOT useful to combine all messages and show them together. If you do group them under a parent forum, then that means that the two forums are closely related and it is useful to browse all messages together.
You can build an elaborate structure by using a combination of parent and child categories and forums, but don't overdo it. The goal of a hierarchy is to help users navigate. Does yours help people get to the right forum quickly? For example, if a category has only one child forum under it, then it is a waste, because it just means a useless extra click for navigation.
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