I’m one of the team members tasked with managing the FusionAuth community forum, where folks using FusionAuth who don’t have a paid support plan can find help and answers.
Here’s some advice for running such a forum. (I wrote previously about why you should use a forum rather than Slack/Discord/live chat.)
- First, consider why are you going to run a forum? Lots of great reasons: ease a support burden, help with SEO, foster community, get product feedback. Get clear on what you are trying to build before committing, because it is a commitment.
- Choose forum software carefully. Migration will be a pain. Common options include nodebb (what we use), discourse, and vanilla forums.
- Seed the forum. This means gathering up questions as you see them pop up in other venues (support tickets, GitHub issues, customer calls). I did that religiously for a few months. I learned a lot about the product and the forum posts meant that folks were helped even when it was new. I’d recommend posting the question and then responding in-thread with an answer.
- Forums will bubble up commonly asked questions. This can tell you where your docs should be improved.
- You must groom the forum. It won’t be set and forget. You have to pay attention to it, answer questions, respond to responses. A forum full of unanswered questions is worse than no forum at all. Trust me, developers will notice (we’ve had customers mention that they appreciated how active our forum was).
- Because we sell support, we don’t answer questions immediately or have engineering staff answer them. There are also questions that we can’t answer such as architecture recommendations. Immediate responses and answers requiring context and research are reserved for paying customers. This hurts my heart some times, but we are open about it. May not be applicable to in all cases.
- Don’t be afraid to ban users. We ban anyone who spams, no questions asked. Delete the content and ban the user. We luckily haven’t had any abuse issues beyond spam.
- Have a code of conduct. I grabbed GitHub’s (you can see ours here, and here’s GitHub’s) but have something. We didn’t in the early days, but it’s a good thing to have out of the gate.
- Don’t expect a lot of community to grow out of it. At least, I haven’t had that experience, most people just want their questions answered. May be because I’m extremely part time on it and haven’t fostered it, though. Slack/discord is much more likely to build community in my experience. But know what your users want: Google or Facebook?
- At a certain point, I had to enable a post queue, where a team member approves every new user. We were getting a lot of spam accounts and then they’d post gambling ads and then direct a ton of traffic (1000s of pageviews) to the ads. I don’t know what the spammer endgame was, but approving each new post has solved the issue. I’d definitely look for that feature.
In general I love forums, and so do devs, but they do take some work.