Improve forum usability for newbies

Been talking with Harry Wood at State of The Map about usability for newbies and came up with the following:

Create more forums, each for a specific OSM subject like tagging, JOSM, Potlatch etc. This might have advantages for people who are searching for answers on a specific topic but might also make keeping-up with new topics and posts the forum more difficult.

What’s your opinion?

I just realised punbb does in fact have a feature to show recent posts across all forums. There’s a little ‘Show recent posts’ link hidden away down the bottom of the homepage, which takes you here:

If lots of people bookmarked that, then there’d be no problem splitting the conversations across more forums.

Some forum systems such as minibb have this kind of list more prominently on the homepage.

I think dividing the forum into several sub-forums would be a great idea. Finding a topic that belongs to a particular category is much easier that way.

There is probably no difficulty in keeping-up with new topics. I have bookmarked the search for new posts to get an overview about new posts since my last visit.


I am not sure that making many sub fora is such a good idea. Many of the Newbie questions start with: “I don’t know if this is the good place to ask this question”. By increasing the number of fora based on a technical description will not work. Experience does not seem a good idea either, how would one describe it.

May be there is a case of making a “sticky” on the page of a sub-forum which refers to relevant Wiki-pages, or a Wiki page which helps to find the correct ones. Now many pages are on the same subject (and not only because of different languages), but also because people don’t know. (I am not sure I am not guilty myself).

More experienced users are then led to the pages and as they know that the pages are used more often, might be more inclined to keep those updated.