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For the last several years, we've worked to broaden the ways that fans can participate on Wikia. At the core of that experience is and continues to be wiki editing - creating and expanding deep fan knowledge resources. We also knew that there was more to the fan experience than editing, which meant there was lots of untapped potential on the site. For example, we saw that fans want to share their thoughts about what they love, leading to the launch of our Fandom editorial hub earlier this year.
Editorial, however, is only one of the new parts of the Wikia experience. Late last year, we started working with communities on a new feature called Discussions. This new Discussions platform is the only way to seamlessly communicate with other fans in your community across desktop, mobile web, and mobile apps. Some of you may be aware of Discussions already, as it has been a beta feature on communities like Nukapedia, Wookieepedia, and DC Database, and we are excited to announce today that Discussions is available on request for communities who are interested in enabling it!
What are the benefits of Discussions?
Unlike our older Forum feature, Discussions works consistently across all platforms. Whether you're typing on your computer or browsing your community's app or mobile view, you can share your enthusiasm for your fandom with other fans.
That sharing of enthusiasm is the key idea behind Discussions. After all, think about what it means to edit on a wiki, specifically. Most wikis only include factually-released information, as opposed to rumors, speculation, or sometimes even spoilers. Take Wookieepedia and the upcoming movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as an example. There's only so much that Wookieepedia can write about Rogue One right now since the movie won't be out until December.
With Discussions, as well as the Fandom editorial hub, you can share and talk about much more. Maybe you noticed something important in the Rogue One trailer and you can provide an expert fan analysis on that. Perhaps you want to talk about what the story of all the new characters might be, or even what Darth Vader's role in the movie could be. Is a factual wiki page the right place for that? Probably not, but Discussions is.
In that way, Discussions allows fans to engage on a community before a release when there's not much to write about. It also gives people a platform to continue talking after a release when most of the information has been written, leading to an increased likelihood that fans will stick around as a member of your community.
To illustrate the point, here are a few fun facts about what we've seen so far:
- Discussions drives 50% of all new Wikia account creation each month. That’s right! It’s doubled monthly registrations, even with the limited beta release.
- When Discussions are featured at the top of the app home screen, article views increase by 14% and more Discussions posts are created as well.
- Users who view Discussions are two times more likely to return within the next month, and users who create a post or reply are four times more likely to return.
This data shows that fans crave the facts found on wikis and they also have opinions and questions. Discussions gives users on all platforms a way to participate with communities, creating steady conversation around specific fandoms.
That sounds great! How can we start using Discussions?
If you are interested in activating Discussions on your community, let us know by contacting Community Support. As your communities begin to use Discussions, be sure to let us know what’s working well and what you’d like to see as development continues.
With Discussions, what happens to Forums?
The Forum has served Wikia communities well, but it lacks in several areas, including mobile compatibility and visibility on Wikia’s search. Despite these challenges, the data in Forums shows that fans have a strong desire for these types of conversations. With Discussions, Wikia plans to replace the existing Forum feature.
As the project of retiring Forum proceeds over the coming months, the content will be migrated to Discussions, so nothing will be lost. This will be a gradual process, and we’ll provide more details prior to beginning migration. At the same time, we will also be integrating Discussions in the community creation process.
Wait, I still have questions!
If you have further questions, we’ve set up an FAQ to help, so please check that out. You can also learn more about how Discussions works on the Help page and even play around with it on the Community Test Wiki. Also feel free to check out a recording of the presentation about Discussions at this year’s Community Connect. Discussions will continue to evolve in the coming months and we’d love your feedback throughout the entire process. We hope you are excited as we are about this growing feature!
Update: September 15
We've heard a great deal about the specific things communities want from Discussions, adding to what we already learned from beta communities and Community Council. All of this is informing what will come next with regard to future development.
So what is up next? We'll continue to make small changes and updates, of course. The next "bigger" piece of functionality that you'll see will be following — the option to watch specific posts, be notified when there is activity on those posts, and to view a list of the posts you're following.
To calm some of the concern about migration, I want to stress again that we don't have a specific timeline. We'll be making Discussions part of new communities soon, and will begin disabling Forum on communities that have never used it. However, if your community uses Forum currently (or has used it heavily in the past), migration to Discussions will not occur in 2016. Volunteers are welcome of course (we've already had a few). We're looking forward to keeping all of you updated as development continues and working with you through ongoing feedback cycles.
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