Welcome all to this monster-sized round table discussion with some of the owners/moderators of the four main English speaking vintage Star Wars forums. Why are we bothering to have this discussion? When I first started collecting four years ago, forums were pretty much the main source of social networking with other collectors. There was a Facebook group (yes yes Jason Smith we know you were the first…) but the traffic there was minor compared to the forums. Well Jason’s group now has almost 18.000 members and hundreds of spin-off groups have popped up since. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Facebook is now the heaviest social networking hitter in the vintage Star Wars world.
What has Facebook got to do with the forums? Considering the immense traffic that the Facebook groups experience, there’s no doubt that the forums are feeling the effects. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone on Facebook say “The forums are dead.” But has their time really passed? Can the forums and Facebook walk hand-in-hand into the future or will another platform pop up and skittle the current setup? Well these are the questions that I’ll be asking two forum owners and two moderators today.
As always, we’d love to hear our readers’ views as well.
Let’s introduce each participant:
Edd Grant – owner/moderator of Star Wars Forum UK (SWFUK) – SWFUK
JohnPaul Ragusa – owner/moderator of The Imperial Gunnery (TIG) – TIG
Ian Cowley – joint owner/moderator of Tantive XI – Tantive XI
Thomas Garvey – moderator on Rebelscum (RS) – RS
VSWC: Welcome Edd, JohnPaul, Ian and Tommy and thank you all very much for taking the time to join us for this interview. Let’s get straight into the questions!
1.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COLLECTING VINTAGE STAR WARS AND WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU COLLECT?
Edd (SWFUK): I first started collecting again in 1994. My interest in Star Wars was rekindled by the release of the Digitally Remastered Star Wars VHS collection. I really enjoyed seeing the films again for the first time in years, and that of course made me think about my old toys. Now I mainly focus on Tri-logo carded figures and boxed vehicles but also collect video games, loose figures, baggies and other MOCs
JohnPaul (TIG): I’ve been collecting for about 12 years. I fell in love with foreign released figures (to my wallets’ dismay) and look to collect at least one example of each non US style released in each country.
Tommy (RS): I started collecting in ’93 or ’94, when I was about 12. I collect pre-production material, focusing on Kea Moll, Luke Poncho, Micro Collection and Micro Machines items. I’ll buy whatever I find cool or interesting though, I never feel hemmed in by a focus.
Ian (TXI): I was there from the start in 1978, and retained my childhood collection. In 1995, just before POTF2 was announced, I saw a collectible show in a local mall, and discovered some figures I not only didn’t have as a child, but some I didn’t know existed. Some figures, especially POTF figures, I had an easier time locating carded, but couldn’t stand the thought of opening them, so an initial aim to have a loose run turned into loose and carded. I also collect everything else 3 ¾” related, and have a full run of loose 12”. I do pick up odds and ends here and there, but mostly, I’m just an average Kenner production collector.
2.CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE FORUM YOU OWN/MODERATE?
Edd (SWFUK): starwarsforum.co.uk started in December 2005. I had been a member of Rebel Scum for a few years, but at the time it was very ‘American’ so there were few UK sales threads or discussion about Palitoy & Meccano toys etc. I was doing a degree in computing at the time and had just learned how to make websites, so I decided to start a forum that was open to everybody but leaned towards UK collecting.
JohnPaul (TIG): The Imperial Gunnery forum (known as TIG) and the weapons site were founded in 2009. The weapons site was created to give collectors a very refreshed look at the repro market plus breakdown of various mold variations on authentic weapons. The forum was created to offer a discussion platform and meeting place for collectors!
Tommy (RS): I am a moderator of the Rebelscum forums, which is one of the oldest SW collecting forums around. It’s been around in one form or another since 1996.
Ian (TXI): Tantive XI is a much more recent forum, officially opening its doors in late 2015, but we are far from inexperienced. A group of collectors banded together to create a forum which embraced advances in social technology, in an attempt to blend the typical forum with the features that have made social media popular today (ex. tagging people in posts, direct photo uploads from mobile devices, etc.). We also aim to have a comprehensive library of anything related to vintage collecting, including but not exclusive to the toys, with awareness and education of vintage issues being a top priority. Unlike most of the forums, our site doesn’t have one single owner, we are all equal . The moderation team works as a group, with all important site developments being a result of a “majority rule” system. Having a team that features moderators from multiple countries from around the world, and with the majority having previous moderator experience elsewhere previous to our forum’s existence, the hope is that every move we make appeals to the largest demographic possible.
3.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERSONALLY INVOLVED?
Edd (SWFUK): 11 years, since it started.
JohnPaul (TIG): I joined up in 2009 as a member and was asked to be a moderator in 2010. From there I took on various roles (global mod, admin) until purchasing the site in 2012. Since then I’ve been honored to work with various collectors in varied roles. My current team (in alphabetical order) Bryan, James, Matt, Paul and Stefan are the reason for the sites success.
Tommy (RS): I joined the forums in 2003 after lurking for a couple of years, and became a mod in early 2006, if I recall correctly.
Ian (TXI): I joined the site just before it went live publicly, on November 30, 2015. While being promoted to a “developer” position January 13, 2016, I assumed full moderator status July 13, 2016. So, I’ve been involved as part of the core team for about eight of the 15 months the site has been open.
4.WHAT IS YOUR DAY TO DAY ROLE IN FORUM ACTIVITIES?
Edd (SWFUK): I really see myself as a user of the forum above anything else, I’m not a heavy handed moderator. I spend a few minutes a day moving posts in wrong sections, deleting duplicates, removing spammers etc but 90% of my time spent on the forum is spent the same as everyone else, reading and posting. I think it’s extremely important for mods/admins to remain engaged with their forum.
JohnPaul (TIG): I pretty much eat Cracker Jacks while those guy work lol. We all contribute in various ways and help each other out. I don’t do anything unique and candidly while my home life has been very hectic the team has stepped up and made it incredibly easy to not worry about the day to day.
Tommy (RS): Our forums have been around for a while, so most of our members understand the rules. As such, aside from occasionally moving threads to the correct sub-forum or breaking up an argument before it spirals out of control, our day-to-day activities are pretty simple. Most of the credit for keeping the nuts and bolts of the community functioning smoothly belongs to my fellow moderator Mike Mensinger, who really goes above and beyond to keep things orderly.
Ian (TXI): Every team member has the same expectations. In addition to keeping an eye on the forums, it is hoped that everyone contributes to building the library when possible, and to try to continue to come up with new ideas that will maintain interest from the membership.
5.HOW INVOLVED ARE THE OTHER MODERATORS IN EVERYDAY FORUM DISCUSSIONS?
Edd (SWFUK): It varies, all have a history of being very active as that’s how they became mods in the first place, but over time people lose interest in collecting or start their own groups etc so not all are as active as they used to be. That’s fine though – you need mods to be quite impartial so it’s important for them to be level-headed and reserved.
JohnPaul (TIG): I think there is an ebb and flow. We make no bones about how FB’s ease of access is hard to compete with and we’re all victims to its lure from time to time. I think if something grabs our attention we’re engaged and we do make an effort to try and bring things into the forum to keep everyone interested. We have good success with interactive games, raffle/giveaways, etc.
Tommy (RS): Generally, we all try to be around to answer questions or help people find the information they’re looking for. But like I said, it’s a great community so most of the time by the time I see a question, one of our members has already answered it.
Ian (TXI): We have some moderators that are the most involved people on the site, and some who keep a very low profile. Everyone’s personal situation is different, but for the most part, we have very active moderators.
6.APPROXIMATELY HOW MANY MEMBERS DO YOU HAVE?
Edd (SWFUK): Right now it’s a shade under 5000, but every year I prune all the inactive accounts and members who haven’t posted. If I had never done that it would be tens of thousands, but I want quality over quantity.
JohnPaul (TIG): The forum currently has 2790 members but admittedly it’s a not a reflection of activity. I see FB pages with 17,000 members but the same 50 people posting. It’s a tough thing to reconcile. The weapons site (Imperialgunnery.com) doesn’t require signup but we have had 671,877 visitors.
Tommy (RS): On all of Rebelscum? I believe it’s like 32,000 registered users. Most of those aren’t part of the vintage collecting forum though, obviously. But we probably have at least a couple hundred regular posters there. Sometimes more, depending on when you check and what’s going on in the hobby.
Ian (TXI): We are just about to hit 300 members, which isn’t bad for a band new forum barely over a year old in this era of declining forum activity in our hobby.
7.HOW HAS MEMBERSHIP BEEN GOING THIS PAST YEAR?
Edd (SWFUK): Contrary to popular belief that forums are dying, mine is still growing steadily. It has grown year on year since it started 11 years ago.
JohnPaul (TIG): Just jumping from the last question, it’s not a true reflection of the sites use. We had 373 signups from March 2016-Feb 2017 but without data mining I’m not sure if that translated into active members. It does show me that the interest is there though.
Tommy (RS): I have no idea, I’m just a mod not an admin. 🙂 I think it’s doing pretty well though. Or it seems to be, anyway.
Ian (TXI): Membership has been steadily growing since we opened the doors. We are fortunate to have ChristianC (aka Bobby Bobs), who puts a lot of his time into recruiting new members, and his hard work has been paying off.
8.AND WHAT ABOUT GENERAL DAY TO DAY TRAFFIC OVER THE LAST YEAR?
Edd (SWFUK): Again it has been steady, I’m happy to say Facebook and other forums have not really detracted from SWFUK’s popularity.
JohnPaul (TIG): We get about 350-450 visitors per day and approx. 3600 “sessions”. The majority of the traffic is generated by users doing a quick scan. I think we have an average stay time around four minutes. I think it shows people do value the forums and look for ways to be engaged if there is a reason.
Tommy (RS): I think it’s gotten better over the last six months or so. We’ve had some very interesting conversations and quite a few new members or members who are returning to collecting after a long absence. We’ve definitely seen an uptick, which is understandable given the new movies and the fact Celebration is right around the corner.
Ian (TXI): We have a steady group of regulars who browse the forum daily. Page views are not a problem. The trick is to keep the members involved and actively participating on a regular basis.
9.HOW HEAVILY ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE VINTAGE STAR WARS FACEBOOK GROUPS?
Edd (SWFUK): I spend a lot of time on Facebook and am a member of about ten groups. I do not sign up to all of them as I simply don’t have time to follow them all, so I have just chosen a few favourites. I tend to prefer smaller groups focused on specific aspects of collecting to the larger general groups.
JohnPaul (TIG): I’m a member of several groups but take no active role in any beyond being a member. I think someone added me as a mod to one but I don’t actively do anything. Obviously we maintain a FB page but a decision was made to put content there that would mostly funnel to the forum.
Tommy (RS): I’m a member of most of them and am an admin of a couple (the Return of the Jedi action figures group and the Dark Times group).
Ian (TXI): Personally, I resisted social media groups for a long time. While I belong to over 50 groups, it was rare I posted in them. I grew up in the hobby with forums, and have been critical of some aspects of Facebook. The past couple of years, though, my participation in Facebook groups has begun to grow. That generally applies to general discussion, educational, and similar types of posts though, as I’m not a very active buyer/seller, and tend to stay away from the various limelight discussions.
10.HOW HAVE THESE FACEBOOK GROUPS AFFECTED YOUR FORUM?
Edd (SWFUK): They have certainly generated a lot of discussion, both positive and negative. Due to the format of Facebook it is very difficult for people to give feedback, so they often turn to the forum for this.
Being honest the sales section of the forum has slowed down a bit since Facebook, but there’s still plenty for sale and other forums have suffered more.
JohnPaul (TIG): I think Facebook has affected most, if not all, forums. It goes well beyond vintage Star Wars too. It’s affected the cadence of conversations to the actual collecting landscape. Instant “likes” and replies to instant collections. It makes the forums seem like it’s in slow motion. I sell a fair amount and FB selling is insanely quick. If I post there first, then TIG, I might everything sold before I can even finish the posting. I rarely even put a FS on other forums anymore.
Tommy (RS): I think Facebook has had a big impact on all forum conversations, no doubt. We saw a big dip in activity over the last couple years. It seems to be leveling out again now, but for awhile there, it seemed like all forums were empty, not just ours. But thankfully, things are better now.
Ian (TXI): Considering how new we are, that’s a question that is difficult to answer. While I am sure we’d have more membership and/or participation if Facebook didn’t dominate, at the same time, Facebook has been a key to gaining exposure to our forum. As with everything Facebook related, there are pros and cons.
11.WHAT CAN THESE GROUPS LEARN FROM THE FORUMS?
Edd (SWFUK): I think the important thing to remember is that Facebook and forums complement each other. They cannot compete against each other because they are completely different formats. I encourage Facebook groups to point their members to forums for research and information as they are so much better than Facebook for this. Whenever somebody creates a “should I join Facebook?” thread on the forum, I am always quick to suggest they do.
JohnPaul (TIG): I think the FB pages have bred new collectors. I don’t think a lot of them would have been happy as forums members. To loosely use SW allegory, the forums were what I imagine a Jedi Temple was (I never read the Extended Universe stuff so forgive me if there is info on what it is). The forums had knowledge, discussion, discovery and a respect for members who’d brought the hobby to where it was. I think the FB community brought forth a myriad of pages, mods, admins, and egos. People can jump in, say whatever they want, and then jump to another page. I think the forums brought a sense of order to things. I’m not sure FB can provide that. If I had to hope for something, it would be that people learn the rich history of the hobby, not just open their wallet.
Tommy (RS): I think forums have a much better sense of community than the groups do. With a forum, you instantly know who you can probably trust and who knows what they’re talking about, just by looking at post numbers or post history or just the way other members treat a certain person. Its semi-permanence means that the record is all there and you can see who’s done shady stuff in the past. It’s a more stable community, filled with known individuals. As such, there’s also less disinformation being disseminated. It’s a much more “circle of friends” kind of feel, so if you say something that’s wrong, someone is going to correct you. And then perhaps a debate will erupt, all in the same thread for everyone to see. With a group, on the other hand, many of the people replying to a particular post have no idea what they’re talking about. They haven’t even read the previous replies, because in most cases, it’s not a real conversation, it’s just them staying random things to the original poster. You might not even ever see that poster reply to anything else in the future. So, there’s all kinds of nonsense being regurgitated and most of the time, no one corrects it. I think groups that can create a better feeling of community and common ownership will succeed. That’s definitely something I always strive for in groups I help admin. I want them to be a real source of information, not just casual entertainment. Ultimately, I want to embrace the “circle of friends” kind of atmosphere, since I think most people respond well to that.
Ian (TXI): The single biggest thing forums have in the way of an advantage is the ability to be a better organized resource for those looking to learn about the hobby. Facebook moves at a very fast pace, and discussions get buried very quickly, while in forums accessing information is far more convenient and permanent.
12.WHAT CAN THE FORUMS LEARN FROM THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?
Edd (SWFUK): One lesson I took recently was that photography has become a much bigger part of collecting, so I improved the photo upload capability to make it easier for people to post photos. I think one area some other forums fall down on badly is mobile compatibility as most people use the internet on their phone these days, but SWFUK has been mobile friendly for quite a few years now.
JohnPaul (TIG): I think the forums (and really the software that makes the forums) need to see that mobile access is key. I don’t think people want to abandon forums but we need to adapt. Notifications on a device, ease of photo uploads, PMs, all need to be made faster and better on a mobile.
Tommy (RS): I think the groups are growing in popularity simply because they’re easy to use. You can post pics and get instant feedback. People like that. You don’t have to remember to check back to the website to see if anyone posted anything cool or to see if anyone replied to your thread. FB does all of that for you, and there’s always someone active. It’s instant gratification. People want those “likes.” With a lot of groups, they’d rather have 100 likes than a real conversation about a piece. They don’t want to be informed what their piece is or why it’s not what they thought it was, they just want a “Awesome piece, dude!” comment and to feel special for a brief moment of time. That’s the nature of social media. It’s quick and easy. So forums need to be easier to use in order to compete. Posting pictures needs to be easier and there needs to be better social media connectivity. Making it easier for people to post on the forum means that people will post on the forum more.
Ian (TXI): Many forums learned the hard way that maintaining a status quo just doesn’t work in today’s fast paced environment. Facebook took advantage of a superior method of sharing images, and even in sharing items of interest to specific fellow members quickly and directly. Simply put, today’s average collector wants convenience and simplicity, and Facebook has been better at providing that.
13.HOW CAN FORUMS AND THE FACEBOOK GROUPS WORK TOGETHER TO IMPROVE OUR ONLINE COLLECTING EXPERIENCE?
Edd (SWFUK): Respecting each other and being aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Facebook can do things that forums can’t, and vice versa. Forums didn’t tell people to stop reading books, Facebook groups shouldn’t tell people to stop reading forums.
JohnPaul (TIG): That’s a complex thing to answer. I think the forums are a more solid foundation for history, cataloging and preservation of the hobby. The FB pages are extremely interactive but all diluted with there being so many. While it would be great to just split the duties (make forums the repository, FB the interaction) the fact is that FB groups are free to run, maintain, and also mimic. The time and money invested in the forum is far more of a chore and it would be hard to justify pouring money and time into them if the role is relegated to being a repository.
Tommy (RS): Personally, I think limelights and quick questions about a piece are best suited for groups, and in-depth discussion is much better suited for a forum environment.
I’ll always prefer a forum based system, since it’s much easier to search and archive than a FB group. You can literally find online conversation about Star Wars going all the way back to 1981. Think about that. Fans having discussions about Star Wars before ROTJ was even released. And all of that is still around, available for you to read today, free of charge. But with FB groups (and to some extent, forums), all of the information is now one button press from being deleted forever. And even if it is still somehow available, it’s troublesome to search and the content you’re after is rarely easy to find. To me, that’s worrisome, because I believe in the longevity of this hobby. I think in the future, people will want to know what we were talking about now. And I seriously doubt the FB groups will still exist in their current form. I think they’ll long since have been purged by FB, erasing all of that information. People 30 years from now aren’t going to be able to look back on our conversations the way we can look back on the collectors 30 years before us. And that’s a problem, in my opinion.
As such, I think the solution is for people to be part of both communities. If you discover something interesting, mirror your posts in both communities. If someone is scamming in a group, let the forums know and vise versa. Use the groups for the stuff they’re best at and use the forums for the rest.
I don’t think it has to be an either-or type of situation, I think there’s more than enough room for both types of community. It’s up to the admins and moderators of both to be responsible leaders for the hobby and create the kinds of communities that meet the needs of their members.
Ian (TXI): This is a goal we have. Trying to take the best aspects from both, and integrate them. You can directly register for our forum right from the Facebook page. We took the convenient ways Facebook deals with photos and tagging people, and found a way to incorporate them onto our board. The only way for either platform to survive long term is to embrace the strengths each has to offer and create a hybrid.
14.DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY IN PLACE FOR MAINTAINING YOUR FORUM’S MEMBERSHIP LEVELS?
Edd (SWFUK): I work in digital media so have known for a very long time that content is king. I see other forums and Facebook groups try all kinds of different gimmicks to try and grow their membership like t-shirts, giveaways, competitions etc, but without good content they are wasting their time. That’s why as above I spend more time contributing to the forum than I do moderating it, growth then comes naturally.
JohnPaul (TIG): We do have desire to keep them active. Our strategy is to try and engage people on various topics and get involved in various projects/games/etc. We understand that we face a challenge in the “instant gratification” movement. There is no way the forums can compete with that, so we need to show the value of the forums in the tighter community it breeds, the ease of getting information and the fact that forums have value in their slower pace.
Tommy (RS): I just try to post interesting topics, the logistics of maintaining membership is the responsibility of the site’s owners and administrators. But members always stick around if there’s something interesting to talk about.
Ian (TXI): Yes, by continuing to integrate technological advances into our forum, the hope is we can remain relevant in the face of continuing change. Also, by trying to put a focus on member participation, even in helping to develop the site, we’re hoping people feel more personally connected and stick around.
15.WHAT DOES YOUR FORUM OFFER THAT CANNOT BE FOUND ON THE OTHER FORUMS OR IN THE FACEBOOK GROUPS?
Edd (SWFUK): The forum has been running longer than Facebook and most other forums, so its legacy is one thing that cannot be taken away. I also think SWFUK has the best collection of members anywhere so I am very grateful for that. There is a good balance of knowledge, tolerance and humour – the latter two often lacking from other forums/groups.
JohnPaul (TIG): For weapon authentication and identification we are second to none. I’m very proud of the fact we are considered the global resource for that. It’s been a long journey, spanning from Jay and Wolff to the current caretakers of information. I also feel that the finite amount of larger forums makes information far more accessible. Every FB page admin feels they are the “best on FB” but the average collector probably belongs to 20, 30 or more pages. So finding something can be troublesome. Add in that a few posts or angry people can shut a page down if they chose I think the forums offer a certain stability.
Tommy (RS): Our forum has been around a long time. And many of its members go back even further than that, back to the days of newsgroups. There is a TON of knowledge there and access to the combined experiences of hundreds of collectors, many of whom haven’t made the switch over to FB groups. If you want to have an honest, in-depth discussion about something or research something obscure, there’s no place better than the forums. And all of that history is catalogued and easily searchable by anyone. Since posting takes a few seconds longer than it does on FB, there also isn’t generally as much nonsense. If people are talking, it’s usually about something, rather than just a quest to get the most likes or to waste a few moments while they wait for their train. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good FB groups (I admin a couple of them), but there are also some *really* bad ones. Not recognizing the difference can be very dangerous to collectors.
Forums are very egalitarian. They require no real approval to join and they’re visible to everyone. Many of the best FB groups are invite only and aren’t as open to newer collectors. Which is strange, since I don’t know anyone who knows everyone in a FB group. They’re generally strangers (even though members use their real names), sharing a common interest. I think most members of a forum are at least familiar enough with their community to remember something about most of the people who regularly post there. They’re usually friends/adversaries, or at the very least “work friends.” But I don’t think that’s the case with most of the groups. I would post stuff to RS that I’d never post to a FB group, or at least not to a FB group I didn’t really trust.
As for why Rebelscum over the other forums, I think most collectors would agree that RS has been the dominant community for vintage conversation for the last 15 years or so. Don’t get me wrong, there are other forums that are also *very* good and which I’m a member of, but RS has been #1 for a long, long time. I like to think there’s a reason for that.
Ian (TXI): The simple answer here is what I have already mentioned several times. A user experience that blends traditional forum style with the conveniences of social media.
16.ARE THERE ANY NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT YOUR FORUM PLANS TO EXPLOIT?
Edd (SWFUK): The forum software platform (phpBB) recently had a major upgrade, so in the next year I will look to install that. The problem is upgrading the software to a new major version requires creating a new theme and people hate change, so I’m in no rush to change it again!
JohnPaul (TIG): We are always at the mercy of the software platform. We have seen attachments become easier, notification bars offer a summary view of what’s happened and other things move us slowly into the mobile arena. I think I’d like to see more of a tie-in with mobile devices.
Tommy (RS): I have no idea, that’s not my department, thankfully. 🙂
Ian (TXI): I think we have done a good job so far in trying to stay on top of technological advances. As they continue to appear in the hobby, we will continue to try and find a way to embrace them.
17.WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NEXT PHASE IN THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR VINTAGE STAR WARS COLLECTORS?
Edd (SWFUK): I think some Facebook groups are now getting too big, the single page system simply does not work when you have 10,000+ members. So I think Facebook is going to have to adapt to avoid becoming too diluted. Perhaps they will implement a category system like forums have, or the ability to pin more than one post.
JohnPaul (TIG): That’s an interesting question. I think we’ll eventually get into VR. Maybe not now, but 5yrs from now. You’ll see people being able to walk through Rancho Obi-Wan or even my modest collection using some VR technology. I can see us uploading 3D scans of our favorite MOCs and figures and a user being able to pick up and rotate the figures virtually to see every side and feel like it’s in hand. I also see video events becoming more prevalent. A virtual event where a host interacts with the user base, like I’ve done on some FB pages.
Tommy (RS): I think the community itself is going to become central to collecting, if that makes any sense. We’re seeing it already, with the rise of fan-made collectibles and swag trading. If you plot out the course of the hobby, you’ll see it in action. Star Wars collectors split off from the larger Star Wars fan base. Then vintage collectors split off from modern collectors, etc. Each step gets more and more specialized, but it also becomes more and more serious about what it’s doing. Collecting is its own thing now. The hobby has become a club, in a way, with its own values and customs. A huge part of that is the social aspect, which gets more popular every year. There are many collectors who don’t actually collect, they’re just here to hang out with the people. To me, that’s where the hobby is headed. Collecting will no longer be a solitary experience, but one which is shared to ever greater degrees.
I think in years to come, we’re going to see social media become an even bigger part of collecting. I think the FB groups are kinda ‘Survival of the Fittest’ at the moment, but sooner or later, the strongest ones will take over and they’ll be able to drive the community to new places. The way FB works, new people will be exposed to the hobby, who might ordinarily have never even thought about collecting, but because they see collecting related posts in their feed, they might pick it up. There’s a normalization there. And it’s bringing in more diversity, which is very healthy for the long-term health of the community. Those new collectors then discover forums, posting material that reinvigorates those established communities, starting the entire process over again.
In a way, I think collecting is outgrowing fandom. It’s creating its own identity. A Star Wars collector is his/her own animal now, more than a collector in any other pop culture field I can think of. And social media is really helping that along.
Ian (TXI): The last few years has seen a dramatic shift from forums to social media. Not all forums are affected, but in general, it’s been a steady decline. However, it is becoming apparent that there is a growing sentiment expressing a desire to return to some of the strengths of forums that Facebook has struggled with. I think that with the honeymoon phase of social media coming to an end, the next stage will see the biggest success go to platforms that are best able to appeal to today’s fast paced world, while maintaining a backbone of easily retrievable informational and photographic references that have been key to forums in the past.
18.CAN THE FORUMS REMAIN RELEVANT IN THE VINTAGE COLLECTING LANDSCAPE OF TOMORROW?
Edd (SWFUK): Absolutely! Facebook is a long way off from competing with the content capabilities of forums so until that changes forums will remain very much essential to any collector.
JohnPaul (TIG): Can FB?
Tommy (RS): I think so, yes. If you look at the history of online discussion, you’ll see that as new and easier technologies appear, they generally take over and supplant what came before. But I think forums are in the unique position of being generally easy to use and much better at facilitating actual discussion than a FB group is, for the most part.
To put it another way, imagine that I have a question about… I don’t know… Yupi figures. Now, I can post that on a FB group, but if an expert like Yehuda isn’t online that day, there’s a very good chance that my question will be bumped further and further down. The way FB’s algorithm works, no one might see it in their feed at all, unless they physically go to the actual group page, which few people do. Thus, my question will go unanswered. But if I post the same question on a forum, my question will remain there forever, essentially. And every single person who logs on will see it in the list of topics, highlighted if it’s new to them. Thus, my chances of getting an answer to my question is exponentially higher and whatever reply I get is liable to be much longer and more in-depth anyway, given the differences in replies in a forum vs FB group.
I think forums are relevant as long as the community is still a good one. The hobby is a herd sometimes. It’s important to attract members but it’s even more important to keep the members you have. If you can provide a place that is a useful tool for people to use in their collecting lives, as well as somewhere they can meet some really cool people, that’s never going to be irrelevant.
Ian (TXI): Absolutely. As long as you adapt to the times and do not become stagnant, forums should stay relevant for some time to come.