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Open Soapbox: Tagboard -- You're It?

I've been creating webcomics since 1998. During that time, I've seen the rise of the Livejournal, blogs, forums, guestbooks and chat/tagboards (I had a Livejournal BEFORE they became popular). I've also heard many concerns coming from other webcartoonists about feedback. Instant feedback and detailed feedback. For the budding web cartoonist, this seems the main priority (second only to begging for donations, but that's another rant). Of course, everyone WANTS feedback. It's nice to know that when you're 'speaking', someone is 'listening'.

Being a person who likes to encourage her readers to comment as much as possible and who is always looking for convenient ways for them to do so, I signed up for a tagboard in April of last year. I plunked one on each of my comics' main pages so my readers could comment their hearts away.

Doing this, I discovered several things. One: if people have an option RIGHT there to just enter text and hit a button, they're very likely to do it! Two: if people have an option RIGHT there to just enter text and hit a button, they'll sit on the page and chat on subjects which can then wander from your comic to other areas that you may or may not want in full view of everyone (I caught people having sex on my tagboard).

I also noticed that with the addition of the tagboard, conversation on my forum dropped off dramatically.

I haven't been the only one to notice this particular occurrence. It seems that once given an easier option than logging into a forum and reading separate threads, readers will ask questions on the tagboard and I and others would answer their questions. Now, this may look good on the surface, but you can't exactly search a tagboard like you can a forum. It's also very unorganized, and you can't reference another post for the more detailed answers.

If you're just starting out with a new webcomic, get a tagboard. From my observations, you'll get quick feedback, and it will encourage your readers to comment more than through any other website addition. Even when visiting sites that have only been up for a few weeks, I've seen their tagboards and chat boards packed full of comments (and forums full of cobwebs). Meanwhile, when I started out (and even today), the majority of web cartoonists won't get a single email in a year – at the most, they may get one every couple of months.

Still, tagboards may not be for those of us who've been doing this awhile and like reading our nice organized forums. I ended up slapping hands on the tagboard and turning off links to the history, disabling the auto-refresh, and putting a note at the top noting that the board was meant for comments, not discussion. Within a day, people were complaining about being unable to see what had been posted, to which I would point them to the forum to get the point across. They were understanding enough to move their discussions to the forums, so I turned everything back on. New people now get told by older posters on the tagboard to go to the forum once they start discussions. And thus, my forums are now back in action.

In conclusion, if you're wondering why your forums are vacant... you might want to check and see if you have a tagboard on your site.