Firstly, I wanted to say that I am not shutting down SWDubs forum. We still get loads of questions and great threads on there (mostly in the for sale section these days), so I will be keeping the old girl going for the time being.
I started SWDubs back in 2004 as a place to get together online with a group of VW mad friends. The site and forum were learning tools for myself with regards to building websites (the first site was horrendous) and how to install a forum and manage it. This was due to me starting in a new job in SEO (search engine optimization) and wanting to learn more about how sites were made and functioned.
From that small start the forum exploded into life with new members joining and adding their personalities into the mix. Over the last 10 years the forum has been through many ups and downs. From the time when we were attacked by members from Barry Boys forum for posting about an MX5 accident near Exeter (long story that is better off not recalled), to small local clubs being spawned from members meeting on the forum (DKM anyone?). We have seen our fair share of technical difficulties too, with server crashes (2 so far) and whole site and forum hosting migrations.
Over the years the forum has seem members come and go, with a core of people sticking around to share their knowledge and wind up newbies. However even this looks to be in decline. Overall the number of active users on the forum is falling, with most users using only the for sale sections of the forum and not the car or even the general chat. I myself am guilty of this, with things in real life taking a toll on the amount of time that I am on the forum, with new projects and new work changing how I interact with my own site.
I am not sure this is the only reason though. I think car forums are starting to become a little old hat, with people wanting a more convenient way to interact with people of the same interest.
In steps Facebook. Now, I am not saying that Facebook has killed all forums, but it is a hell of a lot easier for someone to check on a community if they are already there several times a day telling people about the funny looking dog they saw in the street. Facebook groups are like micro forums, with people being able to post straight onto a wall that everyone see (awesome, no move getting my thread moved by mods right?).
Now, SWDubs has two Facebook ‘pages’ I hear you say. And you would be right. There is a SWDubs Group that was set up when the forum was down for a short period many years ago, and a newer SWDubs Page that was created by me to spread cool VW stuffs when I can be assed (and spread the word on the SWDubs mega meets). The Group is the micro forum type page that I mentioned above, it has many users all posting things that go straight onto a single wall. This is usually littered with poor for sale ads written by people who cannot be bothered to describe what they are selling. This micro forum is easy to use, quick and notifies you when something new pops up or if someone comments on your post. Awesome right? But as a whole there is no community there, it does not have the atmosphere created by people within a forum environment. It is just a single wall with people jostling for position of their for sale post.
Now, the SWDubs forum is still alive and kicking and still gets new members looking for answers to all those juicy dub related questions. But it just does not have the activity that I once saw.
Over the next month I will be trying to use the forum more. I want to see if it is possible to reignite the community into engaging more and rebuilding the great a atmosphere we once had. I want to get the banter started again where people would take the piss and then help out. I want to get the technical areas busy again with questions from newbies and experienced dubbers around all aspects of VWs. I want to get the meets section buzzing for new summer meets and shows.
I do hope that I am wrong in thinking that car forums are on the way out. They are a great way to get to know people like you in your local area, and gain some valuable knowledge at the same time. Some of my best friends have come from meets and shows arranged on SWDubs, so I would say it is worth a another go.