Largest Tolkien Forums of 2015 (end of an era)

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 27, 2017 3:33 am

When I made this thread almost two years ago I said (with every intention of it being true) that I was ending my forum statistics project (as part of my overall reining in of involvement with Tolkien forums). That clearly didn't happen, in part because shortly after my resignation as admin I ended up getting far more involved in Lore than I had been in years. But since mid-2016 my activity in forums has indeed decreased, as has the regularity with which I have checked in on the statistics project. As such, I can not speak about the below figures with quite as much confidence as I could for 2013-15, or even last year, but I am still reasonably confident that these represent the eight most active English language Tolkien forums as per the definition I have used over the past five years. I did spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the drastic, unprecedented jump in ranking by Arwen-Undomiel.com was accurate as well as verifying that a couple omissions from the list did not have enough activity to qualify.

Most Active Tolkien Forums of 2017
ppd = posts per day

  1. Arwen-Undomiel.com: 48.2 ppd
  2. TheOneRing.net: 44.5 ppd
  3. The Hall of Fire: 31.3 ppd
  4. Forumshire: 28.5 ppd
  5. TheOneRing.com: 12.1 ppd
  6. Barrow-Downs: 10.8 ppd
  7. LOTR Plaza: 9.1 ppd
  8. board77: 6.6 ppd

I have talked a lot about the historical context of all this in the annual results threads, as well as more recent updates on pages two and three of this thread and in the "GUYS, GUYS" thread last month (I'll include the >link< here for posterity; the subsequent discussion is spread over a couple pages) so I don't want to spend too much time re-hashing over everything. Before going too further, I'll share the updated leaderboard/medal table, plus the disclaimer I posted when I first shared last year's version:

Disclaimer: do not take these rankings as gospel!

I have used hard numbers as much as possible, but it gets really hard to say anything with certainty before ~2010. In some cases the differences between forums are too close to make a definite call and I went with what seemed likeliest. The earliest years (1999-2001) are largely speculative.

Largest Tolkien Forums of 2015 (end of an era) - Page 4 5DsGMK4l

And here's the weighted version (1st place = 4 points, 2nd place = 2 points, 3rd and 4th places = 1 point):

Code:
PLZ: 40 points (8x champ, 2x runner-up, 4x semis)
TRC: 34 points (5x champ, 2x runner-up, 10x semis)
TRN: 29 points (5x champ, 3x runner-up, 3x semis)
AUC: 15 points (1x champ, 4x runner-up, 3x semis)
FOR: 10 points (4x runner-up, 2x semis)
IML: 8 points (4x runner-up)
RBR: 6 points (6x semis)
WRN: 3 points (3x semis)
DWN: 2 points (2x semis)
HOF: 2 points (2x semis)
ENT: 1 point (1x semis)
B77: 1 point (1x semis)
COE: 1 point (1x semis)

I've spent a fair bit of time recently trying to think of something good to say to sum up ... something and put a nice bow on top of this whole five year endeavor which I am again feeling like I want to end. I don't really think there's much more I can say without just rehashing old things, though, and right now I'm kinda less interested in lengthy non-fiction writing just to prove a point (hard as that may be to believe!). When responding to Malickfan's question about the state of this project last month I mentioned the impending 10th anniversary of the announcement of the Hobbit film project and the concurrent creation of the first two Hobbit movie forums. That anniversary passed last week, but since we're the only Hobbit movie forum left, there wasn't much to make note of. Our ninth anniversary was on 10 December, and it's definitely cool to thing that we'll be a decade old at this point next year, but it's a somewhat bittersweet milestone.

One significant milestone that I have not seen previously noted is that last month also marked the 25th anniversary of the newsgroup alt.fan.tolkien, which is the oldest online Tolkien forum of them all (though being a newsgroup, it doesn't count as a web forum). It might be more accurate to say that it's the 25th anniversary of the oldest records of AFT that can be found in Google Groups from November 1992 (presumably it was part of the Deja News archive before that was bought by Google). It's possible the group was older, though if so probably not by very much. There is at least one Tolkien mailing list (listserv, to use the genericized trademark) that is older, called TolkLang, but this list and its spin-offs were outgrowths of Tolkien societies and fanzine communities. AFT (joined by its sister group rec.arts.books.tolkien in 1993) was the first global Internet-native Tolkien fan community.

I keep typing and deleting shit so I'm just gonna say to see the above-linked "GUYS, GUYS" thread if for some reason you want to read more of my thoughts about the shift from Tolkien forums to social media (mirroring the shift from Usenet to web forums/message boards) and why it's interesting and perhaps apt that the year when that shift probably happened (though it might've been in the second half of 2016) is the same year that the next major phase of Tolkien-related media releases was announced. This doesn't mean that existing fan communities will suddenly disappear, and Forumshire will definitely remain important to me as it has been since 2009 when it was still in its infancy and very few people, not even its founder/admin, would have missed it if the forum had disappeared. But it does make this project feel less relevant. It's not like specialized forums were ever the only place to discuss Tolkien, but again see the link for more thoughts on the shift and why it's significant. Also, as discussed on the previous page of this thread, the fact that A-U.com was able to take the title for this year due to a fairly short irregular fluctuation in activity drives home the limitations of the "medal table" comparison in which more emphasis is placed on doing well in hard times than in racking up large absolute numbers during a heyday.

So yeah. I might actually follow through on stopping the project now. I also might not. If anyone wants to do it themselves, PM me or post in this thread and I would be happy to put my old notes in a Pastebin or give suggestions or anything like that. It's not very hard to do, just tedious and requiring of dedication to check in regularly enough to see and adjust for any irregularities. Thanks again for all the questions about the state of this project over the years; they've been really reassuring that it wasn't just pure self-aggrandizement on my part. It's been a lot of fun and I kinda can't believe that it's been five years (technically four years and 11 months) since I started this shit. I guess I'll end with something on the sappy/dramatic side since that's what I'm best at. To loosely adapt an idea from one of my (rejected) retrospective essays about mid-December anniversaries:

What is an Internet forum? It's a place that literally anyone with an Internet connection can join without any baggage or assumptions made about them. Where you can hide or reveal as much about yourself as you want. Where people tend to become popular or well-known on the strength of their written communication skills, but where a high level of technical writing quality isn't necessarily required. A place that a child can escape to from their bedroom and discover an international support system of people who like and accept them and want to be there for them in one way or another. Fuck magical wardrobes; the Internet forum is one of the most amazing inventions in human history as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't be alive today to bore you with my pontification if not for them. Hopefully that doesn't put anyone off them.

I would never in a million years have anticipated how much I would get out of an online subculture that I first discovered by aimlessly Googling the term "lord of the rings" when I was twelve years old. To have held moderator positions on two of the most active forums in this fandom and thereby give back was an amazing feeling. While forums of all sizes are important to people, there is something really special in knowing that you've contributed in some small way to something much bigger than yourself, and I like having a sense of perspective of our forum's place in the wider community.
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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:38 am

Neat-o, nice write-up Eldo. I've come to expect this level of dedication from you on topics like PPDs and forum competitions, so it would be odd if you really quit.

I had forgotten about UA, but sneaking a peak into their thread about the Amazon project I do enjoy their point of view.

Gandolorin wrote:To quote Strider talking to the Hobbits at the Prancing Pony, “You fear them, but you do not fear them enough.” With all his many faults in making the LoTR, PJ at least knew the book (and had Sirs Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen around to harrumph at him if necessary). As has been pointed out elsewhere, the appendices leave even more wiggle room (in the sense that blue whales “wiggle” their tails occasionally) for wild and wooly imaginations. How high is the probability that the Amazon suits have read Sil, UT and HoME, where some information is to be found to flesh out parts of the annals?

Anyway, since there’s not a snowball’s chance in Angband that I will ever subscribe to any sort of ppv TV, you’ll have to tell me what they will have been up to (and I will only be able to double-check your claims if they ever decide to release the stuff on DVD).
Thumbs Up

Although I found particular discussions (Doctor Who) downright anemic compared to what we have here. I wonder where their post count is coming from? The RPG section?

Edit: I also wanted to say that one thing I really appreciate about forums is the sense of community that one gets from them. Usernames become familiar and grow into personalities and eventually actual friendships (albeit online and free of most of the crabbit of real life) can develop. I don't see this same thing happening on other text-based social media sites like Reddit, Twitter, 4chan, etc.: the size of the user-base is simply too large so that outside of minor or major celebrities the value of the individual is simply not respected.

Quality over quantity, is what I say!

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and a thousand tongues had told
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that I would fall on these days--
the days I have fallen on
the ways I have sunk into.

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:15 am

Thanks Forest. Smile It always means a lot to know when people read and enjoy stuff I write. I might end up unable to resist the temptation, so I suppose we'll see.

I did my in-depth digging around on A-U.com (counting individual posts by the thread) back in the spring because I found their increase in activity to be so suspicious. From what I recall it was mainly centered on the role-playing section, yes. The boom only lasted about three or four months before they started to come back to earth, though they're still doing better than they had in a while. A-U is now the first forum to return to the top four after falling out for more than a year. (Previously the Plaza and Ringbearer returned after absences of a single year; the Plaza is back out now and given how suddenly and dramatically it fell off this year I don't expect it to be back in 2018, though stranger things have happened.) TORn almost caught A-U towards the end of the year, especially after getting their second wind from the Amazon series announcement, and I expect them to retake the title next year, which would also be a first.

Also worth remarking on is the Barrow-Down's (sic) significant jump in activity in the second half of the year. I did not do a thorough examination of the forum like I did for A-U.com (both due to a lack of personal interest and because it didn't impact the top four) but a cursory glance does seem to indicate that the forum is more active than I would have expected.

Forest Shepherd wrote:Edit: I also wanted to say that one thing I really appreciate about forums is the sense of community that one gets from them. Usernames become familiar and grow into personalities and eventually actual friendships (albeit online and free of most of the crabbit of real life) can develop. I don't see this same thing happening on other text-based social media sites like Reddit, Twitter, 4chan, etc.: the size of the user-base is simply too large so that outside of minor or major celebrities the value of the individual is simply not respected.

I completely agree about forums fostering a sense of community. I think they are uniquely well-suited for this purpose among various formats for online participation. (The only other contender IMO would be IM/chat services, but I think these are better for maintaining and strengthening an existing community than for seeing a new one emerge, although the importance of the former function shouldn't be understated.) Social media tends to be a horrible format for in-depth discussion, or any block of text longer than a paragraph TBH, and while I suck it up and participate in discussion via Facebook comments sometimes when there's an interesting topic in e.g. the Tolkien Society FB group, I don't especially enjoy doing so. I think that being able to discuss a broad array of topics other than the official focus of the forum is incredibly valuable too. It helps you get to know other people better and gives more reason to keep coming back, and while we and most other forums have different sections for different topics, there's not the same level of insulation between them as you see between, say, any two subreddits.

The sheer size of certain communities is definitely a factor too. This happens on larger message boards as well sometimes, though not nearly to the same extent as the sites you mention. When I became active on the LOTR Plaza in 2009 it was still too large (despite being much less active than at its peak of 2004-05) and there was too much of a cliquish divide between different sections/subforums for everyone in the community to be familiar with one another. I sometimes miss the hustle and bustle, though it can be overwhelming (especially on some of the much larger forums I've visited), and there is something really nice about being in a community where everyone knows everyone else. It makes the tone of discussion meaningfully different and while we obviously still argue with each other at times, everyone is a known quantity and I think we tend to get over things pretty quickly. ELE, as RA used to remind us. Razz
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Post by azriel Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:54 am

" ELE, as RA used to remind us."
Sad
Oh Eldy, At the end of one year & the opening of a new one I kinda miss some people. People we have met & are not here to sing us out. I wonder what they are doing, I wonder if they are ok & happy ? I hope so. Is there a slim thread of sadness between the lines ?

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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:26 am

It's a bitter-sweetness, I think.

One thing I've been curious about lately is how many people, you know, lurk around here. Guests obviously pop in now and then to read different sections of the forum, but it's easy to forget that active posters are not the only ones reading.

I wonder if any of those other websites have an "Eldo" on them posting Tolkien forum stats.

...Actually if there is it's probably just Eldo! Suspect

_________________
When I was younger
I would not have believed them
though a hundred had said it
and a thousand tongues had told
that I would sink to these ways
that I would fall on these days--
the days I have fallen on
the ways I have sunk into.

-Instructions and a Warning, The Kalevala
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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:39 am

This project, and thinking about forum stuff in general, is tinted with a degree of sadness, yeah. There's something of a fading of the Elves quality, "the long defeat", in watching forum totals continue to decline. Not really because of the numbers of course but because of what they represent. I think that most people who have drifted away from here over the years have probably just moved on to other interests, though there are a couple absent people about whom I worry. It's always a joy to see old faces reappear from time to time, though. Smile

Forest Shepherd wrote:One thing I've been curious about lately is how many people, you know, lurk around here. Guests obviously pop in now and then to read different sections of the forum, but it's easy to forget that active posters are not the only ones reading.

One common rule of thumb is that 90% of visitors to a site/forum are lurkers. The percentage for us might not be quite that high but I think it's a very safe bet that the majority of visitors to the forum do not post. Most of them wouldn't even have accounts, though there are a few users who registered a long time ago and never posted but continue(d) to sign on for years afterwards. I've been in that boat with plenty of other forums.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1%25_rule_(Internet_culture)

I wonder if any of those other websites have an "Eldo" on them posting Tolkien forum stats.

...Actually if there is it's probably just Eldo! Suspect

I've considered sharing the results of this project on other Tolkien forums before but always worried that it would come across as grandstanding. Razz Of the current top eight forums, I have accounts on six of them under the name Eldorion, though aside from here, TORn, and the Plaza I've never made more than a handful of posts on any of 'em. I also have an account on A-U.com using one of my go-to incognito names, though I've never posted there.


Last edited by Eldorion on Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by azriel Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:44 am

Largest Tolkien Forums of 2015 (end of an era) - Page 4 Glee10



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Post by Forest Shepherd Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:06 am

Laughing

Lurkers everywhere!

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Post by malickfan Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:44 am

I'm surprised we slipped down to 4th place, even more surprised to read that AU is still reasonably active (I thought they would have shut down by now, as I gathered most of the activity there was roleplay related and on the few occasions I lurked there there seemed to be only a handful of regular posters), are we really the last english language Hobbit forum standing? That's something we can be proud of Nod this has been a really interesting project to read over the last few years Eldo, and if you feel like this is an appropriate time to stop then fair enough.

TORn will most likely take 1st place again next year as news about the LOTR TV series gets released or rumored, they are nowhere near as busy as they were five years back, but the initial announcement certainly increased activity there and brought back lots of old faces (including me temporarily), will be interesting to see how temporary a spike in activity this will be, forums aren't the big attraction they were 7+ years ago when the Hobbit films first entered pre=production.

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The Thorin: An Unexpected Rewrite December 2012 (I was on the money apparently)
The Tauriel: Desolation of Canon December 2013 (Accurate again!)
The Sod-it! : Battling my Indifference December 2014 (You know what they say, third time's the charm)

Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by malickfan Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:51 am

Eldorion wrote:

One common rule of thumb is that 90% of visitors to a site/forum are lurkers. The percentage for us might not be quite that high but I think it's a very safe bet that the majority of visitors to the forum do not post.


The last semi-regular newbie who registered was davidjoneshoward back in April 2015 (he hasn't been active for more than a year), there's a few more joined since but they are probably mostly bots or spam accounts, I'm thinking due to our niche topic and...unique forum spirit alot of lurkers or visitors probably stumble across the forum then quickly leave in baffled confusion Laughing


I've considered sharing the results of this project on other Tolkien forums before but always worried that it would come across as grandstanding.

Well, if you shared this project on say TORn, I think it would be better received than when Petty shared his views on the Hobbit films there Laughing Razz

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The Thorin: An Unexpected Rewrite December 2012 (I was on the money apparently)
The Tauriel: Desolation of Canon December 2013 (Accurate again!)
The Sod-it! : Battling my Indifference December 2014 (You know what they say, third time's the charm)

Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:18 pm

malickfan wrote:I'm surprised we slipped down to 4th place, even more surprised to read that AU is still reasonably active (I thought they would have shut down by now, as I gathered most of the activity there was roleplay related and on the few occasions I lurked there there seemed to be only a handful of regular posters)

AUC's jump in the rankings was the most surprising thing I have seen in the five years of doing this project. It's not that a year-over-year increase of 27.1 ppd is unheard of; fluctuations many times that size used to be routine. But because of the state of things currently, that increase meant more than doubling their activity over the previous year, and it meant jumping four spots in the ranking. Of course, we've been getting by with a fairly small core of regulars for a couple years now (not that we were ever huge in terms of our total number of members), and Hall of Fire's recent rise in the rankings (after spending their entire history in the #5 to #8 range) is also because of a small core.

Because things have shrunk so much throughout the fandom, we're at a point where what Halfy termed "random fluctuations" (on the previous page of this thread) can have a big impact on the rankings, which is one of the things that make me think this project may have run its course. The argument I've made for a long time is that it's more interesting and meaningful to see what Tolkien forums have enjoyed success over time, even as things have gotten less active overall, rather than just comparing who has the largest total post archive (see my post towards the bottom of page two of this thread for more about the pros and cons of each method), but when we lack even a single forum above 50 ppd for the year, I think we're stretching the limits of that argument.

are we really the last english language Hobbit forum standing? That's something we can be proud of Nod this has been a really interesting project to read over the last few years Eldo, and if you feel like this is an appropriate time to stop then fair enough.

Thanks Malick. Smile Yes, we are the last of our generation. I linked to archived versions of some of the forums that predeceased us in the other thread last month. On December 10 we became the first, and last, Hobbit movie forum to reach our ninth anniversary. This category doesn't include TORn since they've been around since 1999 and rebranded for The Hobbit rather than starting from scratch, though obviously they were the most successful at capitalizing on the new films.

TORn will most likely take 1st place again next year as news about the LOTR TV series gets released or rumored, they are nowhere near as busy as they were five years back, but the initial announcement certainly increased activity there and brought back lots of old faces (including me temporarily), will be interesting to see how temporary a spike in activity this will be, forums aren't the big attraction they were 7+ years ago when the Hobbit films first entered pre=production.

They've definitely seen the biggest boost from the Amazon series announcement so far, relatively speaking. I'm curious if there will be any new forums founded this time around. I kind of don't expect that there will. Even in 2007-08 there were very few Hobbit forums established compared with the LOTR wave in c. 2000, and aside from us and our frankly very unlikely trajectory, only two ever broke 10K posts and none got more than 20K. Game of Thrones fandom also doesn't paint a very encouraging picture. Westeros.org has a huge forum that's been around for a very long time, but very few GOT-specific fansites have even tried creating forums of their own and I haven't seen any that took off. I'm sure there will be plenty of LOTR Amazon discussion on Reddit and social media, though. Razz

malickfan wrote:The last semi-regular newbie who registered was davidjoneshoward back in April 2015 (he hasn't been active for more than a year), there's a few more joined since but they are probably mostly bots or spam accounts, I'm thinking due to our niche topic and...unique forum spirit alot of lurkers or visitors probably stumble across the forum then quickly leave in baffled confusion Laughing

I think the bigger factor is that since the move to the new forum after Dark Planet Day our SEO game has suffered, so most of our new members (and especially most of those who stuck around) found out about us by word-of-mouth from PT, Bree, or TORn. Bree was especially important, both for its own community (it benefited from the SEO of the-hobbit-movie.com's blog just as we did pre-2011) and because it was a transit point for a number of people coming over from TORn. But Bree has been offline for about four years now, and with Hobbit discussion on TORn being so slow these days there isn't a lot of word-of-mouth about anything.

Well, if you shared this project on say TORn, I think it would be better received than when Petty shared his views on the Hobbit films there  Laughing  Razz

Perhaps. Laughing
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Post by Orwell Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:46 am

So long as there is one Forumshirer, Forumshire will keep going. We’ve done pretty well, Eldo. I keep an eye out still - being a Moderator - sometimes two...  sometimes... now and then... Cool

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Post by Eldorion Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:48 am

It's good to see you around again, Orwell! Very Happy Hope you and yours have been well and that we'll get to see a bit more of you (wouldn't want another mod to go the way of GB, now would we? Suspect).
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Post by Orwell Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:14 am

I am the last of the Mods by all accounts. Unless someone else has been doing all the onerous duties I have been so adequately neglecting all this time in true Forumshire tradition... ... well, true Orwellian tradition. Very Happy

Hope you and yours are well, Eldo. Kissing

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Post by Eldorion Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:20 am

I made it past Christmas so I really can't complain, y'know. Thanks Orwell. Kissing
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Post by malickfan Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:25 am

Wait, we have moderators? Could have fooled me, the amount of norcing that goes on round here

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Post by Eldorion Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:27 am

Moderators are actually tasked with ensuring the forum meets its Norcing quota each month.
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Post by malickfan Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:34 am

Eldorion wrote:Moderators are actually tasked with ensuring the forum meets its Norcing quota each month.

Well, shouldn't Norc be made a moderator then? Sofa

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The Thorin: An Unexpected Rewrite December 2012 (I was on the money apparently)
The Tauriel: Desolation of Canon December 2013 (Accurate again!)
The Sod-it! : Battling my Indifference December 2014 (You know what they say, third time's the charm)

Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by Eldorion Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:37 am

That's one can of worms I do not want to reopen. No
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Post by malickfan Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:39 am

I volunteer myself as tribute moderator

(Joking)

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The Thorin: An Unexpected Rewrite December 2012 (I was on the money apparently)
The Tauriel: Desolation of Canon December 2013 (Accurate again!)
The Sod-it! : Battling my Indifference December 2014 (You know what they say, third time's the charm)

Well, that was worth the wait wasn't it  Suspect


I think what comes out of a pig's rear end is more akin to what Peejers has given us-Azriel 20/9/2014
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Post by halfwise Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:31 pm

Eldorian wrote:after Dark Planet Day our SEO game has suffered

'SEO'? Suspect

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Post by Baingil Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:04 pm

SEO = Search Engine Optimization, referring to how well a site is found on Google.  Or other search engines, but who counts those?
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Post by Bluebottle Fri Dec 29, 2017 7:54 pm

The ones with the yahoo browser hijack? Razz

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Post by Norc Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:13 pm

we're basically the best tolkien-lotr-forum because .. well... we almost never discuss that anymore. the creative corner, off-topic and big bad serious section is probably larger than the strickly tolkien-related stuff.
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Post by Norc Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:14 pm

malickfan wrote:
Eldorion wrote:Moderators are actually tasked with ensuring the forum meets its Norcing quota each month.

Well, shouldn't Norc be made a moderator then? Sofa

i tried .. I was rejected by the supreme leader.

Eldorion wrote:That's one can of worms I do not want to reopen. No

Laughing
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