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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

To Open Thread or Not to Open Thread?

Thanks to the cessation of daily open thread posts during and after my recent vacation, participation in the forums has really taken off. However, when I announced on Monday that I would cease posting open threads for the foreseeable future, a number of you protested.

While I am certainly glad to see the forums well-utilized, I also don't want to alienate those of you who have contributed some of the most interesting discussion to this site. When I post daily open threads, forum usage declines, but without open threads, some people don't really participate as much. So I'm looking for some kind of middle ground.

Does anyone have suggestions for a way that we can facilitate open thread discussion without decreasing forum usage? I was thinking of reducing the open thread frequency, or placing it one click away from the front page (like the forums already are).

What do you think of either of those ideas, and what are some other things we might try?


seattlehotty said...

Personally, I don't like forums. In general, I get let's say 4, 5-minute periods per day when I can check what is going on in the real estate world It is very easy to go to the open thread and read the last few posts. I would be less likely to read the titles of each of the forum topics and dig into each one to see what is new.

I also like that the open thread is not directed to a particular topic like a forum is, but rather contains the most important topics of the day. Sometimes one conversation sparks another topic and things flow nicely from topic to topic. Forums force an unatural division of topics that isn't typical of conversation.

I think you should offer both and let people use whichever they want. However, one thing I don't like is that to my knowledge everything posted in the open threads is lost after each day passes. It would be nice if these posts were later archived somewhere, perhaps to a past open thread forum. I would sometimes like to be able to search through past posts since some great links and other information are presented in the posts.

The Tim said...


Thanks for the feedback.

Actually, each and every open thread is preserved for posterity. They are simply shifted off of the front page to keep the look more "clean." All you need do is click the "click here for open threads" link at the top of the page (just under the dark blue title block).

Alternatively, you can browse the "Blog Archive" portion at the bottom of the right-side-bar. All past open threads have been re-dated, taking 25 years off of the actual post date. This makes them appear as though they were posted in the '80s (2007 = 1982, 2006 = 1981, etc.).

Just click the little triangle to the left of a year, then the same to the left of the month, and you'll see a list of all the open threads for that month.

The best way to search for a particular thing you recall is to do a Google "site search." I use the Google Toolbar for this, but you can simply go to Google put " " before whatever you're searching for.

Hope this helps.

Terry said...


The forums have more structure so it's easier to follow the discussion as it mostly relates to the posted topic.

However, open thread allows for random posting of relevant info that may not relate to an existing topic and may not be significant / interesting enough to merit it's own topic in the forums. For example, I just discovered this interview of Robert Shiller. To me, posting this article in the open thread format works alot better than over in the forums, but I could be wrong!

Shiller: Mr. Worst-Case Scenario

Quotes from a recent interview by Money magazine with Robert Shiller

Question: So how rich can you get on real estate?
Answer: From 1890 through 1990, the return on residential real estate was just about zero after inflation.
Question: Excuse me? That's all? Hasn't it been higher lately?
Answer: Since 1987 it's been 6 percent [or about 3 percent a year after inflation].
Question: So real estate doesn't go up roughly 10 percent a year?
Answer: It can't be true that homes rise 10 percent a year. If they did, in the long run no one would be able to afford a house.
Question: Let me grab a calculator. If real estate really rose 10 percent a year, a $25,000 home in 1957 should be worth roughly $3 million now.

It is interesting to learn where Mr. Shiller is putting his money right now

Question: How are you investing now?
Answer: I'm probably a little over 60 percent in stocks, almost all of it outside the U.S. I have a lot of cash. And I've been reducing my exposure to real estate. It may be at the end of a cycle.

Shiller Interview

Deejayoh said...

I've been enjoying the forums. There are a load of new users, and the conversation can get a "threaded" view, so I can view topics I want, ignoring others.

I also like the software for the forums much better than blogger - as you can post graphics there and the html tagging is easier.

Maybe as a compromise, you have an open thread "area" in the forums (like Seattle Real Estate, Housing Bubble, Economics), and then link to it each day from the blog? That way those with little time can just look at the daily thread, and others will be guided to look at the broader set of topics?

biliruben said...

I like the forums much better. The open threads are pretty boring accept for the baiting and troll feeding, and occasional grand-standing with funny posts by the likes of Eleua (which I do enjoy).

The key, I think, is to work out the bugs in the forums.

The main one is the width of the columns. There has to be a better fix then just retroactively widening them.

Why I can't edit any posts but the most recent one, I don't quite get either.

Also, perhaps you could allow more replies on a page. Having to go back and forth from page to page to follow a discussion is annoying. I don't think load times would increase substantially even if you bumped it to 50 replies.

Just my 2 cents.

Great work and great blog. Keep it up, Tim.

Stephen said...

Blogs are the only thing I'm interested in. I stopped using forums years ago except for coding help. Just to cumbersome for personal use. The reason blogs are so popular is because of this. Forums have been around forever but never got the universal admiration that blogs have got.

Count me as a blogger only :-)

Stephen said...

Why not both?

D Housley said...

I say keep the open threads around...maybe post them on monday, wednesday, friday...

SeattleRenter said...

I miss the open thread - I prefer the group conversation and spontaneity of topics. The forums - it seems a topic gets a few comments and then it's dead. Also - too many topics to scroll through and most are just 1-2 comments on each topic.

Surkanstance said...

I would suggest using a hybrid approach. For each article posting on the web, just place a link to a corresponding forum thread for the talk-back link. Thus, people can still chat about each article, it's just that the discussion is actually occuring on the forum instead. Then we have the best of both worlds.

I like forums, but it takes a lot of effort (and time) for them to be well trafficked enough to be really interesting. In the meantime, topical threads for each blog posting are indispensable.

Also, the threads are REALLY annoying, and became even worse when they started requiring people to have google accounts. The only way I can post now is to login to seperately, and THEN come back to the seattlebubble blog thread to post a comment. This is really crummy...

Unknown said...

Do you have any counters on what is being read? I read the threads, not the forums.

Unknown said...

btw, Mikhail, you don't have to leave this site to post a comment in a thread, you just use your google username and password and enter that just below the comment box; that is what I do.

softwarengineer said...


I tried your forum webpage and found it less informative, lagging in recent data and too convoluted to read than today's open threads on recent mortgage or subprime carnage news.

I also found a higher educated class of information from open threads, as these type of professionals don't have time to hunt through forums.

Its interesting to me to see how we all interpert the recent mainstream media for Seattle in contradicting ways and apply it in different ways on the threads. Its funny too, please keep the threads open, they're recent and more educational.

Surkanstance said...

Shawn said: "btw, Mikhail, you don't have to leave this site to post a comment in a thread, you just use your google username and password and enter that just below the comment box; that is what I do."

That won't work for me anymore. I can't login with my google account in the login fields right below the comment box. Instead, I have to go to, login using my google account there, and THEN come back to the comment box to post to the blog.

Maybe it's because I don't actually have a "google" account and just registered a seperate (non-google) e-mail address. But it's annoying, nevertheless.

Sam said...

I totally agree with seattlehotty. I love the open threads. I mostly read the comments posted here. I check the Open threads couple times a day. It is much easier to read the latest posts on Open threads.

Unknown said...

I agree with seattlehotty also. I tried the forums but they just aren't as interesting to me as the open threads.

Unknown said...

Oh yes, the comments in the threads do provide a higher educated class of information like this gem one from March

biliruben said...


The open threads are collectivist mob-rule, with little intellectual heft, but minor, cheap entertainment. I guess there is an attraction to that. You can say anything you want, shout down dissent, and it's all gone tomorrow.

The forums, on the other hand, are enduring. They encourage more thought and have conseqences, as what you say has more permenance.

I guess it depends on what direction you want this blog to go.

Deejayoh said...

open threads ARE great for pissing matches, however.

Personally, now that I've figured out where to host images and how to post them in the forums, I feel like there's a lot more value there.

Terry said...


How DO you post images in the forums?

Matthew said...

I say let the free market decide. Have both, and the people that like the forums, can post in the forums. The people that like the open threads, can post in the open threads. If one of the two can't make it, obviously the people have spoken, and prefer one format over the other.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Here is what I like about the press. Just like the dot com bust, many people were speaking out trying to warn people. Then later when it went bust, the press acted like it was a shocker. And now they are doing it again. I was reading an article
2007-04-29-flippers_N.htm and the author said "But when home prices unexpectedly took a backward step" as if no one had heard of the housing bubble. Watch, this is what the Seattle press will be saying in a year or so. Even though the whole nation, all around Seattle was screaming about the housing bubble, Seattle acts as if it doesn't exist and will be terribly shocked when it does happen.

Comrade Chairman Greenspan said...

Yep. The press is now talking about sellers bringing their checkbooks to closing, just like in the last bust, except that was never going to happen again because it was different this time. Again.

Apparently they could learn a lot if they even read their own back issues.

Deejayoh said...

Terry said...

How DO you post images in the forums?

I use

you can upload a picture directly from your machine, and it gives you a bunch of ways to link it once it is posted.

Use the link in the last box - think it is titled "link directly to image"

Also, you don't have to give them an email address when you upload.

Terry said...



Unknown said...

I agree with Mikhail's hybrid approach, and was going to suggest it before I had read through this thread.

Setting up a news forum and locking the initial threads to correspond to each article posting and 'open thread' post allows front page exposure to the open threads and directs folks to use the forums.

Yes, everyone has to re-register for the forums but this seems like a small price to pay to be part of a very thoughtful niche community.

Matthew said...

oh open threads, how I miss thee!