As a tech startup builder, I’m intensely studying online communities — what makes good ones work, why do others fail.
As a runner, I have insanely detailed questions and some geeky answers to share and I need an online community to fill that need.
Message boards are the standard solution for this type of community and they work pretty well in many cases. I began my search at CoolRunning.com, which is part of active.com, which does a lot of race registrations. The community there is pretty good, but the design of the system suffers from a major flaw:
No subscriptions for thread updates.
As a thread starter, you can get email subscriptions, but not if you reply. The net effect of this is you end up joining discussions, dropping some knowledge and then never coming back.
I gave it a good effort, but I had to look elsewhere and now I go to the forums at Runner’s World instead because they have a good notification options available.
The lesson for site builders and administrators here is: Make notifications and subscriptions (RSS + Email) an option everywhere imaginable and enable it early on.