Every online forum in which I participate has the same problem. An initial burst of enthusiasm is followed by a steady decline in the number of active participants. OAC is no exception. Can anything be done about it? Something I read in Fast Company suggests two approaches we have not yet considered, now being considered by Biz Stone and Ev Williams, the founders of Twitter. Here I will focus on one of them, the roundtable. Its mechanisms are easy to understand, and the format, omnipresent where I live in Japan, has also become popular on cable TV, in the form of talk shows.

The basic idea is simple. The moderators invite a small group of people to discuss a specified topic. A roundtable/talkshow is the antithesis of a seminar in which a single author makes a presentation on which other participants comment. It is not a panel discussion, in which multiple authors present and a single discussant discusses. The moderator's role is to set the topic, assemble the participants, and moderate the conversation, stepping in only to stimulate further discussion or prevent any one voice from becoming too dominant. 

Note what is going on here. The floor is not open for everyone to speak up—eliminating hit and run comments that derail the conversation. The conversation is moderated—which also helps to maintain focus. The key to success is the combination of an interesting topic with sufficient diversity of opinion within the small group and stimulating moderation to prevent monotony. 

That leaves the question what to do about others who might want to join the conversation but have not been invited to it. The answer is simple. Q&A at the end of the event or a running stream of comments beside it. Roundtable participants are free to address such comments. But the moderator is free to keep the discussion on track.

Read the article. Refine this analysis. Tell us what you think.

 

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Sounds like a good idea to me. Let's try it. What are the MOST popular topics on the OAC today? We could begin a roundtable about one of them. 

Hi John,

Well I am still here, I have been kept busy writing research papers over the past 6 weeks, so that's my excuse.However I am willing to try whatever it takes to get people interested and keep them interested.

Cheers 

Wayne

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