There are a number of ways to tackle the index page of your community. It’s about showcasing your content and your members and that can be pretty flexible. Different approaches have different benefits and work well, depending on your audience and situation.

The traditional list of forums can work well. Another popular one is showing some of the recent topics or some featured topics. That can work, too. Options are a good thing and I’d love to see activity streams become an option for more platforms, either as a default feature that you can turn on or off or as a hack or add-on.

By an activity stream, what I meant is a stream of popular or relevant content, tailored to the individual viewing it based on numerous factors, including the popularity of the content within the community, based on views, replies and likes or some other measurement and content that has been interacted with by community members that they have chosen to “friend” or “follow.”

The personalization requires the integration of features that your community may or may not already have. For example, some platforms already have a “buddies” feature of some kind and some allow people to “like” a post, as a microinteraction. Not a Facebook like, but a simple like within the community. Some platforms don’t, however, and the factoring of likes isn’t really a requirement for this to work.

Consider how Facebook decides what to display in your News Feed on their platform. It’s based on EdgeRank, a somewhat mysterious algorithm that, among other things, is based on the relationship between the poster of the content and the viewer and how often they interact, the type of interaction that is being shared (comments might have more weight than likes, for example) and a time decay factor, where older content slides off the page.

Would this be very server intensive? That’s a great question. I’m not the best person to answer that. I come up with concepts or ideas I like, that may or may not already be in use. It’s for the programmers and hosting experts to bring it back down to earth. I suspect, however, that there are already some platforms that may offer this, either built-in or as an add-on.

What if the person viewing the activity stream has a low friend count or no friends at all? Or what if they are logged out? In those cases, the stream would fill in more with content that is generally popular on your community, overall. In that way, it might be like a recent topics feed, but perhaps it might work better for some because it would be an evolving list based on what is hot now, not a list of topics displayed chronologically.

In other words, the new members and guests will still be delivered a high quality experience and will be given insight into what your community is talking about at the moment.

Finally, how about if you don’t have a lot of activity? Or if you are a small community? Personally, I think it could still be very beneficial. You might just go without likes and factor it based on replies and views, so as to better focus interactions. It can show more generally popular content, but if you have a few friends on the community, you can also personalize the experience and have it show you a mix of content that is generally popular – and popular just with your friends.

Even if you were to do something like this, you still need to provide a visible, easy and comprehensive way for people to navigate your community and find the content that may not be “popular” right now, since most of it won’t be. So, you still need the list of forums or sections.

I’m not saying that this is for everyone or that everyone should run out and do it. For some, a list of sections may work best. For others, recent topics or some combination of all of this. But, it may be worth testing and it would be interesting to see it rolled out on more communities.