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Reorganizing subforums: thoughts and ideas


Dear Leader
Staff member
tl;dr: if there were just five or six planning-related subforums to cover the entire planning field (aside from the student, job/announcement and confidential subforums), what topic would each one cover?

Good practice for running a message board is to have fewer busy subforums, rather than a lot of less busy subforums.

When Cyburbia was getting 250-300 posts a weekday in the early 2000s, it was easy to justify a lot of subforums. Over the years, I've been consolidating less busy subforums into busier ones; for example, merging the Environmental Planning subforum into Make No Small Plans. Today, when we're getting about 90 to 120 posts a day, with about two-thirds in the Friday Afternoon Club (a good many of which are still "on-topic" planning-related), it's hard to justify more than five or six public "on-topic" subforums. There's now nine on-topic subforums., not counting Jobs and Announcements, or the two confidential subforums.

A lot of planning-related threads start in the Friday Afternoon Club, most likely because it's the busiest subforum. There's even a lot of planning threads embedded in the FAC's catchall Random Thoughts Deserving No Thread Of Their Own threads. I'd like to see more of those threads start in the on-topic Planning and Placemaking subforums, However, those subforums are slower moving than the FAC. This tells me there's a bit more consolidation I need to do. However, I don't want to go so far as to consolidate everything into just two subforums, like "Planning" and "FAC". It's hard to find a nice point between too granular and too general; broad enough to be busy but not so broad where the subforum listing stops halfway down the top of the browser window. The Economic and Community Development and Planning Technology subforums probably have to go, but where do we discuss those topics?

Another problem is what categories to use to minimize overlap, yet still make sense for new and long-time Cyburbians. For example, the Packet day or meeting day - what's worse? thread started in the FAC, but it's really more topical. It deals more with a quirk of the planning office workplace than a planning concept, though. Where does it go? Workplace and Careers, because it deals with the workplace? Current Planning, because it's part of planning administration? Make No Small Plans because it doesn't go anywhere else?

One thing I'm going to try to do is create a better system of thread prefixes, where they're a bit more specific than the forum topics, but not as granular and specific as they are now. That way, we'll have a better idea of that topics are most popular, and what topics seem to relate to each other better.

Do you have any ideas about taxonomy, like subforum organization or more specific thread prefix tags? What's your taxonomy of the planning field? For now, I'm going to trash most of the thread prefix tags, except those identifying threads from the old Environmental Planning subforum, and Student Lounge subtopics.



I always enter the forum through New Posts. If I want to start a new thread I'll look at the forum structure and take a guess where the best place to put a thread is. As long as there's a logical place to put things and a catch-all like the Friday Afternoon Club, I'm good.


Dear Leader
Staff member
For what it's worth, here's how the APA breaks it up. They have a few different classification schemes. They're more granular than what we use on Cyburbia.

AICP exam topics
  • Areas of practice
    • Comprehensive and sectoral planning (spatial planning, growth management, long range planning, general planning, regional planning, fiscal impact analysis, capital improvement planning, policy planning, tribal planning, governance structures)
    • Community, subarea, corridor, and neighborhood planning
    • Current planning (codes and regulations, zoning, plan review, design review, site planning)
    • Sustainability planning (sustainable processes, practices and outcomes, including environmental planning, economic planning, and equity planning)
    • Transportation planning (mobility and accessibility planning, land use and transportation demand, transportation modes, goods movement, ports, airports, intermodal, pedestrian, bicycle, transit, parking, and access equity)
    • Infrastructure planning (utilities, community facilities, energy, green and blue infrastructure, communications, waste, water and sewer, concurrency)
    • Hazards, mitigation, and resiliency planning (flooding, earthquake, wildfires, spills, brownfields, anti-terrorism, disaster preparedness planning)
    • Environmental and natural resources planning (air quality, climate change, environmental impact analysis, aquatic planning, agriculture, forestry, extraction, habitat, shoreline planning, environmental justice)
    • Economic development planning (community revitalization, economic analysis and forecasting, incentives, financing mechanisms, tourism, workforce development, business development, resiliency, shared economy, tax increment financing)
    • Urban design (place making, transit oriented development, walkability, mixed use, public realm, design guidelines, wayfinding, infill development)
    • Housing planning (homelessness, affordability, market analysis, policy, finance, fair housing, manufactured housing, micro-housing, universal design, co-housing, accessory dwelling units)
    • Parks, recreation, and open space (standards, incentives, greenways and trails, scenic resource, preservation, viewsheds, wildlife corridors, connectivity, conservation easements, transfer/purchase of development rights)
    • Historic and cultural resources planning (historic preservation, adaptive reuse, regulatory context, financing, cultural and heritage preservation, arts districts)
    • Institutional planning and siting (schools, universities/colleges, hospitals, jails and prisons, military bases, religious facilities)
    • Food planning (food security, access and justice, food production, food economies, food governance)
    • Health planning (active living, aging in place, environmental justice, health districts and service distribution, health impact assessment)
    • Rural and small town planning (rural economic development, main streets, natural resource protection, tourism, multi-jurisdictional relations, rural character and scale)
  • Plan making and implementation
    • Conducting research and acquiring knowledge (qualitative and quantitative research, research methods, precedents and examples, best practices, analysis and reporting, surveying)
    • Spatial analysis (GIS, mapping, interpretation)
    • Public engagement (participation methods, social media, strategies and tools, advocacy, outreach)
    • Communication (clear and understandable visual, written, and spoken concepts; building relationships; conducting meetings; media relations)
    • Preparing to plan (visioning, goal setting, identifying key issues, forecasting, legal context)
    • Formulating plans and policies (creating and evaluating alternatives, full range of impacts, plan presentation, policy analysis, building constituency, visualization techniques)
    • Plan implementation (codes and regulations, budgeting and finance, demonstration projects, decision making)
    • Monitoring and assessment (measures of performance, outcome indicators)
    • Project or program management (RFPs, RFQs, grants, preparing budgets, managing contracts, scheduling, allocating staff)
    • Social justice (planning for diverse or underserved communities, social empowerment)

American Planning Association Library Classification Scheme (APALCS)

There's a LOT, so I'll just link to it. Some possibilities for thread prefix tags in there, though.

Reddit /r/urbanplanning flair

One thing to remember about /r/urbanplanning - it's really more of an pop urbanism/NUMTOT discussion group, with almost no discussion about day-to-day planning practice. Discussion focuses heavily on transportation (hooray trains), housing (news flash: housing is expensive in NYC and San Francisco), and urban sprawl (boo T1 to T4, hooray T5 and T6) with a strong social justice bent.
  • Community development
  • Discussion
  • Economic development
  • Education
  • Jobs
  • Land use
  • Sustainability
  • Transportation
  • Urban design
They're missing some core aspects of planning practice, like IT and day-to-day practice. They also don't have a flair that's equivalent to general cities and places discussion.

CityLab topics

CityLab, both the Atlantic and Bloomberg versions, isn't so much a planning site as it is an urbanism blog.
  • Design
  • Culture
  • Transportation
  • Environment
  • Economy
  • Housing
  • Justice
  • Government
Planetizen subtopics

It's hard to find all of them without clicking on a bunch of articles.

Themes in urban planning scholarship

From The Most Frequently Cited Topics in Urban Planning Scholarship by Thomas W. Sanchez
  • Analysis
  • Change
  • Cities
  • Community
  • Design
  • Development
  • Economic
  • Engagement
  • Environmental
  • Global
  • Governance
  • Hazards
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Impacts
  • Land Use
  • Local
  • Management
  • Neighborhood
  • Planning
  • Policy
  • Public
  • Regional
  • Social
  • Spatial
  • Sustainable
  • Systems
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Urban


Staff member
I think I would merge Cities and Places into Design and the Built Environment. They are not too far apart now in terms of subject matter.
I would merge Community and Economic Development into Current Planning, Zoning, and Regulation. ED is one of the four main areas of practice for many, many planners, in my experience.
Last, I would probably move Planning Technology into Make No Small Plans. The sub forum might have some specific narrow meaning to some planners, and a different, broader definition to others. In any event, it has the fewest threads, so it’s not like it moving would hurt a high-performer and frustrate a lot of users.

That’s my $0.02. About what it’s probably worth, as well.


Dear Leader
Staff member
Trying this for a taxonomy of thread topics for the "on-topic" forums, with the intent of seeing what's out there, and what to consider for forum consolidation.

010 Agriculture
020 Architecture
030 Careers
040 Certification
050 Change
060 Communication
070 Community development
080 Comp planning
090 Conservation
100 Construction
110 Culture
120 Development
130 Development review
140 Economic development
150 Enforcement
160 Engagement
170 Environment
180 Equity / justice
190 Geography
200 GIS / spatial
210 Governance
220 Growth
230 Health
240 History
250 Housing
260 Humor
270 Infrastructure
275 Internet
280 Land use
290 Landscape
300 Mobility
310 Natural resources
320 Neighborhoods
330 News
340 Organizations
350 Parks
360 People
370 Places
380 Planning: general
390 Preservation
400 Project management
410 Rant
420 Regulation
430 Research
450 Rural
460 Signs
470 Site design
480 Streets / roads
490 Subdivision
500 Sustainability
510 Technology
520 Transportation
530 Urban design
540 Urbanism
545 Water / hydrology
550 Working
560 Zoning

(The fives were afterthoughts.)

Any suggestions?

I'm also to find a way to let regular non-moderator users edit threads to add prefixes.
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Dear Leader
Staff member
So, a couple of ideas, inspired by @Gedunker.

Somewhat more compact: from 16 to 11

Planning and Placemaking subs
  • [New subforum for articles, when XenForo 2.2 is released]
  • Make No Small Plans (absorbing Economic Development, and relevant Transportation Planning and Planning Technology threads)
  • Current Planning and Administration (absorbing a lot of Planning Technology threads)
  • Built Environment and Urban Design (absorbing relevant Transportation Planning threads, and maybe older Environmental Planning-related threads)
  • Cities and Places
  • Workplace and Careers
  • Student Union
  • Safe Space for Planners (merge Safe Space for Planners and Confidential Career Issues, keep as private / permission required) (They will still have a no snark/gossip rule in them, so they're not a "cool kid's club".)
  • Jobs and Announcements
Cyburbia Community subs
  • Friday Afternoon Club (absorbing Book Club and Fantasy Football, but using thread prefixes so participants can see relevant threads and fitler out everything else)
  • About Cyburbia
Also, it would involve moving Planning Technology threads to the most appropriate subforum, and moving some other old threads as we come across them.

Very compact: from 16 to 9

Planning and Placemaking subs
  • [New subforum for articles]
  • [General planning subforum] (merge Make No Small Plans, Economic Development, Transportation Planning, Current Planning, and Planning Technology)
  • Cities, Places, and the Built Environment (merge Design and the Built Environment, Cities and Places, some Transportation Planning threads, and some relevant threads in other subforums)
  • Workplace and Careers
  • Student Union
  • Safe Space for Planners (merge Safe Space for Planners and Confidential Career Issues, keep as private / permission required)
  • Jobs and Announcements
Cyburbia Community subs
  • Friday Afternoon Club (absorbing Book Club and Fantasy Football)
  • About Cyburbia

I'm thinking the "somewhat more compact" scheme, and see where that goes.
Dan and Moderators:

If you're looking to meaningfully combine the (1) Planning Technology and (2) Transportation Planning sub-forums into one sub-forum:
They both fall under the category (of a planning major) that has a relatively new term: "Cross-Cutting".

A 3rd broad topic that falls under "Cross-Cutting":
Regional, Multinational, and Global Planning. (This is according to MIT's Dept. of Urban Planning, and others.)

A 4th--newest--"Cross-Cutting" topic was coming to formation for some time, and was recognized by the APA in 2019-2020 as a topic for which planners must receive additional (AICP) credits:
Social Justice in planning. (Huge category includes equity, diversity & inclusion, feedback systems, governance, ethics, etc.)

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