Building a community
I would like a forum where members could introduce themselves and perhaps discuss more general topics. Just deciding to follow someone without introducing yourself seems a bit rude. I don't know what other people think?
By the looks of their 'user stream' page, it would seem they're trying to build their own social functionality directly into the site, as opposed to introducing third-party forum technology like Mybb or phpBB.
Personally speaking, I feel it would be far easier (and much more secure) implementing their own plugins and themes into an already built forum system (like the ones mentioned) rather than trying to build everything from scratch, but their plans are their own and beta is beta.
@Beardy Ah, yes, and I forgot that people might not have their learning-a-language username on a phpBB forum.
It should be fairly simple to link the users' data (which would also include all of their progress data) into a forum system. Having that data linked into the forum system where-by people could log your progress from both places would be pretty neat. It's unfortunate your answer has been down-voted.
@Beardy: I guess the point is that this is not intended to be a bulletin board, but rather a question-and-answer system as some other websites have (most popular and probably the best implementation on programmer’s website stackoverflow.com).
Moreover, knowing a bit about language processing and doing web development myself I guess that there is a hell of a lot of processing behind the board which you cannot implement easily into an existing system. Of course there are plugin systems, but there are still problems and often it”s easier to write something with your own data structure from scratch.
I do not know what duolingo does exactly with the board, but I can imagine they analyze much about it in the background and use it for displaying porposes (or will use it). E.g. your interests, the ratings, your language knowledge, your skils… (to display best matching threads on top).
Excuse me if this is all stuff you already know about.
The community system would be separate from this question/answer system, as the two hold completely separate purposes.
I'm not suggesting an entire rewrite of the system, just a separate community system where the users can interact with one-another in a public environment. The forum would simply take the data already gathered by the main app (which I highly assume is stored in a database, and thus shouldn't be that hard to use elsewhere) and display it compactly into the forum for other users to view (such as on the users' profile page).
As documented in this cavalcade of "@user's", this system really isn't meant for interaction, and thus a forum would be ideal for users to interact with other users in a better suited environment. This question/answer system could still be used for questions specifically regarding the site.