Fun Forums

Isn’t it great when you discover a new forum of experts asking and answering questions? Here, I discovered another one: Tapers’ Section. Unfortunately posts are visible only to members. I’ve also been hanging out at dvinfo, a great forum of professional video producers. (There’s several others I could recommend, but this is more than enough to keep you happy).

Now that I bought a Nokia 770 (thank you, Allstate!), I’m now following their forums closely. And when I get back into Zope (don’t worry Nate–it’s going to happen someday!), I’m sure I’ll be following their mailing lists as well. (Here’s the things I’ve tagged with a forum delicous tag).
One cool thing about forum technology is that they’ve improved their features. Did you know that in many of the php-based forums you can save/subscribe to posts. You can also subdivide forums into subforums and subsubforums, and CSS sliding boxes let you input your search term without having having to go to a separate page.

Blogs and community sites offer commenting opportunities, but it’s a different atmosphere. The website owner is constantly having to rebut criticisms and duck barbs, and there’s always one damn fool who will go off on some tangent and just make the blogpost unreadable (In contrast, in a forum, a troller will simply post their rants without receiving a single comment.

The first forum I really followed was gentoo, back in the days when I believed the cold enema theory of technology (if it doesn’t hurt, it ain’t good for you). The guys were good, but some evenings I would go to sleep praying that some generous genius in another time zone would come to my rescue. When I awoke, I would anxiously go to my post and discover that no one had responded. Self-recriminations. Did I make the question sound too complicated? Did I not provide enough information? Did the post reek of newbiedom? Was my post a tad verbose?

Following forums can be engrossing, educational and yes, a total waste of time. Sometimes you just search again, hoping against hope that someone has actually tried your Sony microphone with an iriver and knows what the problem is. The real question though is: why would a really smart person bother? You go to a forum when you need information and/or ignorant. Believe me, I try to answer questions on these forums whenever I am able. More often that not though, I am the one asking the questions–the so-called freeloader.

Every once in a while I’ve tested some forum software and been tempted to start a forum. The only problem is: nobody comes to say anything. The underlying problem is that I have no special information or territory that surfers want to learn about. If I wrote a plugin for a piece of software, a forum might work (they even work for commercial software). Of course, there is registration. Who wants to register for yet another site? But the other problem is having something that somebody would actually want to say something about. Yes, I’ve seen bloggers create separate forums for their blog (or something similar in the form of “open threads”). That’s good, but it must be fatiguing to have to follow everything.

International note: apparently forums are THE method of grassroots reporting in China. I’m too lazy to look it up. The Chinese government controls the actual news sites very strictly; however the forums are not as strictly (or as quickly) moderated, so it’s quite easy for readers to follow their favorite poster over time. Apparently, some forum posters have attracted quite a following already. The  dangers are obvious.  Forum posts are stored in a database and can be easily deleted en masse. Chinese journalists must surely have other ways to preserve their content.