In ancient Rome, a Forum “was a public square in a Roman municipium, or any civitas, reserved primarily for the vending of goods; i.e., a marketplace, along with the buildings used for shops and thestoas used for open stalls. Many fora were constructed at remote locations along a road by the magistrate responsible for the road, in which case the forum was the only settlement at the site and had its own name, such as Forum Popili or Forum Livi.“ (Wikipedia)
In modern Internet, a forum is also a gathering place, only without civility or common sense. As the years have passed, I have tried to participate in several forums for several interests, but without fail those forums degenerated into mediocrity, and I left.
The first internet forum I visited on a regular basis was Sidehill Salmon, a board for posting tips and hints for those who played the video game Quake III Arena. At first, like all forums, it was true to its calling, and contained information about playing the game. Soon though, other items began to creep in. Politics, mostly. By the time someone posted, “Check out this picture of Osama Bin Laden getting kicked in the junk,” I knew it was time to leave.
In 2000, I was encouraged to join a Yahoo! Group for my high school class, where my classmates and I posted stuff all the time. In one month (April 2001, just three months before our 20th reunion) we posted 3571 items. After the reunion, the number dropped precipitously, and I left the group about three years ago, when there were only 39 posts that year.
In the photography world, I enjoyed two forums, robgalbraith.com and pdnonline.com. Rob Galbraith sold his forum, and pdn switched to an amazingly stupid software setup and everyone left, most of us migrating to prophotoforums.com. That later died from lack of interest.
Somewhere around 2007, I got involved in another Yahoo! Group called “Canyons,” but one of the biggest contributors encouraged me to leave and join a new forum called Uutah.com. I did, and became a significant contributor. As the months and years went by, I made some friends on Uutah.com, which led to some great interactions.
A couple of years later, due to the threat of litigation, Uutah.com became the Bogley.com “outdoor forum.” From there, things seemed to go downhill. Since the forum was no longer just about Utah, it attracted an increasingly diverse group of internet users. Administrators, for reasons that never became clear to me, created a section called “The Basement,” which mostly housed political discussions. The fact that it was a separate section, however, made it easier to ignore.
The problem for me came when the “General Discussion” section became increasingly populated by posts about things other than the outdoors or Utah, particularly chat about video games. Every day there were notifications about new posts in General Discussion, but when I looked there, it was full of posts about Halo and World of Warcraft and Call of Duty and Gears of War and on and on. When I suggested that forum moderators created a separate section for video games, I was greeted with a cacophony of protests from those video gamers, some hateful, some very rude, and all telling me, a member of Bogley since it’s first year as Uutah.com, to mind my own damn business. “You don’t have to read them if you don’t want to.”
Bogley wasn’t an outdoor forum any more. It was a hodge-podge of political hate speech, animated gif files, and arguments about Grand Theft Auto IV vs Dragon Warrior II. I never wrote, or read, another post on Bogley.
To paraphrase an old quote:
“The only good forum is a dead forum.” ;-)
I do participate in several, but it’s increasingly difficult to steer past all the nonsense.
My second-biggest complaint is the same as yours: off-topic nonsense. If the forum is called “Canon DSLR User group”, why is there a topic called “Where Should I Go On My Next Vacation?” It should have been closed/deleted as soon as it was begun.
But my largest complaint is the repeated questions. Every forum in which I’ve actively participated has rules about searching first and posting in existing topics. For example, if you’re trying to decide between the 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2L, don’t start a new topic; it’s been asked and answered already.
But every day, someone starts a new topic, asking the same question again.
i must be honest: i often take joy from intentionally making people mad in forums. in my defense, i pick forums that pretty much began beyond rational thought (http://www.sportssuck.org/phpbb2/index.php). i like to think i played a small part in this forum’s moderators deciding to make the registration process harder. their decision has all but killed the post count at this already small community for a ridiculously obscure subject.
i believe i’m helping people overcome their asperger syndrome by presenting them with a conundrum. they can either get mad at me and respond with a wall of text (their tears are always delicious) or they can accept at least one of the many things in their lives they cannot control and move on. i am a method of growth.