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On the Changing Role of Online Forums? 74

Posted by Cliff
from the wikis-weblogs-and-forums--can't-they-all-just-get-along dept.
RighteousRaven asks: "I am doing a study on online forums and their place in a changing Internet environment. For the purpose of this study, I am considering that a forum has two roles: a social hub for people with some commonality, and a repository of information related to that commonality. Previously, forums were the best sources of information on the internet, from motorcycle maintenance to videogame modding, you could learn a lot from a forum. However, with Wikis dominating the internet as dense and highly-searchable information repositories, forums are becoming purely social with no utility beyond personal expression or companionship. Can forums exist on a purely social level? What shortcomings endanger the forum's future, and what characteristics have allowed it to survive so far? Why do we need forums in the first place?"
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On the Changing Role of Online Forums?

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  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:37PM (#16004497) Homepage Journal
    The "purely social" aspect you're referring to is known as "collaboration" and "discussion". It's how the information that ends up in a wiki is developed. Without forums, wikis wouldn't exist. And without wikis, forums slowly lose their potency under a mountain of repeated questions and discussions.

    It's a symbiotic relationship, not an either/or. :)
    • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @11:28PM (#16004723)
      And without wikis, forums slowly lose their potency under a mountain of repeated questions and discussions.

      Thats not true, Slashdot doesn't have a wiki and I still laugh when I see repeated jokes about

      • goatse
      • sharkes with laserbeams
      • in soviet russia
      • Microsoft
      • Vista
      • Profit
      • chairthrowing
      • welcoming overloards
      • Microsoft
      • Duke Nukem Forever
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You forgot Microsoft.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kevlarman (983297)
        -does it run linux -imagine a beowulf cluster -microsoft -any reference to girlfriends -all your base
      • by Nanpa (971527)
        And I for one welcome our new goatse loving, sharkes with laserbeams peddling, Soviet Era Russian, Microsoft Shareholding, Vista Programming, profitmaking chair throwing overloads, who still manage to work on Duke Nukem Forever just for us, their loyal fans.
      • by ccarson (562931)
        I frequent a forum and have grown close to friends there. I think it's turned into a great place for people to vent and share things found on and off the net. It's more like a social family more than anything.

        I predict social forums will continue to evolve and become more mainstream. Look at myspace. Its popularity is based on the interesting content that people post as well as the networking available. There will always be a niche for smaller versions of myspace where people like to call home.
      • Well, I for one welcome our new wiki overlords.
      • by Walenzack (916393)
        Well, in fact Slashdot HAS a wiki [wikipedia.org], or at least an entry in it :)

  • by pimpimpim (811140) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:50PM (#16004554)
    Wikis are fine as a knowledge database when the problems you have can be solved in a well-known way. Giving reference info in a forum is a bit more difficult, you could make 'sticky topics', but the info will get outdated, someone needs to keep track of it and update it. There it would be the best to put a wiki in. But if you are doing motorbike maintenance, or setting up a new router, unexpected things might happen and you often need information that can not be put in a certain form, and discussing this on a forum is the best way to solve the problem.

    Another difference between forums and wikis is that in forums it always remains clear who contributed what, and who has a certain expertise on a certain area. This gives a larger sense of community. As it's rather difficult to browse the history of a wiki, you'll hardly ever find out any personal approach/speciality for a certain wiki-user. Furthermore, chit-chatting in a wiki is difficult as well, and it's too easy for someone to pull a prank on someone else. I have a bit of a bias to forums on this point, though (as moderator in a reasonably large DSL forum).

    I'd say, let wikis and forums live side by side, happily ever after.

    • by The Snowman (116231) * on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @11:45PM (#16004792) Homepage

      I agree. I find that wikis are more like FAQs. People collaborate to explain a topic and answer common processes, questions, and issues. However, we've all been in a bind where we have some esoteric problem that no FAQ in the universe cannot answer: by the very nature of the problem, it is not "Frequent" enough. Forums are a great place to discuss these issues. Another advantage is talking about new developments, discussing rumors about the future. E.g. a new motorcycle coming out, a new game, new software patch, etc. before it is released. In a way this is social bantering about junk that doesn't really matter in a practical way, it's just a bunch of guys talking about what they'd like to see in a product, or speculation. It doesn't belong in a wiki, but can be useful nonetheless. A beginner can read a discussion like this and gain some insight into the topic -- what do people like or dislike about a product or process? How does an experienced user think? What do they find useful?

      As you said, the two will live together. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and each has its place.

  • There's always going to be a place for forums and wikis, even if the introduction of the latter makes aspects of the former somewhat redundant.

    Forums are important because it provides a way of gleaning multiple opinions from distinct individuals, in direct response to a particular issue. Wikis are good at giving a group consensus opinion, but they're a poor way of showing someone all sides of an issue. The false "NPOV" perspective that an author has to take when writing a wiki is the same problem faced when you're reading a paper written by a committee; it's entirely possible that fallacious or spurious arguments get given improper weight because of efforts to appear 'neutral,' or that good but unpopular viewpoints are left out because of groupthink and self-censorship.

    These problems may still happen in forums, but it's a lot easier when people can respond individually and don't have edit rights on each others work to give dissenting opinions. It's also easier to ask a particular question and get a particular answer; wikis are great for developing generalized reference, but they're a poor way to answer questions in a back-and-forth format. I've always felt that forums (aka Wikipedia's discussion pages) done through Wikis feel like a hack. With a forum, you can ask one question and get a dozen answers from a dozen distinct individuals; with a wiki you may not have an opportunity to ask a particular question, and instead you really have "one answer" (the entire document) which might or might not answer a lot of questions.

    Thus I think they'll always be a place for both. Where Wikis may take over (and rightly so) are places where forums are being used as document repositories, for collective opinions. E.g., the "sticky" posts you see at the top of many forums, giving answers to frequently asked questions.

    I'm still waiting for someone to develop a true combination of wiki and forum; maybe it's out there and I just haven't seen it yet, but I think neither extreme really does the job of the other well. A combination, maybe of wiki-type pages with attached discussion forums, would be best, and the two are really complementary, not exclusive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      The false "NPOV" perspective that an author has to take when writing a wiki is the same problem faced when you're reading a paper written by a committee

      Spoken like someone who has either been burned by Wikipedia or upset that their school paper didn't want to carry their Liberatrian / Green Party rant.

      Not all wikis strive for, or should strive for, a neutral point of view. The good ones tend to present information in an otherwise unbiased view, true, but that's not necessarily NPOV. Its more akin to how y
      • Actually, no.

        But I think the "NPOV" (or any 'neutral' or 'group consensus') perspective is almost always artificial; nobody actually has a 'neutral point of view,' so you're inherently striving for a finished product that cannot represent the entire opinion of any single person. In some situations -- where you actually want to form or represent some sort of consensus -- this can be a good thing. I've contributed to Wikipedia and I think it's useful in this way. (Actually I think it's amusing that you think I'm WP-bashing, since in other contexts I've been accused of fanboyism.)

        However, I stand by my assertion that a Wiki page which is open to public edits, or for that matter a committee-written white paper, really isn't the best way of showing off the complexities of a particular issue and capturing the various differing opinions. It's the difference between original sources (actually hearing various opinions on an issue from the people that hold them, in their own voices) and a secondary one, where the various sources have been amalgamated together. Even if all the factual information in each is retained somehow, much of the tone and contextual information is still lost. It is, in short, like a lossy compression method. Sometimes it may be desirable, but its lossiness should be noted.

        Sometimes a wiki can be handy; they're great for getting an overview of a particular issue, and of the various parties involved. But on a contentiously debated subject, there is almost always some watering down of the arguments on either side in order to produce 'neutrality,' not to mention the impossible-to-remove author/editor bias, and thus there is still (and always will be) a place for discussion forums where a consensus-derived product is not the goal, but rather individual opinions are more valuable.

        And I think groupthink is a significant problem; put people in a group and there is a strong tendency to discourage and suppress viewpoints which are disharmonious, even if they are sometimes factually correct. This is a greater problem when people are working together in person than collaborating online (since people, in my experience, are much more willing to self-censor in person to prevent confrontation than when psuedonymous), but it's naive to pretend that it doesn't exist.
    • by DrEasy (559739)

      I'm still waiting for someone to develop a true combination of wiki and forum; maybe it's out there and I just haven't seen it yet, but I think neither extreme really does the job of the other well. A combination, maybe of wiki-type pages with attached discussion forums, would be best, and the two are really complementary, not exclusive.

      I'm not a MediaWiki user, but isn't that what their "discussion" tab is for? One could imagine running a forum using MediaWiki where each new thread corresponds to a new wi

      • That's the purpose of the discussion tab, but the problem that I have with it is that it tries to use the Wiki interface and style to do threaded discussions. It works OK, but can you imagine trying to have a Slashdot-like discussion through one? Or even a moderately high-traffic discussion, where you want to go back and forth between multiple users in near-real-time? It wouldn't work very well. (You'd run into problems with who is editing the page at any given time, for starters.)

        It's a hack, basically. Wh
    • ..since you can send email (or setup a forum) to the wiki. every email becomes a wikipage so you can edit that page and it becomes the 'report' or 'summary' of the discussion.
    • by Mandrel (765308)

      Wikis are good at giving a group consensus opinion, but they're a poor way of showing someone all sides of an issue.

      MakeTheCase.net [makethecase.net] uses a two-column Wiki to show pro and con cases for controversial topics alongside each other. In this way each case progressively improves as they face off.

      Each topic has an attached forum for discussion, and the Wiki cases can be viewed at multiple levels of detail, allowing some to get a quick overview of the main issues, and for others to use it as a "forum memory"

  • by gregmac (629064) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:54PM (#16004575) Homepage
    There are many many forums that are basically the "center" of a community that revolves around a piece or collection of software. Often the forums are very active, and most questions are answered very quickly. These places are a great resource, and definately a nicer interface than mailing lists (and their archives) for essentially the same type of thing.

    The problem with forums is once they get 'big', it becomes incredibly hard to keep things organized, and as a user - especially a new user - hard to make sense of it. Often when you ask questions, you'll be pointed to another thread that has the solution. These threads can often be several pages long, with the original question at the top of page 1, an initial solution on page 2, some follow-up problems on page 3, and more solutions to those as you read through. The result is that instead of being able to go and get the full (and current) solution to the problem, you end up having to spend a great deal of time reading through the steps everyone else took when the thread was active, as well as all the off-shoot discussion that takes place around it ("Yeah, I have the same problem.." "My error message is different, I see...."). No one from the original thread bothers to summarize the steps at the end (since for them, it's all fresh in their mind as they've spent the last few days or whatever posting to the thread), and in fact, to do so would probably be considered annoying.

    Wikis can provide that initial solution, then mould it over time into a fully working solution, while still maintaining a history of changes - if you want to see it. As a user, wikis are virtually always easier to find information in than a forum.

    What I haven't seen is a wiki that has a really good forum built-in, especially something that would post the changes to the wiki in the thread as it was changed (so when you look at it later on, you see a couple posts, then the wiki modification, with links to that revision, as well as a diff from the previous revision).
    • by Walenzack (916393)
      Well, I don't think that's a "con" in my PROs-CONs list :)

      What you're getting when you're pointed to another thread, 6 pages long, is a hell of a lot of FREE EXPERIENCE. I mean, 10-20 minutes of reading and you'll find yourself knowing:

      • The solution to YOUR problem
      • How to evade OTHER problems that may arise
      • More solutions for different scenarios
      • Last but not least, HOW that solutions were found.

      You know, it's good to learn from your own errors; but learning from others' errors is good as well and saves you t

  • Oh, the irony (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:55PM (#16004586) Journal
    However, with Wikis dominating the internet as dense and highly-searchable information repositories, forums are becoming purely social with no utility beyond personal expression or companionship. Can forums exist on a purely social level? What shortcomings endanger the forum's future, and what characteristics have allowed it to survive so far? Why do we need forums in the first place?

    The irony here is just too thick. If you really have these sort of doubts, why "Ask Slashdot"?

    Why not put up a wiki to let people thrash out the answer there? Or ask your dentist? Or toss some yarrow? But no, of all the possible ways you could have approached the question, the one you decided on was submitting it to a web forum.

    On the plus side, I doubt if you're going to get any "google is your friend" responses with this one.

    --MarkusQ

    • by discord5 (798235)

      If you really have these sort of doubts, why "Ask Slashdot"?

      So we can all stick our noses in the air, act all high and mighty, and tell the poster to do a little more research on some search engine. After that we generally wear our monocles and top hats and feel king of the nerd-universe for about a day.

      But no, of all the possible ways you could have approached the question, the one you decided on was submitting it to a web forum.

      Not just any forum mind you, one filled with nerds, geeks, trolls and op

    • After an emergency room Dr. informs you that the vicious headache and stroke level blood pressure that brought you into his ER is good news " It's a brain tumor called a Meningioma and they are usually benign...here is a pain RX...see your primary for follow up"! GOOGLE definitely IS your friend. After following that line for a day or two, let me tell you, the existence of Forums from Brigham Women's, American Brain Tumor Association and various other major brain tumor treatment centers are not only usef
  • Online forum (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr_Tulip (639140) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:56PM (#16004589) Homepage
    Forum, Noun:
            * a public meeting or assembly for open discussion
            * assembly, meeting place (a public facility to meet for open discussion)

    I'd say, from the definition, that a forum appears to be a public meeting place for open discussion, not an archive of knowledge.. just coz it's online, doesn't make it any different.

    An online forum as a repository of knowledge is a side-effect of searchable online content, not the main purpose of a forum.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:57PM (#16004598) Journal
    If forums would bloom into their next generation, you would be amazed. Firstly everyone needs to label their group: Political Party, Religion, Sex, Prolife/choice and all the things that divide us. Secondly the moderation system similar to Slashdot be used, but with no cap on the high or low the piece to be moderated. Now when you browse the moderated forum, you can see the highs for your demographic, instead of the general populace! In fact, you'll be able to find popular authors as they'll be modded up often. These authors could be the next leaders in various fields such as politics if the forums become large enough. Of course someone would have to code forums like that, and they'd have to become popular first before people start trying to build an image on them. I went over next generation forums very briefly here, I hope I don't confuse too many people.
    • If you're not trolling (and I suspect you aren't) then I truly feel sorry for you.

      Firstly everyone needs to label their group: Political Party, Religion, Sex, Prolife/choice and all the things that divide us.

      No, actually we don't. That would be a horrendous idea, as it would only act to prejudice anybody reading our words, which are reflections of our thoughts. Forcing us all to rigidly choose polar-opposite sides on contentious matters is fundamentally wrong. I may associate myself with a certain p
  • Born in 1990... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:57PM (#16004605)
    Previously, forums were the best sources of information on the internet, from motorcycle maintenance to videogame modding, you could learn a lot from a forum.
    ...by "forum", did you mean "usenet"? (Or even, "newsgroups"?)
    However, with Wikis dominating the internet as dense and highly-searchable information repositories, forums are becoming purely social with no utility beyond personal expression or companionship.
    Wiki = highly searchable? Hmmm...never used one tied to MySQL's default "full text search", have you?
    • by borodir (98612) *
      and by "with wikis dominating the internet..." dominating? Maybe Wikipedia is dominating the uncitable, non-peer reviewed references that everyone uses, but in other forms, Wikis are often highly lacking and suck.
    • by Mattwolf7 (633112)
      Not trying to detract from your statement, but if you are interested wiki's have been doing some new cool stuff:

      For example http://gentoo-wiki.com [gentoo-wiki.com]

      It has search as you type, and if you click the search button it does do a full text search
  • Forums is some sort of a middle ground. It provides social interaction between multiple entities and at the same time retain that information. Other types of collaboration and information sharing exists to provide more of the other sides of the middle ground. If you want slow changing, reliable information, we have the wikis/encyclopedias. If you want fast pure communication, we have a number of chat services. But those other types of collaboration and information sharing answers their respective sides only
  • I think forums are and always have been primarily a place for a social community, but I think they still serve as a great place to find and discuss information, get help, and find the answers you're looking for. On my forums [digitallywise.com] people use the tech forum all the time to get help with their computers or ask advice about something.
  • I've administered a music oriented forum which has been working since 1999 (watmm.com, used to be joyrex.com, not linked, not my intention to spam, but if you really must visit be my guest) and the purpose of the forum certainly has changed many times over that period. For the first few years it was pretty much on-subject matter (it started out as a fan site for Richard D James) picked up a lot of members during the first couple of years, faced competition from similar fan sites, engaged in site wars for a
  • by gsn (989808)
    Remarkably even the Wikis have a discussion page which is basically a forum for the article. Also if you had a specific tech support question which isn't dealt with in the instructions (which you could have on your wiki page) then you are going to have to resort to a forum.

    The above is true even if the forums in question don't have a social aspect.

     
    • Wiki "forum" part is lacking.It just can't compete,even with most primitive forum software.Forum/wiki needs:
      A integrated Content Management System where users can upload resources,change/write articles and have individual discussion forums for each articles.Wikipedia only has image uploading and it requires manual archives to be kept.Plus wikipedia talk page can be edited by anyone(which dhould be changed to adding new pages).
    • by dave1g (680091)
      I dont like that the discussion pages on wikipedia are themselves wikis. These should be plain old forums.
  • information.

    We need both.

    • Exactly! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560)
      This may be the best, simplest answer to the whole question. As fluid as a Wiki's content is, the basic idea is still you sucking down info from a site. Forums are a multidirectional exchange of info with other human beings.

      There is also the purely social aspect of a forum will never be replaced by a Wiki, simply because you don't have to be trying to write a reference book when you post to a forum. You can post to a board for your favorite (TV show/scientist/actor/religion/historical period/political s
  • by fotbr (855184)
    Not everyone likes wikis.

    Slightly off-topic semi-rant: Why does it seem like most open-source projects have abandoned the idea of documentation for a wiki? Is it just because we developers are lazy and figure if we put up a wiki, we won't have to do any documentation because we think users will write the documentation for us? Or did I miss some great open-source revelation that thou shalt use wiki? Maybe I just misplaced that memo.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LincolnQ (648660)
      Why does it seem like most open-source projects have abandoned the idea of documentation for a wiki? Is it just because we developers are lazy and figure if we put up a wiki, we won't have to do any documentation because we think users will write the documentation for us? Or did I miss some great open-source revelation that thou shalt use wiki? Maybe I just misplaced that memo.

      I don't think this is the case -- I think it's natural evolution. Wikis are essentially "open source documentation." I think general
      • by fotbr (855184)
        Fair enough. But when somewhat large projects can't be bothered to put together documentation other than a wiki, it doesn't fly well with some people who are used to having an admin guide or user guide (even if its PDF), which, in turn, hinders the adoption of open source.
      • An ASCII text file or man page will stick with a program as long as it's distributed.

        A wiki will only last as long as its hosting service.

        I prefer the former.
  • ever on slashdot?
  • IRC vs IM (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I seem to recall this same argument 10 years ago in relation to IRC vs IM clients. In the end IRC survives. They serve uniquely different purposes.
  • Forums are fine when there is a small number of focused participants. Once the user base expands beyond some unknown critical point, the newer, and generally less-internet experienced, users invariably dilute the value of the forum. This is where the forum noise comes from: useless replies in threads that are simply "LOL" (or some other AOLbonics) or a long string of smilies, unnecessarily long and image bloated signatures, which lead to the inevitable "off topic" section of the forum.

    I understand the

  • I decided to use a wiki instead.
  • This guy says "Wikis dominating the internet as dense and highly-searchable information repositories". Bollocks. I have a few dozen forums in my bookmarks, on all kinds of subject areas I vist when I need to. NONE of them have Wikis. Most have collections of articles, some better organised than others, that usually began as posts.

    He also never seems ot have heard of Usenet, and the FAQs that are the ancestors of the Wiki idea. Most FAQs have permamnent homes on web pages now, as opposed to periodic posting

  • IMO, wiki's are a place to store somewhat structured information, a reference guide if you will

    I go to forums to read more free flowing,'interactive' discussions and entertaining flame wars
  • I assume you're looking at this from an American point of view. In China, BBSs still rule, and wikis are still trying to catch on [flickr.com] (cf blocking of Wikipedia by the government).

    Invent your own cultural rationale for that one.

  • Following up (Score:2, Interesting)

    The responses thus far have been very helpful, so thank you. I'd like to do a bit of a summary and try to focus some of the discussion:

    It seems that wikis are the prefered source of information (with some exceptions), but at the same time most people feel that wikis are not competing with forums at all. This seems to be related to the fact that wikis are predictive while forums are responsive. Forums are where the information is created, but the created information is in an inconvenient format for consump
    • by slashmojo (818930)
      Naturally, there are many ways to heirarchically structure the same information (by topic, by geography, by time), but a forum is forced to commit to only one.

      Not any more.. forums are not forced to only one these days since things like topic tagging are taking hold (even here on slashdot!), enabling forum users to build a folksonomy which can completely change the hierarchical structure to suit the user and the data and can easily co-exist with existing structures. Check out http://www.boards.ie/ [boards.ie] and ht [boardtracker.com]
    • by simong_oz (321118)
      Importantly, you seem to have completely missed usenet, and newsgroups in general (the original "forum"), from your point of view. Usenet is still one of the best places to get detailed, expert information on specific topics/questions.
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @01:58AM (#16005283) Homepage
    It's about herpes simplex. The forum operates at several levels and, in my opinion, is not replaced by a wiki in any significant way. People find us for two main reasons. One is that they are looking for information and the other is that they are looking for support. The result is a true virtual community with a few current members dating back to 1995 or early 1996 when the forum went "on the air". People confronting a health issue like this often feel alone due to the extremely unfair stigma attached to this most common virus. IMO the single most valuable service we provide is that a new person discovers that they are not alone and that there are lots of people out there, just like them, that are dealing with the same situation. For the record, the infection rate for the virus "below the belt" is about 25%. Overall, including cold sores, the same virus, the percentage rises to around 80% by adulthood.

    To answer the questions, "Can forums exist on a purely social level?"
    Absolutely. I participate in a couple of other forums that are entirely social. We discuss almost everything about our lives from sex to automobile repair. People come and go, but overall it's been a relatively stable group of diverse people from across the US, Canada, Australia and Korea, with a couple other countries represented from time to time. The ages represented range from early 20's to several folks around my age.. 50s and 60s. I really enjoy that it brings demographically, geographically and economically diverse people together in a way that would probably not happen in real life.

    What shortcomings endanger the forum's future, and what characteristics have allowed it to survive so far?
    I'm not sure that it's endangered at all. One possible trend that I see is that younger people seem to prefer more fast moving modes such as Instant Messaging and Chat rooms. I guess I'm an old fuddy-duddy at age 60 and much prefer the more deliberate pace of the forum format so that I can focus on my messages or replies and make them more elaborate than a quick burst of typing. I like, too, that forums don't require the seeming immediate attention that chats or IMs do. I can take time to do some research for a reply if needed. Similarly I don't have to be time-coincident with another party as would be the case in a chat or IM. That helps a lot when some of the participants are half way around the world.

    The characteristic that allows it to survive so far is that it seems to meet a need for this sort of interaction with other individuals regardless of geography or timing.

    Why do we need forums in the first place?" Need? We don't really need them, but then we don't "need" a lot of other things that we find enjoyable or useful. Forums have provided thousands of us a way to interact in a way that allows us to form a virtual community. If it's purpose is to provide information, then it's not much different than gathering at the general store and asking someone a question about, say, "What kind of barn paint was that you used, Jake, that held up so well?" It's just that you can do it when it's convenient and can often tap into a much larger collective intellect than at the general store down at the junction.

    No, I'm not going to post the URL for the herpes site. I'm not looking to be slashdotted. If you have need of us and look, you'll eventually find us.
  • My opinion is very close to that of other commenting here: two are strong at their essentials, and fill particular needs. I would remind, for illustration, two poles meeting together in the form of FAQs, periodically posted in otherwise free flowing newsgroups, as we used to know them, or sticky topics in todays forums.

    However, original question is not so silly, as some might suggest. As more of the accumulated and expressed knowledge is ordered and made searchable/accessible, needs to communicate shift fro
  • Forums are doing very well and certainly serve many useful purposes from the pure social aspect right through to the company customer support roll and very importantly in such fields as health support groups. Blogs and wikis are mostly a one way medium.. places you go to read info (yes I know you can post on a wiki and you can comment on a blog but that's not the same, they serve a different purpose), whereas forums are places where you go to discuss issues, post and read info, get support, be involved in t
  • Wiki's have their place as a reference book. However one should not consider a forums to be purely social. People go to a forum all the time for advice and help. Maybe the answer is just a link to a wiki or previous forum post. However usually it is much more useful. Think of the forum as more of a library with 1000's of librarians waiting to help you.
  • this forum is just starting up, but be sure that there will be some cool things happening here that will have some impact (small or big, but some for sure) this is smart stuff...
  • So can someone explain to me what is the REAL difference between a forum and a blog and why you would use one over another. We develop sites for people and it seems to me that a blog is just a forum that only one person can post to. Why do I need a blog instead of a forum. Someone please explain it to me.
  • I actively participate on http://www.asphalto.org/ [asphalto.org] , a purely social Italian online forum. It has no main subject(s) or what, it's simply a place that was born as a little "collective" blog, and now is a large forum where people gather together, post something (interesting news, questions of any kind, blog-like things...) and let the thread begin. Having about 2000 users, with a hard kernel of 100 users, it has developed a distinct humour and subculture of its own (just like Slashdot). Funny place with many

  • Many people have commented that Usenet is superior to forums as an information repository. However, by my understanding Usenet is very similar to forums but with different underlying technology. Can anyone identify why Usenet is superior, or preferred?
    • by edis (266347)
      Well, first of all Usenet is structured and generally of more scientific nature. There is one Usenet, and very organized tree structure for every leaf of this tree (even local Usenet servers are better understood as holders of particular local branches), with quite expressive status/nature of leaf (say, "alt." for least regulated). There are also higher expectations to speak about particular case on very particular branch. Whereas forums are more relaxed in what particular rules are practiced on particular
  • Q: What shortcomings endanger the forum's future ? A: Forums are *VERY* poor information repositories. That is their biggest downfall. Their biggest strength is the ease of posting and the relatively informal back and forth that occurs on them. I am creating an online community, but I hope to make the posts more information oriented vs. just Q n A and banter. A newer addition to the forum scene is CommunityServer.org's version. They have implemented a tagging system that is truly a revolution. All as
  • I started an online forum 3 years ago and it has grown pretty fast. 1.5 million posts, average of 600 people on at a time. It's been fun to setup hardware and software to server 13.5 million pages a month. However, after the facts and tech info is posted and old the social part takes over. The board lives as a social meeting place. It is hard to keep all my technical information organized. I have a FAQ page, a knowledge base, a media storage page, the forums themselves. It would be great to have a hy

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