Forums are very useful tools and you can learn a lot.  However, you can negate their usefulness with a strong headed approach.  I’m going to list a few rules I try to follow on forums which helps make them more useful to me:

 

  • I don’t look to confirm what I want to hear.  I only look to gather more information which helps me be more knowledgeable on the subject I’m interested in.  If it turns out my premise was wrong then the forums just became very useful.  If I’m only listening to confirm what I want to hear, or what I’ve previously convinced myself is fact, then I’m wasting everyone’s time including my own.
  • It always pays to lurk for a while, time permitting.  Lurking allows you to learn the different personalities on each forum, their sense of humor (often unique..:), and how much they really know.  This allows me to assign a value to their responses.
  • Ask specific questions.  Your life story on the forum is only interesting to yourself, and 99.9% of the run-up to your current problems is of no interest to anyone either.  Ask the specific question you want to know, or answer the specific question being asked.  This way someone might make it through your entire post and even take it seriously.
  • Keep it civil. No one likes a smartass no matter how tempting it might be to play one.
  • Don’t think you’re unique.  Use the search engines.  Someone probably already asked that exact same question before and you won’t even need to wait for an answer because the question has already been answered 93 times..
  • Keep your signature small or don’t use one at all.  The forum software will let everyone know who you are.  You might really like your dog, but that 800 pixel wide image of Old Yeller on every single post you make.. well.. it makes us cry.
  • There will always be spammers.  The best thing to do is ignore them.  ANY response only encourages.
  •   One thread per question please.   That’s all it takes.  Asking the same question in several different topics in 10 different ways isn’t going to help you get a more accurate or prompt answer.  If anything it will label you as a bit full of yourself and no one will bother to respond.
  •   If someone takes the time to respond to you.. please remember you asked for the help.  You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t have to abide by it, you don’t even have to think it’s polite.. but remember you asked for it.  Take any answer you deem “not very useful” as spam and ignore it.. or simply respond with a “thank you.”  Attacking someone who tried to help you because they didn’t sugar coat their answer and top it with rainbow sprinkles isn’t nice.. and it’s the best way to have no one respond to your future posts.
  • Above all, remember that not everyone’s first language is the language used in the forum, nor did they come from your neighborhood.  “Unique” humor and phrases ‘might’ not be received the way you expect.  When you communicate with someone on-line they don’t see any of your verbal cues, facial expressions, hand signals, or the twinkle in your eye.  They only see your words and they might think they’re the words of a very strange or evil person if you don’t keep the language simple and generic.

Do you have your own forum rules you’d like to add?  Send them in and I’ll add them to we’ll let the list grow.  This particular list is the product of productively channeling my frustrations in a certain forum with a certain lady who kept starting thread after thread every time she didn’t get the preconceived answer she was looking for.  And then when a few started to gently joke with her a bit about her multitude of threads.. she reported them for harassment.  I’m guessing no one will respond to her future posts.

 

Until next time..