My thoughts on Internet forums.

Recently, while I was on IRC talking to a few people, TheSkorm mentioned that he doesn’t join Internet forums. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time reading different forums, and replying to them. Why do I do this? Let’s find out.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I started lurking at the old forums . They were dedicated to the BlitzBasic language. While the forums aren’t around any more, a lot of people still get a warm fuzzy feeling when they talk about the place. This must have been when I was about 12 years old.

After a few months, I joined. Since that time, I’ve followed the community as it progressed through a series of two or three different forums, all run by respected members of the last community. Blitzcoder closed, and Codersworkshop opened. Codersworkshop closed, and Devcrunch opened. etc, etc.

In addition to the Blitz community, I’ve also joined a few other communities. I’m a member of several private forums, as well as the forums and forums. So that’s the history of my forum usage. But the question still remains. Why do I visit these forums?

In my opinion, probably the most obvious reason for visiting and joining a forum is the sense of community it brings to you (me). The internet is a scarily large and largely scary place, and any human contact we can find helps us to understand and feel more at home in the place. Which brings me to my counter-argument. It is not only forums that give us this sense of belonging and understanding. I, for instance (as mentioned at the top of this post), spend a lot of time on IRC, and IM networks in general. And most people I know who are members on forums also use instant messaging. So this can’t be the only reason.

The other really good reason I can think of is that helping other people out feels good. When you’re on a forum (a technical one at least) a lot of the topics are various newbies asking for help with something. Assuming the post doesn’t ask for help with deciding between Emacs and Vi, they generally get a helpful response. So the good feeling in the heart is what it is all about?

Perhaps not. I visit a fair few technical forums. Most of them (with the exception of, don’t really give that much help to newbies. I’m sure there are very helpful technical fora out there somewhere… In any case, you can usually ask for and get help on IRC as well. Freenode‘s technical channels are second to none in terms of help. The only benefit with getting help on a forum is that generally the posts are kept there forever, whereas IRC is fairly impermanent.

So why I do visit forums? I don’t know. What I do know is, if I spent as much time on all my forums as I used to on the old forums (when I had all the time in the world, almost literally), I wouldn’t have very much time left anymore. I’ve had to abandon reading a few forums in order to have enough time to read the others.

And the strangest thing? I don’t even use BlitzBasic any more. But that’s where I spend most of my forum-reading time.

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