Nov 5, 2005, 11:13 PM
Post #2 of 17
Disclaimer: All statements in this message apply in general to internet forums, usenet, or listservers. If I refer to a group, I am not referring to Mexconnect unless it is mentioned by name. When I say forums, I include listservers and usenet groups.
Most forums are full of banter, most of which may indeed fit into the useless, self-important category that you mentioned. I participate in various forums or listservers on various topics. They can be huge wastes of time.
One forum I am in, which will remain nameless, averages 10 off topic or socializing posts for every one that is more or less useful or on topic. Sometimes half the posts come from one person, who rarely has anything useful to say. Sometimes they go off on various left wing rants, mostly centered around the idea that Bush is the worst leader the planet has ever seen. From that standpoint, it is one of the worst forums that I have ever participated in. Unfortunately, I don't want to drop that forum because the topic is very important to me, and I have no obvious alternative source of information on this topic. I do occasionally pick up useful tidbits from it, and once in a while I ask a question. I find that when I ask a question, I usually get 3 to 6 responses, most of which are very good and directly relate to my question. The answers to my questions more or less justify the time spent, despite the frustrations.
I recently received an unusual benefit from participation in this same forum. I knew that one of the members was located in a town that I would be traveling through as part of a fishing trip. I was just going to stop, shake his hand, chat, see his shop, and keep driving. He offered to me out fishing in his boat, and I had a wonderful day fishing with him, caught lots of fish, learned more about fishing than the topic that I was originally going to stop for. So remember that face to face contacts are often more valuable and enjoyable than internet contact, even when the contact was initiated on the internet.
Another problem with forums is that people are sometimes less than polite, people's feelings get hurt, etc. In the extreme case, we call that flaming. I don't see that as often today as I did years ago. Flaming basically stopped on Mexconnect when they converted to pay subscriptions, it used to be pretty severe. In any event, when people are upset it can make the forum less valuable and downright unpleasant to read. I would regard your post as somewhat impolite, certainly the implication is that you are criticizing most of the people who are participating here, but perhaps you think of it more as a customer complaint.
I suggest that anyone who is less than happy with any internet forum consider the advantages, disadvantages, the time spent looking at it, and the value received. Most of those forums are free, but perhaps you get what you pay for. If one does not value the social element of these forums, then it is often difficult to justify the time spent looking at them, let alone taking the time to write a coherent message to post on the forum.
I was talking on the phone the other day with someone I connected with on an internet group. The call was primarily about business, but he made a comment that when I post to that group, people usually give me a hard time. He has almost quit posting there. So why do I continue to post? I probably should not bother to post either. This group is somewhat different in that I know many of the participants personally from attendance at their annual conference. They are nicer in person than on the internet. Their annual conference was quite worthwhile, one reason I stick around.
Anyway, my general advice, from having spent way too much time on internet forums, usenet, and listservers, is not to expect too much. In my experience, the best value comes from asking a question and getting multiple answers. Most of the rest of it is a waste of time. The participants are probably better face to face than on the internet, so meet them face to face if you have the opportunity. If you value your time, you should probably become a kind of information parasite, by posting a question when you have one, reading only the answers to your own question, and ignoring the forum the rest of the time. :-(