What’s on your mind?

A forum is an online location for holding discussions and publishing user-generated content. Forums, sometimes referred to as discussion boards, can include user posts in chronological order or in threaded discussions. Threaded discussions are grouped by the discussion topic within the forum for easier reading. Forums enable asynchronous communication among many users, meaning that users don’t have to be online at the same time and can browse and respond to posted messages in the forum at their convenience.

Moderators are responsible for monitoring the content that is posted in the forum. Moderators can be real people, or they can be specialized software programs that electronically scan posts for undesirable language, content or images. Moderators often have the authority to modify or delete any post or portion of a post that the forum operators find inappropriate or offensive. Moderators also have the ability to make certain discussions or threads “sticky”, meaning that certain posts or entire discussions can be highlighted within the forum to attract the attention of other users.

Where can I find the forums and discussions that interest me?

A good way to begin looking for forums is to use a search engine. Go to your favorite search engine and enter a phrase that relates to the topic you’re interested in. For example, if you want to locate a forum related to gardening, then you might search for “gardening forums” or “organic gardening forums”. Then browse the search results or refine your search terms until you find a forum that contains the specific type of discussion that you are looking for.

If you’re more interested in a place to discuss your opinions on a variety of news stories or current events, begin by visiting popular bookmarking web sites or newsgroups, like Digg.com, Newsvine.com or a newsgroup on a fee-based service like Giganews. Then browse the available content categories, or use the search features that may be available on each site, to find the type of discussions and topics that you are interested in reading or participating in.

I want to participate in a forum discussion. How do I get started?

Some forums require users to register before they can post any comments or participate in forum discussions. Other forums may allow users to post anonymously. Before you begin posting in a forum, be sure to read and understand the Terms of Use for the forum. Take note of how long your comments will remain on the forum, whether or not you will be able to edit your posts and any rules or policies the forum may have regarding ownership and copyrights for any comments you may post.

Also, familiarize yourself with the forum rules, accepted forum etiquette and the frequently used slang or terminology used within the forum. Most forums follow the general rules of Netiquette and frown on users that post in all capital letters (that’s interpreted as yelling) and users that instigate or participate in flaming (the act of using offensive language to insult another user, this usually results in flamewars, the online equivalent of fisticuffs).

Additionally, it is considered rude to post the same comment more than once in the same forum. Many forums also have rules against unpaid advertising and something as simple as a link to your personal or business website could be construed as advertising. If you are not familiar with the slang terms and conversational abbreviations (np is short for “no problem”, LOL is short for “laughing out loud”) used on Internet forums, you may find the DMOZ Open Directory Project’s collection of guides and translations helpful.

Forums and Resources

Digg.com: This site provides a vehicle for users to share and comment on a variety of topics and news stories. Each time a user recommends a story, it is put into a queue and other users in the Digg.com community can either Digg it to increase the story’s popularity or Bury it to decrease the popularity of the story. This user feedback determines which stories are given priority placement for users to discuss and comment on.

Del.icio.us: This site describes itself as a social bookmarking service that allows users to bookmark and share interesting web content with the other del.icio.us community members. Users can search for current articles and discussions or browse posted articles and then participate in discussions regarding that article or topic.

Newsvine: This news forum aggregates news stories from all over the world and allows users to share content with friends, family and the world. Post comments, write your own articles or simply browse relevant, interesting and crazy news in categories like: World News, U.S. News, Local News, Sports, Politics, Science, Health, Arts, Fashion, Entertainment, History, Travel and Odd News.

Slashdot: This site prides itself on providing “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.” by offering articles and discussions on topics such as science, computer hardware, software development and issues surrounding the rights of individuals on the Internet.  Users can submit news articles and editorials to the Slashdot moderators, who will consider the piece for inclusion on the site. Then, users can view articles in the content categories that interest them and participate in discussions with other users on article topics.