Why Forums Suck…

…and what you can do about it.

Do the forums on your favorite Web sites get your blood boiling? Or simply frustrate you beyond belief? Well, join the club. You’re not the only one who feels this way. But there is something you can do about it. Read on.

A Brief History of Today’s Forums, from My Seat

I’ve been participating in an online community since the late 1980s. And no, that isn’t a typo.

I ran a computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) with message boards connected to the Fidonet network back then. Fidonet was a cooperative effort to gather up and distribute groups of messages posted on BBSes all over the world. Each night, in the wee hours, my computer would use special software to exchange the messages posted by my system’s users with those posted by others. They would, in turn, exchange with others. Like any true network, the content was distributed quickly and efficiently. Because there were so many Fidonet BBSes back then, I seldom had to make a long distance call to get new content. The distribution was as wide as the popularity of a topic — WRITING, I recall, was quite popular and would typically collect 300 or more new messages a day. Other topics might dribble in 2 or 4.

It was kind of cool. You’d log onto my BBS, The Electronic Pen, in the tiny town of Harrington Park, NJ. Perhaps you lived nearby. Or maybe you liked the other people who frequented the place. I might get 20 to 50 callers a day, connecting via 9600 baud modem on my two phone lines. You’d post a message in a local message board — that’s one that wasn’t part of Fidonet and could only be read on my BBS. Or perhaps you’d check out one of the Fidonet message bases. It would be full of messages from people all over the country. You’d read and reply to them. At night, your message would travel in a package with other new messages to another computer. Depending on scheduling and the willingness of BBS System Operators (SysOps) to do multiple connections in a day, your message would reach all the other BBSes that subscribed to that message base, usually within a few days or, at most, a week. If someone responded directly to you, you’d get that response a few days or a week later. Yes, it was slow. Yes, it was primitive. But it worked and it was free.

Fidonet was similar, in many respects, with the much more widely distributed Usenet newsgroups. Usenet was on the Internet, though, which was still in its infancy in those days. Few people had Internet e-mail addresses; instead, we had accounts on America Online or CompuServe or Prodigy or eWorld. (I remember, in the early 90s, exchanging e-mail with someone on CompuServe from my AOL account — it was a huge deal. Not only was I able to connect with someone in another network, but the exchange of three messages took less than 5 minutes!) Each of those systems had its own conferences or message boards, too.

What all these things had in common — Fidonet message boards, Usenet newsgroups, CompuServe Conferences, etc. — is that they enabled a large group of people from all over the country or world to come together and discuss topics. They were the precursors of today’s Internet forums.

The Death of Courtesy

The one thing that could always be counted upon in Fidonet message boards and Usenet newsgroups was flame wars. A flame war erupted when someone posted a message that was unkind toward another participant. Sometimes it was a minor rudeness that could have been avoided by the inclusion of an emoticon (i.e., smiley) and the “injured party” blew things out of proportion and escalated the situation with a ruder response. Other times, it was intentionally rude or belittling, resulting in a response that was equally so. Other participants would take sides, and soon the entire board would be filled with nasty comments going one way or the other, with a few non-partipants trying in vain to retain order. It was ugly, to say the least.

I have vague memories of filtering software developed so local SysOps could prevent offensive posts from leaving their systems. I was fortunate that my BBS was so small that none of the offenders originated there.

Flame wars were much more prevalent on Usenet than Fidonet back then. And they were virtually unheard of on AOL or CompuServe. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because of anonymity. Usenet was part of the Internet and the people who participated there were quite removed from the responsibility of a SysOp or network administrator. They felt freer to say whatever was on their mind. All Fidonet users could be traced back to a specific BBS with a SysOp who could reduce privileges on the user’s account and spread the word that he was a problem user. It was even easier on the fledgling AOL, CompuServe, and other online services; they knew exactly who you were from billing information and could cancel your account at any time.

Fast-forward to Today

The Internet has spread to almost every corner of the globe. Millions, if not billions, of people use it daily to get information and communicate with one another. The small online services that couldn’t compete — such as eWorld and Prodigy — are gone. Even the larger services are now Internet based, accessible to more than just members.

The nationally or internationally distributed message boards became dinosaurs. Information was readily available on Web sites. Communication was through e-mail. The once centralized information exchange became decentralized once again.

But since communication among users is an excellent way to build content for free, many Web site administrators have created their own forums for discussion. Anyone who has been using computers since the 80s will easily recognize a forum as today’s incarnation of local message boards on BBSes.

In today’s anonymous Internet world, where the vast majority of users prefer to hide behind an alias or cryptic user ID, these forums are populated by people who simply don’t care about the feelings of fellow participants. Most of them are rude know-it-alls who get more satisfaction out of blasting a fine point in someone else’s post than actually contributing helpful information.

As a result, many of these forums, which are often relied upon by large companies to provide technical support to their customers, are a frustrating mix of information — which may or may not be correct — and personality clashes. Their value is questionable — I’d go so far as to say that most of them are a complete waste of time.

Clash of the Nerds

By far, the biggest problem on today’s forums is the irresponsible and rude voicing of opinions that may or may not be relevant to the conversation. While I’m not saying that people shouldn’t voice opinions where appropriate, it’s the way that this is done that makes it a problem.

For example, someone in a forum might say that he’s had a lot of good experience with Product A to solve a specific problem mentioned in a forum. A proponent of competing Product B might come forward and accuse the other person of being stupid for using Product A, or that Product A is for morons. He won’t provide any facts to back up his argument or, if he does, the facts will be, in reality, more opinions. His purpose is not to provide useful information to other participants or even to answer the original question. His purpose is to bash Product A and the person who suggested it as a solution.

It’s the rude accusations that make this so distasteful, not only to the victim of the flaming, but to the innocent bystanders who agree with him or the people who have just checked in to learn something of value. And while this seldom gets out of control on well-moderated forums — like those managed by employees of a large company depending on forums for support — it’s common among poorly moderated forums.

A few weeks ago, I was a victim on a helicopter-related forum hosted by a Canadian helicopter magazine. I’d decided to try the forums after reading, in a recent magazine issue, that they’d be better moderated. I posted a question about helicopter helmets in one topic of the forum, then posted about the availability of a co-pilot seat for ferry flights in another topic. Here in the U.S., it’s relatively common for helicopter operators to offer flight time, for a nominal fee, to other helicopter pilots interested in building time. I had some long ferry flights coming up and was hoping to fill that seat to cut my ferry costs. Well, you’d think that I’d asked these guys to cut off the head of their first child. A bunch of them came down on me like I was some kind of evil monster. One of them even had the nerve to use the contact form on my Web site to send me a nasty message. (Some people really do need to get a life.)

I quickly decided that I’d made a mistake — not just in posting the message in the forums there, but for joining the forum in the first place. It was pretty obvious that there was little or no moderation by the magazine’s staff, despite the assurances that there would be. It was also obvious that the guys on the forum had not progressed past a high school mentality. They were unable and unwilling to see more than their own points of view. Although a more mature person could have expressed an opinion calmly and reasonably, this was clearly beyond their capabilities. Instead, they simply lashed out rudely, bashing me for suggesting such a thing, and painting me as some kind of evil witch trying to suck money out of poor, unemployed pilots.

All because I offered flight time in my aircraft for less than the going rental rate.

I contacted the forum administrator and told him to delete my account and any message I’d posted. To his credit, he complied within 24 hours. I’ve learned my lesson and won’t be back. And I probably won’t be joining any other helicopter forums, either.

But how many other knowledgeable, mature, and responsible people have been so turned off by the behavior in that forum to avoid it? And what about other similarly run-amok forums?

Could it be that the majority of people who participate in forums are those nasty, opinionated jerks hiding behind their aliases so they can get a sick thrill out of bashing others with conflicting opinions?

Could that be why forums suck? I think it’s the main reason.

My mother taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Why can’t forum participants remember this “Silver Rule”? They’ve obviously forgotten the Golden Rule, too.

Where’s the Information?

Forums run by big companies to supplement (or replace) true technical support may be moderated to prevent flame wars, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Most of them are designed in such a way that the information you need is virtually impossible to find. As a result, you’re forced to create a new topic to ask a question, then monitor that and hope it gets a response.

Is that good technical support? I don’t think so.

The forum flaws that make it tough to find information can be broken down as follows:

  • Non-existent or poorly designed search feature. How frustrating is it to go to a forum and see a list of threads but no way to search them? Or a search feature that results in too many results? Or none at all? Or can’t narrow down results by date? Or product?
  • Forum categories that are too broad. A well-designed forum is separated into categories or topics (both terms are used), each of which contains topics, subtopics, threads, or posts (again, a variety of terms are used). Imagine, if you will, a software support forum with just two categories: Windows Support and Mac Support. Now imagine that all the questions are posted as hundreds of individual threads in either one of those categories. How likely is it that you’ll find support for the Product A printing problem on your Mac? Won’t you, like many of those before you, simply start a new thread with your problem? And how long before it’s buried and you can’t find it?
  • Threads that wander off topic. Imagine a forum thread with the subject line “Can’t Print with Product A on my Mac with HP LaserJet 2100TN.” Sounds pretty specific, no? You’d expect to find a discussion of that problem, wouldn’t you? But what you may find is (1) a Windows user claiming that Product A doesn’t work well on Macs, (2) a comparison of Canon and HP printers, (3) complaints about the same printer not working with Product Z from another manufacturer, (4) questions about Product A and PDFs, etc. In other words, anything remotely related to the topic. And once the discussion starts to stray, it can go anywhere. How useful is that for product support?

Personally, I have a problem with forum-based technical support. In most cases, the company is relying on its users to help each other. This is virtually cost-free support for the company — even cheaper than sending scripts and telephones to India or Pakistan. The quality of this “help” is not what I’m paying Adobe or Apple or Microsoft the big bucks for when I buy their software. When I have a question, I need an accurate answer quickly from someone or some resource that knows the answer. I don’t have time to screw around with support forums that may or may not answer the question for me.

Is the Information Accurate?

The scariest part of depending on forum information for support is the accuracy issue. Is the information on a forum accurate? Will it do more harm than good?

Perfect example: I visited a number of photographic forums to get information on how I could clean the CCD sensor on my Nikon D80 digital SLR camera. This isn’t a hugely expensive camera, but it did cost $1,000, which ain’t exactly cheap. Dust on the CCD is a common problem and there’s no local resource for me to get it cleaned. I wanted to see if there was a do-it-yourself solution, what equipment I needed to get it done, and how I could do it myself. What I found were dozens of different answers to this question, ranging from never clean the CCD yourself (!) to rub it with Solution A on a cotton swab. Some provided a detailed equipment list that varied from one person to another. Others provided step-by-step instructions that varied from one person to another.

With all this conflicting information, how was I to know which solution was correct? Obviously, I couldn’t know. So rather than put my relatively expensive equipment at risk of permanent damage, I decided to get it cleaned professionally, next time I’m in Tempe, 80 miles from my home.

(And in case you’re wondering, Nikon tells U.S. owners not to clean it themselves. But that’s just because Nikon is eager to avoid liability if it’s damaged during cleaning. In Japan, Nikon supposedly sells a cleaning kit with instructions. I’m not in Japan and I don’t read Japanese.)

Examples like this can be found on any forum. One guy says one thing, another guy says the opposite. Who’s right?

I personally believe part of the problem is a subset of the same sick jerks who start flame wars. In this case, they’re spreading their “expertise,” which is neither accurate nor reliable. They want to be seen as experts, so they spread their opinions as facts. Will you be foolish enough to take the advice of one of these people? I hope not.

Of course, the problem is even worse when incorrect advice is offered on a poorly-moderated product support forum.

What You Can Do

As a member of an online community, there’s a number of things you can do to make forums better:

  • Ignore the trolls. If there’s a jerk in a forum who’s saying stupid, nasty things, ignore him. I know it’s difficult, but it is possible. And guess what? If everyone ignores him, he will go away. These people thrive on conflict. They’re safely hidden behind their online handles, so they’re not worried about repercussions. They’ll say whatever they want, whatever will get the most rise out of the rest of the community. They’re doing it for attention. Don’t give them any and they’ll go elsewhere to get it. (Possibly to a local school where they’ll shoot innocent kids; but that’s a social problem I’m not going to address here.)
  • Rat out the trolls. If the forum is otherwise well moderated but there’s just one or two jerks trying to bring the discussion down to their level, contact the moderator privately, via e-mail or feedback form, and complain about the offending party. Use facts to support your complaint. If the forum moderator cares about the quality of the forum, he’ll do something about. If he doesn’t, then it’s likely you won’t want to be part of that forum anyway. Let it go.
  • Don’t fan the flames. If you see a conflict brewing in a forum, don’t pick a side and join in. You’ll only make it worse. Instead, if you know any of the people on either side, you might want to contact them privately and urge them to drop it. Or see the first two points here for what’s likely to be better advice.
  • Back opinions with facts. Got an opinion to share in a forum? Great! Lots of forum participants are looking for feedback from people with more experience or knowledge. But don’t state an opinion unless you can back it with facts. A statement like “Product A sucks.” is far more likely to get you in hot water and start a flame war than “I don’t like Product A because I’ve had a lot of trouble getting it to work with my printer and could not get any assistance from the developer to resolve the problem.”
  • Search before you post. If you’re in any forum where you expect an answer to a question, search the existing topics and threads before you add a new one. Your question may have been answered elsewhere in the forum. If the forum’s search feature is well-designed and functional, you may get an answer within minutes of arriving on the forum — rather than the time it takes for you to write out your question and wait for a suitable response. This also makes it a lot easier for others to find answers.

If you’re a forum moderator, there’s a lot more you can do to make your forums the best they can be:

  • Use the right software solution. A forum’s design depends, in part, on the software used to present the forum online. Choose software that gives you the options you need: search feature, categories/subcategories, threading, moderation, spam protection, etc. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions; I gave up running forums a while ago.)
  • Design the forum with appropriate categories and subcategories. This will help make it easier for forum visitors to find the discussions they’re looking for.
  • Make sure the search feature works. There’s nothing more frustrating than using a search feature that doesn’t find appropriate results. If your search feature doesn’t work right, you’ll get lots of repeat postings.
  • Moderate. I cannot stress this enough. While the free speech argument is very compelling, are you operating your forum as the soapbox for the masses? Or do you want to maintain some kind of order? Ban the trolls, delete inappropriate messages. If someone’s post is not in line with the purpose of your forum, it should go. You have the power and I think you have the right. But don’t advertise your forum as a place for all opinions if you’re going to delete the opinions that don’t agree with yours. You’ll find yourself under fire very quickly. Instead, on an opinion-based forum, enforce courtesy among commenters to keep things civil. We can all learn from other people’s opinions, but not when those opinions are rudely shoved down our throats.

What about Blog Comments?

If you’re a blogger with an open comment feature on your blog, you may recognize a lot of these points. You don’t need to operate a formal forum to experience the nightmare of trolls and flame wars. You might already have them on your blog.

All of this advice applies to bloggers and blog commenters, too.

What Do You Think?

Use the Comments link or form for this post to share your views. Just remember to play nice…

42 thoughts on “Why Forums Suck…

  1. I really resonate with this post. I was heavily involved in online forums from 96-05 or so and I watched all of the above happen. I’d like to add that forums like your Canadian helicopter group form an in-group and strong culture over time that is hostile to newbies and ultimately stifle the growth of a vibrant community around a good thing. Good ideas to build new resources to push the community forward get stifled because of egos and established interests. Newbies lurk and may consume resources but don’t make the jump to contribute because of the off-putting culture. The community eventually plateaus and wanes, innovation being stifled in the name of members’ fiefdoms.

    I believe there are solutions to creating vibrant communities, but they lie in social networking and the opening of the social graph rather than in membership-driven forums. It will be interesting to see how the game of online communities will change over the next couple years as these trends progress.

    Tim Courtney’s last blog post..Everybody Knows What You Did Last Night

  2. Over the years I’ve found a huge amount of excellent advice via forums. They can be superb sources of information and support.

    I think good moderation is crucial though. Forum threads (and blog comments) that are simply bashing other contributors or the product in question are a huge waste of resources and time.

    Most forums I’ve used seem to very efficiently hide the Search box. It’s usually there, but you have to look hard to locate it. More than once I’ve typed my question into a login form or some other prominently placed text box.

    What I hate is the busy forums that actually *are* full of excellent help, but that have so much content you still can’t find what you’re looking for. Then when you post a question (or see questions others have posted) there are stern and unfriendly warnings that you should have just read some other thread you never found in spite of looking.

    I guess the idiots and trolls will always be with us. With any luck they’ll grow out of it eventually, or find themselves eventually too busy with a life to waste time trolling.

    And hey: you reminded me of the days before “Internet” here in NZ too, when I used to be a member of the Wellington Apple Users Group and its bulletin board. Doesn’t time fly!

  3. I find some forums useful. I am on a Bluebird forum and there are approximately 1400 members.

    We trade info on various fixes and it really helps.

    Once in a while, some dufus comes on with a little bit of knowledge and trys to bully everybody else with their supposed “knowledge”. Fortunally for all of us, the moderators send a private PM to them to cool it. If not, they are permanently booted from the Yahoo forum. Works for us.

    I think most of these jerks don’t have a live and are resentful of those of us that do and take out their frustrations on the keyboard.

    Ignore them and they will go away if no one bites into their dribble.

  4. I have been working in the computer industry for many years and have been so surprised by the way people post messages on forums.

    The technical forums and heath forum and other that concentrate on things about serious issues and have more cultured individuals writing on them are the only places where people seem to be of any help, most of the people on forums just seem to post endless amounts of rubbish with no consideration for other users.

    I’m not saying that i am cultured because i have had my fair share of fun irritating people on forums but I do it to people who are bullying and picking on others in the first place.

    The problem is that these opinions are a true reflection of these peoples mentality and buy looking at how people on the forums actually think you can see an honest state of what the world is really like.

    In the normal world public honesty is not accepted because of the problems I can cause between people, so most of the people that we actually think are decent people are hiding the way that they feel towards certain issues in order to avoid conflict with others.

    on the forum where the person’s identity is hidden, and the physical person is not available to account for their comments the true person emerges and allot of what would normally not be said to other but is thought comes out.

    These thoughts that we see on forum are still floating around in peoples head but they just won’t speak them to others.

    so the forums are actually a place of honesty, the distressing this is that you are able to see the true side of people and that it is unpleasant to see just how bigoted and ignorant a majority of the world population is.

    Hope you like my post and I do not see anything on forums that I did not think people were thinking anyway.

    • I think you’re right. Anonymity makes people braver than they’d be in person. And yes, they might be more honest in forums. But do they have to be so offensive with their honesty? Can’t they be a little kinder and gentler when they speak the truth? A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down.

      I also think that some of the comments in forums are unbelievably childish. I’m out of the playground; why aren’t these people? My message to them: Grow up!

      Anyway, I don’t participate much in forums at all anymore and I’m careful about how I comment. I’m also extremely tight in moderating comments here and will not let any commenter take these comments to a lower level.

  5. Thanks Maria

    I am glad you liked the post I put up and hope it was not to serious for the forum

    I am an amateur writer and poet and I am just in the middle of writing my first novel.

    I don’t expect the rest of the world to be perfect, but I think there is a serious decline in common decency and respect for others in society which is fuelled by the modern media industry in a search to increase sales of their products.

    I love all kinds of media from video games to music and films and TV, but actively avoid the printed media industry apart from books.

    This is because of the volume of advertising used in this type of media which I think is insane, because if you purchase a magazine or news paper I think it makes sense that you should be given reading content and not adverts, and because of the type of sensationalism which is used to sell content, I think a lot of TV is the same on this issue and I don’t subscribe to any pay television.

    I think this is a contributing factor to the bad attitude of a lot of people on forums these days, because the media is actively selling being outrageous and obnoxious as being cool.

  6. Yes, I have been on auto related forums for years. Yes, there is always Politics and the in-group within’ the web forum. Also…everyone is trying to out do each other with the big money guys usually winning out. It is to the point of being rediculous and a big reason I have reduced my internet time on automobile/motorcyle type web forums. One forum I have been on recently in which I sometimes frequent has the big bully who points me out and basically calls me a liar in so many words. Basically, much erroneous information exists with no supporting fact of URL to point the user to the research medium. Put it this way…auto forums and most forums in general are major suckage…….

    • In general, I believe forums are a serious waste of time and energy. They make us angry and cynical. I can get like that by watching the news — without spending so much time!

  7. Forums Suck! That is true. They create a bloat of information junk. The worst is because of this is getting harder to find what you need.

  8. There was a meteorology forum that used to be fun to go to called Western Weather and it has fallen apart due to poor moderation and fights/insults when someone disagrees with something.

    The moderator even has openly said that he doesn’t accept constructive criticism and only likes people if they do not make him angry.

    Forums suck. :(

    By the way: There is an Earth Science and Space weather section where a member posts daily news and is a very decent member but there are hardly any replies.

    I used to reply there but I got tired of being speaking to the air.

  9. Correction. I meant there is a meterology forum.

    I was too upset to think so my bad. :o

  10. Some how this needs more advertising. Maybe you should post this on forums as a guide or would that get you into trouble?

    I don’t know much about how *online communities* work but what I do know is that they ain’t pretty. You should see video game forums like Zelda Universe where their are flame wars disguised as *civil discussion*

    I really enjoy the Legend of Zelda even though it has to do with the character *Link* more then the pretty princess and I like the whole Triforce thing.

    You’ll see what I mean if you look it up but the actual forums are a waste of time and I can’t get any decent conversations going.

    I either get ignored or I get replies that have no revelancy to the topic.

  11. I am actually tempted to make a thread there about if it’s better to call it *The Legend of Link* rather then Zelda as it has to do with him saving the world and time traveling.

  12. What do you call it when a forum has an elite group that likes to treat newbies as trash for the slightest infractions:

    If you do something in an online forum that will be equal to a simple ‘traffic ticket’ in Real Life the mods sometimes act like you just killed somebody.

    Then when the ‘Elite’ forum members post ruder responses then whatever infractions I broke the Elite members don’t get punished at all.

    I don’t get it.

  13. :( It really does suck.

    I also hate it when you have to join the forum to use the search function when all I want to do is search for a thread I need and quite possibly never need to join.

    It’s almost as if it’s blackmail to get you to join.

    Most of my posts when the question requires a lot of thinking either gets ignored or made fun of if it’s controversial and they disagree with me.

    I also hate it when they make so many threads instead of catagorizing the topics such as a thread everyone can describe what their favorite color is for their Product A.

  14. I can’t believe I am too late for this blog.

    God hates me.

    I hate how forums that have a sole interest such as a certain video game midi forum have a (in group). where they group seem to conspire with the mods to put newbies down who break the slightest TOS…………even if you can tell the person didn’t know what they were doing and may have just had a bad day.

    The Staff have a (yes group) and whenver a newbie points out a midi theft or a bug the problem waits for weeks and if an older member points out a midi theft the thread is responded to right away.

    They have staff members who you can’t really tell their intentions when a properly moderated forum the staff members post along side the newbies and try to encourage conversation.

    The staff their do none of the above to make a forum a better place and seem to enjoy driving inperfect people away.

    • Kyle: The problem usually occurs when a forum is NOT adequately moderated rather than when it’s OVER moderated — but I can see your point. The main problem I see with forums is the maturity level of the average participant: extremely low. When comments bash other forum members, nitpick over typos and grammatical errors, needlessly contain harsh language or hate speech, and generally don’t add to the discussion, they should be deleted before they even appear to add more fuel to the fire. But when a comment — no matter how poorly worded or punctuated — does add to the discussion, it should be allowed to remain. That’s what forums are for.

      That’s my take, anyway.

  15. I see your point.

    One thing that bugs me is if someone posts an opinon that is against the majority of the forum the OP gets attacked in all angles and the mods don’t do a thing to control the crowd.

    Sometimes the mods will go after the OP and turn a blind eye to the hateful replies that can be worse then whatever the OP posted in the first damn place.

    Searching on Google I saw a thread that someone prefers the seintendo Consoles compared to the Wii and that person got flamed and accused of being uncivil and starting a flame war because the Wii fanboys couldn’t handle a second opinion.

    The OP even made a disclaimer in order to keep the discussion civil which the other posters weren’t doing.

    Seems to me that forums have a ‘yes group’ when it comes to comments.

    Either everyone agrees to popular comments or you are the forum ‘weirdo’.

    I tend to not waste my time with forums anymore as that’s all I see.

  16. I can relate to all the above comments.
    I very recently posted in a forum (SyFy) about my cat being ran over by a truck in front of my house.
    I went outside after hearing the squealing of brakes only to find my beloved pet with it’s rear crushed, one eye missing and it’s face torn apart. I was heartbroken.
    The cat saw me and tried to pull itself towards me using it’s front legs, and was a soul crushing sight which broke my heart.

    The responses I got were appalling.
    First the moderator scolded me for posting such a graphic experience, and then it seemed everyone joined in, calling me the most nasty names imaginable and basically saying any hurtful thing they could think of.

    I was aghast at the responses. Never again will I ever post in any forum, nor will I ever watch the SyFy channel again.

    I was so angry that I didn’t know what to say or how to react, so I simply left informing them that I would never return.

    This experience has lowered my opinion of people considerably.

    • Thomas: While I’m sorry about your cat, I can’t help but wonder why you posted that story on a SyFy channel forum. Was there a thread discussing pet accidents? Maybe the reason you received such a bad response was because the story was inappropriate for that particular forum.

      Some things are better kept private or shared with family and friends. Grief is not something strangers can help you with.

  17. This is an awesome post, totally spot on and makes me feel better that I’m not the only one who detests internet forums. I think another issue when using forums is the flock mentality…there will be one or two “senior posters” who have 36746364536 posts and therefore consider themselves experts on all things related to the subject, because, you know, who needs to be educated when you can copy and paste information off of Wikipedia to argue your point? Surely 36746364536 posts are equivalent to a college degree, lol.

    The problem is, a lot of the other forum users will sort of idolize these “senior posters” and take everything they say as gospel. Heaven forbid one disagree with the law of the land…it truly is disheartening.

    I recently took part in a forum that was filled with obviously pathetic, self-loathing people who had nothing better to do with their time than to make everyone miserable. So, I left, which is sad, because I am an expert on the subject and have the education to back it up. They can continue their illogical rantings and I will just go back to speaking to live people who can’t hide behind a computer monitor.

    Kudos to you for your post!

    • Friend: Thanks for your kind words. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t waste my time with forums anymore. It seems that the only people there are trolls. I have better things to do with my time than feed them.

  18. No matter what the forum is unless it’s meant for professionals if the topic is unusual no matter how related to the topic it is you will either get ignored or made fun of for being “the black sheep”

    Like I said often times the responses are worse then whatever spam or violations the OP might have done and the mods will treat you as if you raped someone and should be put in SuperMax doing hard time:

    When peopel who post topics that are “black sheep” I think people only look at one or two sentences and blow it out of proportion instead of reading between the lines or so to speak:

  19. Sorry they shut down your post about your dead pet even though it’s just a general discussion.

    They (that forum) needs to define what is a “general discussion” instead of locking topoics that they “think” is out of place.

    Some Mods think their postition is equal to a PHD.

  20. The only thing I disagree is moderating every single post HERE as that will also deter discussion but there is no answer it seems.

    • Kyle: Fortunately, the site doesn’t get many comments — possibly because people don’t think what they say can pass moderation — and I generally check at least once a day to approve whatever needs to be approved. Believe me, however, it is necessary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dumped spam masquerading as legitimate comments (the biggest problem here) or nipped a nasty exchange in the bud. If people can’t act mature and civilized, they must be treated like children. Personally, I have better things to do with my time than play mommy, but this blog means too much to me to let it go the way of the crappy forums we’ve all seen online.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  21. You know I am so glad I found this website, and decided to comment. I find that I get very upset (and I have no idea why, it might be human nature) when I post a comment to a forum and get personally attacked. This happened to me today after a post, someone who knew nothing about me, launched what I perceived as a personal attack, because they claimed my comment was a personal attack against them and accused me of being jealous of them and blah, blah, blah.

    I have no idea who this person is, and they don’t know anything about me, so I sat there reading the response thinking “Dude, you know nothing about me, nor I about you, so how can you say these things and make these judgments about what I do or do not own compared to what you own, and what you do for a living?” I have a feeling that there is a lack of social etiquette due to the internet and anonymity it provides people, so they feel they can blast away at anyone and say anything they want to attack others because repercussions are non-existent in forums.

    Anyway I feel better now after visiting here and reading what other people have to say, who agree that the majority of forums suck. Thank you.

  22. @Joel
    This is exactly why I avoid forums. Seriously: some people are trolls, just looking for excuses to abuse other people. I think it’s because they’re anonymous and can hide behind some clever handle. Don’t feel bad about it — just don’t participate! If smart people stay away from forums, the only people left there will be the idiots preying upon each other.

  23. That does make sense about the spam masquerading part however *on the other side of the coin*

    moderating comments can also be taken as a
    “I want to be proven right and I will not tolerate any other views on my forum/chatroom/blog/email” sort of attitude but I know you are not that way so I am not bitching at you.

    It sucks we even have to be in this dilemma about “how much is too much” in terms of comment moderating or the lack of where forums are like your helicopter forum you got cyber abuse from. :(

    That is a growing trend on YouTube where uploaders block comments that are contrary to their political view or have the slightest criticism.
    Trolls come in all shapes and sizes and it’s a very retarded thing to stereotype trolls.

    I appricate your time for this blog and am glad other people feel the same way about forums as I do so I know you are not the “I am right” attitude person.

  24. I’ve noticed that topics that get the most replies are ones people spend time on and if you are aloof but still stick to the topic you will get ignored or made fun of unless it’s either gross topics or “Which product/character is better” topics

    Ifyou try to be middle pathed you can pretty much kiss (insert forums here) goodbye and shouldn’t waste your time posting.

  25. @Kyle
    I think that the forums where the moderator only allows comments that share his views are the ones people simply stop visiting. After all, how many times would you post a reasonably worded comment on a site if your commetns never appeared?

    I don’t mind if people don’t agree with me, but I won’t tolerate rude, nasty rebuttals. If someone wants their contrary opinion to appear here, they need to present it civilly. If they’re offensive to me or another commenter, their comment will never appear.

    I do agree that it really does SUCK that we need to play babysitter with our blog comments. Between spammers and trolls, it takes a lot of the pleasure out of running a blog.

  26. In my opinion spammers are also the kind of people who will say.

    “I LUV UR kool site!” or “Your site suckz and iz a piece of….” which they don’t even bother to explain why they feel that way in the first place.

    I can understand when a blog owner DOES get frustrated shifting thru 100 comments of that kind of stuff without anything contributing AND they have 101% sympathy from me.

    We seem to live in a brain-dumb world like a modern “dark ages” of ethic behavior and respect.

  27. @Alex92

    It wasn’t your fault. Smwcentral is a horrible excuse for a website. They have very little information you can find, and all the good information is either only availeable to mods or administrators, or lost in their broken search engine. All the moderators repeatedly abuse their power, banning people for being so-called “stupid” or questioning their tyranic authority. All the ignorant forum users think they are so talented in ASM hacking, when the truth is they hog all the good documentation.

    I got fed up asking them for the complete documentation on Super Mario World, and in retaliation, I’m programming my own game and it will be far superior to any of their stupid rom hacks.

  28. I had a hard time understanding your english but you have my sympathy 101%. :)

    The problem isn’t forums going bad but it’s being stagnated and the users are not aware of it so all your getting is recycled garbage much like modern TV or the Liberal BBC which spits out Global Warming propagenda to scare you but that’s another subject.

    Stagnation means somthing being blocked or not flowing properly:

    Here is dictionary.com’s explanation and I added the word forums just for fun:

    verb (used without object)
    1. to cease to run or flow, as water, air or internet chat rooms/ forums, etc.
    2. to be or become stale or foul from standing, as a pool of water.
    3. to stop developing, growing, progressing, or advancing: My mind is stagnating from too much TV.
    4. to be or become sluggish and dull: When the leading lady left, the show started to stagnate.

    I also believe that the reason why you and I both have “bad luck” isn’t really about luck but rather we have low vibration patterns which the laws of attraction simply bring what we are attached too.

    I can’t tell you what to do but I’ll do what I hAVE to do to bring higher level vibrations and maybe then forums will change.

    It can actually only take a few people with extraordinary high vibrations to do mass sweeping changes across the earth in areas they work in the best.

    I’ll try to find an article for you another day as I am feeling pretty stagnated right now to really care to do much searching: :(

  29. @Alex92

    More like

    —a newbie— How do u du spritz???
    —a moron— Learn ASM
    Moderators friend: Get a life dude.
    Robotic forum MOd: I am locking this useless and pointless topic: *locks*

  30. @Alex92
    I didn’t use Andy as my smwcentral username, so I can’t be the same Andy.

    For the response. You know what else is wrong with smwcentral? They beleive all good ideas are completely impossible. I tried pitching them some new gameplay ideas, and they kept whining that it will cause slowdown, or cause flicker, or some other stupid technical problem without ever trying it in the first place. How would they know it would cause technical problems if they never tried anything?

    I gave them detailed explanations of how to do this and how to do that using the Snes hardware, but they kept babbling on how it is “far beyond the capabilities of the Super Nintendo” when I just gave them an explanation of how to do it.

    Then they go on and ask me “if your so smart why don’t you do it yourself?” and I explain that I would, if they’d only give me a run down of how the SMW engine works, so I know where to insert it into the SMW source code and make it compatible with it’s engine.

    The thing is, I’ve always wanted to make my own orignal game, and I only joined smwcentral to take an already existing working engine as a base and work on my game from there, but that obviously didn’t work. I eventually was capable of getting my ASM stuff working WITHOUT using the SMW source-code/engine (just my codes and the hardware itself), and I’ve been learning how to program my own game engine to run my game on, although I could’ve acheived this earlier on if I never thought about joining smwcentral in the first place.

    I have a feeling smwcentral is starting to lose it’s reputation. From other Snes homebrew development sites, I’m seeing a lot of people transfering (or “graduating”) from smw hacking. In fact yesterday, I gave a newcommer to a Snes game development forum a PM, telling her to forget everything smwcentral pushed down her neck, and she can use sprites and BG layers in anyway she likes, without worrying about slowdowns or flickering or any other stupid technical problem.

    Someday I would like to run my own smwcentral-like website, except based around my more flexible and powerful game engine, letting all the information about the engine openly available, and being nice and caring to my forum users. Eventually people will discover my website will be so much better and smwcentral will die out.

  31. Good luck with your forums however in my experiences forums will likely be empty so I suggest you wait until the stagnation goes away.

    It seems all intrests in this world unless it’s “naughty” are in deep stagnation right now where the energy just dosen’t flow anymore since a lot of these people do not believe in the law of attraction so they continue to attract stale energy and we run into it. :(

    You and I aren’t really having bad luck with forums more rather we are in stagnation and it will take one of us to break the stagnation. How I don’t know and I wish I could give a better answer. :(

    Any ideas?

    God lord I wish these forums will either get their acts togeether or just die out and shut down.

  32. I want to know why does software games/hardware all sell at the same price when in reality MSRP means Manufactors SUGGESTED Retail Price as it’s always bothered my soul for some reason whenever I go into a gameshop.

    I seriously considered asking this at Yahoo Answers but I have a communication curse that does nothing but make me feel embarresed/blocked on any setup that is a “forum” no matter how nice I appear. :(

    I either get fully ignored or yelled at as soon as I make my first mistake or if I have a whole bunch of paragraphs the least important one will get answered.
    I just don’t have that “magnet” to attract people.

    I will come back to look at replies when my curse is “lifted” however that will be.

    God I am so useless.

  33. I mean if I have a bunch of questions and/or paragraphs I get the least important ones answered and I wind up feeling like WTF?

  34. Since this particular comment thread has wandered very far off course, I’ve closed down the comments on this post. Thanks to everyone for adding their thoughts on this matter.