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Nathan: 2010-05-12 03:05:47 pm
45 posts
Web forums are a great way to interact, converse, build community, promote products and ideas, and generate content and relationships online. Even though forums have existed since before the web, there are many people who still do not use forums, who do not know about them, or who think that web forums are more limited than they are. This five part series offers a basic introduction to web forums by answering seven basic but important questions; addresses one of the negative aspects of forums--haters--and how to keep a healthy forum; discusses the basics of running a forum; is frank about common pests and problems which often infest forums; and finally provides five useful reminders about forums.

Part II: Five Important Things to Know About Haters on Forums

Unfortunately, a small group of haters and flamers have given forums a negative reputation among some users and former forum users. Fortunately, they are a small part of the population. This article addresses five key questions about haters in forums.

    [li]Are forums full of creeps and flame wars?It depends on which forums you join and what the people there are like. That is why it is pretty wise to lurk and read through a forum before you join. If you have to join in order to read content, then join and read through some discussions. If they don't seem like people you want to be around, then don't go back. It is that simple.Creeps and flame wars are everywhere. The trick is to scope out the specific forum topic you're looking into. Honestly, if you can't find any cool forums that you feel comfortable with, then you might try starting your own forum, because there are probably other people who feel the same way you do.[li]What about haters?There are haters almost everywhere. Some haters won't last long in forums, while in other forums there are a lot of haters. Keep in mind that different communities have different value systems, and some communities value the public fights that they have--they are a form of entertainment. Understand that if you join a community that has these kinds of values, then you may well be subject to an attack regularly. If you're cool with that, then enjoy it. If not, then go elsewhere.[li]I don't want people to think I'm a creep or a hater. How do I avoid this?First, it's important to realize that some people will be offended no matter what you do, say or write. In short, they're spoiling for a fight. There's nothing you can do about them other than just not deal with them.Second, it's important to understand that virtually every forum has its own unique culture and set of rules. For example, some forums may have pages and pages of LOL and cutesy signatures--and that's normal and good for that forum; other forums might ban users for not providing any meaningful content other than a smiley. It truly depends upon what kind of community the forum is.In order to figure that out, you should review posts on the forum and see what people are like and how they treat each other. In some ways, it's like going to a party in a new town where you just moved. If you don't know anyone there, and you show up and there's a bonfire with dudes throwing TVs off the roof, do you want to stay and join in or get away fast? Similarly, if you walk into a room and a bunch of people are just looking at each other and not saying anything, would you stay?  Check out the forum and spend a bit of time. Honestly, spending ten or fifteen minutes looking into the posts and what people are like will probably save you a lot of future time, anguish, and frustration. If in doubt, I suggest you move on.That said, after you have read some posts in the forum, then you probably know what members are interested in. Try to contribute meaningful content. That means providing links to relevant content, not just products or sales (like many online marketers do), outside videos, or try sharing some of your personal experience or knowledge.  Again, making sure that you contribute useful, meaningful information that addresses someone's question or concern is a good way to start. Another way you can help is to post a useful or interesting observation in the appropriate place or thread. Rather than posting something random, say on opera in the middle of thread about techno, follow the thread's theme. If the thread's not there, then start one.It also helps to introduce yourself so people get an idea of who you are. Most forums have threads just for this.Don't claim to be an expert from the start. There are plenty of other smart people around, and if you show up and claim that you are the master of whatever topic and have no history or record with that community, they have no reason to believe it. Instead, show them that you are competent by providing useful and meaningful content instead of telling them just how wise or smart you are. Unfortunately, a lot of people assume they can start at the top of a forum hierarchy when they have given nothing to a community up to that point. Mere breathing does not make you a master.[li]So can I do anything I want in a forum?That really depends on the forum. Most forums and their communities won't be happy if you constantly are off topic, have nothing of value to contribute, or just toot your own horn. Other forums have an anything goes approach; just be aware that if you can do or say anything, then everyone else there has that same right. If you are combative or nasty, others will behave that way toward you.Many forums have policies and/or user agreements. Some forums don't want users to post any advertisements; other forums will ban you if you post something they consider spam. Read the rules.[li]What happens if a hater hacks my account?First, try to find the email of an active administrator. If you can't find that, register a new account and send a private message to an active administrator explaining what happened. The admin will probably change your old account's password to something new and give you that new password so you can get back in to your account. If you've been careful and not used the same password for your forum account as, for example, your email account, then that should be the end of it.Remember to use long passwords (at least 8 characters) with a mixture of upper and lowercase letters and numbers. It's best if it's totally random garbage that you have to memorize instead of something you already know that other people might be able to guess (such as your significant other's middle name). There are free password generators you can find using Google that will fit the bill quite nicely.

Once you start participating in forums, it can become pretty addicting. Often people think about starting their own forum. The next article, Part III, addresses some basic questions about running your own forum.
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