Discussion Groups and Forums
In the early days of the Internet, discussions took place through what was known as a bulletin board. The bulletin board was a dial in system where you had to dial a special number in order to gain access to it .It could be said that the bulletin board was the forerunner to the later discussion forum, and the discussion forum then became blogging further down the line, but there is a subtle difference.
Blogging usually involves a single person's comments, entered daily like a personal diary while a discussion forum consists of postings from several people and is not necessarily started by an individual; it can be started by anyone.
Blogging vs. Discussion ForumsDiscussion forums are usually more controlled than a person's individual blog, mainly because discussion forums consist of a number of people expressing their opinions. Discussion forums exist in web applications and are driven by the user in that all the content is user generated. Discussion forums are in fact an online community belonging to a single site.
Understand the Glossary of DiscussionThere are a number of terms associated with discussion forums. For instance there is the concept of a "post". The post is an individual message contribution in response to an existing idea posted by a previous contributor. When several posts have been made by different people the message becomes a "thread". A thread exists when a number of people are making comments on the same topic. Anyone can start a new thread and anyone can contribute to an existing thread.
In order to ensure things go smoothly in the conversation and to ensure no insulting remarks are made each discussion forum usually has someone whose task it is to monitor conversations and to ensure that remarks and comments are appropriate to the discussion. This person is known as the "moderator". If anyone flouts the rules of the discussion board the moderator can take someone out of a conversation or even ban them from the site altogether if deemed appropriate.
Discussion forums also have an administrator; in fact most sites have administrator. The job of the administrator is to ensure that the site runs smoothly and that a discussion forum is operating correctly and efficiently.
In order to become a contributor to a forum you need to become a member. This involves registration with the site and the provision of a password in order to join in conversations.
Flame Wars!Sometimes what happens is that the debate will become rather heated; so much so that what happens is then a "flame war". This is when a contributor attacks another contributor in a personal way so it becomes more of a personal attack than it is about the original discussion.
Members can also send private messages to other members and they need not have their messages made public in the main discussion forum.
There are certain features which are allowed in discussion forums such as attachments which can be fastened to messages, HTML to send messages with specific content, emoticons which are small pictures to indicate emotions or polls can be added for members to vote on a specific topic and to decide if they are for or against something discussed in the discussion forum. It is also possible to have RSS feeds to keep track of the last few posts contributed. All you would need to do is to subscribe to the feed.
There are many discussion forums and anyone can join. It's just a case of finding a discussion forum that interests you and signing up. Once you are signed up you will become familiar with the terms and what they stand for. For instance "troll" is someone who breaches netiquette by making defamatory remarks. "Spamming" is when you use the same words frequently or insert advertisements in your posts. Some people try to use automatic software called "botnets" to spam users of a forum with their advertisements.
Another term you may become familiar with is "double posting." This is when you accidentally make the same post twice OR you deliberately make a post in another discussion forum so that it is slightly different, again this could be for advertising purposes.
In most discussion forums there is a piece of software called a "word sensor." This little piece of software replaces rude words and inappropriate words with asterisks to blank them out in the overall conversation.
Basically the art of using discussion forums is to state your case clearly and in an interesting way without being insulting or aggressive. Most discussion forums state their rules when you join. You should always read these before contributing so that you understand what the rules are and don’t make any unnecessary mistakes in your use of a particular site.