Join a forum
Joining an online forum is a great way to get new ideas, inspiration, information and personal perspectives on an issue.
Online forums can be:
- Localised and specifically aimed at a certain group of people for example, young people in Victoria
- Global, where anyone in the world can have their say
It’s useful to know the do’s and don’ts of online interaction before you dive into a forum.
Who uses a forum
Community and activist groups often have lively discussion areas where you can follow the progress of an event or campaign. Many schools and universities now use online discussion groups as part of their curriculum. It’s not unusual to see a politician or decision-maker join a forum for a specific issue or at a nominated time, and this is an ideal opportunity to deliver your message straight to the source.
How they work
Online forums are hosted by a website and encourage participants to post comments and debate an issue. There’s usually a facilitator or ‘moderator’ who sets the ground rules and helps move the conversation forward. If someone is not following the ground rules, the facilitator can remove them from the discussion.
Online postings are normally between 10-15 lines long. What you post is up to you, you can post comments, quotes, songs, poems or images - as long as they relate to the topic.
Quite often, you have to register to use a forum. This is a good way of making sure that the people who are in the forum aren’t there to waste time, bicker or advertise.
Sometimes, forums are set up for a specific event, online festival or time period. You may need to register in advance, and then you join in when the time comes. There may also be special guests or experts who attend to answer questions. Usually you can browse the archive of the discussion afterwards.
How to get noticed
If you use the forum with respect, it can be the location for valuable information and advice. Forums that are vibrant and up-to-date usually have a number of dedicated members who frequently add their posts and help to keep the discussion on track. To seriously contribute to an online community, you should post regularly and read other people’s comments.
An easy way to join an online forum is to treat it like a conversation. Introduce yourself at your first posting and link your name to future postings.
Online forums are very popular; there are a lot of opinions out there. To stand out from the crowd and have your opinion heard and taken seriously, you need to:
- Show you have knowledge based on research and experience
- Keep your post concise and to the point
- Acknowledge other posts where relevant
How to post like a pro
Like real life, there are rules online that will make a forum easier for everyone. The following ‘netiquette’ tips will help you feel confident when you decide to add a comment to a forum.
Rule 1: Don’t type in capital letters
Capitals, especially bolded, make people think you’re shouting. They’re also harder to read.
Rule 2: Be polite and respectful of other people’s opinions
Although this may sound obvious, when you’re facing a blank screen it’s easy to forget that person reading your comments is human. You probably wouldn’t trash what they say and believe if you were meeting them in person, so don’t do it online. A flame is an email or post that expresses a strong opinion or criticism, usually not supported by evidence or reasoning. These are sometimes removed by moderators.
Rule 3: Don’t jump to conclusions
Online forums, like email and SMS messages, lack the tone, body language and facial expressions of face-to-face conversation. It’s easy to misinterpret or take offence where none was meant. If you think someone is being rude or discriminatory, you could ask to them to explain why they’ve posted their comment.
Rule 4: Think before you type
Everything you write on the net may be archived. Think about whether there is the possibility your post could come back to haunt you in the future. Once you post something on the net you have no control over who reads it.
Rule 5: Never post or forward a private email without permission.
Unless the author gives you permission, you must respect their privacy and keep their personal email correspondence with you under wraps.
Rule 6: Don’t scroll the forum
This is when you type a single letter or symbol in the compose area and keep pressing the send button. It’s annoying for other people in the online forum and disrupts the conversation.
Rule 7: Be patient
If people don’t reply to your message immediately they may be doing something else like finishing a uni essay due the next day. ‘Brb’ means be right back.
Rule 8: Don’t spam!
Spam is electronic junk mail that is sent en masse. It’s annoying and doesn’t achieve anything.
Rule 9: Watch your privacy
Don’t give out your home address or more details about your private life than necessary. For example, avoid describing where you go to school or your personal appearance. If you are willing to post your email address, be aware that anyone could use it who is viewing the forum.
Rule 10: Stay smart
Don’t believe everything said in online forums is true. Ultimately they are personal opinions, and should be treated as such. If there are links to documents and other reliable references to support an argument, follow them up to further investigate someone’s position.
Vibewire is a non profit youth media and arts organisation designed to give young Australians a forum to express who they are and what they care about.