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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Decline of The Online Message Board

   
Author Topic: The Decline of The Online Message Board
BlackBlade
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From The NY Times.

I certainly hope she is wrong. There is something about forums that I just cannot get elsewhere. I don't have the conversations I have here on Facebook, they just can't happen, especially with the character limits. I certainly don't think everything that could be discussed has been discussed.

So where are forums going? Will we all still be around in 10 years? I plan on it, and right now the amount of time I spend reading and writing in forums easily outpaces any other site I visit in minutes by 5 : 1. But am I alone in this? Are people going elsewhere to fill that niche?

A huge number of times I've looked on the internet for a solution to a problem: Computer broken, game not working, efficacy of certain medications, when is a patch coming out, and found that answer on a forum through a search engine.

Wikis are great for getting general information about a topic, but as for gossip especially recent developments, I just don't see platforms like Facebook providing that.

All in all, I can certainly see why forums are less popular than they might have been 5-10 years ago, but I don't think they are on the way out, but perhaps I like forums because they were there for me when the internet was in its infancy, do newer users bypass forums of all kinds completely?

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rivka
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Of course, before there were UBB/phpBB/SMF/etc. fora, there were the Round Tables of GEnie, the BBs of Prodigy, and the Forums of Compuserve. And before THAT there was Usenet.

Individual online communities will come and go. But communities as a whole go on.

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theCrowsWife
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I refuse to join the social networking sites, so I guess if forums ever get too boring from lack of people, I just won't spend as much time on the internet. That's already the trajectory I'm on, and I'm not really interested in changing it.

I certainly noticed a huge downturn in blogging when Twitter got popular. A lot of the blogs I follow never update anymore, or only rarely. Not all of those are a result of twitter, of course, but several did post entries that people should follow them on [social networking site of the moment] in order to get more content. Whatever, I have better things to do.

--Mel

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Samprimary
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All that the author of that piece is noticing is that forum communities that survived in lieu of the options that the widely expanded and socially networked internet of today offers ... are dying out. Because those expanded options ate their share and made them extraneous to people's interest and communication patterns. Oh, and that forums typically have lifespans and you can watch the life get crushed from one as the years go by, either by the avarice of a few toxic users or the cascading cycle of disinterest causing nonparticipation, and vice versa.

Facebook, Twitter, etc take a share of the communications experience in vessels more suited to the wide variety of the ways people want to express itself. If a forum dies because of social networking, this is a good evolution. And if forums really do become outmoded — extraneous, in the sense that there's no longer a communication niche that they fill admirably — it will be on account of better options being available. I wouldn't mind leaving them behind any sooner than I mind I'm not using a telnet interface to chat with people anymore.

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scholarette
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I haven't kept up on blogging in part because of facebook. Everyone important to me is on facebook. I can do notes if I want longer, can do pics, videos easily. And I get the feeling people on facebook read my posts, whereas on the blog no one ever read it. On facebook, you read about all your friends with one stop, instead of going to every blog.
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Samprimary
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Some people here and there do actually create something which is a worthwhile endeavor in blog format. These stop really being called or considered blogs; they're more considered article feeds from a specific author/contributor/artist. The rest of the internet community can't, and they're producing too sparse a quantity of information to warrant being more than a tumblr 'here is something interesting I did or thought about today' reminiscent of yesteryears' livejournals. I call these "blogs" in giant quotemarks.

The end result is that blog culture is experiencing a much needed outmoding, where most people give up the ghost and revert to much more concise entries on another format (usually social networking), and, hooray for that. I want it to die harder than Podcasting. Practically nine out of ten of the rest of people still calling themselves a 'blogger' (and checking in every now and then into their mouldering Blogspot/TypePress/Gawker to post this month's long-winded whinge) are not doing anything that's ever going to stay regular enough or be actually interesting enough to generate more interest than a few responses (mostly by people they specifically link it to).

I think XKCD's comic on Locke and Demosthenes pretty much had the right of it.

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scholarette
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Wait, since when is blogging supposed to create something worthwhile?
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Parkour
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Its not about worthwhile as much as it is about the format and organization of content. A blog is just a format for output and a format for dissemination, because you are writing things you want others to see. But because that format is too much for most people to keep interesting ...
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AchillesHeel
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I have to agree with BB, personal social networking sites are simply not the prime location for many of the arguments and conversations that go on here and other sites like hatrack. The anonymity is certainly a factor, in most cases I never even care to speculate a posters gender here, I simply process the statement as it is presented with little to no judgement or pre-concieved disposition.

Hatrack is not as massive as it once was, but for a discussion board with as many active years it is doing quite well. OSC is the sole reason we are all here and provides us with a commonality in preferances and experiances with his work, for a board that is a wicked little hook that seems to provide more members as time goes on. When I have occasion to consider it, I relish in the fact that this is something of a haven from the normal trolling of the internet.

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Emreecheek
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Besides, I've had discussions with people on facebook. They're never as productive as discussions here. Ever.

I say this with all the experience that lurking has granted me. For realz. I've noticed here, I've got opportunitites to just read a lot of different Points of view on a topic, and never felt compelled to engage because I was learning more by reading. Or, I've had people here actually present me with an idea that is wholly new and unfamiliar. I've also had the pleasure of seeing my thoughts expounded upon by others in such a way that enriches my current understanding and changes how I want to address that topic in the future.

I don't get that from facebook. I only get my friends there. On forums, based on topical interests rather than networking, I get a lot of intellectual stimulation that facebook doesn't offer me, and it helps me get a lot more "outside of myself," when thinking about different ideas/issues.

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Emreecheek
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And! My pet from neopets caught Ugga-ugga. Did neopets help me find Peppermint Stomach Medicine? Save me from the trouble of finding and purchasing Sporkle syrup? No. A forum did.
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FlyingCow
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We have talked about this a bit in the past, at varying stages of Hatrack's decline in activity.

Amazingly, there are now 10 days worth of topics shown on Hatrack's front page (July 3 through July 12)... in 2005, there were 6 full pages of topics that had "last post" dates between July 3rd to July 12th. And those are just the posts we *know* were active on those days, not including the active topics on July 12th 2005 that had "last post" dates later on.

In 6 years, the activity on the board has dropped anywhere from 75-90%. It's sad, in a way. At this point, I think I still lurk more out of nostalgia than anything else.

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Blayne Bradley
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I would like to see message boards evolve to a 3D format, where people can physically walk around a virtual city and have discussions in properly themed locations.

Maybe splice it with echo bazaar so you can only argue as well as your level so that even if your high level only if you understand how arguments work can you argue effectively.

I think what's happening is not a "decline" of the message board so much as a breaking of a long held inefficient monopoly and its diversification into more well defined niches. For example, most of the posting I tended to do up to about a year ago would be more suitable in a twitter like format. For about 60% of it, and then like the remaining 40% maybe more suitable to an actual blog.

Personally once I have something more concrete to show like an a webcomic, I'll move alot of my stuff over to a blog.

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Stone_Wolf_
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So, by your math Blayne, none of it is suited for for a board. Hehe.
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Mucus
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Well.
Social networks currently work off your real identity, so any trolling for fun has to be separate. Any political or religious discussions that may get too hot or controversial, has to be separate from family (and in some cases, friends), so I think there will always be a place for relatively anonymous message forums.

But I do think that social networks will basically take over many instances of forums where anonymity isn't wanted or required.

Ironically, the place/culture where anonymous BBS-like forums are thriving the best in my experience are mainland and overseas Chinese forums. Getting censored or flamed by fenqing sucks enough, but doing it under your real name and risking family/visa/academic access is a serious issue. So anonymous forms of posting will probably persist longer there than here.

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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Any political or religious discussions that may get too hot or controversial, has to be separate from family (and in some cases, friends)

I know from experiance that my pot-smoking foodstamps recieving cousin does not appreciate my opinion on drug use or government programs. Despite our good relationship and my high opinion of how she raises her children I find that I cant speak my mind on any real adult subject without offending most of my family. But here I am not the only atheist who earns thier own way and does it completly sober, making it much easier to speak my mind and be told that I am wrong for not being skeptical/independant/sober enough.
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Emreecheek
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Yeah... And with social networking has come some negative effects that board members don't have - Unwanted friend requests. I know I generally don't post on a board until I've lurked for a while. If I don't like the people, I don't post and just leave.

It's quite a different matter, though, with random family members and "friends" I haven't talked to in years who randomly post things on my statuses... The ones who haven't figured out I'm gay yet are especially counter-productive to legitimate conversation.

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Aerin
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It also comes with the benefit of being able to turn down friend requests and eliminate those you have already accepted.

That's a MAJOR PLUS for social networking - you don't actually have to endure anyone you don't want to.

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AchillesHeel
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Yet you still have to explain yourself to your mother after ignoring her friend request.
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Aerin
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I don't have a mother. There are very few upsides to this, but I take them where I can.
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rivka
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Not if it's Google+! You can block her and she won't even know!

BWAHAHAHA!

[Edit, aw, MAN! Timing is everything, and mine sucks.]

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Aerin
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*laugh* It's okay, rivka.
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rivka
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[Smile]
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Emreecheek
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Yup.

Declining old friends and family members offends them.

And they're oddly persistent. I often wait a couple of weeks and then remove them, but no. They'll refriend me and be confused and not know what happened.

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Aerin
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My niece refuses to friend my aunt, and they have a very close relationship. I think it's okay - I'm only friends with about half my family, and if it is an issue, they are doing a very good job of hiding it.

Boundary-drawing isn't always so explicit, but it's something that happens normally.

As a side note, don't post anything under your real name anywhere you don't want a potential employer to see anyway. It will and can get out. I'm considerally less worried about what my dad might see than I am about what my employer or future employers might.

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odouls268
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I utterly refuse to facebook, and I actually didn't even consider reading the article linked by the OP. BUT, if the internet forums should crumble and fall, you're all welcome to come hang at the used bookstore with me. Mandals and debating politics strictly prohibited.
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