It hit me recently that maybe people don’t use online forums as much as I thought they did. I have been using various online forums since I could use the internet and I believe they are some of the best platforms for acquiring information. If you’re not regularly visiting and gaining knowledge from forums, this article explains why you should start.
What is a forum?
The dictionary defines a forum as “a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged”. Online forums are just internet based versions of this. The principal is the same, it is a place where people go to post their views and ideas. Some forums focus on specific topics, for example ‘bodybuilding.com’ where primarily fitness/diet is discussed. Other forums, such as ‘Whirlpool’ cover just about everything and have separate categories for each topic. Some forums are ‘serious’ and informative, whereas others are purely for entertainment purposes, try and stick to the former!
Generally, anyone can sign up, state their views and remain anonymous. Which is part of what makes online forums so great, no one is ashamed to say exactly what they think, as they can provide an honest opinion without worrying about the repercussions. However, these advantages don’t come without their downfalls, for the same reasons, forums can often be a pretty brutal and sometimes misleading place to acquire information, which I will touch on in this article.
Unbiased, Real Life Experience
Because these forums are just about as anonymous as you want them to be. People are often honest about their opinion as there is no fear of being ‘discovered’ or called out in real life. Very rarely do people hold back either! Forums are especially valuable when wanting to purchase something, you skip the biased reviews and get honest feedback on the product. Members of these forums generally have a keen interest and better knowledge than most about the topic the forum is about. I.e. the AVForums is full of people with a passion for home theatre, so you’re getting advice from people with genuine interest and knowledge of the product. Sure beats chatting to ‘Joe Blow’ about your TV or trying to get honest information from the guy trying to sell you the TV!
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows
Though extremely helpful, forums aren’t perfect! Information is not ‘vetted’, anyone can post anything with no consequence. This means there can be a heap of misinformation out there. You’ll also find that most forums have a bit of a trend too. Take the ‘Whirlpool’ Finance section, any question about looking at purchasing an Investment Property is instantly shot down and deemed ludicrous. While the property market is said to be inflated, it doesn’t mean that in every circumstance it is a bad decision.
There are also ‘trolls’ on a lot of forums. These people simply take pleasure in spewing bullshit for entertainment purposes. You can generally pick them a mile away, but always be cautious.
Tips & Tricks
There are a few basic things you can do when it comes to online forums to ensure you get the most out of them.
Diversify – Read as much as you can from as many different sources as possible. If you’re buying a Holden, don’t just go on the Holden forum. Go on the Ford forum to get opposing opinions. Then go onto a general automotive forum and make your mind up considering all the inputs.
Don’t take everything as gospel – You’ll do your head in taking everything as fact, you will run into direct opposite opinions and that’s okay. Read as much as you can and form your own opinion based on what you read and your own understanding.
Contribute – I am a member of dozens of forums. Some I haven’t posted on in years, others I post on regularly. For forums to work, the bigger the better! Give back a little once you’ve built up an opinion or experience. This all helps forums become more accurate and relevant.
Online Forums are one of the best tools for unbiased information, but it doesn’t come without a few negatives. Start by jumping on as many as possible and start reading. You’ll never know what you might learn and what you may be able to contribute back.
Information current as of 7 June 2017.