From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An Internet forum is a facility on the World Wide Web for holding discussions and posting user generated content, or the web application software used to provide the facility. Web-based forums, which date from around 1995, perform a similar function as the dial-up bulletin boards and Internet newsgroups that were numerous in the 1980s and 1990s. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, computer games, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of different topics .
Internet forums are also commonly referred to as web forums, message boards, discussion boards, (electronic) discussion groups, discussion forums, bulletin boards (but see also dial-up bulletin boards), fora (the Latin plural) or simply forums.
Internet forums are prevalent in most developed countries. The English-speaking world is dominated less by one large forum and more by many smaller forums, including SomethingAwful, Gaia Online, GameFAQs and IGN.
Small forums are often based around a single subject. Usually there is an "off-topic" forum where users can post any items they find interesting or play "forum games". Larger Internet forums are in general more subject to public conflicts between users, catch phrases, and private jokes. Depending on the level of moderation there may also be conflicts between users and administrators.
Like other forms of online communication, Internet forums are home to many heated exchanges and rivalries. Often, administrators and moderators ask users to conform to netiquette; if they leave a forum unmoderated it may degenerate and become useless for discussion. However, some forums allow only selective postings effectively censoring information even though the posts might have followed netiquette and were in good spirit. This is especially true of team/country specific forums that do not wish to see a different viewpoint of the same topic/post.
A forum is essentially a website composed of a number of member-written threads. Each thread entails a discussion or conversation in the form of a series of member-written posts. These threads remain saved on the forum website for future reading indefinitely or until deletion by a moderator. However, forum software can be considerably more advanced.
Most forum software allows more than one forum to be created. These forums are containers for threads started by the community. Depending on the permissions of community members as defined by the board's administrator, they can post replies to existing threads and start new threads as they wish.
Forum software can be broadly divided between those which allow visitors to post anonymously, and those which attribute posts to a registered username.
For username-based software, visitors register using a username and a password, and possibly an e-mail address for validation purposes. In these types of forums, the members are often able to customise both how their posts display to others (for example avatars, user profiles and signatures) and how the board appears to them (such as different themes). Username-based software may provide for anonymity by allowing visitors to post without registration.
Anonymous forums may offer full anonymity or pseudonymity, but no registration. In order to provide the same set of features as registration-based forums, anonymous forums especially in Asia use a system of tripcodes, a system of authentication that does not require registration. Although blog comment pages are not Internet forums, they often use the anonymous system for the sake of simplicity.
Threads in a forum are either flat (posts are listed in chronological order) or threaded (each post is made in reply to a parent post). Sometimes, community members have a choice on how to display threads.
Forum software packages are widely available on the Internet, and are written in a variety of programming languages, such as PHP, Perl, Java and ASP. The configuration and records of posts can be stored in text files or in a database. Each package offers a different variety of features, from the most basic providing text-only postings to more advanced packages offering multimedia support and formatting code (usually known as BBCode). Many packages can be integrated easily into an existing website to allow visitors to post comments on articles.
Some forums feature a points system that allows members to add to the points of another member by propping that member. (Alternatively, members can also detract points from another member by negative propping, or (more simply) negging, that member.) Some view the practice as a booster of member contributions, while others view it as unnecessary and a frequent cause of dispute. In any case, on some forums a culture of 'prop-hoing' has developed as some members become increasingly desperate for props.
A variation on the common forum layout popularized by western software is the imageboard, which has a much greater emphasis on shorter, but more numerous threads based on a single image or topic that are quick to age and disappear.
Administrators and Moderators
A forum administrator typically has the ability to edit, delete, move or otherwise modify any thread on the forum. Administrators also usually have the ability to close the board, change major software items, change the skin, modify the board, ban, delete, or create members. moderator privileges are often able to be delegated to other forum members. Moderators usually help the Administrator (Admin), but have less abilities, which may include editing, deleting, and moving threads, mass pruning, warning members for offenses, and changing minor forum details. The reasons for having these abilities are often to allow peace to be maintained and the rules to be enforced. The ways in which the moderation system works depends on the board software—for example, they can be directly appointed by the board administrator or chosen by an automated process combined with meta-moderation (moderation of the moderators). The board software may also allow the administrator to create wordfilters, automated scripts which strip undesirable text from users' messages. Many other moderation systems exist and the board administrator is free to choose rules for their own forums.
Members and Users
Members of a forum usually have basic rights. They usually can post in threads, edit their posts, start new topics, and change their settings. On most forums, users have a small picture located around their name, this is called an avatar. An avatar is a small picture that is chosen by the user. Members also have the ability to use and send personal messages to each other. Members are the backbone of any forum, they post and respond to each other. In certain cases, members have been given the ability to close their own topics, or delete posts in topics they have started. Members also have the choice of a signature, which is usually words and pictures at the end of every post they have (put in automatically) but some are elaborate as a Shout box.
Many times, forums develop in tight nit communities. Basic lingo of the internet is not far, saying like ROFL of FTW are abundant. But there are also more minute words used. A thread may refer to a topic, which is posted by a poster. Mods and Admin have been shortened for Moderator and Administrator, respectively. In addition, a Forum usually encompasses individual parts of the board, which is the whole site, but in some cases this is not true. The term gravedigger refers to one who will post in a topic that is very old, and bring it up for discussion. A Godmodder, found in many RP Forums, is one who stacks abilities to seem all powerful. A Spammer is one who continually posts random, offensive, or mindless posts in a topic or thread, this can also be done with pictures.
Comparison with other web applications
One significant difference between forums and electronic mailing lists is that mailing lists automatically deliver new messages to the subscriber, while forums require the member to visit the website, and check for new posts. Due to the possibility of members missing replies to threads they are interested in, many modern forums offer an "e-mail notification" feature, where an e-mail is automatically sent to all users who have chosen to be notified of new replies, informing them that a new post has been made, and RSS feeds that allow people to see the summary of the new posts using an aggregator software.
The main difference between newsgroups and forums is that additional software is usually required to participate in newsgroups, a newsreader. Visiting and participating in forums normally requires no additional software beyond the web browser.
Forums, unlike wikis, do not allow people to edit other's messages. Some users, however, may be given this ability in order to moderate content (for example, if spam is posted to the forum).
Unlike blogs, forums typically allow anyone to start a new discussion (known as a thread), or reply to an existing thread. The range of topics discussed on forums is typically wider—as a website running forum software may have more than one forum, each dedicated to a different topic. While many blogs allow visitors to post comments in reply, the number of people who can create entries is normally very limited, and the range of viewpoints and beliefs on a blog are also limited.
Forums differ from chat rooms and instant messaging because forum participants do not have to be online at the same time; forums also usually deal with one topic and personal exchanges are typically discouraged. Participants in Internet forums should realize that what they have to say will be public knowledge for years to come. For example, Google Groups (formerly DejaNews) includes an archive of Usenet articles dating back to 1981. Forum archives are sometimes the best way to find an answer to very obscure questions, such as how to fix a particular computer problem.
Western-style forum software places a heavy amount of emphasis on identity, with user registration, custom titles and avatars being standard features. This makes the tone of discussion very different from the more anonymous 2channel style boards; the burdens of status and persona encourage, alternately, highly formal discourse and close personal relationships. The behaviour of moderators shapes overall tendencies towards one direction or the other.
Notes and references
- ^ In Internet forum terminology, a "topic" can also represent a specific discussion page inside one of the forum's categories. It consists of a list of postings made by the members of the forum that are usually responses to the first post by the one who started the topic. Another term for this is "thread", and the two are used interchangeably.
- ^ Jargon File entry for fora
- Avatar (icon)
- Bulletin board system
- Comparison of Internet forum software
- Electronic mailing list
- Online chat
- Online consultation
- Online deliberation
- Shoutbox (also known as a "tagboard")
- Social software
- Virtual community
- Yahoo! Groups
- Google Groups
- MSN Groups
- Message Boards at the Open Directory Project
- Online Communities: Directories at the Open Directory Project