Internet forums… websites and communities where I spent thousands of hours. To me, they already feel like relics of the past. I’m 21 and began using the internet about 10 years ago, maybe more. I’m sure the majority of kids who are now starting to browse the web (probably at earlier ages than I was) will not participate in a classic forum, perhaps not even land there through some random search. You know, the kind of discussion websites where there are threads, posts, moderators and rules, things are typically ordered in chronological order, and reactions to posts (“votes”, “likes”, and similar) are either unavailable or something added to the system as an add-on rather than a core mechanic.
In recent years, even I – someone who used to be staff on a medium-sized forum, FreeVPS – have withdrawn from most forums where I used to actively participate. Many of my friends who know what a forum is, either never got to participating in one, or are now participating much less than they used to do two, three, four years ago.
In recent months, it has come to my attention that some of the forum-based communities I frequented are facing serious drops in activity levels, sometimes to the point where days go by without a post, where previously there used to be at least one post per hour. While this reduction in activity is in part because the main topics of those forums are becoming more and more niche, I believe a big chunk of the problem has to do with the fact that they are, well, forums. The lack of activity has even led to meta-discussions on new directions and ways to bring life back to these communities – see the threads at Cemetech and CodeWalrus.
This is the first post of a series of blog posts where I’ll look into the state of forums in today’s web, identifying what alternative discussion formats and platforms exist, why users seem to prefer (or hate) them, and what is the role of forums nowadays and what they can still do better than other mediums. With this being a blog and not a scientific study, I will obviously write from my own experience and the experience of my peers, producing subjective, unverifiable but hopefully enjoyable content. I’ll also provide my opinion on why forums are still necessary, and give suggestions on how forum-based communities become more appealing to today’s web users.
With this, I hope to be able to bring some life and schedule to this blog – blogs, which are another medium that is nowhere as popular as it once was… maybe I’ll look a bit into that too. This post will act as the index of the series, so links to new posts will appear here once they are published. Stay tuned.
Seeing that I’m getting a lot of hits on this blog from people searching about the SliTaz servers being down right now, probably because I have a blog post with the words “SliTaz” and “dead” on the title, which was published over a year ago, I’d like to inform that I know nothing about the server situation other than the fact that the website is unavailable for me too.
(talking about SliTaz, I kinda stopped following the project, even though I find it interesting… note to self: pay more attention to it from now on)
People who follow my work probably already know I’m an user of world’s first digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. I’m not a very advanced user, I just use it for storing the little profit from my websites and receive a few cents for some occasional work I do online. It is also the only way you can donate money to me. I’m always looking for ways to earn a little more money in preferably free/easy ways, and I’m a bit tired of going through free offers, getting free bitcoins from faucets and waiting for the occasional cent from ads. I don’t think freelancing in the web development area is for me, either – I feel like I’d never manage to finish any work in time, and my skills are not that high.
So, back on topic. What brought me to write this post were two things: a) I didn’t post here in a long time; b) I’m doing this for money. Heh, joking, I’m not doing this just for money. I explain: I was yet again earning a little money from Bitvisitor, when I came across Rugatu. I had read and seen it before, but I never cared to visit it. I thought it was just another questions and answers (Q&A) site, like Yahoo Answers. Honestly, I have better use for my time than answering questions from many noob people (sorry for being harsh, but that’s the truth!), even when the use for that time is spend hours laughing at 9Gag. Oh well – I better stop now, this is ruining my reputation.
One thing made me stop for looking more carefully at Rugatu, and it was probably the only thing that made me register, for the first time ever, on a Q&A website. The thing is, this Q&A website runs on OSQA, which is Open Source software licensed under the GNU GPL version 3! Amazing, isn’t it? Amazing it might be, but no, that wasn’t exactly what made me register on Rugatu. The fact that one gets rewarded in Bitcoins, when answering others’ questions, was the distinctive aspect that made me register at this Q&A site. This may look irrelevant but for me it makes all the difference: you get paid for your work of answering questions.
Yes, I’ll probably still answer questions from noobs, but hey, when my answers are good, I get paid for them! It makes a big difference.
And another thing: that site is not very well known yet. There don’t seem to be noobs there, nor stupid and non-sense questions. Which means I won’t be answering “How format ma pendrive?” questions but interesting ones put by other people. Let’s hope I haven’t set my expectations for Rugatu too high. It’s just that I registered perhaps an hour ago, and still haven’t answered any questions. I’ll try and do it right after I finish this post.
But why would I be writing about this little-known site called Rugatu? Hell, I haven’t even written about my own cloud service which urgently needs to get clients or it flops and puts me owing money to other people, but instead I prefer writing about some Q&A service? I’m writing this for three reasons: first, it gets traffic to this abandoned blog; second, it helps Rugatu grow (I wish people wrote blog posts about my websites, so why don’t I start and do it first about others’ websites?); and a third reason, is a selfish motivation: money money, must be funny… Read here. Yeah, if my answer with this post gets voted up enough, I’d earn 1.50 BTC (over $10 USD considering 1 BTC is now worth about $7), which should be enough to help cover a flop with my service tnyCloud. In fact, if I earn, the 1.5 Bitcoins are going straight to the tnyCloud wallet to help with the server costs.
Sorry if this post looks like a forced positive review of a service which, actually, I haven’t tried very well yet. If it looks like so, then it probably is – but one needs to compensate the little amount of advertisements on this blog somehow, right? You can start thinking about what my next post will be: perhaps I’ll become a Microsoft advocate (ugh!) to win a free copy of Windows 8, or an Apple fanboy (ugh ugh ugh!) to win a Apple sticker (they don’t give away anything more valuable) or I’ll just argue how Samsung is right about their devices not copying Apple just in order to win a Galaxy Tab. Probably next blog post will be something just as boring as the one I wrote about the Like button some time ago. Eventually, it will be about intellectual property and the stupid thing software patents are.
For some reason, this post is looking like a link farm. I better finish it with a giant link to the website this post really is about…
Try it, question it, answer it! Then earn the coin 🙂
EDIT: I did it! I won the 1.5 Bitcoins. Yeah! 🙂 Thanks a lot Rugatu and everyone who voted.