Internet forums, also called message boards, discussion groups, bulletin boards, and Web forums, are discussion areas on a Web site.  An Internet forum can be thought of as an electronic version of the bulletin board common in most classroom. Topics are posted for everyone to see and responses can also be posted by those reading the posts. Typically people must sign up to view or add content to a forum, but some forums are set up so postings can be anonymous and anyone can read them.

Features

Internet forums can be a good place for people who have similar interests to gather since a forum will allow them to interact via the postings. An Internet forum can also be a repository of information such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and how-to topics. Areas of an Internet forum can be restricted only to those who are members of the forum. Additional features that may be present on an Internet forum include:
  • message archives
  • photo repository and albums
  • group calendars
  • polls
  • shared links
An Internet forum differs from a blog because a forum, with proper permissions set, will allow all users to make comments as well as create new topics. Blogs typically are written by one person and readers can respond to the blogger's postings. Internet forums also differ from chats because chats happen in "real time," often with multiple users as strings of back and forth conversation, while forum information consists of postings that tend to be longer and delayed because of the nature of the mechanics of how a forum works.

Benefits

An Internet forum can be used to build "communities of interest" where members contribute directly and are responsible for content. A forum that is not being used is either unadvertised, has insufficient active members, permissions that are too restrictive (a moderator must read every posting before it appears on the forum, for example), or has topics that are of little use to forum members. Freeware for establishing an Internet forum on a Web site is widely available online or, as an alternative, other services such as Yahoo! Groups or Google Groups can be used to provide Internet forum services. Kate Watkins and Randy Green are two personas developed for the TCKP. The following scenarios describe how using an Internet forum would help them with the problems that have arisen for them at work. Kate Watkins new position, Manager of Information Development, has her on the run! A vocal critic of the lack of professionalism shown in her company's user documentation, she is now in a position to do something about it. Having visited the TCKP before, she realizes it is a wealth of information - but sometimes what she finds is not quite what she needs. Kate would like to be in contact with people who share her interests and needs surrounding the development of her writing staff. She notices that there is an Internet Forum on the TCKP and quickly scanning through the list she sees there are a couple of topics that interest her. Digging deeper, she sees a particular sub-group that is dealing with some of the issues she is currently up against. After joining the forum, she posts a question and instructs the system to e-mail her any responses. With his interest in DITA, Randy Green realizes he has hit the jackpot when he finds the DITA Interest Group on the TCKP Since he is new to DITA, he is interested in connecting with other STC members who share his interests. With his company getting into XML-based documentation and structured authoring, he leverages the knowledge of other forum members to ensure he does not make mistakes that could cost his company time and money.

External Web Sites

Credits

Brian Laing