In the age of social media, this is a blast from the past:
Through about 2010 or so, using a motorcycle-specific forum went like this: You’d join, introduce yourself, often in a “New Members” area, and you were off to the races, asking questions, sharing advice and opinions and talking about the forum’s subject matter. Some forums were about a specific model, like 600rr.net. Others focused on a brand, like Triumphrat.net. Some, like bayarearidersforum.com (affectionately known as BARF) were regional, and some of those transcended their local beginnings and had people posting from around the world.
In most cases, it was likely to be a community of warm and welcoming people who had gathered. There were as many people asking questions as giving answers and it was awesome. Trolls were few, moderation by volunteers was adequate, and most people genuinely wanted to help. Often, you could find deep and detailed writeups and how-tos from people creating genuinely wonderful user-generated content because A) they really loved posting helpful stuff and B) it was before most people were aware that all commercial enterprises on the internet are using you and your content for their own profit.
I used to administer a forum, so I can recognise this feeling. While the editorial content moderation was my responsibility, I took it seriously. However, running a community requires considerable effort and is a full-time task. I had more pressing clinical duties, and once the complaints piled on against my efforts to keep trolls at bay, I had to quit.
- The eventual dominance of mobile phones makes writing and reading long-form content difficult
- Social media is simpler to useImage uploading services closing, causing broken images
- Link rot and an ageing audience (“people die”)
I agree. Yet, the forums are seeing a revival. There has been a movement away from Reddit (and their trigger happy moderators) and Discord towards forums with better UI.
Forum platforms were the only option for hosting a community for a long while. Now we are spoiled for choice. There are platforms for creators, small communities, enterprise communities and everything in between. Social media and apps like Discord and Slack have reshaped expectations and workflows. Asynchronous communication is still valued, but the delivery has to be slicker. A sense of togetherness is fostered with instant notifications and visual indicators like who is online and who is typing with you.
I attempted to create a forum based on Drupal, and it was a learning experience. I had to give up again because of time constraints, but I realised that an unpaid community manager is not up to the task. Most internet users have no idea of posting asymmetric information, and I had been brought up on a diet of newsletters and mailing lists instead. There was a huge bridge to cross; I prefer to blog instead. I prefer Telegram, which allows automatic moderation through bots. It’s much simpler and easier.