Internet forum

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An Internet forum is a web application for holding discussions and posting user-generated content.[1][2] Internet forums are also commonly referred to as Web forums, newsgroups, message boards, discussion boards, (electronic) discussion groups, discussion forums, bulletin boards, fora (the Latin plural) or simply forums.[citation needed] The terms "forum" and "board" may refer to the entire community or to a specific sub-forum dealing with a distinct topic. Messages within these sub-forums are then displayed either in chronological order or as threaded discussions. In many cases a gateway allows access to the same data via an HTTP or an NNTP interface.

Such forums perform a function similar to that of dial-up bulletin board systems that were common from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Early web-based forums date back as far as 1996. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, computer games and/or video games, sports, fashion, religion, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of topics. Internet slang and image macros popular across the internet are abundant and widely used in internet forums.

Contents
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* 1 Forum Topics
* 2 Membership and anonymity
* 3 Administrators and moderators
* 4 Features
* 5 Comparison with other web applications
* 6 Forum netiquette
o 6.1 Multiple posts (or Double posting)
o 6.2 Spamming
o 6.3 Trolls
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links

[edit] Forum Topics

Forum topics vary greatly and can be about almost anything. Commonly forums can be about games, tv shows, mobile phones, websites and even people. For example Britney Spears Zone is a fan site for Britney Spears, and SerenaFailsForums is a forum about the comic mishaps of a teenaged girl. Because forums are mostly about recent and new age topics, it is thought most forum subjects will change with the times (i.e. technology forums).

[edit] Membership and anonymity

Anonymous forums may offer full anonymity or pseudonymity, allowing posts without registration. Captchas, e-mail authentication, and tripcodes are often used to prevent comment spam on such forums.

Registered members of a forum, who are identified by unique usernames, may have additional privileges, such as the ability to edit their previous posts, start new topics, and control their individual settings and profiles. The profiles tend to include graphical avatars and signature blocks which are appended to their future posts, sometimes consisting of elaborate shoutboxes. Members also have the ability to send personal messages to each other. In certain cases, members have been given the ability to close their own topics, edit previously posted comments, or delete posts in topics they have started.

Western-style forums place heavy emphasis on identity and user registration. This makes the tone of discussion very different from the more anonymous 2channel style boards. The burdens of status and persona encourage both highly formal discourse and close personal relationships, depending on the tone given a forum by its moderators and heaviest users. The permanence of messages on many western-style forums can encourage users to self-moderate. Precursor systems like Usenet have been archived as far back as 1981 by Google Groups (formerly DejaNews).

[edit] 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 global skins, modify the board, and ban, delete, or create members. Moderators have a subset of these powers, which may include editing, deleting, and moving threads, mass pruning, warning members for offences, and changing minor forum details. It is often possible for moderator privileges to be delegated to other forum members.

A board's moderation system can include moderation of the moderators via a meta-moderation system. The board software may also allow administrators to create wordfilters, automated scripts which strip undesirable text from users' messages. Other features may include sticky threads, allowing moderators and administrators to cause significant threads to display at the top of the forum's index.

[edit] Features

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 different 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.

Several other web applications, such as weblog software, also incorporate forum features. Wordpress comments at the bottom of a blog post allow for a single-threaded discussion of any given blog post. Slashcode, on the other hand, is far more complicated, allowing fully threaded discussions and incorporating a robust moderation and meta-moderation system as well as many of the profile features available to forum users. Full content management systems such as Drupal or Mambo can also incorporate full-blown forums as plugins or basic features of forums in other portions of their website.

[edit] 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. Because members may miss replies in threads they are interested in, many modern forums offer an "e-mail notification" feature, whereby members can choose to be notified of new posts in a thread, and web feeds that allow members to see a summary of the new posts using aggregator software. The main difference between newsgroups and forums is that additional software, a newsreader, is required to participate in newsgroups. Visiting and participating in forums normally requires no additional software beyond the web browser.

Wikis, unlike conventional forums, typically allow all users to edit all content, including each other's messages. This level of content manipulation is reserved for moderators or administrators on most forums. Wikis also allow the creation of other content outside of the talk pages. On the other hand, weblogs and generic content management systems tend to be locked down to the point where only a few select users can post blog entries, although many allow other users to comment upon them.

Forums differ from chat rooms and instant messaging in that forum participants do not have to be online simultaneously to receive or send messages. Messages posted to a forum or Usenet are publicly available for some time, which is uncommon in chat rooms that maintain frequent activity.

[edit] Forum netiquette

Main article: Netiquette

Forum netiquette can vary on different forums. On default, individuals must agree to a Registry Agreement that defines a forum's rules before joining that particular forum, but whether those rules are actively enforced varies from forum to forum. For example, a family friendly forum would prohibit sexually explicit content, but a sex-oriented forum would encourage it. Also, some forums are more tolerant of cursing and rude behavior than others. Rowdy forum users often engage in flaming.

[edit] Multiple posts (or Double posting)

One common faux pas on internet forums is to post the same message twice. Users sometimes post versions of a message that are only slightly different, especially in forums where they aren't allowed to edit their earlier posts. Multiple posting instead of editing prior posts can artificially inflate a user's post count. Multiple posting can be unintentional; a user's browser might display an error message even though the post has been transmitted or a user of a slow forum might become impatient and repeatedly hit the submit button. Multiple posting can also be used as a method of trolling or spreading forum spam. A user may also send the same post to several forums, which is termed crossposting. This problem was inherited from Usenet and is a common complaint in many forums.

In many forums which have editing allowed they have rules asking people not to make multiple posts, and also use a common plug-in to merge double posts (without an administrator/moderator having to manually delete or merge the posts).

[edit] Spamming

Main article: Forum spam

Forum spamming is a breach of netiquette where users repeat the same word or phrase over and over, but differs from multiple posting in that spamming is usually a wilful act which sometimes has malicious intent. This is a common trolling technique. It can also be traditional spam, unpaid advertisements that are in breach of the forum's rules. Spammers utilize a number of illicit techniques to post their spam, including the use of botnets. A different form of spamming is making posts that have little or no meaning (e.g., "I lik to tadada").

[edit] Trolls

Main article: Troll (Internet)

A troll is a user that repeatedly and intentionally breaches netiquette, often posting derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages about sensitive topics in an established online community to bait users into responding, often starting flamewars. They may also link to shock sites or plant images on networks that others may find disturbing in order to cause confrontation. Trolls known as gravediggers purposefully post in old and irrelevant threads simply to bring that thread to light again.

[edit] See also
Internet portal

* Hit-and-run posting
* Comparison of Internet forum software
* Imageboard
* Online consultation
* Online community manager
* Online deliberation
* Shoutbox (also known as a "tagboard")
* Social software

[edit] References

1. ^ "Brevard User's Group - Technical Glossary". Brevard User's Group. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
2. ^ "Glossary Of Technical Terms", Green Web Design. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.

[edit] External links

* www.big-boards.com – List of forums groupped by categories
* rankings.big-boards.com/?p=all – A list with the largest forums on the internet (sorted by number of posts)

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