First rule of ham forums (or any other internet forums): “The consensus of the uninformed does not give birth to an informed opinion.” Period.
A forum can be a place of sharing, but only if the participants can & will bring information useful to share to that forum.
- A whole series of “I don’t know” forum posts doesn’t create knowledge.
- A whole series of negative to outright-troll posts never create a positive result.
The first – the uninformed – only repeat the question, and the second – the forum troll – only gives voice to a bad spirit.
So how to find quality information in forums?
Look for forums that have these characteristics:
- Fully Identified users – no Darko13 or other handles. Either by call sign or by full name every participant should be identified.
- Fully Identified moderators – ditto on the forum staff. If the mods hide behind handles there is a reason.
- Encouragement of both newbies and professionals– if the forum welcomes the new and goes out of its way to get opinions & posts from the expert, it is likely a better class of neighborhood.
- Strict “No Troll” and etiquette policies – a good forum shuts down trolls and has a heavy hand when it comes to personal respect issues.
- Big Tent rather than inner clique feel – some otherwise reasonable forums have been spoiled by inner clique issues, where the inner circle is held in higher esteem than other forum members.
- Minimal “Secret Rooms” – many forums have forum sections that are available only to certain classes of members. Sometimes you have to pay up, sometimes it is for volunteers, some private sections are for commercial reasons. These should be transparent and acknowledged.
- Moderation on the Monetization of the Forum – watch out for those that exist only to get advertising “clicks” or are only about making money for the forum owner.
In the amateur radio world there are not that many large forums – QRZ.com and eHam come to mind the quickest.
QRZ.com is pretty open about what it is, and tends towards a newsflash/tweet type of posting. Announcements and ads seem to figure highly. QRZ does have a neat “Activity” feed-like page http://forums.qrz.com/activity.php which adds some utility. The main QRZ Forum link is http://forums.qrz.com/forum.php
eHam is the amateur radio troll’s favorite, with many forum sections all but run by soured negative trolls. Moderation is all but absent and when it does occur uneven, summary, unexplained and anonymous. eHam has moderated my posts without explanation, reason or reply, completely erased hams from their posts, articles and reviews if they ask the eHam staff what is going on, and the staff never replies if you write them. eHam is about selling ad clicks, and if letting trolls pick fights with other amateurs gets more clicks – well that seems a-ok to eHam. If you want a look Google for eHam as I can’t recommend them by direct link.
Here is an example of the eHam Troll-Fest – I keep them all ignored, so perhaps they are lavishing praise on my post, but rather doubt it…. Notice how in minutes they gather, slather and lurk…. Trolls:
Then the ranks thin out dramatically. Perhaps a half-dozen open forums of various quality are the next tier. None are significant resources.
The next tier, where you will find some quality forums, are the focus group forums. These are ones run by individuals, manufacturers, clubs and groups that have a specific point of interest – say ownership of an XYZ radio, or a shared interest in doing ABC radio operations, or other shared radio interest. Many are also hosted at Yahoo Groups.
The wild west free for all of the UseNet IRC style forums is still out there, though it has been years since I spent any time wading in the flotsam and jetsam of UseNet. Too much noise to too little signal.
Many of may wonder why forum at all, and perhaps that is where blogs like this come into play as a viable alternative?