An online discussion forum is a way to organize an ongoing discussion by multiple users over time. The term has also been used when referring to software applications that make up forums. Other names for online forums are message boards, discussion groups, forums, and electronic bulletin boards.
The predecessors of online forums were Internet newsgroups and dial-up bulletin board systems, which were accessed by dialing a specific number. Online forums have a unique sense of community that is very different from a blog or website and have dedicated members regularly. Today’s online discussion groups focus on a variety of areas, from politics and technology to dog training. Many established online forums are a group of smaller forums that are grouped around a central theme. For example, a dog training platform may have smaller platforms covering larger dogs, smaller dogs, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, etc.
Online Forum Software Features
The discussion in the forum is called a thread. Some online forum threads can be one or two comments long to several pages of comments and answers that span several months or even years. Threads will remain on the forum indefinitely or until a moderator removes them. Many of the more popular threads are known as “sticky” or permanent forum entries. Stickies are usually the result of a large number of forum members asking the same question over time. By posting a sticky, it eliminates the need to ask the same question over and over. One of the most common stickies is usually forums posting rules.
Today’s forum software will allow the creation of more than one forum that acts as a discussion room focused on a specific area of a larger topic. These different rooms contain threads started by different members of the group. You can compare the structure of the stage with that of the school. Each room has a different subject, such as maths, English, etc., and the structure of the school places each of these classes in a single building. Online discussion forums are structured in much the same way.
The forum software can be divided into two general categories. The type that allows visitors to post anonymously and the type that requires a visitor to be registered to view or comment on a forum thread.
The type that requires a visitor to register usually only requires a valid email address to engage in ongoing online discussions within the forum. Certain additional features of such forum software may allow the personalization of the forum skin, signature, and/or image associated with users’ avatars or their usernames. The forum software that allows anonymous posts generally does not allow any kind of customization in the user interface.
Forum software applications are available in a wide range of programming languages such as PHP, JAVA, and Perl. Various features are available and depend on the type of programming language used and whether the posts are stored as text files or database entries. Available features range from just basic text to the use of things like emoticons, which are little smiley face types, images that can be inserted into a post.
Some online forum software packages allow administrators to set up filters and automated scripts that will remove any unwanted words such as cursing or strip any hyperlinks placed within forum threads. It helps to prevent misuse of the discussion group.
Discussion Group Administrators and Moderators
An online forum administrator has privileges that no other member should have. Some of those privileges allow administrators to edit, delete, move, or modify any thread on the forum. Forum administrators have the ability to close the board, make major changes to the forum, such as change the forum theme, add or remove discussion groups or subforums within the main forum, as well as remove, add or ban members from the forum Happens also.
Moderators are usually given privileges by administrators and are usually entrusted with overseeing or “moderating” specific forum areas or topics. The moderators of the discussion group help the forum administrator to edit, delete, and move threads as needed. They also act as hall monitors alerting members of any offense to forum posting guidelines. The presence of responsible intermediaries can enhance the quality of an online platform.
Online Forum Users
The members of any online discussion group generally have the same basic competencies. They can comment or post in existing discussion threads, start new threads and assign an image or avatar to post along with their name. Depending on the forum software, users may be able to send and receive email or personal/instant messages from other forum members. Members can also create their forum signatures where they can add a link back to their website if they wish. This practice also leads to abuse by members doing multiple posts just to increase the number of links to their website.
Forums generally require a member to check in to see new discussion threads or to see any posts in the threads they are following. However, many modern forum software solutions allow an e-mail notification sent to users to be notified when a reply or post is made to a particular thread.
Online Discussion Forum Examples
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