Posts Tagged ‘forums’

Thing 14 – Forums and Webboards

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Class assignment for Thing 13 – RSS

First a little background

Usenet – established in 1979 and 1980 as a way to exchange messages, grouped by categories, between Duke and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Early form of forums that gained world-wide acceptance and usage.  Take a look at the Wikipedia entry  “Usenet.”

A graphical interpretation of the "Big Nine" hierarchies on Usenet.

A graphical interpretation of the "Big Nine" hierarchies on Usenet.

UseNet offered a decentralized alternative to the limited connectivity of BBS. There are nine major newsgroups that are still largely available today through the use of newsreader programs, such as Google Groups (which allows search and posting all the way back to 1981).

In 1993, The New Yorker published a famous cartoon by Peter Steiner.

A video explanation of Usenet: What is Usenet?

About Forums and Web boards

Forums and Web discussion boards are specialized Internet applications that have grown as offshoots from the earliest forms of multi-user Internet communication. The earliest and simplest forms of these applications were UseNet, and its predecessor Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).

Early electronic Bulletin Board Systems allowed users to exchange messages, share files, and read articles via a direct modem connection to the operating computer. As such, the speed of the systems was very slow, and access depended largely on the administrator of the main system (typically a single person operating it out of personal interest) or geographical distance. Today’s internet forums still offer streamlined forms of all of these features.

A notable BBS that is still actively hosted is the ISCABBS by the University of Iowa.

Modern forums use a variety of different technologies, and allow electronic instant messaging, electronic mail, file-sharing, and interactive discussion threads which can incorporate numerous multimedia formats. The term “thread” refers to how forums split up topics from conversation to conversation. Threads are typically organized into groups by topic. Modern blogs also employ some of these forum features as well, such as the ability to post articles outside of the main thread, and the ability for readers to comment on posts.

Forums or “discussion boards” are commonly used by instructors in online classes at colleges and universities. Instructors post threads to start class discussion activities, and respond to answer questions posted by students. These discussion boards are typically within course management software such as BlackboardFirstClass,eCollegeMoodle, and Sakai. Some academic libraries have started outreach to online students through class discussion boards, such as Northern Kentucky University’s “Blackboard Librarian” program. Forums have also increasingly been integrated into other types of software; for example, Facebook now includes discussion boards as an option (see discussions on IPL’s Facebook), and there are discussion board features integrated into Wet Paintwikis, Drupal content management, Ningsocial networks, and many other systems. Forums are often used to build “online communities” among users who share a common interest or activity, including “learning communities” for online classes. The Chronicle of Higher Education offers forums for the academic community, including a forum for academic libraries. Among young people, the Gaia Online forums are a popular site with millions of users.

Some Example Forums:

How do Forums and Web boards work?

Creating and hosting a forum requires a fairly high degree of technical knowledge. However, there are many forum platforms available on the Web which allow you to host a small forum through the confines of the larger provider’s system. These systems vary by customizable options, included features, and cost. There are many free forum hosting services available online, including these popular choices:

To compare forum software by criteria including programming language compatibility, cosmetic features, or system requirements, use:

To find forums that focus on certain topics or interest areas, use:

Examples of forum software that would require expertise to set up and host includes:

Hands on Activity

1.  Got to and do a search for Google Groups (not all groups) for discussions about  rail travel in Canada. Report on what you find. Now do a search in all groups on the same topics. Note any intersting Web boards or forums you find and might want o return to in the future.

2. Go to and search the discussion boards for information about good places to eat or sources of good food in the Fredericksburg area.

3. Pay a visit to Thorn tree  travel Forum at the LonelyPLanet Web site. Where would you like to travel? See what you can find out about travelling there at Thorntree. Can’t make up your mind?  See about travel in Burundi.

4. Locate and join an online community discussion forum, where you can read discussion threads and post your own responses. Some example forums that you can join include forums at The Chronicle of Higher Education, discussions for colleges and universities at Talk Confidential, a wide variety of discussions by topic such as health, food, and entertainment at iVillage, or search to find a forum of your own interest using BoardReaderForum Finderor Open Directory forum listings.

5. Create your own free forum on a hosting site such as Boardster Forumotion or Voy. After clicking to Boardster, Forumotion or Voy, look for and click on the button that says “Create a Free Forum” or “Create Forum.” You’ll be asked to fill out information about yourself and your forum, and to choose your forum’s visual appearance and style. Experiment with starting a thread, and posting a message in response to your thread, to see how discussion board communication works.

For fun? Its All About the Pentiums by Weird Al

Pictures used in this post: