Thursday, 13 December 2012

Blogs vs Forums

My month of exams is finally over and I can return to the world of the living (after catching up on several weeks worth of sleep). In celebration of this, and as the first birthday of DYHAF is fast approaching (Scipio's is a week before mine so don't forget to send him a card) I thought I'd sit and ponder my year's experience of blogging, and why I find it a much better place for a hobby community than forums. This is of course Fair-and-Balanced Journalism as I am writing on a blog to, predominantly, an audience of other blogggers. In reality, the preference of one or the other is always going to be just that - a preference. But I've got my Victor Meldrew hat on and I fancy a grumble. This is, of course, not a blanket statement of all forums nor all forum members - as I'm sure we're all members of one or another. I probably do come across as a bit of an arse at times, I really don't mean to, I'm generally quite a soft bugger.

So what's my beef with forums?

Before I got into blogging, much of my contact with the wider "hobby" community was through forums. At best, they can provide good discussion, brief and speedy answers and a good little community. Some forums very much offer this, and dissenting voices are in the minority.

My general experience more recently, having visited them after some time, has been a little different however. (They do say you can never go home...).

For starters, many people just don't read your actual topic questions. I accept that I have a tendency to waffle but it is still clear most people just read the title (where it's not always possible to word your question fully).

Secondly, related to the above, people don't read the rest of the thread. Of course I have been just as guilty of this at times, but I at least try and read all the posts if there's around 3 pages, and get up to speed if there's 5 or 6 pages. What are you achieving by stating something that the original poster has already said themselves - other than increasing your post count (I suspect this may have something to do with it at times).

Thirdly, and again related, most information that people provide is irrelevant and not what you asked for. In a lot of cases the thread becomes a pissing contest as to who knows the most, even if what they're providing is only vaguely related to the topic.

Lastly, and again I'm sure I'm guilty of this too, are the high-to-industrial levels of nitpicking and pedantry. On certain topics, it's just not possible to write out every exception to the rule or known variations. Generally, the gist of the topic, it's title and contents, should give the replier an idea of what you meant in context. Instead, this context often gets ignored  and people plough on regardless. Forums generally seem to bring out the worst in people, and this almost certainly applies to me too.

I know we've all seen it, but it just felt so right to share it
All topics are related to the fact that a lot of the time people aren't interested in engaging with the community, or with the discussion, in any meaningful sense. Most seem to want to pop in quickly and say what they want to say, regardless of whether it's particularly relevant.

In short, the sci-fi/fantasy gaming forums seem to be the hobby equivalent of a one-night stand. It's the eats, shoots and leaves of the gaming world.

I remember hearing long-term forum founders and administrators talk about the life cycles of forums. On a roughly six month cycle, the active membership will be replaced by an almost entirely new one, giving the forum a completely different feel based on the "personalities" there. I think there is truth to this as I don't remember them always being like this (some have always been better and worse than others, each certainly has a different feel). But maybe I'm the one that's changed. Maybe I'm just a sleep-deprived old duffer mumbling and muttering to himself at the bus stop about life's injustices.

Where forums seem like they can bring out the worst, blogs often seem to show the best. From just a year of active blogging (well active-ish) I have found the blogs to has more of a genuine community feel, there is more of a respect for and investment in the work of others. Feedback has always been constructive, everyone has always been polite - and genuine. There's not been anyone yet that I wouldn't like to meet in person and have a game and/or drink with. Perhaps there is a difference in demographics. It's a little harder to tell with forums, but I suspect they may be the home of the younger, teengae elements of the hobby - they may be the future but they can be irksome (Victor Meldrew hat...).


So, that's it for now, the Victor Meldrew hat is off. So in the spirit of discussion, do you agree with any of the above? Am I being too harsh, too general, are your experiences completely different. Does it really depend on the specific forum, and even discussion area, or is there a more general trend?

35 comments:

  1. A blog post is much more a whole than a forum post, let it be the OP or any reply. I think people on forums tend to be less sophisticated, but perhaps it is just because of the places I visit.
    I, personally, do not use forums too frequently because I'm lazy and a blog offers a slower but steady interaction with the readers.

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    1. I think you're bang on the money there, and cut through my lazy waffle. I agree completely, it's the difference of pace and (possibly) sophistication. If I'd continued my analogy, I'd defintely liken the blog community to a a more serious relationship, developing at a steady pace :P

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  2. A lot of the criticism of forums (or rather, some forum-goers) is quite valid. But I think forums definitely have their uses. It's not a matter of forums or blogs being better; they're just different, and are suited to different things.

    (Good) forums are great for starting players - lots of experienced people around to answer questions, old topics to browse through (especially well-done community-made stickies), and people posting their thoughts, lists, pictures etc. to help you get a feel for things and get inspired. I know for my own part that forums helped me a lot when I was getting started back into 40K; it's harder to get that sort of thing from a random blog. While you can see lots of great stuff, it's harder to dig through than a forum.

    As for the tone, I think part of it is just perception - in a forum, it's thought of as more of a public space; every member "owns" it. By contrast, when you're commenting on a blog, you're going into someone's personal space, and tend to be nicer. (/armchair psychology)

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    1. Absolutely, I should have made it more clear that I definitely think there's a place for forums - and it definitely wasn't meant to be a post about which is better, just why I prefer blogs. I'm not suggesting forums should be immediately banishment for Room 10 - as I say, I still use them for certain things :)

      Possibly this is me being a grumpy old veteran, but I find that whilst there are many experienced around that are used to answering questions of those new to the hobby, some perhaps get into the habit of doing so and see the question they're expecting to see and not noticing any nuance when questions are asked from those with more experience. Maybe that's just me and I'm just as guilty of falling into the pissing contest trap.

      I think that's a very astute piece of armchair psycgology, and I think there could be truth in that.
      Apologies for editing my reply, my sleep addled brain is about an hour behind at the moment.

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  3. I've dropped off of pretty much all forums for the reason you state. My monitoring comments, I can cut out the haters and spammers. Plus blog posts are generally better thought out than forum posts.

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    1. I think that's very true, there is generally more effort put into blog posts - and to most comments. As Andrew said, it's that more thoughtful pace overall.

      Incidentally I've just purchased a copy of A Fine Likeness and very much looking forward to reading it. I still need to get around to writing something on gaming the Trans-Mississippi..

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  4. As far as forums are concerned, I think it’s more down to the individual forum in question as to what my experiences have been. Dakkadakka and bolteranchcainsword have both been wholly dull affairs, where I’ve noticed that new members are greeted warmly and then near enough ignored thereafter. The “in-crowd” have their cliques and stick closely to them. This is fine I guess for a closed group, but not something I’d expect from a Public Forum.
    In contrast, I am a regular contributor on a couple forums – papanurgle.com and sonsofcorax.freeforums.org - both Warhammer and Warhammer40K based forums respectively and for the time I’ve been a member at both forums, I’ve had nothing but a positive, informative and supportive experience (Especially at papanurgle where I’ve been a forum member now for a few days over 3 years.).
    I think that being part of a smaller forum community really helps how a person’s experiences on that forum will turn out. Yes, you might not find that you fit in, but that’s the same in any community, internet based or otherwise.

    As far as blogging goes, well, it’s far easier to read blog posts rather than trawling through page after page of forum threads. Blog owners may or may not respond to your comments or in turn leave comments for your own posts, though most often don’t bother to comment at all. My experience thus far in the year and a bit that I’ve run my own blog has been mostly positive, though I find it’s a select small few who fuel a blog’s motivation to continue more than a whole community as a whole.

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    1. Thanks Dai, and very good points. I definitely thought the smaller, more specialised (in a good way...) forums would probably provide a better experience.

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  5. Great post Kieran. I really like the comparison between a one-night-stand and a more serious relationship!

    I agree with you. With blogging, you can take things at your own pace, structure the writing and images around a theme, present your ideas in the context you want to show to your readership. For example, almost everytime I come here I'm tempted to watch Eddie Izzard again (for the umpteenth time!) - I find it very hard to pronounce the name of your site in my own mind in anything other than his voice! That always makes me smile. And that's a great setting for reading your posts, and sets a really individual tone. I don't think you'd get that with a forum. And, with Google Reader, or Blogger, you see the posts arriving and you can look through the new ones easily.

    So, for me, Blogging is the way to go. And yes, although forums are full of great people with fine ideas and very cool skills, I'd not go back from a blogging setting.

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    1. Thanks very much Sidney. I'm glad you only read the title with Eddie Izzard's voice in mind, that was generally what I hoped for!

      You've summed it up very nicely there, each blog feels different from the next, and each has it's own flavour and voice. It's definietly a more thoughtful approach and one that really seems to encourage genuine discussion. Not that that's impossible on forums, as others have said, but it's generally how I've found things lately.

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  6. I do both, so I see this from both sides.

    My experience is actually different, in the fact that whenever I try and post outside of the "off-topic" area of the forum, my posts and threads are either ignored or I get so little feedback from the people who actually bother to respond that it might as well have been ignored, or I shouldn't have bothered trying to add to the discussion.

    Then I have my blog, which I can tell people look at, for whatever reason, and I get the same sort of deal, only worse.

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    1. That's a really interesting point Narric, thanks for adding something a bit different. I'ts one does make me feel guilty. I have confessed before I can be quite bad at commenting. But then I'm quite bad a blogging generally... If I find the time to look at my own blog then I will spend the time going through the blogs of others too.

      There's probably a fairly dull study to be done on why people comment on certain posts, I really don't know why it is though. Going into forum modfe to state the obvious, I find that the two biggest things are time posted and of course the topic. I said to Scipio earlier that of all my posts this received the most comments in the shortest time. I guess this is because it's a broad topic which means absolutely anyone can comment, it is a bit of a contentious issue and something everyone has some experience of, and I suppose partly I wrote it to actively encourage discussion. This is by no means meant to be a how you can blog better and I hope it doesn't come across this way. I've seen your blog and it looks great, your posts are great and I don't know why you don't get as many comments as you should. A lot of it is luck I think, and I can say as hugely grateful as I am to everyone that comments here, it's a tiny tiny fraction of the hits that I get overall. And I'm happy with that. I noticed you have a followers box there that wasn't there last time I visited. I will endeavour to post on more blogs more regularly, the only problem is there's so many out there there's always going to be more that I'm not commenting on :(

      Sorry to ramble on at length here, you got me thinking (hopefully that's a god thing...)

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    2. With commenting on other's blogs, I try to only comment when I have soething to add, or to throw support on an already mentioned topic/argument. So I won't judge you :P

      I try to get round the problem of topic and time, by doing more then one thing/topic, whilst keepig my upload time consistant (10am GMT, Mon, Wed, Fri). The odd things is a couple times I've had huge spikes in views before 10am, on days I don't normally upload. :P

      I've only recently added the followers box, and mostly for my own interest as I wasn't sure how Bloggers were informed of how many followers they had.

      oh, and thanks for following ;)

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    3. You're welcome, it's much more useful now as (at least on my version) Google have removed the follow option on the top bar, so that gadget is the only way to get followers. It's often useful as well because I update my blog roll mostly from "blogs I follow" - it's a little lazy I know, but it's the easiest way to make sure I'm spreading the word as much as possible :P

      I tend to post at around 6pm, and only post if I have something to talk about (I use the term very losely). 6pm is pretty arbitrary, but it's roughly after work in the UK, and spans aorund lunchtime in the US. But I posted this earlier than usual and got a reasonable amount of attention quickly. I never post on weekends, especially Sundays, whatever the time, posts just never have the same amount of reach. Just get the name out the more and I don't doubt you'll get more comments, your content is spot on.

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    4. I didn't consider an evening publish time. I figured that as 10am is usually when I've gotten up by, that most other people would be the same :P

      I don't think the Blog-roll is lazy. It good, free, consistant advertising :P

      I have tried getting the name out more. Its part of my Sig of Second Sphere, and is on my DeviantARt front page. not sure how else I can get the name out, without blatantly spam advertising on others blogs (which is how I feel whenever I comment :P)

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    5. Just generally commenting is good because I think most people will go across to your site. Join some of the dedicated blog rolls / groups / hubs out there, whatever you want to call them, I think I've joined most of them lol and to hell with the shame :p

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  7. I think that 'anonymity screen' is a lot stronger on forums. On blogs, you get to know people quite well and so it's harder to post a horrible, unhelpful or off-topic comment, whereas a '6,000 poster' will see a thread started by a new arrival, burst in, torpedo it with a sarcastic comment then no-one will ever read it again (bitter voice of experience there).

    Also people feel a bit more like they have to be nicer on blogs. Visiting a blog is like visiting someone's home, you have to be nicer and say nice things (or at least say bad things nicely). Whereas a forum is a communal space where people just shout at each other then go home.

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    1. Sounds like some of the local pubs.... I think that's the truth of it. I like the analogy of visiting someone's home, commenting back and forth on blogs always does feel like a Sunday afternoon at the local to me.

      I think it'd definitely down to different forums, I've occasionally posted the same topic in multiple forums and got completely different responses. It's a good way to gauge a forum. One of these posts on one forum still has no replies... said forum has not been visited again (not that I'm bitter, but when there's other forums that will at least reply, I may as well go there for my does of sarcasm).

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    2. I see that happen often on my forum. unfortunately, the higher post-count members stick to the off-topic boards, and the ones that post outside are often unparraled in skill in something.

      I think some forums have misguided or ill-fitting communities, which is what causes things like only experience vets harshly critique a newbies thread, and everyone looking the other way.

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  8. This is a really interesting discussion. I love all the analogies. Next time I come to your place, here at DYHAF, I'll rememberer to wear my smoking jacket and Fez. Yes I would like a drink, thank you for offering, I'll have a Brandy. As always Kieran, you have a pleasant little gathering here, you really must be commended on your reception and entertainment of guests, visitors and strangers. Greetings all. Nice to meet you Narric, I just popped by your blog, and I'll frequent it more often I think. I'm sure you will have a larger following soon.

    arrr, forums. I passed a forum on the way here actually, the yelling could be heard from the street. It must be a fire hazard having so many people packing in such a small place! Not like here, very spacious indeed........ (conversation lost amidst sound of chinking glasses and laughter).....

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    1. OH! and more importantly congratulations of finishing your exams. I miss that post-exam feeling of freedom (after the 15 hours of recovery sleep). But I don't miss it so much as to sit any more!

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    2. Very kind of you sir, rather than sleeping after handing in my last open exam paper, I decided to walk back and write this post. I'm amazed it's even vaguely legible. I did then sleep most of the evening though, it's the best kind of sleep lol.

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    1. For a computer package? It must have been the 90's!

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  10. I've been blogging for about 4-and-a-half years now, and here's my twopeen'orth (for what it's worth):

    On forums: I'd love to say I'm all forum(!) but I'm not. The pettiness and snarkiness has not so much driven me away as prevented me ever from taking enough interest to join one. My background's linguistics, and I teach English at High School, so I have my fill - thank you - of both silly, smug little ill-informed voices 'sounding-off' with apparent impunity [students; not that often with me, thankfully!] and of pedantry [colleauges]. 40K forums just get too silly too quickly.

    In addition to this, the use of initialisms, abbreviations and acronyms (often without any definitions offered, although there are some plendid exceptions) often seems to become its own pissing contest, which is a real shame and (naturally enough) somewhat exculsive of newbies: it's bound to be.

    - As an aside, I don't think many/any of you chaps read my blog in the early days, but I used to have a glossary in the sidebar of as much general 40K slang as I thought useful. Interestingly, this is before the substantial rise in the sub-genre jargon of web-based 40k tactical approaches and army lists - the jargon on BoLS quickly went nuclear once the idea of 'netlists' took off (not long after I started blogging, incidentally). At the mo', I'm enjoying tracing the evolution of Line of Sight Vs "Look Out Sir!" shorthand...

    I should just note that I find the Flames of War forum very very good indeed - if a little unweildy and basic.


    On blogging:

    I've met some lovely, lovely people;
    I can update when I like and to whatever extent I like;
    I gave up/grew out of(!) chasing page hits a long time ago;
    I've been in receipt of some AMAZING generosity from other bloggers, and I've tried in turn to pay it forward when I've been able to do so;
    I feel like I'm writing for people I know and like personally,
    ...and...
    IN 4-AND-A-HALF YEARS I'VE NEVER ONCE READ A SINGLE NEGATIVE OR NASTY COMMENT ON MY BLOG. Brilliant.

    So thanks for that, Intenets!

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    1. *twopenn'orth.

      There's probably more, but I'm tired. Plus it's a blog, so no-one's going to flame me for a typo.

      :)

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    2. Haha, my blog posts are strewn with typos and I used to work as a copywriter/editor - definitely not going to flame you there :P I'll let the puns slide too....

      They're all very good points. I hadn't even got onto this new-fangled terminology. I don't really go onto the tactical/list sections as much, but they are certainly the worst offenders. I started playing almost 2 decades ago and I don't have a clue what they're on about. Draigowing Spam?! I'm sure I saw one of those on the shopping channel - "removes dust from those awkward to reach places on a dado rail"

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  11. I think that they both have there place. I am in a lucky position of blogging and also help running a forum. Now I love my blog and that what I see it as, Its My Blog and I can write and post pictures of whatever I want. However the forum I see as providing a service to other individuals who have an interest in the period the forum covers. I do comment, post at to discussions on there and very luckily not had the flame wars that blight some forums. Maybe thats because we knew each other before and the average age of the forum is in there 40s. I think the forum is somewhere to mean people of a similar mind to you but gosh I do love my blog.

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    1. Thanks PanzerKaput, it's good to hear from your perspective. I definitely agree with that, they both have their place as I said to Narric, this definitely wasn't meant to be a complete damning of forums. One forum can be very different to another, as you say, I find the more historical (or alternate history) forums to be much better, as you say because the average age is generally higher, in contrast to the sci-fi/fantasy forums where the average age I imagine is much lower. The familiarity definitely helps and I think that's one thing that makes blogs more appealing generally. Despite my "Meldrewing" (my proposal to the Oxford English Dictionary), I know I'll still occasionally use the forums I've been waffling about...

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  12. I read all the comments, and the entire article, now I'm quite tired. I think I'll pull my smoking jacket tighter, let my fez slide forward a bit, and drift off to a brandy assisted nap in this comfy chair. I agree with everyone... *Gentle Snoring*

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    1. That sounds immenseley civilised. Cuthbert shall top up your brandy should you care for another.

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  13. Hi Kieran,

    I found forums work best when the crowd is niche enough that most are enthusiasts, once a hobby gets big enough exposure that it is no longer 'niche' then the quality tends to deteriorate?

    My best forum experiences were when I was water cooling small form factor computer systems, a very niche hobby eight years ago, but since you can now buy kits off the shelf rather than make your own from the hardware store the quality of forum posts have dropped off.

    I think the same theory could be applied to 40k forums?

    Cheers,

    Matthew

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    1. That's a very astute observation Matthew, it definitely seems like that could be a factor

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