Finding message boards - where you exchange views or information on a given topic - is usually easy. You just need to do a search. Finding the right message board can be trickier, as we explain in this article.
Tracking down a message board on a subject you’re interested in is easy. There are thousands out there, and most of them are indexed by search engines like Google.
Once you've found one you like the look of, whatever you do, don’t jump in and start taking part until you are positive it’s the right one for you.
Here’s a good checklist:
- Have there been any entries recently? Sometimes someone starts a debating board and hasn’t had the energy or time to see it through, but then doesn’t take it down. The result is a message board which seems to address your every need, until you notice the last post is dated June 2006.
- Is there an actual debate going on and is there useful content? There are some extremely useful - and free - resources on the internet and nobody should dissuade you from using them. There are also some complete time-wasters, who use every post they see as a cue for some insults.
- Do the participants actually know what they’re talking about? Remember a message board can be the equivalent of walking into a pub or a party and asking if anyone knows something. Anyone can answer. Try asking something to which you already know the answer as a sanity check. I’ve certainly seen business forums where some of the VAT “advice” (from doubtless well-intentioned people) would land someone with a hefty fine.
- Check also that the group actually covers what you want. In the early days of internet forums, there was a group called ‘Fleetstreet’, which was a forum for journalists to talk about their trade - what to do about late payments, working conditions, etc. Occasionally people would pop up and complain that journalists should be discussing other issues, such as newspapers and the different angles they took on stories. But, it wasn’t what the group was for. If the aggrieved participants had spent longer on that message board, they would have realised they were simply in the wrong place.
Once you’re certain you’re in the right place, and that it has a tone that suits you, you should find yourself in a position to have a useful debate, exchange of information, or whatever you’re after, with a lot of interesting people.