Forum Decorum

Following these steps, or at least considering these suggestions, can make the forums experience much more rewarding—for everyone.


Think for a minute about how you use the Web to find the information you need to do your job. Odds are you visit multiple sites that address the issue at hand and glean what you need from them. And you’ve probably used forums to ask questions of your peers.

The most common use of forums, news groups and bulletin boards is the Q&A feature: One posts a question to the forum and checks back periodically to see if the question has been answered, or to see what responses it has inspired. This seems like the obvious benefit of these tools, but it isn’t necessarily the best use of them.

Often, questions have been asked and answered by the forum participants before—sometimes quite often. While a question may be asked with the best of intentions, a repetitive or duplicate question can illicit a collective sigh from the rest of the forum group and result in a “dead thread” (a single post with no replies).

To avoid dead threads, to get at what you need quickly and to be fair to other users of the forum, look before you leap.

Before posting your question, find and use the search utility for that forum (for news groups, use Google Groups) and search for the keywords or phrases that define the topic of interest. Searching through forums and news groups for applicable advice or similar issues—before posting or answering a question—may uncover wellsprings of data relevant to your query. Find threads that closely address the technical issues you are interested in and search those before posting.

Following these steps, or at least considering these suggestions, can make the forums experience much more rewarding—for everyone.