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I was in a situation to briefly present what we are doing at Forum chrétien la Rencontre before a group of people from my faith community, and suddenly realized that a number of people there had not a clue as to what I was talking about when I said I was working on a discussion forum. So here are a few helpful hints from the perspective of the better known FaceBook.
About forums in general...
You've been hearing about these things called "forums", but you aren't quite sure what they're good for, how to use them, or why you'd want to join one when you already have Facebook. Here's a quick overview.
In FaceBook terms, a forum resembles a collection of maybe 10 to 200 related Facebook Groups, all with the same membership and under the same management. But there are important differences:
History. FaceBook is great for conversations spanning a few hours or a few days, but finding old posts on a particular topic is very inconvenient. In a forum, though, the whole history is easily available, organized by topic, and searchable. This makes forums a better choice when you want to access (and contribute to) an archive of information.
Long-term discussions. Forums are also great for conversations spanning months or years. Customs vary from one forum to another, but it's common to find some forum discussions that continue for many years, or are resurrected when a member has something new to add.
Breadth and depth. A forum can cover a broad range of related topics, but by splitting up the discussions into many separate forum sections, it enables in-depth discussion of narrow topics. It's easy to ignore the topics that don't interest you, and to join other members in discussing interests that you share.
Internet forums FAQ...
Is it free? Some have free sections plus other sections reserved for paid members. Forum chrétien la Rencontre is entirely free.
Is there an app for my smartphone? In most cases, no, but expect this to change in coming years. (Some forums can be accessed using the Tapatalk app, but for various technical and security-related reasons, many forum administrators don't want to do this.)
Do I have to register? At Forum chrétien la Rencontre, you must register in order to be allowed to post messages. Otherwise, all relevant articles can be viewed by anyone browsing the Internet.
Can I register using my Facebook credentials? Some forums support this, but it's still fairly uncommon. Forum chrétien la Rencontre does not currently support this feature.
What are the rules? Most forums will have a set of rules in a fairly obvious place (a link from the homepage, a forum section called RULES AND TERMS OF SERVICE, or something similar). Check these out before you register. You can expect to see "Don't post spam", "Don't post illegal stuff", "Don't post copyrighted stuff", plus other rules that will vary from one forum to another. Also, please remember that it's impossible to write a set of rules that will cover every possible situation. So on most forums, if a moderator makes a decision, it has the same force as any written rule. Make sure you understand the requirements set out at Forum chrétien la Rencontre. They are spelt out with varying degrees of specificity in our French, English, and Spanish sections.
What about privacy and security? As with any popular Internet site, forums are sometimes a target for hackers. Forum staff may not immediately catch every intrusion. You should act as though everything you post on a forum (including personal messages) MIGHT someday be read by an unauthorized person. Use a forum password that is different from any passwords you use elsewhere. And keep your antivirus software up-to-date. Forum chrétien la Rencontre uses various techniques for protecting against malicious access to site, amongst which, requiring strong password, and moderation of posts for new users.
Adapted from An Introduction to Internet Forums for Facebook Users, published on the Survival Podcast Forum, by invitation from Bill Statler in article # 36 of FaceBook Users vs Forum Users published at The Admin Zone (TAZ), a forum for forum administrators.