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[meta->article] Is Social Media Supplanting Online Forums?

The Bookie

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Just read this and thought it would be fun to bounce it back against another forum. Interesting question.

I don't know any stats for CDC but it seems like usership is relatively consistent, with the usual ebb and flow of the seasons taken into consideration. On the other hand, I remember this place being a ghost town during the lockout. There's three other forums I visit regularly and I would say from the eye test they've gotten slightly less busy, but not drastically so.

Curious what pushes/pulls others to post outside of the so-called 'Walled Gardens' of facebook and twitter. I think the author makes a good point about avoiding echo chambers of opinion.


Why I've Posted 27,000 Times to One Online Forum ByDYLAN SCOTT | MARCH 05, 2015

Han Solo or Indiana Jones?” That was how I chose to make my debut on the General Discussion forum at Rotten Tomatoes—the go-to site for checking if a movie has been deemed “fresh” or “rotten”—on Dec. 28, 2005. In the decade since, I’ve visited almost every day, logging more than 27,000 posts, talking movies and anything else, getting to “know” people whom I can identify only with an alias.

“RT,” as we regulars call it, is the subject of my longest-standing online loyalty. It is far from perfect—like many online spaces, the male-dominated usership hasn’t always been welcoming to female voices. But I was there before Facebook or Twitter. It’s where I discovered the Internet’s potential to connect. It’s been a place to talk to all kinds of people, from all over the world—people who shared my insatiable love for movies. I spent many weekends in my teens at my grandparents’ house, watching films like Pulp Fiction after convincing my grandpa, who didn’t know any better, to rent them for me. But I grew up in a small town in central Ohio. There weren’t many people my age with whom to discuss Tarantino or Scorsese or Kubrick.

So through a chain of events that I can’t totally remember, I found RT. I signed up. I joined a community. “Basically, the point of this thread is... who would win in a fight?” I wrote in that first thread of mine. “I go with Indiana... I'm not sure why but whenever I have this argument with somebody... I always stick by Indiana. Just a gut choice I guess.” (I think I’d still stand by that choice.)

In college, I was the one who watched black-and-white films with subtitles on my laptop under the covers in his dorm room. Or went to 10 p.m. showings on a weekday at the independent theater uptown. My friends and I had a lot of other things in common, but cinema—not movies, but cinema—just wasn’t their thing. Freshman year, I couldn’t even convince them to watch the Oscars. So I took my computer down to the dorm lobby and watched the ceremony on the community television, reacting in real time with my fellow posters. Weird, I know.

I still visit RT almost every day, but it isn’t the same place. Threads move slower; whereas before your topic might be bumped off the front page within a half hour if nobody responded, now it can linger for a day or more. I’m not imagining this slowdown. In 2008, RT’s heyday, more than 42,000 threads were started and they’ve accumulated more than 1.9 million posts. Last year, it was 5,567 threads and 291,460 posts. This medium of online discussion, the forum, isn’t quite extinct, but it’s endangered. The social networks, online commenting and Reddit, in some ways the forum’s Platonic ideal, have taken over.

This medium of online discussion, the forum, isn’t quite extinct, but it’s endangered.

As I thought about this, I did what any self-respecting forum nerd would do: I started a thread about it. I asked my fellow RTers why they thought we’d seen the decay we had—and why did they keep posting, anyway? They had some recurring theories for the first part: The forums were featured less prominently on the front page. The website had changed ownership more than once over the years and Google ads were removed a few years ago. The forums hadn’t been monetized, so what incentive did management have to make them a priority?

“I do believe the popularity of social media is causing a decline in forum usage,” user Looka wrote, echoing my suspicions. “Either people want facebook status/twitter style blurbs and keep scrolling” or they carve out “echo chambers for their discussion of whatever shared interest or just for a place to chat with friends.”

“I think that social media is more popular than forums are because it provides more instant and more easily quantifiable gratification and validation,” another user, MaxRenn, added. “Features like Facebook's Like button and Reddit's upvote and downvote buttons give you warm fuzzies within minutes, sometimes seconds.” Forums “require you to do a little more work.”

Some users offered up market-driven theories.

“Facebook and Reddit have attained mainstream appeal and they are also more easily commodifiable than a message board,” user Master King Sexington wrote. “Half of what I see on Facebook are promotional materials…Every AMA from a celeb is to promote their newest show/movie/whatever. This is what catches a corporate eye and props it up.”

There hasn’t been a comprehensive look at this phenomenon—it might be virtually impossible—but Joseph Reagle, an assistant professor at Northeastern University and author of Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web, told me that online discussion has an established pattern of transitioning from one medium to another.

Facebook and Twitter are indifferent to your conversation, as long as you’re having it on their platform.

Migration is “just the inevitable life cycle of this sort of thing,” he said. Users are always “looking for that intimate serendipity. Where you have a sense of: This is a community, there’s people I can trust, I have a sense of scale, I’m not constantly being spammed.”

Early online forums—longtime digital yappers might recall Metafilter, launched in 1999 and still in existence, which Reagle cited as one of the first—had already in their time replaced something called Usenet. Established in 1980, predating the World Wide Web proper and functioning like an email listserv, it allowed people to converse with others all over the world. Then forums came along and swept up much of that discussion. Now Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have done the same.

The cycle starts with a new medium getting started and attracting its first users. Everything is fresh, even chic, like Facebook when you still needed an .edu address. RT at one time had what we called “social threads,” where people kept up an ongoing dialogue on nothing in particular. “Clique” members followed each other on social media (I have at least a dozen RT Facebook friends) and sometimes met up in person. A few dated. I took a college film class with a fellow RTer, the only time it crossed over into “real” life. But the forum was as much a part of my daily routine as attending class and going out on the weekends. One year, my RT classmate and I published a joint thread chronicling the international film festival that annually comes to Athens, Ohio. I devoted an inordinate amount of time writing reviews and creating graphics for it.

I have “memories” at Rotten Tomatoes, if that makes sense.

But as any community grows in popularity, the bots, the spammers and, as Reagle calls them, the haters arrive. That sense of community dwindles. And, as the Web is always innovating, some alternative pops up. “I'm part of a couple of Facebook discussion groups on movies that suck up a fair amount of time I use to spend posting here,” ZBigRedDogZ told me. Reddit has a subreddit for almost every subject you can think of. Twitter allows for the same instant gratification that I had formerly expected on RT—if I had had an account during my solo Oscar-watching party in 2007, I might have just followed along there instead of refreshing the RT thread.

That’s the distinction between the new social networks and the more organic forums of old. Twitter and Facebook and even Reddit are expected to be a holistic experience; you don’t come there for one thing in particular. You’re supposed to talk about everything. Their business model is founded on endless engagement. The old forums needed and sought out money, too; that’s why RT had Google ads for a while. But it wasn’t foundational. It was a byproduct of attracting a dedicated group of people with a shared interest. Facebook and Twitter are indifferent to your conversation, as long as you’re having it on their platform. Reddit is the same way. Its infrastructure resembles a forum’s, but its motives are more like that of a social network: to keep you logged in.

I have “memories” at RT, if that makes sense. Stories, people I remember. That’s what makes it special. A favorite of mine is when actor and director Kevin Smith posted from his own account in late July 2006 after somebody dared to call Clerks II a box office flop. Smith laid out in excruciating detail why it was not. He stuck around for a couple days and antagonized his RT nemesis, user Karl Trale, who appears to have left the site shortly thereafter (or adopted a new alias). “Rage on, l'il Rager,” Smith wrote. “You can misrepresent me all you want and desperately try to crap on my parade at every turn, but, seriously - everything's comin' up Milhouse for yours truly. Sorry. “

There was also a rumor that Roger Ebert was the identity behind one of the avatars. That time has passed. Celebrities get their fill on Twitter, just like the rest of us. But even though forums aren’t the default place for online discussion anymore, they aren’t disappearing altogether, either. They have just assumed a new identity. Diehards remain; myself and many other RTers plan to stick it out through the end. We’ve been through the last 10 years together; we have a cultural cohesion that Facebook and Twitter can’t match. As moderator King Elessar 8 put it: “I plan on riding this bastard to the bottom of the ocean.”

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Personally, I don't participate in involved conversations on social media. If I want to get into an involved conversation, I'd much rather do it through the medium of a forum. To me, Facebook has the vibe of "casual talk", thus I won't likely say much more than a few short words on a given topic on Facebook. I may get in an involved conversation in a personal message on Facebook, but almost never in a publicly view-able post.

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I'd say participation here has declined. I don't' know about the numbers but there was definitely a time when it was a lot busier, with better quality posters. To me though this is one of the better kept secrets and I hope it lives long and manages to pay the bills.

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I prefer the anonymity of posting in a forum over social media. What if I happen to say something controversial and my work finds out? They might fire me, who knows.

It's ironic because there are so many more ways to express your opinion today, yet so many consequences for having 'the wrong opinion'.

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I prefer the anonymity of posting in a forum over social media. What if I happen to say something controversial and my work finds out? They might fire me, who knows.

It's ironic because there are so many more ways to express your opinion today, yet so many consequences for having 'the wrong opinion'.

social media had it's place but I don't use it .

I also prefer the anonymity of posting on a forum for discussion.

But I am also not going to update every one here when I have an excessive bowl movement because no one really cares and some things just shouldn't be shared.

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I wonder if that's where all the children went to post....either that or most of them have grown up now and a new generation never signed up to post. When I first signed up, I felt these forums were over run by children. Although, this apparent change in demographic could be due to me spending more time in off topic and the prospects forums rather than canucks talk. Can any brave souls confirm the status of canucks talk these days?

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It really depends. I mean look at the growth of reddit. You can't exactly say people don't like forums but just needed it to be reinvented like reddit did.

Obviously all of us here are going to say we prefer forums cause that's why we are here.

If you think about it though, forums are in tough against social media. With social media it's much easier to discover compared to forums.

Forums are also way more specific which really cuts it's potential members down.

I only discovered cdc in 2010 and it was by mistake cause I clicked the wrong link(back then the calendar was beside the forum topics).

Before that I just checked standings and stats on the website.

They should really consider moving the location of the message boards on the main page closer to the top.

Most newcomers never scroll cause there is no need, now that the stats aren't there.

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facebook is popular, but for some reason it sort of seems like a thing of the past. maybe that's just because i've stopped using it, but i just don't even hear it discussed anymore. you used to be a social leper if you weren't on Facebook, now it's not a big deal. things like twitter and instagram, while obviously mega mega popular, don't seem like essential things for being 'connected' -- but maybe i'm out of touch. again, i just rarely hear them discussed unless its through the promotional ways like the article discusses (twitter as a way for a celebrity to promote his or her work/brand)

forums, generally speaking, may not be hugely popular, but the hugely popular forums are, well, hugely popular. RedCafe, the fan-owned Manchester United forum, must be one of the largest, most well-organized forums on the internet. solid moderation, some amazing posters, and it is hilariously connected to local English media, too (posters are often quoted in newspapers without actually being quoted)

Reddit is another beast entirely. a great place to promote and stuff, but IMO, most subreddits are horrible for conversation. too popular, everything gets drowned out by recycled "rekt" memes and stuff like that

in regards to RT forums, it seems to me like the RT forums are probably on their way out because most popular movie sites and blogs just have comment sections that invite regular visitors and conversations. The Dissolve, for example, Pitchfork's movie site, has huge conversations going on in comment sections. Almost all of it is pretty civil without the toxic levels of the RT forum. The AV Club is the same, too.

Then you have websites like Slate, Jezebel, The Atlantic, etc., the liberal niche bastions, and they all have huge comment-based conversations too. Although most of these sections are just people being frustrated with the nonstop outrage that permeates the 'news,' but still.

Online conversations aren't done, but IP Boards may be

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IP boards, despite being anonymous, still develops user personal identity and accountability over time. Reddit on the other hand is completely impersonal and is more content based than user based. I use both, prefer reddit for my asocial days. Facebook is irrelevant but it still serves as a great database for people you know in case you ever need to contact them. It seems like only parents use it nowadays though

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I have a love/hate thing with reddit. After a couple years of using it occasionally, I finally sat down and devoted an afternoon to curating a decent list of subreddits (and unsubscribing from pretty much all of the main ones) but even with interesting, unique content, I find the comments are almost always a quick race to the bottom. Basically who can make the crudest fratboy jokes the quickest for upvotes. Occasionally it really surprises me though.

Never cared for facebook, twitter can be useful for keeping up with breaking news but I haven't personally ever had the urge to use it myself.

Instagram is alright. It's kind of fun to keep up with old friends just through imagery. Though holy crap do people ever like to take pictures of themselves and their food.

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