While I may be ashamed to admit this I have been around Internet forums for several years. I cannot always say my behavior was stellar and the most important experience I gleaned from the experience of being a moderator is I would never want to do the job again. Even though I would not care to repeat the experience, there are several things I learned on message boards that the new user may need to know.
The first is why people come there. You might think that people join forums that they are interested in to share information or discuss ideas, but that is not the case. Most people come to a message board looking for a place to argue. The quality of the arguments does not have to be very good as the point is that people will come in to the forums of their choice looking for a good place to engage in a debate that will hold there interest. One word of caution, perhaps best issued by a rather crude photoshopped picture applies to arguing on the Internet. The saying went: Arguing on the Internet is like participating in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded. If the reader chooses to head over to the message board provided for the use of Associated Content’s Content Producers, you will get the general idea of how it should be used, i.e., to complain about article rejections, to complain about not getting paid (sometimes legitimate, sometimes because AC has forgot to warn you that you need to fill out the W-9, and to wonder which illegal drug the administrators of the message board were smoking after they made their last decision.
As politically incorrect as the sentiments of that statement maybe, after seeing many of the common board personalities and falling into a category or two myself from time to time, I’m inclined to agree. Since I mentioned the personality types, the next thing a new message board user will need to know is the various archetypes that abound on Internet message boards.
People will often go on about the 30 year old virgin living in their parent’s basement, but this individual is not as common as you might think, besides, that is the person behind the screen. I am talking more about how they come across when they interact with others online. The stereotype in the past might have been true, but the Internet has long been open to people other than social rejects.
The first and most common stereotype you are likely to encounter is the board troll. Most of the time these are harmless, as long as the main users ignore them. Trolling specifically refers to posting a message to a forum that is usually controversial in order to get responses. Usually a moderator will deal with this type of user in the fullness of time so, the average user just needs to wait until it is taken care of.
The next stereotype, the drama queen, is also harmless as long as you choose not to get too involved in whatever is going wrong in his or her life at the moment. Do not let the name fool you into thinking that this type of user is always female. Men can make excellent drama queens as well. Basically, this type of user will make posts that may or may not be relevant about tragedies occurring in their life. We may all do this sometimes, but what sets the drama queen apart is that they always do it and always seem to have something going wrong. The naive may at first decide to help them, but most users will soon find out that they are also what my human relations book described as an “energy vampire.” They will use up all of your energy.
Moving on to the next stereotype, we encounter the board clown. The clown may be funny, or as more often the case merely thinks he is. Often, this user may conflict with the drama queen, who may or may not have a sense of moral propriety. That will of course, depend on the sense of humor possessed by the clown.
Occasionally we will often see someone who tries to “parent” the users of the board. This happens more often on smaller message boards and this will be the person whose inbox often gets flooded with requests for advice. Generally these people volunteer in real life or may teach Sunday School. If not, they are almost certainly involved in some other charitable activity in their life outside of the Internet. Moderators and administrators almost never have to caution these users and they will be a welcome break from a moderator who has already been attacked by a 13 year old troll who has far easier access to pornography due to technological advances than he should have.
There are other message board stereotypes, like the person allowed on the board who seems to delight in causing trouble, but the ones mentioned above are the type the average user will run across most often. Message boards could be a valuable tool for sharing information, but that is so seldom the case that it is almost beyond the realm of possibility.