The Permanence of Forums

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Cobra!
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The Permanence of Forums

Post by Cobra! »

Compared to social media and especially Discord, it feels like whatever is posted here will be there for longer and will be seen by more people in the long run. If I post something on Discord or Twitter, it will be buried under thousands of other messages and the chances of someone stumbling across it years later is much lower than a forum post.

I look up problems I have with a device I have or a program I'm making, and I see forum threads from the late 90s and the 2000s all the time due to the nature of things I work with. I'm sure I can't be the only one.

Like what I post here will be more cemented in history for a lurker to one day find. This feels a lot more comforting than posting a message on an IM program or social media where the post will most likely be lost. Reddit comes close to a forum in this regard, but it still feels like it's just one post in a sea of many, especially that only the original post gets any highlight and replies are just dumped below.

Obviously, forums can and many do get taken offline and the posts get lost to time, but I guess Internet Archive comes to the rescue there.

Does what I'm saying make any sense? Does anyone else feel this way?
Last edited by Cobra! on Sat Feb 04, 2023 5:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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BeeMilk
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Re: Permanence of Forums

Post by BeeMilk »

I agree completely. I also find solutions to my problems from old forum posts all the time too.
Forums are also different that other social media in the sense that you don't have to weed through irrelevant stuff to get to what you're looking for. Things are categorized and have their own space. Also, I feel like forum posts tend to just have a higher value. In places like facebook (etc.) people just vomit posts out, but in forums, things tend to be on-topic and useful.
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glacial_pace
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by glacial_pace »

yep - i used to post some angsty shit on another board in the early 2010s, and have since gone bank to blank out some posts and remove all identifying info from my profile (even things like email address).

i feel for the next generation of extremely online kids because holy fuck what a bad time to be angsty online, and it's probably only gonna get worse
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OppositeKeith
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by OppositeKeith »

Eh i get what you mean. i do feel like though with forums in its current state are more easier to handle and surf through because many moved to social media which makes forums a lot more stable to view and respond to. those forums who got lost to time probably got a shit ton of threads that littered with garbage.
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Alice Smith
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by Alice Smith »

Everyone should use forum software rather than synchronous chat software for everything that shouldn't be lost. While there are conveniences and benefits to chat, forums offer better long-term value and sustainability. As the community grows, chat platforms can become difficult to search and manage, while forums offer better organization and accessibility.

The "memory hole" is a problem that affects chat platforms. Important answers to questions can be hard to find or simply disappear over time. On the other hand, forums are designed for reading and can provide relevant information through search engines and related post suggestions. This can be a desirable feature only for some communities that prioritize casual conversation over information retention.

A search engine is widely recognized as the primary source of information for a lot of people, serving as their primary user interface for knowledge gathering. However, chat systems like Slack, Discord, or Facebook groups are not compatible with this workflow as all the content is hidden, resulting in a lack of compounding benefits from insightful questions and answers. The lack of visibility means that information shared in a chat environment is not easily accessible for future reference, limiting its value for the community.

In a chat system, information is fleeting and can easily be lost among a stream of other messages. This can result in valuable comments being overlooked and individuals feeling ignored, even if it is simply due to timing. This sense of being overlooked can be discouraging, leading to feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Additionally, those who enjoy helping others may feel pressured to respond quickly, which can distract them from deep work and limit their productivity. When choosing a chat solution, one is optimizing for a fast and immediate response, rather than a more long-term and lasting impact.

The choice between chat and forums ultimately comes down to what you want to emphasize - immediate answers and community building or long-term aggregation of knowledge and complete culture. Both tools can be used at different stages of a community's evolution, but as the community grows, forums or other public knowledge-sharing solutions may become more important.
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Cobra!
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by Cobra! »

Alice Smith wrote: Sun Feb 05, 2023 10:01 pm Everyone should use forum software rather than synchronous chat software for everything that shouldn't be lost. While there are conveniences and benefits to chat, forums offer better long-term value and sustainability. As the community grows, chat platforms can become difficult to search and manage, while forums offer better organization and accessibility.

In a chat system, information is fleeting and can easily be lost among a stream of other messages. This can result in valuable comments being overlooked and individuals feeling ignored, even if it is simply due to timing. This sense of being overlooked can be discouraging, leading to feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Additionally, those who enjoy helping others may feel pressured to respond quickly, which can distract them from deep work and limit their productivity. When choosing a chat solution, one is optimizing for a fast and immediate response, rather than a more long-term and lasting impact.
Yeah, I totally agree with that. Forums and instant messaging both have their ups and downs for sure, and serve different purposes.

I think the issue with most social media, Discord included, is that they seem to aim to replace both, when they really shouldn't. Not only that, like you said, most social media deliberately lock the content behind log in screens, and I think this plays into their plan to make people engaged with a platform. You feel like if you went through the trouble of making an account or logging in, you're going to stay on the platform, and I think we all know where this is going, so I'll stop now.

I think the Yesterweb movement closing the Discord is the best thing to happen to forums for a while. It's gotten me to be way more active on forums as my main source of communication and information and unlike Discord, I don't spend all day on a forum, I just check in a few times a day, and then log out. (Discord is probably designed to keep you on it on purpose, but I digress)

I feel like forums aren't overwhelming with data, like Discord is, because a lot less gets posted every day, so it's less to archive, but it feels like the same amount of information ultimately gets saved, if that makes sense.
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by jshtab »

Alice Smith wrote: Sun Feb 05, 2023 10:01 pm Everyone should use forum software rather than synchronous chat software for everything that shouldn't be lost. While there are conveniences and benefits to chat, forums offer better long-term value and sustainability. As the community grows, chat platforms can become difficult to search and manage, while forums offer better organization and accessibility.
I brought this up in several old Discord forum threads, chat rooms are text-based voice calls. They're much more disorganized than a purpose-made document, or even an exchange of letters. They quickly become disorganized and hard to wrangle, just like real conference calls. They can be recorded, but even if they are, nobody (with any sense) will bother listening or reading the entire thing.
Alice Smith wrote: Sun Feb 05, 2023 10:01 pm The "memory hole" is a problem that affects chat platforms. Important answers to questions can be hard to find or simply disappear over time. On the other hand, forums are designed for reading and can provide relevant information through search engines and related post suggestions. This can be a desirable feature only for some communities that prioritize casual conversation over information retention.
Also, relevant zine article discussing knowledge management and general meeting magic.
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rubber cat
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by rubber cat »

most of the forums I used to post on died and eventually disappeared after the hosting lapsed, or their archives were purged after a software upgrade. forums are a lot better for information than the crummy SEO spam that litters google these days but they're not permanent :(

speaking of which, I was searching for something the other day and there was a relevant snippet from reddit. but it was in a comment replying to another comment which are minimized by default so it was impossible to find on the page unless you open every comment thread (yes there's view source but I was on my phone). god I hate reddit
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nightwolf334
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by nightwolf334 »

I don't know if I agree. Internet permanence in general feels a bit like a myth to me. A good amount, dare I say majority of the forums I used to post to are no longer accessible (some of the larger one's were archived but not in their totality). Traditional forums do have a place in the support World, and yes search engines do help you find these forum posts, but in terms of discourse there simply isn't an advantage to posting on forums or using them due to data permanence.
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by Cobra! »

nightwolf334 wrote: Tue Feb 07, 2023 11:26 pm I don't know if I agree. Internet permanence in general feels a bit like a myth to me. A good amount, dare I say majority of the forums I used to post to are no longer accessible (some of the larger one's were archived but not in their totality). Traditional forums do have a place in the support World, and yes search engines do help you find these forum posts, but in terms of discourse there simply isn't an advantage to posting on forums or using them due to data permanence.
Well maybe permanence isn’t the right word. I used it the same way here than people do with CDs. In the game development world, people refer to the permanence of putting a game or program on CDs. CDs rot and deoxidise, so the data won’t be there forever, meaning they’re not actually permanent. (You can get a brand of disc that will last over 1000 years, meaning they basically will be, but that’s besides the point)

Permanence in this context refers to whatever you put on a disc will stay there unmodified for as long as the disc itself can be read. Meaning any bug or glitch a game has will remain untouched. So you’re extra careful to make sure whatever you put on a disc is as bug-free and stable as possible.

I feel like forums are somewhat similar to this idea. I feel more aware of whatever I say on a forum. If I say something embarrassing or even controversial on an IM program like Discord, it will be pushed up by newer posts and over time, people will forget about it.

Do the same on a forum, and it will stay there, and in the community’s conscious for a lot longer. Not to mention it’s likely to be found by others for years to come, provided the server hosting said forum stays up.

Like if you find an old demo disc, and it has a demo for a game you own, you can see differences in the game itself, some bugs the demo has that the full game doesn’t, and sometimes have different level and menu design altogether. (One example is Ape Escape having a very different hub world in the demo, and the voice lines were brought an octave lower in the full game)
So in a way, an on-disc demo is a time capsule for the games, and the stage of development they were in.

I feel forums (and to a very certain extent Twitter, Reddit and heck even Google Groups) also have this effect, you can see people’s attitudes and opinions towards things that were happening at the time.

For instance, I stumbled across an IGN thread from 2002 about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 coming to the Nintendo 64. Everyone at the time didn’t see the point. It costed more than the Gamecube version and it wasn’t as good. People don’t have that attitude these days, so it was super interesting to read through it.
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by ch1rx30 »

///// DO NOT QUOTE

I feel less safe with the permanence and searchability of forums. IMO off-topic and chat boards should be non-indexed, viewable to members with a certain post count only, and actually deleted/reset periodically.

I'm conflicted about even mentioning this for the aforementioned reasons, but one of my first internet experiences as a minor was being trolled and also groomed by a click of adults (like 25+) on a forum. I was smart enough to just delete my account instead of calling the internet police or whatever but I wasn't smart enough to blank my posts first so it is all still up there somewhere :/

This experience really informed how I deal with privacy on the internet and is a big part of why I never really got into social media. Generally I prefer full anon to pseudonymous semi anon, despite the obvious negatives. But I guess being searchable until the sun dies is a good incentive to talk about technical/on topic stuff instead of random personal chatting.

///// DO NOT QUOTE
Last edited by ch1rx30 on Sat Apr 22, 2023 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by urinternetgurl »

Cobra! wrote: Wed Feb 08, 2023 12:30 am
nightwolf334 wrote: Tue Feb 07, 2023 11:26 pm I don't know if I agree. Internet permanence in general feels a bit like a myth to me. A good amount, dare I say majority of the forums I used to post to are no longer accessible (some of the larger one's were archived but not in their totality). Traditional forums do have a place in the support World, and yes search engines do help you find these forum posts, but in terms of discourse there simply isn't an advantage to posting on forums or using them due to data permanence.
Well maybe permanence isn’t the right word. I used it the same way here than people do with CDs. In the game development world, people refer to the permanence of putting a game or program on CDs. CDs rot and deoxidise, so the data won’t be there forever, meaning they’re not actually permanent. (You can get a brand of disc that will last over 1000 years, meaning they basically will be, but that’s besides the point)

Permanence in this context refers to whatever you put on a disc will stay there unmodified for as long as the disc itself can be read. Meaning any bug or glitch a game has will remain untouched. So you’re extra careful to make sure whatever you put on a disc is as bug-free and stable as possible.

I feel like forums are somewhat similar to this idea. I feel more aware of whatever I say on a forum. If I say something embarrassing or even controversial on an IM program like Discord, it will be pushed up by newer posts and over time, people will forget about it.

Do the same on a forum, and it will stay there, and in the community’s conscious for a lot longer. Not to mention it’s likely to be found by others for years to come, provided the server hosting said forum stays up.

Like if you find an old demo disc, and it has a demo for a game you own, you can see differences in the game itself, some bugs the demo has that the full game doesn’t, and sometimes have different level and menu design altogether. (One example is Ape Escape having a very different hub world in the demo, and the voice lines were brought an octave lower in the full game)
So in a way, an on-disc demo is a time capsule for the games, and the stage of development they were in.

I feel forums (and to a very certain extent Twitter, Reddit and heck even Google Groups) also have this effect, you can see people’s attitudes and opinions towards things that were happening at the time.

For instance, I stumbled across an IGN thread from 2002 about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 coming to the Nintendo 64. Everyone at the time didn’t see the point. It costed more than the Gamecube version and it wasn’t as good. People don’t have that attitude these days, so it was super interesting to read through it.
If permanence isn't the right word, I don't think physical media is quite the right metaphor, either. I think better comparisons are phone calls and letters, or instant-messaging/Slack and e-mail. Different types of communication.

The fast-pace and somewhat disposable feeling of Discord messages probably doesn't encourage people to write as if their words will have any lasting impact. Like e-mail or a letter, a forum, on the other hand, does give a sense of (if not literal/actual) "permanence" that might encourage users to interact a little more mindfully than on a place like discord. At the very least, forums provide a more easily-accessible record of each user's interactions, so it can immortalize any missteps the same way a physical demo disk might for a software bug, so I kind of see what you were going for with that metaphor. But again, I think the "permanence" is more comparable to other types of interaction. But I agree with your overall idea. There's something to forums that makes it feel more serious and official and permanent. Chats feel casual and fun and overwhelming and forgettable.
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Re: The Permanence of Forums

Post by Laz1985 »

Absolutely. I've done Google searches, and if you know my pseudonym from 20 years ago, you can find all the stuff I made and posted on the Internet. (Well, most of it. One of the sites I used was the official Chao BBS by Sonic Team, which was taken down decades ago.) No, I am not telling you my pseudonym. I'm kind of embarrassed by some of the stuff I wrote as a teen.

As long as the forum host doesn't go down, you can continue to see the content that was there for YEARS. I know of a forum where someone died 12 years ago, and the thread where they announced they would be dying of illness soon, for people to say their goodbyes, is still up. You can still read the final posts of a man who died in 2011, and the post in that thread where a friend of his made the announcement that the person in question was dead. It's possible to find posts from 2011 on Facebook, but a lot of social-media sites, like MySpace or Friendster, are gone forever, and many of the others are so bloated with stuff that it's very difficult to search back that far.

The stuff saved on the Discord servers isn't visible from anywhere except the Discord website and app. I can't search for a problem I'm having through DuckDuckGo and find a solution on a random Discord server. But I can DDG-search my problem and find an answer on an old web forum or mailing list.

Back in 2001 or thereabouts, I was looking up the Missingno glitch in Pokemon Red/Blue and found where a woman had posted about it on a Yahoo! mailing list. Her 10-year-old daughter had caught one, and now the save file was corrupted. She wanted to know if there was a way to fix the save file. (The unanimous answer: you can't, the daughter would have to create a whole new save file and start over.) This was one of the first 10 search results back then.

As long as a webpage still exists, and forums tend to last pretty long, you can find information on it. Heck, there are still webpages from old universities with links to download the then-latest version of Windows: 3.1.1, which was released in 1994.

EDIT: Apparently, some of the old Sega BBS archives were saved on the Wayback Machine! Have a look!
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