"Very sorry can't come. Lie follows by post." (Lord Charles Beresford, Telegraph message to the Prince of Wales)
Online forums are very similar to Newsgroups except you don't need any specialised software to join in. You just use your web browser.
Forums are full of discussions that may last for days or weeks split over a number of different 'boards'. Each board is an electronic version of a notice board where you pin up (post) your questions, opinions or views for everyone to read and, possibly, respond to. The topics of discussion very much depend on what the board has been created for. Some boards are strictly for technical questions. Other are more like social areas where people can just chat socially. In each case, the board's purpose is usually outlined in a short description that you can read before entering. Whenever possible, try to make sure that you're in the right place before joining in or posting a query.
Joining a Forum
Joining A Discussion
In almost every case, you will have the opportunity to compose your message whilst online, preview how it will look when you finally submit it and re-edit it as much as you like. When you are finally satisfied with your message, you can 'Submit' or 'Post' it. It will immediately appear at the appropriate point in the discussion thread for everyone to read and respond to.
Starting A New Discussion
First of all, check that you're on the right board!
A question about your favourite soap opera is unlikely to be very well received on a board for technical discussions.
If you want to ask a question, see if the forum has a 'Search' option and use this to see if your question has already been asked, and answered, before. You could save yourself, and others, some time.
Check for any threads entitled 'Read First', 'Posting Rules' or 'Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)'. These will probably be right at the top of the very first page so that new users see them immediately - an facility known as making a topic 'Sticky'. Read all of the posts in these threads. They could contain very important information about posting guidelines or could even answer the question you wanted to ask. Again, these threads are there to save everyone time and effort - so make good use of them.
If, after all that, you still want to start a new discussion, or ask a new question, look for an option to 'Start A New Thread'. Compose your message, preview it and, then, when you're happy, submit it to the board.
Formatting Your Posts
Forums also offer you the option to post links to other web pages or images quickly and easily within your posts. Whilst some boards may allow you to upload graphics and photographs within your posts, please don't overuse these facilities, Threads that are cluttered with large images are very slow to download and may cause problems for some people on slow Net connections. If possible, upload your photos to your web space and then post a link to them within the appropriate thread.
One common theme amongst forum posts is the inclusion of Smileys in posts. These are used to convey the emotions feelings that are difficult to convey in text. For example, if you were posting a jokey comment, you might include a winking smiley. Unlike the smileys used in email, forums often have a range of graphical smiley faces for you to choose from. To add one to your post, you simply select the most appropriate smiley graphic and either double-click on it or select it using your keyboard.
Try to use these smileys sparingly though. One or two in a post is fine. Five or six is very irritating.