In my opinion, a forum is one of the best ways to build and manage communities online. Truth be told, I’ve actually found myself to have been addicted to forums at certain points in my life. I’ve actually made real life friends and business contacts from the various forums I’ve been a member of. These days, though, while I don’t feel compelled to checking for new posts every half hour, I still visit my favorite forums at least once a day to check on new conversations and reply to ones I feel I can contribute to.
I find that niche-based forums bring together people of like interest. But sometimes, this extends past interests. Long after i’ve given up on some hobbies, for instance, I still visit the forums I’ve been part of just for the conversations. Even if the technologies and software being discussed in certain forums had been long obsolete, some might still be active because of the virtual friendships formed.
Sadly, however, not all forums can survive the test of time. For one, members might move on to other interests. Or in the case of forums that mostly involve professionals and enthusiasts in certain fields, people can become busy with their own concerns.
I wonder what could help breathe back life into forums that have slowed down. Should the forum give incentives for new members (such as freebies like ebooks and other downloads)? Or maybe great content can be dug up and re-posted as fresh. Should the moderators get in touch with each individual member to check how they are? Or in the case of exclusive, closed forums, will being open to the general public help in revitalizing discussions?
I think netizens these days have grown to have very short attention spans, especially with character limitations like those imposed by certain microblogging services. Will forums survive in the long run?