Don't Throw Away the Forums Baby with the Communities Bath Water

There is no difference between communities and forums.

I had this discussion over twitter a few days ago with a “community expert” who told me that all the knowledge I had in forums could never be applied to communities. There were different things.

Lucky for this person twitter offers the ability to put your foot in your mouth only 140 characters at the time.

Back in the old days before we had communities to bring people together, we had forums.  Without dating myself much, let’s just say that I cut my teeth into communities working on a couple Compuserve Forums as a moderator.  We were supposed to monitor the content for spam and advertising, provide feedback back to the forum sponsors, give expert opinions, recruit super-users to contribute, and attract people by cross-posting.  Basically, the same duties of a community manager these days.

The scale of the Forums back then and Communities now is very different.  I will concede that.

In the haste to make today’s technologies and tools “unique”, “new”, and “innovative” tools we are ignoring that we may have experienced people and knowledge that can be applied to what ails us today.

The computer industry is cyclical, there is no question about that.  We advance the tools and technologies, but we reuse the concepts.  The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) of today was the distributed computing of the 1960s.  The web servers of today were the timeshare solutions of the 1970s.  The Social Media of today was the Social Networking of the 1990s.

The communities of today were the forums and BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) of yesterday.

We should leverage the experience and knowledge of yesterday while realizing the power of today tools and technologies.

Let’s make sure we don’t throw away the Forums baby with the Communities bathwater.