Hari's Corner

Humour, comics, tech, law, software, reviews, essays, articles and HOWTOs intermingled with random philosophy now and then

What's wrong with online tech forums

Filed under: Internet and Blogging by Hari
Posted on Wed, May 2, 2007 at 17:15 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:11 IST)

Out of curiosity, I was browsing around my old haunt, LinuxQuestions.org forums and just re-discovered the reason why I don't participate there any more.

Quite simply: these kinds of never-ending discussions and debates over what are essentially non-issues. So much heat, so much angst, so much argument wasted when people could spend their time better in helping others or simply chilling out. I didn't read those threads in entirety because I'm too indifferent about such issues these days, but on perusing a few posts I got a reminder about how some things never change. And no, this is not aimed just at LQ.org. You get the same kind of thing on a lot of Linux communities in the internet and where the level of discussion is a lot worse than the examples I just gave.

There was a time when I was an active participant in more than one tech community and even took part in those kinds of debates. Now I have nothing against people on a personal level and quite a lot of LQ.org members and moderators are my good friends. The forum has got some great knowledgeable folk who help out newbies day-in and day-out with infinite patience and perseverence and a great admin team. And to be honest, of all the tech communities I've visited and took part in, LQ.org has probably got a more mature, level-headed crowd. But when you come across such kinds of threads with incredible regularity over a period of time, it has a depressing and numbing effect. Any sense of goodwill evaporates over heated arguments and there's no feeling that one is learning or discovering something new.

So I made a decision several months ago not to participate there or in any other tech communities online any more because there are too many tiring, never-ending debates like the ones I mentioned above, no community feel and no sense of appreciation for long-time contribution. I don't know why, but non-tech communities I find that people are so much more pleasanter, you get a broader mix of people with more tolerant and liberal attitudes who are generally willing to be friendly and indulge in light-hearted banter. At tech communities, you had better be careful about light talk or banter because you're quite likely to be flamed for being too jovial or being off-topic. Mild irony is mistaken for sarcasm and treated as a personal attack. People get too uptight and defensive about upholding their own positions. And more than anything, there's something so one-dimensional about tech-communities; a uniformity in thinking and a lack of in-depth, informed debate about anything remotely non-technical in nature. You probably do get one or two members in a hundred who're really intelligent, but those voices tend to get drowned by all the trolls who keep insisting on beating dead horses and reviving old flame wars. I sometimes think that even the trolls on non-tech communities seem more intelligent and amusing than trolls on tech forums.

I know I'm generalizing a lot and I'm as guilty as a lot of others in indulging in passionate discussions and even flame-wars in the past, but it's just that I've become too tired and too indifferent to waste my time posting regularly on online forums. This is not a research paper and I don't want to get too deep into the subject, but all I know is that writing a quiet blog with a small group of friends who drop by with a comment or two regularly and administering my own small community, LiteraryForums.org is enough for me. :P

12 comment(s)

  1. Yeah, I limit my time online to LQ (I don't spend any other time on any other technical forum except the small amount of minutes I spend on my own I have at perlquestions.org) as I just simply don't care anymore and I agree with you, senseless arguments that were made 6 years ago when I joined. They say we repeat history but tech communities seem to repeat it on a weekly basis.. ;)

    Comment by drew (visitor) on Thu, May 3, 2007 @ 07:04 IST #
  2. Drew, when I was fairly new to forums, I was kind of idealistic and thought people would be interested in new ideas and fresh thoughts. Actually over a period of time, what I discovered was that it's only the most controversial subjects that draw all attention and most of them have been dealt with at length several times. For instance, in the example I gave, about Linux and communism, I could almost predict that US politics would be drawn into it... it never fails...More than actual flame-wars, what gets me down is the regularity of these same topics/opinions and the fact that we learn nothing new or different. The same opinions keep repeating over and over and over again. I don't know whether this has to do with the colour scheme of LQ.org or anything, but combined with that, I found it all very gloomy and depressing.I know people would say - "avoid it, if you don't like them" but when you're a regular member for around 3 years, you kind of get to know the routine all too well. The situation is not better in other tech communities, it's worse. The collective levels of maturity, if anything, are even worse

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Thu, May 3, 2007 @ 07:22 IST #
  3. I agree, the ever present, ongoing crap threads like those are depressing. Especially since the second one you linked to is 2 years old and looks to have been raised from the dead. Which is one of my pet hates.Unfortunately, the nature of being on line means that you are dealing with an increasing number of people who have a lot of time on their hands. having lots of spare time means they can get very involved in that sort of thing.But then again, it is General and Drew calls it a cess pit for a reason :razz:

    Comment by ray (visitor) on Thu, May 3, 2007 @ 13:49 IST #
  4. Ray, I have no problem for people discussing and debating their pet issues. The problem is that these kinds of things get the maximum attention and get bumped up all the time and almost always there's no new perspective offered. Every second page, you get an almost verbatim repetition of something articulated earlier by somebody else.Which leads me to believe that most people never read these threads any way and just want to click the "reply" button.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Thu, May 3, 2007 @ 13:56 IST #
  5. As we all know, some people have to reply even if they can't do so intelligently. The problem, for some people, is that most topics on a tech forum are fairly non-inflammatory - recompiling a kernel, installing a driver and so on are all very low key subjects.For these people, they need to have an outlet - they are obiously very low powered people in real life - still living at home, still very young, possibly very shy and introverted and so on and so will immediately gird their e-loins and swing their e-penises to be internet tough guys.Aside from checking the more dodgy threads to see who needs a kick, I tend to stay away from those threads and stick to the techie ones. Works for me.

    Comment by ray (visitor) on Fri, May 4, 2007 @ 14:06 IST #
  6. Ray, you're right... probably the social group and the age group has something to do with it... we were all there once. well, I was anyway :razz:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Fri, May 4, 2007 @ 14:24 IST #
  7. All these youngsters online nowadays.. When I was 12 and 13, we had playgrounds and recess to worry about, not online forums and computers.. ;)And then when 15 thru 20 came along, my main interest was girls.. computers came along in heavier fashion when girls got boring.. ;)

    Comment by drew (visitor) on Fri, May 4, 2007 @ 23:25 IST #
  8. I think it's more than just the age group though. I'm not able to explain it properly why I get so annoyed with tech forums these days. All my reasons are valid + there's something more to it.Maybe I'm becoming Daffy... :razz:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, May 5, 2007 @ 08:26 IST #
  9. The reason is that on an online forum, everyone is 6foot 3, really muscly, incredibly good looking, suave sophisticated and frighteningly intelligent. Everyone that is except for the person you are arguing against.Equally, every female is a potential sexual partner, until they post their picture.Are we seeing a pattern here? ;)

    Comment by ray (visitor) on Sat, May 5, 2007 @ 20:58 IST #
  10. I'm having a cold in my head, Ray. Yeah, I have more to discuss on this topic. I just can't think clearly right now. This has been an interesting discussion, what? :mrgreen:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, May 5, 2007 @ 21:23 IST #
  11. Ray, you are totally correct on the female being online thing. Men are pigs.. we really are cause it's so true. But the same goes in real life too, a guy thinks if a girl is paying attention to him, she must want him.. ;)

    Comment by drew (visitor) on Mon, May 7, 2007 @ 02:15 IST #
  12. I see that Ray has zapped that communist thread. :mrgreen: yeah, it was bound to get nasty sooner or later. Politics brings out the worst in the common man... :shock:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Mon, May 7, 2007 @ 07:53 IST #

Comments closed

The blog owner has closed further commenting on this entry.