Forums: the good, the bad and the potentially ugly

10

Author: Martin PortPublished:

Classic car forums: love ‘em or hate ‘em?

They often provide invaluable advice and help from like-minded enthusiasts when you have an issue with your classic. I’ve been a member of all of the ones relevant to my ownership of various marques over the years and I can honestly say that the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to signing up.

Recently, though, I was reminded that it is possible to leave yourself open to abuse when posting about a problem. I simply asked just how heavy the clutch pedal should be and, before I could say ‘dot40’, my sexuality had been called into question!

Now of course, I know it was meant in jest, but nevertheless I replied promptly – pointing out that as an ex-lorry driver with a penchant for Yorkie bars, I wasn’t particular to dressing up in ladies’ clothes at the weekends.

‘Sorry petal’ was the reply. It seems that I had failed to convince the poster of my machismo. Or was that, too, meant in jest?!

That is the problem with forums and messageboards – the atonal nature of electronic communication means that you have to work quite hard to figure out if someone is pulling your leg or going in for the full-on character assassination, and often all it takes to swing between the two is a misplaced exclamation mark.

As a result, you can all too often watch a bit of (what seems like) innocent banter between two forum posters explode into World War 3. And that isn't healthy for anyone.

Of course there is the other problem with relatively anonymous banter. The poster may well have the profile twotonnepete72 from Norwich, but for all you know, ‘he’ could actually be someone called Tamara in a Laura Ashley dress, sitting in a waterfront appartment in Chelsea.

The more humourous vagaries of internet forums aside, I will admit to occasionally being a little disappointed at the responses I see on messageboards.

The reason for someone posting in the first place is often to ask for help and for the benefit of someone else’s knowledge in a respected community. So it is a shame when this is overlooked and the responses can be less than sympathetic, or even downright aggressive. Fortunately, this has been a rare thing in my experience, but it does happen. 

I have seen replies that are based on a level of assumed knowledge. Read between the lines (or, disturbingly, sometimes you don't have to) and what it says is: “Why the hell would you want to do that? Are you stupid?” Step away from the keyboard Tamara!

For example, a posting I once made attracted one slightly disparaging reply from another member who claimed I was doing everything wrong. “Compromise”, “Botched” and “Cheapish” were words used. Now, I am no fan of emoticons as they are called, but it occurred to me that with the simple addition of a ‘winking emoticon’ at the end, this possibly innocent post would have been taken as banter instead.

Was it even meant in jest, though? I guess I will never know (smiley), but it goes to prove that a couple of minutes re-reading your post before pressing the send button may well give you the opportunity to ensure it is taken in the spirit intended. In fact, the vast number of subsequent posts from other members, telling me to ignore the comments was overwhelming and confirmed that forums are an excellent and indespensable resource. 

They each have moments of breakdown that requires intervention from a mediator, but get a bunch of blokes (or women, sorry Tamara), together in any situation and the chances are there will be the odd disagreement.

Even the possibly negative poster made me stop and think about my approach for a moment and that can never be a bad thing, can it? But we should all be mindful of how what we write might be interpreted by others.

I hate to think that some younger, perhaps less knowledgeable people trying to break into our hobby - exactly the ones we are encouraging to get into classics - might be scared off instantly by an unpleasant encounter with a rude or dismissive poster on a forum. Especially if it was only meant to be banter!

Keep on posting chaps and lasses, but please, be nice.

Comments

Minesapint

Man up Port! Sticks and stones old boy, sticks and stones...!

Martin Port

I think you forgot the 'winking' emoticon! ; )

Art Editor, C&SC

Neil

In my opinion Forums are a godsend. I have been restoring my e-type for 6 years now and am constantly drawing on the knowledge of the people on the jag-lovers forum. If it is not in the searchable database then the question is often answered in minutes after posting. Without this I would have been stuck a few times, or have bodged something just to move forward.
The MG Enthusiast forum is also great (at least for the MGA) with a couple of real experts on the site.
Every now and again there is a stupid post or someone with an axe to grind but in both these sites there seems to be some good self regulation. There is also some useful posts regarding phishing etc. that are useful to know (and avoid).

Neil in Brussels
MGA1600, E-type S1 2+2

Chris Martin

There are some useful forums around, and a lot that have become children's playgrounds. As a general rule the more specific one make clubs that can offer some degree of expertise seem to get by ok and maintain a sensible membership. Others only survive with the careful intervention of their respective 'admin' or moderators to keep things civilised. Others still disappear, either because of lack of interest, or worse, because of abuse. Unfortunately this forum has suffered from a lack of discipline and seems to have had no moderators on board from the start which is why it is now the domain of a cartoonist with a few toy cars and a Portugese gent who likes to post a lot of photos of cars which are neither classic nor sports. There seem to have been a few odd posts from C&SC writers, yourself included, in an attempt to get things moving but it has failed to get anything like the number of interesting posts it had six months ago and it seems most of the intelligent contributors have given up and gone away.
I myself made it quite clear I would not bother until certain insulting comments were removed but having had no reply to my complaints I guess the trolls have won.
Welcome to the fickle world of internet forums.
Chris M.

 

DUESIE

Looks like a bit of an 'own goal' there Martin.

Chris Martin

Not so much an own goal, more like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?

It is obvious how one should use these forums with the same attitude or manners as if one was having the conversation in person, face to face, then of course it may still come to blows occasionally, but you can bet a lot of idiots would be a lot less brave about shooting their mouths off. For this reason alone, it is normal that these forums need moderators to control the more extreme behaviour. This forum failed it's members in that regard.

Anyway, I am not sure if Martin has been following the forum closely for the past year, or if he is just trying to put a positive gloss on it, but I am afraid if he is hoping his generalisations apply to the C&SC forum he is too late.

There was considerable fanfare in the magazine a year ago, enough anyway to tempt all readers who have internet access or are curious enough to check in and have a look. So far, so good, but most people have limited patience with such things and although it started out with a promising mix of contributors it soon descended into a slanging match and was monopolised by the sort of forum users one sees everywhere, ie those who have nothing better to do than live their lives vicariously online with small talk and not much of any interest to the rest of the world. Once that becomes the majority, and the rest have lost interest and wandered off, it will be very difficult to persuade people to come back. I suspect this forum missed it's best opportunity.

As for any new readers casually looking in for the first time, what do they find here now? Exactly, not much to draw them in is there.

My only suggestion now to Martin is that all the C&SC staff get on board, even breaking their own forum rule about using fake aliases and multiple usernames, to create a new group of  contributors to up the standard of the content and then hopefully bring fresh users in. This will take weeks, or even months if it works at all, but hopefully it may generate new interest.

Oh, and don't forget, you will still need some sort of moderators, as the idiots will be back too.

By the way, I am ONLY referring to the forum, the rest of the website is brilliant.  The blogs are usually fun, and often thought-provoking, The newsfeed headlines are a good mix such that anything that stimulates interest can often be followed up in more detail elsewhere, and the video links add a dimension not available in the magazine. Keep it up!

Chris M.

 

rolymo35

I order to provide material that is of interest to the readers IE :- "Classic and sports cars", there has to be a measure of control. If we have to wade though columns of eurobox hatchbacks, campers commercials and farmers work trucks, I will take my interest elsewhere .The readers expect to see ( this material removed by admin by reason of :- "lack of appropriate content") .That way the contributors will realize that they have to meet an acceptable level of input. Rubbish will be discouraged, by the junk-yard dog !

RolyMo

harris speedster

In researching automobiles, I have ahd to visist hundreds of automobile web sites of every imaginable type.
As posted at the top of this topic, I agree that it is hard to figure out if one has been insulted, or if it is just in jest.

One site I did a lot of posting at>> actually had moderators post little clips of "nonsense" into my writting.
I guess they did not have answer's, so they would butt in with comments that more so showed there ignorance with consideration to the site posters, besides there own "buddies".
The web site is now locked down but is still open to read and view.
Internal misorganization and fighting within there own ranks destroyed any decency, let alone a story was never finished that bares historical significance.
If you have ever heard about the Tucker Convertible and the unrest on ESPN II, NY times and countless other programs, I and my partner were the ones that walked away from buying it.
Thus started a major controversy.
At the site, I be John, and sad to say, started the research at the site, with many other quality persons/posters chiming in to clerify and sort all documents.
Over 45,000 persons read & kept up with what was going on, then it all came apart because of insults, sarchastic allowed remarks etc.
I and the most importantly, the significant others/posters walked away then.
So, I do truly understand what everybody has written above as concerns.
I am happy to be hear and do enjoy C.S.C>> even though I am across the world and one of those crazy Yanks>>
Warmest regards,
John

Home of the exotic 1935 Harris fwd speedster

pistonbroke

I only recently signed up for this forum so I could keep in touch with John and the progress of the Harris Speedster - an important find. But I too agree that most internet forums are populated by people who want to exchange small talk but do not have anything to add to the great debate. I have to agree with the above from Chris Martin, rolymo35 and harris speedster that a forum dedicated to the subject of classic cars but open to the public everywhere does need some strict quality control.
Most of us have limited computer time and do not need to waste time at sites with no useful stuff.
It seems the majority here are putting up photos of cars that are anything but classic or writing about models of the same - five views of a Simca 1100 anyone? - or even in one particular case writing total nonesense with unintelligable scribbles attached. That person also seems to like to Google anything to make himself appear knowledgeable.
None of this fits what the magazine stands for. It makes it hard work to sift through, although now I am a registered user, when I log in it shows me how many new posts there are in each section, so I can ignore the usual trash posted daily by the usual suspects and go straight to the good stuff.
Thanks at least for that.
Rolymo35 hit the spot with his remarks about the sort of rubbish vehicles being photograhed and posted. I can understand the old cliche about not wanting any censorship or so-called freedom of speech etc, but when those same freedoms are responsible for dumbing down what was a useful resource then surely there is an argument for some quality control.
As for the spam, it should be easy enough to regulate new users registration, a lot of other forums I use do not have this problem, but then it seems this site does without any moderators or admin types too.
As for John's comments above, his treatment at the hands of those with nothing to do but post insults and sarcasm sounds all too familiar, several contributors have dissappeared from here for the same reason. Luckily there are other forums that are well run allowing intelligent debate and contact between like-minded souls.
The lack of response to the posts above indicates to me that those who run this site are no longer interested. Maybe this one has had it's day?

fergieswatchmaker

I'm a bit late to this one but a quick google took me to  http://www.hey-ai.com/forum/9-general-discussion/109401-forum-stereotypes  where a moderator has posted a witty (and pretty accurate) take on forum stereotypes.

Worth a look and, as he says, which group do you fall into??

Add your comment

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br> <img>
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

You must be logged in to comment
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.