Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thinking of joining an online forum?

You might feel all alone in your quest to be prepared; friends and relatives might think you are nuts.  Rest easy; you aren’t.  It just feels that way; there are many forums and blogs and magazine articles and the like all focusing on preparedness, and your neighbors, who went through that same power outage, might be quietly stocking up just as you are. 

If you chose to look online for forums catering to preparedness/survivalism/self sufficiency topics you should be very judicious in your search, and you should think twice before joining any forum until you have lurked for a while, and by that, I don’t mean a day or two.

If you find a forum that looks like it might suffice for networking with others of a like mind, in order to get a real sense of how it operates, you might have to join.  If you do, keep lurking.  Don’t try to post, just see what typical topics are.  See if your concerns are mirrored and answered on the forum.

Also, pay attention to how many questions could have been answered with a simple Google search or by reading the available information, if only on that forum.  If there are a lot of posts like ‘I’m new here, where do I start?’ or ‘check out this list of X’ and the information about where to start has already been posted prominently on that same forum or you search for the list of X and find it has been posted many, many times already, the forum is overburdened with people who aren’t paying attention.   Same thing goes for questions that would be better addressed in a different forum, such as questions about blacksmithing or gardening or the like, unless specific as to how to do those things in a PSHTF world.  You wouldn’t go to a gardening forum for information on fixing your dishwasher, so why go to a survival/prepping forum for information you can find addressed more specifically and accurately on a targeted forum elsewhere? 

Check out subforums to see more of what’s discussed, and note how active threads that look interesting are.  If the thread on spinning, or reloading or woodsplitting hasn’t had additions for three weeks, and the threads on politics are going gangbusters, well, if you already know what your politics are and know you need information on reloading and woodsplitting and spinning, you may be out of luck on that particular forum. 

If there are a lot of political posts in a general area rather than a politics-specific subforum, that may be a sign of inadequate attention by the forum administrators to keeping things on topic as well as forum members not being conscientious about where they post.  Check other subforums and see if they have the same problem.   You don’t want to have to spend time searching for information that is scattered hither and yon.

Look for bashing of one group or another, or attacks on people who have posted controversial information or topics or who don’t agree with an original poster on a subject.  If the majority of people on a forum don’t like liberals and you are one, stay (very) undercover.  Your views will be discounted if you indicate your politics, no matter how fact-based you are (this applies to anyone of any minority political persuasion on any forum, but the majority of people in preparedness/survivalist forums tend to be conservative and liberals are often characterized as proponents of and dependent upon the so-called nanny state and government assistance in emergencies and therefore to be ignored, insulted or both).

In short, get a sense of a forum before you join (including reading all the rules), and get a better sense when you have, before you post.    And don’t forget that a conservative forum owner/host will chose conservative admins, and that prejudice against liberals, if any, may extend from the top all the way on down.