What Do Forums Need?

Discussion in 'Help Requests' started by Ken Anderson, Feb 11, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    The obvious answer to this question is that forums need members, but membership numbers do not, in themselves, constitute a forum.

    Forums need posts, made up of threads and replies. Yet, if a large number of these threads simply regurgitate stuff that has been discussed on multiple other forums there is a problem, and if a large percentage of the posts are one or two lines of text that doesn't say much of anything, there is a bigger problem, and this problem leads back to the first point that was made: forums need members.

    Typically, people find forums through search engines, and search engines index forums according to their content. When forum threads are about things that are already being discussed in several other forums, the search engines have no reason to include that forum in its index, since it has already indexed forums that discuss the same things. When forum posts are only one or two lines long, the search engines have difficulty determining what the discussion is supposed to be about, or in deciding that it is worthwhile including it in its index.

    Please consider this when you are posting. Being a new forum, we particularly need people to be able to find us in the search engines and, when they do, they have to be able to find something here that is different, and hopefully better, than what they have seen on other senior forums.

    Sometimes, in conversation, there is no need for a lengthy reply, but please remember that the short ones don't help to bring new visitors to the forum.

    The same is true of threads that don't actually say anything. In another forum that I run, someone posted a thread asking whether other members preferred a PC or a Mac. Well, if anyone cared, we could put up a poll for that. A better opening post might have stated the type of computer used by the person opening the thread, and discussed why they are using that type of computer rather than another, whether it was because of price, familiarity, performance, or some other reason.

    Later discussion might focus on the differences between a PC and a Mac, and the reasons why someone might want to switch from one to another. What programs or features do you miss from your former operating system, and have you found suitable replacements for them in the new operating system? Otherwise it could be handled with a poll.

    Most any topic of interest to a member of this forum is an appropriate topic, and they certainly don't all have to serious, intellectual, or heady. If it seems like it might be fun, post it, but then be willing to say something about it.

    Person to person conversations often don't involve a lot of words, but one of the differences between a verbal conversation and a forum conversation is that a forum conversation requires more words. No one can see the shrug of your shoulder or your facial expressions, so words are of great import.

    Forums are like any other website. The more useful and well written their content, the better they are likely to do in the search engine results pages. Entertainment is useful so, once again, I am not suggesting that discussions have to be serious, although a few of those never hurt. Entertain yourselves, but do it with words.

    Thanks for listening to me.
     
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  2. Richard Paradon

    Richard Paradon Well-Known Member
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    Makes a lot of sense to me, Ken. I am happy that I found this thread as it opens the door for my thoughts. I notice that on every page you have a twitter logo. Perhaps if you posted a thread signifying it's importance for the forum, it may bring some new people around. I was too involved yesterday getting around, but when I am finished posting to day I will start tweeting a few of my threads.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Other things that can be important are the headlines to threads. Good headlines are informative, and can attract visitors, and help the thread to place in the search engine for long-tail keywords. For example, a thread title like, "Have You Seen This?" doesn't give any information about what the thread is about, and is unlikely to come up in searches on whatever the thread is actually about; or, if it does come up, searchers are less likely to click on it because it doesn't say what it's about. Even within the forum itself, I know that, when I am not in my own forum, I seldom click on threads whose headings don't give me any idea as to what the thread is about.

    To clarify something that I said in my last post, every topic does not have to be unique to this forum. In most cases, this would be impossible. Particularly, in a seniors forum, we might talk about things from our lives and just because you may have talked about it in some other forum, that does not mean that you can't tell the same story here -- just tell it differently. If people in another forum found it interesting, it is likely that those in this forum will do likewise, particularly if you can add perhaps another perspective or twist to the same story.

    The problems come into play when you tell the same story in much the same way, since Google will view that as duplicate content, and too much duplicate content can lead to the search engines discounting everything coming from this forum.
     
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Are we undergoing a word shortage? I am wondering, as I am noticing that words appear to have been rationed lately, with a flurry of posts that are only one or two lines long. I am particularly concerned over what affect this might have on cultures throughout the world, particularly the English, who have traditionally used vowels as if they grew on trees.

    Or could it be that, with the Obama Administration taking control of the Internet, we will be charged a tax for every word that we use? Or perhaps we shall have to pay for our communications by the word, reminiscent of telegraphs.
     
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  5. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Very Well-Known Member
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    I see that you are not the well informed person I previously believed you to be Ken. Did you not know that a deal was struck between O'Bama and Reader's Digest that limits all written forms of thought?
    Reader's Digest took Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and came up with the Condensed Version. It was a trial program initiated by Obama and if found successful he will give the Constitution to the Digest and see what they can do to it to shorten it up a little. More or less, they will be trying to modify or remove the first four amendments and make it look like they are still really there by everyone but the president.

    If found totally successful, all written forms of communication will be limited to 1 sentence per paragraph. So, with that said, I imagine what you are experiencing are people who are practicing the new form of writing.
     
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  6. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    The REAL reason that people are only writing short sentences.........
    (This research took me a while; but I am reasonably sure that i have found the answer to your question, Ken.)

     
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  7. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    More than anything, and what is best for forums in general, is when forum members talk about the things that matter to them. Whatever our reasons for being here, if we can talk to one another as people, even though we don't know one another in real life and, in all probability may never meet, everyone gains from the experience. Although we may live in different parts of the world, when people enter into conversation with one another, they form a community.

    Statistically, in most forums, ninety percent of the people who visit the forum never post anything meaningful, with most posting nothing at all. Nine percent contribute meaningful posts sometimes, and only one percent contribute actively, and are responsible for nearly all of the action that takes place in the forum. We're probably a little higher on the contributory scale here because this forum is new, and we haven't yet accumulated so large a percentage of non-contributors. By meaningful, I am not referring to posts that have the ability to change the world, but simply to those that prompt others to join into a genuine conversation.

    In regular conversations, we are more apt to know something about the person we are speaking to, plus we have body language, facial expressions, and other communication tools. Lacking these things in online discussions, we are more dependent on words, although it's sort of nice to use them in regular conversations too. The use of words have the added advantage of bringing more people to the conversation since they are indexed by search engines, sending people here who are interested in the sorts of conversations that are taking place here. Of course, this only takes place if we use words.

    "The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." -- Sydney J. Harris.
     
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  8. Jenn Windey

    Jenn Windey Active Member
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    Is this from your experience or stats that you read someplace? i don't doubt it's true.. I guess it is just startling to me. I have been online for decades now, in forums, chats and all sorts of places so i had to take a few moments to really think about how I use forums.

    Most often I end up on a forum because I have a specific question I need an answer to, for example if I have a question about something going on with my car I usually end up in a car forum someplace. There is no reason to post because the question and answer is already there for me. Hopefully there are pictures that help me even more. I seldom feel the need to join but I might book mark the forum if it is really good. The next largest commented area I see is the news, for the most part these seem to be troll havens so I don't comment at all.

    Then occasionally I find places that I like and I will join and share in the conversation for awhile. In my experience here is what seems to happen, it seems eventually at some point, it could take months, it could take years... there is a point in the growth where all of a sudden people just join like crazy and then something nasty seems to always happen. Eventually there seems to always end up being a split in the membership and I just don't always understand why. Suddenly a new forum or chat room develops and neither is never the same. It is kind of sad actually. I hope that never happens here. It's almost like people come with the intent just to steal away users.
     
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  9. Peter Remington

    Peter Remington Active Member
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    The internet can be a very nasty place, alright. I've often been attacked and ruthlessly maligned by total strangers and for no good reason but that anonymity appears to breed contempt. I've watched groups bubble and eventually burst over the most artificial and absurd of manufactured 'differences'. And I've always been puzzled by the 90% silent lurker rule of virtually any site. What's the point? I keep at it only because this constitutes my only source of human contact but the stresses have most often far outweighed the rewards.
     
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  10. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    It's something I've read, but it rang true because of other forums that I have administered. Once they've been around long enough to rank for topics in search engines, there are a lot of people lurking, and that's not counting the robots and, even among those who create an account, most don't post or don't post much or often. Once a forum becomes successful, I have no doubt that there are those who come because they intend to start their own similar forum, and to take away as many people from the base as possible. Usually this is accomplished by stirring something up, either out of whole cloth or by making a big deal about something that shouldn't be such a big deal. Not to equate a forum with a church but something similar often occurs in churches.
     
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  11. Jorge Ruiz

    Jorge Ruiz Member
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    Hey all.

    I've been a "lurker" for a couple of weeks, just too busy with the day job and trying to get my own website up and running (it is not a forum! ha.)

    This discussion did animate me to jump in with a few words, though it may take a couple of posts to get all of the ideas out without going all running-off-at-the-mouth (or the fingers). The first point I wanted to make is about content, both on forums and on the Internet in general.

    I've been writing content for Internet since the mid '90s. Up until certain changes in how Google indexes pages around 2011 or 2012, there were a lot of sites available that promised people bucks for creating content. Some of these sites were simple question/answer formats; others tried to open a platform for the sharing of "knowledge" through short article writing. Right around the changes at Google (for reasons that Ken has outlined in his first posts-- lack of meaningful "key wording", repetition of material on different sites, etc), there came about the concept of "content farm": a very apt way to describe these platforms that encouraged every Tom, Dick and Harry to share their knowledge, with or without the basic knowledge behind writing.

    Something that became clear, though, was that writing for Internet was not at all like the writing that most of us here on this forum might have learned at school. No "five paragraph essays" or "bibliographies" for the Internet. These so-called articles had to have single-idea paragraphs that usually did not go over four or five sentences; they had to be broken up with H2, bold headers. There had to be bullet lists. The material had to be useful. Perhaps one of the worst suggestions was that writing had to be done at an 8th grade level on the F-K (Flesch - Kincaid, get those minds out of the gutters, folk!) because the average Internet reader would not have the patience for levels above that.

    These concepts of content production for the Internet continue to be predicated, despite Google pretty much successfully closing down most of the more obvious "content farms"-- and this despite efforts on the part of the farms to "clean up their acts" by implementing quality control (editorial, that is). Large sites such as Helium and Yahoo, Hub Pages and Bubblews all suffered, some shutting down, others barely living through it all. What has suffered, though, is the idea that we can actually develop our ideas for others and that there will be those others out there who want to read more than the 140 characters a "tweet" affords us.

    As I said, I've more to say, but will break the posts up so that they don't involve too much scrolling down (another Internet writing sin! ha).

    peace,
    revel.
     
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  12. Jorge Ruiz

    Jorge Ruiz Member
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    More thoughts, then.

    On the use of words, I wrote a piece for a forum back in 1995, called "fingertone". It was in response to some seemingly exaggerated reactions to words left by other members, I think the topic of the thread was "homeschooling" or "institutionalized education". I was surprised by the reactions, how acid they could be and I posited that many of those reactions came precisely from not being able to correctly interpret the "tone of voice" (and from there, the coined word "fingertone") of the participant.

    One of the things I learned from that early forum experience was that one should be very careful when addressing another member in a forum directly. I tend to follow a self-made rule of almost always writing about the subject at hand and usually avoid naming others unless I particularly agree with something they have said. There seems to be a type of forum personality that automatically snaps when their name has been used, even when the comment is something good. I've received a "you, would, wouldn't you" when I've written "I agree with Tom, Dick or Harry", followed by a string of words that could only be described as vitriol. Best not to engage with that type of participant.

    Unfortunately, it is exactly that type of participant who can turn an otherwise interesting discussion into a name-calling match. Even the most even-tempered participants will let down their hair, then everyone seems to gang up on the guy who is misbehaving then someone writes a PM to the moderator and maybe the trouble maker gets his hands slapped or maybe a temporary ban from posting. However, in the end, as with misbehaving kids, the best rule is to ignore, ride the tide of increased bad behavior, not dump more fuel onto their personal fires (for some reason it's called "flaming"!) and celebrate quietly when the behavior comes under control again.

    It's curious, here's a short list of the kinds of forums I've participated in:

    • English teacher forums
    • General education forums
    • Favorite author forums
    • Bereaved people forums (one of my first!)
    • Webmaster forums
    • Writers' forums
    • Language forums
    Could you guess which of those forums was the most likely to get "nasty"? The English teacher forum. Who would have thought it? Not only one of those, but it seems that almost any forum with English as Second Language teachers on it will have some regular riff-raffing going on that involves the jumping in of a moderator and threads being locked down. We're a feisty lot, we ESL teachers (let's blame it on Krashen and Chomsky!)

    peace,
    revel.
     
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  13. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    A look through any of my sites would show you that I have never ascribed to the idea that less is better when it comes to writing. Oh, adding words just for the sake of adding words is pointless but if there is more to be said, I have always leaned toward saying it, and my sites have never suffered for it. There are differences in online versus on-paper publishing, of course, and I do break paragraphs up even when the context doesn't suggest it, knowing that long paragraphs are difficult to read online. Despite all of the SEO warning about long, text-based pages, the search engines have always loved words and as long as the textual content remains focused, more words generally do better than few. Where people often go wrong in writing for the Internet is moving on to introduce a new topic.

    A new topic requires a new page. If it is closely related to the previous topic, it should be created as a subpage (child), otherwise as a parallel (sibling) page. The best SEO for forums is when topics are grouped together, as they are here, when the title of each thread introduces the topic of the thread, and when the first post is long enough to further define the topic. In other words, "Wait Until You See This," is not a good thread title because it doesn't tell you what "this" is.
     
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  14. Richard Paradon

    Richard Paradon Well-Known Member
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    Very interesting. I am not too sure where I am in the scales. I start a post when I feel that it is interesting and sometimes they are and sometimes not. It tales a bit of time to discern who is interested in what. I also try to respond to all that comment on my posts as that. for me, is the way to develop internet friendships.
     
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  15. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    If you are speaking, with knowledge and/or experience, about something that is interesting to you, then it is interesting. In fact, even in threads that don't garner a lot of replies, it doesn't necessarily follow that people did not find it to be of interest. Sometimes, I'll read something with interest, yet have nothing useful that I could add to the conversation.
     
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  16. Jenn Windey

    Jenn Windey Active Member
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    Well maybe, back in the my days of mIRC I was a channel op of a age based chat that could be quite tongue and cheek. It could and would very quickly blow up into a hilarious stream of wit that could go off the rails pretty fast if you were not of the same mindset. Those that got it loved it, those that didn't well.... The channel founder always said it boiled down to semantics, what is read and what is meant is not always the same thing. The net is a bit about illusions but given enough conversation it is not impossible to figure out the real being behind the nick (avatars now).

    I seldom feel like I need to censure my thought, I do however avoid certain topics I think are better kept to oneself. As in real life interactions, maybe some stuff is better left not said in a public setting.

    Yes I split paragraphs oddly too...never really thought about why, just feel it better illustrates my online voice.

    As far as content writing goes, I am still and have always been old school. Yes SEO is a weird fish, but it did not always exist, and since I do both online and pulp writing I always felt as a writer it was of greater service to the reader that I remain consistent (even as a ghost writer) then technical for a search engine. Dialog whether it is a management report or a post is better received if you can manage to inflect some of your authentic self into it.

    Only once in my life was that ever a problem, I had an auditing class in college and we had to do a report on accounting firms with less then stellar reputations. The professor remarked on my project that I sounded more like a journalist then an accountant, I asked him why that mattered, wasn't the insight sufficient? He laughed and changed the grade. The point was made, short of a scientific piece there is no reason to be dry and technical in our writing. You Ken, are definitely not, nor is Jorge.
     
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  17. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Needless to say, please feel free to recommend the forum to your friends. There's always room for more.
     
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  18. Jennifer Graves

    Jennifer Graves Active Member
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    They need debates. The kind that people have to stop what they're doing every hour to see if someone gave them another reason to get irate. Unless someone makes it a personal attack rather than debating the topic itself, it can be a lot of fun!
     
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  19. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    We have areas where debates could take place. I don't know that I want to take an active role in encouraging them, however, because someone invariably gets angry or has his feelings hurt, and others will get upset because people are arguing. Yes, I am aware of a very clear difference between a debate and an argument but many believe that any expression of disagreement is an argument.

    On another topic, things come up in the news all the time that could make good discussion topics but what I'm interested in is what the members of this forum think about the events.
     
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  20. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    I do not think that we need debates as any kind of a separate section. We have several sections where people often have differing opinions, and we all usually share our opinions there.
    Debates seem to get heated, and then the whole thing disintegrates into insults and abusive treatment of other posters, rather than polite discussion of the topic.

    If a person likes debates, there are certainly enough places on the internet to find that. Several of us on this forum are here specifically because we wanted to get away from that kind of a forum environment. It is refreshing to be able to express your views without it being a cause for a personal attack.
     
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  21. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Very Well-Known Member
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    The proverb, "in the councel of many is much wisdom," does not apply when it comes to open faced debate.
    While the present company may be able to consider each others statements with wisdom and regard for the opposing poster, the factual future is that there will be those who relish the idea of raising neck hair.
    Since forums are largely nonconfrontational in the physical sense, there are people who see that as an opportunity to act the troll whether they consider themselves to be or not.
    I whole heartedly agree with the wisdom my wife has displayed in that we have already seen on this very forum the harm that unfettered "debate" can cause, so I cannot think of a worse idea as a section specifically built to eventually house open hostility.
    It would be hard to monitor for the thread starter as well as our host, Ken, and, as an addendum, I personally will not participate unless there is a cup of coffee in that section. My understanding is that there is no budget for a coffee maker, so........no Bobby.
     
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  22. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    We have had a few new members in the past few days, and I welcome them. I thought I would post to this thread as well, since it contains some useful information on participating in this forum.

    Things are pretty relaxed here, and I want very much to keep it that way. As with any other group of people, there are going to be disagreements from time to time, and not everyone is going to fall in love with everyone else. That's okay, since you don't have to like someone in order to have a conversation, and it's often easier to like someone once you've gotten to know them. Perhaps not everyone can do that, but I can like someone without having to agree with their opinions on issues.

    As long as we can treat one another with a modicum of respect, there is room for disagreement, and I can even like those who had to look modicum up in a dictionary; and, truth be told, I had to consult a dictionary to be sure that I was using the word correctly.

    This is a seniors forum, and I chose to define senior as anyone fifty or older, since that seems to be fairly standard, although I am fully aware that we don't all consider ourselves to be seniors. In some respects, it's a matter of perspective; I can remember when forty seemed awfully old, and when there was no point in living past sixty. I am sixty-three now; soon I will be sixty-four, and I am still making plans for the future, although I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up.

    If you are fifty or older, and there is a topic that you are interested in, you can probably find a place to talk about it here. We don't just talk about "old" stuff. We have a fairly wide range of topics here, and I am open to creating new ones when necessary.

    I have been involved in several other forums, so I know that some forum owners are really picky about things being posted in the right places. Certainly, I can appreciate order and ask that you look for an appropriate place to introduce a new topic, but I promise that I won't get angry over any honest efforts. If I really think that something is in the wrong place, I'll just move it. It only takes me a second to do that. If you're unsure as to where to introduce a new topic, we have a place for that near the bottom of the forum listings. As I find the time, I'll most those threads to the appropriate places. I would rather you introduce your topic than hesitate to do so for fear of posting it in the wrong place.

    For the purposes of search engine optimization, I'd like threads to be on-topic, but there is still room for brief asides, as long as they don't divert from the central topic of the thread. The best way to do that, if you want to make a comment that relates to what someone else in the thread has said, but not necessarily to the topic of the opening post, is to make your comment, then follow it up with something that does relate to the opening post. In that way, you've said your piece but you haven't diverted the topic. There too, when I find that a topic has been diverted, I can split one thread into two, so that both topics can be discussed.

    Some forum owners get upset when someone posts to an old thread. I don't care. If the older thread relates to what you want to say, I'd rather you post to that one than start a new thread about the same thing. there again. Conversely, other forum owners will get upset when someone starts a new thread to discuss something that has already been discussed. I won't get upset about that either. If I believe that your new thread should be merged with the old one, I'll do that, but more likely I'll just leave it alone.

    Don't feel that everything you have to say has to be earth shattering. If it's worth thinking about, it might be worth talking about. I don't know what other people might be interested in, and although I may not be interested in every topic that is started here, others might be.

    Frequently, forum members will post links to news stories or other sites. That's fine, if you do so as a point of reference for a conversation but if you don't have anything to say about the news story, there's no reason to post it. I'm far more interested in what you have to say than any reporter or blogger.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
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  23. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    If you are going to post a link to a news story, blog entry, or any other outside site, please say something about the story. I have no problem at all with links to outside sites, but please give us an idea what it's about, why you think it's important, or why it is of interest to you. Thanks.
     
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  24. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    I know this was an old post, but I don't think I ever answered it. Thank you for a good post, @Richard Paradon . I advertise the forum through Twitter and, when I set up my tweets correctly, I can bring as many as a hundred people here in a few minutes. Most only stay a few seconds but others read at least the thread that I had directed them to, and every now and then someone registers for an account. But when I do it, it's advertising, which is not as effective as genuine recommendations from forum members. Yes, by all means, I encourage anyone with a Twitter account to refer people here, particularly to interesting threads that you are participating in.
     
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  25. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    I have a twitter account, but I don't really do much with it.
    Do I just click the little "tweet" button at the bottom of a post to share it on Twitter, or do I need to be following you , or anything else besides just clicking on the tweet icon ?

    Edit :
    I tried it and I am pretty sure that I posted a tweet about the Megyn Kelly thread. Since a lot of people are interested in that right now, it seemed like a good thread to tweet about.
     
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