Tuesday Featured Post – Why do people go to forums?!?


I wonder, what is the reason that you come to the forums. Is it to help others or to get help from others?

Good day to all Forum's Ninjas, Forum's users, and guests 🙂

Here we are again on Tuesday with "Featured Forum post", where we choose a forum post or a forum thread from the MSDN and TechNet Forums, and we write about the value of it.

For today's post, I wanted to find a new thread, which was posted in the last week. Therefore, I searched in several forums where I serve as Moderator. When I started the search, I did not know what I am looking for. I was looking for something that will catch my eyes. To say the truth, probably 99.99 percentage of the forums' threads include simple question with a short responses as answer without anything unique. Finding the thread for today's post can be pretty boring job. I drifted away from my original goal and I stated to response and answer several question I saw.

At one point I noticed this question, so I added my response and I moved forward to see if I can contribute something in the next thread. While reading the next thread the answer hit me! I knew what I want to talk about today 🙂

Today I will not focus on a single specific post. Instead I want to focus on those two posts, which separately seems like a simple question/answer threads, but together they hide the power of the forum.

What I liked about those threads

The first thread is a question asked by JRStern (Josh), who is active member in the forums. The second thread is a question asked by Sajan Emmanuel, who is new member in the forum. Only when I started to read the responses on the second thread, I understood what I see there.

It is really "by chance" that those two threads came exactly one after the other, since the order of the threads in the forums is not fixed.

When I read the second thread, I notice that Josh who asked the first question is one of the people that support and answered the second question, and this is the power of the forum 🙂

Why do people go to forums

There are 3 type of people that come to forums:

(1) The first group are people that come only to support and help others. These can includes people that do it as part of their job roles, or those who simply love to contribute and help others. For these people I can say WELL DONE! You have my respect and I salute your contribution. You are welcome to keep reading, but this blog is not about you.

(2) The second group are the people that come only to ask questions. Usually they open a new user each time they come, they ask the question, and we might never see them again in the forum once they got the answer. THIS POST IS MAINLY FOR YOU.

(3) The third group are the  core of the community. These are the people that know how to use the power of the forum. they come to ask questions but at the same time they support and answer questions that other people asked. Well Done!

If you are in the third group, I wonder what came before what. Did you first came to the forum in order to ask a question, and than you stay to help others, or maybe it is the opposite? Usually do you come only when you have question and "on the way" you help others, or do you come specifically to help others even when you don't have any question?

If you are in the second group, please let me give you some personal opinion from my experience, and maybe I will succeed to make you move to the third group:-)

One of the best ways we can measure the success of a forum is when we see people that originally came to ask a question, but they stay in the forum and today they support and help others

Why should you help others

Well, I assume that it is clear to all that helping other is something that considered "good"  and we should be good people, but let put aside this point. Let's think only about our-self and focus on the question: What will we get by helping others?

  • I don't know about you and I will be happy to hear, but I know that when I help others and they say thanks I feel good. Yes, I am getting a good feeling.
    • Try to open the day with a good feeling and you will understand what I am talking about. Come to the forum each morning during the morning coffee and instead of reading the newspaper with all the bad news, start the day with helping pothers and getting their thanks.
  • Did you ever search for interview questions? The forum is one huge database for questions and answers.
  • Do you want to learn about real technical cases? If the answer is yes, then you should come to the forums and try to answer as many questions as you can. In real life most of us works with the same system every day, but in the forum you can hear cases that you will never see in your production.
  • By answering questions you will learn and improve your technical abilities! Try to answer all the questions in the forum. Focus on questions that you do not know the answer. Search for the answers and learn until you can answer any question in the forum. only than you can call yourself EXPERTS
  • Read response that other people wrote. Discuss issues that other people raise.  Use the issues other people have in order to learn the solutions for your next case.

In short, don't help others only for their sake, but try to help others for your sake 🙂

For summary

The forum is great place to get help and to help others. It is a great place to meet people from all around the world, discuss cases, and learn new stuff. Remember that always there is someone who know less, which you can help him, and probably there will always be someone that can help you. If you come to the forum to ask a question, then always try to answer at least two questions that other people asked.

Now, can you answer the questions:
(1) why do you come to forums? is it to ask a questions or answer question? (2) if you do both, what came before what?

Forums, the final frontier
– Ronen Ariely,
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Comments (11)
  1. Dirk says:

    Sometimes I browse forums to see what questions pique my interest. If someone asks a question I know I can help with, I reply with my solution. If someone asks a question that interests me, that I do not know the answer to, I see it as a nice opportunity to learn something new.

    Obviously I use forums to look for solutions to problems I face, but it’s the learning experience I enjoy most.

    Unfortunately there are some forums that are nothing but elitist boys clubs where newbies (and seasoned devs) get flamed by members with loads of rep or points to put them in the top % of the community. They use this as a pathetic excuse to abuse their “power” to unlock the next badge or achievement.

    I tend to steer clear of these pits as they unfortunately do little to advance the developer community as a whole.

    1. pituach says:

      >> “If someone asks a question that interests me, that I do not know the answer to, I see it as a nice opportunity to learn something new.”
      I think this is the best way to learn. Follow questions and if you find something you don’t know, then you know what you need to learn next 🙂

      * I agree regarding the fact that there are some forums that are not managed well. This is not related only to virtual community but to any real physical community (group of people). We need to “fight” what we can improve and find other friends if the specific forum/community/group of people dose not fit our approach 🙂

      ** By the way, in general I am against points in forums. Without points people don’t have reason to cheat and the goal of people that answer does not focused in up-raise their points and reward. But in the other side of the equation, points give people a goal and something to aspire to. In addition it gives a reward for the effort to help others and it helps in promoting the forums.

  2. JRStern says:

    Hi Ronen and all the msdn ninjas. Let me see if I can describe how I see these MSDN forums. They are “user” forums, they are not run by any official support organization, they are a kind of “social media” that started long before “social media” was invented. It’s a place to come and chat, in the kind of nerdy techno-chat we do. Some of that can be specific to things going on at work, and some not so much, but still on the forum topic. And in such a social environment, as you say, you want to try to give and take. So I come to browse, and learn, and ask, and answer. I’ll post kind of dumb questions on purpose, because others might have the same dumb question and come upon the question – and hopefully answer – years from now. Hey, even seeing that others have asked the same question can be helpful! I know that running these kind of forums is a challenge too, so thanks to Microsoft and all the moderators and MVPs.

    1. pituach says:

      So true, Above all the forums are a communities.
      * I know that most of the other Moderator will not agree with with this point, but In my Opinion off-topic threads from time to time are OK as well. For example if a very active member (not someone who just came to visit, but one of the community members) in the community has a birthday or newborn child, I think that congratulations thread in the forum is great.

  3. .paul. _ says:

    I primarily visit forums to get answers to my technical questions. While I’m in the forum I might take some time to answer someone else’s question, while I’m waiting for answers to my own questions. In the past, this wasn’t always the case. I used to spend a lot of time in the forums, and answer a lot of irrelevant (to me) questions. These days my efforts are more focused.

  4. pituach says:

    I love to see and read your responses Dirk, JRStern, .paul. _ 🙂
    It’s great to hear other people point-of-view

  5. I mainly participate in the French forum and from time to time in the UK forum. I dedicate almost every day an hour or more for the new questions, I try to help if I know the solution, exchange my experiences and learn new tricks.

    Regular participation in the Forum allows us to go to the end with the technology.

    1. pituach says:

      >> I dedicate almost every day an hour or more

      This is nice. Well done.
      I wonder about the history. Today you probably only come to the forum to support others. But what was the reason you first came to the forum? Can you remember if this was to get help and then you stay as supporter r did you first message in the forum was an answer

      * By the way, I also participate in local forums in Hebrew, in addition to the English forums 🙂
      But in the Hebrew forums I the only one that active, and in the English forums we have great active community of supporters. It is much more fun

      1. I come on this forum the first time since 7 yea ago, just to a ask a question …,where I discovered that we can learn a lot of things , so I started to be an active member.

  6. I often come across questions in the forums that challenge me. My reaction is “That is a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I can see how many people could use the solution.” Sometimes it takes searching to find an answer. Other times I must test in my lab setup. But it becomes a great learning experience for me.

    I don’t remember how I started. But I remember being impressed by the knowledge and helpful attitude of the regulars in the forums. They were from all over the world. I felt I got to know many of them virtually. It was great when I could actually meet some of them in person. There were no avatars in those days, so my mental picture of most of them was very different from what I later met. Most are friends to this day.

    1. pituach says:

      Richard, I think that the bottom line for most of us is “great learning experience for me” 🙂

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