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  1.    #1  
    What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
    - Herbert Simon


    Online forums, message boards, and newsgroups are now ubiquitous. These powerful communication tools offer many strong benefits. However, forum participation can also become a destructive addiction, where the benefits are overshadowed by negative side effects.

    Here are some potential negative effects of excessive forum usage:

    Reduced concentration and focus
    Reduced productivity
    Chronic procrastination
    Increased pessimism and/or apathy
    Being distracted by endless debates and idle gossip
    Gradually substituting tribal group think for your own intelligence
    Impaired social skills, neglected relationships, and a weakened social circle (a consequence of substituting online socialization for face-to-face conversations)
    Reduced energy (forum participation is sedentary compared to more active social outlets)
    Reduced self-esteem
    Career and income may suffer (including loss of employment)
    Forum addiction


    Here are some suggestions for using forums effectively and avoiding the negative side effects:

    1. Take a Forum Fast
    First, if you're currently active in any forums, go on a forum fast. Stop visiting all forums for a while; don't even lurk. I recommend a fasting period of 30 days, with a bare minimum of 14 days. This will help you break any unconscious habits and regain your perspective, so you can intelligently evaluate the role forums should play in your life. Otherwise, you may be coming from a place of unconscious habit and will likely overestimate the value of continued participation. If you're currently a forum moderator, take a forum vacation, and enlist someone to temporarily assume your moderation duties. Redirect the time you would have spent in online forums to something positive like exercising or reading books. If you don't think you have the discipline to do this, simply make a post in each forum explaining that you'll be taking the next 30 days off, and if any forum member catches you online, you'll pay the first person that emails you about it $100. This should give you enough leverage to stick with your fast.



    2. Reassess Your Forum Usage Habits
    Once you've completed the initial fasting period (and not before), take a fresh look at your forum participation habits. Imagine that you just discovered each forum today for the first time. What are the pros and cons of participation? Is this the best use of your time, or can you imagine something better? If you're using forums to get specific information, would it be better to simply read books, articles, or blogs? If you're using them as a social outlet, would it be better to join a local club and meet people face-to-face? Looking back on your previous pattern of behavior, would you say you were addicted? Did your usage pattern become unconscious? If so, how do you intend to prevent that from happening again?



    3. Clarify Your Expectations
    If you decide to participate in online forums, clarify your expectations. Whether you intend to use forums for market research, to make new contacts, or as an outlet for your humorous wit, get clear on why you're there.



    4. Establish Reasonable Boundaries
    To limit the risk of forum addiction, set clear boundaries for yourself and write them down. You can limit the number of times per week you check each forum, the total amount of time you spend participating, or the number of posts you'll allow yourself to make each week. Track your weekly usage on a scrap of paper to keep yourself consciously aware of your participation habits. Don't go dark and succumb to unconscious habituation. Establish clear boundaries such that if you cross them, you know you're at risk of falling into a pattern of addiction. And if that ever happens, it's time to immediately begin a new fasting period.



    5. Let It Go
    If you find yourself repeatedly succumbing to forum addiction or other negative usage patterns, you may decide it's best to simply do without. At the time of this writing, I no longer regularly participate in any online forums or message boards. When I clarified my intentions, I realized my #1 reason for participation was to contribute and to help people. But using forums as a contribution outlet was inefficient, since it would too often lead to lengthy (and mostly unproductive) debates. I found that sticking with one-to-many outlets like writing articles and maintaining a blog were a much better use of my time. Blog comments still allow some interactivity, but the time required to manage them is reasonable and the personal relevance of most blog comments is extremely high.



    6. Replace Online Socialization With Face-to-Face Contact
    Regarding the social aspect, online forums are a poor substitute for meeting people in person. While there's certainly some social benefit to forums - many people have met their spouses in online forums, including me - it's important to physically spend time with human beings instead of via a computer screen. If you need a new social outlet, join a local club or association, especially one that meets weekly. I found that when I joined Toastmasters International and began attending meetings and competing in speech contests, my interest in socializing via online forums fell dramatically. Even the best online communication pales in comparison to face-to-face, belly-to-belly contact.



    7. Be a Dabbler, Not a Fixture
    Another tip is to treat forum participation as temporary. If your goal is to make new business contacts, then dive in and participate actively for a while, maybe 30-90 days. Make new friends and contacts, collect private contact info, and then abandon the forums. Continue to develop your new relationships via one-to-one communication like email, phone calls, and if possible, face-to-face meetings (such as at industry conferences). Temporarily dabbling in many different forums is a more effective way to build contacts than pushing a single forum far beyond its usefulness.

    You can also use the dabbling method to gather general information on a subject. Seek out a number of relevant forums and bookmark them. Then spend a few hours scanning each forum once every six months to soak up the current wisdom. Whenever you have a specific question, pop in and search the forum archives. If searching turns up a blank, feel free to post a new message, harvest the answers, and disappear.



    8. Avoid Addiction
    Online forums are tricky beasts. At the time of this writing, my feeling is that ongoing daily participation in any single forum for more than a few months is almost invariably unproductive. Eventually the initial benefits like gaining knowledge and making new contacts produce diminishing returns. And then the negative effects like forum addiction set in. Regular participation (even from unconscious habituation) will still provide some benefits, but the longer you participate, the less efficiently those benefits are realized.

    Close cousins of forum addiction include online gaming addiction, web surfing addiction, blog addiction, email addiction, and news addiction. The common pattern is that unconscious habituation overrides conscious, clear-headed decision-making. If you ever find yourself with such an unproductive habit, take steps to reassert conscious control. Use a period of fasting to regain your perspective, reexamine your motives, set clear boundaries, and find alternative outlets. Manage your forum usage consciously to serve your goals, and avoid the trap of addiction.

    Online forums can be a powerful productivity tool, but self-awareness and discipline are required to prevent them from becoming a pitfall of procrastination.
    at&t iPhone3G
  2. #2  
    Good post.
    Treo 600 > Treo 650 > Treo 700p > Treo 700wx -> Mogul -> Touch Pro
    You may like to flash, but your phone shouldn't. LED Killer
  3.    #3  
    I have got caught in that loop.
    at&t iPhone3G
  4. #4  
    Did you write that all yourself or do you have a source?

    I tend to go in waves, myself.
  5.    #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by septimus View Post
    Did you write that all yourself or do you have a source?

    I tend to go in waves, myself.
    I found it on my Supercross forum where the senior members can be brutal and the fights over members favorite rider get ugly. I can't quite remember where since I don't go to the forum that often because I am actually doing what the above says...taking a forum fast, and I am getting sick of it all also. I just decided to drop by and a member posted it for a thread topic and he didn't leave a source either from my recolection but I thought it was an awesome thread.
    at&t iPhone3G
  6. #6  
    Quote Originally Posted by KStewart View Post
    I found it on my Supercross forum where the senior members can be brutal and the fights over members favorite rider get ugly. I can't quite remember where since I don't go to the forum that often because I am actually doing what the above says...taking a forum fast, and I am getting sick of it all also. I just decided to drop by and a member posted it for a thread topic and he didn't leave a source either from my recolection but I thought it was an awesome thread.
    LOL. I think we just have an addiction to conversation. You could have just said "I don't remember." In this post I could have just said "ok".
  7.    #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by septimus View Post
    LOL. I think we just have an addiction to conversation. You could have just said "I don't remember." In this post I could have just said "ok".
    Exactly...
    at&t iPhone3G
  8. #8  
    I tend to think that the manifestation of forum additiction is a by-product of prevailent work environments where computer-oriented tools have robbed many of us of the opportunity to collaborate meaningfully with others. Twenty five years ago, many of us would have assistants who would manage our schedules, our correspondance, etc. Today we have the ubiquitous Word, our trusty Treos and PDAs, and - inspite of coworkers at the water fountain - we are really "Lone Rangers" in our own little professional worlds. Forums help fill the void...
  9.    #9  
    I agree Keefer, so does it make us better off...is the question.
    at&t iPhone3G
  10. #10  
    I agree with Keefer as well. I feel pretty isolated in my office at times like I am cutoff from the outside world.
    Treo 600 > Treo 650 > Treo 700p > Treo 700wx -> Mogul -> Touch Pro
    You may like to flash, but your phone shouldn't. LED Killer
  11.    #11  
    When I am away from my notebook, Treo, or any device that keeps me connected to the world net too long...I get confused and need my medicine. Remember, I have a condition and its not good when I don't take my medicine.
    at&t iPhone3G
  12. #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by KStewart View Post
    What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
    - Herbert Simon
    Great quote. I've always been facinated at how Faux News, Limbaugh, National Enquirer and the others manage to keep an audience for their "information" despite plenty of reliable evidence available to debunk their lies.

    Apparently as the sensationalistic stuff (sex/baby killers/deadbeat lesbian grandmothers) sucks you in, your ability to weigh facts and perform critical thinking diminishes rapidly. Lobotomy by media.

    Even contrary information right in your face can't let enough light into your mind to shake the illusion that their "information" holds (i.e.: Limbaugh says to kill all illegal drug users, then when he's outed as an illegal drug user he doesn't volunteer for the firing squad).

    "Information Overload" is definitely more than a catch phrase, and is certainly well exploited by companies and individuals that prey in such environments. Just as the pickpocket seeks out the distracted tourist juggling 3 maps and a translation book, organizations that want to manipulate your attention for their purposes know how to find/create a fertile environment for this.

    As for the quote's application to Forums, like anything they too can become another dependency that removes attention from living a better life with the world around us. That said, I'm heading off to talk with my kid and end this comment....
    Treo 755s in good condition available on ebay for $50-$75. No need to pay for insurance or buy a Pre.
  13. gatorray's Avatar
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    #13  
    In the same context, forums start to morph into the same type of discussions. Do you remember this: (borrowed from here)


    Forum members and lightbulbs

    Q: How many forum members does it takes to change a light bulb?

    * 1 to change the light bulb and to post that the light bulb has been changed
    * 14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently
    * 7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs
    * 1 to move it to the Lighting section
    * 2 to argue then move it to the Electricals section
    * 7 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs
    * 5 to flame the spell checkers
    * 3 to correct spelling/grammar flames
    * 6 to argue over whether it's "lightbulb" or "light bulb" ... another 6 to condemn those 6 as stupid
    * 3 standards zealots to point out that light bulbs have been deprecated in the LB 2.1 spec
    * 1 to call upon everybody to ignore this deprecation
    * 2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is "lamp"
    * 15 know-it-alls who claim they were in the industry, and that "light bulb" is perfectly correct
    * 19 to post that this forum is not about light bulbs and to please take this discussion to a lightbulb forum
    * 11 to defend the posting to this forum saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the posts are relevant to this forum
    * 36 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty
    * 7 to post URL's where one can see examples of different light bulbs
    * 4 to post that the URL's were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL's
    * 3 to post about links they found from the URL's that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group
    * 13 to link all posts to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers and signatures, and add "Me too"
    * 5 to post to the group that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy
    * 4 to say "didn't we go through this already a short time ago?"
    * 13 to say "do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs"
    * 1 forum lurker to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again.
  14. #14  
    Good post...I can't stop readign this thread :-)

    It's true...I have found I really need filters and choose "who" (or what forums) get my attention.

    This is why I rarely read a blog...I find most of them a total waste.
  15. #15  
    You just lost the game.
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...

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