Hello and welcome to the MDDC community forums! Many of you may already be familiar with how forums operate and what the expectations are when posting threads or writing replies, but not everyone else is. This guide is aimed at those who haven’t really used a forum before and are unfamiliar with the concept of them, but even if you have used forums in the past, the info in this guide can be seen as a helpful review. We’re gonna cover what forums are, how they differ from other styles of social networks and cover the basics of making meaningful posts and making the most of their features. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. Internet Forums, also called Message Boards, are discussion websites where people can hold at-length conversations in the form of posted messages. These websites differ from something like Discord servers or instant messengers by having looser restrictions on things like character limits or file attachments, so posts can be more elaborate, detailed, and structured than what you’d get on a more casual social platform.
Why is that so important? Well, for discussion of research, preservation, and showcasing of personal projects, forums are a lot more friendly than what you can get out of more modern social platforms. You don’t have to sum up your thoughts to be shorter or span them across multiple messages. You won’t run into a situation where you get cut off mid-thought by someone else’s message. You don’t have to worry about the topic of a discussion shifting before you finish speaking your mind about it. You don’t have to tear your hair out over needing to sift through a sea of old messages just to find a particular conversation. Forums make focused conversations far easier to have, navigate, and locate; simple as that.
Additionally, our forums are self-hosted, which gives us far more control and flexibility over the fate and operation of our community than operating on a Discord-only model would. If Discord ever makes feature or policy changes we don’t like? Too bad; our community is stuck with them and there’s nothing we can do about it. Discord server ever gets deleted or mangled by a hacked mod/admin account or massive raid? Nothing we can do to get the old messages back; Discord doesn’t keep backups. So on and so forth. We believe it is in the best interest of our community and its mission if we self-host the bulk of our community presence so that we can guarantee it’ll remain operational and accessible for decades to come.
Even though Forums can look fairly intimidating at first glance, they’re actually fairly simple to use once you understand how things work, so let’s break down the basics. If you’re familiar with the layout, you can go ahead and skip to the last section.
When you visit the main page of our forums, you’ll be greeted with a list of categories and sub-categories. All categories have descriptions that define what type of topics are meant to be posted there. If there are any new posts in a sub-category, you’ll see a little badge that says “New” next to it.
If we go ahead and click on a sub-category to explore it, we’ll be taken to a page that lists all threads under that category in order of latest to oldest, so threads with recent replies are listed near the top, while ones with less activity are listed near the bottom. There is one exception to this; threads at the very top of the list in a sub-category marked with a blue background are called “sticky” threads. These are threads that have been pinned to the top of the category by the staff team due to popularity and/or importance. You may notice some threads, particularly older ones, have a little red lock icon next to them. Those are threads that have been locked by the staff team and are not open for further replies. You can still read them, however.
When you want to browse an existing thread, there are two main ways to jump in and explore it; you can click the thread title on the left to go to the first page and scroll through from the very beginning, or you click the date of the most recent post on the right to view that reply on the last page. You’ll notice at the bottom of each page of the thread, you have a text box where you can write your reply. From here, things are honestly pretty simple. If you’ve used a text editor before, writing a reply should seem pretty familiar. If you noticed the “Post Thread…” button on previous pages, it brings up the same textbox. The only difference is you’re creating a new thread instead of replying to an existing one.
That’s pretty much the basics of using this place. There are more things I could cover like user profiles and account customization, but I think it’s best to let you figure the rest out on your own. Just explore a little and you’ll know your way around the site in no time.
Glad you asked. There are a few dos and don’ts that I’ve seen a lot of people running into when they start using forums for the first time. Some of these are seemingly obvious, others not so much. I’m gonna go ahead and list off a few of them. These aren’t in any particular order, but I would recommend reading over all of them.
Rules 3 and 4 of the forums touch on this a little bit, but you really do wanna make sure your posts are adding something to the discussion instead of just… being there. Posts that are only a handful of words long, don’t really say anything thought-provoking or constructive, and are so broken in their grammatical structure that they’re impossible to read are the kinds of things that only serve to clutter the forums and make it harder for discussions to progress here. Sometimes, if you don’t have a whole lot to say or add, the best thing to do is hold off until you do.
On instant messaging platforms, it’s usually totally fine to chain multiple messages together, but with forums, this is not the case. If you sent a reply in a thread but thought of more to say before someone else has had a chance to reply, it’s way less clunky to just edit your message to include whatever else you’d like to say. Posting multiple messages in a row with a few extra thoughts is ugly and pretty unnecessary more often than not. That said, there are a select few cases where double posting is okay. For instance, if your last post was a few days ago and the thread hasn’t been touched since but you have much more to add, double posting is okay. Otherwise? Try to avoid it.
If a thread had its most recent reply several months ago, unless you’re the thread author or the thread topic is something that has recently taken on new relevance, it’s worth considering how necessary it is to revive the discussion. There are some examples of when it’s totally acceptable to bump a topic. Let’s say someone released a tool a while ago and you can’t get it working for some reason/found a bug that you’d like to report. In that case, bumping the thread is not only fine; it’s encouraged. If it’s a casual cooking thread about sharing recipes, sure, bumping that is okay. Whether or not it’s appropriate to bump a thread will depend a lot on what the thread is and how much you have to contribute in your reply. We want people to be able to continue older discussions if they truly have something to add that brings new relevance to it. What we don’t want is a bunch of dead topis being zombified solely because someone feels as though they missed out. If you’re unsure whether or not bumping a topic is okay, check with a staff member.
In order to avoid redundancy in the creation of threads, it is recommended that you double-check that there are no recent threads with an identical topic to yours before you create a whole new thread for it. This is aided during thread creation, too; when typing in the title to your thread, there will be a popup that shows threads that have similar titles and topics. If it seems like there are one or more threads with more or less the same topic as the one you want to post, it’s probably wiser to just engage with one of those threads instead of adding another one to the fray.
I won’t elaborate a whole lot on this one since it’s gonna vary a lot depending on what type of post you’re making, but it’s strongly recommended that you take the time to structure and format your posts in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. It makes the job of everyone reading your posts that much easier.
This ties very heavily into Rule 1, so all I’d like to add here is that engaging in lots of back and forth heated discussion is an excellent way to kill a thread off entirely. It’s offputting to just about everyone who would normally be interested in joining the discussion and is a tried and true way to get on the staff team’s shit list in record time, so keep your attitude in check, okay?
I think that covers just about everything I wanted to talk about. I hope this helps set the record straight on a few basic components of forum etiquette. Of course, you can always message a staff member if you have any questions about things that weren’t covered here. Have a wonderful day and I hope to see you around the forums.Best wishes,