The Problem With Forums Part1

The Problem With Forums - Part1

That got your attention. Well this is a humorous little series of articles about Coffee Forums (but it probably applies to many other types of forum). There are 4 types of people in this world:
  • Those who haven’t joined a forum….yet
  • Those who have joined a forum
  • Those who joined a forum and wished they hadn't
  • Those who will never join a forum

Well if you are in the last category stop reading immediately….but before you do, ask yourself why you started reading in the first place. If you haven’t joined a forum yet…..what treats await you on your specialist chosen subject. Some things you can always guarantee on any forum:

  • You will always be a part of the community…as long as you think the way all the people in the “community do”…oh, the community is not the whole membership, but normally just a subsection of them, the “elite”.
  • You will receive a warm welcome….really warm from all members and they don’t even know you.
  • Someone will have a different point of view, always, even if you are right, they will disagree and if you’re wrong, they can positively revel in it.
  • The God figure….yes there will be at least one…….don’t worry, you can worship them too.
  • People on forums become 1000 times more sensitive than usual, a few accidentally placed words and someone becomes “deeply offended”, to the point of taking a lifetime dislike to you (or at least making a voodoo doll of you and sticking pins in it). Strange how a sentence can ruin their whole life, your electronic presence of a few bytes is so deeply offensive to them that they will go to extraordinary lengths to let you know this, Usually a “public” and appropriately grovelling apology can fix this. Remember they really want to see you grovel and re-affirm their status within the forum, whilst hopefully……lowering yours.
  • The moderators….bless them, are always there to ensure you toe the party line (oh, and that you don’t upset their mates). It will take you a while to find out what the party line is…..many an innocently meant first post has resulted in tears, be warned. If you’re not careful on that first post, you can take a beating. It will also amaze you just how many members there are on the forum….watching for that first step out of line….ready and willing to “beat” you into submission with their posts.

Anyway…’ve joined the forum, after lurking for a while in the sidelines (usually only 5 minutes, but you don’t tell them that). The first post you make should go something like this:

"Hi guys, I’m a total newbie, but have been reading this forum for months now. I have finally got up the courage to join and learn from the membership. I hope I too can give something back. My equipment at this stage is simply a spoon and a jar, so I am happy to get any advice I can on machine, grinder, coffee, roasting…..and whether I can turn lead into gold. It’s just awesome to find such a friendly knowledgeable community on my favourite drink (instant coffee or milk based drinks)", but if you want to look manly, include espresso (remember if challenged you plan to say you have only had it at Starschmucks and it was horrible).

This is a sort of feel good first post for the other forum members, they now feel they have the right to “advise” you and after welcoming you, or even whilst welcoming you will give all sorts of well meaning advice. The next big thing is an Avatar…if you didn’t know what one was before the forum, you soon will after you join. People don’t just have a name, they have a carefully chosen postage stamp sized picture, and these pictures try to reflect their character, humour or a skill. Be very careful in choosing your avatar, many a promising forum career was ruined by a poor choice of avatar ( I heard about someone who got a hard time partly because of their avatar :-( ).

So there you are, your membership all shiny and new, your reputation, unsullied, you have done the obligatory introductory post….what next. You rack your brains for some innocuous subject, that won’t offend and won’t make you look stupid, but might spark of some discussion….any discussion. Why, because you don’t want to just join and not post. So what’s it going to be (of course you’re not going to search the forum for your answers….why, because if you did you wouldn’t have a question to ask would you):

A question (non controversial of course), maybe:

  1. how can I improve my milk foaming, should I tamp at 20 or 30lb?
  2. Where can I get some decent roasted coffee mail order, the stuff at the supermarket just isn’t hitting the spot.
  3. Where can I get spares for my……

Wow, in come the replies thick and fast, ANY question not requiring a controversial or difficult answer is often followed by a flurry of replies. You will get the usual links to previous forum questions and slight admonishment for not having searched before you posted…but hey, you needed to ask something, anything, searching would have just made it more difficult to find something that hasn’t been asked before! Then you will get the replies (usually one liners) about your technique, but these will often be things like, what size is your milk jug, type of steam tip, is the milk cold….congratulations you have just started a thread that “has legs” and can run and run.

As for where you can get decent roasted coffee or spares, well there should be the potential for a wealth of replies as there are many mail order/on-line roasters and spares providers.

Now pretty soon you will realise that on some forums many people have “stated” aspirations to:

  • Open a coffee shop
  • Start commercial roasting
  • Buy the most expensive coffee machine available
  • Become a “Barista” (and make coffee for a living)
  • Enter and attend Barista championships

These are seen as laudable aspirations, that could earn you the admiration of the entire forum, certainly any questions around these areas are guaranteed to get replies and start “interesting” and “useful” threads for all. It’s also an opportunity to find out about all those (useful?) Barista and roasting type courses run by a few commercial bodies and certainly how to subscribe to magazines and publications that will further increase your knowledge.

Coming in part 2

Home Roasting
The old chestnut