There is no doubt that consumer forums can offer a wealth of information and knowledge and you get to learn about things you previously didn’t even know were possible. The web, as a whole, is full of resources you can access and read at any time, however, when you need to ask a question, there’s often no-one there for you. The CABs are always overloaded and understaffed and the quality of advice can vary wildly depending on who you talk to. When you need help, forums are there for you at any time of day or night, 365 days a year. However, their owners don’t always have your best interests at heart. They are often self-serving.
Forums are just groups of people who post in sequence, answering each other’s questions, making comments and adding to the discussion. They depend on their members for their existence, without posters there are no forums. Getting people to join and post can be surprisingly difficult, even people you know as avid forum posters are reluctant to post on a nearly-empty site and will go to established sites where they know their posts will be read, even if they also know they will be criticised and possibly attacked for their posts.
Over the years, a number of sites have emerged, often set up by people who got together on other sites and disagreed with the direction they were taking and/or ended up being banned. They always say their new site will be different and they won’t do any of the “bad” things the other admins did, and somehow end up behaving in a very similar way. Legal Beagles was a spin-off from CAG where people were often banned for no reason and debate was discouraged, yet they are doing the exact same thing on their own site.
New forums initially welcome new contributors and are happy to invite regulars to join the ranks of admins, site team and moderators, create groups for certain interests, offer access to private areas and give awards for posting and participation, all to encourage people to stay and contribute. Unlike most other websites where you can have a lot of traffic simply from visitors to the site, forums cannot exist without contributors, that is, people who log in and post regularly, answer other people’s questions and start threads of their own.
When a forum becomes established, posts are indexed by google and the site is found by anyone looking for similar information, however, this is only the beginning. In a world of constant change, we all expect information to be up-to-date. If we come across a post that’s even a few months old, we wonder whether that still applies today and if we see a site that doesn’t get posted on very often, we are more likely to read and run than sign up and stay. If we see that questions are left unanswered, we tend not to bother posting one ourselves.
There are several consumer forums out there, Legal Beagles is just one of them. Some would rather discuss, say, CAG, so why not do it here.