Monday, October 3, 2011

Ramblings: Being a new forumite.

New people join active forums all the time, but sometimes the new arrivals end up being the majority, before they learn the ropes, and the older and more experienced forumites will lament the period of adjustment. In order to understand why, we need to look at the three major categories of forumites.
  • The Newbie
  • The Forumite
  • The Veteran
The Forumite is a person recently graduated from newbie school, but is full of energy and spirit. The Forumite is the one explaining things to the newbies, posting progress, readable battle reports, and keeping the forum alive and kicking. The Veteran is an ancient gamer who has seen it all, heard it all, and asked it all. The Veterans live lonely lives at the top, with Forumites listening to their occasional sage advice, and newbies gawking in awe of their post counter. The real problems begin, when the newbies outnumber the Forumites.

There will be a period with questions that have already been answered, miraculous discoveries that build upon wrong assumptions, and newbies advising other newbies with sage advice, that will make them lose and post even more stupid threads on the board. Moderators will go insane trying to move all the posts into the correct forums, and the phrase "use the god damn search button" will define the forums for a while. A few months after, most newbies will have graduated to Forumite status, and the forum will be a zen garden of enlightenment, until the next batch of newbies arrive, and it all starts over again.

This has been happening for as long as there have been internet forums, and a Zoo Keeper I met once had a theory as to why. What he told me was this: "Every time I clean the monkey cages during opening hours, I have to listen to the same joke at last twenty times. Every single dad that passes by, tells his son that the pinkish ape seems to be a species he doesn't recognize, and they all think they're the funniest people in the world, and the first to ever think up that joke".

His theory was, that the same issue applied to posting online. He felt that human kind was incapable of acknowledging that other people had ideas, and failed to realize how many of us actually walk this earth, and post on the internet. I gave that theory a good thinking, and came to the conclusion that he was wrong, but that it didn't matter. Someone needs to have been the first to get any idea, and someone needs to be the first to put it into a practical application, but that person is most likely not you, and even if it is...

I'm not saying that you can't pick up the rulebook and go smack Veterans on the head with it when they're wrong (and it happens), and neither am I claiming that you cannot possibly be the first to discover a combination that will break the game, but most likely you're just wrong and annoying. This type of newbie will either quickly advance to Forumite status, learn to search before asking, and accept that he needs to learn the game before he can break it, or become a n00b, which is a permanent newbie.

Is there even a point to this post then you might ask, and there is, because increasing the speed at which newbies graduate to Forumites, is vital to keeping the Veterans around. The Veterans might not be very active, but when they do come out of hibernation, they usually do it to answer the really difficult questions. The Veterans also provide the forum with a sense of history, and remember that particular article you really need to find, and how to find it. Veterans are essential to a forum, and we need to keep them.

This brings me to the reason I'm writing this, which is the three skills you need in order to graduate and become a Forumite. They're not hard skills to learn, but failing to learn them will define you for your remaining time online, so pay attention, because this is the three skills you need to master:
  • Research: Almost any question you can dream up has already been answered. If all it takes for someone to answer your question, is to search and link the first post that pops up, you will be labeled a newbie and carry that mark for a long time.
  • Language: If your post is impossible to read, it will be disregarded. Your English doesn't have to be perfect, but install a free spellchecker and take care of the worst of it. No matter how clever you are, you will be judged on your language.
  • Humility: You might be Einstein, but this is the internet. There are a lot of people out here, and about 1.2 opinions per person, so yours isn't anything special. It's a sad truth, but we're all designed to think we know better, and most of the time we don't. If you are humble and offer your opinion, it will be well received, but if you're being a snob about it you could spill the ultimate truth, and still be labeled a twat.

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