Forums are as Dead as a Dead, Dead Thing

I’ve read some blog entries by otherwise intelligent individuals who state that it alarms them when somebody on a forum makes a comment that the shape of the stabilator on the new kit from Big Panda Model Co. is wrong, and posts a photo with red lines showing how it’s off, and then a whole crew of people show up and attack the original poster for not appreciating the work of many people at Big Panda and “who are they to say it’s no good?” and that they should shut up. “Looks like a Boeing Velocipede to me!” is a common sentiment.

Or something.

C’mon guys. Think about it. If you invested a boat-load of money into a mold and some nobody on Hyperscale bad-mouthed it–wouldn’t you use your head and tell one of your employees or somebody you know to get on there and defend the product? Think about it seriously for a moment. Wouldn’t you do what you had to do to make this “problem” go away, or seem less serious? Would you just leave it up to chance? Just let it go? Hope somebody comes along and defends your product?

“Come on, product fans! This man is insulting your favorite kit! Attack! Like Willard in the rat movie, I say ‘tear him apart!’

Well, killer rats do not show up on demand, no matter how many times you’ve seen Willard. If you want them to attack, you better be prepared to invest in some rat chow and get busy. The word “troll” is thrown around as if it were a patriotic slogan on the fourth of July. But use the word “shill” and you can get banned moshi-koshi. But shills are so common, and so prevalent, that any attempt to understand internet forums without understanding the role of the shill is just about pointless. Shills are an integral part of the game.

That’s why forums are dead.

Facebook (and I’m no fan of Facebook) is designed to minimize shilling. Yes, it has many other problems, but (usually) the posters are real people and not sock puppets or paid shills. It’s harder to do that on Facebook. Facebook is annoying to people like me who are social misfits and not interested in collecting “friends” as a hobby. I like forums because they are anonymous and feel safe. But they aren’t. That very lack of identity that makes a forum comfortable for me provides a gap the size of house to insert advertising, marketing, manipulation and control through the use of false accounts (sock puppets and shills). It’s not my imagination. This stuff is real.

Forums will not die overnight. But one day, fairly soon, you will open your favorite forum and find out that most of your friends have sold their forum identity to a commercial firm and you may be the only “real” person talking excitedly to your forum buddies about models, surrounded by people who do it for a living, are in the business, or are not human at all, really, but sophisticated AI that always has an agenda.

Take a look at your forum. Say goodbye.

3 Replies to “Forums are as Dead as a Dead, Dead Thing”

  1. Gotta disagree with you on Facebook — I work with it professionally as a social media manager for a not-for-profit, and paid trolls/shills/what-have-you are endemic.

    1. I have never understood Facebook, and it’s apparent now that my ignorance is showing. I thought (there I go, thinking again) that Facebook somehow took measures to “ensure” that people were “real.” No? I suppose any system can be thwarted if the stakes are high enough.

      1. I think for a normal person, especially one who controls their privacy settings religiously, you’ll likely only interact with people who are more or less real. But one person can, for example, create multiple Facebook pages, say, for ostensible corporations, or blogs, or whatever, and post as multiple people. I have colleagues who use a fake facebook profile to access work pages, and blah blah blah.

        Facebook’s so big I can’t even claim to understand all of what they do, and that’s my actual job. If you want to see fake profiles in action, just click on one of the trending news stories on the sidebar, and look at some of the comments on the posts they display — or even some of the posts. Sometimes you’ll see the same post clearly copied and pasted and displayed by four or five different accounts. It’s nuts.

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