Done properly, such forums are great ways for professionals to share experience and knowledge. The Econsultancy blog and comments help keep digital folk up to date and stimulated.
But some discussions (not on Econsultancy obviously) seem to me to be little more than opportunities for pointless posts.
With my slightly cynical glasses on, here are what I think these pointless posts really mean…
1. ‘Can anyone recommend the kind of tool that I should already know about if I had any idea what I was doing in this field?’
UX posts seem particularly prone to this phenomenon. Now I have no problem with people new to a field gaining knowledge from the more experienced but I would expect them to have a knowledge of the basics.
Maybe it’s the nature of the UX field but I can’t imagine a medical forum where someone posts: ‘I am about to do some brain surgery for the first time and wondered if anyone had any suggestions?’
Of course UX is not brain surgery but I’d still expect people who claim to be practitioners to know something. Or maybe they are just being lazy.
2. ‘I’m very clever and will answer your question after I’ve explained how clever I am’.
Many of us want to keep our Google rankings up and take every opportunity to comment but we should be careful about ‘vanity answers’.
3. ‘I’m also very clever but I will use your question as an excuse to point people towards something clever I wrote on a completely different topic’.
These ones really annoy me. There are so many places where you can make relevant comments, why does anyone need to ‘muddy the water’ with irrelevant posts.
4. ‘That’s a great question and I wish I’d thought of it but I didn’t so I’m posting this comment to get my name known’.
I have some sympathy with this one, see point two above. But it is a bit like people who clog up our inboxes using ‘reply all’ when no-one else needs or wants to hear their reply.
5. ‘I haven’t read the original post but something one of the commenters said has given me an excuse to rant’.
And this one reminds me of when I was marking exam papers and found that some students followed the ‘write all you can about any word you recognise in the question’ approach’ but never actually attempted to answer the question.